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Extreme weather planning rejected as senators question climate change
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Extreme weather planning rejected as senators question climate change

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A revised legislative bill to develop a state plan to address the challenges of extreme weather events fell victim Thursday to a successful filibuster after a three-hour debate focused on its original language of combating climate change.

The proposal (LB283), sponsored by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, would have directed the University of Nebraska to conduct the study with funding provided by $250,000 transferred from the state's petroleum release remedial action collection fund.

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Pansing Brooks pointed to recent dramatic changes in weather that have threatened and impacted the state, most dramatically in 2019 when a cascade of rain, snow and melting ice resulted in more than $1.3 billion in flood damage.

Opponents seized on the original language of the proposal and turned the debate into an argument over the politically incendiary question of climate change.

"It is a hoax called global warming," Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard argued in offering a motion to shelve the bill. "It's a joke."

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Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango kicked off opposition to the proposal, stating that "this is a study that I do not feel needs to be done."

"I'm not a believer in climate change," he said. "We're in an active weather cycle now."

Sen. John McCollister of Omaha argued that there is abundant scientific evidence of climate change and it is "a life-and-death threat."

"Is climate change real?" he asked, pointing to record high temperatures on Earth. "How much more evidence do we need?"

A number of opponents focused on the cost of the study and the source of its funding.

"Nothing is stopping the university from doing this research themselves," Sen. Julie Slama of Peru said. "This is money that could be used for other things like property tax relief."

Sen. Andrew La Grone of Gretna said the funding provision would take money away from the vital task of cleaning up leaking fuel tanks.

"This is telling people what to do and how to live," Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte said. "This is big brother. This is feel-good legislation, absolute foolishness."

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Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings said "there's more damage from high property taxes than any pending weather event."

Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha argued that conducting a study to address the challenges of extreme changes in weather would "demonstrate a commitment to kids' future (and) kids want us to take their future seriously."

Pansing Brooks said the evidence clearly argues for such a study.

"It's not just something that some crazy liberal from Lincoln wants," she said. "There have been two 500-year floods within the past 10 years."

Pansing Brooks introduced the bill in 2019 and it was finally pushed to the floor for debate this year in amended form.

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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