Fear of retaliation and distrust broke the 2019 Legislature. As lawmakers approached the end of a session shortened by four days at the speaker of the Legislature’s prerogative, passage of an upgraded economic development incentive bill was tied to the approval of a property tax relief bill. Both failed after threats of retaliation.
Distrust of one another as individuals became almost as strong as Democrats not trusting Republicans and vice versa, in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Unicameral. Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk and several of his colleagues mentioned the situation in remarks on the final day of the session. All of this played out against a well-established (four years) record of retaliation by a governor who has been known to make large personal cash contributions to defeat candidates he opposes — even members of his own party.
So, it was a bit of a surprise on the last day of their shortened session that lawmakers overrode a gubernatorial veto that had been characterized as a property tax increase. Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne and others called bull on the governor’s assessment of LB492 to create a Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority as a $17 million property tax increase.
"The bill allows the Omaha Transit Authority to convert itself into a new political subdivision that will have broader taxing authority," Ricketts said in his veto message. "LB492 amounts to an incredible $17 million property tax increase for all residents of Omaha and Douglas County because it moves the transit authority’s property tax levy authority outside of the city and county tax lids and authorizes the new authority to double its existing property tax levy amount."
The measure is permissive and simply allows participating entities to solve a transportation problem, Scheer said. The override vote was 33-16.
A second override of a bill (LB533) from Omaha Sen. Michaela Cavanaugh was scrapped after the sponsor warned her colleagues that the bill, dealing with wording on marriage license paperwork, advanced unanimously from committee and cleared three rounds of debate before passage with no objections. The governor vetoed the bill saying he would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to make the changes administratively.
Currently, the state marriage license applications refer to Groom/Party 1 and Bride/Party 2. Cavanaugh proposed Applicant 1 and Applicant 2.
"The term selected in the bill is workable for the marriage license application at which time the couple are applying for a license; however, both the marriage license and the formal certificate of marriage are issued after the parties are married," Ricketts veto message said. "They are no longer ‘applicants.’ The mandated use of this term would be factually inaccurate on both the marriage license and the marriage certificate."
Cavanaugh said "every single person in this Legislature should be put on notice by the governor’s action on this bill," which had no opposition and had not generated comment from the executive branch before the veto.
In closing the session, Ricketts said he saw "Nebraska Strong" in response to the storms and flooding.
Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks sadly noted that some of her colleagues did not attend the annual Sine Die party on May 30. The event features skits and an opportunity to unwind and put the session in perspective.
Apparently, some wounds will take more time to heal.