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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.
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 many of you may already know, I will be one of three Nebraska delegates to a simulated Article V convention in Williamsburg, Virginia Sept. 21-23. Senators Ebke and Friesen will also be in attendance.
An Article V convention is so named because in Article V of the Constitution of the United States of America the process for amendment of the Constitution from the state level is laid out. Below is the specific language from Article V:
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”
As stated in the language of the Constitution, two-thirds (34) of the states must participate in a convention of states before proposed amendments can be considered for ratification by the states.
As such, this convention will only be a simulation. I will be serving on the Fiscal Restraints Committee. We will discuss theoretical amendments on how to curtail out of control spending in Washington. I look forward to working with my fellow legislators from across the country and coming back with great ideas to better serve the constituents of District 18 and the state of Nebraska.
Sen. Brett Lindstrom
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