LINCOLN, Neb. — The Latest on the first day of the Nebraska Legislature’s 2018 session (all times local):

12:25 p.m.

Nebraska farmland owners who rent their property out to a veteran could get a bigger tax credit under a bill introduced in the Legislature.

Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue introduced legislation Wednesday that would expand the state’s beginning farmer tax credit program. The current program allows a 10 percent tax credit on cash rent or a 15 percent credit on the value of a share crop for property owners who rent to a beginning farmer.

Blood’s bill would expand the incentive to 11 percent and 16 percent respectively if the property is rented to a beginning farmer who is also a veteran.

Blood represents a veteran-heavy district near Offutt Air Force Base. The measure has won support from the Center for Rural Affairs, a farm and small town advocacy group.


11:55 a.m.

Nebraska could start paroling more inmates this year to relieve prison overcrowding under a bill lawmakers will consider in the 2018 session.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha introduced the bill Wednesday that would declare an overcrowding emergency if the state prison population is more than 140 percent of the system’s design capacity on July 1.

Declaring an emergency would force the state parole board to immediately consider all inmates who are incarcerated but eligible for parole. Board members could still decide case by case whether to parole inmates.

Lawmakers have already established a 2020 deadline in state law for reducing the prison population to 140 percent or less, so the new proposal would force state officials to work faster. Nebraska’s prisons currently hold roughly 5,229 inmates in facilities that were designed for 3,275, placing them at 160 percent of their total design capacity.


11:20 a.m.

Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer says he’s confident lawmakers will have a positive, productive session this year but acknowledged he may be more optimistic than others.

Scheer made the comments Wednesday as he outlined a rough schedule for the new session. He reminded his fellow senators that they won’t win on every issue.

Scheer says public hearings on bills will begin on Jan. 16. Lawmakers will spend the first 10 days of the session introducing new bills.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is scheduled to outline his agenda to lawmakers in his annual State of the State address on Jan. 10. Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican will discuss issues facing the courts in his State of the Judiciary speech on Jan. 18.


10:50 a.m.

Nebraska lawmakers have kicked off their 2018 session with a looming state revenue shortfall and an expected new push to reduce income and property taxes.

Senators began the 60-day session Wednesday by handling routine business. They confirmed a new sergeant-at-arms, Jim Doggett, to replace Ron Witkowski, who retired last year after serving in the post since 2004.

Lawmakers also voted 25-24 to appoint state Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha to serve as the new chairman of the Committee on Committees, which determines committee memberships.

The biggest issue expected so far in this year’s session is the projected $173.3 million state revenue shortfall in the current two-year budget cycle. The shortfall could force lawmakers to cut services, take cash from outside funds or withdraw money from the state’s emergency cash reserve.


5:13 a.m.

Nebraska lawmakers will begin their 2018 session with a looming state revenue shortfall that could make it harder to pass new spending measures or tax cuts.

Senators will spend some of the 60-day session debating familiar issues, including proposals to lower income and property taxes. But lawmakers and Gov. Pete Ricketts have said balancing the budget is their top priority during the session that begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

State budget officials have said Nebraska faces a projected $173.3 million shortfall in the current two-year budget cycle. The revenue shortfall could force lawmakers to cut services, take from cash funds outside of the general fund, or withdraw money from the state’s emergency cash reserve. Raising taxes is likely off the table because it would face strong opposition.