Welcome

January 7th, 2015

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 17th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

Please feel free to contact me with any issues or concerns you may have regarding public policy or your state government, and let me know how I may assist you. My staff in my State Capitol office in Lincoln look forward to hearing from you and assisting you. Please feel free to contact me using the contact information on the right.

Sincerely,
Sen. Dave Bloomfield

Newsletter 2/13/15

February 12th, 2015

This week I introduced LB31 to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. LB31 would repeal the motorcycle helmet law in Nebraska if passed. This is an issue that many individuals feel passionate about, which was evident at the hearing.

While my ideal situation would be for LB31 to be advanced from committee as I introduced it, I am realistic, and understand that the chances of it being amended from its current form is great. As with any bill, finding that delicate balance of addressing your opponents concerns can be a challenge.

The day of the hearing, there was a motorcycle accident in Lincoln. Obviously, this garnered a great amount of coverage with the rider saying he would have been all for repealing the helmet law before his accident but now he thinks we should keep the helmet law. This issue often tugs at the heartstrings of individuals causing people to make decisions about the law based on emotions and not facts. As the FACTS started coming out about this particular accident we discovered that this motorcyclist was cited for negligent driving, improper registration of a motor vehicle and no motorcycle operator’s license. People like this individual do not respect our current laws and they are going to break them regardless of the laws. What I find disgusting is that the opponents of my bill are proud to parade this individual around as the new poster child for requiring helmets with no regard for the fact that that accident never would have happened had he obeyed the law and not been operating a motorcycle that he had neither license nor ability to operate, safely.

Last week I had introduced LB651, a bill that would have addressed the unfunded mandate that are often passed down to counties in the form of uncollectible court fees. This week the Judiciary Committee killed that bill. This week I also withdrew LB604, a bill I introduced that would allow the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to make disaster payments for projects as they are completed. I worked with NEMA to address the concerns of payments being made in a timely manner. I introduced the bill but NEMA was able to make the necessary changes through internal policies and they are now making payments upon the completion and inspection of projects. If appropriate change can be made without legislation that is a good thing.

Newsletter 2/6/15

February 8th, 2015

We were finally able to move on from LB88, a bill to increase the fee for a marriage license or for copies of a marriage license, this week. A compromise was reached that allowed the bill to advance from General File.

The compromise lowered the proposed increase from $50 for a marriage license down to $25. It is my intention to bring an amendment on Select File that would change the increase in for the marriage license copies from the $16 proposed by LB88 to $8.50. This would reflect the same increase that we are proposing with the compromise change in the marriage license fee.

This week I introduced LB651, a bill that would address uncollectible court fees, to the Judiciary Committee. I also introduced LB191 to the Revenue Committee. LB191 would exempt veteran service organizations from having to pay the sales and use tax on food or food products they sell.

On Tuesday, February 10th the Agricultural Committee will hear LB176, a bill that would change the Competitive Livestock Markets Act, introduced by Senator Ken Schilz of Ogallala. Under current law, packers are prohibited from owning and feeding hogs in Nebraska. LB176 would change the law which would then allow packer involvement in the production of pork. It is my fear that such involvement would be harmful to the private producers in our state. This is a bill that we dealt with last year and it is back again with a few changes.

 

Newsletter 1/30/15

January 30th, 2015

The session is now in full swing – complete with spending eight hours on a bill that really does not warrant it. The morning debate this week was pretty much consumed by LB88.

LB88 was introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln and it would increase the fee for obtaining marriage license from $15.00 as it now is to $50.00. Additionally, LB88 also increases the fee for obtaining certified copies of a marriage license. Both of these called for increases are in excess of 300%. Senator Chambers and I were the only senators in vocal opposition of this bill when it was introduced. While it may be time to revisit the fee, I do not feel that a $35 increase is necessary. Senator Chambers has said that he will take debate on this bill eight hours and Senator Campbell shows no sign of pulling her bill, so it looks like we will start next week off once again with LB88.

I understand that in the last ten years the state has cut funding across the board and now counties and agencies are trying to find ways to compensate for that. I know that this bill will not be the last bill we will hear this session that attempts to increase a “user fee” of some kind. LB85 that was just heard by the Agriculture Committee would allow the Nebraska Brand Committee to increase the brand inspection to fee $1.25 up from $0.75.there may be some compromise that will be reached, but I ask that all of you please understand that when I see requested increases that are excessive, I will be in opposition.

In other legislative happenings, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee has indefinitely postponed LB112. LB112 was known as the National Popular Vote bill and it was introduced by Senator Tyson Larson of O’Neill. LB112 would have effectively destroyed the Electoral College system we use to elect the president of the United States. My bill, LB190 was advanced from the Judiciary Committee and is currently on General File. I have also added my name to LB118 which has become known as the cigar shops bill which is now on General File.

 

Newsletter 1/23/15

January 23rd, 2015

Bill introduction has now concluded with a total of 663 bills and several resolutions being introduced. I ended up introducing 11 bills, the most I have ever introduced in a single year.

Last week I told you about five of the bills that I had introduced. The other six consist of the following. LB479 which would change provisions relating to memorials for veterans. LB 601 is a bill that would prohibit a school board member or an immediate family member from being employed with the school district. LB603 is a bill thatwould provide for the processing and certification of federal firearms forms as prescribed. The next bill, LB604, is a bill that would change provisions relating to reimbursement to political subdivisions under the Governor’s Emergency Program. I am working withNEMA with hopes that I will be able to withdraw this bill because NEMA will have made the necessary changes with internal policies. LB651, would change the liability for certain court costs with the intent of saving the counties some money.Finally, LR31CA is a constitutional amendment to change legislative term limits to two consecutive full terms. This would provide that even though a senator was originally appointed he or she would be allowed to run for and be elected to two full terms.

Yesterday, LB190, was heard by the Judiciary Committee and I am hopeful that it will be advanced from committee early next week. I think it only right that we afford military spouses the ability to be considered a resident of the state for the purposes of obtaining a concealed carry permit when they are here because their spouse has a permanent duty assignment to our state. We already afford that status to the service person.

Newsletter 1/16/15

January 16th, 2015

This week the Legislature has been busy with bill introduction and organizational meetings for committees as well as debating the rules. So far this session, with two days left to introduce bills, 430 bills have been introduced.

I have introduced five of the 430 so far. LB31 is similar to bill that I have introduced before, this bill would repeal the motorcycle helmet law. LB190 is a bill that died in the black hole that was the Judiciary Committee last year. LB190 would allow the spouse of a member of the United States Armed Forces assigned to a permanent duty station in Nebraska to be considered a resident for the purposes of the Concealed Handgun Permit Act. LB191 would provide a sales tax exemption on food sold by veterans service organizations. In order to provide a vehicle for discussion, I introduced LB256, a bill that would increase the sales and use tax a half a cent and designate that money for the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. This bill has already generated some interest from the press and would provide approximately $140,000,000 for property tax credits. LB303 is another bill that I have brought before granting schools the ability to adopt a child sexual abuse policy.

Additionally, this week I was elected to be the vice chairman of the Business and Labor Committee as well as the Rules Committee. Committee hearings will begin on Tuesday, January 20th and will run through the middle of March.

 

Newsletter 1/9/15

January 9th, 2015

The first session of the 104th Legislature is underway and as expected it has been a busy few days. While we knew we would be seeing a changing of the guard there were still some surprises as the members of the legislature elected our leadership for the next two years.

As normal in an odd year, the session begins with the election of the speaker and committee chairs. Senator Galen Hadley, of Kearney, was elected to replace Senator Greg Adams, of York, as speaker. Ten of the fourteen standing committees have a new chairperson.  The Agriculture Committee is now chaired by Senator Jerry Johnson, of Wahoo. The Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee is now chaired by Senator Jim Scheer, of Norfolk. Senator Burke Harr, of Omaha, leads the Business and Labor Committee. The General Affairs Committee has new leadership, our neighbor to the west, Senator Tyson Larson of O’Neill. Senator John Murante, of Gretna, is the new chairman of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. For the first time in eight years the Judiciary Committee has much needed new leadership with Senator Les Seiler, of Hastings. It is my hope that under Senator Seiler the Judiciary Committee will no longer be a black hole for legislative bills. Senator Ken Schilz, of Ogallala, decided to leave the Agriculture Committee chairmanship to lead the Natural Resources Committee. The Revenue Committee is now chaired by Senator Mike Gloor, of Grand Island. Senator Jim Smith, of Papillion, is the new chairman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. And Senator Sue Crawford, of Bellevue, is the chairperson of the Urban Affairs Committee.

The following four committees will continue under the leadership that they previously had. Senator Heath Mello, of Omaha, continues to serve as chair of the Appropriations Committee; Senator Kate Sullivan, of Cedar Rapids, is once again the chairperson of the Education Committee; the Health and Human Services Committee continues under the direction of Senator Kathy Campbell, of Lincoln; a single vote keeps Senator Jeremy Nordquist, of Omaha, as chair of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee.

In addition to the standing committees a new chair was elected to serve the Executive Board. I ran against Senator Bob Krist, of Omaha, for this position. I was unsuccessful in my bid.

After the election of the committee chairs the Committee on Committees, which I am now a member of, started the process of assigning members to the committees they will serve on. For the last two years, I served on the Agriculture, General Affairs and the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committees. I will continue to serve on the Agriculture and the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committees but will no longer be serving on the General Affairs Committee; I have made a move over to the Business and Labor Committee. I will be seeking the vice chairmanship position of this committee.

In addition to electing new leadership and finding out committee assignments we also have the opportunity to move offices. My office will stay in room 1206 and my office phone number will remain the same.

 

Newsletter 12/12/14

December 12th, 2014

Taxes, taxes and more taxes. From property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, road use taxes, tax credits and tax incentives there are a lot of taxes we can talk about. All of these and I haven’t even mentioned fees yet. What this boils down to is that Nebraskans are over taxed. While taxes have been a main topic of discussion over the last few years, I would say little has been done to move towards good solid reform.

This week was another one of those weeks where the talk of tax reforms took center stage. On Thursday, the Legislative Performance Audit Committee released a report looking at the tax incentive evaluation process. LR444 created The Tax Incentive Evaluation Committee as a result of questions raised in a 2013 Legislative Performance Audit Committee audit of the various tax incentive programs.

Nebraska currently has six primary tax incentive programs: the Nebraska Advantage Act, the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act, the Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit Act, the Nebraska Advantage Research and Development Act, the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act and, the Angel Investment Credit Act.  These six programs provided $175 million in tax refunds/credits in 2012 and 2013 alone. There is also a list of sales tax exemptions, such as food, manufacturing inputs, agriculture crop inputs (seed, fertilizer, etc.) and last year we took the sales tax off of farm machine parts and repairs. There is also a property tax credit which is way too small.

While there is value to all of these programs, the report emphasized the need to have specific and measurable goals for each of them. As with anything, significant benefits often come with significant costs. We need to make sure that these incentives are providing the state with the most for your money.

Recommendations from the committee suggest the following items be considered. 1) The cost of the program to the state. This includes administrative expenses, costs associated with application and compliance requirements for businesses and the loss of revenue. 2) What benefits are seen by the state as a result of tax revenue from jobs that are created by the program. 3) How many jobs are created versus how many there would have been without the incentives. 4) What is the quality of the jobs created, looking at the pay and benefits. 5) It suggests looking at the investments and innovations made by the companies receiving incentives. Additionally, what is the longevity of the business in the state compared to similar businesses that do not receive the incentives. 6) What is the job creation in the rural parts of the state.

The report suggests reviewing each of the programs on a three year cycle. It also encourages that the review be done by legislative fiscal analysts and auditors and input from the chair or members of the Revenue Committee with the Legislative Performance Audit Committee having oversight.

There are definite benefits to these programs but we need to be able to evaluate them and insure that the money spent on them is doing what it was intended to do. We need to be responsible wards of your tax dollars and if programs are not performing we need to be aware of it so changes can be made. I think this review was long overdue and that we will be joining the 11 other states that since 2012 have improved their own methods for evaluating tax incentive programs. The whole thing gets rather complicated but I still think President Reagan had it right when he said (“It’s not that people are taxed too little, it’s that the government spends too much”). We must have money to run the state, the question is and has been how best to do that.

 

Newsletter 12/5/14

December 8th, 2014

We are in the process of preparing for the upcoming Legislative session. Preparing for the session is not only focused on drafting future possible legislation but many other items as well. Some of those items include looking for volunteer chaplains and selecting Legislative Pages.

We are once again looking for clergy members that would be interested in coming down to Lincoln to serve as “Chaplain of the Day” and say a prayer before the daily session. This will be a 90 day session so there will be plenty of opportunities for those interested. It would be great if District 17 was represented. I understand that it is a commitment but if you have days that you know you are going to be in Lincoln, let us know and we can see if that date is available. If you would like more information about this, please let me know or contact my office 402-471-2716 or the Clerk of the Legislature at 402-471-2271.

Every fall I write a newsletter encouraging the college kids from the district to apply to be Legislative Pages, this year I would like to congratulate Alexander Mallory and Colin Loberg on being selected to serve as Legislative Pages for the upcoming session. Both of these young men are from District 17 and have impressive resumes. This will be Alexander’s second year as a page and Colin’s first year. This year 30 college students were selected and it is an honor to have two selected from our legislative district.

Newsletter 11/14/14

November 14th, 2014

Now that the elections are over and behind us, it is time for the focus to change and to begin to deal with the message that you the voters have sent.  Like every other election there are consequences and we will now begin to see the consequences of our recent election.

Nebraska voters made the decision to increase the minimum wage with the passage of Initiative 425. This initiative required signatures of voters across the state in order to be placed before the voters on the ballot.  Individuals behind Initiative 425 took this route after they were unable to pass a bill increasing the minimum wage through the Legislature.  By a vote of the people, the minimum wage will go from $7.25 up to $9.00 over the next 2 years.  While that may seem innocent enough, it may have long term implications for the state. That is an increase of over 20% which could make it more difficult to attract new business to Nebraska. This increase could also cause some small businesses that may be just “hanging on” to close or to lay off employees.

With the success of Initiative 425 the discussion has already started on what other issues may be successful in this manner and be able to get around the legislative process. Remember, you vote on your representatives to the Legislature. You do that, hopefully, with the confidence that they will represent your thoughts and beliefs and act in the best interest of Nebraska. Like it or not, there are usually reasons for bills not being advanced in the Legislature. What may sound really good in a 30 second sound bite is not necessarily good policy. In some cases, circumventing the Legislature and taking issues directly to a vote of the people may have dire consequences; case in point – Medicaid expansion.

At first glance, expanding Medicaid sounds great. Why wouldn’t we want to make free or cheap health care available to more people? When you really start to look into it, the tough questions start to appear: How much will this cost? How will the state finance this?  Will we have to cut funding from other programs including education and roads for this? These are questions that are asked during the legislative process, will they be asked and answered with complete understanding by each voter that would be voting on it?  While I am a firm believer of the petition initiative process the over use of this method of redress could create unintended problems.