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Nebraska Legislature returns this week

Posted at 6:13 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 19:13:42-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — While there’s many things the 49 state senators would like to get to, a couple things they must pass is a budget and redistricting maps for the next 10 years.

Senator Lou Ann Linehan expects it to get a little contentious.

“I mean it is partisan, we’re re-drawing congressional districts and we have one of the toughest, evenly divided congressional districts in the nation in District 2,” says Linehan.

To make matters more difficult, due to COVID, some census information, which the legislature uses to draw maps, could be delayed.

Senator John McCollister says they may not get it until the early spring.

“So that doesn’t give us much time to get the process going,” says McCollister.

Both McCollister and Linehan currently sit on the revenue committee, and will again be tackling tax reform.

After passing some property tax reform last session, Linehan, a Republican who hopes to again chair the Revenue Committee, wants to look at the big picture this session.

“How can we modernize our tax code so we’re not dependent on property taxes. So that we are not one of the highest states in the area on income tax,” says Linehan.

McCollister, a moderate Republican, agrees with the large point, saying he wants to remove some sales tax exemptions but counter that by lowering the sales tax rate.

“It’s likely that we’ll try to broaden the sales tax and maybe even lower the rate. I think that would be the best of both worlds,” says McCollister.

The more liberal members of the unicameral have different priorities.

Expect to see bills that mandate police accountability, as well as another that puts a moratorium on evictions.

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, a Democrat who represents central Omaha, is bringing back a paid family leave bill, a subject that stalled last year.

“I hope that the legislature as a whole will have gained some understanding of the significance and importance of this type of legislation, it has such a far reaching impact,” Cavanaugh.

She says it’s a bill that keeps young people in the state and the need for it has been highlighted due to COVID.

“This is the right time, and we’ve seen how important and significant of an impact it can have,” says Cavanaugh.

Governor Ricketts is also pushing for a new $230 million prison to deal with overcrowding.

McCollister and Cavanaugh say it’s not needed. Linehan wants to see more, but is reluctant to spend on building prisons.

“I don’t think very many people in Nebraska look forward spending money on more prisons, so I think we have a lot of hard work to do there,” says Cavanaugh.