The legislature has left the Capitol, but a lot of work is left to be done.
The Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Greg Adams of York, says it was a difficult session in part because the speaker’s role was new for him. Adams took over as Speaker this legislative session after Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk left the Unicameral due to term limits.
Adams says tension between legislators on tough issues also made it a difficult session.
“And there was a lot of emotion and a lot of ideological divide on many of these issues,” Adams tells Nebraska Radio Network.
A move to expand Medicaid under provisions of the federal health care law became a very tense issue during the session. Gov. Dave Heineman left no doubt about his opposition, claiming expansion would either trigger a tax increase or budget cuts. Supporters rejected that notion, countering that Nebraska was leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table by not taking the federal government up on its offer to fully pay for expansion the first three years.
A group of about 17 senators blocked a Medicaid expansion bill from coming to a vote.
Tax reform stalled during the legislative session after public hearings displayed strong opposition to eliminating about half the sales tax exemptions the state grants. The governor had proposed eliminating the state income tax in exchange for the elimination of certain sales tax exemptions.
Instead, a special committee of senators will complete a thorough study of the state tax system and make recommendations for the legislature to consider next year. Gov. Heineman has also said he will have a proposal for lawmakers to weigh.
Adams says the body understands tax reform will be a major issue next year.
“Because there is this report forthcoming, there’s a great deal of anticipation, not only among citizens, but among my 48 colleagues that we’ll see something. How far reaching it will be I haven’t any idea,” Adams says.
The legislature approved a $7.8 billion state budget for the next two years. It approved a bill to move the state juvenile justice system away from an incarceration model and toward a treatment model. A child care rating system, plus increases child care subsidies won approval as did a crackdown on human trafficking.
So, though Adams feels a sense of accomplishment this year, he knows work remains for next year.
“Have we left some things open-ended; yes, yes. And there are big issues I think every session that will be left open-ended.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]