Towards the end of Tuesday’s session, Nebraska lawmakers passed more than a dozen bills that had been merged into two separate laws — a strategy intended to counter an ongoing filibuster that has been slowing progress locally.
The Nebraska Legislature has passed two bills (LB565 and LB 683), both of which are now going to Gov. Jim Pillen’s desk for signature into law. In all, the bills include 17 measures, covering everything from scrap tire grants to expanding broadband coverage across Nebraska.
While it’s common to see five or six bills in a pack, often referred to as “Christmas trees,” this session broke several norms. Some of these packages contained more than 20 bills.
The strategy was developed mid-session in response to the filibuster in protest of LB574, which bans 12-week abortions based on gestational age and restricts gender-affirming care for those under 19. Although Pillen has already enacted that bill, opponents have vowed to continue the filibustering until the end of the session and into next year’s 60-day session.
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State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha, who said LB574 amounts to “waging war” against the transgender community, said she will work to prevent lawmakers from developing similar packages in the future.
“My new setting is obstructivist, pure and simple,” Cavanaugh said.
Without the packages, filibusters would have limited the legislature to passing just a handful of bills in that session. But the large packages themselves have drawn criticism that the procedure stifles debate about some of the bills included in each collection.
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Changes passed on Tuesday include:
hydrogen energy. Under LB565, which passed 41-0, funds would be provided for engineering and modeling work to enable Nebraska to continue competing for federal designation as a regional clean hydrogen hub. The regional hubs are intended to accelerate the development and use of hydrogen for energy supply and storage.
The bill also aims to increase the workforce for the advanced nuclear and hydrogen industries by creating a grant program for community colleges and state colleges that develop workforce training programs.
broadband office. Building on a pill executive order, the legislature approved the establishment of a state broadband office by LB683, which passed 39-0. The bureau will be tasked with expanding broadband service across Nebraska, backed by millions of federal dollars, and more are expected to come.
Chinese equipment. LB683 would also ban telecommunications companies from receiving money from the state’s Universal Service Fund if they use equipment manufactured by companies identified by the Federal Communications Commission as a national security threat on their Nebraska networks. The bill could affect Viaero Wireless in western Nebraska, which has equipment made by Chinese company Huawei.
Pillen issued a separate executive order banning government broadband grants from being awarded to contractors using telecom equipment and services manufactured by Huawei and other Chinese companies.
Threats from wildlife. Private landowners and tenant farmers would be permitted under LB565 to kill mountain lions and other predators when these animals attack livestock. Current law gives this authority only to farmers and ranchers who own or operate farms or ranches.
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