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Chambers: Law not needed for Neb. tax study

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Sen. Ernie Chambers has argued for months that lawmakers don't need a law to study Nebraska's tax climate, and on Wednesday he offered an alternative.

The state's longest-serving senator presented a resolution that he said would accomplish the same goal as a tax-study bill now pending in the Legislature.

Chambers, of Omaha, argued that his approach would give lawmakers more flexibility than a state law, because resolutions are easier to change and extend. Chambers pointed to special committees that lawmakers have created without passing laws, including one to investigate abuses at the Beatrice State Developmental Center.

"It's cheaper, it's cleaner, and it's the way the Legislature ought to conduct hearings and studies that it intends to do," Chambers told the Legislature's Executive Board. Lawmakers who sit on the board voted Wednesday to advance the resolution to the full Legislature.

Lawmakers have given first-round approval to the tax-study bill, which would create a Tax Modernization Commission. The idea gained some prominence after Gov. Dave Heineman's proposal to eliminate or reduce Nebraska's income tax was scrapped. Lawmakers acknowledged that the state tax system was outdated, but argued that lawmakers should first identify which changes are needed to make the system more equitable.

Resolutions are used to authorize studies of an issue, which could lead future legislation, while bills that are passed become part of state law.

The Executive Board also approved a suggestion by Sen. Bob Krist to include two at-large members on the state tax commission, in addition to legislative committee heads. Krist argued that it would allow less senior lawmakers to participate, and decrease the odds that the Legislature would lose knowledge about the tax study because of term limits.


The resolution is LR155