NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Lydia Brasch

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov

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

NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE TO HOLD PUBLIC HEARING ON FINANCING OPTIONS FOR GAME AND PARKS COMMISSION
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

District 16 State Senator Lydia Brasch, Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, wants to inform citizens of a public interim hearing scheduled tomorrow, Wednesday, December 11 addressing Legislative Resolution 205. LR 205 was introduced by Senator Bill Avery as an interim study to examine the mission and financing options of the Game and Parks Commission as authorized by current law. “This is an opportunity for citizens to express their views and suggest alternatives for State Park Funding. We have received calls, emails, letters and inquiries regarding future funding for our State Parks,” Senator Brasch states.

The resolution and hearing provides a means of gathering more information regarding Avery’s Legislative Bill 362, which, according to the committee statement, “would eliminate the permit that Nebraska residents are now required to purchase for entry into state parks and would place a $7 registration fee on certain motor vehicles to replace the revenue from the permit fees. The bill would provide open access to state parks for all Nebraska residents, and would provide a revenue stream to be used for repairs, updates and maintenance of state park facilities. Non-residents would still be required to purchase park entry permits.”

Citizens in Washington, Burt, and Cuming counties have expressed both opposition to and support of replacing a park entry fee with a vehicle registration fee. All those interested in the outcome of the issue are encouraged to attend the public hearing to be held:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 – 1:00 p.m.
State Capitol, Room 1525
1445 K Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
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For more information: Joe Neuhaus                                          FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Office: 402-471-2728
Email: jneuhaus@leg.ne.gov

SENATOR LYDIA BRASCH TO HOLD DISTRICT 16 TOWN HALL MEETINGS

Friday, November 22, 2013

District 16 State Senator Lydia Brasch will host town hall meetings to provide a legislative update, discuss legislation, and listen to the thoughts of citizens in Washington, Burt, and Cuming counties. All meetings will take place Friday, November 22, 2013. Senator Brasch is also extending invitations to state agency and federal field representatives to discuss new information and answer frequently asked questions by District 16 constituents.* Senator Brasch looks forward to hearing from constituents and encourages all interested citizens to attend.

Washington County:
10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Blair City Hall, City Council Chambers
218 South 16th Street, Blair, NE
*Nebraska Department of Roads Project Manager, Rich Zelensky, will be in attendance to provide an update on highway improvement projects in the area.

Burt County:
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Burt County Courthouse Conference Room, 1st Floor
11 North 13th Street, Tekamah, NE

Cuming County:
4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
West Point Municipal Building, City Council Chamber
444 South Main Street, West Point, NE

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Week of June 10th

June 10th, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update

The legislature adjourned Sine Die (Latin for “without day”) on Wednesday, bringing our ninety-day session to a close. Our closing ceremonies included addresses from Governor Dave Heineman and Speaker Greg Adams. The governor highlighted tax-cutting legislation that he had signed, such as my priority bill LB296, which will keep more of your hard-earned tax dollars in your pocket. Speaker Adams summarized the session noting that the Unicameral had passed roughly about the same number of bills as in other sessions over the past few years.

While no new bills will be introduced or passed for the next 7 months, the legislature continues its work during the interim. Many interim studies have been introduced by senators, including one that our office introduced to study the Papio-Missouri NRD. The tax commission created by the legislature will spend the next several months studying Nebraska’s tax code. The study will conclude with a tax summit to talk about the future of Nebraska’s system of taxation. The Water Funding Task Force will also spend time over the interim to develop a list of priority programs and projects to meet the goals of water sustainability in our state.

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of meeting the mayor-elect of Omaha, Jean Stothert, at an open house at the Capitol in Lincoln. On Thursday and Friday our office was visited by representatives from Girls and Boys State from all over our district including Oakland, Lyons, Bancroft, West Point, Tekamah, Blair, and other communities. These programs continue to do a fabulous job of educating our state’s future leaders on the importance of civic involvement and the functions of government. On Saturday, I visited Blair for the Gateway to the West celebration and had an opportunity to greet many of you during the parade and afterwards a barbeque.

This week, I am excited to announce that I have been appointed to serve on the Energy, Transportation, and Agriculture Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) for the 2013-2014 biennium. According to their mission statement, NCSL serves as a national bipartisan organization that serves legislators and staffs in all 50 states by providing research and technical assistance for policymakers. NCSL provides opportunities for policymakers to collaborate at a national level to bring new ideas back to their states to help shape policy based on results achieved in other states.

With the close of session, it is important to remember that our District 16 office is still open every work day. If you let us know when you plan to visit, we will be happy to make arrangements for a Capitol tour. Please contact my office if you have policy questions or meeting requests. During the interim, I will be spending my time visiting our District 16 communities, and I hope to see you on the road! Until then, please feel free to contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,

Senator Lydia Brasch

Week of June 3rd

June 3rd, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update

The nearly daily rain showers have been a blessing to us as our moisture profiles continue to refill after last year’s drought. The Memorial Day service I attended in Fort Calhoun was very moving. It is my hope that you will take the time to review General John Logan’s proclamation of the first Decoration Day in 1868. His words commemorate fallen Americans so powerfully: “What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes?”

This week, the legislature debated several measures introduced to override budget vetoes by Governor Dave Heineman. The budget passed by the legislature represents about a 5% increase in spending. The governor vetoed several million dollars of spending. The legislature as a whole voted to override a number of, but not all, the governor’s vetoes including funding for the Omaha Learning Community and public advocacy legal aid. Even though our state has carefully managed your tax dollars the last several years, we must continue to be prudent about what programs receive funding. Future budgets should continue to use fiscal restraint.

This Monday, I had the honor of attending a bill signing ceremony for my priority bill, LB296, which increases the limits on deductions for contributions to the Nebraska College Savings plan. Governor Heineman signed the legislation into law, which will take effect in January 2014. This legislation not only keeps your hard-earned money in your pocket, but it also helps Nebraskans plan ahead so that our children and grandchildren can have a quality college, vocational, or technical education. In a time when college costs continue to rise, families need additional tools so that they can achieve financial preparedness by the time their children are ready to attend college.

A couple of brief congratulations are in order this week. Wisner-Pilger deserves accolades for their outstanding performance in state track and field where three students took home gold medals. Jerrica Tietz of Bancroft-Rosalie recently won the 2013 Cogressional Art Competition sponsored by members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jerrica’s artwork will be exhibited for the next twelve months in Washington, D.C. It is exciting to see the talents of our District 16 students on display!

With only a couple of session days left, I am already making plans to visit business, libraries, and other organizations around the district during the interim. Please contact my office if you have suggestions or invitations for tours. Even after session ends, I encourage everyone to visit our office during the summer. To set up a meeting or time to visit, please contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,

Senator Lydia Brasch

Week of May 27th

May 28th, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update

Memorial Day serves as a day of remembrance for our fallen soldiers as Nebraskans and all Americans honor the great sacrifice by our heroes and loves ones left behind. We are the land of the free because of the brave. This long weekend is a time for families to reunite with loved ones to remember our heroes at their final place of rest. Our deepest gratitude to those who have served and continue to serve our country.

This week, the legislature fulfilled its constitutional duty to pass a balanced biennial budget. This budget provides for additional state aid to our public schools and contains the funding commitment to roads made by Senator Deb Fischer’s LB84 back in 2011. This commitment will continue for several years and will help complete portions of our state’s expressway system.

As mentioned last week, the legislature discussed a possible repeal of the local option sales tax passed just last year. Senator Ernie Chambers introduced repeal legislation which did not make it out of committee, and subsequently offered similar amendments that failed to pass twice. In a third attempt, Senator Chambers successfully offered an amendment that limited a repealed the local option sales tax for the city of Omaha, leaving the remainder of the state unaffected.

On Tuesday, the Unicameral continued discussion on tax credits for wind energy developers in Nebraska. Two bills were introduced this year to provide tax incentives for wind energy. LB402 would have provided more incentive for investors to do business with Nebraskans. Ultimately, however, the body elected to pass LB104 which still provides tax incentives which have the potential to result in significant investments by developers. Senator Mello, introducer of LB402, requested that his bill be held over until the 2014 session.

The Unicameral debated LB507, the Step Up to Quality Child Care Act introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln on Wednesday. This legislation creates a rating system and website for day cares to provide parents with information on childcare providers in Nebraska. Providers that receive a large amount of public dollars will be required to participate, but otherwise participation is voluntary. Currently, providers in Nebraska receive over $90 million a years in public assistance.

Last Friday, a legislative recess day, I enjoyed the opportunity to plant trees with Black Hills Energy and students from Beemer Elementary. Saturday, I attended the grand opening of the Bob Eckdahl Campgrounds at the Summit Lake State Recreation Area. It was a fun day that included free park entrance and fishing for families from the area. Thank you to the Burt County Recreation Preservation Committee for their hard work and hosting this event for communities!

As school winds down, fewer class groups have been visiting the Capitol. I encourage everyone to visit our office during the summer. Please contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,

Senator Lydia Brasch

Week of May 20th

May 20th, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update

The sun is shining and our agricultural producers have been in the fields working diligently this past week! The legislature completed day seventy-nine of the ninety-day session on Thursday, as senators voted to advance the two-year budget to the final round of debate.

This week, the Unicameral spent almost two days debating the LB543 introduced by Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha which would repeal the death penalty. Chambers has introduced similar legislation over 30 times during his tenure as a senator. Proponents of the legislation argued that the death penalty has proven costly to the State of Nebraska because of the numerous appeals. During debate on the legislation, I had the opportunity to remind my colleagues about how the death penalty is only applied for the most heinous criminals. After lengthy discussion, the legislation failed to receive the necessary votes for advancement. It is highly likely that similar legislation will be introduced again in the future.

Senator Chambers also introduced an amendment this week to repeal the local option sales tax adopted by an override of the governor’s veto last year. As you may recall, I opposed Senator Ashford’s legislation, which instated the option for this tax last year. During my tenure in the legislature, no taxpayer has ever asked me to increase their taxes. It is important for our state to create a competitive tax environment for our businesses in rural Nebraska. Holding the line on taxes is key for rural economic development so that we can keep good-paying jobs and vibrant businesses here in rural Nebraska.

Over the past year, Omaha has elected not to utilize the local option sales tax, meaning their sales tax rate remains at 7%. Should communities adjacent to Omaha elect to increase their sales tax, they run the risk of increasing the amount of boarder bleed they already experience. During the interim, the legislature is looking at forming a tax commission to study Nebraska’s tax code and review our 50-year-old system of taxation. In principle, I support efforts to broaden the tax base and lower overall rates to help stimulate growth and increase resources for our municipalities.

On Tuesday, the legislature moved to override the governor’s veto of the legislation yesterday. Benefits for teacher’s during and after their service is important attracting the best teacher’s to our rural schools. This legislation only changes benefits for new hires. It is also important, however, for the state to pursue long-term solutions to our retirement programs and the comprehensive fiscal impact. LB553 provides a solution for the short term, but assumes an 8% growth rate that is unlikely to be realized and carries a cost to the state of over $500 million in the next 25 years.

In the vote to override the governor’s veto of LB553, I did not support the override because I believe that the legislature needs to pursue long-term solutions that are equitable to both the teacher and the taxpayer. Concerns have been raised that LB553 did not accomplish this. It is clear, however, that the legislature must meet its statutory obligation to fully fund the retirement program in this biennial budget. The budget that I have supported on both general and select file does just that. It is important ensure the longevity of our state-funded retirement plan because it provides an exceptionally competitive benefit that helps attract great teachers to our communities.

This week, our office welcomed students from Oakland-Craig Elementary. We always enjoy opportunities to visit with our young constituents. They always bring eager faces and great questions. As always, please to contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,

Senator Lydia Brasch

Week of May 13th

May 13th, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update

Happy belated Mother’s Day and congratulations to our graduates! Spring is finally here, and planting is in full swing around District 16. In Lincoln this week, the Unicameral’s budget debate extended our hours even later than usual—debate continued past 11:00pm one of the nights! Debate on the budget has been lengthier than the recent past because of debate over how the legislature should handle increases in revenues. During debate, I spoke about the importance of remembering that the money in our state’s budget belongs to the people, and that whenever possible that money should be returned to the people when our revenues exceed expenses. During the debate, I supported an amendment to provide additional property tax relief, but unfortunately the amendment failed to pass.

On Monday, a Legislative Recess day, our office completed the final of our three legislative listening days with visits to West Point, Beemer and Wisner in Cuming County. Other recess day listening meetings were previously held in Washington and Burt Counties. It is important for our office to hear your thoughts and feedback on legislation first hand all year, but especially during these remaining fifteen days of session. Thank you to everyone who attended these meetings and to the hosts. A variety of views were expressed on pending legislation from education, property taxes, roads, wind energy and expanded Medicaid funding. It is important for our Unicameral to listen to the people of our state that we serve because they are our second house. If you can not come to the Capitol during our session, then we want to come to you.

This past Tuesday, Day 72 of our first session of the 103rd Legislature, our daily agenda began with general file debate on LB 553e, which provides for a change in the actuarial valuation of retirement systems and school employee retirement provisions. The legislature has seen extended debate over retirement plans for public servants as the Unicameral seeks solutions to pension shortfalls that are both fiscally responsible and fair to employees who have contributed to these plans for decades. The agendas for our subsequent work days on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday saw little change as the budget debate consumed most of our time.

On Wednesday, Bill Orr, Nebraska’s only “First Gentleman,” was laid to rest. The funeral service seemed very similar to our Unicameral where family and friends filled the church with people of differing political parties who sat side-by-side remembering and celebrating this man who has become a part of our state’s unique history. Rest in peace, Bill Orr, and our condolences to his family. Nebraskans will miss and remember him well.

This week, our office welcomed 4th grade students from Tekamah-Herman Elementary. These forty-two students asked great questions and filled the halls with their energy and excitement. It is always a joy to see our District 16 students in Lincoln. As always, please to contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,

Senator Lydia Brasch

Week of May 6th

May 6th, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update

The final eighteen session days remaining will pass quickly as crowds of eager young fourth graders from around District 16 continue to visit our capitol office. We plan to adjourn June 5th. The Unicameral continued work on legislation as my priority bill to increase deductions for qualified contributions to Nebraska college savings plans passed the second round of debate. The bill will have one final round of debate before the governor would have an opportunity to sign the bill. Additionally, LB500, legislation that I introduced to provide additional stipulations for safe bus stops, was sent to the governor’s desk this week without any opposition.

The legislature took up the Step Up to Quality Child Care Act this past week for debate before advancing it to select file. This legislation creates a rating system for daycares so that parents have good information to help them decide what daycare provider would best serve their child’s needs. This program is mandatory for childcare centers receiving over a quarter million dollars in childcare assistance. Taxpayers currently shoulder the bill for approximately $94 million worth of childcare assistance every year. It’s important for the protection of our kids and our tax dollars to make sure the facilities receiving these funds measure up to standards.

Debate also began on LB354, which reforms the Nebraska Corn Board, and provides accountability to the institution. Currently, the board is an appointed position. LB354 would provide for the election of the board members by producers and also allows for a refund to producers should desire one. Questions were raised over whether this institution should have the ability to adjust the fee it charges producers for its budget. Introducer Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill pointed out that there was a specified range that the fee must remain in, and that producers could choose to opt for a refund instead of participating in the program.

Last Friday, our office spent the day in Burt County conducting listening sessions in Tekamah, Oakland, and Decatur to hear concerns about pending legislation and constituent issues that could result in future legislation. These sessions covered a broad variety of topics ranging from renewable energy to Medicaid expansion. Attendees at the listening sessions expressed interest in exploring alternatives to expanding Nebraska’s Medicaid program, including possible insurance reform to address the rising coast of healthcare.

On Sunday, Nebraska bid farewell to our state’s only First Gentleman, Bill Orr, husband to former Governor Kay Orr. His sense of humor and service to our state will be remembered for years to come. Lee and I extend our deepest sympathies to Governor Orr and her family in this time of sorrow.

This week, the legislature will take up the budget put forward by the Appropriations Committee. As mentioned last week, spending looks like it will increase by about 5 percent. I will be listening carefully as the committee lays out its rationale for additional spending. I hope that part of the revenue increase will be transferred to the cash fund. If you have questions about the budget or state spending, please contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,

Senator Lydia Brasch

Join Senator Lydia Brasch for a Community Coffee!

Friday, May 3, 2013
9:00am – 10:00am
Right Next Door
409 S 13th Street, Tekamah

11am – 12pm
The Green Lantern Steakhouse
653 Broadway, Decatur

2pm – 3pm
Cafe O’ Specialty Coffeehouse
201 N. Oakland, Oakland

Monday, May 6, 2013
9am – 10am
Chef’s Corner West Point Coffee
243 S Lincoln St, West Point

10:30am – 11:30am
Beemer Cafe Coffee
218 Main St, Beemer

12pm – 1pm
Coachman Steakhouse & Lounge Townhall
507 E Ave East, Wisner

Questions? Call David Slattery at 402-471-2728.

Week of April 29th

April 29th, 2013

Weekly Legislative Update

Day 68 of our 90-day long session starts this week. Things continue to move very quickly in our office even when lengthy ongoing debate on the floor of the legislature prevails. Even though topics such as state aid and retirement fund changes continue to absorb large amounts of time, the legislature was able to complete a second round of debate on consent calendar, including LB500 which I introduced to help clarify requirements for placing stop signs at school bus stops for the safety of our school children who rely on school bus transportation.

Debate over LB407, also known as state aid to schools, ground to a halt last week as rural senators tried to defend our tax dollars from flowing disproportionately towards urban districts. Unfortunately, several of our school districts do not receive state aid. Large school districts are the largest recipients of state aid, however, it is crucial that our small school districts continue to make the case for equalization aid. Senators temporarily came to an impasse after a couple of amendments failed to received the 25 votes they needed to pass. The bill was removed from the agenda so that additional adjustments could be made, and eventually passed the first round of debate by the end of the week.

We also completed general file debate on LB140 which redefines the term “airport hazard area” to include approach, operation, transition, and turning zones. This change is important because it precisely defines which areas surrounding an airport are subject to airport zoning regulations. Our original airport zoning laws which were passed in 1945 do not make accommodation for changes in technology and aircraft design, so this update is crucial for airports in our district, especially Blair, which has faced some challenges with current regulations based on the old statutes.

This week, the appropriations committee will likely advance a budget that the full body will begin to debate shortly. Right now, it looks like state spending will increase right around 5 percent. A few days ago, we received notice from the Department of Revenue that the state received a one-time bump of $125 million in additional tax receipts at the end of 2012. This very large, one time increase to net personal income tax estimates that is not a recurring event.

According to the Nebraska Department of Revenue: “Starting in mid-April, in conjunction with final tax payments for calendar 2012, it became apparent there would be a huge influx of revenue, most likely in relation to capital gains liabilities incurred in 2012.  You may recall that Congress acted very late on some tax related legislation, creating uncertainty as to continued (relatively low) preferential tax treatment of capital gains in 2012.  In all likelihood, it appears many taxpayers took gains to lock in the lower tax rate, rather than risk losing the tax advantage if Congress failed to act to extend the favorable tax treatment to 2013.” These tax dollars should be returned to the hard-working taxpayers of Nebraska or moved to the rainy day cash reserve fund for a time of future need.

In the next 10 days, I will be spending time in Burt and Cuming counties holding listening meeting town halls with constituents about issues of concern to them and to hear thoughts on pending legislation. If you have time, please join me at one or more of the following stops listed on this blog.

As always, if you are able to join me at one of my town halls or need more immediate assistance, please feel free to continue to contact me or my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,

Senator Lydia Brasch

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16
Room #1022
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2728
Email: lbrasch@leg.ne.gov
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