NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Ben Hansen

Sen. Ben Hansen

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 bhansen@leg.ne.gov

This column covers legislative days 83 and 84.

The final day of the 2019 legislative session came to a close on Friday, May 31st.  Originally scheduled for 90 days, the session ended early and comprised of 84 days total.  Of note was the passage of LB 209 on Final Reading Thursday, May 30th.  This bill would require information be given to patients seeking an abortion in Nebraska on how to find medical assistance to support a viable pregnancy after taking the first of two pills required for a medication abortion.  Passing this bill was a long and hard fight, but one that was well worth it.  By passing the bill we ensure that women who begin a medication abortion and change their mind during the process are able to find the necessary medical assistance to maintain a viable pregnancy.  Throughout the session, we heard so many heart-wrenching stories from women who wish they would have had information like this – now they will be given the opportunity to avoid something they may regret.

Before adjourning, we took up a motion to override a Gubernatorial veto of Senator Wayne’s LB 492.  This bill creates a Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority with the ability to levy property tax.  The RMTA, a new body of government, gives Omaha and the surrounding area the authority to levy property taxes in order to provide public transit expansion.  Though the bill is limited to the Omaha area, those in urban areas have not been immune to rising property taxes.  Omaha citizens are in need of public transport, but it is inappropriate to continue raising property taxes to pay for additional bodies of government.  We must provide property tax relief, rather than create new programs and services that worsen the problem.  That’s why I voted to sustain the Governor’s veto.

My first session as your senator was very educational.  I was a bit disappointed that we adjourned early when we could have, and should have, worked the remaining six days in the session debating and discussing property tax, even if that debate continues into the next session.  Though we did accomplish much, of the 739 bills introduced 294 were passed, I gained some perspective for the next few years.  As a body, we could be more productive with our time during the session.  Too much time is spent discussing hurt feelings and not enough time is spent discussing sound policy required to help the citizens of Nebraska.  Senators must work together to provide solutions rather than focusing on our differences.  We were successful in providing $102 million more in property tax relief this biennium through the property tax credit relief fund but our ag producers need even more substantial relief.  After this session, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and intend to work on a property tax/school funding bill over the interim providing a solution to the reliance on property taxes for school funding.

This will be my final column for the session, but I may write from time to time as issues arise during the interim.  If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 79 through 82.

The last full week of this year’s legislative session was very eventful.  After a recess day on the 20th, we worked late into the night Tuesday and Wednesday, adjourning around 11:45 pm Wednesday.  Though these were long days, I’m happy we worked so late.  Nebraskans throughout the state expect us to work long and hard, passing sensible laws that advance their opportunity to live the American dream and laws that steward taxpayer resources well.  When we conclude the session next week I hope to say we have given it our best this session.

We debated a number of major proposals last week, including LB 657 to adopt the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act.  This bill was introduced by Senator Wayne of Omaha and prioritized by Senator Brandt of Plymouth.  No opponents testified in the bill’s public hearing and it was supported widely during floor debate.  I’ve received many phone calls and emails from constituents in the district who support industrial hemp as a new crop for our farmers and see it as an opportunity to expand agricultural capacity in the state.  I was happy to support the bill on the floor.

Another bill supported widely by senators was LB 519 introduced by Senator Slama of District 1.  This bill extends the statute of limitations for those who commit the offense of labor or sex trafficking or benefit from labor or sex trafficking.  Awareness of human trafficking in Nebraska has increased over the past few years as efforts like this bill are discussed more.  With I-80 running right through the heart of the state, Nebraska is used by traffickers to transport victims across the country.  Omaha and Grand Island are two of the biggest hubs for traffickers in Nebraska.  By extending the statute of limitations on traffickers we are better prepared to bring them to justice.

Many have asked about property tax relief.  Senators were successful in securing an additional $51 million in property tax relief by allocating $275 million to the property tax relief credit fund after that allotment was initially allocated elsewhere in the budget.  This comes after no additional money being directed towards the fund last year.  , LB 289, the major proposal to provide property tax relief and change how public schools are funded, did not receive enough votes to come back to the agenda for debate this year.  I’ve said it throughout the session and before while I was walking the district and talking to voters – Nebraskans need meaningful property tax relief.  Though the increases to the credit fund do accomplish some level of relief, it is not sufficient for the challenges that our ag producers are facing.  Nebraska can support its public schools sufficiently, providing education for our children, while also providing meaningful property tax relief.  I’ve committed to studying this problem closely throughout the interim and plan to introduce a bill of my own next year.  Due to the way our public schools are funding, meaningful property tax relief can only happen if we make changes to how our schools are funded.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 75 through 78.

Last week in the Unicameral was another with plenty of heavy lifting.  We took votes on the state’s budget, a bill relating to the Department of Corrections, and a bill relating to human trafficking, passing all three.  We also debated bills relating to tax incentives for businesses, opportunity scholarships, and medical cannabis, taking no vote on those bills.  After a long week of intense debate, I was thankful to come home and spend some time working in my chiropractic clinic and with my family.

On May 14th we debated the state’s $9.3 billion budget.  I and other senators took some issue with the size of the budget and some of the things we are spending money on.  Unfortunately, we were blocked from voicing our concerns. A group of senators took enough time that we were unable to debate a meaningful amendment brought by Senator Clements of Elmwood that would have decreased our overall spending.  This effort to delay backfired a bit as a cloture vote that would have passed the budget through Select File without discussing Sen. Clements’ amendment failed.  I and other senators were given the opportunity to voice our concerns when the budget returned on May 15th.  I proposed a plan that would decrease spending by 1 penny for every dollar spent, effectively and efficiently reducing the size of government. I also expressed my concerns that the budget did not prioritize meaningful property tax for Nebraskans, specifically ag producers.  Nebraska’s constitution requires a balanced budget, so at the end of debate we upheld our constitutional duty, voting to advance the budget for final consideration.

The newly proposed business tax incentive program also came up for debate on May 15th.  Tax incentive programs are controversial topics in Nebraska because the last few attempts at creating a plan that would contribute to Nebraska’s economy have ended up costing the state more than they were worth.  Though LB 720 does better support small business growth more than previous programs, I believe it should do more.  To qualify for incentives at the lowest level, companies must create 5 new jobs or invest $1 million.  For most businesses, especially rural businesses, this is simply out of reach.  Perhaps the plan should be changed to incorporate incentives for creating 3 new jobs, this would be more in alignment with the reality for most businesses; setting a substantial but attainable goal. The bill did not come up for a vote but is likely to return before adjournment.  Nebraska’s current program is set to expire in 2020.

The Speaker of the Legislature announced on May 16th that we will be ending this session on May 31st rather than the originally scheduled June 6th.  According to the Speaker, we have enough time between now and May 31st to execute our responsibilities for the rest of the session.  Many of you have asked about LB 289 and property tax relief.  I am in support of bringing the bill back for more debate, but at the time of writing this column, it remains unclear whether the bill will have enough support to return this year.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 71 through 74.

Greetings to all in District 16 and the surrounding area.  Another week has passed in the Unicameral as we near the end of the session.  As of May 10th, only 15 days remain in the 2019 legislative session.  The past week was one of the more intense weeks we’ve had this year as we took up issues of property tax relief, education funding, and a pro-life bill that went to a cloture vote in order to pass.

LB 209, a bill introduced by Senator Albrecht of District 17 that I cosponsored, would require doctors to give proper informed consent in regards to medication abortions, which are how a majority of abortions are performed in Nebraska today. Doctors would be required to inform the patient seeking an abortion that there is the possibility of a reversal medication after the initial medication has been administered.  This bill came under attack from others in the legislature who claim it supports faulty science.  I, along with other co-signers of the bill, vigorously defended the scientific studies supporting the bill and the underlying reason it should be passed.  Any woman who chooses to undergo a medication abortion should have all the information presented to her.  If putting the correct information into the hands of a conflicted woman saves one innocent child’s life, it will have been worth it.  I am incredibly honored to have supported and defended this bill that has the potential to be literally life-giving to Nebraskans across the state.

Other bills hotly debated last week include LB 289 – the Revenue Committee’s proposal for property tax relief and basic education funding.  I’ve received many calls, texts, and emails about LB 289 from constituents in the district.  Some passionately support the bill and others oppose it.  I’ve decided to keep my mind open and listen to the thoughts and opinions of constituents and the arguments of other senators before making a decision on the bill.  Please continue to reach out to me and my office; your input helps me do my job as your representative in Lincoln.  LB 289 received 3 hours of debate last week and will likely receive another round of debate before coming to a vote.

Finally, on Friday, May 10th we took action on 30 bills.  One of my bills, LB 260 introduced to eliminate a requirement for the state to hire a Recovery Audit Contractor, or RAC, to audit Medicaid claims advanced. This bill will make our state more efficient and allow it to better allocate resources regarding Medicaid.  This is a step in the right direction in resolving some of the Medicaid issues our providers are facing across the state.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 67 through 70.

It was a big week in the legislature as my priority bill, LB 304 passed Final Reading on April 29th and was approved by the Governor on May 1st.  The bill allows producers to sell from their homes or by mail the same foods that could previously be sold at farmers markets and other events.  I named this my priority bill because of the potential for increased or new business it will bring to many families around the state.  When I considered how popular farmers markets are, and how well they support entrepreneurship and individual enterprise, I saw how LB 304 could springboard these small producers into potential new businesses.  I want to thank Senator Crawford of Bellevue for introducing the bill and for working with me to get it over the finish line.

The Revenue Committee released its main proposal for property tax relief last week.  Senators and staff were briefed May 2nd and will be briefed again May 7th on the details of the proposal.  By raising the state sales tax, eliminating sales tax exemptions, and changing how the state funds public schools the bill claims to provide up to a 20% reduction in property taxes.  I want to see how the sales tax increases will affect the budget of everyday Nebraskans before making a decision on the bill.  One thing is for sure though – there will be some heated debate when the bill comes before the legislature.

LB 209 introduced by Senator Albrecht to require information be given to women choosing to undergo a medication abortion was debated twice last week.  Medication abortions require that women take a combination of two pills, the second of which is taken a few days after the first.  Under LB 209, doctors administering the abortion pills would be required to inform patients that, once the first pill is taken, there still may be time to stop the abortion if she were to change her mind.  This information would direct the patient to a hotline where she can get information about halting the abortion and be directed to a medical professional who can help.

I spoke often about the “informed consent” part of this bill on the floor.  As a physician, I know how incredibly important it is for patients to know about all of their options before and after treatment.  A woman’s decision to have an abortion is life-changing in many ways.  If she were to decide to have an abortion, and then change her mind during the process, it is imperative that she know options exist to help her stop the abortion.  This is part of a physician’s duty of informed consent, and in this case, could literally save a life.  I was proud to support and defend the bill on the floor.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 63 through 66.

I hope you’re all enjoying the Spring weather, the return of green grass, and the budding and blooming of the trees as we approach the end of April and move into May.  Friday, April 26th was recognized as Arbor Day, a day to recognize and support the planting of trees.  The first Arbor Day originated in Nebraska City in 1872 and it’s estimated that 1 million trees were planted on that day.  Although Arbor Day is recognized as a state holiday, the legislature was still in session, passing bills on final reading, advancing them to the governor for his signature.

The Education, Retirement, and Revenue Committees held a joint hearing for property tax relief on Wednesday, April 24th.  The hearing began at 4:00 pm and lasted well into the night.  In all, 60 testifiers voiced their support, opposition, or neutral testimony on LB 289 introduced by Senator Linehan.  LB 289 has become the primary focus for property tax relief this session, though it and other property tax relief proposals are still held in the Revenue Committee.  There has been much discussion amongst senators and in the media about the bill’s intent to raise sales taxes and eliminate sales tax exemptions.  Any bill brought out of committee must deliver meaningful and substantial tax relief for Nebraskans.  If the Revenue Committee members cannot agree on a bill to do that, it is unlikely that whatever proposal advances will receive enough support on the floor to pass.  Though I do not serve on any of the committees involved in the hearing, I watched the entire hearing on NETV.  I have decided to withhold judgment on the bill until final changes are made and the language is presented to the full legislature for consideration.

On Thursday, April 25th the legislature debated a bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Nebraska.  After hours of debate, the bill received 17 of the 25 votes needed to move to the next round of debate.  This bill comes just a few years after Nebraska voters overwhelmingly supported the death penalty in the 2016 elections.   In Cuming, Burt, and Washington counties, voters chose to uphold the death penalty by margins of 70%, 72%, and 73%, respectively.  I stood with the vast majority of District 16 and 25 other senators who voted to keep the death penalty as an option for justice in Nebraska.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 55 through 58.

Greetings to all in District 16 and the surrounding region.  I hope you’ve all had a meaningful and reflective Easter weekend.  Easter is a time we come together as family, friends, and set aside time as individuals to reflect upon the gift of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Celebrating the Easter holiday is a needed reminder that our hope is not in Washington D.C. or even in Lincoln, NE.  Our hope comes from something far greater than we can ever imagine.

A bill that received a fair amount of publicity last week was LB 693 introduced by Sen. Halloran of Hastings.  The bill gives the Nebraska Attorney General authority to pursue action against so-called “spoofers” who use fake phone numbers to make fraudulent calls.  This is an issue that almost everyone in Nebraska with a cell phone has experienced.  Scam telephone calls used to display on caller id with obvious fake or fishy phone numbers.  Scammers have begun using phone numbers with Nebraska area codes to initiate the call, making it much more likely that people will answer the phone.  Though this bill will not stop the calls from happening, it does allow criminal proceedings against those who make the calls.  The federal government is the only place where changes can be made stopping the phone calls themselves.

The Revenue Committee announced a plan for property tax relief during a press conference last Wednesday.  The proposal is reported to provide $540 million in property tax relief through a sales tax increase, changes in education aid, and elimination of some sales tax exemptions.  A hearing on the plan is scheduled for Wednesday, April 24th and is open to the public.  As I’ve said in past columns, property tax is the reason I ran for the legislature.  I’m excited to review the Revenue Committee’s plan and hear feedback from both proponents and opponents of the bill before making a decision on it.  Ag producers desperately need tax relief, and any measure that is brought before the legislature must be able to get enough votes for passage.  We cannot afford to let property tax relief slip through our fingers another year, pushing it off to address in future legislative sessions.  As senators, we must be thoughtful and intentional in our approach to tax relief bringing a solution that is substantive and meaningful but also being a good steward of taxpayer dollars.  With roughly 30 days left in the session this year, we must have a sense of urgency in addressing this problem.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 55 through 58.

It was a great week at the Capitol as we moved through a good amount of committee and senator priority bills.  As I mentioned in an earlier column, the rest of the 2019 session is going to be made up bills senators have chosen as their priority bills or bills the different committees have identified as priority bills for the session.  I really felt like we were able to make some progress this week, taking action on some big issues.

We kicked off Monday with debate on my priority bill, LB 304.  As a reminder, the bill would allow individuals and families to sell the same cottage foods sold at farmers markets from their homes.  We made some changes to the bill to require producers have their water tested if using a private well, register with the Department of Agriculture, and to clearly label the foods they sell.  On the floor I talked about how selling cottage foods could help a family make ends meet or could help kick start a small business, giving them the experience and funds to expand.  Nebraskans produce food for the rest of the world so it makes sense that these same producers should be able to sell food directly to consumers from their homes.  It’s a pure form of farm-to-table food production and one that we should encourage.  My priority bill passed the first round of debate with 41 votes.

Another major bill passing the first round of debate was LB 512 introduced by Senator Linehan.  The bill is the Department of Revenue’s annual cleanup bill, making changes as needed to Nebraska tax law.  Senator Erdman brought an amendment to include parts of his LB 482, introduced to make changes in assessment of destroyed property.  Sen. Erdman’s bill was introduced on January 22nd, long before the floods ravaged our region and even before they were predicted.  The new changes would allow for a reassessment of damaged property for tax purposes.  For example, if a building was damaged by a natural disaster, a landowner could request the building to be reassessed while it is being rebuilt or repaired.  Once the building is restored it would then be assessed again for tax purposes.  This bill, although not its original intent, could provide tax relief to victims of the flood and I was happy to vote yes on the bill along with 41 other senators.

On Thursday I and other senators on the Health and Human Services and Appropriations committees received a brief from state officials on the expansion of Medicaid, set for an implementation date of October 1st, 2020.  There’s a lot of work to do and I expect to be a part of many more hearings and briefs about expanded Medicaid as the year goes on.

The Revenue Committee is expected to release its proposals for property tax relief next week.  I’ve spoken about property taxes many times on the floor, and I’m excited to begin in-depth discussions about the #1 reason I ran for the legislature – property tax relief.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 51 through 54.

Greetings to all in District 16.  This was the 13th week and Friday was the 54th day of this 90-day session.  We hit some roadblocks early, but by the end of the week we had successfully worked through a number of bills, passing them through the first round of debate.  Some of the more interesting bills voted on this week include one to prohibit the tattooing of eyeballs, a bill to allow students with school permits to drive to more school functions, and a bill to expand the options for internet access in the state.

One of the most important bills of the week was discussed on Friday.  LB 512 introduced by Senator Linehan of Elkhorn is a fairly complex bill with many working parts.  The most pressing is a section that would offer relief to property taxpayers for damage or destruction due to a natural disaster.  Though the bill was introduced on January 22nd, long before the flooding, it is needed now more than ever.  LB 512 offers relief by allowing property owners whose property has been damaged to request a reassessment of the property value for tax purposes.

The potential for relief provided by this bill would be experienced far and wide by those in our region and throughout the state. Despite the importance of the bill and the overwhelming need for financial relief by those affected by the flood, it faced opposition.  Opponents of the bill claimed it would cost the county money and another senator opposed the bill because of disagreements earlier in the session about unrelated matters.  These senators are in the minority, and I’m confident the bill will pass and relief will be provided to those who need it most.

One of the more enjoyable roles of a senator is greeting the 4th graders who come on field trips to the state Capitol. This week I met and spoke with students from Fort Calhoun and Tekamah Herman and last week we had visitors from Arlington.  Seeing the students’ excitement and energy to be in the Capitol is a great break from legislative work and one I look forward to whenever I know students are coming.

As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, we are tasked with oversight of the implementation of Medicaid expansion that was voted on last year.  The committee has begun the process and though it promises to be a long road with a steep hill to climb, we’re dedicated to implementing the expansion in an effective and efficient manner for those receiving services and for the taxpayers who are funding the program.

Lastly, reported this week was an initial quick release of $25 million in federal funding towards road repair.  A project along highway 91 is expected to begin soon, though patience from the public is encouraged during road reconstruction projects.  To read more about road repair and reconstruction efforts, visit https://dot.nebraska.gov/news-media/nebraska-flood-2019/.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

This column covers legislative days 47 through 50.

Greetings to all in District 16 and the surrounding region.  As the recovery from the flooding progresses I want to thank all the volunteers who’ve donated time, money, and resources to the victims of the flooding.  I’ve seen many stories on social media and in the newspapers about the incredible support pouring into Nebraska from around the country.  Times like these are good reminders that treating people with love, respect, and dignity is still the foundation of our culture.  I hope you all are as encouraged as I am by the response people have had to those affected by the flood.  We are all truly blessed to live in America, and specifically Nebraska!

This was the final week of public hearings in the legislature.  I greatly enjoyed being part of the Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Business and Labor Committees this year.  In each of these committees, I was able to utilize my education and experience to represent the many interests of our district.  It was a great learning experience and I am excited about serving on these committees during the next session.

Since committee hearings have wrapped up for the year we will move to full days of debate starting on April 2nd.  Though we’ve accomplished a fair amount so far, we have quite a ways to go before the session ends on June 6th.  We can expect the remainder of the session to filled with debate on property tax relief, corrections issues, industrial hemp, a new business tax incentive package, and budget issues.  The Revenue Committee has yet to release its package of property tax relief bills and neither has the Appropriations Committee released its proposed state budget.  These two topics alone will be the subject of vigorous and extended debate.  On the floor this week I made a statement about the time that is wasted in the Legislature when we could be discussing important topics like property tax relief.  I’m hopeful we can begin discussing tax relief soon now that committee hearings have ended.

My priority bill, LB 304, will be up for debate soon on the floor.  Though I wrote about it briefly in last week’s column, I want to refresh everyone a bit.  This bill is referred to as a “cottage foods” bill and would allow producers to sell the same low-risk cottage foods already sold at farmers markets from their homes or at other events.  The foods sold must be shelf-stable baked goods or other products not required to be time or temperature controlled.  To bring this bill out of committee, I worked on an amendment that would require producers to take and pass a food handler’s class, have their well water tested if served by a private well, and register with the Department of Agriculture.  By including these non-burdensome requirements, I was able to ensure senator and stakeholder concerns were met and there was no opposition to the bill.  I expect this bill will face little opposition during debate, and I’m excited about the positive effect it will have for many constituents in District 16.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov.  To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org

Sen. Ben Hansen

District 16
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2728
Email: bhansen@leg.ne.gov
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