Today the 104th Legislature concluded their business and adjourned Sine Die. Today’s agenda was in place to give the Legislature the opportunity to address any vetoes the Governor may have delivered. While there were a few technical vetoes in A-bills (appropriations), there were two bills of substance that the governor Vetoed. One was allowing for qualified individuals that are the children of illegal immigrants, to acquire professional licenses (LB 947) and the other regarding changes to the legislative redistricting process (LB 10). The body only chose to address one of the vetoes with a motion to override. Senator Heath Mello filed a motion to override the Governor’s Veto on LB 947. After a re-hash of the original debate, the Legislature successfully passed the override motion and LB 947 became law notwithstanding the objections of the Governor.
At the end of this session we celebrate the passage of two bills introduced on behalf of NREA, LB 736, Senator Curt Friesen’s bill to allow all Nebraska Utilities the ability to negotiate contracts with a Community-Based Energy Development project and LB 973, Senator Jim Smith’s bill to increase penalties for violations and to and support notification of utilities when oversized loads move across the state. We were fortunate that both of these bills moved through the system with no objections and were able to be fast-tracked to passage on the Consent Calendar.
Passing a Compromise
LB 824, Senator McCollister’s bill to lessen the regulatory process for the development of privately owned renewable energy generation, also passed this year. The road to passage of LB 824 was a bumpy one for the supporters of renewable energy. In my last blog post you may recall that the renewable development language was stripped from the bill since it did not have enough votes to advance. The language of LB 914, legislation to increase the compensation for the Nebraska Power Review Board member that serves on the Southwest Power Pools Regional State Committee, was amended into LB 824 and became the bill. This was done so that the Committee priority status could still be used. Amendments that would have put the compromise language of the original LB 824 were pulled on the first round of debate (General File) and not discussed. The bill easily advanced because of this.
When the bill returned to the Agenda on Select File, it was a different story. The amendment to re-instate the compromise language to lessen the regulatory authority for private wind development came back. This was a way to pass a bill, that could not advance from committee on its merits and there were a few members of the legislature that were concerned about setting a new precedent for a process to resurrect a bill not fully supported by Committee. The bill and proposed amendment were filibustered by a group of senators for four hours. The filibuster was led by Senator Curt Friesen, but strongly supported by some members of the Natural Resources Committee, Senators Johnson, Schnoor and Hughes that originally opposed the bill and others. Their opposition was not just because of the process, but also because of the content of the bill. NREA and the Nebraska Power Association (NPA) maintained a neutral position on the bill because of the compromise on the proposed language of the amendment. I don’t think any of us were supportive of the process to advance the measure.
The bill did advance and when it was heard on Final Reading, it was once again filibustered for two additional hours. In the end, LB 824 passed and will become law on July 20, 2016.
As will all compromises there are parts we like and parts we don’t like. We will wait and see if the passage of LB 824 was the key to push renewable energy, particularly wind, forward in Nebraska.
More to talk about
I will be preparing a list of bills of interest that passed and I will also finalize the NREA Bill Tracking Document to illustrate the final disposition of bills for this year. These documents will only be available to NREA members.
If a bill did not pass this year, it is done. We start with a clean slate and a new Legislature next year. The 105th Legislature, First Session will convene on January 4, 2017.