Strong opinions, extended debate in Lincoln

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Over the past few weeks, the budget has been debated several times. I hope by the time you read this we have been able to pass all the budget bills through final reading and have them on the governor's desk. The budget can be a confusing topic to which a lot of questions can arise. One of the budget bills, LB 944, has been the focal point of a lot of controversy, debate and deadlock. This week I would like to explain some of the issues with this year’s budget.

LB 944 is the mainline budget adjustment bill for this session. The bill was introduced by Speaker Jim Scheer at the request of the governor, recommendations for state operations and state aid to schools and agencies are included in the bill. Once the Appropriations Committee finished making the Legislature’s adjustments, the full body engaged in the first round of discussion that lasted long into the night. Many of my colleagues had issues with the language included in the bill that refers to Title X funding. There were a handful of senators that lead the charge to filibuster and take this bill to cloture on multiple occasions.

Twice we voted to invoke cloture on LB 944 and failed. The reason this bill has caused so much headache for the Legislature is that Title X deals with funding disbursement to health clinics that can also provide abortions. In the past, state audits have indicated that Title X funds may have been used for abortions. The current language in LB 944 would ask that health clinics separate the funds used for abortions so no tax dollars are used. This is a subject that people have strong opinions on and therefore caused some extended debate on the floor.

Senators on the left and right side of the aisle have been trying to compromise on language that will make both sides happy. It has been a difficult and long few weeks trying to pass this budget bill. On Wednesday of last week, both sides came together and for the most part, we were able to craft a bill that most of us can live with. The bill passed on a 44-4 vote late that night. I am confident that we will pass this bill and the rest of the budget bills. I anticipate we will hear from a few of my colleagues on final reading, but in the end, we will have the votes to get LB 944 to Governor Ricketts. I think there may be a couple of areas within the budget that the Governor may consider line item vetoes on, but we will have to wait and see.

It was my pleasure to host Reverend Becky Saddler of the 1st United Methodist Church of Arapahoe to give the opening prayer to the Legislature on the 27th. I extend an invitation to all of the ministers in the 44th District to do this and several have accepted. Thank you, Reverend Saddler.

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