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The session is finally underway! This week we began floor debate on carryover bills from last year and are still introducing legislation for this session. So far we have heard LB285 regarding arena financing, LB47 on making the organ donor question on license applications mandatory, and LB619 regarding poker rooms. I voted for the first two and against allowing poker rooms as I believe expanded gambling to be a bad deal for our state.
This session I have introduced several pieces of legislation, 13 in all. Many of these bills are technical updates to our state’s banking and insurance laws that are required to stay in compliance with changing federal laws. As the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Chairman, I have the privilege of carrying those bills. I have also introduced three bills related to K-12 education.
LB882 changes the way school districts are allowed to set their budgets. This will slow growth and limit spending.
LB883 is a compliment to LB882 and creates a per student foundation aid to be paid to school districts to allow them to offset portions of their budget that are currently funded via property taxes. This bill also changes various calculation in the current school financing formula to remove outdated and misused provisions. Upon full implementation, LB883 will result in roughly $5.75 million in annual property tax relief to Madison County.
LB930 makes the Act the new standard test for 11th grade students. Currently there is a pilot project that allows districts to opt to give students the Act instead of the Nebraska Standard Assessment. However, this pilot project expires at the end of this school year. We have heard from individuals statewide that this project has been extremely successful in getting more students college ready and ensuring that they graduate with a solid foundation to succeed. This bill will keep the ACT as the state’s test moving forward.
I look forward to this session getting underway and beginning debate on these important issues. If you have any questions, ideas, or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff at 402-471-2929.
This legislative session has been trying to say the least. We have voiced our opinions on many, many controversial topics over the past five months. Perhaps none of them more controversial, or heavy, than today’s vote on overriding the Governor’s veto of the death penalty repeal bill. Throughout the debate, I have been a staunch and outspoken opponent of repealing the death penalty. To me, the death penalty is a very close and personal matter. I truly believe that our state needs to have a death penalty on the books reserved for the most heinous of criminals. Nearly thirteen years after the atrocious murders at the US Bank in Norfolk I remain steadfast in that belief. There are some crimes that are so heinous and inhumane in nature that they require the ultimate punishment. Certainly the murder of five innocent people in our community fits that framework. I am disappointed that we as a body have voted to sustain the lives of those who have taken from so many.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to contact me and share their feelings on the death penalty vote, the overwhelming majority of whom support the death penalty. I want to share with you one of the emails that I received this afternoon:
“I’m watching the live feed of today’s session and I am proud to have you as my senator. Thank you for speaking up and listening to the people who want to keep the death penalty in place. I could hear the passion and compassion in your voice as you spoke of the killers and the families of the victims from the bank in Norfolk. Thank you again for putting victims before convicts!”
I appreciate hearing from you and will continue to listen to your concerns.
The session is not done yet, and we still have more work to do. I welcome everyone in the district to contact me and share your thoughts and opinions as we round out the first session of the 104th Legislature.
As of adjournment today we are finished with sixty-eight days out of this ninety day legislative session. We are beginning to see some very important issues being debated on the floor. Just this week, we have debated brand inspection fees, school funding mechanisms, ATM transaction fees, a bill addressing the transportation company UBER, wind energy tax credits, and my priority bill on human trafficking, LB294.
On the bill determining how state lottery funds are allocated, LB519, I was able to introduce an amendment and eventually have the allocations changed. This doubled the amount of money, from what was originally allocated, spent on K-12 education within the bill. Keep in mind, this did not increase state spending. It was accomplished by adjusting the amount of lottery funds given to certain post-secondary education programs. I sincerely believe that K-12 education is the main educational responsibility of the state and is the bedrock of our education system as a whole. While the post-secondary programs that the state provides are important, adequately funding K-12 education is always my first priority. My change to this bill will help local schools recoup some of the revenue they have lost over the past few years.
My human trafficking bill, LB294, is the result of a collaborative effort amongst local, state, and federal law enforcement, local and federal prosecutors, victims’ advocates, service providers and various task forces such as the Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, and the Omaha Child Exploitation Task Force. Human trafficking is a market driven criminal enterprise that treats the most vulnerable as lucrative commodities and is not foreign to Nebraska. LB294 is designed to diminish the profitability and increase the risk of engaging in this criminal enterprise. This is achieved by making four specific changes to the law: (1) addressing recruitment of trafficking victims by pimps by increasing penalties for pandering, (2) targeting the consumer of sex trafficking by increasing penalties for solicitation of prostitution, (3) heightening the penalty on keeping a house of prostitution; and (4) affording greater ability to subpoena illicit marketers of sex trafficking like Backpage. LB294 also creates an avenue for victims to seek civil remedy against their traffickers by creating the Human Trafficking Victims Civil Remedy Act. Overall, this bill will be a strong step forward for the state of Nebraska in our battle against human trafficking. After little over an hour’s debate, this bill was unanimously passed by the Legislature.
Tomorrow, I anticipate that we will move from debating bills on General File to Final Reading. If that is in fact the case, my bill to sell portions of the Norfolk Regional Center property to Northeast Community College will be passed. This bill is an important first step to not only mitigating the risk of leaving the dilapidated Regional Center building standing, but also allowing the college to move forward with their plans to create a technological innovation park on that property. I look forward to the passage of this bill and the economic benefits that the coming technology park will bring to all of Northeast Nebraska. Another one of my bills, LB197, has been amended into LB324 and should also pass on Final Reading tomorrow. This is my bill to grant additional powers to certain Sanitary and Improvement Districts, mainly Woodland Park.
As the session continues I welcome your comments, concerns, feedback, and criticisms. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me in my Lincoln office at (402)471-2929.
As we are beginning to wrap up committee work for the session things are begging to heat up in the Capitol. As the number of bills waiting on General File begins to stack up we are all starting to jockey for position to ensure that our bills are heard. Currently, I have four bills waiting in General File for hearings before the entire Legislature. I am working hard to ensure that a few of my other bills are passed out of committee and added to that list.
Two of my bills received hearings by committees this week. On Wednesday, March 4, LB294 was heard before the Judiciary Committee. LB294 is the culmination of numerous hours of work with the Attorney General and his staff to crack down on human trafficking in Nebraska. Human Trafficking is the second largest criminal industry and presents a significant threat to our great state. This bill cracks down on traffickers, cracks down on consumers of human trafficking, and creates a fund (using non-taxpayer dollars) to help victims. According to Shared Hope International, Nebraska receives an overall ‘D’ grade for our efforts to address human trafficking. This bill will help the state combat this deplorable crime and bring us at least to the same level of prosecution as our surrounding states.
On Friday, March 6, LB57 was heard before the Judiciary Committee. This bill is the companion to my other bill LB56. LB56 provides for the property that the Norfolk Regional Center currently resides on, with the exception of the building that is currently used by the state, to be transferred to Northeast Community College. LB57 provides the funding for the buildings on this property to be torn down. Northeast Community College will use this land to build a technical innovation park. This technology park will bring businesses to our area and benefit the region as a whole. LB57 provides the money for the state to level the dilapidated buildings it owns currently on this property so that the plan can be set in motion.
I would also like to congratulate the Norfolk High Panthers on their huge win over Omaha Benson and the Norfolk Catholic Knights on their win over Wahoo Newman in the first round of the state basketball championships. I was lucky enough to be able to attend part of the games on Thursday and had a blast watching these talented young ladies play. They are all tremendous athletes and have worked extremely hard to get to this point. I look forward to keeping my Red, White, and Maroon on and cheering these ladies on throughout the rest of the tournament. I hope to run into some of you this weekend helping to cheer on the Panthers and the Knights.
Senator Scheer’s Capitol Update
This week in Lincoln we have spent the majority of our time debating the merits of LB10. LB10 will return Nebraska to a winner-takes-all electoral system for presidential elections. 23 years ago the Unicameral decided to move from the winner-take-all electoral to the system that we currently have, dividing electoral votes by congressional districts. At that time, the country looked like it would be adopting the shift, as it was theorized that the shift would provide are larger voice to rural Nebraskans. Unfortunately, the rest of the country has not taken up this plan, nor does it intend to. This leaves Nebraska with an electoral process that disadvantages the state as a whole during presidential elections.
Only one of my bills had a committee hearing this week. LB51 was heard on Tuesday before the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee. This bill will amend the Intergovernmental Risk Management Act. The way that the law is currently written, independent insurance agents and risks pools do not compete on an equal ground. This bill seeks to remedy the problem.
The Legislature passed my first bill of the session on Friday by a vote of 46 to 0. LB52, when signed by the Governor, will exempt Sanitary Drainage Districts from paying sales and use taxes. I look forward to this bill being signed into law in the coming week.
If you have any questions for me or want to share your thoughts on a bill, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you happen to be in Lincoln, I would appreciate the opportunity to say hello. My office in the capitol is in room 1401, we can be reached at (402) 471-2929.
Senator Scheer’s Capitol Update
Since my last column there has been a lot accomplished in the Legislature. Four of my bills were heard before committee (LB632, LB197, LB48, and LB56). Three of my bills passed Select File and advanced to Final Reading (LB52, LB180, and LB352). Two of my bills (LB180 and LB352) were debated and advanced through General File. And, one bill, LB111, had the potential to bring the Legislature to a screeching halt. However, it was surprisingly killed by way of a bracket motion, allowing us to move on and address other pressing issues.
My bills that were heard before committees were: LB362, LB197, LB48, and LB56.
LB632 was heard before the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee on February 9. This bill would enact a new section to provide that an employer or association may enter into a contract, agreement, or arrangement with an agent or broker that provides for or results in compensation paid to the agent or broker for the sale of a health benefit plan. The bill would provide that the compensation may be collected by and passed through to the agent or broker by the carrier and shall not be considered premium.
LB197 was heard before the Urban Affairs Committee on February 10. This bill will provide additional powers to certain Sanitary and Improvement Districts (SID). These powers, subject to the approval of the municipality with jurisdiction over the SID, would allow the SID to regulate streets, parking, sidewalks, etc. There are two SIDs in Legislative District 19 that this bill will benefit. Specifically, this bill will allow them to clear the streets and sidewalks of snow and debris and regulate parking on the streets.
LB48 was heard before the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee on February 17. This bill will prohibit insurance companies from dropping a policy due to weather-related casualty, unless the insured has failed to make reasonable repairs from a prior weather-related casualty. Currently, insurance companies are allowed to non-renew policies due to claims made due to weather related events that are out of the control of the insured. I have been contacted by several constituents who are dealing with this problem due to hail storms over the past few years.
LB56 was heard before the Executive Board on February 17. This bill creates a process for the State of Nebraska to gift the property that the Norfolk Regional Center currently resides on, except for the unit that is currently being used, to Northeast Community College. The college will use this property to create a technology innovation center. This center will bring companies and jobs to the Norfolk area.
Next week should see my three bills that were advanced out of committee come up for debate in General File (LB55, LB197, and LB295). I look forward to debating these bills with my colleagues and passing them through to Select File.
It is an honor to represent District 19 in the Unicameral. If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff. You can reach my office at (402) 471-2929 or email me at email@example.com.
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