LB 149 (1999)
March 17, 1999
CLERK: Mr. President, (LB) 176 is reported to General File with committee amendments by the Natural Resources Committee. That's signed by Senator Schrock. And I have a new A bill, (LB) 131A, by Senator Tyson (read by title for the first time). That's all that I have, Mr. President. (See pages 1030-1031 of the Legislative Journal.)
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Mr. Clerk. Mr. Clerk.
CLERK: Mr. President, the next item of business is a motion by Senator Bohlke with respect to LB 149. She would move to suspend Rule 8, Section 5, to permit consideration of that bill on Final Reading today.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Mr. Clerk. Senator Bohlke, you're recognized on your motion.
SENATOR BOHLKE: Thank you, Mr. President and members. The time line that we have the time that we need to get things done requires this motion to suspend the rules. I certainly anticipate Senator Chambers will be speaking about how he consistently has felt on this issue, and quite, as a matter of fact, I did talk to him beforehand about the necessity of this. It's not my favorite way to have to do things, but we don't really have another way to address the issue that we need to get this done in order to meet the time line of April 1st. We need to suspend the rules because this does have a fiscal impact. And it is coming before we have the appropriation bill on the floor. I talked with Senator Wehrbein early, we all knew that this would be the process that we would have to use. And so, during this time I would also like to thank the Speaker, who has worked, I think, has been very willing to make sure that we can meet the time line that's necessary to get this done, to implement it so schools will have this information by April let. It took a lot of cooperation and a lot of cooperation, 1 think, on your part will be required to support the suspension of the rules. We need 30 votes to suspend the rules, and then, following that, on LB 149 it does have the emergency clause, so I have to remind you all that we need 33 votes on the bill. I have handed out a sheet for all of you that's entitled "With LB 149" and "Without LB 149". And I would just like to go over a couple of things, because I said, when I handed out the
notebooks to you and the printouts, that I thought it was very important to keep us focused on what happens with this bill and what happens without thin bill. And as you read down those columns, I think the first two, the first bullet that says "With LB 2.49", the state aid appropriation is determined by a formula. Without LB 149 the state aid appropriation is determined by a formula. The second bullet, if the maximum levy drops to $1, as scheduled, approximately 84 million will be added to the appropriation with 149. Without LB 149, if the maximum levy drops to $1, as scheduled, approximately 84 million will be added to the appropriation. Third bullet, if the economics of the state cause a need to reduce the appropriation, a bill can be introduced with 149. Without 149, if the economics of the state cause the need to reduce the appropriation, a bill can be introduced. And the last bullet, you can read some of the others that ... with LB 149 schools gain predictability. Without LB 149 schools continue to lack predictability. I think those are important points to keep us focused on 149 and not other issues that may be discussed during the process of 149. But I think it's very important to remember with 149 and without 149. The third bullet, if the economics of the state cause the need to reduce the appropriation, a bill can be introduced. I've said this all along, and certainly during ... before we actually get into session, the Appropriations Committee is continually briefed as far as the Forecasting Board and how the economy of the state is doing. If, leading into a session, they would see a total disaster, a $200 million shortfall, or $100 million shortfall, they could simply come in that session. and bring forward a bill, as could any senator, as could the Governor. And so we do have the ability to react, if we need to, it would simply be introducing legislation. And so I think it's important, because we had a great deal of discussion about that point, and I'm cot sure that people really understood that in that case, in that case that there would be a serious, whetheryou use the word calamity, downturn, whatever it may be, there is a method and a process that a bill would be introduced, and we would actually have a public hearing. Remember, when we do an amendment, often times that amendment may or may not have had a public hearing. The process is in place to address that type of situation and it would be addressed in a public hearing on a bill where the proponents and opponents could come forward and those who have questions would have the opportunity to ask those
questions. I think that's the appropriate process, and I think that we do nothing to impinge on that process with the passage of 149. And so, with that, I thank you. I will remind you that to suspend the rules we do need 30 votes, and then for the emergency clause again we need 33. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Bohlke. The speaking order is Senator Brashear, Senator Dwite Pedersen, Senator Quandahl, Chambers, Lynch, and Senator Wehrbein. Senator Brashear.
SENATOR BRASHEAR: Mr. President, members of the body, I rise in only token opposition to the motion to suspend the rules. I voted for LB 149. 1 do not want to damage education. I do not want to damage schools, and I do not want to damage this effort. But I do view suspending the rules as an accommodation by all of us to work together to achieve what we believe to be good. And accommodation is what I would like to talk about. I have... I'm using a technique that others are expert at, I'm going to run a little bit far afield this morning, but they are things that matter to me and I don't think I've been too wasteful of our time, and so I will proceed. What LB 149 is about is education and about our schools, and the education in our schools are about our future. But what LB 149 was also about, and we all know it as we sat here, it was about property taxes. It was about the age-old, nagging problem of too much reliance on property taxes. And it was about making a decision now that was defensively good for our agricultural community, which is so critical and important, so that later, when it might be suffering a downturn, we are not going back to it and raising property taxes. And that's a legitimate concern for all of us and it's a particularly legitimate concern for those who represent rural constituencies. And we all listened and I think we responded to eloquent presentations concerning fairness, and consistency, and continuing the good polices of this body, of which some of up have been a part from the past. And so we accommodated one another, we worked together and we advanced LB 149. But there are other people in the state of Nebraska who have other concerns. And as I worked with my colleagues on the Education Committee and as I listened to the debate and I heard the Speaker's well-reasoned amendment, which he wag offering, not because he was opposed to LB 149 in substance and purpose,
but what he was concerned about what the body could and couldn't do in the future, as I listened to all that I kept saying to myself, why am I sitting here being unhappy? I don't feel like we're getting an accommodation from those we're accommodating, and I'm talking in very general and nonpersonal terms, with regard to expansion of the tax base and the leadership that it needs to do that. When are we going to have those most intimately in charge of the process lead us to a better day, so that we are not all having to fight defensively? Because, while I'm concerned about property taxes, too, and I think my record demonstrates that, but while I'm concerned about property taxes, I'm also concerned about income taxes that are not competitive and damage us in terms of capital formation and creation of jobs.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: one minute.
SL14ATOR BRASHEAR: There will be others concerned about sales tax. So we need accommodation for everybody. We can have our legitimate differences about the roles of committees. Mine has been consistent. You may all think I'm wrong. I don't believe committees exist for the purpose of stopping legislation that the members of the committees are opposed to, if I did, I wouldn't vote for some of the bills that I vote for in the committee of which I'm a part. I believe that committees exist for -the purpose of determining, in an approximate political sense, how the body feels about things and bringing to the floor the very best legislation in order that we can have a great and noble debate on any subject that will inform and enlighten and enthuse and motivate the electorate, and then make decisions in the full light of day.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Time. Thank you, Senator
Senator Dwite Pedersen.
SENATOR Dw. PEDERSEN: I give my time to Senator Brashear. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Senator Brashear, you're recognized.
SENATOR BRASHEAR: Mr. President, members of the body, thank you, Senator Pedersen. If there's any glimmer of truth in what
I believe, I'd like to suggest a few things. I am concerned from the standpoint of the body as it begins the cooperative walk with another branch of government where we have a new Governor, and he, in his enthusiasm and leadership and creativity, offered us a proposal which has been privately and publicly discussed, which cannot seem to come to this floor and be discussed, and all I do is respectfully implore those who can effect it to give us a chance for the discussion. The Governor 13 elected by all the people, those who vote for him. In accordance with the process it's majority rule and it's statewide. I believe some of the most interesting and worthwhile things I've ever participated in this body have been long, extended debates on difficult subjects, even running into the evening. And we've got half a session left, and we can take the time to treat a new Governor's new idea respectfully. We .an accommodate the discussion, the debate and the result. Doesn't mean we have to adopt it. I'd implore someone to be creative, find a way to bring it out with a sunset in two weeks. But let the people of the state not perceive that we were not willing to talk about something that their new Governor and our new Governor suggested. I experience the same frustration, and rather than having a whole bunch of little gossipy conversations, I think sometimes we should discuss these things right here and now in the full light of day. It's difficult sometimes, I understand, for those of you not from Omaha, to deal with us. We at times can appear to be and be perceived as some sort of a self-sufficient, affluent maybe, city- state, able to go our own way. If we didn't engage in so many civil and' gorilla wars among ourselves, you might even have to pay more attention to us. But I have ... if you don't ... if you love to hate Omaha, and if you don't ... and I know you don't, I'm engaging a little oratorical flourish here. But if you love to hate Omaha, and if you like to think about the people on 413, and you love to hate 'em, even though you beat 'em, that war is over, you von, my neighbors and my constituents care about an arena. And if they don't care about an arena, they care about a convention center. You know and somewhere short of just an absolute stonewall, that might be something that we'd like to discuss and debate. I know there are other locals that have talked about their need, not for an arena, but for a convention center. So all I'm saying is that here we are and we're accommodating, we're going to accommodate our schools. Good.
We're going to do it in the name of education. Good. We're going to make sure we lock in property... the property tax situation so that we do not unfairly go back to those who have so long suffered under an unjust property tax system, that we didn't lead them out of, although we're trying. Good. But we all need some accommodation.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR BRASHEAR: We all need some opportunity to discuss good ideas. And the process ought not control informed, frank, open debate, I respectfully suggest, and decisions made thereafter. That's what ought to control on the big issues that concern you and your people and your constituents, and on the big issues that concern me and my constituents an opportunity for debate and discussion and decision. And, with that, I've gone just -,bout as far afield as I've ever gone on this floor, and I thank you for your patience.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Brashear. Further discussion. Senator Quandahl. Senator Quandahl waives. Senator Chambers, you're recognized on the motion to suspend the rules.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: Mr. President and members of the Legislature, I'm somewhat taken aback. That was a wonderful speech. Too bad it couldn't have been given in behalf of a more worthy cause. (Laughter.) Now, as Senator Bohlke pointed out, I generally oppose motions to suspend the rules, but I am not so hide-bound that I will strenuously oppose something just because I have said that I will oppose it. Now, that's not like my good friend, Senator Bohlke, who says she has set a principle for herself never to vote to pull a bill out of committee. So, Senator Brashear and Senator Quandahl can mark at least one person off that you need to even talk to about pulling a bill out of the Revenue Committee. But on this matter that Senator Brashear is touching on, I think it goes much deeper than just this bill, LB 149. If you listened, you see that he is making a just to the Legislature, but to those who are in other plea, not just branches of governmentto not sit off at a great distance and throw stones and bricks, like now, he didn't say this,, but I'm going to add this, tailgating on what he opened the door for, I
don't like that; I'm going to veto it; I don't like that either.I'm going to veto it! And there's something down there, I'm going to veto it! He can rule by the veto, he can try to, but the Governor needs to understand that he's not dealing with the Lincoln City Council. He needs to realize that there is at least one senator in this body, and perhaps others, but I'll let them speak for themselves if they're here, who is not going to be bulldozed and rolled over just because he's got a new title, a new battery of toys and a veto pen. When he throws a challenge to me, and I think he'll probably threaten, and he may carry through on it, every bill that I might get through this Legislature or every one that seems to go, he'll threaten to veto it, and that's his prerogative. But sometimes people can start a dangerous game. I have a friend who has been dubbed Pandora. And the Governor will realize that what Pandora released on the world, when she opened that box of troubles, will be as nothing, compared to what he will release on himself in terms of his legislation, if he decides he's going to play hardball with me. See, I don't have to go out there and tell people I've done these great things. All I have to do is stop bad legislation. So, if Senator Brashear is in a position to kind of reason with people, let him know that I have accepted his challenge, and I'm looking for legislation of his. I cannot veto it in the way that ?? can, but I can use what poor 'tools are at my pitiful disposal (laughter), thank you, Pandora. I needed the opportunity to let you all know who is who around here. I'm going to do what I can to fix him. Didn't one of those Kennedy's say, don't get: mad, get even? If he's going to totally politicize the system, if he's going to let the Attorney General tell him what to do to me, and the Attorney General throws a rock and hides his hand, the Attorney General won't confront me, then the one who throws the rock will be punished by me. I was given a copy, we can go far afield this morning, of the Kearney Hub, this morning, which has that execrable ad from your Attorney General that I was talking about. But the Kearney Hub, I don't know if it was on purpose, placed it right below an advertisement for the Golden Corral ...
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR CHAMBERS: ... in Kearney. And, as you all know, the Golden Corral is where the E. coli outbreak occurred. And right
underneath it is the picture of the one who probably is more pathogenic than the E. coli, pathogen. I'm being gentle with this person. He has tremendous power that he is terribly misusing. If he were some little, rag-tag lawyer out there, messing up his clients, I'd just file a complaint. This man is in a position where he's got to suffer consequences for the wrong that he does. I have gone just about as far afield as I ever have this morning, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Chambers. We are all tolerant this morning. Senator Wehrbein, followed by Senator Brown, Senator Bromm, Senator Landis, and Senator Wickersham.
SENATOR WEHRBEIN: Thank you, Mr. President, members of the body. Now I forgot what I was going to say. (Laugh.) I rise to support the motion to suspend the rules. I think it's something that we should do, and I endorse that. I have felt that way since we got into the issue, back as early as December, I just wanted to make that note. I actually would have preferred the amendment that we had the other day, the Wickersham and Kristensen amendment, on the bill, but it is not. I still will support LB 149. 1 do recognize and I assume the body does recognize the time may come and there will have to be some decisions made on that, that time will come. I think if we would have had the amendments on we could have prepared ourselves, perhaps, a little better for the future, if it had been on. But that decision can be made in the future, if it is needed to reduce that funding. But, for this point, I do think 149 should go through, it should have the E clause, it should be passed, and we should move through that issue to the next ones. I hadn't thought so much about commenting on what Senator Brashear said, but I do believe he has a point. We do have some major policy issues in this state that probably needed to be debated by us all. And I don't have any specific reference to any particularly, but I think that there's some things that we all have interest in, and lo and behold I also think there's some cross-interest, in other words we have some mutual interest in more areas than we know about. Debate is the way we arrive at some of that, and I think it ought to be something to think about.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Wehrbein. Senator Brown.
SENATOR BROWN: Mr. President, members of the Legislature, I fully intended to stay quiet on 149 and felt that I had talked more than enough about some of my concerns about the legislation in the past. But there are a couple of things that have happened that cause me not to be able to do that. One of those things was our discussion about LB 314 the other day, which is the legislation that would establish a fund, that just happens to need the amount of money that was left over from another fund that we established, to deal with problems that happen, and one aspect of those problems was errors that were created. And I would... I would say that those errors... that LB 314, in a very real way, is an admission that those errors will continue in the future, the errors that we make. And that is not...I mean that's just a part of life. I'm not saying that that's something that we can't expect. Any kind of system, any kind of process that we have has the potential for errors. But each time in this Legislature that we've had a major education funding, restructuring piece of legislation, we have been led to believe that all the errors are going to go away, that everything is going to be perfect. And so we get this sheet that talks about what we're going to have without 149 and what weirs going to have with 149. And I will admit that 149 is going to help the situation a great deal because you're going to be using real data. I admit that-, and that is for me one of the major reasons to support 149. But to claim that 149 is going to solve every problem and to make some of the statements that are made on this sheet, I think, is disingenuous. One of the statements talks about that without 149 state funding would continue to fluctuate in relation to spending and resources on the local level. Well, isn't that exactly what we want to happen? Isn't that what our policy is supposed to be about? Is not our state funding supposed to follow, at least in what we've talked about, the spending and resources at the local level? To try to make it sound like,. by virtue of passing 149, we're going to solve every problem about predictability and every problem about fluctuation is just not the case. I would feel much better, as Senator Wehrbein said, had we been proceeding with 149 with the Kristensen and Wickersham amendments, not ... not because I think it changes anything about predictability and
fluctuations from the point of view of schools. I don't think that 149 is going to change that in any real way, other than the fact that we're going to be using better data. The reason I supported the Kristensen and Wickersham amendments was because my first priority is the position that I am elected to, which is to be a state senator and to manage the state resources. And I believe that my first obligation is to look at the state budget. And obviously, in...
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR BROWN: ...in doing that, I'm going to keep in mind the priorities and the obligations that I think we have to other local subdivisions. But I just want us to go forward into this vote on LB 149, clearly understanding that we're going to correct some things, but it is not going to be any more of a solution than LB 806 was, and that we are going to continue to have people coming forward, asking us to create special funds, to address special circumstances, to address special things that happen sometimes as a result of errors that this system makes, and that I think that we need to continue to look at how we best make sure that we are overseeing this system in the best way possible. (LB) 149 is not going...
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Time.
SENATOR BROWN: ....to solve everything. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Senator Bromm.
SENATOR BROMIM: Thank you, Mr. Lieutenant Governor. And I think there have been some excellent comments. I don't know that I'll use my entire time, but there are a couple of points that I wanted to make. First of all, I appreciate the bullet points Senator Bohlke has handed out. I think that's a pretty good summary of the effects of passing 149 and not passing 149. Where we're at on state aid to schools I would liken to a couple of times when I've had the opportunity to fish with a depth-finder and a little screen that tells you where the fish are. My observations on state aid, over the course of the past seven years, would be analogous to zeroing in at least on where the probability is best that we're going to be able to find the
fish. Up until now, we have had such gyrations in our state aid formula and the results of the laws that we passed that we're forever scrambling to try to rectify an unrecognized consequence. And I do believe that, even though I feel strongly we should continue to look at the structure of the formula in years to come, and make reasoned, deliberate changes, I think this is a great step in providing more predictability in what our resource from the state is going to be, so that those local boards can make the very, very important decisions that they have to make. They have every bit of an important role, as we do. They're just focused on a little bit narrower subject. The decisions they make on teachers and on programs are ... it's at the very root of what's important, that we do a good job with in the state. So the predictability, again, getting more probability into the formula is why I can support this measure.. plus rectifying what was an unintended consequence last year. Now, we all want schools to be efficient, and we don". want to give them a blank check, and I don't want to, just as bad as anyone else in here. There are other ways to go about making sure that our schools are efficient and become more efficient, and we have done some things, and we will continue to do some things. And as I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking about the spending lids. Those can always be modified, those can always be cranked down, if we think they need to be. There are the consolidation incentives, such as the unification program that we have put in place, and that's being looked at very seriously by some schools in my area, and I think they'll wind up using it. In the special ed area, a couple, three, four years ago, we had rampant growth and spending, and we decided to put an absolute cap on the amount of money that we would expend for special ed. And it has had some significant impact in slowing the growth of special ed expenditures. These... and in addition, in the formula, we attempt to not give high-spending districts more state aid. These are all tools that we can use to bring about what we think needs to be greater efficiencies in our school systems. Anti yet when you look at the overall picture, nationally,...
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR BROMM: ... we are not, we are not a high-spending state in K-12 education. We're a high-spending state when you add all
of the money we spend on education, but not when you look at K-12 education. We're at about number 36, 37, in that area. Now I don't know how much less we can hope to spend per pupil in K-12 and still get the job done. I'm always willing to look for places to save. But we are not a high-spending state in K-12 education, no matter how you -look at it. I probably got 30 seconds. I appreciate Senator Brashear's remarks. I think it's terribly important; we're going to live with this Governor for the next four years, and he has extended to us the invitation to work with him rather than simply ambush us at every opportunity. And so I look forward to figuring out ways to accommodate...
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Time.
SENATOR BROMM: ... some of the concerns that the Governor might have. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Bromm. Chair recognizes Senator Landis.
SENATOR LANDIS: Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature, to respond to some of our debate so far this morning, I, too, share the perspective that 149 is an increase in the predictability of our mechanisms. It also does not take us so far down a path we could not retreat, if times so require. I was just reminded, by the way, by a former colleague of mine, that we had a measure to take over the state-welfare sys ... what was at that time the county welfare system and make it the state welfare system, and there was a budget crunch and there was an attempt to delay that takeover. It would be exactly like this situation. And the body was free to choose as to whether or not it moved off a time line, it repealed some existing language, it had all the tools it needed to keep control of the appropriations and spending process. So I Clink 149 gets us the gain of predictability, it does not sacrifice our ability to solve budget crunch problems. Secondly, I think Senator Brown indicated that she did not regard 149 as a solution. . I would agree with that. I don't think there are many final solutions in legislation. The longer you're here, and Jim Cudaback will tell you, he's been here long enough, you see the issues over and over again, and we make incremental changes. We have had a state aid formula for
25 years, but we make incremental changes, refining our definitions, getting to more and more situations where we have a specific response or a limited response to this se"..- of situations, and limited response to those situations. Solutions are very hard to come by. Have we solved crime? Have we solved education? Have we solved our natural resource? No, these are continuing conundrums and dilemmas, and we wrestle with them every year. This is our best effort to try to get predictability. With respect to Senator Brashear, who raises an interesting argument today, because... and the virtue of it is that it's a direct, clear exchange on the floor rather than a whispered conversation off the floor. It actually raises to the level of direct communication, which is a respectful act, the issue of whether or not we need to do 149, which the Governor doesn't like, and whether or not the Governor is going to get a fair shake on 881 in the Revenue Committee, and whether or not Omaha's going to get a fair shake on the arena and the convention center. My answer to that question is this, as a committee member I have a different position than Senator Brashear. I think my obligations to my colleague and to a governor of any political party is to listen, listen carefully, to entertain seriously any offer that they make, to offer a fair and complete explanation of my own thinking and my own rationales for things. And then the thing that I will not accommodate and will not use as a treatment of courtesy is a vote. Votes come from ideology, votes come from political preferences, votes are different than the behaviors. I think you should separate the voting from the way you treat other people. And we owe, without regard to our partisan backgrounds or our' geography, a thorough explanation, a good listen, and a careful entertaining of any offer. What we owe no one, other than ourselves and our constituents, is a vote, because that's the substance of what we do here, and I ... that accommodation I am not willing to make. That is not a form of courtesy to me. A vote is not a form of courtesy. Maybe when it's taken, that might be a sign of courtesy. Certainly the chance to get somebody to explain their thoughts before you vote, that's a matter of courtesy, but not the content of the vote itself. That is something that is separate from the whole matter of at least personal accommodation.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR LANDIS: On the issue of accommodations on substance, it seems to me that again you can use the same tools. Entertain any offer, listen to every point of view, offer a thorough explanation of your own point of view, and then vote for that which you think is legitimate. I'm sitting in the Revenue Committee, I will not vote for a bill I do not believe in sufficiently, personally to cast my vote for. I will not accommodate a governor. I will not accommodate a colleague. I will not accommodate a constituent. I will accommodate no one by casting votes I do not believe in, as a deference to somebody else or to the floor, generally. This is what I came here to exercise, and it is the personal right of the representative of the 46th District and my constituents, and I will accommodate no one on the content of the vote.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Landis.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: Mr. President, members of the body, I hope you were listening to Senator Landis in the latter part of his speech. I don't think he could have said it better, and I'm not going to attempt to say it better. Thank you, David. David and I don't always agree in the committee, that's expected. But I hope that you have from Senator Landis an indication of the kind of discussion at least that takes place in the committees that I sit on. I hope that's the kind of discussion that takes place in the committees you sit on. We cannot, as he suggests, abrogate our responsibility to have those discussions and vote for what we think is good policy to anyone else. We were elected to represent a district and to act in the best interests of the state. People tell us all the time what they think is in the best interest of the state, or what is in the best interest of our district, but ultimately that's our decision. And it is that responsibility that we exercise here every day. I think, as members of committees, we have an additional responsibility, and that is to carefully examine the issues, to have a fuller discussion than we might even anticipate to take place on the floor, to bring to each individual issue that is brought to our committee the best of our analysis, the best of our experience, the best advice that we can give to you as the rest of the members of this body who have not had the same opportunity that
we have had to examine the issue carefully and to discuss it in a setting that is a little bit more free than what you see here on the floor. If we give you bad advice as committees, then we should be chastised for that. But we should not be chastised simply for giving you advice, because we're asked to do that. Now, we are used to people coming to us all of the time and saying I want, I want, I want and you should give. Well, okay, I know that you want, and I know that you think I should give but, when you try to tell me about why you want and why I should give, then I get interested. I know you want something and I know you think I should give you something, but it always seems to get a little bit harder when you have to tell me why. Now, what do I want? What do I want? From the perspective of the tax system of this state I want property tax relief because, in part, my constituents, your constituents, the citizens of this state have said they want property tax relief. We have been attempting, for four years, to develop a process, a system that is balanced and reasonable and effective to do that for them, not for me, for them. In my estimation we have made considerable strides in that direction. Is there any potential that we can do more? Certainly. But what kind of property tax relief do I want to give them, and how do I want to give it to them? I hope that what I want is what they also want, and that is a system that is balanced, is equitable....
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR WICKERSHAM: ... and that -continues to provide for essential services. I want a sales tax system that is fair and rational and that can be applied without discrimination amongst the types of transactions that it applies to, and that recognizes change in our economy. I want an income tax system that is progressive and flatly based on your ability to pay, because that offsets the regressivity of our sales tax system and, in part, our property tax system. So that overall in consideration of the major taxes that we have in this state, that we have as least a regressive system as we can possibly have, that we do take into account people's ability to pay taxes and to support the essential services that are necessary for this to be a good and prosperous state, and a good place for us to live and a good place for others to live. Now....
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Time. Thank you, Senator
Senator Kristensen, on the motion to suspend the rules.
SPEAKER KRISTENSEN: Thank you, Mr. President, members of the Legislature. I want to echo a couple of words I think Senator Wickersham was saying this morning, and I think the bottom line that I get from his discussion is that to be fair isn't always to be popular, and the tax policy isn't always...amount to what everybody wants individually, it's what all of us collectively desire, and that's some fairness in the policy and fairness in the approach to that. And I would echo that. The purpose that we're here this morning for is obviously to suspend the rules and whether that's a good policy or not. And we have taken the opportunity to obviously have those discussions that occur from time to time on the floor of the Legislature about how we feel. in general, because there isn't always that opportunity for a discussion of the whole. But to focus on what we need to do this morning is, should we suspend those rules to allow for 149? There are some good things in 149, there are things that need to pass and things that should pass. And I believe that by moving the bill along in the manner which we have done thus far, we do owe it to the state and those school districts to suspend the rules and to vote on the bill today. And if there are other considerations that have to be made, they will be made in a prompt fashion, or at least so I hope. But I do want to take this opportunity to reflect on what you're doing, because every vote that you make, in terms of state aid, is a big vote. it will be viewed, in the course of what happens in five years and what happens in ten years, because there are few larger issues than state aid policy. The gyrations will still continue, they will take different forms. Why? It's because you are trying to address so many people's different needs. Every school district is different, there are so many competing interests of how best to do it. If I have to make some predictions, soon we'll begin not to talk about state aid. The term state aid will soon fade from our discussion, because as you begin to put more money into the system, and we do put more money into the system every time we make a major change in the distribution formulas, or how we do it, the way to effectuate that change is to add more money. We did that in 1989 before we had an equalization type of formula. Governor Orr vetoed that. I know, I ran the amendment. (LB) 1059 came along, how did we affectuate that?
How did we buy more people into the state aid change? We added more money to it. How did we make the changes when levy limits came through with (LB) 806? We added more money to it. We again will do the same thing today. Is that wrong? No, that's not wrong, that's how it's happened. And that's how your vote today is going to continue, because the next time, when levy limits go to $1, there will be another discussion and another day, and the same pattern will continue. That's the reason the amendment the other day was, I think, a unique opportunity to keep some flexibility with the Legislature, because your votes will continue today to go on to do that. Am I going to vote for 149? Yes, I'm going to vote to suspend the rules today because I think that is something that we have obligated ourselves to do, and I think we ought to fulfill that. But what's going to happen in the future is going to be that state aid will not be state aid. It will become the commitment of the state to fund the schools. And the closer that you get to a majority of the funding, it will no longer be seen as aid. It will be seen as you must fund the schools, because it is an obligation of the state.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SPEAKER KRISTENSEN: There's a huge difference in that, because then it becomes an appropriation, it doesn't become just aid. And so what I hope that we do in the future when there are problems, when money does get tight and it will, times will get bad, if it's up to the Education Committee, and it's not this group of individuals because it's been every Education Committee, if the bill goes to Education Committee, there will be... to affectuate the change you will have to put more money into the formula to affectuate the change in distribution. if the bill is referred to the Appropriations Committee, the change will happen because they'll want the flexibility. It's going to come down to where does the bill go. And when there are tough times, I don't know where that bill does go, I just know that the issue of state aid will begin to mellow away and this will become an obligation of the state. And as long as the Legislature decides that issue and no one else, I'm comfortable.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Time.
SPEAKER KRISTENSEN: I just want to make sure that you understand what your vote is going to do, it's going to perpetuate that.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Kristensen. Senator Brashear.
SENATOR BRASHEAR: Mr. President, members of the body, I want to rise again. I am grateful for this opportunity. I believe it has been relevant, I hope you do, too. I intend to support the motion to suspend the rules. I intend to vote for LB 149. 1 want to be a part of accommodating the purposes and the objectives that are accommodated and achieved in LB 149. But I stand by earlier thoughts. We're going to have another need to visit this issue, probably, following a gubernatorial veto. And 1 hope that we can get on with some of the other business. And there has been excellent comment here, and I stress as I did... Istressed before and I'll stress again, my comments weren't meant to be personal. But I want to urge one thing. I am not informed by decisions. Decisions do not teach and instruct me. I am informed by discussion and the exchange of ideas and by debate. You can tell me no, you can tell me yes, it doesn't help me understand. But if I can hear you describe, if I can hear you discuss, if I can hear you defend, if I can hear you propose, I can learn. And I believe the one thing we neglect in the process with our electorate at large is understanding. And some things that we are ... that I've been a part of doing in the Judiciary Committee, for advance...for instance, will be an opportunity for a much larger consideration--learning, hearing, understanding, thinking process for all of our people. And so I still continue to urge the accommodation that allows the discussion and the exchange of ideas that is informative and necessary to understanding. Again, I'm going to vote for the motion and the bill. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Brashear. Further discussion on the motion to suspend the rules? Senator Tyson, followed by Senator Landis.
SENATOR TYSON: Thank you, Mr. President, members of the body. I rise in support of the motion to suspend the rules on LB 149, which I think has been termed, at least by me, the Band-Aid
bill, because that's what this is, it's a $19.4 million Band-Aid. I am going to support the motion. I'm gong to vote for LB 149. And, if our Governor does what he says he's going to do, I will vote to override the veto. I'm going to do this for a couple of reasons. Number one, I do believe it's been said here that we are committed to do this, and I think that's probably right. I have a number of school districts in my district which need the money. Several of them are still going to wind up, both Norfolk and Battle Creek are going to wind up still in the hole. And it's been said here today that we may, we may, might have to come back and revisit this subject some time in the misty future. Uh-uh. We will, we shall, we must visit this, because we are not solving anything. Senator Kristensen was kind of skirting around it, but he at least said it will always be more money. You know, when Samuel Gompers, who was the founder of the American Federation of Labor, came jut of his first negotiation, where he had successfully gained recognition for his union and a contract which was a first, he was asked by a reporter, Mr. Gompers, you have everything now that you've asked for; what could you possibly want now? And he said, morel A hundred years hasn't made any difference, still wants more. The schools still want more. This formula is not going to do a thing, because this formula is based essentially on student count and has nothing to do with school cost. If half the population of the school departs, the bonds have to be financed, the light bill has to be paid, the heat bill has to be paid, 80 percent of the school budget, 75 to 80 percent is salaries, and they have to be paid. I had lunch with a school superintendent, not from my district, who had a parochial school in his area, 80-some students. I said, what would it actually cost you to absorb those 80 students? And he said, not a dime, because he has the buildings, he's paying all those costs now, he's paying those teachers now. And what he says, number one, lie made a very good case, I believe him, he could have absorbed those 80 students with no increase in his cost. This formula doesn't do a thing to modify cost. And what you finally have to do at some point, and I don't know when it will be, maybe in the millennial year, 3000, we will address the core subject, which is what does it cost to run a school? And how does the state enter into that process of meeting those costs? I am one of the people here, maybe I'm the only person here who thinks that we should do away with property tax,
March 17, 1999 LB 149, 314
because it's a difficult tax that no one comes out well on. Instead we should be taxing the source of that money, which is income and sales.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR TYSON: But that's neither here, nor there. I urge all of you to vote to support the motion to suspend the rules. I urge everyone to vote for LB 149 and, if and when the Governor vetoes it, to override the veto, because it's a lunchbox issue. In this case it's a Band-Aid issue. And we will be doing this again, probably not until later on in this session or maybe next year, but it will be back, it always has in the past and it always will be in the future. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Tyson. Senator Landis.
SENATOR LANDIS: Question.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: The question has been called. Do I see five hands? I see five hands. The question before us is to cease debate. Those in favor vote aye, those opposed nay. Please record.
CLERK: 32 ayes, 0 nays to cease debate.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Debate is ceased. To close on the motion to suspend the rules, Senator Bohlke.
SENATOR BOHLKE: Yes, Mr. President and members, I do not plan to go very far afield, but to stay, as I have said, trying to focus on 149, what it does and what it doesn't do. We've had a good deal of debate and we've had... some of that has been on tax policy. I've-said that it's very difficult to discuss state aid to education and not discuss property taxes. It ... they seem to be joined together. But I think it is important to stay focused on, and I think people have reminded you, the necessity to suspend the rules and to pass LB 149 with the emergency clause. I would, in the future, when we reach (LB) 314, there was a statement that seemed to indicate that that included errors that we made. What we were talking about on (LB) 314 were errors that were made by assessors, not errors done internally here.
Certainly, I hope the information I presented to you on the bullet sheet was helpful. I do not feel one of those bullets was disingenuous. If it was I wouldn't have handed it out on the floor. It was an attempt I think to put forward to you and so that you could, in your mind, as you read down those two sides and those bullets, decide what the impact is or what it is not with the passage of 149. 1 think the Education Committee has attempted to be accommodating on time, on trying to get accurate, new information to you in a way that was easier to understand, having the Department of Education available to answer any questions any of you may have, and I think that they felt some of you had some very good questions, and I hope through all of this that there's an understanding of... a further understanding of state aid. But will we be back visiting it? I always need to remind people that the formula is meant to be fluid. When schools' needs change, the formula reacts. it's meant to act that way, and so it is not something that you will not see any change. I don't think that I ever said that this would solve everything. If it did, I would immediately resign and go out as a high-paid consultant to every state with their school aid formula. No, it doesn't solve everything. I've never said it would. I do think that it improves the formula, adds the predictability and stability, a great deal more predictability and stability, and I feel that we've worked hard to see that that is accomplished. It does not solve everything. I've never said it would solve everything and, in fact, when we have new issues that come into the district, whether it be motor vehicle tax or other things that we do as policy, in this body the formula is meant to react. We've had some discussion of the veto. I've read in the paper about the veto. I still hold out hope that there may be some meeting of the minds. I'm certainly willing to discuss that with the Governor. I don't know what that final outcome will be. Perhaps what we read in the paper is true and there will be a veto. Then 1 would be back urging you at that time to override the veto. But until that happens, I simply urge you to suspend the rules and to vote to Final Reading on LB 149 and, once again, thank you for your attention, the questions you've asked. I think the good work we've done on this ...
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: One minute.
SENATOR BOHLKE: ... floor, I think it's something that we can be proud of and that each of you should be proud of the amount of time, the discussion, all the discussion that we've had this morning, and I think in the end that as a body we can feel for sure that we've given very, very fair consideration, which is part of the process, for meeting the needs of our children in our schools. I think it has a very high priority. You have certainly given it that during this session. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Thank you, Senator Bohlke. Question before you is the motion to suspend Rule 8, Section 5, to permit consideration of LB 149 on Final Reading prior to the passage of the appropriation bills. Those in favor vote aye; those opposed nay. Have you all voted? Mr. Clerk, please record.
CLERK: 40 ayes, 2 nays, Mr. President, on the suspension of the tiles.
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: The rules are suspended. We will go to Final Reading. Would senators please go to your seats and will unauthorized personnel please leave the floor. Pursuant to Rule 6, Section 8, the question is, shall LB 149 be considered for a vote without an at-large reading? Those in favor vote Lye; those opposed nay. Please record.
CLERK: 37 ayes, 3 nays to dispense with Final Reading,
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: The question is agreed to. Mr. Clerk, please read the title.
CLERK: (Read title of LB 149.)
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: All provisions of law relative to procedure having been complied with, the question is, shall the bill pass with the emergency clause attached? Those in favor vote aye; those opposed nay. Roll call vote has been requested. Mr. Clerk, please call the roll.
CLERK: (Roll call vote taken. See pages 1031-1032 of the
Legislative Journal.) 43 ayes, 3 nays on the passage of LB
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: LB 149 is adopted with the emergency
clause. Mr. Clerk, items for the record.
CLERK: Thank you, Mr. President. Committee on Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs reports LB 156 to General File and LB 712 to General File with amendments, LB 844 indefinitely postponed. Enrollment and Review reports LB 150 and LB 179 to Select File. I have a hearing notice, Mr. President, from the Revenue Committee. And, Mr. President, LR 49 by Senator Jensen, an interim study resolution to be referred to the Board; LR 50 by Senator Schrock congratulating the Loomis boys basketball team, to be laid over; and Senator Jensen has amendments to LR 29 to be printed, Mr. President. That's all that I have. (See pages 1032-1039 of the Legislative Journal.)
MAURSTAD: Thank you, Mr. Clerk. While the Legislature is in session and capable of transacting business, I propose to sign and do sign LB 149. Mr. Clerk, General File appropriation bill.
CLERK: Mr. President, LB 54A by Senator Brashear. (Read title.)
PRESIDENT MAURSTAD: Senator Brashear to open on LB 54A.
SENATOR BRASHEAR: Mr. President, members of the body, Legislative Bill 54A provides funds for additional responsibilities being -undertaken by the state in LB 54. Specifically, the state would pay for interpreters for the de af or hard of hearing and persons unable to communicate in English in all judicial proceedings. Current law provides that su ch interpreters are paid by the county in which such proceedings take place. LB 54 is now on Final Reading and, as amended, t he state will pay for the interpreters for court appearances, presentence investigations, and ongoing supervision by a probation officer. The amount of General Funds f or Fiscal '99-2000 is $437,857, and for 2000-2001 it's 407,00 0. This is necessary to due process and equal protection of the law. I think it's entirely appropriate. I would urge t he advancement of the A bill that it can join LB 54 on Final Reading. Thank you.
accounted for, the question is the bracket motion, the bracketing of LB 612. All in favor vote aye; opposed no. Record, please.
CLERK: 26 ayes, 17 nays, Madam President, on the motion to bracket LB 612.
SENATOR CROSBY: The bracket motion is successful. I'll raise the call. Mr. Clerk, do you have items for the record?
CLERK: I do, Madam President. Your Committee on Judiciary reports (LB) 295, (LB) 299, (LB) 493, (LB) 867 to General File; LB 52, (LB) 76, (LB) 112, (LB) 224, (LB) 476, (LB) 524, (LB) 623, (LB) 652 to General File with amendments; and LB 192, (LB) 472, (LB) 512* (LB) 610 as indefinitely postponed. Agriculture Committee reports (LB) 573, (LB) 730, (LB) 778 to General File, and LB 679 indefinitely postponed.
Mr. Pres ... Madam President, in addition, a bill read on Final Reading this morning has been presented to the Governor. (Re LB 149) A confirmation report from Judiciary and from... I guess from Judiciary Committee. New resolution, LR 51, by Senator Connealy. That will be laid over. Amendments to be printed: Senator Jensen, amendments to (LB) 574; Senator Beutler to (LB) 416. And a new A bill, Madam President, (LB) 404A, by Senator Dierks. (Read by title for the first time.) And there is an Agriculture Committee confirmation report. And, finally, Senator Hartnett would like to add his name to (LB) 105, Senator Smith to (LB) 150, Senator Jensen to (LB) 559. That's all that I had, Madam President. (See pages 1041-1049 of the Legislative Journal.)
SENATOR CROSBY: Thank you, Mr. Clerk. Mr. Speaker, would you like to adjourn us?
SPEAKER KRISTENSEN: Thank you, Madam President. I move that we adjourn until 9:00 a.m., March 18th.
SENATOR CROSBY: You've heard the motion to adjourn. All in favor say aye. Opposed no. We are adjourned.