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Legislative floor

People sit in the gallery watching floor debate during the legislative session at the state Capitol.

Lincoln Journal Star file photo

A quiet movement was underway in the Legislature on Monday to consider whether to summon senators back to Lincoln this summer for a special session targeting property tax relief.

Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon said he already has acquired commitments from more than the required 10 senators needed to request the secretary of state to poll all 49 senators to measure their support for a special session to try to reach agreement on tax reform. 

The bar is high: the support of at least two-thirds of the membership, 33 of the 49 senators, would be required to summon the Legislature into special session.

And the challenge is daunting: tackling an issue that has deadlocked the current legislative session, which is scheduled to complete its 60-day session next week.

Brewer said his effort is designed in part to "force a discussion" before any decision is made on whether to pursue such an avenue.

"We want to give everyone time to weigh in," he said.

Acquiring support of at least 33 senators "wouldn't be easy," Brewer noted.

But, he said, the Legislature should consider all options, including extension of the current 60-day session, before yielding on the issue.

Extending the current session would require the support of at least 40 senators, Brewer said, and that number seems far beyond reach.

Pressure to resolve the issue in the Legislature is being applied daily by a statewide petition drive to place a billion-dollar property tax relief initiative on the November general election ballot.

That measure would rely on refundable state income tax credits to fund property tax relief amounting to 50 percent of local school property taxes paid.

Approval of that initiative would open a huge hole in the revenue stream that supports state government and confront the 2019 legislative session with the daunting challenge of filling that gap with other tax increases or reduction in programs and services, or a combination of both. 

A last-ditch effort to secure legislative agreement on property tax relief along with other tax reform collapsed Sunday night after two weekend negotiating sessions summoned by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk that brought sponsors of competing tax bills into urgent and private final negotiations. 

Monday, Scheer erased the three remaining legislative tax packages from the Legislature's agenda, marking an end to this session's efforts to achieve agreement on a tax plan. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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