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Don Walton

The Legislature went home last week for a four-day weekend in a bit of a grouchy mood.

That's clear evidence that senators must be past the halfway mark with all the big challenges and tough decisions looming ahead.

Appropriations, revenue and tax policy, school support, corrections funding and reform, the pace and nature of Medicaid expansion, and more.

And on April 25, it's all probably going to get even harder when the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board meets and takes into consideration the losses and damage from last month's devastating flooding in its next survey of the economy and the likely impact on state tax revenue.

Legislative decisions made after that will challenge senators to help decide whether that harsh blow will also be allowed to limit or damage Nebraska's future.

Full-day sessions of the Legislature begin on Tuesday with the end of committee hearings.   

Night sessions may begin as early as April 29. 

The Revenue Committee will begin to huddle at night in its attempt to hammer out a major tax reform proposal focused on providing hundreds of millions of dollars of additional property tax relief.

And all of this is eventually going to land in each senator's lap with the prospect of filibusters, gubernatorial vetoes and tough decisions on veto overrides lying just around the corner in the O.K Corral.

Game on.

* * *

Sen. Deb Fischer remains upbeat about scheduled reconstruction of the runway at Offutt Air Force Base along with funding to repair major flood damage at a time when President Donald Trump has been taking money away from military construction to build a wall or new fencing along the border with Mexico.

At stake is assured retention of the 55th Wing at Offutt, and that's an important slice of Nebraska's economy.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who surveyed the flood damage at Offutt first-hand with Fischer, "reiterated her firm commitment to rebuilding the base," the senator says.

"I have full confidence we are going to work together on the process of securing the resources needed to rebuild the base better than before and that the 55th Wing has a bright future at Offutt," Fischer said in an e-mail message.

Estimates of flood repair costs are $350 million.

Reconstruction of the runway is a $130 million project.

Fischer is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chair of its strategic forces subcommittee.

* * *

Finishing up:

* Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, speaking words that need to be heard by his legislative colleagues: "We have an honest-to-God crisis in our Department of Corrections," with prison population now at 163 percent of capacity.

* Among the past week's most interesting remarks in the legislative chamber was this from Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue: "We kick ass and take names in this body."

* Jen Day of Omaha is an early 2020 candidate for the 49th District seat in the Legislature with a campaign presence already on Facebook. The district is represented by Sen. Andrew La Grone of Gretna, who was appointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts in December.

* Last week's meltdown on the floor of the Legislature was another reminder of how you build or maintain trust at the Capitol: If you're going to change your mind or break a commitment, tell your colleague or others who may be depending on you before the legislative vote on that motion or issue.

* The abbreviated version: Trust is the coin of the realm.

* An up-to-date profile of the young immigrant Dreamers in Nebraska who are living in limbo with their future unresolved: 6,500 DACA youths working and going to school in this state, with the average Nebraska Dreamer brought into the United States at the age of 6 by parents or other adults who entered the country illegally. 

* President Trump and his supporters may have successfully framed, perhaps indelibly, the contents of the Mueller Report before they have been released.

* This sure looks like a pivotal moment for the University of Nebraska in terms of state funding commitment, political support and future leadership. 

* Bob Krist told the Democratic state central committee on Saturday that he intends to be a candidate for governor again in 2022.

* Nebraska's flood disaster and its aftermath is continuing to receive national attention through Mitch Smith's continuing, and comprehensive, coverage in The New York Times. Smith is a University of Nebraska-Lincoln grad.

* Bill Moos lands another five-star coaching hire and in the midst of the ensuing Twitter flood comes this from David Axelrod: "Good luck to a good man, ex-@chicagobulls coach Fred Hoiberg in his new gig as coach of the Nebraska @Huskers." A reminder that Chicago will be ripe recruiting territory.

* Here comes April and baseball's back; hey, what's not to like? 

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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