NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

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 jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Weekly News–April 5, 2024
April 8th, 2024

We are down to less than 4 days left in session with a lot of work ahead of us. There are 111 bills on Select File and Final Reading. Ten or more bills need to be amended either on Select File or with a return to Select File from Final Reading to lower the fiscal impact. Just the processing of those bills and amendments could likely take up the time we have remaining. We will be meeting on Day 60 (April 18th) in order to read some bills as well as have time to address any vetoes from Governor Pillen’s office.

Bill Updates
There are two bills that were debated last week that work hand in hand to help with property tax relief and increase school funding.

LB388 introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan is a proposal to generate state revenue that would be used to provide additional property tax relief. The additional revenue would fund a companion proposal contained in an amendment to LB1331, introduced by Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil. Senator Linehan said the two proposals–in conjunction with a modified cap on school property taxing authority in the amendment to LB388–would provide more funding to schools at a time when valuations in some urban and some suburban districts are spiking, which reduced their state aid under the school funding formula and forces them to rely more on property taxes. Beginning January 1, 2025, the committee amendment would increase the state sales tax rate from 5.5% to 6.5% unless actual state General Fund net receipts for fiscal year 2023-24 exceed the most recent forecast of net receipts provided by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board by 3.5%. If net receipts exceed the forecast by 3.5%, the state tax commissioner then would set a lower rate, from 6.25% to 5.5%, based on how much state revenue exceeds that threshold. The commissioner would determine the applicable rate on or before July 14, 2024. The amendment would also limit to 3% the amount by which a city, county, or village could increase its property tax request from one year to the next with several exceptions, including a percentage based on real property growth. Senator R. Brad von Gillern of Elkhorn said the proposal is not a dollar-for-dollar tax shift and would result in a “net tax reduction” for many Nebraskans. He said the sales tax increase would not have an outsize effect on low-income Nebraskans because they spend most of their income on essentials, such as groceries and rent, that are not subject to sales tax. The committee amendment would help offset any regressive effects from the sales tax increase by exempting residential utilities from sales tax. Senator Linehan said she was open to amending the proposal on select file to remove the sales tax increase. This bill was advanced to Select File and is still being adjusted to figure out the right way to bring property tax relief to Nebraska. (“Potential sales tax increase, local taxing authority cap advanced”. Unicameral Update. 3 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36242)

LB1331 introduced by Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil is a proposal that would terminate the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) and establish a new school funding system. This bill was gutted and replaced with a separate proposal containing provisions of Omaha Senator Justin Wayne’ s LB1231. Senator Murman said it became apparent that establishing a new school funding system was of greater importance this session. This bill is a companion bill to LB388. These two bills aim to generate state revenue to fund additional property tax relief by implementing the Nebraska Education Formula and increasing yearly per student foundation aid from $1,500 to $3,000. The amendment would end the refundable income tax credit against school taxes paid that was created under LB1107 in 2020 and instead “front load” the funds allocated to the credit by increasing foundation aid to public schools. Other provisions of LB1331 include prohibiting school districts from adopting budgets that surpass certain allowable reserve percentages. The percentages would differ based on the district’s average daily membership and the department would be responsible for annually determining and certifying each district’s specific allowable reserve percentage. Senator Linehan supported the bill, saying TEEOSA has long been a problem. She said equalization aid–calculated by subtracting needs from available local property tax revenue–has disproportionately affected rural school districts that contain large amounts of agricultural land. In addition, she said, recent property valuation increases in urban and suburban areas have decreased foundation aid for those districts. LB1331 advanced to Select File. (“School funding changes advanced”. Unicameral Update. 4 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36253)

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I would like to invite students to the Unicameral Youth Legislature. High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 9-14. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s 4-H Extension Career and College Readiness Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. Early registration discounts and scholarships are available. The final registration deadline is May 20.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Wekly News–March 29, 2024
March 28th, 2024

Last weekend was the celebration of Easter. I hope you were able to enjoy time with your family during the Easter weekend. I know I sure enjoyed time to get away and enjoy Easter with mine.

Bill Updates
     Last week we debated the budget bill on Final Reading. This is the Appropriations Committee’s mid-biennium budget adjustment package as we approved the biennial budget last session. The state budget is structured on a two-year basis, with the budget enacted during legislative sessions held in odd-numbered years. Adjustments are made during sessions held in even-numbered years. The committee’s proposed adjustments to the state’s $10 billion budget would result in a $904 million balance in the state’s Cash Reserve Fund, also known as the “rainy day” fund. The proposal reflects a 3.1% increase in state spending and would leave approximately $23 million to fund legislative proposals this year.
     LB1413, introduced by Speaker John Arch of LaVista at the request of the Governor, would provide for the transfer of funds and create and change the use and distribution of funds. The governor’s proposal called for a sweep of funds from 31 different agencies, transferring those dollars to the state General Fund. At the bill’s public hearing, the state budget director described this as an attempt to “kick start” the revenue necessary to provide a 40% reduction in property taxes. Committee chairperson Senator Robert Clements of Elmwood said 11 transfers from Pillen’s original request ultimately were deemed “not appropriate” by the committee and were not included in the adjustment package. Clements said the transfers outlined in the amendment, totaling $244 million, would help fund the state’s budget for the next two years while also bolstering the rainy day fund. The Cash Reserve Fund balance at the end of the biennium would be 16.6% of annual expenses, which he said is the committee’s target funding level.
     LB1412, also introduced by Speaker John Arch at the request of the governor, is the main line budget bill. The proposal would provide, change and eliminate appropriations for the operation of state government, postsecondary education, state aid, capital construction and federal funds allocated to the state from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. Clements said the committee started with the governor’s recommendations and made minor adjustments based on information gleaned from agency heads and the public. In addition, the committee held hearings on 59 bills introduced by senators that included $250 million of new general fund spending requests and approximately $108 million in federal ARPA requests. The only significant changes from the governor’s original recommendation, Clements said, was a $30.1 million increase in funding for the state’s homestead exemption program over the biennium and a $94.1 million increase in Nebraska Tax Equity and Education Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) funding. He said a “recalculation” of the state school funding formula in January indicated the need for additional dollars. (“Budget advances with minor adjustments, more changes likely”. Unicameral Update. 15 March, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35942)
     Final debate on the two budget proposals took place on March 26th. LB1412 reflects a 3.1% increase in state spending and leaves approximately $20 million to fund legislative proposals this year. The bill passed with a 42-6 vote and took effect immediately. LB1413 passed with a 37-8 vote and took effect immediately. The governor has five calendar days, excluding Sunday, to sign, veto, or line-item veto appropriations within the budget bills. If budget bills are returned to the legislature with line-item vetoes, the Appropriations Committee must report on the fiscal impact of the vetoes within one day and may offer a motion to override any or all of them. Thirty votes are required to override a veto. (“Budget adjustment package passed”. Unicameral Update. 26 March, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36154)

LB43, sponsored by Senator Rita Sanders from Bellevue, is an omnibus measure aimed at furthering open government and transparency. This bill would direct hearing officers and judges not to rely on a state agency’s interpretation of state laws or regulations in contest cases under the Administrative Procedures Act. During Select File, Senator Brewer amended my bill, LB637, into LB43. Provisions of LB637 would require a public body to allow members of the public an opportunity to speak at every meeting except for closed sessions related to personnel matters, investigations regarding allegations of criminal conduct, or other purposes already exempted under state law. I say it is important for local elected officials to make the time to listen to their constituents and for residents to know that they have the opportunity to make their voices heard. Many government agencies currently don’t put a public comment item on their agenda for every meeting, despite state law requiring that constituents have that opportunity. LB43 passed with a vote of 39-0 on March 21st and took effect immediately. Governor Pillen signed this bill into law on March 27th. (“Government reform bill amended, advanced”. Unicameral Update. 4 March, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35828)

LB1087, introduced by Senator Mike Jacobson of North Platte, would require the Department of Health and Human Services to submit a state plan amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval to impose an assessment on Nebraska hospitals. Under the bill, every Nebraska hospital would pay an assessment fee based on their quarterly net patient revenue. The total statewide assessment amount would equal the state share of payments authorized by CMS plus an administration fee, which could not exceed 2% of the assessment amount. The complete assessment total could not exceed 6% of the total net patient revenue of all assessed hospitals. The bill would also require DHHS to partner with a statewide hospital association to establish Medicaid quality improvement metrics and track progress on those metrics. Senator Jacobson said Nebraska would join 43 other states and the District of Columbia in using the program, which he estimated would draw nearly $1 billion in federal funds to the state’s hospitals. (“Hospital assessment program considered”. Unicameral Update. 2 February, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35283) LB1087 passed 45-0 and took effect immediately.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–March 22, 2024
March 25th, 2024

Spring has finally sprung. The first day of spring was on March 19th. I am looking forward to the weather changing, being able to get outside with my grandkids, seeing the baby calves frolicking in the pasture, and working in the yard. I always enjoy this time of the year.

Bill Update
     This past week we debated my personal priority bill (LB441) on the floor for three days. LB441 was to close an unintended loophole in Nebraska obscenity law. Currently it is against the law for anyone in Nebraska to present materials considered criminally obscene or harmful to minors except in K-12 schools and libraries. This means it is lawful to present criminal obscenity to any age of schoolchildren. It makes no sense that schools and libraries, of all places, should be given a pass to expose children to material the law already would recognize as criminally obscene to children.
     The drafters of the original legislation never intended that loophole to exist. The 1977 obscenity law was particularly and expressly intended to protect school children from obscenity. The exemption from prosecution was intended for postsecondary educational institutions only, NOT K-12 schools.
     LB441 would not have changed a thing about the definition of obscenity (found in Nebraska State Statute §28-808) as applied under Nebraska law. It simply would make Nebraska’s obscenity statutes applicable to K-12 educational institutions just as these obscenity statutes are applied everywhere else in Nebraska.
     This became abundantly clear in debate when Senator Halloran read a portion of hearing testimony on the floor. It created a problem for the adults in the room, but these same adults want this available to school children in K-12 schools. If it is hard for them, why would we want to create the same problem for children in Nebraska schools?
     LB441 garnered 30 votes but not the 33 votes required to overcome the filibuster. This bill’s intent was to include K-12 in Nebraska state statutes to protect children from what is “criminally harmful to minors” as it is throughout the great state of Nebraska.

Governor Pillen property tax relief plan
The Revenue Committee is getting closer to putting out their property tax relief package. There has been much discussion on what is the best way to meet Governor Pillen’s goal of a 40% reduction in property taxes in Nebraska. The committee is working up to the wire to make this goal a reality. More information will be coming soon as we get closer to submitting our package to the floor for debate.

Severe Weather Awareness Week
March 25-29 is Nebraska Severe Awareness Week. This week gives Nebraskans an opportunity to review their plan when severe weather strikes. “The devastating impacts of extreme events can be reduced through improved readiness,” said NEMA Assistant Director Erv Portis. “In addition to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, we need to prepare for hazards that could happen due to drought conditions impacting the state.” “In a time of drought, wildfires are a top concern,” Portis said. “Even the smallest spark could ignite and threaten entire communities. If you are ordered to evacuate, know where you would go and what route you would take to get there.”
Every Nebraskan should make a safety plan, create a preparedness kit, and review proper safety precautions with your family.

  • Make a Plan–Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster.
  • Build a Kit–Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home. Don’t forget the unique needs of each person or pet. You can find a list of items to help you get started here: https://nema.nebraska.gov/assets/files/preparedness/preparedness-kit.pdf
  • Prepare for Disasters–Know the risk of disasters in your area and check your insurance coverage. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards.
  • Teach Youth about Preparedness–Talk to your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved.
  • Get Informed–Find out what disasters could impact your area, and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate. Keep a NOAA weather radio tuned to your local emergency station and monitor TV and radio. Follow mobile alerts and warnings about severe weather in your area.

For more information on severe weather awareness, or preparing for severe weather, visit: nema.nebraska.gov/. (Sperl, Katrina. News Release. “Severe Weather Awareness Week”. 19 March, 2024. https://shorturl.at/fimEN)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–March 15, 2024
March 15th, 2024

This past week we spent a majority of all day floor debate discussing changes to the budget. As we finished up the week, there are only 16 days remaining in this 60 day session. We begin late nights on March 18th and will have 10 late nights to try to complete the work we began in January, 2023. Besides the budget there are many Senator and Speaker priority bills to be debated as well as different committee priority package bills.

SCAM ALERT
As tax season is upon us, it has come to my attention that there are tax-related scams happening in Nebraska. Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers and Treasurer Tom Briese said Thursday, March 14th that scammers are sending messages that look like official documents from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), state agencies or officials, tax software companies or Nebraskans’ own tax professionals. The IRS states that thousands of people have lost personal information or millions of dollars through scams. “They may copy language, logos or fonts from the IRS to make it look as legitimate as possible,” Hilgers and Briese said in a joint news release. “These scammers are seeking to steal personally identifiable information from your official tax documents.” Hilgers and Briese said Nebraskans should never click on any links in these suspicious communications and should check on their status of any pending refunds directly with the IRS. “The IRS will always contact you by mail first,” the statement says. “The IRS will also not require a specific type of payment.” Often scams may include hard to reverse payments, including gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers or cashier’s checks.
In cases of suspicious calls:

  • Don’t give personal or financial information.
  • Hang up.
  • Contact the IRS directly.

Nebraskans who think they may owe back taxes can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov/balancedue. More information is available from the Attorney General’s Office or with its Consumer Affairs Response Team at (402) 471-2682. “Take extreme caution if you get an unsolicited contact about your tax information,” Briese and Hilgers said. (Wendling, Z. (2024, March 15). “AG Hilgers, Treasurer Briese: Nebraskans need to beware of tax-related scams”. Nebraska Examiner. https://shorturl.at/QSV37

Bill Updates
LB16, originally introduced last year by former Albion Senator Tom Briese, was taken up this session by Lincoln Senator Danielle Conrad. This bill would make a number of changes to state law regarding credentials for certain professions. LB16 provides broad reciprocal licensure for military members, apprentices, and individuals who are licensed in other states, provided they meet a number of criteria. Among other provisions, the bill requires that applicants for reciprocal licensure must hold a credential that covers a similar scope of practice, not have a disqualifying criminal record, and not have had their credential surrendered or revoked for negligence or misconduct. This bill passed Final Reading on February 29, 2024 and approved by the Governor on March 5, 2024. (“Occupational licensure bill approved”. Unicameral Update. 29 February, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35768)

News from Governor Pillen’s office
Governor Jim Pillen has approved regulations governing nonsurgical pharmaceutical gender altering treatments for individuals under nineteen years of age. “Nebraska’s kids are our future. They deserve the opportunity to grow up and develop to their full, God-given potential,” said Governor Pillen. “As a state, we must protect children from making potentially irreversible and regrettable decisions–decisions for which they may not completely understand the irreversible consequences. I extend my appreciation to the Legislature for the passage of LB 574 and to those at DHHS who worked swiftly and thoroughly to ensure completion of these important regulations.” The Let Them Grow Act, LB 574 (2023), requires DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) chief medical officer (CMO) to promulgate and adopt rules and regulations governing nonsurgical pharmaceutical gender altering treatments for individuals under nineteen years of age.
The adopted regulations included:

  • The requirement that a patient receive a minimum of 40 gender-identity-focused contact hours of therapeutic treatment prior to receiving the prescribed medications;
  • Required procedures for obtaining and documenting a patient’s informed consent for treatment;
  • A minimum waiting period of seven calendar days between the informed patient consent and the time the drugs or hormones are prescribed, administered or delivered to the patient;
  • Requirements related to the labeling, administration of, and delivery of the puberty-blocking drugs and/or cross-sex hormones;
  • The requirement that a patient under the age of majority must receive at least one therapeutic contact hour every 90 days while the drugs or hormones are being administered to evaluate ongoing effects on the patient’s mental health;
  • Patient medical record documentation requirements for prescribing practitioners; and
  • The requirement that a health care practitioner obtain three hours of continuing education prior to prescribing drugs or cross-sex hormones.

A patient is exempt from these requirements if:

  • The patient began receiving the prescribed medication prior to October 1, 2023;
  • The medication is not being prescribed for the treatment of gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria;
  • The patient has reached the age of 19.
    (Strimple, Laura. Press Release. “Gov. Pillen Approves LB 574 Regulations on Nonsurgical, Gender Altering Treatments”. 12 March, 2024. https://shorturl.at/dgBQ0

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–March 8, 2024
March 8th, 2024

This past week has been a busy one as we have spent that time in full floor debate on many different bills. Things move quickly as we see time getting shorter and shorter with a 60 day session.

Congratulations
Congratulations go out to Pender High School senior Caleb Kelly on his perfect 36 on the ACT and on becoming the first President’s Scholarship recipient along the way. “This is awesome to see–homegrown Nebraska talent staying right here in Nebraska,” Pillen said in a statement. “I’m proud that we competed to keep Caleb here.” Along with covering the full cost of attendance–tuition fees and room and board–at NU’s campus in Lincoln, Omaha, and Kearney, the President’s Scholarship also provides students with a $5,000 annual stipend. (Dunker, Chris. “1st President’s Scholarship signed”. Lincoln Journal Star. 7 March, 2024 p. A3)

Congratulations to the Pender Pendragons Girls Basketball Team on their back-to-back wins at the state basketball tournament. Last year they won against Oakland-Craig in Class C-2 and this year they won against Southern Valley in Class D-1. Congratulations on your accomplishment of winning state.

Bill Updates
LB637–Open Meetings Act–was amended into LB43 this past week and voted to E & R Initial on its way to Select File. LB43 would direct hearing officers and judges not to rely on a state agency’s interpretation of state laws or regulations in contest cases under the Administrative Procedures Act. Senator Tom Brewer offered an amendment during select file debate to remove the attestation requirement. He said the provision would have required county clerks in rural areas to drive long distances to have an attestation notarized. The Brewer amendment would make a number of technical changes and add the provisions of my bill, LB637. These provisions would require a public body to allow members of the public an opportunity to speak at every meeting except for closed sessions related to personnel matters, investigations regarding allegations of criminal conduct or other purposes already exempt under state law. Following adoption of the Brewer amendment, senators advanced LB43 to final reading by voice vote. (“Government reform bill amended, advanced”. Unicameral Update. 4 March, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35828)

LB605–Art Therapy Bill–was passed on Final Reading 44-0 and sent to the Governor for his signature. This bill was brought to me by a constituent and I have been working on this bill for the past 7 years. It feels good to have a bill go through the entire process and successfully get signed into law by the Governor. I am grateful for those that helped behind the scenes to make this bill happen.

Upcoming Highway Projects in District 17
Here are some upcoming highway projects beginning this year or have work resuming that was not completed in 2023.

  • Highway 9–two Bridges replaced–Pender South Bridges
  • Highway 9–Pender to Emerson–resurfacing
  • Highway 77–N94-Winnebago–resurfacing and grade raise
  • Highway 77–Lyons to Walthill–resurfacing


News from the Governor’s Office
Governor Jim Pillen has announced a new scholarship program for Nebraska students aimed at growing the number of veterinarians serving livestock producers across the state. The Nebraska Elite 11 Veterinarian Program provides financial support to Nebraska students pursuing degrees in animal science or veterinary science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). March 1st is the first day that applications were being accepted for the first cohort of students. “The need for production animal veterinarians is undeniable. It’s an issue for Nebraska and other states as well,” said Governor Pillen, “Through this collaboration with UNL, Nebraska will be a leader in boosting the number of graduates in this field.” Up to 25 first-time freshmen will receive the Nebraska Aspiring Animal Production Veterinarians Program Scholarship, which covers 50% of their tuition for the first two years of their study in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at UNL, After the second year, up to 13 of the original 25 scholarship recipients will be awarded a continuation scholarship, which covers 100% of tuition for their third and fourth years of study at UNL. Ultimately, 11 students will be selected as part of the Elite 11. Those students will receive 100% of tuition and fees for UNL”s professional program in veterinary medicine, in which students complete the first two years of veterinary school at UNL, followed by two more years of schooling at the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine. Students selected into the program will also receive mentoring and professional development throughout their studies. (Strimple, Laura. Press Release. “Gov Jim Pillen & University Leaders Announce Food Animal Veterinary Scholarship Program”. 01 March, 2024. https://shorturl.at/krKW8)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–March 1, 2024
March 1st, 2024

Last week sure brought a lot of weather changes. I want to encourage everyone to be aware of Red Flag warnings that are posted and keep an eye on the sky as there have been wildfires in central Nebraska and Lancaster County in recent weeks. Stay safe.

The first election requiring Voter ID will be on the May 14, 2024 statewide primary election, All special and statewide elections after this date will require Voter ID. If you are needing more information on acceptable forms of photo ID, need to get a free ID, or need to understand how the process of Voter ID will be used in the upcoming election, I encourage you to check out the Nebraska Secretary of State website at https://sos.nebraska.gov/elections/voter-id for more information.

The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met on February 29th. The board provides an advisory forecast of general fund receipts used by the Legislature to craft the state’s budget. They voted to raise revenue projections for the current fiscal year. Revenue projections for the current fiscal year were raised primarily based on an anticipated increase of $750 million in corporate income tax receipts, offset by a projected decrease of $200 million in individual income tax receipts. Total projected revenue receipts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023-24 were set at $7.02 billion, an overall increase of $575 million. (“Economic forecasting board raises short-term revenue projections”. Unicameral Update. 29 February, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35787)

Bill Updates
This past week we spent many hours debating the phase out of the Inheritance Tax collected by Nebraska counties while partially reimbursing them for housing state prisoners. This bill (LB1067) was introduced by Senator Robert Clements of Elmwood on January 8, 2024 and heard in the Revenue Committee on February 8, 2024. It was voted out of committee to General File 7-1. Under current law, immediate relatives pay a 1% tax on the clear market value of property over $100,000 received by each person. Remote relatives pay 11% on inheritances of more than $40,000 and all other beneficiaries pay 15% on inheritances of more than $25,000. Under LB1067, the rate that applies to immediate relatives would fall incrementally each year, beginning in 2025, until reaching 0% in 2028. The rates that apply to distant relatives and others would decrease each year beginning in 2024 and also would reach 0% by 2028. Senator Clements stated the inheritance tax makes Nebraska unattractive to retirees and is paid by a relatively small number of people, roughly 40% of whom live outside the state. As introduced, the bill would offset a portion of counties’ revenue loss by requiring the state Department of Correctional Services to reimburse counties $35 per day for each state prisoner housed in a county jail. A pending Revenue Committee amendment would increase that reimbursement to $100 per day. Clements said he and other senators were working to find additional ways to replace the estimated $12 million in inheritance tax revenue counties would lose in the first year of the bill’s implementation. This bill is still being debated on the floor on General File. (“Inheritance tax phaseout debated”. Unicameral Update. 1 March, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35797)

News from the Governor’s Office
Governor Pillen expressed excitement on behalf of Nebraska motorists, upon news that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the year-round sale of E-15. The EPA’s final rule is effective April 28, 2025 and applies to eight states, including Nebraska. “This decision is a win for agriculture, ethanol production and for Nebraska consumers,” said Governor Pillen. “Ethanol is a vital part of our economy. We will continue to ensure consumers have a low-cost option at the pump. Today’s actions will result in real savings for Nebraska drivers while producing fewer carbon emissions.” (Strimple, Laura and Schafer, Jacy. “Gov Pillen Welcomes Year-Round E15 Approval for Nebraska”. 23 February, 2024. https://shorturl.at/cfzA7)

On February 29th, Governor Pillen released a statement on the increased revenue projection by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board. The board voted to raise revenue projections by $50 million for the 2024-2025 biennium. “Nebraska’s economy is strong and in a good financial position,” said Governor Pillen. “The forecasting board’s increased projection is another signal for needed property tax relief. The time is now. We must continue to work together to find a pathway forward to reduce property taxes for all Nebraskans.” (Strimple, Laura and Schafer, Jacy. “Governor Pillen Touts Strong Nebraska Economy, Signaling the Time for Property Tax Relief is Now”. 29 February, 2024. https://shorturl.at/A2389)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–February 23, 2024
February 23rd, 2024

This past week we passed the halfway mark of this legislative session. Many bills have been brought to the floor for debate. Things have been moving smoothly and many of these bills have been voted forward to the next step of the legislative process. This week I will cover some of those bills that have passed from Final Reading to Governor Pillen’s desk for a signature.

Bill Updates
On Tuesday, February 20th, my bill, LB605–Art Therapy bill–passed second round debate and has been moved to Enrollment and Review for Engrossment on its way to Final Reading (the final step in the bill process). This bill has been a 7 year long process and looks to pass into law this session.

  • LB299e, introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, prohibits any joint entity that includes a Nebraska school district or Educational Service Unit (ESU) from issuing bonds without approval from a majority of their qualified voters in a special election. The restriction applies to joint public entities created on or after the bill’s effective date. If the bond question fails, it cannot be submitted to voters again for at least six months. This bill was signed into law by Governor Pillen on February 13, 2024 and is currently in effect. (“Voter approval for ertain school bonds approved”. Unicameral Update. February 8, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35412)
  • LB308, introduced by Senator Eliot Bostar of Lincoln, requires express consent from Nebraska residents for the sharing, storage, and use of any consumer genetic data by direct-to-consumer genetic testing services. Under the bill, a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company cannot disclose a consumer’s genetic data to any entity offering health, life or long-term care insurance or to an employer without written consent. This measure also requires a process by which consumers can delete their accounts and genetic data. (“Genetic information safeguards passed”. Unicameral Update. February 8, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35415) This bill was signed into law by Governor Pillen on February 13, 2024.

New from the Governor’s Office
Governor Jim Pillen says a new survey confirms what he has heard repeatedly from taxpayers across Nebraska. They want property tax relief and would support a state sales tax adjustment to make it happen. That’s the response of three-in-five voters surveyed. Not only that, but respondents also indicated they viewed property taxes as being much higher than state sales tax. The survey, conducted by New Bridge Strategy, was backed by the League of Nebraska Municipalities and the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO). Governor Pillen has called for a reduction in property taxes by 40 percent. “This report clearly indicates that this is the strongest priority for Nebraskans, who recognize we must reform current policies, if we are to be competitive with other states and continue to attract new workers to our state,” said Governor Pillen. (Strimple, Laura and Schafer, Jacy. “Gov. Pillen on Survey: Nebraskans Want Property Tax Relief”. 15 February, 2024. https://shorturl.at/jBCD0)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–February 16, 2024
February 23rd, 2024

This past Monday we celebrated Presidents’ Day. Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U. S. presidents, past and present. (“Presidents’ Day 2024”. History.com. 7 February, 2024. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/presidents-day)

Bill Updates

This past week I had LB1207 heard in the Agriculture Committee. LB1207 is just adding insect production to the definition of agricultural products. Neb. Rev. Stat. §2-3804 currently states “Agricultural product or commodity should include all products resulting from the conduct of farming or ranching activities, dairying, beekeeping, aquaculture, poultry or egg production, or comparable activities, and any byproducts resulting from such activities.” My bill will add insect production to this definition. We heard testimony that there is currently research being done in raising mealworms to be used in chicken feed and using Black Soldier fly larvae for use in pet food due to its high protein content. This looks to be a way to bring potential companies to Nebraska to incorporate this type of production into the agriculture industry. This bill was voted out of committee unopposed and moved on to General File.

Over the coming weeks I will be sharing many bills with you that have made it through Final Reading and are headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. We have really been moving things along in the process and I look forward to sharing what we have passed into law for the citizens of Nebraska.

News from the Governor’s Office

On February 13th, Governor Pillen held a press conference touting a “Nebraska solution” that will allow the state to take advantage of the federally-funded Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (SEBT) program, while ensuring that additional needs of children and their families are met. “My team has been in touch with the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has expressed interest and support for this plan. We simply must do better in Nebraska to enhance the quality of life and the quality of interaction with kids and their families during the summer months. This program will make sure that happens,” said Governor Pillen. DHHS, through the Office of Economic Assistance, will act as the coordinating agency for the implementation of theSEBT program. In addition to vendor issued EBT cards, the program will have touchpoints incorporated to ensure that kids are safe. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) will partner with DHHS to provide necessary student information to DHHS, so that eligible children are identified, and families are aware of the benefits and additional resources available to them. Supplemental features of the program include:

  • Educational outreach that informs families about the types of nutritious foods that parents can purchase for their kids with SEBT cards.
  • A website with information about the SEBT program that also provides connections to other summer programs with additional support and resources.
  • When the SEBT card is mailed to families, trained staff with DHHS will follow up personally to assess any other needs and determine what resources would be of benefit.
  • DHHS will send text messages to enrolled families, so they can easily apply for SEBT. This also provides another connection to trained DHHS staff who can help families identify and navigate access to additional resources in their communities.

“We are very excited about this program because we are going to implement it the Nebraska way,” said DHHS CEO Steve Corsi. “We are setting up the program to ensure kids are safe in the summer. Through our partnership with NDE, we are confident DHHS will be able to implement this in a timely manner, built upon the foundation already established with NDE to carry out the Pandemic-EBT program.” Nebraska will continue to participate in the summer Food Service Program (SFSP), also funded through the USDA. Like SEBT, it also provides no-cost food to children, usually in centralized locations where kids get access to nutritious meals and snacks. (Strimple, Laura and Schafer, Jacy. “Gov. Pillen Announces SEBT “Nebraska Solution”. 13 February, 2024. https://shorturl.at/kluJV)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–February 9, 2024
February 9th, 2024

This week I would like to share an OpEd with you about what the Nebraska Legislature accomplished for schools in the 2023 session. Much of what you have heard has to do with LB753–Opportunity Scholarships Act. So much more took place and this OpEd (from the February 4th Omaha World Herald) gives you more information regarding what the Nebraska Legislature did for public schools in Nebraska.

Opportunity Scholarships Act provides choice, gives options to families

By ROB CLEMENTS, LOU ANN LINEHAN, DAVE MURMAN, TOM BREWER, BEN HANSEN, JULIE SLAMA, JOHN LOWE, STEVE ERDMAN, JONI ALBRECHT, CHRISTY ARMENDARIZ, BRAD VON GILLERN

     We are writing in response to an opinion printed in last Sunday’s Omaha World-Herald by seven former state senators. Their opinion echoes that of OpenSky and Stand for Schools, two groups who are active lobbyists in the Legislature and largely funded by progressive Nebraskans through their tax-exempt foundations.
     It is hard to overstate what was accomplished during the last legislative session. Of course, none of it would have happened if not for the leadership of both former Gov. Pete Ricketts and Gov. Jim Pillen. Further, as anyone who has served in the Legislature knows, every accomplishment is dependent on give and take. So, what did the 108th Legislature do last year regarding education funding?
     First, Legislative Bill 818 created the $1 billion Education Future Fund. The $1 billion Education Future Fund will ensure the Legislature will no longer adjust the school aid formula down when revenues are below estimate, which occurred six times between 2009 and 2019. LB 583 created $1,500 in foundation aid for every student pre K-12 public schools, and increased special education reimbursement from 42% to 80% for public schools. LB 583 appropriated $338 million in new state public school funding over and above the $1 billion already allocated to public schools, a 37% increase.
     LB 385 created a $5 million teacher retainment program, and LB 516 appropriated $870,000 in state funds to administer the Safe2HeipNE report line. Both LB 385 and LB 516 are available to all schools, public and private.
     Finally, LB 753 did create a tax credit to fund scholarships for disadvantaged children to access schools, including approved and accredited private schools, that best meet the needs of the students and their families.
     Several states have similar programs and the U.S. Supreme Court has found these programs constitutional.
     A tax credit to promote good policy is not new. Nebraska already has dozens of tax credits in law. They include tax credits for property taxes paid, school readiness, employment and investment, historic tax credit, financial institution tax credit and many others that represent hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits.
     Along with the passage of Opportunity Scholarships Act (LB 753), the Legislature passed a new $25 million childcare tax credit last session. No one is claiming that the $25 million tax credit for early childcare will hurt the general fund.
      Just in the first ten days of this session, nine state senators have introduced thirteen new tax credits to be considered this year.
     While it is true that many tax credits benefit the filer, that is not true with Opportunity Scholarships tax credit. The beneficiaries of these tax credits are children who, in order to succeed, need additional education options their parents cannot afford.
     Nebraskans believe in school choice. We have 244 different school districts, seven of which are located in Douglas County. Many Nebraskans purchase homes in the school district of their choice. Another 24,000 students in Nebraska access school choice through public school option enrollment, which the state funds at over $100 million per year (equivalent to the total sum of the Opportunity Scholarships fund). Ten percent of students in Nebraska attend a private school because, either through scholarship programs and family financial means, they can afford to do so. The only families who cannot access school choice are those without the means to do so. The Opportunity Scholarships Act balances choice for all Nebraskans, and increases hope and educational success for families who previously had no options.
      Rob Clements, Lou Ann Linehan, Dave Murman, Tom Brewer, Ben Hansen, Julie Slama, John Lowe, Steve Erdman, Joni Albrecht, Christy Armendariz and Brad von Gillern currently serve in the Nebraska Legislature. (Clements, R., Linehan, L., Murman, D., Brewer, Tom, Hansen, B., Slama, J., Lowe, J., Erdman, S., Albrecht, J., Armendariz, C., von Gillern, B. 4 February, 2024. “Opportunity Scholarships Act provides choice, gives options to families”. Omaha World Herald. https://shorturl.at/mtNV0)

Floor debate is moving right along. Once bills get to Select File, I will share more information on those bills with you in coming weeks. On Wednesday, February 7th, my bill, LB605 (Art Therapy bill), was heard on the floor in first round debate and passed on to Select File (2nd round). This is exciting as I have been working on this bill for the past 6 years with many others. This gets it one step closer to being passed into law.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–February 2, 2024
February 7th, 2024

I hope this past week found you enjoying the nice change in the weather. It has been nice to see the sun and watch the piles of snow melt away. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day occurs every February 14th. Across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. (“History of Valentine’s Day”. History.com. 19 January, 2024. https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2) I hope you are able to share February 14th with family and loved ones.

Most of this week has been spent debating LB31–Require train crews of at least two individuals. This bill prohibits any train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight from being operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals. Two-person crews can play a major role in helping to prevent potential accidents or derailments, as well as allowing potential problems to be addressed while an individual remains in the cab. This bill has been filed for the past 10 years. Nothing has changed since 2015. The largest Class I railroads operating in Nebraska (BNSF & Union Pacific) have collective bargaining agreements with their unions requiring them to operate with two people in the cab on their tracks. The crew size issue will be federally preempted by a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulation within the next few months. Nebraska is a state that is so appreciative of our railroads. We appreciate the companies and how they conduct business in our state. Any time there is a natural disaster–floods, blizzards, etc.–they are on the scene to keep goods moving across our country. We appreciate every railroad employer and employee.  I voted against this bill as I don’t think state government should interfere in negotiations between employer and employee.

Last week long hearings began in the two committees I serve on, Education and Revenue. We heard 13 bills in Education and 21 bills in Revenue. I want to focus on some of the bills that were eard in both committees last week.

Education Committee

  • LB985 would adjust a portion of the Nebraska Recruitment and Retention Act. This bill requires that teachers endorsed to become certified in SPED, STEM, or Dual Credit must also contract to teach in their field of endorsement in order to receive the high-need retention grant.
  • LB878 would limit when school bond elections may be held. This bill would prohibit schools and educational service units from conducting special elections for a bond issue, a property tax levy or exceeding a property tax levy limitation. Instead, such questions could appear on ballots only during statewide general elections in even-numbered years. (“Limits on school, ESU bond elections considered”. Unicameral Update. 31 January, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35178)
  • LB1027 revises Section 79-1601 which covers requirements for exempt schools, which include private, denominational, parochial, group, and home schools. This section has not been significantly updated in almost 25 years. This bill would allow one parent or guardian to apply with the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) for their child to attend an exempt school. This aligns the requirements of exempt schools with those of public schools. It eliminates the annual renewal requirement for exempt schools in order to eliminate the significant delays, confusion, and burdensome workload placed upon parents and NDE. LB1027 will also make changes in order to harmonize the statute with current NDE practice by removing language regarding subject matter testing for employees of exempt schools, which had never been applied by NDE. Removes allowance for NDE visitation and inspection of exempt schools which has never been implemented. Remove allowance for NDE achievement testing of exempt school students, which has never been used.

Revenue Committee

I introduced LB1310 and LB1354 in the Revenue Committee on February 1st.

  • LB1310 would eliminate the sales and use tax exemptions for the Nebraska Lottery and Games of Skill and add a sales tax rate of 20% on the sale of lottery tickets pursuant to the State Lottery Act and transactions involving a cash device as defined in section 77-3001 that are subject to sales tax.
  • LB1354 will adopt the Advertising Services Tax Act. This bill will create a tax on the gross income or revenue from advertising services. This tax will be imposed on a person that is subject to the internal revenue code or a group of persons subject to the internal revenue code that are part of the same unitary group that are doing business in Nebraska and whose combined gross advertising income exceeds $1 billion dollars. Advertising revenue does NOT include web hosting services. News media entities, as defined within the act, are excluded from the program.

A few other bills heard in committee January 31-February 2 were:

  • LB1241 introduces a levy limit based on the percentage increase in a political subdivision’s total taxable property valuation. An increase in property valuations must be offset by a reduction in the levy.
  • LB1316 amends Neb. Rev. Stat. 77-3405 to remove a provision that allows school boards to override levy limits imposed with a seventy percent vote of the school board.
  • LB1414 would adopt the Property Tax Growth Limitation Act that would place a cap on local political subdivisions other than school districts. This legislation requires a political subdivision’s property tax request authority to be an amount equal to the political subdivision’s property tax request from the prior year. Any amount approved by the voters and any amount needed to pay the principal and interest on approved bonds, and real growth would be excluded from this cap. Political subdivisions may bank up to 5% of unused budget authority if they do not choose to increase its property tax request.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room 1404
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2716
Email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
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