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

Week of July 15th
July 31st, 2019

As a state senator, I normally dedicate my column to issues directly facing the state. However, there’s a debate occurring on a national level that has consequences for Nebraskans. Illegal immigration has become an issue shrouded in confusing, and at times, misleading, language. My hope is that this week’s article can provide a basic insight into the debate on illegal immigration.

 

The phrase “illegal immigration” itself has become cloudy. Some claim that it unfairly paints undocumented immigrants as criminals. That line of argument ignores the fact that entering this country illegally is, in fact, a crime. Far-left lawmakers argue all illegal immigrants are “asylum seekers.”  Even though those who cross the border illegally may be seeking a better future for themselves or their families, they are not, under any definition, “asylum seekers” until they formally declare their intent to seek asylum. This can take place at either a legal port of entry or in the United States. 

A person is not an asylum seeker until they begin the formal process. The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants do not make any effort to begin this process, and to do so, asylum seekers must meet two requirements: they must 1) fear persecution in their own country and 2) fall into one of five protected classes. Referring to all illegal immigrants as “asylum seekers” is incorrect. In reality, most illegal immigrants in the United States are “economic migrants,” meaning they are trying to improve their economic standing by coming to the country. These immigrants do not fall under the definition of asylum seekers. 

There have been dozens of demonstrations against ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials in the last few weeks. The most visible of these protests occurred in Aurora, Colorado, where the American flag was stripped from its pole and replaced with a Mexican flag. Protestors claim that ICE is responsible for separating immigrant children from their parents, when it is really U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents who are responsible for that task. Such separations typically happen when adults are suspected of trafficking the children they are accompanying across the border. Even when the adults are not suspected of trafficking the child, separating the child from their parent upon arrest is something that happens in all cases of arrest in our country, from illegal immigration to DUI cases.

Though most Nebraskans are adamant we would never have a sanctuary state or sanctuary cities, this debate has crept into our politics. LB 502, which came before me in the Judiciary Committee this year, would have made it illegal for local law enforcement officials to ask about a person’s immigration status. Even if the person admitted that they entered the country illegally, the officer could not share it with anyone else, including federal law enforcement officers or even other officers within their own department. This would tie the hands of officers, and be the first time in our state that we have passed a law to forbid cooperation with federal officials. The bill did not have a successful hearing and will remain in committee. I will continue to do everything in my power to keep Nebraska from passing laws to become a sanctuary state and compromise the safety of our 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.

Week of July 1st
July 31st, 2019

There’s an old saying that corn should be “knee high by the Fourth of July.” Farmers would annually measure their crops against that standard come Independence Day. Thanks to advancements in technology, farmers expect their corn to be much taller by this point in the year. In 2018, most corn was taller than the average person, with much of it tasseling. Little did we know, the next twelve months would bring a harvest season that extended, for some, into January, and a planting season that is only just wrapping up. That is, of course, for the land that isn’t still under water. Even in extreme conditions, our farmers have persevered. According to the Nebraska Corn Board, 99% of Nebraska’s corn crop has emerged and 74% of the corn is in “good” or “excellent” condition. 

Those impacted by this spring’s flooding have several options for assistance, but those deadlines are fast approaching. Information on all relief programs impacting agriculture can be found on the Nebraska Department of Agriculture website under ‘Disaster Relief Information Sheet’. The Farm Service Agency (FSA)’s deadline for the Prevented Planting Report is due July 15. Producers are encouraged to reach out to their local FSA office regarding the completion of both their spring crop acreage certification and their prevented plant acres reports. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCP)’s deadline for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) is July 19. This program is for farmers who could not plant their crops due to flooded or wet fields. This program would provide technical and financial assistance to help farmers plant cover crops. If you have any questions on either of these services, call the Nebraska Department of Agriculture Hotline at 800-831-0550.

For all Nebraskans who suffered damage to their property from flooding, a recent state law allows those affected to seek a reduction in the value of damaged real property for tax purposes. If your property was damaged or destroyed on or after January 1 and before July 1, you can file a “Report of Destroyed Real Property – Form 425” with the county assessor and the county clerk. This form applies for reassessment of property and would provide tax relief for the damaged property. The deadline for this report must be filed by July 15. The form can be found at www.nefb.org/form-425. Many farmers will be unable to achieve “knee high by the Fourth of July,” but there are programs available to assist with their recovery from this spring’s historic flooding. If you have any questions about these or other aid programs, please feel free to reach out to my office. 

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 June 17th
July 31st, 2019

This past session, I introduced a bill to help combat human trafficking in Nebraska. The U.S. government has identified human trafficking as a federal crime, and it is the fastest-growing criminal industry globally. In 2006, Nebraska passed a law that outlawed human trafficking. This crime is typically an out of sight, out of mind problem in our state, but its prevalence is alarming. Since 2007, there have been 229 cases reported and 879 calls to the human trafficking hotline in our state. In the past year, there have been 36 cases reported. The Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking states 47 Nebraska girls aged 18 or younger are known to be trafficked each year. 

Human trafficking is a highly profitable business, driven by the demand for cheap or free labor and the demand for commercial sex. The International Labor Organization estimates the annual profit from the exploitation of all trafficked labor is $31.6 billion. Just like any business, demand drives the supply. 

Senator Patty Pansing Brooks has been a strong advocate for combating human trafficking in Nebraska. Her efforts have made strides in limiting this crime. Over the past few years, there has been legislation that has turned Nebraska in the right direction on ending this crime. Notable laws range from expunging related records of convictions to providing sexual assault protection orders. LB 519, my bill which passed in May, is the most comprehensive crackdown on human trafficking yet. It extends the statute of limitations for criminal charges against traffickers, ensures that all children who have been victimized by human trafficking equal access to resources for their recovery, and details damages victims may be awarded if they due their traffickers in civil court.

I plan to continue to work on combating human trafficking in the state of Nebraska. With the positive efforts from my colleagues and myself, we can send a strong, united message against this heinous crime.

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 June 3rd
July 31st, 2019

On Friday, May 31 the 106th Legislature First Session adjourned Sine Die. We are set to reconvene the Second Legislature Session in January of 2020. During the interim, Senators will focus on studies, researching future legislation, attending events and meetings in our home districts. Please do not hesitate to still reach out to my office, which will remain fully staffed throughout the interim.

In this week’s column, I wanted to recap my bills passed in this first session. Four of the five bills that I introduced or prioritized in this session, LBs 333, 399, 519, and 593, have been passed and signed into law. 

LB 333 was a statutory maintenance of the Nebraska Milk Act. In short, this bill brought our pasteurized milk regulations back in line with updated federal regulations. This was a common-sense bill that passed with little opposition.

LB 399 was no small feat for the Legislature. Nebraska’s civics education statutes had not been changed since 1949. There have been many failed attempts to update these statutes throughout past sessions but we achieved a comprehensive overhaul in 2019. In summary, this bill updates outdated statutory language, adds modern holidays, and sets a minimum standard for civics education in our schools. School districts can choose one of three options for their students to complete prior to graduation, which include taking the civics portion of the naturalization test twice, student attendance or participation in a meeting of a public body with a project about the experience afterwards, or completion of a project or paper and a class presentation on a person, persons, or one of the holidays listed in the bill. LB 399 ensures that each student graduating from a Nebraska high school has a basic grasp of civics knowledge.

LB 519 was another step in the right direction for cracking down on human trafficking in Nebraska. The package, which was actually a set of three bills, extended the statute of limitations for human trafficking and child pornography, permits law enforcement agencies to wiretap suspected human trafficking rings, and outlines the damages that could be collected by a human trafficking victim in a civil suit. LB 519 also ensures human trafficking victims under the age of 19 are treated equally, regardless of whether they were trafficked by a parent, family member, or boyfriend.

LB 593, my priority bill for this session, will protect family farms and other properties from Medicaid liens. This bill is very technical and critically important. It relates to medical assistance recovery, would change and eliminate provisions relating to medical assistance reimbursement claims and liens, provide for retroactivity. The goal of this bill is to repeal provisions pertaining to the recovery of Medicaid costs. 

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 May 27th
July 31st, 2019

It was no secret: achieving property tax relief was the #1 priority for this session. Though a comprehensive tax relief plan fell short, we made some positive first steps and set ourselves up to make greater progress in 2020.

Although the major tax reform proposals came up short this year, property taxpayers did not walk away empty handed. $550 million in property tax relief was designated in the state’s budget for the biennium. This money is designated for the “Property Tax Credit Fund” and represents a record designation in the state’s budget for property tax relief. 

LB 103 also passed, which automatically reduces levies of local taxing entities as valuations increase. In other words, if valuations increased 20% over a given year, the corresponding levies would decrease by 20%. The elected board of those taxing entities could still vote to raise the levy, but must have a vote. This means that local taxing entities could not take more money from property taxpayers without voting to do so. As property valuations spiked over the last decade, some local bodies argued that they had achieved “property tax relief” by dropping the levies. However, if the levy is only dropped by 10% when valuations have gone up by 35%, property taxpayers were still paying more money to that entity. LB 103 is a strong first step towards property tax transparency and passed early in session.

In addition, the Legislature has postured itself for a united front to achieve property tax relief and a new business incentive package in 2020. The Revenue Committee will be meeting before July 1 to coordinate a plan for the interim. Setting next year apart from years past is the unique opportunity for rural and urban senators to come around the table, together, to negotiate critical issues in their districts: property taxes and business incentives. I’m optimistic we’ll avoid a log jam of property tax proposals, like what happened this year, and have a joint solution for those two major issues ready for floor debate early on in the 2020 session. We’re not starting from scratch on either issue and have tested the water with votes. Both solutions will require 33 votes to advance, and for the next six months, we have the perfect opportunity to negotiate.

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 May 20th
July 31st, 2019

In our last full week of session, two of my bills received final passage: LB 519, which cracks down on human trafficking, and LB 593, my priority bill, which protects family farms from Medicaid liens. There was also debate on two major bills, LB 720, a business incentives package, and LB 183, which was originally intended to serve as property tax relief. My position on LB 183 will be the subject of next week’s column; this week, however, I’d like to share my opposition to LB 720’s advancement.

As some of you may know, the Nebraska Advantage Act expires in 2020. This is a tax incentive program to encourage businesses to relocate and grow in Nebraska. Its proposed replacement, ImagiNE Nebraska, was offered this year as LB 720. 

I supported this bill in the first stage of floor debate, since it seemed that it could be a vehicle for property tax relief. In the end, that deal fell through, and I voted against LB 720’s advancement for a simple reason: I refuse to prioritize corporate incentives over property tax relief. The people of District 1 have spoken loud and clear throughout session: outrageously high property taxes, not corporate incentives, are the biggest threats to our local businesses. Enough senators joined me in a stand for property taxes to kill LB 720 for this year.

The corporate incentives program provides rural senators a huge bargaining chip with our urban counterparts while we are negotiating for property tax relief during the interim. In years past, we have not had a way to bring urban senators to the table. Combining a business incentives program with property tax relief ensures that everyone in the Legislature has a strong interest in getting behind the final product.

My vote against LB 720 drew some criticism from special interest groups who could have benefitted from the bill’s passage this year. However, I didn’t come to the Legislature to curry favor for special interests; I came here to fight for District 1. The rural senators have to stick together to force our issues to be addressed by the urban majority in the Legislature. On LB 720’s vote, that’s exactly what we accomplished. 

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 May 13th
July 31st, 2019

As summer break begins for many schools in our district, so too draws near the end of the legislative session. This year’s session will come to a close earlier than expected. It was announced last Thursday that the final day of session will be May 31, rather than June 6. The decision to adjourn early is not uncommon during the long, 90-day sessions, and the decision is left to the Speaker of the Legislature’s discretion. Speaker Scheer attributed the early dismissal to our efficiency in handling bills and debating the major issues of this year. The most pressing  issue left on the table is property tax relief, which will be debated in an amendment to Senator Briese’s LB 183 this week. 

Another bill introduced by Senator Briese that was discussed on the floor last week and impacts our district was LB 592, which aims to ease rigid regulations faced by Nebraska farm wineries. Southeast Nebraska is home to the largest share of farm wineries in the state. It was referred to in decades past as the “Napa Valley of Nebraska.” LB 592 served a dual purpose as a clean-up bill for the Liquor Control Commission and as a vehicle for LB 584, which relaxed the regulations for Nebraska farm wineries. LB 584, introduced by Senator Hilgers and as adopted in the committee amendment, lowered the percentage of grapes, fruit, or other suitable agricultural products that must be grown in the state from seventy five percent to sixty percent, offering wineries more flexibility if severe weather or a late freeze were to strike the state. The bill also raised the limit on tasting rooms permitted for farm wineries from one to four, bringing it in line with current regulations for craft brewers.

One issue that was not addressed in LB 592 was the regulatory red tape required for our Nebraska wineries to host events with an open bar. To break it down, for every wedding, concert, party, any event a farm winery hosts in which their clients have requested alcohol in addition to wine, Nebraska farm wineries must apply for a temporary SDL, which is a Special Designated License, through the Liquor Control Commission. For many wineries, this leads to stacks upon stacks of paperwork to fill out repetitive SDL applications several times per year. Senator Lowe and I will be working during the interim to craft a compromise which streamlines the process while maintaining the three-tier system for alcohol distribution.   

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 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.

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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