Closing in on the End of the 2014 Legislative Session
Session is winding down, but the controversial debates don't seem to be letting up at all. There are officially five days left in the 103rd Legislature. That could be five days of mischief.
When I last wrote LB 671,the repeal of the authority to hold a Mountain Lion Hunting Season, survived an attempt to kill the bill on Final Reading and the bill passed and was forwarded on to the Governor. Well... the Governor vetoed the bill. Senator Chambers filed a motion to override the Governors Veto. The override attempt was filibustered and challenged and when it came to a vote the motion to override failed. Not one to concede defeat, Senator Chambers filed a reconsideration Motion that was taken up on Thursday. He did that only after he felt he had votes to override the veto. Well once again the motion to override failed. Not everyone voted the way they had promised... So, while the Mountain Lion hunting season debate has ended for the year, the impacts of that failed override will likely impact the remaining days of the session.
The End of the Externalities Debate for 2014
LB 965, first appeared on the Agenda Last Week on Thursday, April 28. They finally reached the bill on April 1. The day started out with an announcement by Senator Chambers that he was ready to leave the legislature on his own terms and was submitting his resignation to the Governor. After a moment of stunned silence by the Legislature, Senator Chambers declared "April Fools" and we moved on to the business of the day.
By mid afternoon LB 965 was opened for debate on General File. Senator Jim Smith led the opposition to the legislation, supported by a number of strong public power supporters. NREA issued an Action Alert through our Grassroots Database and the response was excellent. Many members of the legislature referenced the communication from their constituents as they spoke to their opposition to the bill.
After a few hours of educational debate, Senator Haar came to the conclusion that his bill could not advance in any form and he filed a motion to bracket his bill to April 17, 2014. The motion passed by unanimous consent. This means the bill is done for the year. We had a well organized, well informed group to work against the bill and the emails and phone calls by our grassroots were highly effective!
While the debate on "externalities" has ended for the year, we can expect similar legislation next year. We have expressed our willingness to use the interim to discuss this issue with Senator Haar. I will keep you informed as to the progress of those discussions.
We are grateful to Senator Jim Smith for his leadership and vast knowledge on electric industry issues. We have a complicated industry and we appreciate his willingness to share his expertise with other members of the Legislature.
Preparing for Next Year
Interim Studies are ways that senators can review and study issues between legislative sessions and prepare legislation for introduction in the upcoming session. Two studies, introduced by Senator Haar will be of particular interest to the electric industry. The study language is below.
The purpose of this resolution is to study and evaluate the local and statewide health impacts of burning coal. This study should include an examination of publicly available scientific resources, databases, and recently published research pertinent to Nebraska and include a cost- benefit analysis of moving away from coal-based electricity generation to other forms of electricity generation. The study should also examine how to promote health and prevent health risks related to coal, reduce dependence on coal, and protect public health and the environment.
The purpose of this resolution is to study the current organizational structure of public power and how it could be made more efficient and work more harmoniously together. This includes a potential reorganization and consolidation of Nebraska's numerous public power districts, rural electric associations, and municipal power suppliers. The study shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(1) Development of a strategic plan for reorganization of public power entities which prioritizes benefits for Nebraska including maximizing economic development and the use of Nebraska resources, and maximizing the benefits and minimizing the costs to Nebraska citizens;
(2) Recommendations on a regulatory system that achieves the goals determined by the study; and
(3) Any other recommendations as determined by the study committee.
I will talk about these studies more in depth as we move into the interim.