Something for everyone in this year's session

Thursday, April 19, 2012

There was something for everyone in this year's legislative session; Gov. Heineman was able to maintain his fiscally conservative record, but saw two of his vetoes toward that end overturned.

The Legislature was able to push through measures that could increase spending, but were unable to override the governor's veto of a bill to allow betting on historic horse races, and another that would create new medical clinics in schools.

We supported one of the measures Heineman vetoed and the Legislature overtuned, restoring prenatal medical services for illegal immigrants and women in prison. Supporters saw it as a wise investment to avoid higher medical costs in the future; Heineman and other opponents said it was providing taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants, making the state that much more attractive to them.

We tend to agree with the governor's veto of a measure giving cities the right to seek voter approval of higher sales taxes, but lawmakers disagreed, overturning it on the last day.

The bill will allow municipalities to increase sales tax to 1.75 or 2 percent, up from today's maximum of 1.5 percent, but only with voter approval and from 70 percent of the city council.

As opponents contend, cities that have the ability to tax more, probably will use that ability.

We also supported expanding term limits from two to three consecutive terms, and increasing legislative salaries, but the voters will get the final say on those two issues.

Voters will also get the chance to decide whether hunting rights should be guaranteed by the Nebraska constitution.

The Legislature also passed major spending for University of Nebraska medical facilities, and new rules to hold parents more responsible for truance in schools.

It was, in short, democracy in action -- some winners, some losers and no one entirely happy.

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