NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

John Arch

Sen. John Arch

District 14

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 jarch@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 6th, 2021

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 14th 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. John Arch

Short Session Ends
April 22nd, 2022

The second session of the One-Hundred and Seventh Legislature has come to an end, with the body adjourning Sine Die on April 20, 2022.  The second session, which lasts 60 days, is generally termed the “short” session, while the 90-day sessions occurring in odd-numbered years are known as “long” sessions.  Despite this year being a “short” session, it was not short on long nights, challenging subject matter, contentious debates and money.

It can generally be said that there is no such thing as too much money, but after this session, I think you would find many senators willing to debate that statement.  With a much better than expected economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and an huge influx of federal funds, the Legislature was in the unusual and difficult position of deciding how those funds should be dealt with.  As you can imagine, there was no shortage of suggestions on how the Legislature should tackle this issue.

The Nebraska Constitution requires the state to have a balanced General Fund Budget and determining how to craft the budget is certainly a balancing act. Senators must always keep in mind that these are taxpayers’ dollars and we’ve been elected to protect and spend those dollars wisely.  A balance must be found between providing much-needed tax relief, investing in the state’s future growth, ensuring effective and sustainable government programs and maintaining enough of a safety net to be able to successfully weather economic downturns. I think we were able to find that balance with the budget approved this session.

The $9.8 billion budget represents a slight increase in the annual average spending growth from 3% to 3.2%.  Much of this growth can be attributed to badly-needed pay increases for state employees that serve in 24-hour facilities such as the penitentiary, and for private providers that serve the state’s most vulnerable Nebraskans including those with developmental disabilities and those in foster care and nursing homes. Years of stagnant reimbursement rates have led to a crisis-level shortage of these critical-care providers resulting in dangerous staffing shortages in our corrections system and a lack of necessary services for those in need.  While meeting the needs of the state, the budget also left ample money in the state’s cash reserve fund, which is expected to reach a record-high of $1.3 billion next year. The budget also allowed for the passage of the biggest tax-relief bill in the state’s history.

The Legislature passed LB 873 on April 7th and Governor Ricketts signed it into law on April 13th.  The $900 million tax-cut package includes the following provisions:

  • Speeds up the phaseout of income taxes on Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits will be 100% exempt from state income taxes beginning in year 2025;
  • Phases in a reduction of the state’s top individual income tax rate from the current 6.84% to 5.84% by 2027;
  • Phases in a reduction of the corporate income tax rate from the current 7.5% to 5.84% by 2027;
  • Establishes a minimum amount dedicated to the refundable income tax credit for property taxes paid to local schools. This year, the state will provide $548 million worth of credits and this amount will continue to grow;
  • Establishes a refundable income tax credit for property taxes paid to community colleges. This year the state will provide $50 million worth of credits under this program.  This amount will continue to grow as well.

These tax-relief provisions will make Nebraska a more tax-friendly state, particularly for seniors, and will benefit existing Nebraska businesses and help attract new businesses to the state.  Combined with the state’s existing Homestead Exemption program and the state’s $313 property tax credit program, the new refundable income tax credit programs for property taxes paid to schools and community colleges, will amount to over $1 billion dollars in state property tax relief. You can find out more about the new income tax credit programs on the Department of Revenue’s webpage: https://revenue.nebraska.gov/.

In addition to balancing the state’s budget while making sure Nebraskans get some of their hard-earned money back, the Legislature also needed to figure out how to allocate $1.4 billion in federal funds granted through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). There was less discretion with respect to the ARPA funds as this money has to be spent by 2026 on COVID-related items or on sectors negatively impacted by the pandemic.  Because these are one-time funds, starting new programs that need continuous funding was not an option and federal law specifically prohibited leveraging the funds for tax cuts.  Any inappropriate use of these funds is subject to recoupment by the federal government.  The ARPA package approved by the Legislature included funding for job training; affordable urban and rural housing; improvements to drinking and wastewater infrastructure; one-time premium pay for health and welfare providers; grants to nonprofit, shovel-ready projects, and incentives for rural health care providers and nursing students.

Of those ARPA funds, I was able to secure a total of $40 million for expanding mental health services through expanded education and facility capacity. Our state is facing a mental-health care crisis with a shortage of service providers and an increase in needed services, particularly among our younger Nebraskans. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this problem.

As Chairman of the Health and Human Services committee, some of my other personal accomplishments for this session include: overseeing the passage of legislation that creates a strategic work group to provide direction for a statewide model for child welfare in Nebraska; guiding the passage of a bill that would provide support for family caregivers of children with developmental disabilities and require the state to hire a consultant to evaluate our developmental disabilities system; passing legislation that would modernize Nebraska’s procurement system to an electronic platform and require the state to prepare for revamping the state’s procurement system to mitigate costly contract failures, such as the recent child welfare contract with St. Francis Ministries; and successfully negotiated an agreement between the administration and other senators to ensure passage of a bill that would require the availability of capacity for county jail inmates awaiting competency hearings and would require the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to provide Medicaid enrollment assistance to inmates at the state correctional facilities and at county facilities in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy prior to leaving incarceration.

Though 2022 was a “short” session, it definitely wasn’t short on activity and a lot of hard decision making.  Despite having unexpected amounts of available funds, the Legislature held the line on wasteful spending while expanding the availability of essential services and provided record tax relief while ensuring protection of Nebraska’s fiscal health during the next economic downturn.  However there is always room for improvement.  Over the legislative interim I will continue to examine how to consistently move our state forward and I always welcome your input. Together we can assure Nebraskans have the opportunity to live the good life for years to come.  Please feel free to reach out to me through my office, (402) 471-2730 or by email: jarch@leg.ne.gov.

Unicameral Youth Legislature
March 30th, 2022



News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
March 30, 2022

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Kate Heltzel
Nebraska Legislature
Unicameral Information Office
(402) 471-2788
uio@leg.ne.gov



Sen. John Arch Invites Students to Youth Legislature

High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 12-15. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

“The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives participants first-hand experience in Nebraska’s distinctive legislative process,” said Senator John Arch. “Students interested in future public service will gain a valuable lesson about our democratic system of government and will learn about the challenges and rewards of making public policy.”

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788.
The deadline for registration is May 20.

https://nebraskalegislature.gov/education/unicamyouth.php

NE211
February 7th, 2022

Greetings,

Most of us know that in the case of an emergency, we can call 911. But did you know there is a number you can call if you are feeling lost, overwhelmed or just need to find available resources? There is. It’s 211.

NE211 Contact Center is a statewide helpline, offering confidential assistance to get Nebraskans in touch with appropriate resources to provide the support needed. And it’s free. The NE211 helpline is manned twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week by professionally trained, caring individuals who can evaluate your situation and recommend the services available to you. NE211 is a one-stop referral service that can provide individuals with information on thousands of resources, including health and human services, legal services, community services, disaster services, aging services and government programs. It is accessible for disabled individuals and can assist individuals in over 150 languages.

In 2018, a total of 69,066 Nebraskans reached out to the NE211 Contact Center for assistance. That number has grown significantly with over 240,000 people seeking help through the center in 2021. The origin of the calls span across the entire state – more than 350 calls came from legislative district 14 alone. Over half of the calls statewide were individuals seeking help with housing needs, followed by utility assistance, employment, health care and food. With the dramatic increase in the volume of calls to the center, operating costs have also increased. The NE211 Contact Center is a public-private partnership operated by the United Way of the Midlands, funded by state funds and private donations.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance for daily living and don’t know where to turn, call 211. You can find out more about the NE211 Contact Center on its website: https://ne211.org/.

2022 Session Around the Corner
December 30th, 2021

Greetings,

The holiday season is upon us which means the next legislative session of the Nebraska Unicameral is just around the corner. Nebraska’s Constitution requires the Legislature to convene in session each year on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January, making the 2022 session get off to an early start on January 5, 2022. The Legislature operates on a biennial schedule, with the first session of the biennium in odd-numbered years lasting a maximum of ninety days and the second session occurring in even-numbered years and lasting a maximum of sixty days. This means 30 fewer days for the 107th Legislature to hold public hearings, conduct debate and vote on the many proposals that will come before the body.

I anticipate many of the issues that will be considered during the 2022 session will be those issues that are routinely part of the legislative forum – tax reform, property tax reduction, state aid to schools, prison overcrowding, aid to individuals, behavioral-health services, election integrity, affordable housing and economic development. However, as evidence of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on our society and our “normal” daily lives, I predict the next legislative session could very well include impassioned discussions involving vaccination and mask mandates, the powers of local health departments and business rights versus individual rights.

Also related to the pandemic, the Legislature will be presented with an extremely unusual challenge in the coming session – how to spend over a billion dollars in federal funds. In March, the federal government passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the intent of helping states, counties, cities, tribal governments, businesses, and individuals overcome the economic and personal impacts of the pandemic. In total, Nebraska is slated to receive roughly $6 billion. Of this, ARPA dictates direct allocation of $3.3 billion to specific state/federal programs, $773 million to education, $375.3 million to counties (Sarpy County will receive over $36 million) and $287.2 million to cities (Papillion and La Vista will each receive over $3 million). Additionally, under ARPA, the Capital Projects Fund was created of which Nebraska will receive $128.7 million. These funds can be used for capital projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring.

That leaves $1.04 billion to be spent at the discretion of the Governor and the Legislature. As you can imagine, many special interest groups have already shared numerous ideas on how this money could be utilized. However, these funds may only be used to cover costs associated with the public health emergency, including support for public health, and addressing negative economic impacts to workers, households, small businesses, and industries. The funds may also be used to invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, replace lost public sector revenues related to the pandemic, and to provide premium pay for essential workers. The funds may not be used to provide tax cuts or to increase any pension fund. Funds that are inappropriately expended are subject to recoupment as are funds that aren’t obligated by December 31, 2024 and expended by December 31, 2026. The Legislature will also have to resist the temptation to use this money to create new government programs no matter how worthy the cause. These are one-time funds and any program that requires on-going financial support will fall on the shoulders of taxpayers.

This will be my fourth legislative session and I have found serving the state and the constituents of Legislative District 14 in the capacity of a state senator to be more challenging than I ever imagined and equally more rewarding than I initially anticipated. I thank all of you who have contacted me to share your thoughts on the number of different issues that come before the Legislature. Your voice helps guide me in making difficult decisions and ensures I represent the district adequately while adopting policies to make our great state even greater. 

I wish you and yours a promising and prosperous 2022 and look forward to hearing from you next year!

Redistricting Special Session
September 30th, 2021

On August 27, 2021, Governor Pete Ricketts issued a proclamation calling the Legislature into a special session on September 13, 2021 as permitted under Article IV, Section 8 of the Nebraska Constitution. The purpose of the special session was to redraw district boundaries for the Supreme Court, the Public Service Commission, the Nebraska University Board of Regents, the State Board of Education, Representatives of Congress of the United States and members of the Legislature. On September 30, 2021 the Legislative adjourned, having completed its task after a lot of map drawing, a lot of impassioned debate and a lot of compromise.

The various district boundaries are redrawn every ten years based on U.S. Census figures. Not only does the census data determine where billions of federal dollars go to fund vital community programs, this data is also important to ensure equal representation by governmental entities based on the one person, one vote principle. The Legislature usually tackles the task of redistricting during the course of a regular session, but as evidence of the continuing impact of the pandemic, the collection of the 2020 U.S. Census numbers were stalled by several months and the census numbers were not released until early August, months after the Legislature had adjourned for the year.

New governmental districts were drawn in adherence to criteria adopted by a special legislative redistricting committee. That criteria included: following county lines where practical; establishing districts that are compact and contiguous and easily identifiable; preserving communities of interest and retaining the core of prior districts. These strict guidelines are important to ensure our government boundaries can withstand any court challenge alleging gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of boundaries to favor one party or group over another.

On the federal level, apportionment is the process of determining how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives each state is allotted. This is of course important for representation when Congress considers federal policy, but apportionment plays a huge role in presidential elections as well because electoral votes are based on the number of congressional seats in each state. According to the 2020 Census, Nebraska’s population increased by 135,163 people, which is not enough of a change to alter the number of seats the state is allowed in the U.S. of House of Representatives. Nebraska is retaining its three seats, but the boundaries of the congressional districts changed significantly through the redistricting process based on population shifts within the state.

The courts have held that congressional districts must have a 0% deviation from the ideal population. This means Nebraska’s new congressional districts must each have a population of 653,835 residents. With respect to the congressional districts, my main objective was to keep the five cities of Sarpy County in one congressional district as I believe the cities represent one community of interest. Unfortunately, due to significant growth in the Omaha-metro area, either Douglas or Sarpy county needed to be split between Congressional District 1 and Congressional District 2. Since Douglas County has historically been the core of Congressional District 2, splitting the county between north and south, as was initially considered, resulted in an intensive filibuster that deadlocked any progress. However, an alternative proposal that was offered would have split Sarpy County down the middle of Papillion’s main street and that also lacked support. After days of negotiations, a final map was agreed upon that resulted in all of La Vista and a majority of Papillion joining Bellevue in Congressional District 1 to recognize the community of interest represented by these Sarpy County cities. You can view a copy of those maps at the end of this post.

Population shifts within our state over the past ten years have also resulted in rural Nebraska losing a great deal of its residents, which impacted the boundaries of all 49 legislative districts. Again, in following the one person, one vote rule each legislative district should ideally have a population of 40,031. Given geographic limitations, reaching this exact number in establishing districts is not always possible, and unlike congressional districts, a greater deviation from the ideal is permissible. Nebraska set a standard of a 5% plus or minus deviation from the target number.

While rural Nebraska’s population shrank considerably, Sarpy County grew considerably. Between 2010 and 2020, over 33,000 people moved into Sarpy County, making it the fastest growing region in the state. This population shift resulted in Sarpy County gaining another seat in the Legislature and rural Nebraska losing a district in central Nebraska, currently represented by Senator Matt Williams of Gothenburg. The new district, 36, covers west and south Sarpy County and will be represented by Senator Williams until a new representative is elected in the 2022 General Election. Legislative District 14 grew by 4,509 residents, a 5.5% deviation from the ideal and it had to shrink in population size. District 14 lost an area of its southeastern boundary east of 72nd Street and south of Cornhusker Road, but picked up a small area northeast along the Big Papillion Creek and an area south of Highway 370 including Midlands Hospital and nearby neighborhoods. This means some of you may end up in another district with new representation. A map of the new Legislative District 14 is also attached.  If you are interested in all of the new governmental districts, maps can be found on the Legislature’s webpage:  http://news.legislature.ne.gov/red/.

In my three years of serving in the Legislature, the redistricting process was probably one of the more difficult undertakings I have experienced. However, it is also one of the most important as it is the very basis of our system of government to ensure every citizen has equal representation and a voice. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your voice in the Nebraska Legislature.


MAPS:

Final Congressional Map

Final Congressional Map – District 1

Final Congressional Map – District 2

Final Congressional Map – District 3

Congressional Map – Base Plan

Congressional Map – Base Plan – District 1

Congressional Map – Base Plan – District 2

Congressional Map – Base Plan – District 3

Congressional Map – Alternative Plan

Congressional Map – Alternative Plan – District 1

Congressional Map – Alternative Plan – District 2

Congressional Map – Alternative Plan – District 2 close up

Congressional Map – Alternative Plan – District 3

Final Legislative Map – Metro

Final Legislative Map – District 14

Long Session Concludes
June 1st, 2021

Greetings,

The long session of the One-Hundred and Seventh Legislature concluded on May 27th, four days earlier than the usual 90-day session.  But there was nothing usual about the 2021 legislative session.  As is custom, the first day of the legislative session included the swearing in of newly-elected senators and the selection of the body’s leadership positions.  I was elected to serve as the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee for the next two years and I am honored to serve in this capacity.  Also in the usual fashion, senators introduced legislation for the first ten days, with 684 measures being proposed this year for consideration.  And this is where business as usual stopped.

When the session began in January, Nebraska was still in a declared state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and drastic changes were made to the day-to-day operation of the Legislature.  In the past, the first half of the session was spent with mornings dedicated to debating legislative proposals and afternoons dedicated to public hearings on all of the measures that have been introduced.  In order to mitigate the potential for exposure to the virus during the peak months of January and February, the Legislature held hearings both morning and afternoons as committees represent a smaller gathering of senators.  Once the hearings concluded in March, the Legislature spent the rest of the session debating the bills that were advanced from the various committees.

Regardless of the unusual circumstances the pandemic presented, the session moved forward and many important policy matters were contemplated.  As the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, much of my focus was on bills under the jurisdiction of the committee. In addition, I personally introduced measures intended to improve the health of Nebraskans by increasing access to telehealth services, particularly for those individuals seeking mental health services.  These telehealth bills passed with significant support and were signed into law by the Governor.  The new laws will take effect in August.

Every odd-numbered session, the Legislature is also tasked with adopting a two-year state budget.  This year, the Legislature passed a $9.7 billion budget that represents a conservative 1.6 percent average annual budget growth.  Included in the budget is roughly $1.45 billion in property tax relief through the state’s homestead exemption program, the State Property Tax Relief Fund and the new refundable property tax credit. The new credit was passed by the Legislature last year and provides an income tax credit based on property taxes paid to school districts.  The credits are available now and can still be claimed even if you have already filed your taxes for 2020.  More information on the new credit can be found on the Department of Revenue’s website: https://revenue.nebraska.gov/about/frequently-asked-questions/school-district-property-tax-credit-faqs.

In addition to property tax relief, the Legislature passed other measures to ease the tax burden on Nebraskans.  Laws have been enacted to exempt 100% of military retirement income to encourage retired military personnel to make Nebraska their home; phase in an exemption from income taxation of social security benefits to keep our retirees in the state; reduce our corporate income tax to make us competitive with neighboring states in attracting new business; and repeal the sales tax on residential water.  Other important bills that passed will provide for the expansion of broadband access across the state; leverage federal dollars for investment in small businesses; authorize the creation of inland port authorities to assist in large commercial and industrial development; and allow for the development of an implementation plan for a Mental Health Crisis Hotline.

Despite some of the challenges that COVID-19 presented to an already challenging job, my colleagues and I worked through the session to provide the public service for which we were elected.  And while the session has come to an end, we continue to work on issues throughout the interim.  I personally will be serving as the chairman of a special investigatory committee looking into our child welfare services in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, as vice-chairman of a special committee to provide oversight for the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, and will continue to study potential future legislation.  Your voice is valuable in the legislative process no matter what time of year and I encourage you to continue to share your thoughts on issues that are important to you.

 

Biennial Budget Passes
April 29th, 2021

Despite being over a year into a global pandemic that has shuttered businesses and caused record unemployment, Nebraska’s February economic forecast was surprisingly very positive.  However, because of the many unknowns that come with an unexpected event such as a pandemic, the Legislature exercised constraint and fiscal responsibility in passing the new biennial budget for the state of Nebraska.

The $9.7 billion budget, which has been approved by Governor Pete Ricketts, represents a conservative 1.7 percent annual budget growth.  Instead of spending excess funds on expensive new government programs, the Legislature significantly increased the state’s cash reserve fund by $351 million, bringing the total to $763 million.  The cash reserve fund, also known as the “rainy-day fund” provides important security for the state in cases of emergencies and was tapped at the onset of the pandemic before federal aid became available.

While the budget ensures fiscal security in times of emergencies, it also addresses key concerns of Nebraska citizens.  Over the two-year budget, the state will be contributing roughly $1.45 billion in property tax relief through the state’s homestead exemption program, the State’s Property Tax Relief Fund and the new refundable property tax credit, based on property taxes paid to school districts.  Even if you have already filed your taxes, you can still apply the credit.  Information can be found on the Department of Revenue’s website: https://revenue.nebraska.gov/about/frequently-asked-questions/school-district-property-tax-credit-faqs.

The budget for Fiscal Years 2021/2022 & 2022/2023 also increases the Medicaid reimbursement to child welfare and mental health care providers by 2% to ensure Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens continue to get needed services.  Additionally, the budget supports the state’s strong educational system by appropriating over $1 billion to K-12 public schools and including private colleges in the state’s Career Scholarships program.

Finally, $115 million has been earmarked as partial payment for a $230 million new prison being proposed by the Governor.  While the Legislature and the administration have come to an agreement to aggressively pursue efforts to reduce Nebraska’s prison population, the Nebraska State Penitentiary is over 150 years old and nearing the end of its useful life.  The Legislature is requiring a needs study to be conducted before additional funding for the proposal will be approved.

Members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee deserve recognition for crafting a two-year state budget that responsibly addresses essential services, protects taxpayers and looks to the future; ensuring Nebraska remains a great state to call home.

 

Unicameral Youth Legislature
April 27th, 2021

Sen. John Arch invites students to youth legislature

High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 13-16. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

“The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives participants first-hand experience in Nebraska’s distinctive legislative process,” said Senator John Arch. “Students interested in future public service will gain a valuable lesson about our democratic system of government and will learn about the challenges and rewards of making public policy.”

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 28.

New Tax Credit Available
March 2nd, 2021

While we continue to work on tax relief in the Legislature, it is important for Nebraskans to know about every tax credit currently available to them. This website will help answer your questions and help you receive the tax breaks you deserve.

https://revenue.nebraska.gov/about/frequently-asked-questions/school-district-property-tax-credit-faqs

Nebraska Income Tax Credit for School District Taxes Paid (Nebraska Property Tax Incentive Act Credit) | Nebraska Department of Revenue

Sen. John Arch

District 14
Room 1117
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2730
Email: jarch@leg.ne.gov
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