When the legislature adjourns for the year, interim studies are conducted by legislative committees. The purpose of each study is defined in a resolution that is introduced by a senator or a committee before the session ends. The resolution authorizes a committee to conduct research on a policy issue between legislative sessions. Each committee chairperson submits a study plan to identify prioritized topics. The committee's legal counsel coordinates the study plan. If the study requires a significant amount of time and research, legislative aides, whose senators serve on the committee, are often invited to assist with the process. An interim study may resolve the issue that prompted its introduction, or it may produce a bill to be introduced in the next legislative session. If new legislation is expected, the committee schedules a hearing(s) to outline its recommendations and encourage public input. These hearings are usually held in the fall. Committees often schedule hearings at the Capitol in Lincoln. As often as possible committees hold hearings in communities throughout the state to give more people a chance to learn about and discuss the issues that are being studied.
This year between May and December, committees are studying a wide array of subject matter. The Health and Human Services Committee, on which I serve, developed a list of topics for review. It includes continuing work on several aspects of our child welfare system; the moratorium on long-term care beds under the state's Health Care Certificate of Need Act; the relationship between students and staff health problems, and school construction projects; testing for congenital heart disease in newborns; and the current uses of and investment returns on the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund. Hearings on these and other issues began in September and will continue through November.
I am also a member of the Urban Affairs Committee. This year LR 501 is a primary focus for this committee. The purpose of LR 501 is to examine issues that the different sizes of municipalities in Nebraska are facing. It is hoped that this study will be used to better shape future policy and improve intergovernmental relations between municipalities and the state. Starting in late August a series of five short meetings will be held. A different sub-topic will be discussed at each meeting. The subjects to be discussed include economic and workforce development, transportation and infrastructure, housing and building codes, state aid and other funding issues, and environmental and energy issues. Outcomes from the five meetings will be combined as the focus of a public hearing at a yet-to-be-announced date in December.
With the passage of LB 824 this year, flavored malt beverages will be taxed in Nebraska at the same rate as beer rather than the higher hard liquor rate. The controversy surrounding this issue appears to be continuing. To provide for further discussion of the topic, the General Affairs Committee held a hearing last month to examine several policy issues regarding the definition of flavored malt beverages. For the remainder of the interim my fellow General Affairs members and I will analyze the range of issues that fall under the committee's jurisdiction.
Page 2 of 2 - In November I will attend a hearing of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee to hear testimony on two interim studies. LR 452 addresses public employee retirement systems, and the purpose of LR 518 is to review investments of pension and college savings plan assets for economic development in Nebraska. At this hearing the committee will also receive actuarial and compliance audit reports conducted on the Nebraska Public Employee Retirement System. In mid-December this committee will convene a public hearing on the pensions provided for firefighters from cities of the first class. There are currently 30 first class cities in the state with populations of 5001 to 100,000 residents.
Other legislative committees will look at subjects this year that range from early childhood education programs to the feasibility of a hydroelectric dam on the Platte River near Interstate 80. A complete list of interim studies and the public hearing schedules are available on the Unicameral's website a www.nebraskalegislature.gov .
I am always interested in hearing your comments by mail, phone or email.
Senator Paul Lambert
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509