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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 18th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
One of the best things about working as a Nebraska State Senator is that I never run out of opportunities to serve my state and the constituents of District 18. That’s as true during the interim as it is when the Legislature is in session.
By virtue of my position as Chairman of the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee I have the opportunity to serve on the Nebraska Economic Development Task Force.
The purpose of this monthly task force meeting is to gather input on issues pertaining to economic development and discuss new ways to proactively support growth. It is composed of three members of the Legislature appointed by the Executive Board, one from each congressional district, and the seven Chairpersons of the Legislature’s standing committees.
It is my hope that I can use my time on the task force to create opportunities for Nebraskans by working not only with my fellow Senators, but with industry and academic experts and with experts from Nebraska’s state departments.
Experts and functionaries consulted with so far include: the Commissioner of the Department of Labor, the Director of Economic Development, the Commissioner of the Department of Education, the Executive Director of Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Post-secondary Education, the Director of the Rural Futures Institute, the Superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools, the Dean of Information Technology & E-Learning at Metropolitan Community College, the Chief Strategist of the University of Nebraska, and the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Wayne State College.
The main questions we are looking to have answered include: what businesses are coming and going in Nebraska, where our state is gaining and where it is losing, how Nebraska attracts and retains people to our state, how Nebraska strengthen its workforce capacity, how Nebraska increases citizens’ earning potential and quality of life and how Nebraska fosters innovation and entrepreneurship.
The July meeting of the Economic Development Task Force focused on workforce development in our elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions and included testimony from the State Director of Career Education with the Nebraska Department of Education, Rich Katt. Katt is quoted in this recent op-ed about workforce development in our schools from the Omaha World Herald. We also heard about exciting programs and partnerships with Wayne State College, Metropolitan Community College, and Grand Island Public Schools among others.
The next meeting of the task force is scheduled for August 11th and will feature a panel discussion on the role of the arts, cultural and creative industries in Nebraska’s economic development. By meeting with our state’s foremost experts and exploring tough questions, I am confident we can find ways to get our economy growing again. As always, I am honored to represent you in the Nebraska State Legislature.
The first session of the 105th legislature has come to an end after many long and heated hours of deliberation in which competing ideas and values eventually coalesced into a single vision.
Many battles were won and many were lost to decide what that vision would be, and in the end no one left with everything they wanted.
Though many important reforms remain unaccomplished, our most important obligation was achieved. The Legislature faithfully executed its duty to forward a balanced budget to Governor Ricketts, and did so without raising taxes.
But while forwarding a budget was absolutely essential, there were many important areas where the legislature failed this session.
I fought hard to end taxation of our senior’s Social Security benefits (LB453), change the burden of proof in dealing with the Tax and Equalization Review Commission in property tax appeals (LB385), and to push through reforms to protect our state’s children when a parent leaves them vulnerable to sexual predators (LB60), but these bills did not get passed. During the interim, my office and I will continue to work to make these bills the best they can be for all involved and revisit them in January.
My office did score some major successes though. With the help of the Banking Commerce and Insurance Committee clerk and legal counsel, Janice Foster and William Marineau, our office successfully completed the herculean labor of modernizing the Nebraska Banking Act (LB140) and Securities Act (LB148) for the first time since the 1960’s.
This is just an abbreviated version of the work I’ve done for District 18 this session, but I wanted to make sure that I keep people informed. As meetings and appointments throughout the interim start happening, I will provide updates of the work we are doing.
Whatever victories and defeats I face in my determination to lower taxes, fight for limited government and faithfully represent the concerns of Districts 18, my commitment to service and the honor I humbly feel in doing so remains unchanged.
Thank you for reaching out to my office this session with your thoughts and concerns. Please continue to contact my office with ideas and suggestions for ways to move Nebraska forward during the interim.
Time continues to march on and as sure as winter turns to spring this 105th session of the legislature continues to move forward. We are now two months in and will soon reach the halfway point. On Tuesday I introduced my final bill for this session in the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee and other committees are getting near the end as well.
The Revenue Committee will continue to hear bills through March 22nd, just shy of the March 23rd deadline for hearing all introduced bills, and the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee only has a few confirmation hearings left. Once committees wind down the Legislature begins all-day floor debate on March 28th.
This week Senators and Committees submitted their requests for priority bills and for Speaker priority bills. I requested a priority designation be given to LB337 introduced by Senator Smith on behalf of Governor Ricketts. Speaker Scheer will let us know on March 13th the 25 bills he has chosen for Speaker Priorities. I believe it is safe to say at this point that if a bill does not have a priority designation or is not approved for consent calendar, it most likely will not be heard this session.
So far, bills that I have co-sponsored have had success. LB 45 allowing military honor license plates has been passed and approved by the Governor, LB407 to create a task force to address issues in Whiteclay was heard on the floor this week, and LB576 which will freeze property tax increases for two years was heard in Revenue on March 9th.
As always it continues to be my great honor to represent the people of District 18 in the Nebraska legislature.
From abolishing the social security tax and protecting children, to protecting our veteran’s benefits and tackling a $900 million budget shortfall there has been plenty to keep the legislature on its toes this week in committees but we’re still just getting started.
Tuesday evening, my fellow Senators on the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee and I were here past 8 pm to conduct a hearing regarding retirement for our police and firemen. The next night, my colleagues and I on the Revenue Committee were here just as late to hear bills presented on tax reform for the state, and I know other committees are here past dark on a daily basis. I can tell you that we are listening to you and are committed to putting in long hours to best serve you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you need information or have a concern.
January is coming to a close and with it comes the close of the first month of the 105th legislative session. While the body has not been without controversy during this time the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee has been working hard and to advance eight bills to general file.
Bills advanced to general file:
Four of the bills I introduced have gone through the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee and have advanced to General File as listed above (138, 184, 185 and 186.) We’ve also begun work on passing LB 388 to update Nebraska’s notary law and make us national leaders in this area.
This bill would allow remote notarization in which a document can be notarized online while connected to a notary via face-time technology. Virginia and Montana are currently the only states which use remote notary and we will continue to work for Nebraska to join this group on the cutting edge of notary technology.
As always serving the citizens of Nebraska, and especially those of District 18, remains the sole focus of my days spent here in the Capitol. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Now that the session has started and bills are flying though our halls at breakneck speed it’s time to reach out and keep you informed of what’s happening here, and, to make sure you never forget that my purpose here in the Legislature is to serve your interests.
With that said, I’d like to inform you of a few developments that I hope you will find useful.
Committee Information: I have been elected Chairman of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee and will also serve as Vice Chairman of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee and as a member of the Revenue Committee.
Our office has moved: We have been relocated to the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee office in room 1401 near the north entrance of the capitol. So if you ever need to talk to me, that’s where I’ll be. You can click on this map to view a link of the legislature’s floor plan if you need further assistance.
Helpful hints: When contacting the office, please state the bill number or issue you’re concerned with and remember to add your name, address and contact information to give us the information we need to engage with you and address your concerns.
Tracking votes in real time: For those of you paying close attention to the happenings in the Unicameral, there has been a development which I hope you will find useful. You will now be able to track senators’ votes on particular bills in close to real time.
The 105th Session of the Legislature has only just begun, and already it’s shaping up to be the eventful session many outside observers predicted that it would be. Next week will see the beginning of hearings, general file debate and the end of bill introduction, so things will only speed up from here.
No matter what’s going on in the legislature though, I will never forget the reason I am here, and that is to represent the people of District 18 and provide the inspired leadership Nebraska needs to defend our strongly held principles and ensure the future of our state.
I firmly believe that taxing Social Security Income places an added undue hardship on retirees living on a fixed income, and encourages people with the money to do so to flee the state, taking with them their spending dollars which are invaluable to driving our economic success.
The Legislature, however, is not a thing easily swayed. And so, the Social Security Income Tax has yet to be repealed. That does not mean my conviction to do so has lessened. If anything, it has only increased.
There are many reasons for this, and they are all rooted in my conservative conviction that our economy can only thrive when productivity and achievement are rewarded rather than punished.
Kiplinger’s Magazine, a publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice, produced a telling infographic to this point. The graphic displays Nebraska, along with a bundle of 10 states including New York and California, as one of the least tax friendly states to retirees in the union. You can view the tax map here.
Punishing people who have achieved throughout their lives by taxing their Social Security Income is ludicrous. These people didn’t work their whole lives just to give that productivity back to the state, and many retirees are voting it out every year with their feet. They are leaving our state for places where they know their Social Security Income won’t be taxed. With only a few states that have the gall to tax Social Security Income, they have a lot of options.
It’s been a nice summer, but now fall is upon us and the temperatures are dropping. Taxes however, rarely seem to follow suit.
The citizens of central and West Omaha were given a stark reminder of this fact of life back in April, when their property valuations went up by 7%.
To be fair, property values were lowered by 8% in most of Northeast Omaha. But people in Omaha still understandably want an explanation as to why this happened.
On the surface the reason for the increase seems relatively simple. The county received funding requests from its subdivisions and set its levy to cover expenses. With the levy set, they divided the cost equally between all property owners.
That’s a simple enough explanation of how the tax rate was set, but that still leaves the increase in property value which then translated into higher property taxes for residents.
The raises in property value were a result of variations between the area’s assessment sales ratio as compiled by the state, and the assessment sales ratio the state mandates an area must fall into by statute. Nebraska law requires residential, industrial and commercial valuations to be within 92% to 100% of the market value. The Tax Equalization & Review Commission (TERC), found that the West Omaha properties in question were at 89% of market value and so mandated a 7% raise in property valuations by the county.
In Nebraska, the county is responsible for any increase or decrease in the levy which then dictates what the tax rate is. County board members are elected officials, so citizens who feel that the levy is unreasonable or unfair have the right to vote them out.
The county is legally obligated to inform property owners via a card in the mail whenever property taxes change. If citizens effected by a tax increase feel the increase is onerous or unfair, they have the right to appeal (follow the link for instructions on the appeals process.)
I introduced an interim study, LR555, to clarify the process and procedures used in such appeals before TERC. I will post an update once the study is complete.
As chairman of the State-Tribal Relations Committee I am aware that the issues effecting Whiteclay, Nebraska have been an ongoing concern in our state for some time.
With that in mind, I recently traveled with fellow State Senators Cook, Baker, and Pansing Brooks to Whiteclay and observed the challenges facing that community to gain a better understanding of how to confront them. This trip coincided with the goals of interim study LR 567 proposed by Senator Pansing Brooks in March of 2016. KETV was kind enough to document the trip. You can view the video here.
We are calling for a package of measures that we think will make an impact on the area. They are listed below:
Following these steps, we believe Whiteclay can move forward to a better future. Senator Pansing Brooks has already made progress towards economic relief in Whiteclay by negotiating with Viaero Wireless and convincing them to erect a tower which will allow cellphone service and internet access to the area.
By creating an environment with access to addiction treatment, law enforcement and economic opportunity, we will be taking positive steps to uplift and empower the community and its neighbors.