Welcome

January 7th, 2015

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 16th 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. Lydia Brasch

Weekly Session Update – February 23, 2015

February 23rd, 2015

Session began as scheduled on Tuesday, February 17, marking Day 27 of our 90-day session. In observance of President’s Day, the office was closed on Monday. This resulted in a short work week where my staff and I worked extended hours due to the normal legislative workload in addition to preparation and public hearings for LB568 and LB350.

On Tuesday, I introduced LB568 before the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. LB568 presents a potentially difficult policy question before the committee and legislature. LB568 addresses a finding of non-compliance with the Nebraska Commercial Driver’s License Act by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). LB568 would bring Nebraska into compliance with the FMCSA by separating the administrative license revocation (ALR) process from the underlying criminal prosecution for the holder of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) following an arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or implied consent. As Sen. Seiler recognized during hearing, this leads to an inefficiency in the process where a lower administrative hearing entity is not able to defer to a more authoritative and legitimate judicial process. Continued non-compliance would result in a loss of $18 million in federal aid highway funding. This potentially leaves the legislature with the decision of complying with an inefficient federal mandate and securing millions of dollars in federal aid highway funding or not complying and losing those federal dollars. Notably, the Department of Motor Vehicles is still in discussion with the FMCSA arguing present Nebraska law is in compliance.

On Thursday, I introduced LB350 before the Revenue Committee. LB350 was heard alongside of an identical bill, LB288, introduced by Sen. David Schnoor. LB350 reduces agricultural and horticultural land valuations from 75% to 65%. A number of organizations and individuals supplied proponent testimony, such as: Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Soybean Association, former-Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, Certified Appraiser Bill Kaiser, Chairman of the Washington County Supervisor Jeff Quist, and Washington County Assessor Steve Mencke. There was some opposition by Nebraska Association of County Officials, Nebraska Farmers Union, Open Sky Policy Institute, and Central for Rural Affairs. Two main arguments were offered in opposition: a) LB350 does not take property relief far enough and b) LB350 is merely a tax shift. While I would agree LB350 does not provide all the property tax relief needed, it does provide a substantial and critical step in the right direction. LB350 is not a tax shift, but provides a crucial realignment of the disproportionate tax burden that has occurred in the last five years. I will continue to fight for property tax relief, especially for our farmers and ranchers, and to represent the concerns of our district and state.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or by e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov. If you would like to follow the Legislature online visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government or watch live broadcasting on NET2.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – February 16, 2015

February 17th, 2015

Session began as scheduled on Monday, February 9, marking Day 23 of our 90-day session. So far, we have heard over 81 bills of which 9 have been passed, 43 are due for second round of debate, and 15 are set for final reading. Currently, there are 24 bills awaiting first round of debate with many more of the 600+ bills introduced to come.

Tuesday, I presented LB570 for public hearing before our Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. LB570 expands the authority of cities, villages, and counties to permit (or deny) usage of golf car vehicles within their local jurisdiction. Currently, local governing bodies are only permitted to allow usage where the street is contiguous or adjacent to a golf course. The bill also received some positive press attention. The next step is waiting to see if 4 others in our 8-person committee will also vote to advance it to General File. If it advances, it then needs 25 votes from the whole Legislature to continue moving forward.

LB70 and LB18 received significant floor debate. LB70 provides an additional occupation tax on certain mechanical amusement devices. During public hearing before the Revenue Committee, vendors and establishment owners expressed concerns regarding a specific device litigated before the Nebraska Supreme Court. The device had elements of gambling in violation of our state’s constitutional provision prohibiting certain forms of gambling. After being voted out of committee but before floor debate, an amendment was offered. The amendment raised a number of concerns regarding the intention of the bill and whether it authorized certain forms of illegal gambling. Because of the serious concerns raised and the lack of sufficient answers, I could no longer support the bill.

LB18 requires students entering the seventh grade and entering the academic year following sixteen years of age to have an immunization containing meningococcal vaccines. The debate revolved around issues concerning government mandates and individual liberty, as well as whether meningitis is a high-risk disease triggering mandatory immunization. The bill was debated for over six hours then bracketed until June 5, 2015.

LB350, my bill lowering property tax valuations on agricultural and horticultural lands from 75% to 65%, is scheduled for public hearing on Thursday, February 19. Introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, I encourage everyone to come testify and let others know about the hearing as well. It is crucial our voices are heard on this important legislation providing for property tax relief.

We also received a number of District visitors, most of whom came to testify on bills: Steven and Jana Kruger of Arlington; Jay Schrad and Chad Anderson of Blair (LB570); Derek Wegner of West Point and Daniel Tankslay III of Oakland with Brehmer Manufacturing (LB321); and Tanna Wirtz of Blair and Gary Lambrecht of Kennard (LB106). We appreciated their stopping by our office as well.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or by e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov. If you would like to follow the Legislature online visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government or watch live broadcasting on NET2.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – February 9, 2015

February 9th, 2015

Despite weather conditions which led me to sadly leave home early and return to Lincoln on Saturday afternoon, we began business as usual on Monday. I arrived early to prepare for the big day of introducing LB 351 to the Education Committee. As mentioned last week, LB 351 increases income tax directed to local school districts from the current 2% to 20%. This helps schools receive important sources of local revenue and provides equitable distribution of the tax burden for education financing. During the hearing, questions were raised by three senators representing Lincoln and Omaha districts. These senators were concerned LB 351 would reduce funding for urban schools and result in a mere tax shift. In response, I explained LB 351 returns more local dollars to schools and not less, especially to schools not receiving equalization aid from the state. Currently, property taxes are the main source of local revenues for our schools and, especially in our rural communities, the property tax is a disproportionate and burdensome mechanism for funding education. LB 351 is the sister bill of LB 350 which reduces agricultural and horticultural land valuations from 75% to 65%. LB 350 will have a public hearing on February 19.

Other bills I introduced have public hearings soon. LB 570 expands the authority of cities, villages, and counties to expand the use golf carts within their local jurisdiction and will be heard on February 10. LB 568 addresses a potential federal non-compliance issue regarding the administrative license revocation procedures of commercial driver’s license operators who have been arrested for driving while intoxicated and will be heard on February 17. LB 571 provides authority to the Tourism Commission to establish and promote tourism signage and will be heard on February 26. LB 340 would establish a definition for ‘conspicuous signage’ in regards to a person, entity, or employer in control of property prohibiting a concealed carry handgun permit holder from carrying on the premises and will be heard on March 20. One other bill, LB 569, has yet to receive a hearing date. Please know that you are invited to testify on bills of interest to help the Legislature in determining what is good for the State.

Finally, a special thank you to all those who visited our office this week. I met with Tom Black on behalf of retired teachers of the Nebraska State Education Association, members of the AFL/CIO, as well as members of the Burt County Extension’s Leading Locally Program, and James Moseman and his parents. We are proud of James as he received his VFW district’s Voice of Democracy award.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or by e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov. If you would like to follow the Legislature online visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government or watch live broadcasting on NET2.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – February 2, 2015

February 2nd, 2015

Monday, Jan. 26th, marked the 13th day of the Legislature which started off great as District 16 Pastor Russ Faust of Kennard led us in prayer. We were also blessed to have Pastor Gregg Gaham from Oakland lead us in prayer on Friday. Thank you to both who travelled to Lincoln to grace us in prayer.

By Monday, a total of 16 bills advanced out of committee and were sent to General File for first round of floor debate. Of those bills, all but LB 177 were immediately heard. LB 177 was the first bill debated on Tuesday. LB 177 changes a few provisions related to board members of public power districts. The main component of the bill prohibits an employee of a public power district from serving as a member of the board of directors of any other public power district. Essentially, the bill attempts to manage conflict of interest situations. Concerns were expressed by two District 16 public power districts in Cuming and Burt Counties.

The rest of the week’s floor debate was consumed by LB 88. This bill increases the marriage license fee from $15 to $50. Senator Chambers objected to the fee increase, arguing it was a tax and not a fee and criticized the increase being over 300% on those seeking marriage. I am also opposed. As a state, we should value ease of access for those desiring to enter into the serious commitment of marriage.

The Nebraska Association of School Boards also held a luncheon. Several District 16 school superintendents and board members attended. This offered an important opportunity to discuss two of my bills. LB 350 reduces agricultural and horticultural land valuations from 75% to 65%. This bill offers needed relief to our farmers who make up less than 3% of the state’s population but carry 30% of the tax burden for education. LB 351 provides an increase of income tax directed to local school districts from the current 2% to 20%. This helps schools receive important sources of local revenue and provides equitable distribution of the tax burden for education. The bills strike a crucial balance between two vital interests.

The Legislature was honored to have Chief Justice Michael Heavican deliver the State of the Judiciary address Thursday. Chief Justice Heavican outlined some problems addressing the justice system such as prison reform and shortage of rural attorneys, as well as advancements such as improvements in the juvenile justice system.

Finally, I was pleased to be visited by a number of wonderful folks of the District, ranging from individuals visiting from the FFA and FBLA to those interested in issues related to gambling and motorcycle helmet laws. As always, I encourage you to visit Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or by e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov. If you would like to follow the Legislature online visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government or watch live broadcasting on NET2.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – January 26

January 26th, 2015

On Monday, January 20, the Legislature was not in session to observe Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Events were held across our district, state and country to pay tribute to Rev. Dr. King’s legacy of promoting peaceful unity among all people. The long weekend provided a welcome return home to the farm which blessed me with a refreshed feeling of the beauty of rural Nebraska and the good people I humbly serve.

Tuesday started off hectic. It marked Day 9 of only 10 possible days to introduce new bills. We introduced our final 4 bills. LB568 changes certain administrative license revocation provisions related to CDL operators. This bill concerns an issue between the Department of Motor Vehicles and the federal government regarding compliance of administrative procedures for CDL operators arrested for DUI. If the federal government determines the DMV is non-compliant, this bill would comply with federal law and secure highway safety construction funds. LB569 modifies grant funding related to the Business Innovations Act and supports the development of technology and innovation in rural and urban areas. LB570 grants authority to cities and counties regarding the usage of golf cart vehicles. Cities and counties could allow golf cart usage within their jurisdiction, subject to certain public safety requirements. LB571 provides authority to the Nebraska Tourism Commission to establish and promote tourism signage. In addition to introduced bills, we began public hearings. I attended Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on Tuesday and spent the rest of the week in the Revenue Committee.

On Wednesday, Day 10, the last day allowed for bill introduction, the total number of bills introduced was 663. Senator Watermeier and I also participated in a news media conference held by the Farm Bureau Federation to discuss four bills we introduced last week focusing on the need for lowering agricultural land values.

Before session began on Thursday, Day 11, the Appropriations and Revenue Committees attended a briefing by Governor Ricketts providing details of his State of the State Address. Governor Ricketts’ address confirmed his plan to lower taxes on agricultural land, but over a four-year period. On Friday, Day 12, we heard the first of many bills to be advanced to General File, as well as floor debate regarding our rules, tradition and committees.

Regarding last week’s update, the Clerk’s Office received a couple phone calls to correct the record about secret voting for committee chairmanships. From 1939-1972, chairmanship positions were assigned by the Committee on Committees. During the first few sessions of the Unicameral, the committees chose their own chair.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.  If you would like to follow the Legislature online visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government.  Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – January 19

January 16th, 2015

The first full week of our 90 Day session began on January 12th. This marked Day 4 of the
10 days allowed for bill introduction according to the “Rules of the Nebraska Unicameral
Legislature.” The rule does allow for exceptions, such as appropriation bills or bills
introduced at the request of the governor. Overall, our Rules book consists of 10 rules with
multiple sections and sub-sections. While the rules can seem extensive at times, they help
preserve the order of the Legislature.

As of Friday, January 16, there were 430 bills and 27 legislative resolutions introduced.
Wednesday, January 21, will mark Day 10 of the session meaning no further bills can be
introduced. Committees will begin holding public hearings on Tuesday, January 20th.
So far, I have introduced five bills, with more to come next week. LB 179 requires
apprentice electricians to complete continuing education hours. This bill would help
apprentice electricians understand the National Electrical Code Book which is the adopted
standard for electricians in our region and assist them in passing their exam to become
licensed electricians.

LB 338 provides for a docket fee for custody, parenting time, visitation, and other parental
access disputes. Currently, when a married couple with children seeks to divorce, the court
may require mediation to help the couple address key issues such as custody and parenting
time. They are assessed a $50 fee which goes to a fund that supplements the costs of
mediation. However, non-married couples addressing the same issues of custody and
parenting time are not required to pay the $50 fee. The number of unmarried parents with
these child-centered issues are far outpacing the number of marital dissolutions (nearly
6,000 to 3,769). This bill would help our state’s court and mediative services finance a
service provided to those using the system.

LB 350 seeks to provide property tax relief for agricultural and horticultural land by
decreasing the valuation from 75% to 65%. I have introduced this in the past and was
previously introduced by then Senators Fischer and Heidemann. It is a change long
overdue. Currently, agricultural taxpayers consists of only 3% of our population but pay 26%
to 29% of the tax burden for education. Related to LB 350, I also introduced LB 351. This
bill will not increase income tax, but will direct 20% of income taxes collected to state aid for
education. Between these two bills, we can provide a fiscally responsible way of paying
taxes that is more proportionate.

We especially want to thank the following volunteer pastors from District 16 who served as
Chaplain of the Day and offered prayer at the Legislature this week: Pastor Hale from
Bancroft and Pastor High from Tekamah.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom
Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or
stop by Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.  If you would like to follow the Legislature
online you can visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-
government. Live broadcasting is available on NET2 as well.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – January 12th

January 16th, 2015

Returning back to work in January started on a sad note in our office and the Capitol. On January 3rd we learned of the unexpected death of the father of our newly hired Legislative Aide, Tom Venzor. His father was a great man, husband and father who will be dearly missed. At this time, Tom is needed by his family and will be joining us once again in our office when able. We were also saddened to learn on January 8th, a loved, valued and respected Legislative Aide, Chris Keetle unexpectedly passed. As we start this year with heavy hearts and prayers of comfort for these two families, we realize we must move forward in a renewed spirit of hope and promise for the many days ahead.

Day 1, Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 our First Session of the One Hundred Fourth Legislature convened. I was among 49 State Senators, families, friends, staff and others gathered to participate or witness the traditional swearing in ceremony. Following came the business of the adoption of temporary rules, election of permanent officers, election of a new speaker, oath of officers, election for chairpersons for the committee on committees, executive board, vice-chairperson of the executive board and election of standing committee chairpersons. Senator Bill Kintner rose to announce he will bring before the Rules Committee a motion to make voting for chairmanships public and not by secret ballot. We were reminded voting for chairmanships has been by secret ballot only since 1973. I believe in transparency and will support this motion.

Following my re-election I announced my bid in late November for the Chairman of Agriculture Committee and knew it was going to be a steep uphill climb as Senator Jerry Johnson, LD 23, announced his bid following session in the Spring of 2014. Although he won by just one vote, I know he is a man of exceptional experience and abilities and be an excellent chairman. Should I have been elected, I would have been the first woman to serve our Unicameral as an Agriculture Chairwoman in its 78 year history. The standing committees I will serve on are the Revenue Committee and Transportation and Telecommunications, on which I will serve as Vice-Chair.

Day 2 began with introduction of new bills and adoption of our temporary rules. The Inaugural Oath of Offices took place in the afternoon, where swearing in took place for many including the Board of Regents, State Board of Education, Public Service Commission, Attorney General-Elect, State Auditor-Elect, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor-Elect, and the Governor-Elect.

It was a great pleasure and honor to be named as one of 5 escorts to lead, at that time, Governor-Elect Pete Ricketts to be sworn in as our new governor. Governor Ricketts’ Inaugural Address was outstanding and his vision for leadership is innovative and inspiring.

Day 3 was another day of bill introduction with only 10 days that are allowed for new bill introduction. January 21st is the final day of bill introduction. Once our office is fully staffed we will resume introducing our legislation.

The Inaugural Gala took place on Saturday, where Lee and I were greeted by many familiar and dear faces from across our District and State. It was a joyful celebration that will be long remembered by many.

In our office Tom Venzor is my Legislative Aide and Katie Wattermann is my Administrative Aide. Tom is from Schuyler and has an extensive background in various legal work. Katie is from West Point and knows the district like the back of her hand. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact me and my office via email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov or via phone at 402-471-2728; or stop by Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.

DISTRICT 16 TOWN HALL MEETINGS – THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4

December 1st, 2014

Contact: Joe Neuhaus                                                                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Office: 402-471-2728
Email: jneuhaus@leg.ne.gov

Senator Lydia Brasch Invites You to Attend:
DISTRICT 16 TOWN HALL MEETINGS – THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4

Senator Lydia Brasch will host town hall meetings December 4 in Blair, Tekamah, and West Point to listen to constituents’ views in considering legislation to introduce, support or oppose prior to session commencing. Officials from the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) will also be present to provide updates on roads projects.

Blair

8:00am to 9:30am City Council Chamber, 218 S 16th St Coffee will be provided. NDOR Representatives scheduled to attend:

  • Roads District 2 Engineer Tim Weander
  • Hwy 133 Project Manager Rich Zelensky
  • District Construction Engineer Marvin Lech
  • Communications Director Mary Jo Oie
  • Government Affairs Director Andy Cunningham

Tekamah

12:00pm to 1:30pm Burt County Courthouse, Basement Meeting Room, 111 N 13th St Sandwiches and drinks will be provided. NDOR Representatives scheduled to attend:

  • Roads District 3 Engineer Kevin Domogalla
  • Communications Director Mary Jo Oie
  • Government Affairs Director Andy Cunningham

West Point

4:30pm to 6:00pm City Council Chamber, 444 S Main St Refreshments will be provided. NDOR Representatives scheduled to attend:

  • Roads District 3 Engineer Kevin Domogalla
  • Communications Director Mary Jo Oie
  • Government Affairs Director Andy Cunningham

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Interim Update

November 20th, 2014

In just over seven weeks, the 104th Legislature will convene with 17 new senators beginning their tenure, along with a newly elected governor, attorney general, and state auditor. I will also be starting my second term representing District 16. The Capitol is once again filled with increased activity preparing for the upcoming session. This interim has been especially busy and challenging, but fulfilling.

I was heartened by our community spirit witnessed when, like countless others, I worked in various capacities following multiple natural disasters. Becoming whole once again to some may have seemed very distant or unachievable from the mounds of broken glass caused by damaging baseball sized hail to twisted metal silos, feedyards relentlessly beaten beyond recognition, countless piles of uprooted trees that once stood tall, and scattered remnants of homes and farmsteads left behind from devastating tornadoes. Yet today, one sees where determination and strong will prevailed as communities are rebuilding ever stronger and more resilient.

Thankfully, most received enough rain over the summer to pull out of prior drought conditions. Despite weather related setbacks a successful harvest has been completed or nears completion as we wait for the snow and frigid temperatures to subside.

As in years before much of my time was spent visiting or working with constituents of District 16. In the 151 work days since adjournment, I attended over 150 district events, including:

  • Our three County fairs, with 11 parades;
  • An annual ride-along review of District 16’s Game and Parks land;
  • Two annual Road Department ride-alongs (I even operated the concrete paver equipment!); plus
  • Multiple grand openings/ribbon cuttings or constituent meetings.

In September, I was honored to be chosen among 48 policymakers nationwide to participate in the prestigious Henry Toll Fellowship Program coordinated by the Council of State Governments in Lexington, Kentucky. I learned additional skills to effectively advocate for my constituents and navigate and build sound agency relationships for best results for legislation. I also gained valuable advice and a new network of 47 Fellow leaders from coast to coast.

A number of important issues we responded to include:

  • The proposed rule change to the Definition of the Waters of the United States by the EPA;
  • Various Army Corp of Engineer projects along the Missouri River which disregard landowners’ property rights; and
  • Multiple Department of Roads issues.

I look forward to building upon my work and the privilege to once again serve our district and state. We are scheduling Town Hall meetings on December 4 in each county seat to listen to constituents’ views in considering legislation to introduce, support or oppose prior to session commencing January 7, 2015. We also invited representatives from the Nebraska Department of Roads to join us for an update of district projects underway.

If you have any concerns or questions, please contact me and my office via email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov or via phone at 402-471-2728; or stop by Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Lydia Brasch
Senator, District 16