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As I write, we are just over one third of the way through the short 60-day session of the 2020 Nebraska Legislature. We continue to make progress on addressing our priority issues and carefully consider proposed bills that make changes to state policy.
Chief among the priorities will be to improve upon and replace the Nebraska Advantage Act which provides business incentives to grow employment opportunities for our citizens. The current Nebraska Advantage Act is set to expire after this year. Without some form of a business incentive program, Nebraska will be at a disadvantage when trying to retain current and attract new businesses. This would hurt our economy.
Other priorities will be passing a tax relief package that reduces our property tax burden and makes Nebraska more competitive on personal income and corporate taxes. We are also addressing shortcomings in our juvenile detention facilities and prison system, and we are preparing for the implementation of Medicaid expansion.
As a result of using fiscally responsible policies in previous years, the state is anticipating a budget surplus coming into the new year. Projections for 2020 indicate that we will continue to see modest economic growth in the state. There are many Senators who would like to take the budget surplus and use it for the expansion of programs and new spending. I support using the surplus to bolster property tax relief and increase our rainy-day fund. How we use the surplus will be another issue to be addressed.
This session I have introduced twelve legislative bills. Several are technical bills to update current statutes. These bills will help our government be more efficient, effective, and provide better services for Nebraskans.
Some of the bills I proposed and would highlight are:
• LB837 which will require the Department of Health and Human Services to seek available federal funds through the Family First Prevention Services Act to help childcare providers with the cost of federally-mandated finger printing and background checks for their employees. This is an important child safety issue as we have seen in the news over the past several years.
• LB886 is a patient protection bill that will require providers to be clear about their participation in government and commercial programs. It prohibits using the terms “accepts” or “takes” as it relates to insurance unless the provider participates in the network or product. The use of the terms can be very misleading to patients. They may believe that the provider participates in a network and will, instead, be responsible for the full bill, or higher portion of the bill, if the provider is out of network.
• LB1011 requires any hospital licensed in Nebraska to participate in Medicare. As a result of participating in Medicare, hospitals must provide quality data, accept a fee schedule for Medicare patients that limits the amount they can charge, and not balance bill to the hospital’s full charges. The requirement to participate in Medicare would reduce unanticipated bills and improve transparency to all patients that use that facility.
• LB1158 is intended to help adults who apply for Medicaid benefits to improve their employment status and income. This requires DHHS to ask anyone applying for the new expanded Medicaid program if they would like assistance in career development (finding a job, or better job). This is the first of what I hope will become a bigger effort of helping those in poverty improve their lives through the state’s assistance.
I am also a proud co-sponsor on several other bills aimed workforce development, growing our economy, retaining our Veterans, and improving the overall quality of life for all Nebraskans.
I encourage you to follow your Legislature at nebraskalegislature.gov and to share your thoughts on the measures being discussed. You are always welcome to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at (402) 471-2730.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in the Legislature.
The long session of the One-Hundred and Sixth Legislature has come to an end and to say that my first session was a learning experience would be an understatement. Of course learning about the various issues that come before the Legislature is of paramount importance – even what initially appears as the simplest of matters is complex when appropriately scrutinized. But the learning doesn’t stop there. One must learn to master the parliamentary rules of procedure, to build diverse relationships, to know exactly when to speak and when to listen, and learn to work tirelessly to reach a compromise.
Unfortunately, the Legislature was unable to achieve this last point on two major issues – property tax relief and business incentives. Without a doubt, high property taxes, and taxes in general, are a major concern for a majority of Nebraskans. Our over-reliance on property taxes to fund local governments, particularly schools, was a discussion that dominated the session. Two different proposals came before the legislative body, LB 289 and LB 183, but neither could overcome opposition from several different fronts – including the Governor, school districts, people in the service industry and everyday consumers. Both measures included provisions that would raise several taxes and impose a sales tax on many services currently exempt. In the end, any property tax relief would have been mitigated by the large shift to sales taxes.
My philosophy is the only way to reduce Nebraska’s tax burden, particularly the property tax burden, is to grow our overall tax base. The best way to do this is to attract new jobs and new workers to our state. While many view business incentives as a giveaway of government resources, the fact of the matter is we are competing with the rest of the country for the businesses that attract a vibrant workforce. Our current business incentive program, which expires next year, is not without flaws and a measure considered this year sought to remedy those problems. LB 720, the ImagiNE Act, would have replaced the current incentive program with one that is more transparent, easier for businesses to navigate, capped on cost and geared towards better paying jobs. Yet, the inability to compromise on a tax package ultimately derailed LB 720. There is still time to adopt a new incentive program next session, but failure to have such a program in place signals that Nebraska is not open for business. That means fewer jobs and fewer people to pay for essential government services.
Of course many Nebraskans are of the opinion, myself included, that essential government services need to be better defined and that perhaps there are areas where spending cuts could be made. Having said that, however, the Legislature did pass a considerably lean budget this year in which potential cuts were not obvious. The two-year budget package allows for an annual increase in state spending of a modest 2.9%. Most of that increase can be attributed to obligations such as aid to education and Medicaid, including the Medicaid expansion approved by voters.
During the legislative interim, I will continue to study the issues that are important to my constituents and that benefit the state of Nebraska. I believe serving in the Legislature will be an on-going learning process and I am very thankful I have been given this unique opportunity. I look forward to the next legislative session
Senator 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 9-12. 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.
“This is an excellent opportunity to learn about our democratic system of government in Nebraska,” according to Senator John Arch. “By taking part in this program, students can experience the challenges and opportunities granted to our elected officials.”
Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available.
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 15.
The 2019 legislative session got underway on January 9th with the swearing in of thirteen new senators – myself included. I am honored and excited to have the unique opportunity to work with individuals from all areas of Nebraska in crafting the policy that helps shape this great state.
Part of the role of a state senator is to serve on the various committees having jurisdiction over certain subject matters. The Nebraska Legislature has fourteen standing committees: Agriculture; Appropriations; Banking Commerce and Insurance; Business and Labor; Education; General Affairs; Government, Military and Veterans Affairs; Health and Human Services; Judiciary; Natural Resources; Nebraska Retirement Systems; Revenue; Transportation and Telecommunications; and Urban Affairs. I have been assigned to serve on the General Affairs and Urban Affairs committees, as well as the Health and Human Services Committee. I am particularly eager to work on the Health Committee given my 30 years experience in health-care administration, including my former position as CEO of Boys Town National Research Hospital. My colleagues on that committee have elected me to serve as their vice chairperson.
I know there are many daunting issues facing the state, but I embrace the challenge. I look forward to fostering public policy that strengthens our economy so that we can lower the state’s tax burden, fund essential services, invest in the future and ensure all Nebraskans have the opportunity to live a prosperous life.
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