"Choose Life" license plates get final approval; tax wrangling continues

The Nebraska Legislature debates Monday (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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April 3, 2017 - 5:18pm

The Nebraska Legislature overcame a filibuster and approved “Choose Life” license plates Monday. And a committee met to try and resolve differences over proposed tax changes.

The proposal to authorize “Choose Life” specialty license plates was introduced by Sen. Dan Watermeier, who says they will be a way to show support for Nebraska’s children. It was opposed by senators who say license plates should not become a platform for one side in the debate over abortion.

One of those opponents, Sen. Ernie Chambers, proposed an amendment to substitute the words “Abolish Capital Punishment” for “Choose Life.” “That is certainly something that would show an acceptance of the notion of human life from birth to natural death. So, the amendment itself will not be adopted. But it’s my intent to discuss this issue, and to go on until a cloture vote is taken,” Chambers said.

After an hour and a half of debate, the time allotted by Speaker Jim Scheer for filibusters at the third and final stage of consideration for a bill, senators voted for cloture to end debate. They then voted 35-5 final approval of the bill.

Also Monday, senators gave second-round approval to a proposal by Gov. Pete Ricketts to merge the Department of Aeronautics with the Department of Roads to form a new Department of Transportation. But first, senators considered an amendment by Sen. Bob Krist, himself a pilot, to continue to require legislative approval for the head of what will now be the Division of Aeronautics.

Sen. Curt Friesen, who introduced the bill for Ricketts, said he thought that appointment should be left up to the head of the new combined department, which will be the current head of the Department of Roads. “If he’s not doing his job in appointing the right people to that position, he’s got a problem with us. I don’t want to be seen as micromanaging any department if they have them underneath them. He will be held responsible for any mistakes he makes or the wrong people he puts in place,” Friesen said.

Krist disagreed, saying senators should not give up the power to approve not only the head of the Department of Transportation, but also the Division of Aeronautics. “I think the person who takes the reins as part of the new Department of Transportation who is supposed to know-all be-all in terms of aeronautics, needs to be approved by this body. It’s another thing that if you give it up, then down the road a new person or persons in place you’ll not have the choice to confirm” Krist said.

Senators approved Krist’s amendment on a vote of 25-8, then gave the merger bill second round approval. 

Monday afternoon, the Revenue Committee met to try and hash out an agreement on a package of proposed tax changes. The committee has appeared to be at a stalemate between those who favor property tax relief directed at agriculture, those who want that mixed with future income tax cuts, and those who want no tax reductions until the state’s revenue picture stabilizes.

In their meeting, members adopted amendments that would lower the tax valuation of ag land by 12 percent and increase school aid by $34 million to make up the loss of revenue to rural districts. The committee also wants to abolish tax credits for affordable housing, new markets, and historic preservation, to help fund income tax reductions. Members are now waiting for estimates that will show the effects more precisely.  




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