LB 310 (1993)
May 17, 1993
CLERK: Senator, with respect to 310, I have E & R amendments pending, first of all.
SPEAKER BAACK PRESIDING
SPEAKER BAACK: Senator Will.
SENATOR WILL: Mr. Speaker, I move the adoption of the E & R amendments to LB 310.
SPEAKER BAACK: You've heard the motion to adopt the E & R
amendments to LB 310. All those in favor say aye. Opposed no. They are adopted.
CLERK: Nothing further on the bill, Senator.
SPEAKER BAACK: Senator Will.
SENATOR WILL: Mr. Speaker, I move the advancement of LB 310 to E & R for engrossment.
SPEAKER BAACK: Thank you, Senator Will. Discussion, Senator Beutler.
SENATOR BEUTLER: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask that bill be passed over temporarily because there are a set of amendments agreed upon and pending to the bill. We weren't quite expecting this change in direction here, but they should be up in about five minutes, and we can get that done, if we may.
SPEAKER BAACK: We will simply pass over that for right now. We will wait for the vote on advancement until we get that series of amendments. We will go to LB 516.
CLERK: Mr. President, 310 was considered earlier. Enrollment
and Review amendments were adopted at that time. The first amendment I have to the bill is by Senator Preister. Senator, AM2156. (See page 2177 of the Legislative Journal.)
SPEAKER BAACK: Senator Preister.
SENATOR PREISTER: Thank you, Honorable Speaker, friends all. I just need to pull the amendment out. I apologize. Mr. Speaker, could you tell me, did I have that printed in the Journal? I apologize.
CLERK: No, sir. It's the one you brought up to us just a short time ago.
SENATOR PREISTER: I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
CLERK: I think we ... I think copies were made and distributed but I'm not sure of that, Senator.
SENATOR PREISTER: Yes, I have it now. I'm sorry. It was to be printed in the Journal, but it hasn't been yet. And we are back on it now. My apologies. Thank you. Yes, I have it. This is a concern on this bill that I have had for a while, and I apologize for this. It's been confusing all the way along, and to the committee members who worked with me on this amendment and on this bill in particular. It has been distributed earlier in the day, and there should be copies in some of the stacks of paper that everyone has. Nebraska's had a long history of public power. And the power ... public power has provided us with reasonable rates and excellent service. We appreciate the fact that our electrical power system is locally owned and controlled However, I do not believe it is the intent of the Legislature to remove the public from public power. in fact there is a need to make sure there is accountability to the public, a need to keep the public informed so that they can make an intelligent, informed judgment as to the financial condition and efficiency of their public utilities. We should remember that our utilities are governmental subdivisions of the state, and that the ratepayers have the right to accountability from them. This amendment, I feel, gives the ratepayer some of the tools that they will need in pursuing the information they are entitled to. The amendment establishes a minimum requirement of information that needs to be contained in the budget. These minimum requirements would allow the public the information they need to make an informed judgment as to the financial condition
and the efficiency of their public utility. This amendment establishes an opportunity for the public to testify at the board meeting before the budget is adopted. The ability for the public to participate in an open discussion of the budget is important. This amendment is on your desk, if you do need to see it, and it has been one that has been in process. The amendment and the bill have concerned me. I think this particular amendment does make it a better bill, calling for additional accountability on behalf of the utilities.With that, I thank you. SPEAKER BAACK: Thank you, Senator Preister. Discussion on the Preister amendment? Senator Hall.
SENATOR HALL: I have a point of order, Mr. President, first. The board reads 2156, AM2156, and we have on our desks AM2124. Which ... and I don't know, I apologize, which amendment are we dealing with?
SPEAKER BAACK: The Clerk will explain this.
CLERK: Well, Senator, I think 2124, or whatever number you referred to, had a penciled in change, or notation, so we modified it, had it run back upstairs; 2156 is the one that's on the desk. It's the one that's before you. It's the corrected version of ... of the early one that you referred to, I believe.
SENATOR HALL: So we don't have 2156 on our desks?
CLERK: I ...
SENATOR HALL: Or, I should...
SENATOR HALL: Oh, okay. Well, I haven't seen it yet. Thank you, appreciate that very much, Mr. Clerk.
SPEAKER BAACK: Senator Hall.
SENATOR HALL: Mr. President, members, Senator Preister, would you respond to a question?
SENATOR PREISTER: Yes, Senator Hall, I would.
SENATOR HALL: Don, what's the difference between the two amendments? What... I can't seem to find the one that we have in front of us, but I do have 2124. What was the change?
SENATOR PREISTER: Thank you for asking me the question, Senator Hall. There is a one word change between the one that was passed out and is on your desk, which is 2124 and 2156, which we're now dealing with. With this bill being on and off again, this afternoon, I need to be more on my toes and alert. The one word change, between what you have on your desk and what we have now before, is changing from the word on, which is in line 19, to the word in. And I had thought that this would be printed in the Journal tonight and you would have the new amendment when it comes before us again. However, it is back up before us now. It would read, the budget shall be in a form approved by the Nebraska Power Review Board, rather than as it is in AM2124, the budget shall be on a form approved.
SENATOR HALL: Okay, thank you, Senator Preister. Can... I have another question then on the top half, Section 1, where you refer to page 2 of the bill, line 13. The provisions that you talk about with regard to how the audit is going to be conducted, it's going to be done by a certified public accountant, or firm of accountants selected by the auditor of public accounts. How is it currently handled? What's currently the process right now that raises this issue?
SENATOR PREISTER: Currently, they are being audited by an accounting firm that they select through a board process, as I understand it.
SENATOR HALL: And is it... is it just the fact that they're not timely in completing this audit process, that generates the amendment?
SENATOR PREISTER: Senator, the concern is that they have been operating under the budget act. As a result of 310, they will no longer be under the budget act, therefore the State Auditor will not have any authority to do anything with the selection of their accounting firm, or with approving who they select.
SENATOR HALL: But they wouldn't, even under 310 as this is written, isn't it clearly just triggered by the fact that the audit hasn't been done within the time prescribed? That is when the ... the auditor's function of appointing a CPA or a firm to
conduct the audit would kick in? Is that not correct?
SENATOR PREISTER: I believe you're correct.
SENATOR HALL: So, in other words, the only time it comes into play is if within 180 days after the close of the fiscal year they haven't had this audit completed and filed, that then this new language would become operable. Is that accurate?
SENATOR PREISTER: That's accurate.
SENATOR HALL: Okay. And then the .... But right now there isn't that provision in statute, or is there? There is, but what you're telling me is that under 310 that was changed, and you're basically making it applicable again?
SENATOR PREISTER: That's correct.
SENATOR HALL: Thank you very much. I in support of the amendment. Thank you, Senator Preister.
SPEAKER BAACK: Thank you, Senator Hall. Senator Schellpeper, on the Preister amendment.
SENATOR SCHELLPEPER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and members. I'd like to ask Senator Preister a question, too. Now, the only change, Senator, is just the one word on to in.
SENATOR PREISTER: That's correct, Senator.
SENATOR SCHELLPEPER: And the other amendment, as I understand it, has been ... you have talked to the ... the power districts, and they've agreed to the amendment that it is acceptable?
SENATOR PREISTER: Yes, Senator Schellpeper. The amendment that is... that we are right now looking at has been negotiated and agreed on by the power companies. And we did also insert something that they were concerned about, and that was just the part we're talking about, that I would not be a standardized form that everyone would have to follow, but would be a form that could be approved and would be individual to those different utilities. So this has been agreed upon, and to my knowledge there isn't any contention over this amendment.
SENATOR SCHELLPEPER: Thank you, 1. will I I support the amendment.
SPEAKER BAACK: Than you, Senator Schellpeper. Senator Warner.
SENATOR WARNER: Mr. President, members of the Legislature, the amendment is okay with me also as introducer.
SPEAKER BAACK: Any further. discussion on the Preister amendment? Seeing none, Senator Preister, do you wish to close?
SENATOR PREISTER: Yes. I would like to thank the body for their indulgence, as I was caught off guard. I would also like to thank the committee members who indulged me as I had concerns on this particular bill. I think when we're talking the kinds of sums of money, a billion and a half dollars nearly, which is the same as the state's budget this year we're looking at a lot of money. And I think that the accountability of that money is very, very important, and for that reason I have persisted and appreciate the support I that anyone chooses to give on this amendment. Thank you.
SPEAKER BAACK: Thank you, Senator Preister. You've heard the closing on the amendment by Senator Preister. We'll now vote on the amendment. All those in favor vote aye, opposed vote no. Record, Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: 29 ayes, 0 nays, Mr. President, on adoption of Senator Preister's amendment.
SPEAKER BAACK: The Preister amendment is adopted.
CLERK: Senator Beutler would move to amend with AM2130. (See page 2178 of the Legislative Journal.)
SPEAKER BAACK: Senator Beutler.
SENATOR BEUTLER: Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature, this is a... an amendment that simply puts the statutes in accordance with the general practice that's going on right now. In the bill we provide that public power districts shall ... their audits shall be in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. And that is the same standards that the auditor presently applies to all political subdivisions which are required to file audits with their office. And so what we're doing, just to clarify the law and to show that the public
power districts are not to be treated differently than anybody else, is just to make clear in the statutes that generally accepted government auditing principles apply to all political subdivisions that are currently filing audits with the auditor of public accounts. And I passed out a little chart to you that helps you understand the difference between government auditing standards and generally accepting auditing standards, and that's all this amendment does. Thank you.
SPEAKER BAACK: Thank you, Senator Beutler. Discussion on the Beutler amendment? Seeing none, do you wish to close, Senator Beutler? He waives closing. We'll now vote on the Beutler amendment. All those in favor vote aye, opposed vote no. Have you all voted? Have you all voted? Record, Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: 26 ayes, 0 nays, Mr. President, on the adoption of Senator Beutler's amendment.
SENATOR HALL: The amendment is adopted. Anything else on the bill, Mr. Clerk?
CLERK: Nothing further on the bill, Mr. President.
SENATOR HALL: The motion is then the advancement of LB 310 to E & R for engrossing. Is there any discussion? Senator Hohenstein.
SENATOR HOHENSTEIN: I move that LB 310 be advanced to E & R for engrossing.
SENATOR HALL: You've heard the motion. All those in favor say aye. Opposed. The bill is advanced. Mr. Clerk.