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Greetings District 18!
I’d like to take this opportunity to update you all on my current bills, and extend an invitation to attend a presentation by Senator Ebke on her LR35 Convention of the States Tour on October 13th at Big Fred’s Pizza in Omaha. Constituents are also invited to chat with me on the 13th to discuss policy issues.
My primary focus next year will be on my bill to repeal the state tax on Social Security income- LB165. I have continued to receive letters and e-mails throughout the interim from many constituents who are moving out of state or know friends and family who are moving due in part to the state tax on Social Security income. I am concerned that our collective tax burden hampers Nebraska’s economic growth from a speedy recovery.
In an e-mail earlier this year, a couple in my district stated that they are planning to retire in 2-3 years, and have already been shopping around for homes in neighboring states. They noted a $300 difference per month compared to some of the lower-taxed states! This is huge!
My staff is currently in the process of exploring other options for what Nebraska can do to boost its economic competitiveness with neighboring states. I am open to any suggestions that you may have and would encourage your involvement in exploring those options.
As mentioned earlier, constituents are invited to Big Fred’s Pizza on Tuesday, October 13th to hear a presentation by Senator Ebke on her Convention of the States Tour, with a Q&A session to follow. She will be discussing Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which gives states the authority to call a convention to propose amendments. This would be the most monumental event to occur in over 200 years, as a statewide convention has not been called since 1787 with the signing of the Constitution! Details and directions may be found below.
As always, I am open to hearing from you and welcome any feedback provided. I wish you a great start to the fall season and hope to hear from you soon!
LR35 Presentation, Tuesday, October 13th, @ 6:30p.m.
Big Fred’s Pizza, 1101 S. 119th St., Omaha, NE, 68144 (East of 120th & Pacific St.)
Greetings District 18!
I hope everyone has some fun trips planned for the summer. Now that the Legislature has adjourned for 2015, I’m already preparing for next year. The “Freshman Class” of Senators has experienced the first year at the Legislature, and we are ready to look towards the next. There are some great things that we can do to make Nebraska better, and I am excited to be a part of it.
Throughout the course of this year, the Legislative Body has introduced 664 bills, with 209 having been passed into law (excluding appropriations bills.) The content of introduced legislation has ranged anywhere from tax exemptions, to licensing poker games, and even invasive zebra mussels! Over the course of this year, I have grown a great respect for this institution and the state of Nebraska. The Legislative Body has some of the best and brightest our state have to offer.
Unfortunately, my bill to repeal the state tax on Social Security, or LB165, did not get out of committee. This would be a major boon for our state’s retirees and disabled individuals, who depend on this income for many of their day-to-day essentials. I firmly believe that this is one of the best economic decisions that Nebraska could make. Our retirees don’t always go where the physical climate is ideal, but sometimes, where the financial climate is warmest.
As I “gear up” for the following year, there are some areas I will be considering. During the end of this year’s session, I introduced LR316, which will study Nebraska’s Master Settlement Agreement, or MSA. The MSA was a monetary settlement agreed upon by the major tobacco companies in the U.S during the late 90’s. This settlement determined a fixed amount, based on anticipated market share in each of the states. There have been questions raised on whether Nebraska has been receiving its share of the MSA as agreed. I will be exploring this agreement to figure out our options.
As Chair of the State-Tribal Relations Committee, I have been working closely with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, or NCIA. During my time in the Capitol, I have discovered many areas in state-tribal relations that could improve. Many tribes across Nebraska are experiencing difficulties with state and tribal courts overlapping, administrative errors, as well as other social issues which need to be addressed. It is my intention to ensure our legal systems coincide, and that tribal sovereignty is secured.
Since I have had many requests to meet with constituents, I will be looking forward to your feedback during the interim. Please keep an eye out for “town hall” events during the Fall. If you have any other suggestions for legislation, please contact my office. We are always open to your concerns.
I wish you all the best, and hope you have a fun and safe summer.
Citizens of District 18,
I would like to take this opportunity to make some clarifications on how I decide my vote for the various issues in the legislature.
To get to the bottom of a policy issue you must get to the bottom line. A bad policy tends to be wasteful and inefficient, while a good one tends to be careful with the taxpayer’s dollar. I often take the stance that government can always find a more economical solution to any policy which it carries out. Take for instance LB268, or the death penalty repeal bill.
Some of you are already aware that I was a co-sponsor to this bill. Many Nebraskan residents have expressed their deep conviction that they support death penalty repeal based on moral and civil rights grounds. I certainly understand their concerns over wrongful execution. But my concerns, as with most bills, are on fiscal grounds.
Over the past few months, I have found the death penalty to be one of the most inefficient and ineffective examples of government waste. It has been reported, in recent Judiciary Committee testimonies, that the average cost of executing inmates is $3 million per death sentence, most of whom are successful in avoiding the penalty altogether. A life without parole sentence has an average of $1.1 million, and is much more effective. It is for this reason that I would like to see penitentiary reform.
Another issue that was debated at length this year was the voter ID bill, or LB111. As stated during debate, I was opposed to this bill because of its projected fiscal impact. While I cannot say that we as legislators must never pass a bill that would increase expenditures, we must ensure that we are getting what we pay for. Businesses must often weigh a cost-benefit analysis for each decision they make. So our government must weigh similar cost-benefit analyses. LB111 only addressed instances of in-person voter ID. Since Nebraska has never had an instance of in person voter fraud ever reported, I could not justify spending what the fiscal note estimated, so I voted no.
My primary concern when deciding on how I should cast my vote in the legislature will always concern its fiscal impact. Nebraskans have been paying some of the highest property and retirement taxes in the nation, just to name a couple. As a financial adviser, I have heard countless clients express their concern that if property and retirement taxes don’t go down, they will leave when they retire. Our state is losing many of these retirees because of that.
For these reasons, I will always be concerned with the fiscal note, no matter which Senator it comes from.
Spring is just around the corner!
A lot has been happening since I wrote the last update. The Legislature has engaged in a number of big debates, including the immunization mandate debate, gambling in Nebraska, and the fate of our cigar bars, just to name a few. We have also seen a number of really big issues being discussed in committees that can often go clear into the night!
But not all the important happenings have been in the hubbub of debate. The Legislature has passed a number of bills into law. Nebraska cigar bars are once again allowed to enjoy the freedom of allowing patrons to enjoy a cigar. The Legislature passed this bill into law (LB118) on February 20th, and the Governor signed shortly after. LB100 has also passed into law, which would give aid to Tribal Community Colleges, and nurses now have more opportunities to practice thanks to LB107.
I have yet to hear back from any of my bills sitting in committee, but I am hopeful that some of them will come through as committee hearings come to a close for the year. I truly believe that Nebraskans will receive the tax relief they have desired for so long in the near future. My bill, proposing to eliminate the state tax on social security benefits would do just that, and I know this can be achieved for Nebraska’s citizens.
There will be a number of priority bills coming up, which gives Senators the chance to move their bills up to the front of the line. I have used my priority designation in conjunction with Senator Jim Smith, whom I greatly respect and trust. Senator Smith’s bill, LB469, would give more state-level input to Nebraska’s Departments of Energy and Environmental Quality. The State- Tribal Relations Committee, of which I am the Chair, has also prioritized LB566, which would change portions of the Indian Child Welfare Act to make Nebraska’s custody laws more compliant with tribal laws regarding the custody of children. The many tribes of Nebraska have proven to be more than capable of self-governance over the years, and would greatly benefit by maintaining their culture and sovereignty.
Over the past couple months, I have gotten many letters, e-mails, and phone calls from constituents, of which I am greatly thankful. I encourage everyone to contact me with their concerns, opinions, and beliefs. My contact information can be found on this page. When contacting, please clearly state your name, address, contact information, reference to the particular bill or issue, and clearly state your stance on that bill or issue by declaring “support, oppose, or neutral.” This will help my staff determine who my constituents are and ensure that their concerns and opinions reach me in time.
This has certainly been a great year so far, as I have been learning so much about the wide range of issues that face the citizens of Nebraska. I am greatly humbled to serve the citizens of District 18. Without you, none of this would be possible. I encourage you to stay in touch, and would like to wish you all the best.
Greetings citizens of District 18!
What a great start to the New Year it has been! As some of you may know, I ran as the chairperson for the Retirement Systems Committee during my first day in the Legislative Chamber; and came to a very close second. I was only one vote away from being Nebraska’s first freshman Senator in decades to attain a chairmanship!
I have made a pledge to the citizens of this district to fight for the rights of retirees, and to ensure that these people retain more of their fixed income. One of my first bills, LB165, aims to do just that. The bill would eliminate the state social security income tax over the course of five years, and gradually give back to the citizens, while allowing the state government to adjust its operations during this transition.
Among some of my other bills is LB384 and LB385. LB385 would protect tenants from violent or threatening neighbors, while LB384 would affect property taxes. LB384 would allow farmers to reduce the effects of their property taxes by reclassifying their agricultural land. One of the major proponents of lower property taxes this year is Roger Brandt, citizen lobbyist. In the summer of 2014, after years of paying substantially high property taxes, he appealed to the former gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts, who agreed that Nebraskans’ property taxes are too high. In the Governor’s January “State of the State” speech, Brandt was recognized for his significant efforts in lobbying on behalf of the many Nebraskan land owners who agree: our property taxes are too high.
Ricketts prioritized property taxes as one of the key issues in Nebraska- which my bill would address. With the introduction of LB384, I hope to give people the tax relief they need during these hard times. This bill, along with LB564, will also encourage pheasant habitation. I hope, with these two bills, to make Nebraska a better state to enjoy hunting and recreation.
It is my sincere hope that all of you in District 18 will find pleasure in the great outdoors of Nebraska, and enjoy the good life we have built here. I would sincerely like to thank all of you for your support, and would encourage you to call or e-mail me with any questions or concerns. I would love to hear from you and greatly accept any input you may provide to improve our district and the state of Nebraska.
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