Week twelve of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 50 through 53 of the 90-day session.
Last week was National Agriculture Week – a perfect opportunity for Nebraskans to recognize and celebrate their number one industry. In honor of National Agriculture Week, President Trump signed a proclamation on Tuesday declaring that day as National Agriculture Day. We want to congratulate Terry Rasmussen and his wife, Betty, for being named the Farm Family of the Year by the Fremont Area of Chamber of Commerce. Terry and Betty reside in District 16!
As Chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee I was invited to join Governor Ricketts and Greg Ibach, the Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, in traveling to Fremont, West Point, and Wakefield to meet with various agriculture groups and producers. We discussed the many opportunities for the future of agriculture, but also the many challenges that it faces. Governor Ricketts and Director Ibach continued traveling to an additional seven communities across the state, but I had to get back to Lincoln to fulfill my duties on the Revenue Committee. The two biggest challenges facing agriculture producers right now is trying to find a way to pay their exorbitantly high property tax bills, coupled with low commodity and livestock prices. This type of economic environment is threatening their sustainability; which is why I prioritized LB 338, the Agriculture Valuation Fairness Act.
LB 338 will change the method of valuation for agricultural land from the market based valuation method to the income-potential based valuation method. The bill has a provision that has a cap of 3.5 percent on statewide aggregate increases of agricultural land valuations. The Governor released a study which showed that, had this bill been enacted in 2007, valuations would be $60 billion less this year. Illustrated another way, since 2007, agricultural land valuations have increased over 250 percent. However, had LB 338 been in place since 2007, agricultural land valuations would have increased only 36 percent – a staggering difference. LB 338 seeks to add long-term stability and better predictability to agricultural land valuations.
On Monday I presented two bills to the Education Committee: 155 and 308. LB 155 would require that, to graduate from a public high school in Nebraska, students must correctly answer seventy percent of the questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Test. One reason I introduced this bill was because of a letter to the editor by three high school girls from Elm Creek, Nebraska. They asked five Nebraska high schools to give the Citizenship test to their juniors and seniors and over 80 percent of them failed. If a large majority of students in five Nebraska high schools, who are currently immersed in a curriculum of American government, cannot pass this test that America requires for immigrants, then I believe we have a problem that needs to be addressed legislatively. Currently, 15 states require this basic test to graduate from high school.
LB 308 would strengthen the Committee on Americanism. The Committee on Americanism is an important, ongoing subcommittee of local school boards. The purpose of the committee is to ensure that kids are developing an understanding of and appreciation for American history and the American republic, and to ensure that the history and government curriculums in Nebraska’s public schools is taught in such a way that it instills loyalty, devotion to justice, and a love of liberty into the next generation of Americans. LB 308 would help to ensure that the committee is properly performing its job in conformity with statutory requirements and to allow for more transparency in the operations and decisions of the committee.
Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.