Last Friday and today are much needed legislative recess days for all concerned.  Senators have had very long days (and evenings) in committee hearings over the last few weeks, and morning floor debate has at times been intense.

This was a big week in the Legislature for the business community.  On Wednesday, the Revenue Committee took four hours and forty minutes of testimony on LB 720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act.  This legislation will update Nebraska’s primary business attraction and expansion incentive, with emphases on high growth employers, higher wages, and efficiency in administration.  Most of the hearing was comprised of senators asking questions of the eleven proponents, which included extended and enlightening back and forth with the GOC President.  The evening continued with consideration of various proposals that are generally hostile toward economic incentive programs.  This featured testimony from the Chamber’s own Lisa Scheve.

Another long hearing in Revenue was last Friday, when once again vital economic development tax policies such the Sub-S/LLC out-of-state income and special capital gains exemptions were under fire.  Once again, big thanks to representatives of companies such as Kiewit, Lutz, Tenaska, and others who stepped up to provide compelling testimony.

Complications have included factors such as testifiers having to compete with snow and ice mounds for parking space, dealing with kids home from school, and navigating noisy Capitol corridors and hearing rooms rearranged, ironically, for replacement of the building’s H/VAC system.  (That is in no way to be construed as an attempt at snow humor.  This isn’t funny anymore.)

Due to the large volume of bills introduced in January, committee hearings are scheduled to run through March 28.  Tuesday will be the 39th day of a 90 day session, so this is going to put floor debate time at a premium.

In general, though there have been some filibusters and extended floor debate on bills that have been approved by committees, a notable number of proposals have been advancing.  To date, 72 bills have received final approval.  Another 34 are awaiting a final vote.  There is also a lengthy list of those awaiting first or second round debate time.

This is all before the really heavy lifting begins.  Members of the Appropriations Committee are looking at seven more scheduled hearings on agency requests and proposals by individual senators.  They are also keeping an eye on General Fund revenues, which have been lagging behind expectations.  The February numbers are due on March 15 (which Shakespeare notes is the Ides).  The Economic Forecasting Board has already ratcheted the projections down a bit after three months of lower than anticipated revenues.

Meanwhile, the members of the Revenue Committee are discussing what a comprehensive tax proposal should look like.  Property taxes get their share of headlines, but there are convincing voices for including corporate and individual income tax relief, and updating economic development incentives (a la LB 720) is an imperative.

More to come as things develop.

Refer to the Public Policy page on the Greater Omaha Chamber’s website or contact Jennifer Creager or Tim Stuart at 402.474.4960 if you have questions.

Also, click here if you are interested in reading the Legislature’s Update of the happenings in Lincoln.