Neb. lawmakers don't expect to end session early

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2010 8:20 AM

Nebraska state government may be counting its nickels, but don't expect lawmakers to run home early to keep from spending more of them.

The Legislature is scheduled to begin a 60-day lawmaking session on Wednesday _ at a cost of roughly $10,000 a day.

"We'll leave when the work is done or when we reach 60 days, whichever comes first," said Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk, who sets the legislative schedule.

"Every dollar saved is important, but the Legislature's primary responsibility is to make changes to public policy that members of the legislature feel are important."

Clerk of the Legislature Patrick O'Donnell said he hasn't heard any talk of shortening the session. He said it would be "irresponsible and premature" to talk about shortening the session as no one knows what issues may arise.

Shortening the session to save some money would amount to "window dressing," a feel-good measure that would not do much to help solve the state's budget problems, said Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont.

At least one lawmaker plans on floating the idea and says the move would have practical benefits.

"I don't think $10,000 is window dressing, it's hard-earned dollars and constituents expect us to be good stewards of it," Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln. "Will it solve the state's budget crunch as a whole? No, but in terms of the Legislature's budget, it's significant."

Fewer bills than usual are expected to be introduced during the session because there is very little support for new spending.

In November, lawmakers met during a special session to slash $334 million from the two-year budget because of lower-than-expected revenue.

Nevertheless, fewer bills do not automatically lead to less legislative work, Flood said.

He pointed to consideration of so-called priority bills _ those that are almost guaranteed consideration by lawmakers, unlike many bills that don't advance out of committee and to the full Legislature.

Flood said there will be the same number of priority bills this session, 102, as last.