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Week 2 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 4 through 7 of this session.
It is good to be back home in District 16 after a busy week at the State Capitol. I hope all were safe and warm through the blustery winter weather late last week. A special word of thanks for everyone who must work outside regardless of weather conditions. From farmers delivering grain to market, livestock and dairy producers ensuring feed and care for their livestock, to those who work outside to ensure public safety and so many others whose jobs may go unacknowledged, I thank you for your work that keeps “The Good Life” growing.
Monday, January 8th began with a flurry of activity. I introduced a rule change on the floor that would make all votes for committee leadership “viva voce,” or verbal, rather than by secret ballot. This rule change has been proposed each of my 8 years in the Legislature but was not introduced in the Rules Committee hearing by any other senator. Though the rule would provide Nebraskans with the transparency they expect from their elected representatives, it was the subject of much-spirited debate. I eventually withdrew my proposed rule change so as to not delay getting started with the work of the legislature.
The third bill up for debate in 2018 was LB 105, a bill I introduced to update bankruptcy exemptions that had not been increased since 1997. After vigorous debate, the bill passed on General File with 41 senators voting “Aye.” Senators then turned their attention to LB 368, introduced by Senator Lowe of District 37, and the return of helmet law legislation to the floor of the Unicameral. LB 368 failed on a cloture vote receiving 30 of the 33 votes needed to advance.
LB 81, a bill that would increase fees charged for handgun certificates from $5 to $25 was the focus of debate on Tuesday, January 9th. A lengthy debate resulted in the bill being indefinitely postponed by a vote of 27-17.
Governor Ricketts delivered his State of the State speech on Wednesday, January 10th, laying out priorities for 2018. Taxes were the main focus as he announced his proposal to deliver over $4 billion in property tax relief over 10 years. This would be accomplished by refundable tax credits equal to 10% of property taxes paid, ensuring that tax relief is targeted only for in-state landowners. Under current tax law, non-Nebraskans receive 14% of property tax credits. Additionally, this credit would increase as state revenues hit certain benchmarks, providing additional relief as the state prospers, and would include provisions for residential homeowners.
The plan also calls for corporate and individual income tax relief, lowering the top individual tax rate from 6.84% to 6.69% and the top business tax rate from 7.81% to 6.69%. The cuts are intended to make the state tax climate more attractive while recruiting talented individuals and businesses to grow and diversify Nebraska’s economy.
The Governor’s budget proposal included reducing state spending growth through 2% across-the-board cuts to agency appropriations for the current fiscal year, and 4% for next year. These cuts would be accomplished without reducing state aid to schools or aid to disabled individuals.
Public hearings on new bills resume on January 16th and Thursday, January 18th is the last day to introduce new bills. You are welcome to attend hearings in-person to testify or may send testimony on any bill via email or regular mail. You can also watch testimony live at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government
Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol.