LINCOLN – In an eight-hour debate Tuesday, Nebraska lawmakers advanced a batch of 17 bills that were bundled together into a single piece of legislation.
The Nebraska Legislature approved the first round of Legislative Bill 92 by a 46-0 vote. Included in the measure are 16 other bills that LB 92’s sponsor, state Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, described as good governance and low on controversy. But she also acknowledged that the bills don’t have much in common, other than being handled by the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee.
LB 92 would remove the requirement for insurance agents regarding their annual examinations. The remaining 16 bills cover a range of other issues, including reducing the cost of insulin and mammograms, promoting affordable housing grants and providing financial incentives for semiconductor manufacturing. Overall, the package will cost the state approximately $32.3 million, according to the combined fiscal notes of the bills.
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So many notes included in one package is unusual for a normal session, but this year’s session is unprecedented in many ways. Facing a lengthy filibuster session from Omaha Sens. Machaela Kavanaugh and Megan Hunt, Legislature Speaker John Arch said he has directed committees to form larger packages in an effort to pass more bills.
Arch said he recommended the packages be made up of what he called “good government bills” that have received broad committee support and have relatively low financial implications. Typically, such bundles consist of five or six larger notes linked to a common issue.
“It’s not unprecedented, but it’s unusual,” Arch said of large packages like the LB 92.
Slama said several significant bills likely won’t have a chance to be debated this year if left out of LB 92. She mentioned LB 145, which would expand insurance coverage for mammograms, and LB 779, which would limit out-of-pocket payments for insulin costs $35 per month for insured patients.
Later, Slama also praised the addition of LB 617 by Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha, which follows a 2022 federal law focused on advances in semiconductor manufacturing. The bill would allocate $20 million from the state’s cash reserve to support such production.
Tuesday’s debate resulted in scattered opposition on individual bills in the package. Sens. Ben Hansen of Blair and Merv Riepe of Ralston opposed several bills that would expand health insurance coverage, including LB 145 and LB 779, arguing that the legislation could be considered government overreach and could raise insurance rates.
Supporters of those bills said the measures would actually make preventive health care more affordable. On LB 145, Slama said women who can’t afford mammograms will often go without the screening and put themselves at a higher risk of breast cancer or might take more extreme measures to avoid it. such as a double mastectomy.
Sen. Elliott Bostar of Lincoln, who introduced LB 145, noted that insurance companies did not oppose the bills in the package. Hansen suggested that this might be to avoid the bad optics of opposing such bills. But Bostar and Slama said insurance representatives have not been shy about opposing bills in the past because it could put them in a bad light.
“If they didn’t like something, they would absolutely set the world on fire for it,” Slama said.
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