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Scheer does not rule out legislative session outside of Lincoln
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Scheer does not rule out legislative session outside of Lincoln

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The Legislature will reconvene at some yet-to-be-determined date, perhaps as early as Monday, to appropriate the state funding that may be required to help aggressively battle the coronavirus in Nebraska, Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk said Thursday.

While Scheer anticipates senators will meet in the legislative chamber at the Capitol in Lincoln, he does not rule out the possibility of "going off campus" at some point and convening in another city in the state if that emerges as the safest and most prudent way to complete its 2020 session, the Speaker said in a telephone interview.

"If Lincoln turned into a hot spot, which it is not today," Scheer said, the Legislature could choose a community where the threat of the virus is not as widespread.

Legislature calls off session until further notice

No cases of coronavirus in Lincoln have been diagnosed yet through testing, but health officials believe the virus is already present here. 

"We don't know what we don't know," Scheer said.

Scheer said he remains in touch with Gov. Pete Ricketts' office about emerging requests that the governor may make to the Legislature to help battle the virus.

Already pending and awaiting floor action are tentative requests for $20 million, which have been tucked into legislative "placeholder bills" to help provide funding support through the Department of Health and Human Services and the governor's emergency fund.

Ricketts has said he plans to rely as much as possible on anticipated federal funding assistance to battle the virus.

Legislature seeks to restrict more community contact at Capitol

The Legislature needs to complete action on bills that affect the 2019-2021 state budget, Scheer said, and then "it's probably up to all 49 senators" to decide whether and when to continue to pursue other priorities, such as proposed property tax relief.

Earlier this week, the speaker put on hold Tuesday's scheduled legislative session, announcing the Legislature would not reconvene until further notice. 

But that could come "as early as next Monday," he said. 

Senators have completed 40 days of their scheduled 60-day session.

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Among other items of pending legislation are a proposed new business investment tax incentives program and the University of Nebraska Medical Center's request for a commitment of $300 million in state funding to help finance a new $2.6 billion center that would respond to national health threats and crises.

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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