- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Tempers are flaring and patience is running thin in the final days of Nebraska’s legislative session, as senators try to shoehorn their proposals into bills that are up for a last-minute vote in the session’s final days.

The often-testy exchanges prompted Speaker Greg Adams to implore lawmakers on Tuesday to be respectful of one another and maintain the Legislature’s credibility in the session’s final days.

His comments followed a heated late-night session on Monday, in which lawmakers tried to attach a series of popular insurance-expansion proposals onto a bill that would end the state’s public disclosure of insurance-executive salaries.

Opponents argued that the amendments were “sweeteners” to help the measure pass, and the whole package stalled as lawmakers adjourned shortly before midnight. Senators accused one another of being childish because their bills hadn’t passed this year, and Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha railed against his colleagues for failing to support his bill to end mountain lion hunting.

“I could be angry with the results of last night, but that gets us nowhere,” Adams said Tuesday. “But I am concerned about us using our time as wisely as we can and recognizing the work we have to get done. And quite frankly, we probably are not going to get it all done.”

Chambers pushed once again on Tuesday for a permanent end to Nebraska’s mountain lion hunting season. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Dave Heineman, and Chambers has tried and failed twice to override. Chambers attached his measure to other bills that have yet to clear a final vote, though he acknowledged Tuesday afternoon that it wasn’t going to pass this year.

Debate continued to crawl on Tuesday, as senators attempted to attach proposals to bills on second-round debate.

Lawmakers rejected an attempt by Papillion Sen. Bill Kintner to attach a gun measure onto a state prison-reform bill. The gun measure, which stalled in committee, would have nullified local and federal gun restrictions that are stricter than state law.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln tried again on Tuesday to attach a proposal that would require insurance coverage for children with autism. The measure was one of the three insurance-expansion proposals that went down on Monday, but Coash said Tuesday that he wasn’t giving up.

“I told the (Legislature) that I would do whatever I could to get this across the finish line,” he said.

Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney warned lawmakers that attaching amendments that aren’t germane to the main bill could easily run afoul of the state constitution.

The Nebraska constitution requires at least seven days the state to enact a law, but the Supreme Court has held lawmakers can do so in less time with an amendment that’s germane to the underlying bill. Lawmakers can suspend that rule, but amendments that aren’t related to the bill could get challenged in court.

“We’re absolutely raising a red flag,” Hadley said. “You can’t suspend the constitution … and by suspending the germaneness rule, we’re waving that red flag and saying we’ve done this differently than the constitution says we should do it.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year on April 17, but will only have three working days left after Tuesday. Monday was the deadline for bills to advance through a first-round vote, although lawmakers can still attach their proposals to other bills through amendments.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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