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Summer is a time for outdoor activities and festivities happening across the State. Special community gatherings at fairs, parades, fireworks, barbeques, concerts, baseball games and family gatherings all kicking off a summer filled with excitement and celebration. This is especially true during this week of the Fourth of July. This year we celebrate our Nations 242nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
It is a time to step back and be thankful for the rights, liberties and freedoms that we share. Remembering those who have so bravely fought for and defended these freedoms. Those that broke the sod, pioneered a new way of life, struggled and persevered to make a better life for us all. We cannot take for granted what they have provided for us and in their spirit we must work together to build a better life. It is my hope that you and your family have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.
I would like to share a few examples highlighting the vitality of our communities: Bone Creek Museum in David City received the Governors Art Award and they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary on July 8th and Henningsen Foods announced an expansion to their operations; a new business G & G Storage opened in Mead; Men in Mission continue their work in Ashland and Obadiah Pruitt received his Eagle Scout Award; Shell Creek watershed was delisted from the EPA’s atrazine impairment on aquatic life (a first in the Nation) and the Shell Creek Watershed Improvement Group was key to making this happen, Schuyler High School students are conducting water sampling in this watershed; Wahoo High School Performing Arts Program was recently recognized at the Nebraska High School Theatre Awards winning Outstanding Musical Theatre Production, Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Performance in a Lead Role for “Shrek the Musical,” Wahoo State Bank is making great strides in its rebuilding; the Saunders County Livestock Association, Soybean and Corn Growers remain and strong and vital part of the district.
It is in these ways we as individuals can come together to grow and enhance our communities, our state and our country. As we celebrate our Independence Day we must remember that it is contributions such as these from individuals from all different backgrounds and ethnicity that has grown and formed our nation into what it is today. With recent federal events highlighting policies on immigration and border security we must keep in mind where our nation has been and where we would like to see it go in the future as we continue to grow this state and country. These are issues that our federal administrations have been tasked with facing for many years and those decisions and policies impact us all. Concerns about human trafficking and safety are real issues and important considerations that require extensive thought and policy debate. However, family separation in this manner is never a good answer to solving them. Having a secure and welcoming border is in the best interest of everyone.
The 105th Legislature Second Session finished hearing bills on final reading and adjourned sine die last Wednesday August 18th.
All 5 bills I introduced this session as well as 2 carry-over bills from last session were signed into law. My legislation included provisions to further protect our wildlife in this state through LB1008, updates to car titling and licensing statutes and other Department of Motor Vehicle provisions in LB909 which also included my LB900, protection of our military terrain flight training areas in LB901, and protection of personal information on firearm purchase permits and registrations in LB902. My carryover bills LB177 and LB472 introduced last session dealing with additional Department of Transportation updates were also signed into law. All legislation for the session goes into effect 3 calendar months following session (July), unless the bill contains a specified enactment date or an emergency clause.
I was disappointed the legislature did not accomplish more on property tax relief this session. I understand that property taxes is an important issue for individuals in District 23 and across our state. Real property tax relief is a priority for me. I worked this session with a variety of Senators, individuals and organizations in an attempt to obtain property tax relief and was frustrated that the legislature was not able to move any meaningful property tax relief legislation forward. I was one of the 13 cosigners requesting a special session to address property taxes. 33 senators are required to sign for the special session to be called. As of the writing of this article the status of that request is unknown as Senators have until Monday April 23rd to turn in the request forms. Regardless if a special session is called I will continue to work over the interim on property tax relief solutions.
The legislature was able to move legislation forward on other important issues this session such as rural broadband expansion, combatting opioid abuse, reform within juvenile justice and corrections, tax reform in LB1090, and exemptions provided for diesel fuel and natural gas in LB900.
Expanding rural broadband is an important issue for the people of District 23 and one I continue to work on. I would encourage you to take time and complete a survey that looks at “How Nebraskans are using Broadband” and its cost benefits which is available until April 30th at http://go.unl.edu/bbsurvey.
There will be some new faces at the Legislature starting next session as 6 Senators were term limited this year and two Senators are not seeking a second term. The legislature heard farewell speeches from the departing Senators on the last day of session.
I will spend the interim working on property taxes, juvenile justice, human trafficking, rural broadband and other issues affecting District 23. I will also work on my LR395, an interim study to examine issues and identify the needs of the volunteer EMS services in Nebraska, as well as, interim studies of the Natural Resource and Transportation and Telecommunications Committees.
I look forward to my continued work with groups and agencies throughout the District. My office remains open over the interim and I appreciate constituents contacting me through my office. Please note: the Capitol HVAC project will begin this summer and my physical office will be moving up to the 8th floor. My office email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and phone (402-471-2719) will remain the same, however, if you come to the Capitol starting in June you will find my office on the 8th floor. You can stay up to date on what I am working on over the interim on my legislative webpage at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist23/.
As I write this article the legislature has only one day remaining of 105th Legislature, Second Session. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die on April 18th. The last day will be spent passing the remaining bills sitting on final reading.
The legislature spent this last week moving bills through select and final reading. LB1081, an Education Committee Priority Bill, was passed by the legislature. LB1081 updates several education statute provisions as well as adopts the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act.
LB1120 by Senator Larson was discussed on select file. LB1120 would adopt the Music Licensing Agency Act to provide protections to those entities that host live music performances and require music licensing agencies to register with the Department of Revenue and follow particular requirements when contacting proprietors. LB1120 was amended to include portions of Senator Thibodeau’s LB747 which regulates Bottle Clubs. The bill as amended advanced to final reading.
LB989 by Senator Wishart was discussed on general and select file. The bill would provide authorizations and regulations for autonomous vehicles in Nebraska under certain conditions. The bill as amended advanced to final reading.
LB496 by Senator Stinner was debated on select file. LB496 would redefine terms under the Community Development Law to include construction of workforce housing as part of a redevelopment project for tax-increment financing if certain requirements are met. The bill advanced to final reading.
LB1090 by Senator Smith was passed on final reading. LB1090 would create a new personal exemption in Nebraska and increase Nebraska’s standard tax deduction canceling out any state tax increase that would have resulted from federal tax changes.
LB1132 by Senator Pansing Brooks was passed on final reading. LB1132 would provide a procedure to set aside convictions of victims of sex trafficking and to expunge related records.
LB994 by Senator Friesen would create the Rural Broadband Study Task Force. LB994 is intended to assist in bringing enhanced broadband telecommunications services to unserved and underserved areas in rural Nebraska. Increasing access to broadband in rural areas is an issue I am passionate about working on. LB994 was passed by the legislature.
Two of my own bills were heard on final reading this last week.LB901 is a bill which supports our National Guard by protecting historic terrain flight training areas utilized by the Guard in rotary wing aircraft training allowing them to remain mission ready. LB902 is a public records bill which protects personal information contained on forms required for purchase or registration of certain firearms. Both bills passed and were presented to the Governor.
As the end of session approaches I want to remind everyone that my office will remain open over the interim and encourage anyone with legislative concerns to contact my office. I understand the need for substantial property tax relief and was one of the thirteen Senators to formally request a special session to address property taxes. I look forward to updating you next week with an overview of this session, property taxes, and what I will be working on over the interim.
The legislature finished up debate of general file priority bills last week and will spend the remaining legislative days of the session moving bills through the legislative process on select file and final reading. My own priority bill, LB902 was discussed by the legislature. LB902 is a public records bill which would protect personal information contained on forms for firearm purchase permits and registration from public disclosure. Law enforcement would still have access to such information. LB902 advanced to final reading.
Other bills of mine, LB1008 and LB909 which were selected as Committee Priority Bills were passed by the legislature on final reading. LB909 was amended to include my LB900 which is the annual update bill for the Department of Motor Vehicles and Nebraska State Patrol and ensures Nebraska remains in compliance with federal regulation and continues to receive federal highway funds. LB900 also amends commercial driver’s license provisions to allow an exception for drivers transporting diesel fuel and provides a special weight allowance for vehicles fuels primarily by natural gas.
The legislature passed the budget bills on final reading and the bills were signed by the Governor on April 4th without any line item vetoes.
The legislature heard several property tax related bills and amendments on general file last week. LB947 and LB1103 were discussed on the floor. Amendments to LB1103 which include pieces of LB1084 another property tax relief proposal were also debated. As of the writing of this article we still do not have a path forward for meaningful property tax relief. I continue to work to find compromise that will provide building blocks for us as a state to provide tax relief that is direct and sustainable.
Other priority topics discussed on general file include testing for autonomous vehicles in LB989, a faithful delegate bill addressing delegates for an Article V Convention of States in LB1058, adopting the Small Wireless Facilities Act in LB389 and LR1CA which would create a Constitutional amendment to require voter identification.
The legislature was visited this week by two high school students from Howells-Dodge. The students were visiting and learning about the unicameral as part of their sophomore pilgrimage. I enjoyed meeting with the students and discussing the legislative process.
Senator and Sophomore Students from Howells-Dodge
Nebraska Future Farmers of America (FFA) celebrated the 90th annual Nebraska FFA Convention last week. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with students from District 23 at the annual FFA Legislative Breakfast and discuss the unicameral and issues facing Nebraska.
I introduced LR395, an interim study resolution to examine issues and needs of the emergency medical service system provided by volunteers in Nebraska. I look forward to working on this study over the interim to address impediments to rural emergency medical services and work toward identifying a plan for the future of such services. Many of our rural communities rely solely on the medical services provided by volunteers within our communities and LR395 gives us the opportunity to identify and address important issues related to these crucial services.
The legislature continues to work on priority legislation as the session winds down. Several priority bills were debated this week including several of my own. My LB909 which was selected as committee priority bill for the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and which included several other priority bills from the committee was heard and advanced to final reading. LB1008, my bill which was selected as a Natural Resource Priority Bill and which contained several other natural resource bills was also discussed and advanced to final reading. Another bill I introduced LB901 which would give the Nebraska National Guard a voice in and protect Terrain Flight Training Areas where the Guard trains to remain mission ready was advanced to final reading.
Other bills debated included LB841 a bill introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks which was prioritized by the Judiciary Committee. LB841 would provide duties related to correctional overcrowding emergencies. LB841 was amended to include several other judiciary committee bills. The package as a whole seeks to address justice and corrections concerns which remain a priority for the legislature. LB841 as amended by Am2092 and Am2634 advanced to select file.
The main budget bill, LB944 was discussed on select file. Compromise language on the Title X provision of the budget was reached and incorporated into the bill through AM2750. The budget as amended was advanced by the legislature to final reading.
I remain committed to addressing property taxes this session and I continue to work with various groups and Senators on the issue. Two bills that have been placed on general file which could affect property taxes are LB947 introduced by Senator Smith at the request of the Governor and LB1103 introduced by Senator Friesen. LB947 would adopt the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act and changes corporate tax, workforce development and certain exemptions and credits. LB947 would provide a refundable income tax credit equal to a percentage of property taxes paid. The bill allows for the credit percentage to increase per year if certain conditions are met. A cap is set on the credit amount available each year. LB1103 seeks to provide a minimum amount of state aid to every school district changing the way schools are funded and therefore affecting a school districts reliance on property tax funding.
The following bills were passed by the legislature on Final Reading on Thursday, March 29th and will be given to the governor: LB42, LB702, LB773 and LB931. LB42 by Senator Hilkemann changes provisions relating to child passenger restraint requirements in vehicles. LB702 introduced by Senator Kolterman reduces the time an incarcerated individual is considered to have an involuntary reduction of income for child support purposes from one year to one hundred eighty days. LB773 by Senator Clements prohibits intimidation by electronic communication. LB931 by Senator Howard provides requirements for opiate and controlled substance prescriptions and generally limits the number of days a medical practitioner could prescribe opioid pain relievers for a patient younger than 19 to help combat opioid abuse.
The session is winding down with several key topics still left for the legislature to tackle including the budget, property taxes and education related bills. Several bills were heard on general file last week. LB1005 by Senator Kolterman which would make changes to county or school retirement provisions advanced to select file. LB1009 by Senator Murante to provide a super-two rural highway classification and raise maximum highway speed limits on particular roads was debated. LB1009 advanced to select file with an amendment which struck the interstate speed increase provision from the bill. LB990 introduced by Seantor Wayne which would create the offense of possession of a firearm by a prohibited juvenile defender was advanced to select file. LB1130 introduced by Senator Kuehn which would provide a disclosure requirement for certain tax-exempt organizations under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act was discussed on general file. A final vote on the bill has not been taken. LB295 a bill introduced by Senator Smith which would adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act and provide taxpayers a non-refundable tax credit equal to the amount the taxpayer contributed to a scholarship granting organization. There was no vote on the bill.
Two of my bills were heard on general file as Committee Priority Bills. LB909 my bill which was used as a vehicle for Transportation and Telecommunication Committee priorities was heard on general file. My LB909 would amend titling and licensing provisions to provide for the designation of vehicle titles as reconstructed or replica and contained other DMV related legislation. LB909 advanced to select file. LB1008 my bill which was selected as a Natural Resource Priority bill was also heard on general file. It would increase liquidated damages amounts for violations of game law and was amended by the committee to include several other natural resource committee priority bills. A provision of the amendment which clarified public records of public power drew a great deal of discussion. A final vote has not been taken on the bill.
The legislature has yet to pass the main budget bill, LB944, as of March 23. The bill failed a cloture vote after debate over a Title X provision. The legislature must pass the budget before the end of session in order to ensure the state remains fully funded until next session.
The legislature was visited by 4th grade students from St. Mary’s School in David City. I enjoyed welcoming the students to the capitol and discussing the legislative process.
For high school students who are interested in learning more about the legislative process there is a great opportunity I would recommend to you. The Clerk of the Legislature’s Office coordinates a four-day legislative simulation each summer that offer high school students a hands-on opportunity to experience the legislative process. The Unicameral Youth Legislature is scheduled for June 10-13 and the registration deadline is May 15th. For more information go to https://nebraskalegislature.gov/education/unicamyouth.php.
I would like to wish everyone a safe and blessed Easter Weekend.
The legislature continued debate of priority legislation this week. The legislature heard debate on individual Senator Priority bills including LB42, LB44 and LB993. LB42 introduced by Senator Hilkelmann which would change occupant protection system provisions for children and adopt certain federal safety provisions was heard on general file. LB42 would update requirements for use of child passenger restraint systems when travelling in a motor vehicle. The bill did advance.
LB44 introduced last session by Senator Watermeier was reprioritized and debated again on select file with amendment AM1822. LB44 would adopt the Noncollecting Retailer Notice and Reporting Act which would require notification by noncollecting retailers of purchases made by Nebraska purchasers for taxable items. LB44 advanced to select file as amended.
LB993 introduced by Senator Friesen was discussed on general file. LB993 creates the 911 Service System Advisory Committee and amends the 911 Service System Act and allow for the implementation of next-generation 911 Services. LB993 advanced to select file.
Changes to certain district court judicial district boundaries were discussed on general file this week in LB697, a bill by Senator Ebke which was selected as a Speaker Priority Bill. LB697 was advanced to select file.
Two Committee Priority bills were also discussed by the legislature on general file. LB808, a bill introduced by Senator Harr was prioritized by the Agriculture Committee and debated on the floor. LB808 would amend the Community Gardens Act and create the Community Food Production Water Fund. A final vote has not been taken on the bill. LB1090 a bill introduced by Senator Smith and prioritized by the Revenue Committee was discussed on the floor. The bill would restore the personal exemption credit that was effectively repealed by the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for Nebraska taxpayers and amends other taxing provisions. LB1090 did advance to select file.
Increasing and Improving technology and access to rural broadband in this State continues to remain an important issue for me and those in our District. As a legislative liaison to the Nebraska Information Technology Commission I attended the Quarterly Meeting held on Thursday, March 8th at Varner Hall. It was a great opportunity to stay up to date on these issues and hear more from experts in these fields and the learn the status and progress of technology and its increasing uses in our State.
The legislature hosted the Ashland-Greenwood High School Concert Choir this week on Tuesday, March 6th. The Ashland-Greenwood Concert Choir was selected to participate in the Nebraska Music Education Association Capitol Concert Series. I enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the Choir’s performance in the Rotunda and applaud the students and staff for all of their work and accomplishments in music.
The budget bills LB944, LB945, and LB946 were advanced form the Appropriations Committee this week. The legislature will begin budget discussions next week and I will have more specifics to share on those bills at that time.
We are now over half way through this short 60 day session and the legislature has switched gears and began full-day debate of legislation on the floor. The legislature will focus its time discussing bills designated as a priority by a Senator, Committee, or the Speaker for the remainder of session.
Several Senator Priority Bills were debated this week. LB931 introduced by Senator Howard was discussed on general file. LB931 would create a 7 day duration cap on a prescription for an opiate issued to a person under the age of 19. The bill contained a Judiciary Committee Amendment which inserted portions of LB933 by Senator Lindstrom and LB934 by Senator Kuehn. As amended by Am1841 the bill would require with some exceptions that person receiving dispensed opiates provide photographic identification. LB931 as amended advanced to select file.
LB158 by Senator Pansing Brooks was also debated on the floor. LB158 is a carryover bill from last session that was reprioritized. The bill would require that all juveniles subject to the jurisdiction of juvenile court be appointed counsel. There was several hours of debate on the bill. A final vote has not been taken on the bill.
LB773 introduced by Senator Clements was also heard on general file. LB773 would change intimidation by telephone call provisions to prohibit intimidation by electronic communication to update the statute with our modern tools of communication. The bill did advance to select file.
Two Committee Priority Bills LB1078 and LB935 were discussed on general file. LB1078 a bill introduced by Senator Crawford and prioritized by the Executive Board would require the reporting of sexual abuse allegations involving those being served by the Division of Children and Family Services and placed at a residential child-caring agency as well as state wards, juveniles in probation, juveniles in detention or juveniles in a residential child caring agency to be reported to the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare. The bill did advance to select file. LB935 is a bill introduced and prioritized by the Legislative Performance Audit Committee. The bill would authorize the inspection of certain tax return information and change application, reporting and record retention provisions under the Nebraska Advantage Act. The bill did advance.
This upcoming week March 5-10 is National Consumer Protection Week. The legislature has recently passed on final reading LB757, a bill aimed at providing additional consumer protections. I wanted to share this information from the Attorney General’s Office for those who may be interested in learning more about tips on how to keep their information secure. You may find this information at ProtectTheGoodLife.Nebraska.gov. The legislature will reconvene debate of priority legislation on Tuesday March 6th and I look forward to discussion of key issues affecting Nebraska and District 23.
The legislature reconvened Tuesday following Presidents Day on Monday, February 19th. All Senator and Committee Priority Bills for the session have now been designated. The Speaker has selected his 25 Speaker Priority Bills and one of my own bills LB901 was chosen. Committee Hearings will wrap up on Tuesday February, 27th and senators will move to full day debate and begin focusing their attention on debate of these priority bills.
Several Senator and Committee Priority Bills were debated on the floor this week. LB299, a bill by Senator Ebke, was discussed on general file. LB299 would adopt the Occupational Board Reform Act and change procedures for particular rules and regulations. No vote has been taken on the bill. LB439 introduced by Senator Wishart would update the Assisted-Living Facility Act and provide clarification to distinguish care between assisted-living and nursing facilities. LB439 advanced to select file. LB776 introduced by Senator McCollister would provide requirements for inmate access to telephone or videoconferencing systems in county and city jails. A final vote has not been taken on the bill.
The legislature heard several bills on Final Reading on Friday, February 23rd. One of my own carry over bills, LB472 was heard and passed on Final Reading. LB472 would eliminate the fee for certain advertising sings along the state highway system.
My Committee Hearings wrapped up this week with several internet and broadband related bills. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard LB1113 introduced by Senator Walz dealing with broadband. LB1113 would provide an exception for leasing dark fiber or providing broadband, internet, telecommunications or video services by an agency or political subdivision of the state. The Committee also heard a bill introduced by Senator Morfeld, LB856, addressing net neutrality. LB856 would create the Internet Neutrality Act which would require Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) be transparent in regards to their business practices and provides that no ISP can engage in paid prioritization. I will continue to keep everyone updated as bills move from committee to the floor for debate.
I wanted to share this information about opportunities for those who may wish to serve on any Boards and Commissions. Serving on a Board or Commission is a great way to stay involved in our state and communities and I encourage anyone interested to apply. The open positions and application form can be completed at: https://governor.nebraska.gov/ under “Constituent Services”.
The legislature was visited this week by two groups of students from District 23. Fourth grade students from David City Public Schools toured the Capitol on Friday, February 23rd. Another group of fourth grade students from Ashland Greenwood Public Schools also visited the Capitol on the 23rd. I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with both groups of students and discuss the legislative process.
The legislature returned to debate on several select file bills this week. LB757 introduced by Senator Morfeld which provides for additional consumer protections regarding personal and financial data was advanced to final reading. LB758 introduced by Senator Hughes which would require collaboration between natural resource districts and counties under the Nebraska Ground water Management and Protection Act also advanced to final reading. Senator Baker’s LB710 allowing for the recovery of court costs and attorney’s fees in certain civil claims advanced to final reading. My own bill, LB472 was heard on select file this week. LB472 is a bill I introduced on behalf of the Department of Transportation and would eliminate a fee for particular advertisement signs along the Highway Beautification Control System. The bill did advance.
Two Priority Bills were heard on general file this week. LB838 a bill by Senator Wishart that would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from use of tanning equipment at a tanning facility was debated on the floor. No vote has been taken on the bill. An Urban Affairs Committee Priority Bill, LB874, was discussed on general file. LB874 would make a number of changes to the Community Development law related to tax-increment financing (TIF). LB874 advanced to select file with 33 votes.
There was a great deal of testimony on several bills in the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee this week. LB1063 introduced by Senator McDonnell was heard by the Committee on February 13. This bill would increase certain driver’s license fees to provide funding to assist victims of traumatic brain injuries. LB1031 introduced by Senator Friesen had its public hearing this week. The bill would change excavation notification and marking requirements and provide for large project planning meetings, rulemaking authority and allocation under the One-call Notification System Act. The Committee also heard two bills LB989 by Senator Wishart and LB1122 by Senator Larson regarding authorization of testing for automated and autonomous vehicles.
One of my own bills, LB1008 had a public hearing this week. LB1008 was heard in the Natural Resource Committee on Wednesday, February 14th. The bill would amend Nebraska Statute 37-613 to increase amounts of liquidated damages for certain violations of Game Law. LB1008 aims to help deter illegal killing of wildlife and protect a great natural resource in our state.
The Appropriations Committee heard testimony related to the status of the University of Nebraska system and the effect of current and potential future budget cuts on Wednesday, February 14th. There was significant testimony at the hearing. I will continue to keep everyone updated on the budget as this session progresses.
The Legislature will reconvene for session on Tuesday, February 20th following President’s Day on Monday. All Senator Priority Bills must be designated by adjournment on February 20th and the Legislature will then begin to focus debate on priority bills. I look forward to floor discussion of the new legislation.
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