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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 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.