2017 Legislative Session Ends Early, Shows Some Positive Signs for Lincoln Businesses
The 2017 session was a longer, 90-day, budget-setting session for the Nebraska Legislature. However, the session came to a close a few days early this year – on the 86th day – after the Senators enacted a two-year $8.9B general fund budget. The Governor’s budget line-item vetoes made more than $50M of additional spending reductions, which were sustained despite override efforts. The budget package was occasionally mentioned as the only “must complete” of the Session, but senators also dealt with and enacted 171 other legislative bills.
I’m pleased to report our organization played a prominent role in getting several key pieces of legislation enacted on your behalf during the session.
Those bills included:
- LB 271 – This law will allow a streamlined state review of federal environmental requirements for road projects. This change could save the state $12-19M dollars per year that can be used to stretch our road building budgets.
- LB 641 – Called the “Bioscience Bill”, this new statue creates a Bioscience Innovation Program as well as the Nebraska Economic Development Task Force. Bioscience-related jobs are high-wage, high-impact jobs that leverage Lincoln’s higher education assets and we were extremely pleased our supporters in the state legislature recognized the growth potential in this exciting field.
- LB 222 – This bill updates and reforms the Nebraska Tourism Commission and regulations governing its operations. This is the result of the recent audit of the Commission under the previous director, which revealed several serious issues. LB 222 gives the new director the chance to start with clear directives and more unified statewide industry support.
The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce was also a strong supporter of the University of Nebraska during the debate over the state’s budget. Although the University ultimately received cuts to its state funding, the Chamber firmly believes in their role as a driver of our economy.
Other issues of note supported by the Lincoln Chamber include better organization of veteran’s services though LB 340 and the creation of protections for individuals against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity through LB 173.
I want to conclude by noting the one area of business concern that didn’t receive support from legislators this year – comprehensive income tax relief. Our combined effort with the Omaha Chamber, Nebraska Chamber, Governor Pete Ricketts and Senator Jim Smith, would have put in place a delayed and phased approach to lower our income tax burden as well as making needed reforms to lighten the local property tax load. This was a tough budget year for making this change, but we are encouraged by the majority of senators who supported this tax relief effort. You can rest assured we will be back again next year to make this necessity a reality.
Thank you to all who reached out to lawmakers through our action alerts and all those who donated their time to meet with senators or offer testimony at public hearings. Your work doesn’t go unnoticed and your support and engagement are critical to Lincoln’s future.
The Chamber’s mission is to improve the lives of Lincoln residents by providing increased economic opportunity and can only be accomplished together. For more information on the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, (www.lcoc.com) please contact Jaime Henning at firstname.lastname@example.org.