WAYNE – In late March, the Nebraska Legislature spent majority of the week debating how to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
According to the weekly release from the office of District 17 Senator Joni Albrecht, these were granted to the state of Nebraska from the federal government as part of the Covid stimulus package.
The American Rescue Plan granted $1.04 billion to the State of Nebraska for spending needs, which is more than 25% of the state’s annual general fund budget. The money is to be used for needs that have arisen as a direct result of Covid 19 has made on our communities.
Other topics addressed by Senator Albrecht included a pro-life bill; Ag Week; cash reserve budget bill along with the budget package.
Earlier in the year, Senator Albrecht introduced LB933, which would prohibit the performance of an abortion on live, unborn children upon the occurrence of one of three events: the overturn of Roe v. Wade, an amendment to the United States Constitution or the passage of enabling legislation by the United States Congress.
Senator Albrecht said, “this is one of the most important bills that has been before the Legislature since my time in office. After filing a pull motion to bring the bill out of committee to a debate on the Floor, the pull motion succeeded and the bill will be debated on the Floor when it is scheduled.”
March 20 – 26 was Agriculture Week in Nebraska. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was joined by representatives of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Corn Growers Association. Senator Albrecht salutes the tremendous farmers and ranchers not only in District 17, but in the state as they are our backbone. Nebraska would not be the same without you.
The Legislature gave first-round approval on March 22 to the last of three main bills comprising the Appropriations Committee’s mid-biennium budget adjustment package. The state budget is structured on a two-year basis, with the budget enacted during legislative sessions held in odd-numbered years. Adjustments are made during sessions held in even-numbered years.
The mainline budget bill and another measure that would authorize and provide certain fund transfers, create funds and change and eliminate provisions regarding a fund were advanced in late March after successful cloture votes. LB1013, introduced by Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln at the request of Governor Ricketts, would change provisions relating to the state’s Cash Reserve Fund, also known as the rainy-day fund. Gering Senator John Stinner, chairperson of the Appropriations Committee, said the cash reserve serves a “dual purpose” for Nebraska. An Appropriations Committee amendment would use $513 million from the cash reserve for a variety of transfers outlined in bills introduced this session.
- $80 million to the Jobs and Economic Development Initiative Fund, from LB1023, introduced by Hilgers
- $53.5 million to the Perkins County Canal Project Fund, from LB1015, introduced by Speaker Hilgers
- $50 million to the Surface Water Irrigation Infrastructure Fund, from LB1074, introduced by Brainard Senator Bruce Bostelman
- $50 million to the Nebraska Rural Projects Fund, from LB788, introduced by Gordon Senator Tom Brewer
- $30 million to the Military Base Development and Support Fund, from LB1233, introduced by Bellevue Senator Rita Sanders
- $30 million to the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Fund, from LB1071, introduced by Gothenburg Senator Matt Williams
- $20 million to the Middle Income Workforce Housing Investment Fund, introduced by Omaha Senator Tony Vargas
- $15.6 million to the state Department of Health and Human Services for construction, renovation and equipment replacement at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, from LB792, introduced by Kearney Senator John Lowe.
Among other provisions, the committee amendment also would set aside $175 million to be released to the Nebraska Capital Construction Fund for a potential new state penitentiary but would not appropriate those funds until certain conditions are met. Following approximately three hours of discussion Stinner offered a motion to invoke cloture, which ceases debate and forces a vote on the bill and any pending amendments and motions. The motion was adopted 39-4 and lawmakers then voted 40-3 to adopt the committee amendment. LB1013 advanced to Select File on a vote of 39-4.
Several amendments were offered during debate on LB1012, which would authorize and provide for certain fund transfers, create funds and change and eliminate provisions regarding a fund.
Brainard Senator Bruce Bostelman offered an amendment, adopted 42-0, that would ensure that a $955,000 transfer from the interest on the Nebraska Telecommunications Universal Service Fund to the 211 Cash Fund is a one-time transfer rather than an annual one. The USF must be protected in the future for its intended purpose of making universal access to telecommunications services available to everyone in the state.
Omaha Senator Mike McDonnell, whose LB911 initiated the transfer, supported the amendment. He said he would find a different source of funding going forward for the 211 Information and Referral Network, which is a free hotline that connects Nebraskans with non-emergency health and human services. A cloture motion after four hours of debate, which was adopted 43-2, and lawmakers advanced LB1012 to final reading on a voice vote.
Omaha Senator Steve Lathrop offered an amendment, adopted 42-0, to LB1011, the mainline budget bill. In addition to a series of technical changes, the amendment would correct the omission of a $5 million transfer to the Governor’s Emergency Cash Fund. LB1011 advanced to Final Reading.
Lawmakers also advanced LB1013, which would change provisions related to the Cash Reserve Fund, to final reading by voice vote following the 41-3 adoption of a cloture motion.
If you have any comments or concerns, contact District 17 Senator Joni Albrecht at 402-471-2716 or email email@example.com.