Sunday, March 20, 2005

"Day of Reckoning" Coming for Unicam

by Kyle Michaelis
They're past the half-way point for the 2005 legislative session at the state capitol. There hasn't been a single shouting match or violent outburst yet that I've heard about. Here's the Omaha World-Herald on why that might be changing soon:

"It does seem like the more controversial issues are being pushed back. Ultimately, there will be a day of reckoning," State Sen. Mike Foley said.

Foley ticked off a half-dozen senators' priority bills that promise to generate heated debate. Among those issues: Allowing the carrying of concealed weapons with a permit, easing helmet requirements for motorcycle riders and making it a crime to injure a fetus.

Also controversial are bills to ban smoking in restaurants, change unemployment benefits, merge elementary-only school districts into K-12 districts, restrict access to a key ingredient of methamphetamine and change the school aid formula.

Battles over which entities should be allowed to supply natural gas and telecommunications services also promise fireworks.

Then there are the two big money issues. By law, the Legislature must set the state budget for the next two years before adjourning. The Appropriations Committee has until April 28 to put together its recommendation to the full Legislature. The budget must be passed and sent to the governor by May 18.

Some argue that this year's Legislature also must address economic development by reworking the state's business tax incentives.

Those are some tall orders. Obviously, not everyone of these issues will be resolved this year. With $133 million more in the coffers than the budget originally called for, we'll also see what lobbies are best situated to bring that money their way. All for the good of the taxpayers, of course.

Where do YOU want to see that money go? Which of the BIG issues coming up in the legislature do YOU want to see decided immediately?


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