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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
Greetings to all in Legislative District 16 and the surrounding area. On August 13th we officially adjourned the 2020 legislative session and though it was only my second session as your senator, it was a session unlike any other. When we first convened in January of this year no one could have predicted a worldwide pandemic would change our lives so much in such a short amount of time. After breaking in March we reconvened mid-July to finish the final days of this 60-day session with a very different feel than when we started.
The legislative floor, relatively untouched since the completion of the building in 1932, was outfitted with plexiglass panels between rows of senators and legislative staff was not allowed on the floor except in only a few circumstances. Lobbyists who typically stand in the rotunda were nowhere to be found and some senators were quarantined to the balcony at times due to exposure to others who had tested positive for COVID. Tempers ran high for much of the second half of the session and too much taxpayer time was taken up discussing emotions and hurt feelings. The legislature is a place to come to work for the people, and in that role, there is little space to take things personally when another senator disagrees with you. Our priority is to represent our constituents and I’m grateful to be your senator.
Though the session was marked with temper flares and extensive safety requirements, we were able to accomplish a few things. Through LB 1107, which was passed on a 41-4 vote, Nebraskans were given some measure of property tax relief and the message was sent to businesses around the country that we want them here. Though LB 1107 does return a portion of your property taxes paid for schools by way of a refundable income tax credit, I remain convinced that our school funding formula needs an overhaul and that comprehensive tax reform of our entire tax code is the only way to accomplish this. This is a step in the right direction, but there is much more work to do.
I introduced six different bills in 2020, of which three were incorporated into other bills, passed, and signed into law. Over the past two years I served on the Agriculture, Business and Labor, and Health and Human Services Committees and enjoyed these committees as they fit my skills and experience. I’ve not decided if I will look to serve on different committees over the next two years or continue in my current roles.
Another major accomplishment this session was the passing of LB 814, a bill introduced by Senator Geist of Lincoln that will prohibit the practice of dismemberment abortions in Nebraska. I spoke often in favor of the bill and against the inhumane practice of dismemberment abortions. Our office received more phone calls, emails, and other contacts about this bill than any other during the session. As a cosigner of the bill, I was very pleased to see it across the finish line.
As I have traveled around the district and talked to many constituents about what is important to them, two topics have consistently been mentioned that I am glad to see get some attention this session: the over-taxing of military retirement benefits and rural broadband development. During this session, we passed LB153, a bill that would exempt 50% of military retirement benefits from the state income tax. I was a proud Co-Sponsor of this bill and happy to be fighting for tax relief not just for our military, but for all Nebraskans. Another bill, LB 996, is a bill designed to improve broadband access to rural and other underserved areas in Nebraska passed as well. Getting proper internet access to underserved rural areas in Nebraska is paramount in improving not just the lives and financial stability of Nebraskans, but improving economic growth as well.
Over the short interim, I’ll continue to work on priorities for the next session and would love to hear from you about what you think we should accomplish in the Legislature. I may also write columns from time to time as issues arise. As always you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you another year.
This column covers legislative days 44 through 48.
Days 44 through 48 of this 60-day legislative session were full of heated debate, name-calling,
and more than enough drama. What was missing, however, was real, tangible action on property
tax relief for those in District 16, the region, and the state. Our first day back in the Capitol since
a break due to COVID in March was on Monday, July 20th. We’ll finish the remaining days of
the session and adjourn on August 13th, hopefully with more progress than took place the first
week. My focus over the next few weeks remains property tax relief and helping retirement
homes that have been hit especially hard by the COVID shutdown. I’ll continue to fight for
those in District 16.
My office received a great number of calls and emails in favor of LB 814, a bill that would
prohibit the practice of dismemberment abortions in the state of Nebraska. LB 814 did not
receive enough votes in the Judiciary Committee, so the bill’s sponsor, Senator Geist of Lincoln,
brought a motion to “pull” the bill from committee and bring it to the floor for debate. This “pull
motion” is well within the rules of our legislature and utilized often. I spoke in favor of the
motion to “pull” the bill from committee, as did many of my colleagues. However, eight
senators voted against the motion, seven did not vote, and four were absent even though the
motion was scheduled well in advance. The motion was successful and the bill will be brought
to the floor for debate where senators will decide whether we’ll allow unborn babies to be pulled
apart limb from limb in our state. Thank you for those who called or emailed our office to show
your support for the bill – I will do everything in my power to make sure this bill advances into
law and this barbaric practice ends.
LB 1160, a bill that would change some portions of school funding in our state, and LB 720, a
business tax incentive bill have been tied together for most of this session. Both were debated
this past week although votes were taken on neither of the bills. As I’ve said before, property tax
relief remains my number one priority in Lincoln, and action must be taken this session. LB
1160 and LB 720 should both come for votes this session to deliver property tax relief that is
On Friday, July 24th we adjourned early due to escalating tensions and unruly debate. Three
senators began an argument that had little to do with actual legislation and much more to do with
hurt feelings and name-calling. This sort of child-like behavior is what I’ve found to be most
disappointing since I was elected as your Senator. I came to Lincoln to get stuff done, to
represent District 16, and to fight for your freedoms. I did not come to Lincoln to listen to
senators argue about whose feelings have been hurt the most. We need to get back to work and
pass legislation that will make life easier for Nebraskans across the state; and right now that
means property tax relief and support for those who need it most, including nursing homes and
As always you can contact me at email@example.com or contact the office to speak with my
Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. To read all
introduced legislation please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the
session when available at netnebraska.org.
Greetings to all in LD 16 and the surrounding area. The Legislature will reconvene on July 20th after a break since mid-March due to COVID-19. When it does, the situation will have changed dramatically in some ways, and in some ways stayed the same. Let’s review a bit where we are at.
Property taxes remain my top priority along with ensuring that we are being responsible with taxpayer money during our COVID response. There’s been plenty of media coverage discussing how any property tax solution this year is tied to a business incentive package. Our current business incentive program is set to expire at the end of the year, giving the business community plenty of urgency to make sure something gets done when session reconvenes from July 20th to August 13th. I agree that a property tax solution and business incentive package are tied together. Currently, it does not seem like there are enough votes to pass either, but that may change. At the very least, I think these bills should come to a vote.
Of course, plenty has changed since we last met in the Capitol as a legislature. COVID-19 has changed our economy and our way of life more than we ever thought possible. Protests and riots have taken place throughout the country, and many Nebraskans are unsure about what their future looks like. Nebraska has led well through the pandemic with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Our people have too much grit to be kept down. Farmers and ranchers still need to put crops in the field and work with their livestock, no pandemic is going to change that.
The remaining days of the session could go by quickly with little distraction, though that’s unlikely. It’s more likely that we’ll take up the majority of the session discussing social issues and emotional topics. Let me be clear, those issues do matter, but if Nebraskans needed tax relief before the pandemic they need it even more now. The next tax forecast will be officially released during the first week of the session, but it sounds like our state tax revenues have not dropped as much as expected.
The floor of the legislature has been fitted with plexiglass partitions and the practices have been changed significantly. No staff members can be on the floor with senators except for specific situations and the balconies will be closed to the public. Like practices on the floor of the legislature, the Capitol has changed some of its visitor policies to accommodate social distancing and safety concerns. If you’re planning a visit to the Capitol, please contact our office so that we can discuss some of those changes with you.
I’ll write weekly columns while we’re back in session to keep you updated. As always you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. To read all introduced legislation please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the session when available at netnebraska.org
Instead of writing about the week’s happenings at the Capitol, I wanted to take some time and update constituents of the region on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting this session currently and how it may continue to affect the session. I’m writing this as of March 16th, 2020.
We ended last week by voting to pass the budget on its first round of debate. As you may know, each bill must pass through three rounds of voting: General File, Select File, and Final Reading. Our state budget now sits on Select File. Speaker Scheer announced the potential for a break in the session depending on how the COVID-19 virus spread throughout the state. We adjourned under the impression that we would be back this week, but that a break may be possible.
Over the weekend senators were updated about a community spread case in Douglas County, which then triggered further discussion and debate about a break in the session. On Sunday, March 15th, senators were notified of an upcoming announcement and advised not to travel to Lincoln until after the announcement. Today, March 16th, Speaker Scheer in concert with Senator Mike Hilgers who serves as Chair of the Executive Committee, announced a break in the session. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends gatherings be limited to 10 or fewer people and Governor Ricketts recommended the same. Our leadership decided it was in the best interest of the state to abide by this recommendation and “pause” our session until further notice.
At this time I am unsure when we may be returning to the Capitol for business. We’ve been advised that senators may be called in for an emergency appropriation if further funds are needed to prepare for or combat the spread of this virus, but we are unsure if or when that may be. My staff is currently working from home, but is available by email and will be checking the phones regularly. We will still be available to the constituents of Legislative District 16.
For the time being, please “like” or follow my Facebook page for the most up-to-date information regarding changes in the Legislature and other news. I will try to post important information to that page as it comes in. This is certainly a strange time right now in world history. We all have a part to play in limiting the spread of this virus and keeping its impact to a minimum. I hope that it will pass over quickly and that we will be able to return to normal life; visiting our local restaurants, businesses, and returning to our seasonal and community traditions. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay informed with accurate information. Thank you all for your calm approach to this odd time in all of our lives. I’m happy to serve you.
As always you can contact me at email@example.com or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. To read all introduced legislation please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the session when available at netnebraska.org
Greetings to all in Legislative District 16 and the surrounding region. Only six weeks are remaining in this 2020 legislative session, and although some substantial bill work was done this last week there remain many heavy lifts for the session. Property taxes, business incentives, and a proposed multi-billion investment into an all-hazard response facility project with UNMC have yet to be decided upon.
Last Monday I attended the annual Chiropractic Physician Association Reception. As the only Chiropractic Physician in the legislature, I have to admit this reception is my favorite of the many we are invited to each year. I’m thankful for the work of chiropractic physicians throughout the state who provide preventative and rehabilitative care to Nebraska’s residents, keeping them healthy, able to attend work and spend meaningful time with their families.
Since I was elected and sworn into office, one of the primary focuses of constituents has been the improvement of roads around legislative district 16. Last Spring’s floods put even more pressure on the infrastructure of the region, destroying entire highways, knocking out bridges, and uprooting families. I’ve worked hard to ensure our region has as much help as possible repairing the damage from the floods as well as the issues that existed before the flooding.
On March 5th I held a meeting with the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to discuss our infrastructure issues and to communicate the needs and desires of our residents. One area of focus was a proposed bypass in Blair to divert the increasing truck traffic resulting from the growth of Cargill’s campus. Kyle Schneweis, the NDOT Director agreed to meet with Blair leadership to discuss the proposed project and ways the state can facilitate or help with the process. This is an important step in providing safety and security to the city of Blair.
News continues to come in about the COVID-19 virus and its potential spread in Nebraska and around the country. I must repeat that proper personal hygiene is essential in slowing the spread and mitigating any effects it may have on people, especially those with weak immune systems. Washing your hands often, proper diet, and avoiding any unnecessary contact with others are the best ways to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the virus. I’ll keep the public updated with any information I have if the threat continues to grow. In the meantime, I hope all are staying safe, healthy, and that disruption to our everyday lives is as minimal as possible while we try to get a good hold on the current and future threat of this virus.
As always you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. To read all introduced legislation please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the session when available at netnebraska.org.
This column covers legislative days 29 through 32.
The end of February brought with it the end of committee hearings. Nebraska’s legislature is unique not only because it’s the only unicameral legislature in the nation, but because each and every bill introduced receives a public hearing where anyone can testify. We put in long hours and a whole lot of effort listening to each person who comes to testify about potential legislation that could impact their lives. I’m happy with the work we’ve done in the Agriculture, Business and Labor, and Health and Human Services Committees of which I’m a part of.
Two of my bills, LB 1212 and LB 1213, were the very last two bills heard in the Revenue Committee this year. LB 1212 and LB 1213 are both designed to bring long-lasting property tax relief. The first, LB 1212 would require political subdivisions with taxing authority to give notice of an increase in its tax asking. A tax asking is the total amount of revenue to be received from the taxation of property. This bill intends to cut through disinformation or confusion about property tax increases. What often happens is a political subdivision will keep its levy at its current rate, but because of rising valuations, it will gain a substantial amount of tax revenue from the year before. This is not the way the system is designed to work. If LB 1212 were to be passed the political subdivision would be required to give people notice of their real increase in taxes and allow them to come to a public hearing scheduled specifically to discuss that increase.
LB 1213 includes LB 1212 and goes even further. It is a true attempt at tax reform and a complete overhaul of how we finance K-12 public education. The bill would change each leg of the “three-legged stool”, property, income, and sales tax. It also would move Nebraska to a per-pupil funding model of public K-12 education where the money follows the student. Special allowances were put in place to account for higher costs of educating students with disabilities, students in poverty, students with high ability, and students learning English as a second language. Other special allowances were put in place for sparsity, transportation, and school consolidation costs. This is a forward-thinking bill and one that I’m very proud of its potential. Though it will not go anywhere this session, I’ll continue to work on the bill over the interim period for the next session.
We’re now officially over halfway through this 2020 legislative session and as committee hearings have wrapped up we’ve now moved on to full days of floor debate. From this point on in the session, we’ll focus on senator, committee, and speaker priority bills; each of which has been identified as being a matter of special emphasis by each senator or committee naming it a priority. Still yet to come this session are major discussions about property taxes/school finance, business incentives, prison overcrowding/sentencing reform, abortion, and pay for college athletes.
As always you can contact me at email@example.com or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. To read all introduced legislation please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the session when available at netnebraska.org.
This column covers legislative days 25 through 28.
Last week was a big week in your Unicameral Legislature. A number of well attended and highly controversial committee hearings took place and Friday, February 21st was the final day for senators to choose a priority bill for this session. The landscape for the remaining days of this 60-day session has been set and senators can now begin vetting the various priority bills and negotiating changes if needed to gain approval with the rest of the body. Judging by the priority bills chosen, it’ll be an exciting second half of the session!
I’ve chosen LB 1203, a bill introduced by Senator Linehan of Elkhorn, as my priority bill this session. When the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in 2017 it made changes that have affected state governments throughout the country. LB 1203 will correct one of the negative outcomes for Nebraska by fixing an unintended consequence of the federal tax code change. Since the change, Nebraska has been taxing foreign income by U.S. businesses at 100% – more than California or New York – and far more than the 0% that some of our neighboring states are taxing. This income is money the state should be more intentional about, and usually, if the Nebraska government is taxing more than California or New York, that means we are doing something wrong. Part of my job is to protect Nebraska taxpayers from being overtaxed – that includes businesses, individuals, families, or other organizations. I’m happy to prioritize this bill.
The Judiciary Committee heard LB 814 last week, a bill introduced and prioritized by Senator Geist of Lincoln, to prohibit dismemberment abortion. Dismemberment abortion is a practice in which the unborn child is literally ripped apart limb by limb and taken out of the mother. This is a monstrous practice that has no place in a civilized society. One testifier in support of the bill compared the procedure to a “tooth extraction.” We cannot allow the dehumanization of unborn children in Nebraska and I’m very proud to co-sponsor the bill. It faces a tough road ahead as the abortion lobby has a hold on many senators in your Unicameral Legislature, but with your support, we can get this bill passed.
Another bill heard in the Judiciary Committee was LB 816, introduced by Senator McCollister of Omaha. Hundreds of pro-second amendment advocates flooded the Capitol to an extent I have not seen in my time here. Two overflow rooms were set up for testifiers and others to wait in while the hearing took place. News coverage of the hearing was widespread and I received many emails and phone calls about the bill. LB 816 has not been prioritized and is unlikely to make it to floor debate this session.
This column covers legislative days 21 through 24.
We were able to get a considerable amount of work done in the Capitol last week by moving through quite a few bills that had remained on General File from the last session. These are bills that have not been designated as senator priority bills but did not receive floor debate last year. We continue to hold floor debate in the mornings, reserving the afternoon for committee hearings.
Thursday, February 13th was a big day for bills I introduced last session. LB 312 is a bill I introduced that would allow dental hygienists to perform procedures within their current scope of practice in rural health settings. I’m very excited about the opportunities this bill will create for hygienists to live where they want while still using the skills they learned through their specialized education. As I’ve said in past columns – we have a shortage of dental hygienists in rural Nebraska, and I think this bill will help.
LB 381, a bill I introduced last session to allow the state to use a “per-diem” reimbursement method for state employees passed on final reading. Moving to a per-diem method of expense reimbursement will save the taxpayer money by saving state workers time. It has been introduced in the past but always fell short of being implemented and I’m confident that this is the year it will be signed into law. This is a good step for the efficiency of government that I was happy to lead across the finish line.
I want to thank many of you for contacting our office last week. LB 58 is a bill introduced by Senator Morfeld of Lincoln that’s commonly referred to as a “red flag” law. This bill was recently voted out of committee onto General File and has the potential to become a priority bill. I’ve received more calls and emails about this bill than any other this session by far. Many of you are concerned about an infringement on our 2nd Amendment rights as established by the U.S. constitution. I am too. Others were concerned about what would happen when, as the bill requires, law enforcement would remove guns from an individual’s home. I am too. Please rest assured that I do not support LB 58 and will fight it on the floor if it comes to it. A related bill, LB 816 introduced by Senator McCollister of Omaha, has gotten a lot of attention from many of you as well. As with the “red flag” bill, if LB 816 comes to the floor I will fight it.
Looking ahead, February 21st is the last day to choose committee and senator priority bills; February 27th is the final day of committee hearings and full days of debate begin on March 3rd. As always you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. To read all introduced legislation please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the session when available at netnebraska.org
This column covers legislative days 17 through 20.
As of adjournment on Thursday, February 6th the 2020 Legislative session is one-third of the way to completion. Each biennium in the Unicameral is made up of one 90-day session and one 60-day session. The first twenty days of this session have flown by and most senators have not yet chosen a priority bill. Some may be waiting for their bills to make it through the hearing process where they are vetted by those who may want to testify. Others may be continuing bill work through amendments and other improvements.
My first bill of 2020 was heard in the Government, Military, and Veteran’s Affairs Committee on February 5th. LB 1211 would require that political subdivisions first identify the amount of money to be raised from property taxes before they set out to compose a budget. The intent of bringing this bill was to begin a conversation about the process of budgeting taxpayer money. In businesses and homes throughout the state, decision-makers first identify how much money they anticipate making over the next year. Most Nebraskans do not spend outside of their means and budget according to their expected annual income. I wanted to open up a discussion about how the budgeting practices of our local governments could be improved by adopting a similar mindset and approach toward the spending of taxpayer money.
On February 4th we discussed a constitutional amendment proposed by Speaker Scheer of Norfolk that would allow the Unicameral to be expanded from its current number of 49 senators up to a total of 55 as needed. There has been much debate about representation of rural vs urban priorities in the legislature and some senators felt a proposal like this would allow senators to be better representatives of the constituents in their district. Legislative District 16 includes just over 36,000 residents in three different counties, which is close to an average size district. However, it is fairly condensed compared to Legislative District 43, represented by Senator Brewer. District 43 includes about 38,000 residents in 13 different counties. Legislative District 14, represented by Senator Arch of Omaha, includes over 37,000 residents and is located in a small area of Omaha. One analysis of the proposal estimated the addition of more senators would result in each senator representing fewer than 30,000 residents, allowing them to be more responsive to the residents of their district. Though there are some potential positives to this proposal, I have significant concerns about the fiscal cost, among others. The proposal did not come to a vote.
Please continue to send in your thoughts on various bills as they come up in committee or for debate on the floor. My staff has enjoyed hearing from you on the phones as well. As always you can contact me at email@example.com or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. To read all introduced legislation please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the session when available at netnebraska.org.
This column covers legislative days 12 through 16.
Another busy week in the Unicameral Legislature ended along with the month of January this past Friday. After a full week of hearings in the Agriculture, Business and Labor, and Health and Human Services Committees, extensive floor debate and many lunch or evening events, I capped off the week by speaking at the Blair Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting. Senators receive a tremendous amount of information from a wide range of resources hoping to educate us about important issues. We hear from constituents like you reading this column and other individuals from around the state. We also are invited to events nearly every day of the week facilitated by organizations looking to spread the message of the work they do throughout the state.
This week I or my staff attended informational sessions sponsored by the National Guard Association, Habitat for Humanity, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, Voices for Children, the Nebraska Bankers, Nebraska Cattleman, American Bikers Aiming Towards Education, and the Blair Area Chamber of Commerce. These informational sessions are important functions of our roles as State Senators as we seek to be as informed as possible about how our decisions will affect all of Nebraska. Though I’ve developed specialties in the committees I’m a part of (listed above) I do appreciate learning more about other areas of policy. I especially appreciate hearing directly from constituents in Legislative District 16 when they come to Lincoln on their own, as a part of some of these organizations, or by contacting our office through phone or email.
Two of my bills, LB 312 and LB 381 came up for debate last week. Both bills were carried over after being introduced in the last session. LB 312 would expand opportunities for licensed dental hygienists, specifically in rural areas. We have a shortage of hygienists in rural Nebraska and my hope is this bill will expand access to care throughout the state. The bill was placed on Select File where we will discuss it once more before moving it on to Final Reading.
LB 381 would allow the state to move to a per-diem reimbursement process for state employees. It’s estimated this bill would save the state substantial amounts of time and money by streamlining efficiencies in process and allowing state employees to spend time on more impactful work duties. This bill was placed on Final Reading where it will be voted on one more time before being sent to the Governor for his signature.
We continue to move through bills in committee as efficiently as possible. I encourage you to come testify at a public hearing for any bill you think is of particular interest or importance to you. This 60-day session is going fast and senators have been encouraged to make decisions on choosing a priority bill for the session. I’ve narrowed down my potential choices and hope to make a decision soon.