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Don Walton: Big winners emerge from grand legislative bargain
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Don Walton: Big winners emerge from grand legislative bargain

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Wrong again.

No way this reporter would have bet that the Legislature would reach agreement on a new property tax reduction plan this year.

I'd have told you it couldn't get the necessary 33 votes to hurdle a filibuster.

It got 43 last Wednesday night — so, uh, maybe I was right.

One hurdle cleared, two to go.

Tax package protects current state programs, according to Appropriations chair

There are some big winners here.

* Lou Ann Linehan, dogged and determined and relentless, ready and willing to change course more than once to achieve her goal of property tax relief.

* Tom Briese, whose hardball strategy of connecting the fate of new business development tax incentives to additional property tax relief worked — with a pledge of state funding support for the University of Nebraska Medical Center's pandemic-related super-project later added as another hostage.

* John Stinner, who leveraged a commitment to restore the state's rainy day fund along with some budgetary support assurances to protect future spending for state programs and services in helping negotiate an agreement.

* Jim Scheer, who brought the successful negotiating team together, scoring perhaps the biggest victory of his Speakership, which ends this year.

* Mark Kolterman, who pitched a doubleheader, patiently gathering support and then waiting out the storm to win adoption of a new business development tax incentives package and a pledge of state funding support for the University of Nebraska Medical Center's exciting, game-changing project.

Meatpacking worker advocates ask senators for COVID-19 protections

And now this struggling 2020 Legislature, plagued by a pandemic and sometimes veering off into some spectacular middle school moments, is set to go home with a bang.

They'll be back in five months with some new riders ready to saddle up and begin their adventures in this one-of-a-kind, nonpartisan, one-house Legislature where everyone counts.

* * *

This week may mark Ernie Chambers' last few days in a legislative session.

Maybe, maybe not. No one should ever, ever count this man out. And even if he leaves the Legislature, he is not done.

We'll have more to say about him later in the year, but for this moment:

New property tax reduction plan sails ahead toward enactment

"I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

Those words are better known than their author, Etienne de Grellet, an American Quaker missionary who was born in France in 1773 and later took the name of Stephen Grellet.

* * *

Chuck Hagel never, ever minces words.

"I think the president is corrupt," Nebraska's former Republican senator told the Suburban Rotary Club of Omaha a week ago in assessing Republican President Donald Trump.

"I think he is incompetent," Hagel said.

"I think he's damn dangerous, and I think this president has hurt this country in so many ways."

* * *

Finishing up:

* Yes, absolutely, of course, campaign polling results are naturally suspect, but this looks interesting: Trump, 48%; Biden, 46% in the 1st Congressional District in results of a survey of 400 likely voters shared by the Kate Bolz congressional campaign. Biden with a big 15-point lead in Lancaster County, fueled by Lincoln.

* First-week applications for participation in Nebraska's Medicaid expansion program: 2,692. Maybe 90,000 to go.

* Daily Test Nebraska COVID-19 testing numbers jumped from 601 on July 1 to 3,010 on July 31.

Seeking a grand bargain, senators approach the finish line

* The American Immigration Council reports 2,910 DACA individuals in Nebraska as of 2019.

* Jim Vokal of the Platte Institute described last week's grand bargain in the Legislature as "a product of having an executive who has blocked any good options for raising revenue and local political subdivisions that didn't want to agree to an exchange of state funding for additional limitations on their taxing authority."

* Not voting on the 43-2 vote that moved the big package forward last week: Sens. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha, Steve Erdman of Bayard, Mike Groene of North Platte and Justin Wayne of Omaha.

* Community spread of the virus is inevitable once public schools resume classes and University of Nebraska students return to Lincoln, but it will help if all of us do the easy, simple, unselfish, little gesture of wearing a face mask. How hard is that?

Ricketts defends his decision not to mandate masks
Ricketts says new business incentives package vital for Nebraska

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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