NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Julie Slama

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at jslama@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 9th, 2019

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 1st legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Julie Slama

Week of May 6th
May 15th, 2019

This week, the Legislature took its first positive steps towards property tax relief. Wednesday’s first round of debate on the budget proved to be a productive one, ensuring at least $272 million designated in the budget for property tax relief in this session. The Appropriations Committee voted in April by a margin of 7-2 to cut an increase in property tax relief from the initial budget from $51 million to $26 million, trimming the allocation for the Property Tax Credit Fund from $272 million to $247 million. Members of the committee argued that the cut was necessary to replenish our state’s Rainy Day Fund. However, none of those committee members who voted in favor of the cut could explain why wasteful spending was not trimmed before raiding the Property Tax Credit Fund.

Sen. Linehan introduced a floor amendment to restore the full $51 million increase for relief. This floor amendment was adopted 28-8, with twelve members choosing to be “present, not voting.” Usually, “present, not voting” indicates that the senator either opposes the measure but does not want to take a strong position on the issue by voting “no” or the senator truly has not studied the bill enough to be comfortable taking a position. I voted in favor of Sen. Linehan’s floor amendment and firmly believe there are still several places in the budget where we can trim down wasteful spending to provide additional, meaningful property tax relief. The budget, which now has $272 million designated for the Property Tax Relief Fund, advanced past the first round of debate and will be back on the floor for the second round next week.

On a related note, WalletHub’s 2019 analysis of tax rates by state was released on March 12, 2019. Nebraska was ranked as the 47th “Best State to Be a Taxpayer.” The analysis compiled both the local and state tax obligations for the median U.S. household by income of each state. 47th of 51 (Washington, D.C., was included in the list), is not a competitive ranking by a long shot. An observation that has been tested and proven over the years is that at the root of every taxation crisis is a government spending problem. The next round of budget debate will allow the Legislature to cut more wasteful spending and direct those funds towards property tax relief. This approach is just one of many opportunities available for property tax relief in this session. As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of April 29th
May 15th, 2019

LB 209

With less than a month of session remaining, debate on the biggest issues facing the Legislature are fast approaching. This week, both the budget and property tax bill are coming to the floor. I will share my insight on both debates in next week’s column.

This past week, my colleagues and I debated LB 209, which was introduced by Senator Albrecht. This bill would expand the information required to be provided during a medication abortion.

A medication abortion is a two-pill process. The first pill, mifepristone, is taken at the doctor’s office and the second, misoprostol, is taken at home 24-48 hours later. Mifepristone alone is not always effective in ending a pregnancy. This means that a woman may still have a viable pregnancy after taking the first pill if a mother changes her mind.

LB 209 ensures that women seeking an abortion are informed mifepristone alone is not 100% effective at ending a pregnancy, and that if a woman changes her mind after taking the first pill, she will know where to obtain information on potential pregnancy-rescuing medical treatments. This information will be available on the Department of Health and Human Services’ website and hotline. Rescuing a pregnancy is a time-sensitive process after taking mifepristone, so it is essential this information be easily accessible. This bill would provide women with a possible second chance. It is a pro-life, pro-woman bill that needs to be passed. I spoke extensively in favor of this bill on the floor of the Legislature and was encouraged to hear stories of women who had successfully saved their pregnancies after changing their minds in the middle of a medication abortion. This bill empowers women to make informed decisions about their pregnancies and could save lives.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of April 22nd
April 29th, 2019

Death Penalty

This past week a bill that would repeal the death penalty was defeated on the floor. LB 44, introduced by Senator Chambers, would have set a precedent of flagrant disregard for the voice of Nebraska voters if it would have passed.

In November of 2016, the people of Nebraska voted overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty. 814,870 Nebraskas, or over two-thirds of our state’s registered voters, voted on Referendum 426. 494,151 Nebraskans voted in support of the repeal of the repeal. In other words, to keep the death penalty. The margin of victory was 173,432 votes. 92 of 93 counties voted to keep the death penalty. Nebraskans have spoken on this issue, and their response was decisive.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty is constitutional. I understand that two well-informed people can come to different conclusions on the death penalty; however, this bill’s passage would have set a precedent of jeopardizing every successful ballot initiative in Nebraska based on the will of the Legislature.

Personally, I am in favor of the death penalty’s retention and spoke extensively against the bill. In addition, District 1 voted nearly 3:1 in favor of keeping the death penalty, so it was an honor to defend their vote on the floor.

Some senators asserted that the ballot language was far too confusing for the average Nebraskan to understand and likely influenced the result. I was quick to call out the ignorance of that statement. Yes, the ballot language of this initiative was confusing, but nearly 500,000 Nebraskans spoke loud and clear. Nebraskans were not confused when they voted to keep the death penalty.

LB 44 failed to advance on General File on a vote of 17-25, with several senators either absent at the time of the vote or “present, not voting.”

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of April 15th
April 25th, 2019

During the most widespread and expensive natural disaster in Nebraska’s history, many voiced concern that we were not receiving the appropriate national news coverage for a catastrophe of this scale. Some assumed it was because coastal elites view us as “flyover country,” but my guess is something else was at play. Instead of looting and demanding government handouts, Nebraskans did what Nebraskans do during tough times: we pulled together. Our communities remained strong thanks to outstanding local leadership.

Local emergency managers led the charge throughout unprecedented flooding along the Missouri River this spring and will continue to do so as we move towards recovery. Their work behind the scenes deserves recognition. I’d like to take a moment to thank our emergency managers along the Missouri River and would encourage you all to do the same. In Nemaha County, Renee Crister; in Otoe County, Gregg Goebel; and in Richardson County, Brian Kirkendall have each risen to the challenge of ensuring public safety and navigating local, state, and federal agencies to keep Southeast Nebraska moving forward.

Local emergency managers are not the only ones who deserve gratitude for their work. County commissioners, mayors, city council members, and countless volunteers across District 1 have worked overtime during our harsh winter and spring to help those in need. Far smaller natural disasters have brought other parts of the United States to their knees, but when times get tough, Nebraskans get tougher. Thank you to everyone who has helped show our nation the sense of community which makes Nebraska the good life.

An administrative note before closing this week’s column- flood damage along I-29 has forced heavy traffic onto Highway 75. You have probably noticed additional police patrols, speed tracking trailers on the north and south ends of Auburn, and re-timed stop lights. My office has been in regular contact with NDOT, Nebraska State Patrol, NEMA, and FEMA to make the best of this situation. We ask for your continued patience and extra caution on Highway 75; Iowa officials estimate I-29 will be reopened in June.As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of April 8th
April 17th, 2019

It’s difficult to believe that we are already in the fifteenth week of session. The Legislature is getting into the tough issues of this session, and I am encouraged at the progress we have made thus far. Last week, the Legislature found two creative solutions for flood relief in LB 512 and LB 334.

LB 512 is a bill relating to revenue and taxation. This is the Department of Revenue’s annual housekeeping bill that addresses multiple areas of tax laws. The standard cleanup bill expanded into a flood relief measure with an amendment, introduced by Senator Steve Erdman, that provided tax relief if a property is destroyed or damaged by a natural disaster between the assessment day and July 15. The owner may petition the county assessor, on a form prescribed by the Tax Commissioner, for a reassessment of the property’s value for that year. The county assessor may then file a petition on behalf of the property owner, and they will file a report of destroyed or damaged property with the reassessed value of any such property before July 20. A natural disaster may include but not limited to a fire, earthquake, flood, tornado, or any event which affects an area such that the Governor declares that area to be in a state of emergency.

LB 334 was another cleanup bill which turned into flood relief for Nebraskans. LB 334 intended to move $4 million from the Angel Investment Tax Credit Fund into other business development projects. However, thanks to an amendment presented by Senator Lou Ann Linehan and a compromise which will be finalized in the next round of debate, the funds will now go to the Governor’s emergency cash fund for flood repairs. LB 512 and LB 334, both of which I wholeheartedly support, illustrate the creative steps the Legislature is taking to help Nebraskans rebuild after our state’s costliest and most widespread natural disaster.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.  

Week of April 1st
April 9th, 2019

Myths of Property Tax Relief

The top issue of the current legislative session is property tax relief. There’s no doubt about it: Nebraska is facing a property tax crisis. However, behind the grandiose rhetoric of “property tax relief” are a number of misconceptions, which I hope to address in this week’s column.

The state does not levy property taxes; they are levied by local authorities. As a result, the state can only take indirect measures to reign in the crisis. There have been a number of proposals raised in this session. One option is to simply raise taxes in other areas, such as adding taxes to bottled water, food, and other necessities. Some have commented that bottled water is a luxury good, which is rather tone-deaf considering several communities across the state, including Peru, are still dependent on bottled water in the aftermath of the flood.

Furthermore, this option does nothing to address the root of the property tax crisis and has been attempted twice before since the implementation of the current school funding formula, TEEOSA (Nebraska Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act ), in 1990. Results were the same on both attempts- local spending spiked with the influx of revenue, and in two years, property taxpayers were again stuck footing the same bill. Raising taxes without addressing the base of our local spending issues might be wrapped up as “property tax relief” and topped with a neat bow, but this merely kicks the can down the road. Any tax hike without spending cuts, limitations, or changes to our school funding formula is not property tax relief.

The base of our property taxes crisis lies in Nebraska’s school funding formula and unchecked local spending growth. Many rural school districts do not receive state aid through TEEOSA. School districts without state aid depend solely on local property tax revenue to fund their schools. Farmers are facing an increasing property tax burden, paired with low commodity prices and tough weather conditions. This has pushed our farmers to the breaking point, while rural schools also struggle to cover necessary expenses. Our current school funding formula fails our rural school districts, rural students, and farmers. It must be adjusted or replaced if we want to see property tax relief.

My message has been clear since taking office: I will never support raising taxes without addressing the root of our property tax crisis. We’ve tried this route twice already, and it’s failed miserably both times. I’m following the Revenue Committee’s work carefully, and expect their proposal to advance to the floor sometime in the next two weeks. When it’s released, my column will focus on the potential tax package and my opinion of the bill. Nebraskans don’t need tax hikes as false hope; we deserve sustainable solutions.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at: Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of March 25th
April 5th, 2019

Priority Bill – LB 593

Two weeks ago, the “priority bills” for this year were selected. A priority bill means exactly that, the bill has priority status and is generally considered ahead of other bills in debate. A senator may attach their priority designation to their own bill or to another senator’s. Each senator may select one priority bill, each committee may select two priority bills, and the speaker may select up to 25 priority bills. Priority bills, if advanced from committee, are guaranteed a discussion on the floor on General File.

My priority bill in LB 593, introduced by Senator Briese. I choose this bill because it would allow Nebraskans to protect the family farm from Medicaid liens. The basis of this bill is relating to medical assistance recovery. It would change and eliminate provisions relating to medical assistance reimbursement claims and liens, it would provide for retroactivity, harmonize provisions, repeal the original sections, and come with an emergency clause. In short, this is a highly technical, but important, bill.

Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to recover certain Medicaid benefits paid. This could include an individual’s estate for nursing facility services, home, and community-based services, and related hospital and prescription drug services. They also have broad authority to determine from what assets they seek payment and if they wish to recover payments for other Medicaid services. LB 593 would repeal provisions pertaining to the recovery of Medicaid costs, which are legally unenforceable, and makes these changes retroactive.

In short, LB 593 would allow farms to be “safe” from Medicaid liens.  LB 593’s goal is to repeal provisions pertaining to the recovery of Medicaid costs, which are an unenforceable “circuitous springing” lien. Federal law prohibits liens on property while someone is alive. This is the case except in two very specific circumstances which are described in former Senator Kuehn’s LB 542. The springing lien is unenforceable and not business friendly which makes it difficult to receive an operating loan.

LB 593 also requires DHHS to take action to recover reimbursable Medicaid costs if an individual dies owing reimbursable Medicaid before a certified copy of the death certificate can be issued. This provision has slowed the insurance of death certificate, and its repeal will increase efficiency in this process.

In conclusion, LB 593 allows the family farm to be protected from Medicaid liens. Both the Nebraska Farm Bureau and Bar Association testified in favor of this bill at its public hearing. LB 593 represents a necessary protection for our farmers. I understand that this is a very complex bill, so please feel free to reach out to my office with any questions.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of March 18th
April 5th, 2019

Flooding- What’s Next?

In early March, Nebraska was hit by the costliest natural disaster in our state’s history. Damages from the “bomb cyclone” and the subsequent flooding have already topped $1 billion. Southeast Nebraska was not spared by the Missouri River, with flooding in Peru, Brownville, Rulo, and Nebraska City.

The Missouri River shattered records in Brownville, Nebraska City, and Rulo. Meanwhile, Peru’s levee was breached in two places, flooding parts of town for the first time in generations. Piercing the darkness of this disaster has been light shown by Nebraskans in putting concern for their neighbors above themselves. As the floodwaters recede, many of you have asked, “What’s next?” and, “How can I help?” My hope is to address those questions with this week’s column.

Late last week, President Trump signed the federal disaster declaration for the state of Nebraska. This declaration qualifies Nebraska for federal disaster relief through FEMA. There are two types of assistance from FEMA – public assistance and individual assistance. Public assistance will repair damaged infrastructure, such as bridges and roads. FEMA will pay 75% and the state and local governments will each pay 12.5% of the costs. Local leaders are to contact their county emergency manager, who in turn contacts NEMA with their needs. Individual assistance is for businesses and individuals. It can be difficult to qualify for individual assistance, and Nemaha County is the only county in our district, thus far, which has qualified. There are a few things you can do to make the assistance application process a bit easier. This includes: document your losses- compile pictures and damage estimates, contact your insurance agency to help determine your eligibility, and document your income levels.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has pooled together their resources and set up new ones for those farmers and ranchers who were affected. If you are in need of hay, feed stuff, fencing materials, volunteer help, equipment, etc. – call 1-800-831-0550. If you are wanting to donate any of the above, call the same number. Notify your local FSA office of livestock losses within 30 days and document losses. The Emergency Livestock Assistance Program may financially assist with livestock feed losses, such as bales that are destroyed in the flood. The Emergency Conservation Program can provide some cost-share assistance to rehabilitate farmland and pasture damaged by natural disasters and help restore fences, contact your local FSA county office for this also.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau has also set up programs to help those in this time of need and recovery. People can donate to Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation at www.nefbfoundation.org/ways-to-give/disaster-relief-fund. The Disaster Relief Fund will provide emergency aid to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities affected by storms and flooding. Apply at https://nefb.org/get-involved/disaster-assistance. Farm Bureau members can seek and offer help at www.nefb.org/ag-disaster-exchange.

Veterans who were affected by the flooding can contact your County Veteran Service Office to see if qualify for food, clothing and emergency housing.

For general assistance with home clean-up, cutting trees, removing drywall, insulation, flooding, furniture and appliances, or other physical labor-type jobs – call the Crisis Clean Up Hotline at (833)-566-2476. For assistance with food, shelter, clothing and personal goods – call 211.

Also, we may be #NebraskaStrong, but please do not be too strong to reach out for help with your mental health. There are resources available to help.

Nebraska Family Helpline- 1-888-866-8660

Nebraska Rural Response Hotline- 1-800-464-0258

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration- 1-800-985-5990Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of March 4th
March 19th, 2019

Hot Topic Bills

We are now into the ninth week of session, and things are beginning to speed up in the Legislature. Many of you have contacted me about bills that have been heard recently, and I wanted to share my stance on the ones that have drawn the most attention.

LB 54 was introduced by Senator Lowe and I support it. This bill deals with changing provisions relating to carrying a concealed weapon. Thanks to a recent Nebraska court case, a person without a concealed carry permit who has lawfully purchased a gun must open carry the firearm at all times to prevent violation of our current concealed carry statutes.The main idea with LB 54 is to allow those who are transporting firearms for any lawful purpose to or from any place where such firearm may be lawfully possessed to keep their firearm unloaded and stored in a case. The case needs to be a hard-sided or soft-sided box, container, or receptacle intended or designed for the purpose of storing or transporting the firearm. The firearm can also be in the manufacturer’s original packaging. For example, if you are going or leaving a shooting range but you do not have your concealed carry, you will be able to follow the gun range’s rules of transport without being in violation of Nebraska state law. This is a common-sense bill which I support.

Another hot topic bill that I support is LB 657 that was introduced by Senator Wayne. This bill would adopt the Nebraska Hemp Act and permit our farmers to grow hemp as a crop. Hemp is defined as the cannabis plant which cannot contain more than 0.3 percent of THC. Industrial hemp cannot get a person “high”, and hemp is unsuitable for marijuana production. The 2018 Farm Bill that was recently signed by President Trump makes it clear that industrial hemp can be grown domestically as well as imported. LB 657 is supported by numerous organizations including Nebraska Farm Bureau and several farmers in our district. I support LB 657 and look forward to continuing my support of it on the floor.

Last Thursday, March 7, was the day for hearings in the Judiciary Committee for bills relating to the death penalty. The most controversial bill of the day was LB 44 (Chambers), which would eliminate the death penalty. I do not support LB 44. In 2016, Nebraskans voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the death penalty. I will defend their decision and support the death penalty.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at: Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of February 25th
March 19th, 2019

LB 58 & The 2nd Amendment

This week in the Legislature, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on LB 58, which is a “Red Flag” law proposed by Senator Morfeld to remove firearms from those deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. As a proud gun owner and defender of the 2nd Amendment, I oppose this bill.

Although I believe current statutes can tie law enforcement’s hands in extreme situations, LB 58 is not a solution to their problem. LB 58 proposes the creation of Extreme Risks Protection Orders (ERPOs), which could be filed by those currently or formerly having a relationship with the person. This includes current or former spouses, children, current and former girlfriends and boyfriends, and law enforcement. The ERPO will be heard in court and a judge will determine if the order will be granted. If it is, all firearms that the person has “reasonable access” to will be confiscated for up to one year.

The court must find that there is a “preponderance of the evidence” showing that the person is a threat to themselves or others in order to grant the ERPO. This burden of proof is much easier to meet than the higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence”. In short, if the court finds that there is a 51% chance that the person poses a risk to themselves or others, their firearms would be confiscated. To be clear, the person does not need to be accused of a crime in order to have their firearms taken away under LB 58. This standard compromises due process and is far too low to confiscate an otherwise law-abiding citizens’ firearms.

There is also a question of where these confiscated firearms will be stored. A single ERPO could yield several dozen firearms, which would then be held by law enforcement for up to one year. Our facilities in District 1 simply don’t have the space or the resources available to accommodate the quantity of firearms that could be confiscated.

My greatest concern is the scope of the ERPOs. When successfully filed with the court, law enforcement may then take away any firearms that the person has “reasonable access” to. This could extend to any firearms within the person’s household. For example, if the person’s spouse has weapons in their possession, the spouse, who has done nothing wrong except for living under the same roof as the other person, could have their firearms taken away.

The 2nd Amendment is a cornerstone of our Constitution, but LB 58 treats it like an afterthought. I appreciate everyone who has contacted my office in the last few weeks to share their concerns about this bill. Rest assured, I will stand opposed to LB 58 and any other legislation that would take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates or contact me directly at: Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2733
Email: jslama@leg.ne.gov
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