NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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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 8th, 2020

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 January 6th
January 13th, 2020

The second session of the 106th Nebraska Legislature has officially begun. We are in the midst of the first ten days of session, which is the only time that Senators can introduce bills. I introduced six bills and one resolution on the first day of session. You can read all bills introduced and follow their status on the Legislature’s website. My bills for this session focus on addressing issues within our district and repealing other statutes to make our government more efficient.

LR 288 is a resolution to urge Congress and the United States Corps of Engineers to reprioritize flood control as a top priority for the management of water systems under their authority in the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System Water Control Manual. This resolution has already received bipartisan support and will be a chance for the Legislature to publicly endorse a plan to prioritize the lives and livelihoods of people downstream with improved flood control.

LB 788 pertains to the Department of Labor. This bill would change a report date from July 1 of each year to December 31 of each year, and would also change an application or renewal fee. This is a clean-up bill for the Department of Labor which repeals over a dozen statutes that are outdated and unused.

LB 789 cracks down on those who violate school bus stop signal arms. This bill would allow a school bus driver to report violators of the school bus stop arm with local law enforcement. Law enforcement could then investigate those reports and issue a citation if the investigation proves a violation has occurred. 

LB 790 is a bill introduced on behalf of the Department of Administrative Services. The bill expands the Department of Administrative Services’ negotiating powers and will save taxpayers millions in excess spending if passed.

LB 791 is a bill to expand the Livestock Animal Welfare Act. If a person is convicted of livestock abuse or neglect and the court orders such person to not own or possess a livestock animal, LB 791 adds that person could not own or possess any other animal, including pets. 

LB 792 gives our law enforcement officers another tool in their fight against methamphetamines and other hard drugs by allowing them to aggregate amounts of the drugs sold to them in sting operations to upgrade their charges. This bill combats the issue of meth dealers habitually being arrested one day, then back out on the streets the next.

LB 793 cracks down on entitlement fraud by bringing it to the same level of crime as theft. Statutes to outline the penalties for theft were updated nearly a decade ago with LB 605, but the same changes were not made for fraud to entitlement programs, like Medicaid and food stamps. This created a loophole in our statutes that needs to be closed with LB 793.

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 December 30th
January 6th, 2020

On January 8th at 10:00 AM, the Nebraska Legislature will begin the second session of the 106th Nebraska Legislature. This year is a short session of only 60 days. There are a few changes to the short session compared to last year’s long session of 90 days.

Hearings will begin January 21st and wrap up on February 27th. During this first part of session, the Legislature will convene at 9:00 AM and adjourn before noon with committee hearings starting at 1:30 PM. Each bill introduced still receives a public hearing with public testimony. Committee hearings will likely extend later into the evenings this year with a shorter session. Those wishing to make themselves heard on issues can submit their public testimony online or can appear in person to the hearing to testify. I encourage District 1 to let your voice be heard during these hearings, as it is your chance to have your opinion on bills and issues be entered into the public record for consideration by every Nebraska state senator. The last day for bill introduction is January 23rd. Full-day debate will start on March 3rd. Late nights will begin on March 18th. These late nights can dismiss as early as 6:00 PM or as late as 11:59 PM. The final day of session is tentatively scheduled for April 23rd.

As in previous years, NET will be streaming the session, along with committee hearings, live on their T.V. channel and on their website. This is the most in-depth way for constituents to watch coverage of the Capitol as it happens live. You can also follow along on the Nebraska Legislature’s website. The daily agenda is generally posted the night before and will highlight which bill is currently on the floor. 

Next week’s column will provide an overview of my bills introduced in this session, along with their numbers and tentative hearing dates, if available. As we get into the full swing of session, we’ll return to our regular schedule of weekly columns to keep District 1 informed of the events in Lincoln. Please do not hesitate to reach out over the phone or in person. If you are at the Capitol during session, feel free to visit my office on the 11th floor.

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 December 16th
January 2nd, 2020

With the holiday season upon us, I would like to wish District 1 a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! It is a wonderful time to celebrate and spend time with family and friends. For those who are serving or working and are unable to be with family and friends during this season, thank you for your service and sacrificing your precious time away to serve our country and communities.

The end of December means that we are also a mere two weeks away from the start of session on January 8th. As we look forward to this busy short session of the Legislature, I would like to designate this column for the top issues we will face when the gavel drops for this 60 day session. 

Achieving property tax relief is my top priority of this session, and is a priority that is shared by many of my rural colleagues. This year’s state budget has about $200 million in surplus, which is money collected in tax revenues beyond what we budgeted for last session. That money should be returned to the taxpayers as property tax relief. We are in an ideal position this session to provide meaningful relief without broadening the tax base, raising other taxes, or making cuts to the budget. In short, we can provide this money as relief without running into any of the political landmines that typically arise. The outcome of the property tax debate in January and early February will set the tone for the rest of 2020. 

The other big issue from session carrying over from 2019 is the replacement of our state’s business incentives package with LB 720. While this bill makes improvements to the current system through increased transparency and accountability, a stronger emphasis on full-time jobs, and more benefits for our rural areas, I’d like to see further emphasis placed upon rural economic development. It is my hope that the body can come to a compromise across the urban-rural divide on these two issues.

In my next column, we’ll have a refresher about the structure and inner workings of the short session, but for now, I’d like to close out this decade by thanking each of you for the privilege of serving District 1. Have a wonderful holiday season!

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 December 2nd
December 13th, 2019

As 2019 comes to a close and we head into a new decade, I would like to share some statistics from my office for this year. Before we dive into the numbers, I’d first like to thank District 1 for the privilege of fighting for our region in the Nebraska Legislature. From attending area events to talking with constituents at the Capitol, it has been a productive year.

This year, a record 739 bills were introduced, all which had a public hearing. The busiest committee was Judiciary, which had 143 bills referenced to it in a single year. My bill passage rate was 80%, which breaks down to four of my five introduced or prioritized bills being passed. The longest filibuster of the session was 10.5 hours, which occurred during debate on Senator Albrecht’s LB 209. My bill (LB 399) to update Nebraska’s civics education statutes had the second-longest filibuster of session at 10.2 hours. Both LB 209 and LB 399 passed. The latest night of the 2019 session occurred on May 22, when the Legislature adjourned at 11:36 p.m. 257 of the 739 bills introduced this year were passed into law, for a passage rate of 35%. Three bills related to property tax relief passed, though the debate on more substantial relief will carry into 2020 as my top priority.

Throughout the interim, my focus was to cover the 2,400 square feet of District 1 and meet with as many of our 36,642 residents as possible. Between official events and informal visits, every single city, village, and unincorporated community has been visited at least once during 2019. I have visited each county in the District 1 at least 20 times and attended a total of 131 in-district events since the start of the year. Outside of in-person conversations, the most common form of outreach to my office is through email, which totaled 8,715 received as of December 8. My office has resolved an estimated 240 constituent service requests.  My average hours worked per week while the Legislature was in session was 75, and in the interim, the average workload was 41 hours per week. 

My office strives for effective service, both while considering bills and in constituent services. By incorporating a data-driven approach in the District 1 office, my staff and I are able to better serve you. Of course, the most impactful moments of this year can’t be found in the numbers. Listening to your experiences on subjects as wide-ranging as the impacts of year’s floods on small business owners to healthcare access in rural areas stoke my passion to continue fighting for southeast Nebraska in the Legislature. My next column will preview the fast-approaching 2020 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 November 25th
December 13th, 2019

This week’s column will be dedicated to the top issue in southeast Nebraska: property taxes. Last week, 44 of Nebraska’s 49 senators attended our annual “Legislative Council,” which was hosted this year in Nebraska City. At Legislative Council, senators give presentations on the major legislative issues we plan to tackle in the next session. Senator Linehan and the Revenue Committee presented their proposal of a multi-year plan for property tax relief. This plan would drop the valuation of ag land in the current school funding formula from 75% to 55% of assessed value and introduce a per-student funding mechanism for schools which do not receive state equalization aid. The state would cover the 20% drop in property tax revenue on ag land to prevent losses to school districts. Other measures for property tax relief on residential and commercial properties would be included in following years if the bill were to pass.

This bill would be solid progress in the right direction for our state. We have approximately $166 million in excess revenue, and instead of spending that extra money, I’d like to see it returned to the taxpayers through property tax relief. There were some urban senators who expressed their distaste for the proposed bill since the first round of relief does not directly impact their districts. Their concerns illustrate to me that we still have some senators who fail to grasp the crisis we’re facing in rural Nebraska. 

Our farmers are feeling the pinch of sky-high property taxes, low commodity prices, extensive flooding and, up until recently, poor weather in the areas that were not flooded. Moreover, District 1 is the only legislative district in the state which borders on three other states: Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas. All three of these states have far better property tax climates and are in direct competition with our farmers. Our property owners that live in town face an uphill battle, as well. Young people are renting homes are far higher rates than in years past, making it easier to leave town without having established the roots grown in buying one’s first home. School boards in southeast Nebraska work to balance the interests of the taxpayers and the needs of their schools, further pressured by the state’s failure to provide consistent funding for rural education. The property tax crisis is the most serious obstacle to rural economic development, without question.

The Revenue Committee’s proposal falls short of completely overhauling the state’s tax code, which I believe is necessary. However, it does make solid steps in the right direction. Back in 1979, farmers drove their tractors to Washington D.C. to protest the Carter administration’s farm foreclosures. The idea was to draw the urban officials’ attention to rural issues. My urban colleagues would be well-served to seriously consider property tax proposals before such a display happens here in Nebraska.

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 November 3rd
December 13th, 2019

This year, as another Veterans Day approaches, we take time out of our busy schedules to pause and recognize the sacrifices made by those who answered the call of duty to serve our country. Serving and sacrificing to protect our freedoms is the utmost act of patriotism and deserves to be recognized every day of the year, not just on November 11. To the veterans reading this week’s column- thank you for your service. Your dedication to our country will never be forgotten.

Of course, a mere “thank you” from a policymaker is not enough. Words are appreciated, but actions are far more meaningful. Nebraska is one of the few states in the country that fully tax military retirement pay. This is unacceptable. Each year, we lose hundreds of our bravest men and women to neighboring states with far more favorable tax policies. Senator Tom Brewer, himself a decorated veteran, has brought a bill to exempt 50% of military retirement pay from income taxes. This bill, LB 153, is a solid step in the right direction of making Nebraska more veteran-friendly. It’s been a privilege to work with Senator Brewer on this bill, which will be up on the floor for debate early in the next session.

Our income tax discourages military retirees from settling in Nebraska. We are surrounded by states that offer more income tax relief to military retirees, and it shows in our declining numbers of veterans moving out of Nebraska upon retirement. According to the Platte Institute, 3,500 Nebraskans moved to Iowa in 2014. This was the year Iowa fully exempted Social Security and military retirement pay from the Iowa income tax rolls. 

District 1 is home to thousands of veterans. In Johnson County there are 328 veterans, 540 in Nemaha, 1,219 in Otoe, 213 in Pawnee, and 700 in Richardson. When you include spouses and families of veterans in that figure, you’ll find that the majority of people in District 1 have close ties to servicemembers. I take pride in knowing that we have a strong population of veterans in southeast Nebraska. LB 153 is a small step in the right direction for repaying those who served our country, and I look forward to supporting and introducing more veteran-friendly legislation in sessions to come.

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 October 28th
December 13th, 2019

This interim, I’ve met with thousands of people across District 1. Whether it’s conversations held in Nebraska City or Du Bois, or even across the spectrum of liberals to conservatives, the major concerns are the same: property taxes are too high and flooding seems like it will never end. There’s a common theme in each conversation, as well: we all want a brighter future for southeast Nebraska.

There have been several weekly columns dedicated to provide answers for our property tax crisis and share my battles with the Corps of Engineers and federal government to ensure adequate resources for flood recovery. These are my top legislative priorities for the 2020 session and beyond. As we approach session, however, it’s encouraging to see a common goal that crosses party lines and any other divides that we may impose upon ourselves. This shared goal influences every decision made during my time in office.

This week’s column will focus on the factors necessary to create growth in rural areas, based around a simple fact: communities need to attract young people in order to thrive. We need to ensure that our young people have strong communities to encourage them to return home. In my research on the issue, rooted in my personal experience as someone who left the area for college, but chose to come back to southeast Nebraska, there are four keys to drawing our young people back home: economic opportunity, reasonable taxes, strong schools, and modern infrastructure. 

“Economic opportunities” boil down to jobs. Can a young person find a job that they’re qualified for nearby that provides competitive pay? For many, this interacts with the second key: reasonable taxes. When that job is found, can the young person afford to live in the area? This aspect goes beyond property taxes, which play a major role in their own right, and extends to sales, income, and other taxes, too. Young people looking to plant their family’s roots also consider the school district where their children will receive their education. What opportunities and community support are found in this district? Will my child receive a quality education? Last, but certainly not least, infrastructure includes access to roads, community facilities, and wi-fi. Access to the internet plays a large role in a young family’s decision to live in an area. Most millennials need access to the internet to complete basic functions of their job, like email. 

If Nebraskans are serious about their desire to grow our rural communities, we must create policies to address these four keys. I wholeheartedly support economic incentives to grow our rural businesses, an overhaul of our tax code and cuts of wasteful spending within our government to lower taxes, state aid funding reform for K-12 education to ensure that all school districts receive some form of financial support from the state, and initiatives to improve our roads and connect rural Nebraska to the internet. The unity I’ve seen across southeast Nebraska in support of a brighter future for our area is encouraging. Make no mistake about it, District 1- we’re all in this together.

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 October 7th
December 13th, 2019

My top priority while serving District 1 in the Legislature is achieving meaningful and sustainable property tax relief. This week, I’ll be dedicating my column to an issue at the core of the property tax debate: K-12 school funding.

60-80% of local property taxes (depending on your district) collected in Nebraska are spent on funding K-12 education. The two main sources of funding for K-12 districts are local property taxes and state aid. The majority of state aid is provided through “equalization aid”. TEEOSA is the formula which determines the amount of equalization state aid a school district will receive in a given year. The Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) was introduced on January 9, 1990 as LB 1059. The mission of this bill was to provide tax equity for both taxpayers and schools, and to provide equity of educational opportunity for students. The basic formula that LB 1059 created was: needs – resources = equalization aid

Needs are the costs the school district to educate its students, resources are the revenue sources, and equalization aid is distributed by the state to help make up the difference between those two numbers. The basic concept of LB 1059 has not changed since 1990 but statutes governing state aid have been tweaked several times. The result of these “tweaks” is a formula with a few dozen variables that requires high-level math to decipher. Variables to determine need include a “Focus School Allowance” and “Community Achievement Allowance,” both of which solely benefitted Omaha-area schools in Sarpy and Douglas counties, and the “System Averaging Adjustment,” which was a variable thrown in to benefit the largest school districts in the state. There are very few members of the Legislature with a working knowledge of TEEOSA, for two reasons: term limits have led to a loss in institutional knowledge built up amongst senators, and the formula is incredibly complex. Members of the body have hesitated to overhaul TEEOSA in years past, which has led to the formula becoming dated and structured to benefit the largest school districts in Nebraska.

I am wholeheartedly in favor of ensuring that every child in the state of Nebraska has access to educational opportunities within our public school system. A strong K-12 system is critical to our state’s growth. Providing those opportunities requires revenue, which again, is a pretty non-controversial fact. However, it is unacceptable for me to see the 15 largest school districts in Nebraska receive the lion’s share of equalization aid from the state (around 70-75%, depending on the year), leaving the remaining 229 school districts to fight over the 25-30% which remains. When our rural school districts depend almost solely on local property tax revenues to keep their doors open and lights on, our kids miss out on opportunities and our property taxpayers shoulder a much heavier burden to support their K-12 education. In District 1, the majority of our school districts do not receive equalization aid from the state. District 1 school districts that do receive equalization aid may receive $1 million one year and nothing the next, creating a very unreliable funding source.

At the core of Nebraska’s property tax crisis and one of the biggest hurdles to rural development, is our state’s strategy to fund schools through a system that relies far too heavily on local property tax revenue. Meaningful and sustainable property tax relief will be tough to achieve without an effort to reform this system.

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 September 23rd
December 13th, 2019

This week’s column will be dedicated to our ongoing flooding issues along the Missouri River. While the Missouri River floodplain occupies only a small amount of District 1, its flooding has far-reaching impacts throughout our part of the state.

There are three bridges in District 1 which cross the Missouri River. Highway 2 in Nebraska City has been reopened and is currently being raised on the Missouri side of the river. This project was initiated to help prevent repeats of summer flooding in 2011 and 2019, in which all bridges across the Missouri between Omaha and St. Joseph were closed. The Missouri River bridge at Highway 136 at Brownville is projected to have an October 31 opening, but that date is tentative based on weather conditions. Highway 159 at Rulo was reopened in early September after a 177-day closure, but was closed again after the most recent river rises. Damage to Highway 159 on the Missouri side of the bridge will need to be assessed after the river recedes. Closure of these bridges have a crippling effect on our area’s economy, from severely limiting commuter traffic in towns with bridges to limiting employee access to their jobs across the river. Additional infrastructure impacted includes the Steamboat Trace Trail, with five to six miles of its 22-mile route either washed away or still underwater.

A community facing some of the most costly and longest-term damage in Nebraska is also located in District 1. Peru’s levee failed for the first time since 1952 during the initial March flooding event. Six months later, 8,000 acres of land remain underwater. Several pieces critical to the town’s infrastructure also remain surrounded by water, including the town’s water treatment facility and sewer lagoons. A temporary water treatment facility is operating, but is only designed to last for three years. Before those three years elapse, Peru community leaders will need to find a long-term solution for the town’s water supply. Another uncertainty is whether or not the Corps of Engineers will repair Peru’s levee, which it claims had fallen to the Corps’ “inactive” list and is therefore ineligible for repair. However, the only reason the Peru levee remained on the “inactive” list was a failure to fill out a single set of paperwork. Thus, a $2,000 bureaucratic hoop is the only reason the levee is ineligible for a repair estimated to cost between $50-$60 million. The Corps have repaired other “inactive” levees with far greater deficiencies along I-29. If the levee is not repaired, the Peru river bottoms will become a seasonal wetland, compromising critical infrastructure and some of the best farmland in the area. I have joined forces with state and local leaders to prepare a plan for Peru’s future, and am also working closely with our federal delegation to exhaust all options to repair the levee.

I am fighting for all Southeast Nebraska communities impacted by this year’s flooding. Our communities face an uphill climb to recovery, but I will be working with our towns every step of the way. 

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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