Welcome

January 8th, 2014

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

Week of April 7

April 14th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

Last week was the final full week of this session, and now we have only one session day remaining.  The Legislature will remain adjourned until Thursday, April 17, when we will debate the override of Governor Heineman’s last vetoes, if there are any, before we adjourn sine die.  The final week was certainly full of twists and turns as several senators were amending bills to include introduced legislation that did not successfully proceed through the traditional stages of consideration.  On several occasions, because it was questionable whether certain amendments were “in a natural and logical sequence to the subject matter” it was necessary to invoke motions as to germaneness.  Overall, this this week was indeed an important, interesting, and valuable exercise in applying our Legislative Rules.

Two of my five bills from this year (LBs 964 and 1093) and my resolution, LR395, passed through the Legislature for Governor approval.  LB964 makes the bankruptcy homestead exemption apply to all claimants and updates the statutory language; LB1093, which was amended into LB464, provides for a more streamlined funding process for the Nebraska Supreme Court to fund its juvenile conferencing services; and LR395 recognizes February 10, 2014 as the 60th Anniversary of the addition of the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.  I believe these are all important pieces of legislation, and I hope to have the opportunity next year to re-introduce those issues and others that did not pass through the Unicameral this year.  LB964 was signed by the Governor, and LR395 was adopted on April 10.

Governor Heineman held signing ceremonies for two key bills this week that favorably affect our district and state.  LB1067 extends the Nebraska Advantage Act, our major comprehensive economic development tool for expanding or relocating businesses to Nebraska for another two years.  LB1067 helps create more certainty for businesses utilizing these job-creation and investment incentives.  Included in the package were extensions of the angel investment credit, the microenterprise credit, and the R&D Act.  LB96, which exempts farm machinery repairs and parts from our state sales tax and which is implemented in neighboring states, was signed by the Governor April 2.  LB 96 makes agriculture implement businesses in Nebraska more competitive and is expected to provide $47 million of tax relief for ag producers over the next five years.

LB526, which expands the scope of practice for optometrists in Nebraska, was placed on Final Reading Wednesday.  Discussion from constituents on this bill turned out to be more disputed than I had expected.  Both opponents and proponents provided solid arguments to support their positions.  In the end, I believe that greater Nebraska will have the potential for more ready access to these simple procedures, whereas people from rural areas currently have to travel to bigger cities such as Omaha to have them done.

We enjoyed welcoming FFA students from Lyons-Decatur Northeast, Wisner, and Blair High Schools Wednesday.  Thursday, we welcomed West Point FFA students as well.  It is encouraging to see our Future Farmers of America and their dedication to continue the tradition of Nebraska’s significant agricultural importance in the world.  Fourth graders from Fort Calhoun and Bancroft-Rosalie also visited.  Their high energy and spirit of excitement and wonder are always very contagious, beneficial, and welcome to everyone!

We have had a fantastic presence from District 16 clergy who have travelled to Lincoln to offer morning prayers before the Unicameral convenes.  Thank you to Pastor Jonathan Ripke of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hooper for joining us as Chaplain of the Day on Tuesday, April 8 and to Pastor Lewis Miller of Beemer Mennonite Church in Beemer for joining us as Chaplain on April 9.

As the session is almost over for the year, I recommend you contact me early in the interim to share your thoughts on any issues you would like addressed next year.  Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, 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.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of March 31

April 14th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

April Fools’ Day marked the 51st Legislative Day of the 103rd Legislature, Second Session.  There are five legislative days remaining until we adjourn Sine Die on April 17.  Thank you to Pastor Shawn Linnell of Trinity Lutheran Church in Blair for joining us as Chaplain of the Day on Tuesday, April 1 and to Pastor Coral Parmenter of United Methodist Church of Christ in Wisner for joining us as Chaplain on April 2.  We always appreciate the clergy from District 16 who volunteer to travel to Lincoln and offer their prayers.

After the passage of LBs 130, 905, and 906 (budget appropriation bills), Governor Heineman returned them to the Legislature with line-item vetoes.  On Tuesday, we carefully examined these bills and fully debated the potential outcomes.  The Governor stated his line-item vetoes returns $65 million dollars to taxpayers for the property tax relief they requested.  Among some of the vetoed items were:

  • $14.5 million from the Cash Reserve to the Nebraska Capitol Construction fund for the erection of fountains in the Capitol courtyards and renovation of the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system;
  • various new Salary Limits for state agencies, new state agency positions, and a transfer from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Contingency Fund Program to the Behavioral Health Aid Program (in order to offset costs to the state due to implementation of the Affordable Care Act);
  • $12.5 million transfer from the Department of Motor Vehicles Cash Fund to the Vehicle Title and Registration System Replacement and Maintenance Cash Fund and $5 million of the $15 million to the Game and Parks Commission for maintenance and improvement projects.

All vetoes were overridden Tuesday by the Legislature.  I supported the Governor’s vetoes and not the override of the Legislature, as I believe more extensive tax relief is possible for our taxpayers.  However, I appreciated the privilege of attending the bill signing press conference with the Governor in support of valuable tax relief efforts for Nebraskans.

Senator Chambers introduced a motion Wednesday to override Governor Heineman’s veto of his mountain lion hunting bill, LB671.  The motion failed on a 24-21-4 vote. Senator Chambers has taken a firm stand that it will be a “rough rest of the session” for those of us who voted for the override.

We enjoyed welcoming Lyons-Decatur Northeast High School seniors and two of their teachers Wednesday.  Unfortunately, I was unable to meet the Lyons-Decatur 4th graders who visited the next day, as they were pressed for time.  We also had student visitors from the Federation of Women’s Club of Nebraska.  I was able to sit down for lunch at the Governor’s Residence with a Cuming County student and his Dodge County friends, and we enjoyed a refreshing trip together to the top of the tower and looked out across a brisk, extremely breezy capital city.

Our session is winding down as the issues continue heating up.  As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts on pending legislation before we adjourn sine die.  Please continue to contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, 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.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of March 24

March 31st, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

Thursday, March 20 was the Fifty-First Day of this One Hundred Third Legislature, Second Session. Only nine  legislative days remain of our sixty day session.  On our daily agenda we now regularly have numerous bills in Consent Calendar and on Final Reading, which means many bills are moving through the legislative process quickly.  We are moving forward to make our limited time in session count.  The 17 senators who are term limited after eight years of service continue using every tool in their toolbox and their floor experience with spirited zest in an attempt to bring  their long awaited legislation to fruition before this session ends.

Not only do we consider and debate legislation on the floor each day, but we also do our best to respond to numerous constituent emails, letters, and phone calls. The number of meetings and receptions being held in and around the Capitol are also winding down, where focus is primarily on pending legislation at hand.

Thank you to Pastor Pastor Russ Foust of Grace United Methodist Church in Kennard for serving as volunteer Chaplain leading us in prayer on Wednesday, March 26.  It is uplifting to have our district’s clergy join us during session in prayer before we convene.

Here are some updates on legislation from this week:

  • LR41CA allows pari-mutuel wagering on live, delayed, and replayed (or “historic”) horse races at licensed racetracks.  This bill advanced to Final Reading March 25, and if passed, will be on voters’ ballots in November;
  • LB768 (Livestock Brand Act bill)  In conversation with Senator Schilz, the livestock producers in Cuming, Burt, and Washington counties will not necessarily be impacted by this legislation.  Rather, they still have the option to have an inspection performed by the Nebraska Brand Committee, but if one is performed, there is now a method for the Committee to recover a fee equal to that of inspections performed in the mandatory brand area, as well as expenses incurred in performing the inspection;
  • LB1001 permits the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp by postsecondary institutions for research purposes as an agricultural product.  During all three stages of debate there was no opposition or support from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture or law enforcement agencies, and I was opposed to the bill moving forward without their support.  However, the pending research will hopefully provide valuable information for Nebraskans to learn about hemp;
  • LB983, which updates Nebraska statutes to comply with federal regulations regarding commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs), passed March 24 with an emergency clause and was presented to the Governor the same day;
  • LB671, the mountain lion hunting bill, narrowly passed Monday with a 28-13-8 vote.  Governor Heineman vetoed the bill four days later, citing potential constitutional issues and conflict with a bill passed in 2012 that allowed for mountain lion hunting.

The annual Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute is July 7-11, 2014, at UNL’s East Campus.  “NAYI is a five-day conference for high school juniors and seniors to learn about career opportunities within agriculture.  This includes:  engaging speakers, workshops and panels, agriculture education, professional development, leadership experience, fun and new friends, networking with peers and industry leaders.  All of these experiences come free of charge, thanks to generous sponsors.”  Apply online at www.nda.nebraska.gov.  Applications are due April 15.

We have heard from constituents on numerous issues, and I am always happy to hear from you!  Please continue to contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, 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.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

 

Week of March 18

March 24th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

Legislative Days 44-47 followed the final day of District 16 Town Hall meetings where policy and remaining priorities were discussed.  With only 13 session days remaining late legislative nights will be the new normal until Sine Die on April 17.  On Thursday, March 20 I was invited to serve as presiding officer during the evening hours.  Presiding as “Madame President” added some much needed smiles as colleagues inadvertently addressed me as “Mr. President.”  It was a delight and honor to serve in that capacity.

The Unicameral finally approved the Appropriations bills for the Nebraska state budget, which, by legislative rule, must be approved by the 50th day of the 60-day session (March 26).  The Legislature passed LBs 905e, 906e, and 130 on Final Reading Monday, March 24.  I voted against these bills because I believe they inadequately address tax and budget concerns in Nebraska.  The tax cuts are too small.

LB987 advanced from Select File last week.  The bill requires the tax commissioner to annually index state income tax brackets for inflation, and it will reduce the amount of Social Security benefits that are taxed and allow recently retired military personnel to keep more of their retirement income.  The Legislature also considered other bills on Final Reading, including LB740, which allows veterans and their family members to qualify for in-state tuition.  LB740 passed 48-0-1.

My bill that allows election candidates who have been defeated in a primary by a tiebreaker to write in to the general election, LB144, passed and was delivered to the Governor for his approval Thursday.  This bill does not apply to federal office elections or those such as Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General.

LB887, the Medicaid expansion bill, was debated for eight hours last week.  After a motion to invoke cloture was filed (cloture forces a vote on the bill after eight hours of debate), the motion failed with a vote of 27-21-1, effectively killing the bill.  Proponents of Medicaid expansion vowed to bring legislation next year in another attempt to expand Medicaid in Nebraska.

Four of my bills in Judiciary Committee (LBs 962, 963, 964, and 1093) were referred to the Speaker’s office for Consent Calendar, but only LB964 was approved by the Speaker for Consent Calendar.  Consent Calendar is a portion of the agenda where non-controversial bills are advanced to the next legislative stages without debate.  LB964 provides a homestead exemption for claimants under sixty-five years of age and not married, effectively allowing all Nebraskans to keep a certain amount of equity in their home if they have to file for bankruptcy.

Keep Nebraska Beautiful is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and to commemorate that milestone, they are asking everyone to display their Husker spirit and their pride in Nebraska’s beauty by planting red flowers throughout the state.  For more information contact Keep Nebraska Beautiful at 402-486-4562 or www.knb.org/growbigred.html.

This week, we celebrate National Agriculture Week!  Nebraska is a national and world leader in growing food, feed, and fuels.  Our 2012 exports total $7.2 billion in ag products.  It is important to remember to appreciate the work of our ag producers, the agribusiness men women who work to keep the good life growing in our state.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, 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.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of March 10

March 17th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

Legislative debate and the temperature outside heated up during the second week of March, Legislative Days 40-43.  We have started to gain momentum as we prepare for the last 17 days of the 103rd Legislature.  While a majority of the 1,105 bills have failed to advance from committee, we saw a fair amount advance this past week, and the first bills of the year were signed into law by Governor Heineman.  Here are some signed bills of interest:

  • LB76e – Adopt the Health Care Transparency Act;
  • LB403 – Prohibit retail sale of novelty lighters;
  • LB446 – Define salvage to include flood damage under the Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act;
  • LB470e – Adopt the Superintendent Pay Transparency Act;
  • LB513 – Change notice provisions under the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act; and
  • LB588 – Change veteran employment preference provisions.

Senator Scheer bracketed his bill, LB682, which addresses statewide allied school systems, until April 17 after facing opposition from various school representatives.

Constituents asked questions and addressed issues at the town hall meetings across the district this past weekend.  Here are some of the items we discussed by general topic:

TAXES/REVENUE

  • LB145 – Change valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land (my 2014 Priority Bill)
    • Status:  Killed in committee.  Similar bills: LBs 670, 101, 813, 721, and 618
  • LB987 – Adjust individual income tax brackets for inflation and exempt social security benefits from income taxation
    • Status:  Revenue priority bill, on E&R Initial (passed from General File)
  • LB1092 – Authorize issuance of highway construction bonds
    • Status:  Dubas priority bill on General File with AM2067
    • Note:  Department of Roads Director, Randy Peters opposed LB1092, stating the “traditional ‘pay-as-we-go’ practices of our state have served us well.”

HEALTH CARE

  • LB887 – Adopt the Wellness in Nebraska Act
    • Status:  Pending debate Tuesday, March 18, 1:30 p.m.
  • LB916 – Eliminate integrated practice agreements and change provisions regarding nurse practitioners
    • Status:  Watermeier priority bill pending AM1916 on General File

AGRICULTURE

  • LB768 – Change provisions of the Livestock Brand Act and estray provisions
    • Status:  ER163 pending, Agriculture priority
  • LB597 – Change provisions relating to county agricultural societies
    • Status:  Signed by the Governor, February 13, 2014
  • SEE ALSO – Governor Heineman’s Column on Ag Conference Overview http://www.governor.nebraska.gov/columns/2014/03/07_ag_conf.html

VETERANS AFFAIRS AND ELECTIONS

  • LB805 – Change application requirements to Nebraska veterans homes
    • Status:  Killed in committee
  • LB383 – Provide for Nebraska Armed Forces Pride Plates
    • Status:  Janssen priority bill on General File
  • LB588 – Change veteran employment preference provisions
    • Status:  Signed by Governor, February 18, 2014
  • LB740 – Provide residency requirements for postsecondary education purposes for veterans and their family members
    • Status:  Final reading, March 10, 2014
  • LB75 – Exempt military retirement benefits from taxation as prescribed
    • Status:  On General File with AM2392 pending

Thank you to Chaplain Rebecca Hjelle from Blair First United Methodist Church in Blair for coming to Lincoln to lead the Wednesday morning prayer.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature will be held at the Capitol June 8-11.  I encourage all high school students interested in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate, or public speaking to attend.  Please contact Ami Johnson at (402) 471-0764 or ajohnson@leg.ne.gov for more details.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, 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.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of March 4

March 10th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

The month of March came in like a lion on many levels, with record low cold temperatures.  Legislative Days 36-39 marked the first week of day-long debates, and the bill repealing mountain lion hunting advanced despite a roaring debate to protect our hunting rights.  The Speaker informed senators there will potentially be some “long days,” perhaps lasting until 11:59 p.m., scheduled to debate complex issues.  Late nights occur with every session, and this most likely will be no different.  I look forward to the opportunity to advocate for District 16 on all bills before us.

Legislative Bill 144, my bill that allows primary candidates who are defeated by tiebreaker in a primary to write in to the general election, has been advanced to final reading.  Initially, LB144 only applied to candidates for county, city, village, and school district offices, but I introduced an amendment that allows all candidates, except those running for statewide and federal offices, to be included under the new law.  The amendment was adopted by a vote of 27-0 and advanced to final reading on a voice vote.

All of the bills I introduced this year that went to the Judiciary Committee for public hearing were referred from Judiciary to Speaker Adams for Consent Calendar.  LBs 962, 963, 964, and 1093 passed from Judiciary Committee and are awaiting the Speaker’s approval for Consent Calendar, which should be determined shortly after March 12.

Much to the dismay of farm and ranch families statewide, LB670, lowering ag land valuation from 75 to 65 percent and similar to my priority bill LB145, failed to advance from the Revenue Committee. Nebraska’s property taxes are 3rd highest in the country, where ag land has risen from 18% to 26% since 2006.  Five votes are required to advance out of committee, but the vote was 4 – 4.  Instead, LB986 advanced, which increases the maximum eligible income from $28,500 to $46,900 for partial homestead tax exemptions to married claimants older than 65.  The maximum eligible income for partial exemptions to single claimants older than 65 increases from $24,200 to $39,500.

The Appropriations Committee  proposal includes a $25 million increase in the amount for Property Tax Credits increasing the credit from $115 million to $140 million.  It is intended this $140 million credit level will be continued into future years.  This increase is financed with a transfer from the General Fund, not the Cash Reserve Fund, which would be a one-time source of revenue.  The $25 million increase equates to a 3.3% annual increase if applied to the first full year in 2008.  While this percent increase is under the 5.9% average growth in valuation, it exceeds the 2.5% average growth in the General fund budget since 2008.  With this increase, the amount of the 2014 credit is projected at roughly $74 per $100,000 compared to the current 2013 level of $65.97 per $100,000 of valuation and a projected credit amount of $61 per $100,000 of valuation if the total credit amount was left at $115 million.

LB987, which adjusts individual income tax brackets for inflation and exempts social security benefits from income taxation, is on the agenda for discussion this week.  LB987 is an effort to reduce income tax burdens.  The last time the legislature lowered income tax was in 2012, where tax brackets were adjusted for certain lower income tax levels at a new lower bracket providing modest tax relief to low and middle income Nebraskans.

Two more constituents from District 16 offered morning prayers for the Legislature this week.  Pastor Randall Herman of Bethany Lutheran Church in Lyons led the payer on Wednesday, and student Vicar Pastor Gia Metze from Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in West Point opened the day on Thursday.  Thanks again to both for making the trip to Lincoln and having such a special involvement in their Legislature.

Congratulations to Sheila Monke, from  District 16, for winning the Nebraska Mothers Association 2014 Mother of the Year Award!  Nebraska Mothers Association, Nebraska’s chapter of American Mothers, Inc., awarded Sheila the honor Friday.  I enjoyed introducing her at the ceremony.

Town hall meetings are on Friday, March 14 and Monday, March 17.  More information is available online and in the local papers.  Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, 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.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of February 24

March 3rd, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

Legislative days 31 through 35 marked the first full week of session in three weeks, the end of February, and the final days of committee hearings.  Starting next week I expect we will see some extended debate on various difficult issues.

My third and final bankruptcy bill, LB963, was heard in the Judiciary Committee Friday, the final day of committee hearings.  LB963 increases the “wildcard” bankruptcy exemption from $2,500 to $5,000, a figure that, like the provisions in LB962, has not been revised since 1997.  Interestingly, this exemption was set at $500 in 1901.  Adjusted for inflation, that equals well over $10,000 today.  The “wildcard” exemption is a small safety net that allows debtors to keep more of their property as they get a fresh financial start.  Gregg Neuhaus, the attorney from Grand Island who proposed these bankruptcy bills to me, noted during the hearing that the wildcard exemption does not even need to be used during bankruptcy.  Rather, it is a protection that any debtor may use from a creditor seeking rights to property in satisfaction of debt.  Considering the fact that the figure would be more than $10,000 if adjusted for inflation alone, an increase to $5,000 is a modest, but important, change.  As with my other bankruptcy bills, there are no fiscal implications nor any tax consequences.

We had the pleasure of having a constituent from District 16 offer the prayer Wednesday morning.  Pastor John Hogue from Arlington Community Church blessed us with his presence (literally).  I was pleased to meet him and visit with him and his wife.  Thank you, Rev. Hogue for your thoughtful and prayerful words, and we look forward to those from District 16 who will offer prayers in the near future.

Senators, committees, and the speaker have all prioritized bills for this year, so we will be debating those on the floor first.  It is possible that many of the non-priority bills may not be addressed this year.  Any bills that are not passed this year will have to be reintroduced next year to become law.  The list of priority bills can be found at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/session/priority.php or by contacting Speaker Greg Adams’ office at 402-471-2756.  We always welcome questions or comments on bills and resolutions.

Town halls will be held March 14, 15, and 17 in Decatur, Bancroft, Beemer, West Point, Oakland, Wisner, Tekamah, Blair, and Arlington.  We will be issuing press releases with all the details very soon.  Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  If you are in Lincoln, please stop by Room 1016.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of February 18

February 24th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

With the Legislature adjourned for President’s Day on Monday, the 17th, it was a short, but productive week.  Days 27 through 30 saw one of my bills and one of my resolutions in committee hearings.  We have officially passed the halfway mark of this 60 day session, and I expect we will see long nights at the Capitol before long.

LB962, which increases the personal bankruptcy exemptions under Sec. 15-1556 of Nebraska’s statutes, was heard in the Judiciary Committee Wednesday.  As with my other bankruptcy bills, there are no fiscal implications nor any tax consequences.  Similar to the hearing for LB964, there were two proponents and no opponents of LB962.  Initially, LB962 included a provision that would allow debtors to keep up to $5,000 in the interest in their car regardless of how they use it.  Nebraska law currently only allows this exemption for debtors who use their car for employment purposes.  I received notice from those who represent the Nebraska Bankers Association that they would oppose the bill with the new vehicle exemption.  With opposition during a 60-day session it makes it more difficult for any bill to move out of committee and to the floor for further debate and passage.  Therefore, I amended that language and kept personal vehicles in the “tools of the trade” exemption until we can further analyze the impact this poses on our Nebraska financial institutions.

Legislative Resolution 395 commemorates the addition of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Sixty years ago, lawmakers in Congress introduced legislation that led to a Congressional Joint Resolution to include “under God” in the Pledge, and President Eisenhower signed it into law on June 14, 1954.  LR395 was heard before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Friday.  Two supporters testified on behalf of its passage, and there were none opposed.  I believe it is important to recognize the important events of our nation’s history, and the recognition of God has been a longstanding effort by our citizens and lawmakers.  As President Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, “[T]his Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”  This inspired Rev. George MacPherson Docherty, pastor at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., which is the church President Lincoln attended while in office, to preach a sermon called “A New Birth of Freedom.”  In his sermon, Docherty stated, “To omit the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life.”  President Eisenhower happened to be sitting in Lincoln’s pew on that “Lincoln Sunday,” February 7, 1954, as is the tradition that presidents attend a special service on the Sunday closest to Lincoln’s birthday.  Four months later, he signed the law that included the phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance.  As President Reagan put it, “If we ever forget we are one nation under God, we will become a nation gone under.”

We are finalizing plans for town hall meetings around the district and will send out press releases with all the information.  We welcome questions or comments on bills before us this session.  Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  If you are in Lincoln, please stop by Room 1016.  We have enjoyed seeing everyone who has already stopped in and look forward to more visitors!

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of February 10

February 19th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

Legislative days 23 through 26 were particularly engaging for the District 16 office.  The second and third of the five bills I introduced were heard in committee.  LB1082 was heard in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.  Two emergency responder constituents from District 16 testified in support of the bill.  Steven Brune, who serves on West Point Rescue, and Micheal Dwyer, who is a member of the Nebraska State Volunteer Firefighters Association’s Legislative Committee and Captain of the Arlington Volunteer Fire Department Rescue Squad both provided important information and solid support.  No one testified against the bill or in a neutral capacity.  Please see the Weekly Update from last week for more details on LB1082.

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony February 13 on LB1093.  Currently, there is a cumbersome series of grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to the Administrative Office of the Courts and contracts from DHHS to individual juvenile conferencing programs.  Under LB1093 DHHS will transfer the funds directly to the Nebraska Supreme Court.  Ultimately this is a revenue neutral bill and has been agreed to by DHHS and the Supreme Court.  We are currently working with DHHS and the Supreme Court to make a minor amendment that makes it revenue neutral.  We are confident this will be completed within the next few days.  Representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Legislature’s Children Commission, Through the Eyes of the Child, and The Mediation Center in Lincoln, as well as Chief Justice Michael Heavican, testified on behalf of the bill.  There were no opponents and only two neutral testifiers, including the CEO of DHHS, Kerry Winterer.  Though Mr. Winterer has been working closely with us on this bill, he testified in the neutral because of the need for the minor amendment to the bill.

Last week the Revenue Committee heard its first two 2014 ag property tax reduction bills this year with LBs 670 and 813.  In 2013 I introduced LB145, which offers an immediate 10 percent reduction.  I introduced it  by request of the Farm Bureau.  LB145 is basically the same in structure as the Ag Land Valuation reduction bill introduced by the late Senator Bob Kremer.  Senators Deb Fischer and Lavon Heidemann subsequently introduced similar legislation during their legislative terms.  All three were respected Nebraska Senators, and one is now a U.S. Senator and the other Lieutenant Governor.  LB145 is still being held in committee; therefore I recently designated it as my priority bill in an effort to move it forward.  Constituents continue to ask about tax relief especially following the statewide Tax Modernization Task Force meetings.  Ag land value reduction has been requested more than other tax relief concerns.  Naturally, further legislation will be considered to address funding concerns from counties, municipalities, and schools.  Nebraska’s cash reserve remains sound, with $1.2 billion in state checking and savings accounts, which shows Nebraskans continue to be fiscally conservative.  Five hundred million dollars of tax relief is available for the next three years, so we should return more dollars to our citizens’ pockets instead of keeping it in state accounts.

We are in the process of planning town hall meetings around the district. We welcome questions or comments on bills before us this session.  Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  If you are in Lincoln, please stop by Room 1016.  We have enjoyed seeing everyone who has already stopped in and look forward to more visitors!

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Week of February 3

February 10th, 2014

Weekly Legislative Update

Looking back on last week, Legislative days 18 through 22, multiple ongoing discussions continue to grow regarding legislation pending and in progress.  The conversations happen not only at the State Capitol, but also with constituents and others across the state.  Of my bills introduced this session the first one to be heard in committee was LB964.  The Judiciary Committee hearing on Friday, the 7th was brief but effective.  There were two bankruptcy attorneys who spoke in support of LB964.  No one spoke in opposition or in a neutral capacity.  This bill allows the bankruptcy homestead exemption to be extended to everyone, including single individuals under 65 years old.  Current law applies only to single individuals 65 and older and heads of a family (single persons with dependents living in the same home).  This bill allows all single people who file for bankruptcy to claim up to $60,000 of the equity they have on their home as an exemption.  The committee members had only a few questions about the bill, including one from Chairperson Brad Ashford about why the law had not been amended a long time ago to include single individuals under 65.  Please note LB964 has no effect on taxation and should not be confused with the similarly named homestead tax exemption.

Another of my bills from this session, LB1082, which allows all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility-type vehicles (UTVs) to be used as authorized emergency vehicles, was heard in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee hearing on Monday, the 10th.  Presently, ATVs and UTVs are restricted from crossing highways with more than two lanes unless they are used for electric utility purposes, but must be properly licensed and insured, must only be operated under 30 miles per hour, and must have the proper lighting and safety equipment, including a bright orange bicycle safety flag.  LB1082 allows fire and police departments and volunteer rescue teams to outfit ATVs and UTVs for emergency response use on and around large highways during day and evening hours.  This will be especially valuable to rural communities when their standard emergency vehicles cannot easily reach areas far off the beaten path.

Tuesday, February 4 marked the third day of debate on LB399, allowing amber lights on any public safety volunteer vehicle.  After eight hours of debate and a bracket motion that failed 16-24, a vote for cloture (an action to cease debate on a bill and immediately vote for its advancement) failed by one vote (32-12).  After a failed cloture vote, debate on that particular bill is prevented for the rest of the day.  LB399 remains in Select File.

The Revenue Committee heard its first two 2014 ag property tax reduction bills this year with LBs 670 and 813.  Currently at 75 percent of the land’s actual value, LB670 would gradually phase-in a 65 percent valuation by tax year 2017.  The bill was heard by the Revenue Committee on Friday, the 7th, and committee action is pending.  LB813 would drop the valuation from 75 to 65 percent immediately after 2015.  Last year I introduced LB145, a bill I was asked to carry in 2013 on the behalf of the Farm Bureau, which offers an immediate 10 percent reduction similar to those that former State Senators Fischer and Heidemann introduced during their terms.  LB145 is still being held in the Revenue Committee.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Joe Neuhaus, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  If you are in Lincoln, please stop by Room 1016.  We would love to welcome  you.  Otherwise, please catch the NETV coverage on your local station or at http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16