Nebraska rental aid bill could be dead despite Legislature’s approval | Politics

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LINCOLN — A bill that would require Gov. Pete Ricketts to apply for $120 million of federal rent and utility assistance money could be dead in the water despite passing in the Legislature.

Legislative Bill 1073 passed on a 26-15 vote Wednesday, but crucially did not pass with an emergency clause, which means the law would take effect after the deadline to apply for the funding. The bill needed 33 votes to pass with an emergency clause, but it only received 26 votes in a separate attempt.

Additionally, Ricketts, who has repeatedly said he opposes the additional aid, could veto the bill.

In order for the bill to have the desired effect, the U.S. Department of the Treasury would first have to agree to extend the deadline for Nebraska beyond March 30, which State Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln said is a possibility. Additionally, LB 1073 would need 30 votes to pass a veto override if Ricketts vetoes the bill. 

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Sens. Eliot Bostar of Lincoln, Tom Brewer of Gordon and Rich Pahls of Omaha, who previously voted yes on the bill, were excused from Wednesday’s vote, while Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha, another previous yes vote, chose not to vote Wednesday. Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha was a new yes vote for LB 1073 Wednesday after not voting on the bill previously. 

If all five senators voted yes on a veto override, in addition to every other senator who voted yes on LB 1073 Wednesday, that would reach the 30 votes needed to pass the bill into law.  

Regardless of the bill’s outcome, Hansen, who designated LB 1073 his priority bill, said there were other options available for the state to access rental assistance for residents, although he did not name specifics. 

Lawmakers have been at odds with Ricketts over the funding, with many senators pushing him to accept the aid. Earlier this month, all nine members of the Appropriations Committee signed a letter asking the governor to reconsider his decision not to apply.

Despite this, Ricketts has held firm that Nebraska does not need the money. Ricketts has argued that the COVID-19 pandemic emergency is over, and pointed out that the state still has about $30 million of unused federal funding from the first round of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Senators opposing the bill have echoed Ricketts’ arguments, and argued that the federal assistance would hurt Nebraska taxpayers. Supporters have argued the opposite, and noted that the funding available for Nebraska will go elsewhere if the state does not request it.

Ricketts now has five days to either sign or veto LB 1073. Earlier this week, the governor declined to say whether he would veto the bill, but he repeated his opposition and touted the state’s low unemployment rate.

“We are not in an emergency, so therefore it’s not appropriate for us to ask for emergency funds when we’re not in an emergency,” he said.

Correction: This story has been corrected to note that the bill needed 33 votes to pass with an emergency clause.

ebamer@owh.com Twitter @ErinBamer

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