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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.
Sen. Ben Hansen
Now that the first session of the one hundred seventh legislature has come to a close, I want to take the time to thank my constituents from District 16 for the opportunity to serve as your state senator. It has been a long session, but one I am very proud of. My staff and I began in January, optimistic and full of ideas for the new biennium. Governor Ricketts worked to lead the state out of the pandemic and this allowed for Speaker Hilgers to carry the legislature through a successful session. One feat of the unicameral this year was passing the state budget for the next two years while cutting property taxes, a task not easy to accomplish.
As I transitioned into my new role this year as the Chairman of the Business & Labor Committee, my staff and I were met with significant challenges ranging from unemployment questions to workman’s compensation. On both the Agriculture Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee, our decisions were met with much anticipation following a tumultuous year in 2020. Through it all, we worked together and succeeded in writing legislation with the betterment of Nebraska in mind.
Of the ten bills I introduced, almost half of them passed. These bills addressed issues that include dealing with taxes, healthcare, 2nd amendment rights, and drug bills. Unfortunately, in politics you don’t always get everything you want but I feel confident heading into the off-season that we have a clear path forward.
I always encourage constituents to call my office or stop by in person and ask us any questions you may have on topics you may want us to address. We are always eager to listen to ideas that could become bills for next year. As my constituents, you know that I am a Senator who believes in small government that emulates an accurate representation of what our founding fathers fought to create. I focus on a citizen led legislature, remembering full well that I work for you, the people, and your best interests.
The past couple of weeks have been hectic, with a lot of discussion about substantive (and not so substantive) issues being debated on the floor of the legislature. One big topic that came up was medical cannabis. This issue is highly divisive throughout our entire state and I believe both sides gave good, sound arguments. I brought a well-received, specific amendment that eliminated the opposition from the Nebraska Medical Association and seemed to have a good consensus among the legislative body. However, the bill did not receive the votes necessary to advance in the end. I want to thank Senator Wishart for her due diligence in working with all sides to bring a comprehensive and well-regulated medical marijuana bill to our state.
I also want to take the time to thank Senator Brewer for all his assistance in attaching two of my bills as amendments to his Legislative Bill 236. The first bill attached was LB 173, a bill I introduced earlier this year. Under a previous court decision, people who are transporting a cased, unloaded firearm could be convicted for carrying a concealed weapon illegally. This bill makes it clear that an unloaded firearm in a gun case is not a concealed weapon. When it comes to our state gun laws, clarity matters.
My second bill attached was LB 301. This bill declassifies Epidiolex from the Nebraska drug law, allowing MD’s to prescribe it in Nebraska. The medication is used for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in patients two years of age and older. This is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana (CBD). The bill also added certain illegal street drugs to our state drug schedules, such as certain “designer” fentanyl opioids. As manufacturers of illegal street drugs cook up new formulas of dangerous drugs, we need to statutorily update our schedules to ensure that law enforcement can get those new and hazardous drugs off the streets.
As we finish up the month of April and soon shift to May, floor debate over important issues have consumed our state legislature. At the moment, we are focusing on state budget issues and personal priority bills. The state constitution requires the legislature to pass a state budget every two years and I am determined to find ways that would help move our state forward in a fiscally responsible manner.
My priority bill, LB 644, is scheduled to go before the legislature for continued debate. Our office has been tirelessly working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with numerous interested associations across the state to help make this bill better. Currently, there are additional amendments attached to LB 644 that will be heard during the next round of debate to help incorporate this bill into local subdivision’s procedures in a less burdensome manner. The efforts to advance the promotion of transparency in property taxes continues and I look forward to further discussions.
Recently, we spent all day discussing and debating Senator Briese’s bill, LB 408. This bill would limit the annual increase in property taxes for all political subdivisions to three percent. If passed, a much-needed cap on levy increases for political subdivisions would help control government spending. I supported this bill because the people of Nebraska are demanding property tax relief and we, as a body, need to answer that call. Unfortunately, LB 408 did not pass. While this is frustrating for me, I am hoping that the members of the legislature will be able to put differences aside and come together for property tax relief before the end of the session.
Lastly, Senator Halloran introduced LR 14, a resolution for the convention of states. As a co-sponsor, I support this resolution. Washington D.C. is out of control and Senator Halloran’s introduction of this resolution is a step in the right direction. Fourteen states have passed a convention of states resolution already and constitutionally, thirty-four are needed. Senator Halloran looked to make Nebraska the fifteenth.
The convention of states would bring state legislatures together with the purpose of creating checks and balances for the federal government by proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The amendments would then be sent to be considered by each state individually. If thirty-eight state legislatures, or two thirds of the states, vote for the amendments, the Constitution will be amended. The resolution limits these amendments to the following topics: limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, term limits for Congress and other government officials, and adding fiscal restraints.
At the forefront of calling for a convention of states is the rising problem of national debt. Federal government spending is unchecked and is a threat to our economy. Kentucky Congressman Tom Massie states that, “roughly 25% of all of the debt accumulated in the United States has been incurred in the last twelve months”. For this reason, I support Senator Halloran’s LR 14 to call for a convention of states.
The Nebraska Legislature continues its efforts by having all-day floor debate. The Legislature has been filled with bills spanning from broadband access to the rural communities, approving gubernatorial appointments on numerous boards across the state to budget talks.
One bill in particular that I had a special interest in was LB106. This bill increases the fees on drivers’ record requests by 250% to raise money over ten years to update the DMV’s outdated software system. The current system hasn’t been updated since the 1980’s and it is sorely needed. This is a good bill, but there was one problem that I attempted to fix by bringing AM 586.
The issue I have with LB 106 is that the increased fees, which would cost insurance companies and taxpayers over $4 million a year, are not scheduled to go back to their original cost after the system has been updated. The amendment would have reduced these fees after ten years and would have required that the DMV report to the Legislature every two years on their progress. This would have saved taxpayers money while holding the government accountable. It is both fiscally responsible and good government.
Unfortunately, and to my surprise, my amendment was voted down. This is the frustration part of being at the Capitol. When we have a chance to prevent the government from taking more of our hard-earned money, sometimes other agendas prevail. I want my constituents and the people of Nebraska to know that regardless, I will continue to be diligent and resourceful with my time here for you and your family.
This week was filled with full discussions on the Nebraska budget and how state funding will be appropriated across the state. Along with numerous other state senators, I have heard loud and clear that the citizens of Nebraska are sick and tired of high property taxes. Nebraska has one of the highest property tax rates in the country and this issue has been at the forefront of every legislator’s minds. My tax bill, Legislative Bill 644, advanced on the floor of the legislature out of general file, making it one step closer to becoming a law. I will be discussing this more in a future column.
Lastly, I hope everyone had a very happy Easter last weekend. It was a time of reflection of what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ did on that cross for us over 2000 years ago. It was a time to celebrate with family and focus on God’s glory and betterment and all He has done for us.
The Nebraska Legislature continues with all day floor debate, discussing and voting on countless bills. Speaker Hilger’s office announced their priority bills and I believe he has chosen some great topics critical to Nebraska that will receive a total vote after much deliberation on the floor of the legislature.
I want to acknowledge with sincerity the sad news of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s husband passing away a couple of weeks ago. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Stothert family during these difficult times. I applaud Speaker Hilger’s efforts this week in bringing LR 73, a resolution to extend sympathy to the family of Dr. Joseph Clarke Stothert and recognize his dedication to the practice of medicine in the Omaha, Nebraska community.
A couple more of my co-sponsored bills came to the floor this week and were debated thoroughly with my full support. The Revenue Committee, chaired by Senator Linehan, informed me that my priority bill, LB644, passed through the committee with a 7-0 vote. I appreciate the time and patience they gave my office with this bill. As I have mentioned before, this is my property tax bill that would require specific political subdivisions to send a postcard to taxpayers and hold public hearings before raising property taxes. These political subdivisions would then have to explain to the public why they want to raise property taxes, enforcing transparency. Nebraskans deserve to know why their property taxes are being raised and these public hearings would allow them to be a part of the conversation.
Lastly, I wanted to address the updated health education standards draft released by the Nebraska Department of Education. I have received numerous letters from my constituents in Washington, Burt, and Cuming counties and I have to say, I stand with Governor Ricketts on this issue. The Nebraska Department of Education should scrap this proposal as it would, in my opinion, only lead to increased confusion. It is totally inappropriate for our school system and would force our teachers to discuss sensitive topics that should be held at the student’s home with their parents.
I want to give everyone a breakdown of what these standards would be. New curriculum would promote the discussion of genitalia, define sexual orientation and identify “trusted adults” to whom students can ask questions about gender identity and sexual orientation in our elementary schools. The students would need to distinguish between sex assigned at birth and gender identity, explaining how they may or may not differ. They would also learn the “gender spectrum” and “define and explain differences between cisgender, transgender, gender non-binary, gender-expansive, and gender identity”. In middle school, students would be taught how to define vaginal, oral, and anal sex while in high school, they will be directed to agencies that provide abortions and emergency contraception. For more information, you may go to https://www.education.ne.gov/healthed/health-education-standards-development/
Again, I feel these new standards are wildly inappropriate and have no place in our public school systems, especially our elementary and middle schools. Nebraska’s parents and their children are already bombarded with so much; these issues should be left up to the parents to decide when they discuss these issues with their children, not some arbitrary government department forcing radical changes on our public school systems.
Out of the ten bills I introduced, four have made it out of committee and I am patiently waiting for the rest to be voted on so I can bring them to the floor of the legislature for a complete discussion.
As much as there are some legislative bills that I support and will fight for, I will equally fight against bad bills on the floor. One of those bills is LB 88, which claims to protect the free speech of student journalists and student media advisers. Under this bill, student journalists in high school will be able to print articles and stories without administrative oversight, leading to our school newspapers to be more like a blog on social media. We want to give our students the ability to question and investigate in order to learn about the honorable profession of journalism. However, I feel there should also be some form of control as to what is published. For this reason, and others, I did not support this bill.
In addition to the ten bills that I introduced, I have also co-sponsored 28 other bills. One I am especially proud of is LB 387 introduced by Senator Brewer which will exempt military retired pay from Nebraska income tax. The purpose of this bill is to attract retiring military veterans eligible for a military pension to settle in Nebraska after they are discharged from the service. This may keep Nebraska from losing these potential citizens to other states with friendlier tax policy. This change also helps demonstrate to the federal Department of Defense that Nebraska is a “military friendly state” whish helps protect the future continuation of active military installations in Nebraska.
Last week was a busy week for our office in Lincoln, filled with meetings with lobbyists, constituents, industry leaders, and even my fellow senators. But no matter how busy we may be, I still encourage everyone in my district to call my office or stop by in person for any updates or assistance you may need.
The second week of March has transitioned the Nebraska Legislature into full debate mode. The Committee hearings have ended and we are now in the full swing of debating the bills that have made it out of all 14 committees. Out of the ten bills I have introduced and the 28 bills I have cosponsored, it will be an interesting couple of months to see which bills will get to the floor for a full debate.
Last week, I decided to make my tax bill, LB644, my personal priority bill. I feel very passionately about tax reform for Nebraskans and the Truth-In-Taxation bill will be a great step in the right direction. It is a great transparency bill that requires your local taxing authority the opportunity to explain to the voters of Nebraska why they want to raise your taxes. Other states, like Utah, have passed similar legislation and it has had a long lasting impact on their states property tax structure.
Additionally, I have asked Speaker Mike Hilgers to prioritize LB437, my 2nd amendment bill. As we are waiting for it to come out of the Judiciary committee we will continue to work together on numerous other bills such as LB 296, LB 437, and LB 301. While those bills are being considered, I continue to work with my colleagues on considering amendment changes to bills, including LB106, to make sure our government is being fiscally responsible with your money.
Lastly, I have decided to send three more bills of mine to the Speakers office to be considered for consent calendar, which are bills that have little to no opposition. As the Legislature is shifting, I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass comprehensive bills that will benefit Nebraskans. I encourage all my constituents to reach out to our office for any updates on bills or the legislative process.
On Wednesday, March 3rd, I testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of my bill LB 173 which amends state statute concerning our conceal carry laws. This bill is important because it addresses a grey area in our state’s gun laws. Back in 2016, there was a situation that made it to the Nebraska State Supreme Court regarding a gentleman who was arrested for simply transporting a weapon without a concealed carry permit. Currently under state statue, a Nebraska citizen could be arrested for buying a gun at Cabela’s and transporting it safely from the store to their vehicle. Essentially, my bill addresses this issue and updates the outdated statute so it now becomes legal.
The Speaker of the Legislature, Senator Mike Hilgers, continues to prepare the senators for full floor debate as we are into our third month of the 2021 session. The first two months of session is more the “listening phase” as testifiers from around the state speak on bills that were introduced. Hearings in all fourteen committees are now winding down though and certain bills are brought to a vote. If voted out of committee, legislative bills then move to the floor for full debate. The next few months will be the “debating phase” as senators discuss the bills on the floor to see which will eventually become law.
The last week of February was the home stretch for committee hearings for the first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature. Speakers Mike Hilgers was preparing the senators for full floor debate as we approached the month of March. I am very appreciative of the measures he has taken as Speaker of the Legislature to ensure that we are all keeping safe and sensible during these tumultuous times.
This week, we finished up our hearings in both the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Committees. We will be hearing no further introduced bills as we will vote in committee to see which bills will continue to the floor for full debate. Monday was the last day for Business and Labor Committee to meet and hear final testimony on the last few bills left before the committee votes to send them to the floor. It has been a great honor to serve as the Chairman of the Business and Labor Committee. I look forward to floor debate and how I can continue to serve my district better each day.
My bill, LB 436, has been voted out of the Health and Human Services Committee unanimously and will go to the floor. I greatly appreciate the work they have done and I’m glad we were able to advance this bill. This bill will give a section of our healthcare workers, athletic trainers, a broader scope of practice to those who can and will benefit from their training and experience.
Additionally, I want to thank all of my constituents from District 16. I have received so many emails covering so many issues both federally and locally. I always encourage any constituent to reach out to my office as we love to be of assistance to the amazing people of Washington, Burt, and Cumming Counties.
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