Floor Transcripts

General File

LB 306 (1998)

January 29, 1998




PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Good morning and welcome to the George W. Norris Legislative Chamber.  Our chaplain for the day is Pastor John Stemple, the Interim Regional Minister of the Christian Churches of Nebraska, Disciples of Christ.  Pastor Stemple.


PASTOR STEMPLE:  (Prayer offered.)


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Pastor Stemple.  I now call the fifteenth legislative day to order.  Will senators please record your presence.  Record.


CLERK:  I have a quorum present, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Mr. Clerk.  Any corrections to the Journal?


CLERK:  I have no corrections, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Messages, reports, and announcements?


CLERK:  Just one item.  Government Committee gives notice of hearing, that's signed by Senator Robinson as Chair.  That's all that I have, Madam President.  (See page 461 of the Legislative Journal.)


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Mr. Clerk.  We turn now to special order, General File Speaker priority bills, and LB 306.


CLERK:  Madam President, 306, a bill originally introduced by Senator Schellpeper, it's a bill actually introduced by Senators Warner and Schellpeper.  (Read title.) The bill was introduced in January of last year, at that time was referred to the Revenue Committee.  The bill was advanced to General File, it was discussed on April 30 and May I of last year, at that time committee amendments were offered.  In addition, there was an amendment by members of the Revenue Committee that was offered, AM1808, that was subsequently divided.  That amendment is pending, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Mr. Clerk.  Chair recognizes




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Senator Wickersham to refresh our memory and let us know where we are.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  (Laugh.) That may be a little bit difficult, Madam President, but I hope that we have just a few minutes in which we will be able to organize the debate for today.  There is, of course, a pending amendment to the Standing Committee amendments, a portion of which was adopted.  The amendment that we will wish to offer later this morning will strip all of those provisions and make the contents of the bill entirely new, and we'll be able to have a description of those contents a little bit later on.  We do have some pending amendments from members that are in advance of the amendment that we'll want you to consider, and we will be asking individual members to withdraw those pending amendments so that we can go to the main proposal.  We're hoping that, as we're able to do that, we'll be able to give you a coherent explanation of what we wish to do with LB 306.  Essentially, what is happening with LB, 306 is that we're, as I've indicated, we're gutting all of the original provisions that had to do with building levies, with levies for hazardous abatement, for ADA, and a procedure for evaluating joint use facilities.  And we're going to replace that with provisions that deal with a number of problems that have been identified and that need to be dealt with expeditiously so that we don't cause some unintended consequences with the limitations of 1114, the election processes that we established, some issues concerning motor vehicles, quite a lengthy list of topics that I will be going over with you as we go forward.  But for the moment, we would ask the individual members' indulgence, if they would withdraw or refile later amendments that they have pending to the existing committee amendment, those will not become relevant later on in the process.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Wickersham.  Mr. Clerk.


CLERK:  Madam President, the first amendment ...  Senator Wickersham, may I assume, Senator, the first amendments are what was AM1808 that was divided last year, what then became FA205, 206, and 204.  You want to withdraw those at this time?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Those can be withdrawn.




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PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Is there any objection?  Seeing none, they are withdrawn.


CLERK:  The next amendment, Senator Tyson has an amendment.  But I understand he wants to withdraw, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Is that correct, Senator?  The amendment is withdrawn.


CLERK:  Senator Tyson and Maurstad ...  but, withdraw?


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The amendment is withdrawn.


CLERK:  Senator Maurstad, AM1684, withdraw?


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The amendment is withdrawn.


CLERK:  Senator Janssen, wishes to withdraw, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The amendment is withdrawn.


CLERK:  Senator Beutler, amendment AM1327, from last year, Senator.  (See page 1771 of the Legislative Journal for the First Session.)


SENATOR BEUTLER:  I would like to speak to it, Mr. Clerk.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Chair recognizes Senator Beutler to open on the amendment.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Senator Wickersham, a question or two, if I may.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Wickersham, will you yield?




SENATOR BEUTLER:  I'm basically just exploring this momentarily to establish the nature of the precedent that is being Bet this morning.  This bill is being gutted, essentially.  Is that correct?




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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  That's correct.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  And it's being gutted, in part, because there are certain things that we must get done.




SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  And those things that are ...  that Must be done, cannot be done with a Revenue Committee priority bill or with an individual's priority bill?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  It ...  depending on how quickly we could move one of those types of bills through the process.  I can't say that this is the only way to accomplish our objectives, Senator, but it is...  seems to be the most efficient way for us to address these particular issues.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  So, in some sense it's like a mechanism to give the committee or whoever an additional priority status, would that be fair to say?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I wouldn't characterize it that way, Senator.  We have employed this kind of a process before, at least in my recollection.  I believe this was employed with the Micron package, where there was something that I think there was broad ...  well, in that case I can't say the word "broad-based agreement" that should be done.  (Laugh.) In this instance, I think, Senator, you'll find that there would be, or I hope will find that there's very broad-based agreement that this needs to be done, this is an expeditious way to do it.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  We're not attempting to...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Of...of the 59 pages of amendment, how many of those are necessary, and how many of those are simply things the .Revenue Committee would like to get done, as a lot of committees would like to get things done, and they're just going to this bill?




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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay, okay.  The provision that I think everybody will agree is critical is the effective date for elections to override.  We're moving that so it's in effect retroactive to December 1 of 1997.  There is another provision that deals with pro-rate motor vehicle taxes that's very important.  The quicker we can get that done, the better.  What we did last year, in LB 271, was inadvertently repeal a section that is necessary for the proper allocation of those taxes.  That, Senator, we...  (laugh).




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  And you're correct, there are other pieces in here that don't bear the kind of urgency that those pieces do, but to strip the bill down and say that we should just deal with those two essential kernels doesn't necessarily make any sense in terms of efficiency either, at least I hope you would agree.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  And does...was 306 either a committee or an individual priority bill?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  It was an individual ...  it was an individual priority bill of Senator Schellpeper, from 19...


SENATOR BEUTLER:  ...  of last session?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  from 1997.


SENATOR BEUTLER:  Okay.  Thank you.  I withdraw the amendment.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The amendment is withdrawn.


CLERK:  Madam President, Senator Wickersham, I now have ...  Senator Schellpeper, excuse me, is primary...  I now have (AM)2751, Senator.  I think you may...


SENATOR SCHELLPEPER:  I would like to withdraw that.


CLERK:  ...  withdraw.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The amendment is withdrawn.




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CLERK:  Madam President, Senator ...  the Revenue Committee would offer (AM)2828.  (Amendment is printed separately and referred to on page 426 of the Legislative Journal.)


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Chair recognizes Senator Wickersham to open on the Revenue Committee amendment.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Thank you, Madam President.  And I appreciate the questions that Senator Beutler was asking both about the substantive issues that are in the amendment to the committee amendments and to the process that we're employing this morning.  I think those were good and appropriate questions.  The amendment, in addition, the amendment to the amendment, in- addition to the two items mentioned in the brief discussion with Senator Beutler, does address a number of issues that are either in the kind of cleanup issues, if you will, related 'to 1114, and the past efforts of the Revenue Committee and the Legislature to provide mechanisms and processes to use as we reduce our reliance on property taxes.  I will tell you, as I explained to Senator Beutler, that not everything in here is quite as time sensitive as other provisions, but some provisions are quite time sensitive.  If we can divide the discussion of the amendment into kind of functions or themes, that might be more useful to you.  We have distributed a section-by-section summary of the amendment, and I hope, as we're having a little bit of discussion this morning, you're able to go through that section-by-section.  And if you have specific questions, we'll be happy to try to respond to them.  I would suggest to you that the amendment can be divided into the following kinds of categories--we have provisions that deal with time lines, we have provisions that concern elections to override the levy limitations, we have provisions that concern the allocation of levies, we have provisions that concern the taxation of motor vehicles, we have one provision that concerns the ...  the calculation of receipts for purposes of school aid, we have provisions that concern the delinquency rates or the delinquency dates for personal property, and then we have a couple of what I can only characterize as miscellaneous provisions.  The time line provisions are important.  You'll see those are set out separately on the summary that's on your desk.  I hope that you're able to evaluate those.  What we're




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attempting to do is provide a mix between two time lines, one is the assessment time line or the date on which we know valuations in the various political subdivisions, coordinating that with the time lines that the political subdivisions have to use in order to set their budgets.  Those two time lines have to match, because budget decisions are based on the valuations in the local political subdivisions.  And I hope that you feel, as we do, that the time lines we're presenting are reasonable, at least in the components that we have.  We've not heard from anyone that what we're suggesting is unreasonable in terms of either administration, or process, or ability to inform the public.  We believe that they're going to work.  But, if you've heard otherwise, if something is out of whack here, we certainly want to be able to hear from you.  The provisions for election override, as I noted for Senator Beutler, are critical, in particular for school districts all across the state.  We're hearing from school districts all over the state that they need to consider elections to override prior to July 1 of 1998.  Now, that was a deadline that we had in LB 1114 that we passed a couple of years ago.  We've had counsel for school districts say that we can't possibly have an election prior to July 1 of 1998, given the existing provisions of law, and, if you make us wait until after July 1, 1998, to have an election to override, we aren't going to know what kind of rif notices or other kinds of notices related to production and expenditures we're going to have to give, and those notices are due by April 15; so you need to provide for us, in order to have an election without question, a provision that allows us to do that before April 15.  The solution that's proposed by the committee is simply to make the provisions concerning elections retroactive to December I of 1997.  Now, there are also a couple of other provisions that concern those elections that are in the amendment.  We are providing or a limited ...  there is a provision for a limitation on political subdivisions BO that they could have only one election in a given year.  We would allow multiple petition elections, that is, if you circulate a petition and you're going to have a special election, you can have as many of those as you want.  But, if the governing board for the political subdivision wants to have elections, they can only have one.  we've also provided a mechanism for the board to rescind a resolution to have an election.  If you decide you don't want to do it, you shouldn't have to go through the expense of having an election.




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Just because you started the train out of the station doesn't mean that you have to arrive someplace, you can stop.  We have included language that sets out ballot provisions so that we can give a little bit of instruction and structure for the election commissioners as they attempt to put these issues on the ballot.  We've also provided that after May 1 of 1998 that petitions that are being circulated to cause an override of the* levy limitations have to conform with the general laws that are applicable to other kinds of petitions.  And you may wonder why we set the date on May 1.  We have patrons in one school district they're already circulating a petition.  They tell us it doesn't meet with the requirements of the existing law, so we delayed that effective date.  We have provisions, these are kind of miscellaneous provisions, concerning the allocation of levies or the clarification of the rules about where a levy is applicable, those apply in a number of kind of miscellaneous provisions, for example, we have one that says that if you have a levy within a city for a monument or- museum, that's a part of the city levy.  We have allocation of ...  we have some provisions that concern the allocation of the levies for the miscellaneous districts, for example, if you have a municipal airport, that goes to the municipal allocation process.  If you have a county airport, that goes to the county allocation process.  And part of the time line provisions also concern that allocation process.  we're providing that those miscellaneous districts have to submit their request by August 1, that the body that is going to make that allocation, whether it's a county or a municipality, make a decision by September 1, and that by October 14 you'd have to have had an election to override that allocation, because remember, no matter what the allocation is, that local political subdivision has the opportunity to override.  The motor vehicle provisions, one of those is the provision noted in ...  briefly in the discussion with Senator Beutler concerning allocation of the pro-rated motor vehicle tax.  There is a provision that says if you waited until January ...  after January I of 1998 to register a vehicle that should have been reregistered in 1997, thinking that somehow you were going to get advantage of the lower rates, you were wrong because the old rule, the existing rule that's been on the books forever that just by delaying your registration you didn't escape the taxes and the fees that were appropriate when you should have registered.  Been the rule forever, we're going to




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make sure that stays the rule.  We don't want people playing games, running around, waiting until January I or some other date to register vehicles.  There are provisions that make clear how we're going to value assembled vehicles.  I don't know if you've ever had neighbors, maybe you've done it yourself, go to the backyard, you put a box on the chassis, you put a different engine in it, you put a different transmission in it, go to the county...




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...you go to the county treasurer and you say, I've made this thing, I don't know what you want to call it, but I've made it and these are the parts I made it out of.  Well, we're going to give them a process for valuing those.  There are some provisions that pertain to language about the Property Tax Administrator and Department of Motor Vehicles to make clear who's responsible for the valuation of motor vehicles--it's going to be the Department of Motor Vehicles.  School aid, we're going to have motor vehicle taxes counted as a receipt.  Property ...  personal property we're going to put that under the same delinquency schedule as real property.  And then in the very miscellaneous provisions we have some that deal with TERC, set a date for counties to appeal from classification valuation changes they would have to make those appeals by August 10 rather than August 15, on the current schedule.  And then we provide for school systems to have a joint hearing on their proposed budget.  We're moving that back from October 20 to October S.  I would be happy to attempt to respond to any questions you might have.  I know this is a lengthy amendment.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Some of these provisions are complicated.  Thank you very much.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Wickersham.  Senator Schmitt announces that the following guest is visiting the Legislature-Everett Lech is here from Ord.  He is seated under the south balcony.  Will you please stand and be recognized.  Welcome to the Legislature, Mr. Lech.  And Senator Coordsen would like to recognize Dr.  William Coady of Lincoln who is




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serving as the family Doctor of the Day today on behalf of the Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians.  Dr.  Lech (sic) is seated under the north balcony.  Will you stand and be recognized, please.  Welcome, Dr.  Lech (sic).  Senator Coordsen.


SENATOR COORDSEN:  Madam President....


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Chambers.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Madam President, members of the Legislature, I'd like to ask Senator Wickersham a question.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Wickersham, will you yield?




SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Senator Wickersham, I was trying to follow what you were saying, while trying to scan the handout that you gave us, and I think you touched on this.  A problem created by the effective date of 1114, for those who want to override the limit, would be corrected by the amendment you're offering today?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  That's correct.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  By moving the date back when...


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  We're making the date, rather than July 1 of 1998, we're making that provision effective December 1 of 1997.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Okay, that's the main question I had.  How long do you think you all are going to discuss this?  And the only reason I'm saying it, for those of us who are not members of the Revenue Committee and are not aware of all of these things, it's almost impossible to get caught up during the brief discussion that has occurred here.  I don't even know if I have a problem with the bill, because I haven't been able to look through the amendment yet.  So, is it something that is going to be discussed, or is it going to go ahead and shoot across if you know?




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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, Senator, I can't predict that.  I hope that, if you and others have questions, either that we're able to resolve those in conversations or through the debate.  I ...  I firmly want or hope that the members are comfortable with the provisions, that they understand what they do and, if they vote to advance, advance on that basis.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  But if it does happen to move today, that does not mean that it will not be open for further consideration.




SENATOR CHAMBERS:  In other words, this in not one of those bills that is greased and it just has to shoot on across the board as quickly as possible.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, there are school districts who obviously want to see these provisions enacted so that they have certainty about how they're going to proceed in the election overrides.  And that, in order to work through the election process, so that they can have those elections before April 15, Senator, there is some need to move the bill through so that you could have a resolution by a board, or a petition signed and presented to the county clerk, give the appropriate notice for the election, have the election before April 15.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  The critical date is whether or not schools are going to have to give rif notices unnecessarily, for example, and cause disruption in their staffing patterns and...


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Well, let me ask the question this way, will this amendment carry the emergency clause?




SENATOR CHAMBERS:  And what is the date by which it must be signed by the Governor in order to let these things take place that you're discussing?




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SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, there's a 30-day ...  frankly, Senator, I haven't exactly worked that backwards.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Well, roughly.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I think there are some who would suggest that even March 1 would be too late, because you couldn't have an election by April 15 or enough time before April 15 to make decisions.  There are others who would be much more comfortable, a week or two weeks in advance of even March 1, because there's a...


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Oh, so we're not talking about trying to get it through the first of February or anything like that.




SENATOR CHAMBERS:  There will be some days when we can look at it.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  That's correct.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Then I don't have any concerns at this point.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Chambers.  Senator Schellpeper.


SENATOR SCHELLPEPER:  Yes, Madam ...  thank you, Madam Chairman and members.  I want to apologize to the body for not being here this morning.  I was in a news conference.  But, as you all recall, this is Senator Warner's bill from last year, and it dealt with the building fund levy limits.  In hearings last summer with the Revenue Committee and Education Committee, basically, there was a lot of different ideas and a lot of different views of what that should be used for, how much it should be, whether it should be 15 cents, whether it should be 3 cents, or 5 cents.  And the committee decided that maybe we're not ready to move this forward yet this year.  It just seemed like it really doesn't affect the schools until really next year.  And so if we do it later on this session, or else next year, they could still operate that way.  So rather than let the




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bill sit there, these are some things that had to be done in order to help the schools and the other local subdivisions, if they want to override.  There are several townships out there in the rural areas that want to use this same tool.  So it's something that we have to do.  The motor vehicle fee, we found out they weren't quite what we thought they were, so they have to be changed.  So there are some things in here that have to be changed, they have to be done this session, fairly early, whereas the building fund levy for the schools can wait until later on, because they have it now, so it's not going to affect them yet this year.  So it's something that hopefully the body will approve this morning, move it on to Select.  We'll work with anybody on it, but there's some issues in here that we have to have.  I don't want anybody to think that we're putting ...  or trying to move something through here that shouldn't be moving, because that's not true.  These are just some things that have to happen, and this bill was up already on General, so we decided to use it for that.  But the building fund levy is not dead, it will come back, we will address it later on.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Schellpeper.  Senator Dierks.


SENATOR DIERKS:  Thank you, Madam President and members of the Legislature.  I just was reading through this handout, and I come up with some terms that I wanted ...  that reminded me of things I want to talk to you about.  One of the things that I have some concern about, Senator Wickersham, is that the cost of providing these special elections gets pretty exorbitant in some areas.  And I wondered if some thought was given to providing that these elections should take place at a primary election or at a general election?


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Senator Dierks, they can, it's up to the people who initiate the process to determine whether the special election coincides with the date of a general or a primary election.


SENATOR DIERKS:  You say they may, but it doesn't specify that




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they have to?




SENATOR DIERKS:  I wonder if that wouldn't be prudent, as far as our taxpayers are concerned, to specify that they should take place on those dates?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, I don't think that will work very well perhaps with some of the school time lines.  But we can discuss that, Senator.


SENATOR DIERKS:  Another thing I wanted to mention today, and I'm not sure that it's even appropriate, but we've had some...  some of my constituents have had difficulties with assessors making a decision on what a property is valued at and the county board deciding among themselves, when they're actually in session, that they disagree and change the assessment.  And then the assessor insists that the assessor is right, they come to TERC for an adjudication on the matter, and usually the county board gets overruled.  And I wonder if, that county board is elected by the people of the county and I have a feeling that they should have a little bit more ...  their authority should be...weigh a little heavier than what it is.  I wonder if you have a comment about that?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  We've heard ...  we've heard from both county assessors and county boards on that particular issue.  There was a bill introduced by Senator Kristensen that's been heard by the committee.  I think the real question you're asking is about burden of proof or presumption in favor of one decision-maker or the other.  As you might guess, we had conflicting opinions, conflicting testimony about that issue.  And if you're interested in the bill that presented one resolution of it, that's LB 982.  That bill is still being held in committee.  That issue is not addressed in this amendment to the committee amendments or this bill.  We're...I can't tell you that I think the committee has reached a recommendation to the body about that particular issue, but we're certainly aware of it.


SENATOR DIERKS:  Okay, thank you very much.  I guess the thing that I keep coming back to is that whatever we do with these




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issues, I believe we should have foremost in mind the taxpayer and what's going to make it easier for him or her.  And I'm concerned, of course, about costs of elections, I'm concerned about, like we mentioned just now, how much or how little input the taxpayer has an far an those valuations and assessments are concerned.  And if we keep these things in mind, as we go through this particular process, that it's the taxpayer we have to be concerned about, then I think we'll be on the right track.  Thank you very much.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Dierks.  Senator Jensen.


SENATOR JENSEN:  Madam President, members of the body, I think this is something that we're going to see maybe a little more of this session than we have in previous sessions.  I kind of call these things kind of Heinz 57 bills, because it seems to be about 57 varieties in this one bill.  Senator Wickersham, I'd just like to ask a question, concerning LB 271, we did have a lot of questions, particularly from ...  well all parts of the counties as to how that was to be determined.  Are we covering everything in here?


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Senator Jensen, no, we're not.  There will be a subse ...  there is a bill that's going to be heard in the committee, it's (LB) 1333 that would address other issues that have been raised, such as the valuation of vehicles or pickups.  We have some people who think that Suburbans are trucks, we don't think Suburbans are trucks, maybe you do.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  We have to ...  we have to solve that problem.  We've got a problem with small trailers.  We have people telling us that the registration and taxes that they're paying on some of the small trailers, like you might put a snowmobile on or a golf cart, that they're paying almost as much in registration and taxes as it costs them.  We didn't intend that result.  We've got some other problems to address, but those we'll take up in the context of LB 1333 that we've not heard yet.




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SENATOR JENSEN:  But as far as allocations to ...  that schools, that was coming out of 271, as far as allocating ...  to the NRDs and so on and so forth, is that in here, or will...




SENATOR JENSEN:  ...  that be in a subsequent bill?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, the portion that's in here, that's very, very important, is the restoration of the allocation of the pro-rate motor vehicle tax.  That was inadvertently deleted in (LB) 271, that needs to go back in, regardless of any other decisions.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  And that is in here.


SENATOR JENSEN:  And that is in here?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  That is in here.  The other ...  the other provisions that are in here, and they're kind of...  I would characterize them as not being so substantive as that particular issue, but it's the late registration idea.  If you had a vehicle that should have been registered December 1 of 1997, but you thought it would be better to register that on January 2 of 1998'...


SENATOR JENSEN:  Been there, done that.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  (Laugh.) Okay.  This makes clear that that isn't quite what we expect, that if you should have registered that on December 1...


SENATOR JENSEN:  It will be December 1.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  ...  you've got to do December 1.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  (Laugh.) And, I don't know, maybe you never took a vehicle in your backyard and made it a, you know,




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took a piece from this one, a piece from that one,...


SENATOR JENSEN:  Also done that.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Okay.  Well, when you went into the county assessor, did they ask you how much the thing was worth?  Okay.  We're going to put a mechanism in place that gives the county treasurers guidance that tells them what ...  how to calculate a worth for those things that you've assembled in your backyard, or down at the shop, or someplace else.  That we think is kind of garden variety material that's not ...  not necessarily substantive.  And then the other piece that deals with motor vehicles -is some language change, so that it's clear that the Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for the schedules that are going to be used by the county treasurers, not the Property Tax Administrator.


SENATOR JENSEN:  Okay.  Well, thank you.  I think I, like Senator Chambers, will certainly take a look at this between now and Select File to make sure that I have a good understanding of everything that's being covered within this bill then.






PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Jensen.  Senator Janssen.


SENATOR JANSSEN:  Thank you, Madam Lieutenant Governor, members of the Legislature.  Senator Dierks touched upon a couple of things that I'm interested in here.  You realize now that county assessors can be state employees.  I'm not sure whether they have to be or they can be.  Now this would ...  and I'm wondering what would happen on a disagreement.  Senator Dierks, talking about the county board having the last say, whether this makes a difference if the assessor is under the state authority or otherwise?  Senator Wickersham, can you answer that question for me?


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Wickersham.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Nothing In this amendment to the amendment




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addresses that issue.  That was ...  that issue was presented in to the committee in a hearing that we held on LB 982, but we've not had a chance to discuss that in committee.  There's been no Executive Session held for that discussion.  I don't want to presume what the recommendation of the committee is going to be on that particular issue to the body.


SENATOR JANSSEN:  Thank you.  I know there are some issues out there on certain farmsteads also now, whether that farmstead is a part of the farm, or whether it's a residential, it all depends on what kind of a corporation has (inaudible).  In Dodge County I know there has been some concern about the way the assessor and the state assessor has said, you know, coming from the state how those ...  how those rural homes are being assessed or at what rate they're valued at.  That's another question, too, the valuation.  You can have a farmstead a mile apart, and it all depends on what kind of a corporation they have, whether they're...  if it's in a trust or not, and there are different kinds now, that's true, Senator Wickersham, there are homes within a mile of each other that are valued at 40 to 50,000 dollars difference because of the type of situation that that farmstead is sat on.  So, I don't know whether that...you know, we can probably look at that another time.  And Senator Dierks had the problem with when the elect...  if it could be on the general or primary election.  That very well could be, but there are some times when that school or whatever it is are needing to have that election, and it won't work on the primary or general.  It would be a lot easier to do it then, but it all depends an what the time line is and what kind of situation you're under, whether you could ...  whether it will work on that.  So there are a lot of things that are happening that we're going to have to work out.  And I'm glad to see you're going to take this one piece at a time, so we can...  so those of us that don't quite understand how the Revenue Department works can follow along.  With that, thank you, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Janssen.  Senator Bohlke.


SENATOR BOHLKE:  Yes, Madam President, members.  I'm sorry, I've been involved in another meeting off the floor and I haven't heard all the testimony.  What I really wish to speak to is certainly the urgency of, I think, getting this done.  I thank




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Senator Wickersham, for bringing it forward and the Speaker for putting it on the agenda today.  And I think that's what most of us could agree to is the need to address the date for schools for the election for schools.  I have not...  I have heard just one ...  from one school district, a couple of people, who were negative on that.  That's why I think it's necessary to speak to ...  for those who may not have been here when we passed 1114, because we continually said to school districts, yes, you do have the option of an override.  And we thought the process was in place.  There's been raised some concerns by some attorneys as if that process is clearly defined and in place.  And so if our message was, yes, this is what we believe, what we need to do in property tax relief, but at the local level you will have an option to do an override, I think it's very important that the process be in place for those school districts to offer that to the electorate.  If someone doesn't like it just because they don't want the district to be successful on the override, that certainly, to me, doesn't make much sense as far as bringing an issue to the electorate of that school district and letting them make the decision.  That's simply what this does, it provides the process so that schools, patrons of that school district are allowed to make the decision.  And so I think it's very critical that we get this done, and I rise in support of the amendment to the amendment.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Bohlke.  Senator Jones.


SENATOR JONES:  Madam President, members of the body, I guess I want to rise and thank Senator Wickersham for bringing this up front here so we can go ahead and start moving on it.  There *is so much in here that I just don't think we can all decipher it in one morning.  A couple issues that's been brought up already that I wanted to talk about just a little bit, and that is LB 271 that we did pass, that was listed earlier that the fees go back to the...  for county roads and county municipals.  Now I just wanted to ask Senator Wickersham, is that addressed in this here so that it does go back, so that the schools get some of it now?


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Wickersham.






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SENATOR JONES:  Yes, on LB 271, you know, when you addressed that earlier they said that the fees goes back to the streets and the roads, you know.  And I wondered if that's been changed in this here bill so that it will go back to the schools and everything now?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  No, we're not changing anything, except pro-rate motor vehicles.


SENATOR JONES:  That's all ...  that's all you're changing out of 271 now?


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, we're not...  actually, I don't know if it's fair to characterize that as a change.  We repealed a, section that should not have been repealed, we're reinstating it so that those do get allocated properly.


SENATOR JONES:  Okay.  So it's going to be addressed then.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  I don't know, Senator.  The committee hasn't discussed whether we should change the allocation of the fee.  We don't have any ...  we don't have any ability to chant ge the allocation of the tax portion.  We think that constitutionally we're required to allocate the tax portion in proportion to the levies in the political ...  in the particular political subdivision.  I do hope that we're able to present to you, later on in the session, (LR) 45CA, which would then, if it passes, give the Legislature the discretion to change the allocation of the tax portion.  But there are two pieces, the tax portion that we really don't have any means of changing the allocation of that, the fee portion that we can change the allocation of.




SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  This doesn't change the allocation of the fee.


SENATOR JONES:  That's what I want to know, because that was what I was concerned about.  Another issue that I was concerned about, and Senator Dierks brought it up, and it was the election




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time.  It could cost some districts probably 20, 25,000 dollars of their local property tax to have an election.  If they wanted to have it at the primary, which is May 13, how would that fit in with the rif on teachers at April 15?  That's the problem I've got here.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Yeah, well, I think that's the issue that I was hinting at with Senator Dierks, and maybe I shouldn't hint, maybe I should just say flat out.  But it doesn't work very well in that time line.  You may have to have special elections in school districts for these particular issues.


SENATOR JONES:  Either that or change the rif to May 13.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Well, yeah, we might have that option.


SENATOR JONES:  Yes.  Okay, well, thank you for that observation.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Jones.  Senator Bohlke announces that the following guests are visiting the Legislature, there are 20 fourth grade students here from Longfellow Elementary School.  (Introduced teacher.) They are from Hastings, Nebraska, and are seated in the north balcony.  Will you all stand and be recognized, please.  Welcome to the Nebraska Legislature.  Seeing no further lights, Senator Wickersham, to close on the amendment to the committee amendments.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  Thank you, Madam President.  You used to enjoy my presentations on retirement bills.  I hope you're enjoying this presentation on a revenue ...  on a ...  well, that caused some dissent.  But, at any rate, I hope that as we go through the process that you will, as individuals, carefully examine the provisions that are being presented to you.  I hope that we've had enough discussion so that you're comfortable with adopting the amendment to the amendment, then the committee amendments and advancing the bill today.  There are provisions that are quite critical and time sensitive, so we'll be bringing this back to you on Select File for further discussion.  And certainly if you have any issues or questions before Select File, we'll want to take those up and discuss them with you.




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But I would urge your support now for the amendment to the committee amendments and then the committee amendments.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Wickersham.  The question before the body is the adoption of the committee amendment ...  the amendment to the committee amendments to LB 306.  All those in favor vote aye, all those opposed vote nay.  Please record.


CLERK:  29 ayes, 0 nays, Madam President, on adoption of the Revenue Committee amendment to the committee amendments.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The Revenue Committee amendment is adopted.  The amendment to the committee amendment is adopted.  Is there any ...  Senator Chambers, to discuss the committee amendments.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Madam President, members of the Legislature, I would like to ask Senator Wickersham a question.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Wickersham, will you yield?




SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Senator Wickersham, what we have ...  what we adopted was an amendment to the committee amendments.  If the committee amendments are adopted, they then become the bill.


SENATOR WICKERSHAM:  That's correct.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Thank you.  Madam President, I would like to make a couple of comments that are aside from this bill to indicate why maybe some of us will look very carefully at what comes out of the Revenue Committee, with all due respect to the "wizard from Harrison." I had clipped this article because there was a hearing described in the World-Herald, January 22, and Senator Brown brought a bill to that committee, and some of the committee members signed onto it.  And it's being crafted for a specific outfit that wants some concessions and benefits from the state.  Now it said the committee was not told who this beneficiary is.  My view is that the public's business should be conducted in public.  If a committee conspires with private enterprise to get a bill through the Legislature for them, the




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committee is not told who this beneficiary is, the public is not told, and yet the committee takes a favorable attitude toward that bill, causes me grave concern.  Now I'm probably the only one who will stand on the floor and mention it, but there are others who might have that concern.  I would not sit on any committee where somebody said, Ernie, we got to do this in secret.  I'd say, if you have to do it in secret, you have to do it through a committee of which I'm not a member.  Now I don't call myself this morning preaching to the, members of the committee or telling them how they should do their job.  I'm expressing my misgivings about legislative business being conducted in that manner.  This Unicameral is supposed to be the ..most open process in the country.  And if the most open process is that closed, then something is not right with that process, and as Thomas Jefferson said about slavery, when he was concerned that slavery existed and people wouldn't do anything about it, he said, I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.  But, by the way, he didn't tremble enough to free his own slaves.  So I'm just using his quotation because I think it ties into what I am disturbed about.  I had intended to wait until a bill that was more, perhaps, appropriate for me to comment on was before us.  But maybe this is the best bill because it is not controversial.  What I'm saying cannot be construed as an attempt to stop that bill, because I gave them a vote on adopting the amendment to the committee amendment, and I'm not going to stand in the way at this point of the bill's forward movement.  I don't know if anybody is of a mind to comment in response to what I've said, but I'm going to put my light on just one more time so I can wrap up what I do have on my mind.  Madam President, how much time do I have on this?


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Chambers, you have a minute and a half remaining.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  'Well, I think I'll turn it on again, so I won't have to stop in the middle.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  You may continue, Senator.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Members of the Legislature, let me read this.  Lincoln development officials went shopping for new bait Wednesday, but remained secretive about the big fish they hoped




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to land, once it is on the hook.  State Senator Pam Brown, of Omaha, State Development Director, Maxine Moul, and Sarpy County's top development official urged the Revenue Committee to approve a change that would give new or expanding companies more time to qualify for state tax incentives.  None of the three mentioned to the committee that the Omaha area is trying to attract a major manufacturing business that finds the five-year deadline for creating 500 jobs and investing $50 million too restrictive, they didn't have to.  The word was already out and committee members, four of whom are cosponsors of the bill, were content to keep the question and its answer under wraps.  They're not even going to ask the question.  They know, but nobody else needs to know.  I'm a snitch when it comes to the public's business, I'll tell, just like I'll tell on dope dealers and all those other kind of people in my community.  They don't get any protection from me.  I do a cable program on Tuesday, and whenever I think about it, periodically, I remind them, if you're doing something that hurts this community and I find out, I'm going to tell on you.  I'll give your name, I'll give your address , and that's the way I operate.  I really am here to carry out the public's business the best way that I can.  Maybe they don't agree with my method and they might say, I wish he wouldn't be interested in carrying out our business, wish he'd mind his own business and just be quiet, but I will not be quiet.  Continuing with the article, "I would be happy to talk to any of you in a confidential manner about specific projects" Moul told senators on the committee.  In an interview, Brown said she knows the identity of the company being lured, but was not at liberty to name it.  "This is not just responding to just the one company," she said, "but it is a decisive issue for them." Al Wenstrand, W-e-n-s-t-r-a-n-d, Executive Director of the Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation, shook his head when asked by a reporter if he could name the company being pursued.  In his testimony to the committee, Wenstrand spoke about LB 939's desirability for any large manufacturing company.  It would extend from five years to seven years the amount of time that a company would have to complete its investment and its hiring to bring it up to a level that would qualify for benefits under a bill passed in 1995.  Wenstrand said, mega-companies, like some that Omaha has sought, have no trouble getting construction completed and enough of the operation underway within five years to reach 500 employees.  That might




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be only a third or a fourth of their total capacity.  Others that are not as large could take two years of the five years to get up and running, and then have difficulty reaching their full capacity within five years, Wenstrand said.  I had to put on my light, just in case.  "We are seeing more and more of the 500 to 800 employee companies." He said he was representing, not only the Sarpy County development group, but also the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  LB 939 is sponsored and prioritized by Brown, who referred to it as a "technical" change to the bill adopted in 1995 that allows qualifying companies to retain state withholding from employee paychecks, up to 3 percent of their total pay, for employee training and other worker benefits.  Although Micron, the company targeted by the 1995 bill, chose Utah over Nebraska, five other companies, all based in Nebraska, have used the provisions and expand...




SENATOR CHAMBERS:  ...  to expand their operations.  Wenstrand acknowledged, in response to a question from Senator David Landis of Lincoln, that the 1995 bill had not "landed the fish we had hoped for." Then a person testified who was upset about money not going for some other provisions.  But my light is on, I'll speak one more tine, then I'll leave LB 306 to its fate.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Chambers, you may continue.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Thank you.  Madam President, sometimes nothing gets to duckin' trouble but his bill.  There was this individual, and I've mentioned this on the floor before, who was charged with having bitten off an individual's ear.  This individual, who was accused of having bitten off the unfortunate person's ear, was represented by a lawyer named Robert Wickersham.  And lawyer Wickersham had trouble keeping his client from talking too much, and this lawyer, which is not our Bob Wickersham, felt like he had everything going his way.  So our lawyer was questioning the witness who was testifying against Bob Wickersham's client.  And he asked the witness, are you here to testify and say that my client bit this man's ear off?  And the witness said, yes, I am.  And our lawyer said, did you see him bite the ear off?  And the witness said, no.  That




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should have ended it.  But the lawyer, pressing his advantage, said, then how can you testify that my witness ...  that my client bit this man's ear off?  The witness said, I saw him spit it out.  So if sometimes people would know when to hold 'em, a problem wouldn't be raised.  If people had not told the committee, and if committee members had not acknowledged that this ...  there's this secret operative under deep cover who wants this bill and is going to benefit from it, but don't tell anybody, then maybe there wouldn't be an issue.  But once the issue is out there, I want to know.  My rural colleagues heard me criticize them.  Not my rural colleagues, my agricultural colleagues heard me criticize them over a way a bill was to be referred to the Ag Committee which I thought should go to Judiciary.  I want them to see that I go after the city slickers, too.  Now, the first thing I think a member of that committee should have done is to say, you've raised the issue for us, we're not here representing any specific company, group of companies, organization, chamber of commerce, or collection of chambers of commerce.  Now you tell us that this is being done for a particular outfit.  Tell us who it is! And they'd say, no.  I'd say, then you don't get the bill, or you don't get my vote.  So when this bill, if it comes out of committee, gets here I'm going to deal with this bill and I'm going to find out who that secret operative is, and, if I don't, this might be the first bill where you're all going to have to invoke structured debate.  And it will be ironic, because the reason you will do it is to keep me from trying to bring to the public's attention a hidden beneficiary.  If they wanted what they're doing to be kept confidential, they shouldn't have told anybody.  The last one to tell is a politician.  And then if the politician wants it to be kept in confidence, don't mention that there is some hidden individual or group of individuals who will benefit financially directly from this legislation.  It ought to all be out on the table.  And I'm going to do all that I can to bring it out on the table.  Those kind of deals I don't make with people.  If somebody comes to my office and will ask me to keep something in confidence, it cannot be something that relates to the public's business or how I'm going to do my job.  I don't keep those things confidential, and I don't bind myself in that way.  I cannot...






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SENATOR CHAMBERS:  ...  place my standards on anybody else, I will not attempt to do so.  But I will discuss the way we function as a Legislature.  And there's one other item that I want to mention before this bill goes through.  Well, I said I won't mention anything else.  On the committee amendments, I will leave them alone so that Senator Wickersham can get his vote.  Then the one other comment I want to make about Christmas-treeing, I will make when the bill itself is before us, so people will not lose the thread of what we're actually doing.  What we're doing now will be to adopt the committee amendments as amended by Senator Wickersham's wise, I hope, amendment.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Chambers.  Seeing no further lights, Senator Wickersham, to close on the committee amendments.  Closing is waived.  The question before the body is the adoption of the committee amendments to LB 306.  All those in favor vote aye, all those opposed vote nay.  Please record.


CLERK:  26 ayes, 0 nays, on adoption of committee amendments, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The committee amendments are adopted.  Is there any discussion on the advancement of LB 306?  Senator Chambers.


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Madam President, members of the Legislature, this is a bill that most people will see no problem with handling in the way it's being handled.  But remember, as we get to the end of the session, how easily this idea of putting a lot of elements into a bill combining a coalition and moving it right through the process, it will happen.  And this is just an example of how that is done.  It happens in this instance not to be where a lot of different lobbyists representing special interest groups have persuaded the Legislature to do this.  But just mark well what it is we're doing this morning and mark well the fact that nobody is distressed about a bill being gutted.  The reason I'm not distressed, because I've done it myself.  And I'm not one of those who makes use of a process and then will suddenly say that it's tainted if somebody else does it.  But there's an article in this morning's paper again about that




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corrupt city from which I hale.  The headline in the Lincoln JournalStar, "Big Bucks Spent on Omaha Tax Request." You have some of the highest powered lobbyists in this state hired, I guess $100,000 is going to be split among them, to get the Legislature to allow Omaha to raise the sales tax, which I intend to fight tooth and nail.  And now, brothers and sisters, you'll see why the WorldHerald was so busy trying to prod this Legislature into shutting me up.  I'll fight that tax.  I'm not intimidated by the Chamber of Commerce, I'm not intimidated by the big shot lobbyists or anybody else.  And I'm going to fight it tooth and nail.  They looked down the line.  This is what they had in mind, one of them, that they don't like that I stopped.  And in some of their editorials they mentioned that I have stopped Omaha from getting another half cent sales tax.  So you have these people Baying, on the one hand, we don't want to raise the taxes right now, because we've talked about a tax cut, then they get together and set up an operation called mockery.  I think that's very appropriate.  Mockery is the act ...  oh, not mockery, I'm sorry, mocsea, m-o-c-s-e-a, I guess they pronounce it "moxie." But it takes a lot of moxie, m-o-x-e-y or m-o-x-y to do this kind of hypocritical thing, I don't blame the lobbyists, they're guns for hire, they'll work for anybody who will give them the money, anybody.  The price is right, I'm for sale.  They got a sign on them, rent me, and I don't care what you want done, I will do it, give me the money.  I'll walk on the poor, I'll fight for the most regressive tax, just give me the money.  And this again is coming out of the big city, the big city, Omaha.  And watch how many Omaha senators latch onto this.  But I see my friend, Senator Will, already saying that although he signed onto the bill, he's not necessarily for it.  That's strange, but I guess maybe it isn't.  I'm going to talk about these things all session.  You all kick my teeth in for six and a half days.  My gums are just now starting to heal a little bit, and I plan to talk.  And I'm going to irritate the World-Herald editorial board, all those little editors on all these little newspapers in these jerkwater towns, and they don't like that word.  They ought to look it up in the dictionary, they use it.  I said that when they persuaded this Legislature to do what they tried to get them to do to me, they poisoned the water.  Now that the water hole is poisoned, all bets are off.  I'm going to be a nice guy this morning, though, for the "wizard...




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SENATOR CHAMBERS:  ...  from Harrison." I'm not going to try to hold this bill up.  And I'll tell you why, it's too easy a target.  It has 1,000 provisions, I could offer one amendment on each section and we'd be here forever.  That's too easy.  That's like shooting fish in a barrel and the fish is dead.  But, in reality, this is a bill that does achieve a lot of things that are essential.  And I cannot become so caught up in getting my revenge, revenge is sweet, that's why the Bible has God say, vengeance is mine, I will repay sayeth the Lord.  Vengeance is more addictive than crack cocaine.  You sniff it, you taste it, you hug it, you don't want to let it go.  It energizes you, makes you able to run through troops and leap over walls.  But I'm going to restrain myself today and not mess with this bill.  And, Senator Wickersham, I thought that since this bill was kind of in the area of the subject...




SENATOR CHAMBERS:  ...  matter, I would go ahead and do it this once and for all.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Chambers.  Senator Robinson.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  Senator Chambers, I have a question for you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Senator Chambers, will you yield?




SENATOR ROBINSON:  How do you define jerkwater?


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Oh, well, it's in the dictionary, it's these little towns where the trains used to come, there's not a lot of activity, and they'd pull this thing and water would come...


SENATOR ROBINSON:  That's not a degrading ...  you're saying that's not a degrading statement though, but...


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Certainly not.




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SENATOR ROBINSON:  Okay, that's all I wanted to know,...


SENATOR CHAMBERS:  Certainly not.


SENATOR ROBINSON:  ...  because I have a great love for those so-called jerkwater towns.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  Thank you, Senator Robinson.  Seeing no further lights, Senator Schellpeper, to close on the bill.


SENATOR SCHELLPEPER:  I would just move the bill.  Thank you.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  The question before the body is the advancement of LB 306.  All those in favor vote aye, all those opposed vote nay.  Please record.


ASSISTANT CLERK:  35 ayes, 0 nays on the motion to advance the bill, Madam President.


PRESIDENT ROBAK:  LB 306 advances.  We turn now to 1998 senator priority bills, LB 696.  Senator Cudaback is not with us today, he's ill.  Is anyone here authorized to handle the bill in Senator Cudaback's absence?  Seeing that no one is authorized, we will pass over the bill and go to LB 939.  Senator Brown.