NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

Welcome

January 6th, 2016

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 24th 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.

Sincerely,
Sen. Mark Kolterman

Last year, I wrote a letter to the York County Board of Commissioners in support of their decision to designate York County as a “Livestock Friendly” county. The Livestock Friendly County program, known as LFC, was created in 2003 and recognizes Nebraska counties which support expansion of the livestock industry, and allows those counties to partner with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to encourage industry development.

The LFC designation process provides a platform around which residents and elected leaders can build a conversation about the impact of existing livestock operations, the possibility of economic growth, and the local regulatory environment. Though zoning rules will still be upheld and enforced locally, achieving the designation provides a certain amount of predictability and confidence, and helps businesses make long-term investment decisions.

Nebraska is rich in resources, including an abundance of feed, affordable power, accessible water, and available processing, but we continue to lag behind neighboring states in livestock development. As a 2014 University of Nebraska study suggests, there is room to grow livestock production in Nebraska, and the potential economic impact, especially on local tax rolls, is tremendous.

While many communities and counties across Nebraska consider themselves “livestock friendly,” when businesses look to expand or relocate, it becomes clear that misconceptions about modern animal agriculture still exist. In the Legislature we are constantly working to reduce the regulatory burden of regulation on all small businesses, including our local livestock operations across the state. An LFC designation creates an easier avenue for livestock investment by creating an open process to follow for all parties involved.

As the Nebraska Department of Agriculture points out, at the very least, the LFC program provides a framework for discussion:

Pursuing the LFC designation initiates a conversation among county residents about the impact livestock has in the county, as well as how the industry is supported. The conversation becomes a self-examination of where the county is and where it wants to go with livestock and livestock business development. Designation means that the county has made a commitment to support the livestock industry in a socially, economically, and environmentally sound manner.

For these reasons and more, I support the LFC program not only in York County, but in all counties in Nebraska, including the other two counties in Legislative District 24, Polk and Seward.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Although the second session of the 104th Legislature adjourned sine die on April 20, my staff and I will continue to work year round on legislation, interim studies, constituent matters, and other tasks. The recent developments in the Nebraska Tourism Commission debacle may very well give rise to investigation and proposed legislation by the Legislature into how to prevent such problems in the future. I am certain that I am not alone in my disappointment with the results of the Auditor of Public Accounts findings. Not only am I concerned with certain Commission activities and practices, but many of its responses to the issues in the Auditor’s report are cause for concern as well. The fact of the matter is that the public trust was broken, and we need to find a way to improve accountability with this commission.

Senator Mello and the Appropriations Committee should be recognized for their role in the discovery of the Commission’s activities, as Senator Mello sent a February 29 letter to the Commission reporting concerns with its budget and spending growth. Addressing the serious concerns about the Commission’s activities will no doubt require ongoing investigation and correction. While some of this may entail intervention from the Legislature in the near future, the immediate actions will be undertaken by the Executive branch of the government. The information has been forwarded by the APA to the Attorney General’s office – as it always is – for further investigation about whether laws were violated. Governor Ricketts has said he will reconsider whether the Commission should remain an independent state agency. Clearly, accountability was an element lacking in the first years of operation of the Tourism Commission. I am confident the Legislature will not look at this lightly in the next legislative session.

During last session, I introduced Legislative Resolution 554, which calls for an interim study to examine information regarding air ambulance costs and the information available to consumers about such costs. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average air ambulance trip is 52 miles and costs between $12,000 and $25,000 per flight. Many air and ground ambulance services refuse a preferred provider contract with payers, forcing patients to pay high, uncontrolled billed charges. There are reports of large balance bills to air ambulance patients that were unexpected and often uncovered by insurance. Air ambulance bills appear to be a nationwide issue.

To facilitate the study, I have begun compiling a list of stakeholders in order to organize a meeting later this interim in which I hope to understand not only why the costs of air ambulances are so high, but also to look into the possibility of establishing a system in which the costs are as transparent as possible. If you are a stakeholder who has an interest in attending the interim meeting, please contact my office to let us know so we can include you on our list. There are several other interim studies I will be working on this summer. Throughout the course of the interim, I will share information with you about these as well.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

The second session of the 104th Legislature adjourned sine die (Latin for “without day,” meaning without a future date being designated) on April 20, and we said farewell to 11 senators who are leaving the Legislature due to term limits.  We were able to accomplish a lot during this 60 day session.  Of 216 total bills passed this session, 76 of them were priority bills.  Unfortunately, however, we were unable to debate even all of the priority bills.  This was due, in part, to a large number of filibusters that led to 24 cloture votes to cut off debate.  This was nearly twice the number of cloture votes taken the year before.  This is significant, especially considering that last year was a 90 day session.

One of the bills that was passed over due to filibustering was a bill I introduced, LB901.  The bill would have reorganized Nebraska’s dental professional structure to make it more efficient and effective.  The bill was voted unanimously to General File by the Health and Human Services Committee and was a Speaker Priority bill.

The following is a list of outcomes for my bills (in bold) as well as selected Retirement Committee bills (in italics):

Bill No. Description Outcome
LB447 Omaha School Emp. Ret. Sys. Investment Authority Signed by Governor March 30
LB467 Nebraska State Patrol Retirement Benefits Signed by Governor April 18
LB747 Nebraska Capital Expansion Act Indefinitely Postponed
LB790 Alphabetize Terms in Retirement Statutes Signed by Governor April 6
LB803 Judges’ Retirement Fund Clean-up Signed by Governor April 18
LB805 Retirement Plan Studies and Filings Amended into LB447
LB813 Plasma Donation by 18 Year-Olds Signed by Governor April 6
LB901 Dentistry Practice Act Indefinitely Postponed
LB908 Temporary Licenses for Veterinary Technicians Signed by Governor April 7
LB909 Dept. of Ag. Applications No Longer Require SSNs Signed by Governor April 7
LB922 Change Terms of PERB Board Members Amended into LB447
LB924 Child Support Auto-Withdrawal Payments Signed by Governor April 7
LB953 Vulnerable Adults Protection Act Indefinitely Postponed
LB975 Child Welfare Services Protection Act Indefinitely Postponed
LB986 PERB Board Annual Valuation Report and Study Amended into LB447
LB1061 Surgical Technologist Registry Act Indefinitely Postponed

 

While over half of my bills were signed into law, I intend to revisit the bills that did not go through and improve them during the interim for reintroduction next year.  And of course, I am happy to address additional issues during the interim as well.  If you have ideas for legislation, please contact me.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district.  Please stop by any time.  My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756.  Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs.  If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs.  Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Legislative Bill 824, also known as “the Wind Bill,” passed through the Legislature and was presented to the Governor on April 13. The bill was quite controversial throughout its pendency in the Unicameral, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain the reasoning for my votes on the bill.

While I support the potential for wind development and am not opposed to its implementation in the State of Nebraska, I opposed LB824 because I believe that, without federal subsidies, it is not currently a cost-effective model for power generation in our State. Senator Kuehn, during his comments on the bill during the last stages of debate, summarized my thoughts very well. To paraphrase, he stated that the free market should govern which technologies are used in our society. The use of cellular technology did not replace landline telephones because of government intervention. Rather, the market determined the fate of the technologies. Likewise, the market should determine those technologies that generate our power. By incentivizing and subsidizing one particular technology or method over another, the government is picking winners and losers. This goes against my fundamental belief that the public should decide which products they want to use.

Additionally, the public power system in Nebraska has had a long history of providing reliable power at low costs. Many wind power advocates state that the price of coal is going up, which is driving up our power costs. First, for the increase in coal prices, our power prices have not risen to the same degree. Second, coal prices have risen because the current administration has decided to incentivize alternative energy technology at the expense of those forms that have stood the test of time. It is not the government’s role to tell people what technologies they must buy and utilize. Therefore, I voted against the bill.

Another bill that received a fair amount of controversy was LB580, which creates the Independent Redistricting Citizen’s Advisory Commission. This commission will consist of nine Nebraska residents who are registered voters and who, at the time of appointment, have not changed political party affiliation within the previous 24 months. Each of the three legislative caucuses will appoint three people to serve on the commission, which will be initiated in 2021.

The Legislature has been charged with the task of drawing boundaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Legislature, the Public Service Commission, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, and the state Board of Education. The boundaries are changed every 10 years after the decennial census is released. The newly created commission will assist with the redistricting process in the future.

LB580 was filibustered on Final Reading. Debate ensued for two hours, the time limit for which a bill must receive full and fair debate during Final Reading before cloture – ceasing debate and voting on the bill – may be invoked. The cloture vote prevailed on a 35-11 vote, and the bill then passed 29-15. LB580 was also presented to the Governor on April 13.

I supported LB580 because, as a senator elected to a nonpartisan body, I believe a nonpartisan method of drawing governmental boundaries is sensible. There were some comments from opponents of the bill that it would take away the Legislature’s authority on redistricting. This is not the case. Any and all redistricting plans must be approved by the Unicameral through the normal Legislative process. Essentially, after the commission delivers its plans to the Executive Board of the Legislature, the chairperson of the Executive Board will introduce a bill for each redistricting plan. Those bills will be placed directly on General File to be voted on by the body. If any of the bills fail, new plans must be prepared.

This process, I believe, will not only remove partisanship from the redistricting process, it will aid the Legislature in gathering information and recommendations for defining governmental boundaries.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Legislative Bill 643, the Medical Cannabis Act, has generated numerous communications with my office, both in favor and against. While I am sympathetic to those who have medical problems, and I understand the perceived need to provide much needed relief to them, I do not believe LB643 is the ideal way to accomplish this goal.

Last year, I was supportive of Senator Sue Crawford’s bill, LB390, which created a Medical Cannabidiol Pilot Study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to study low-THC cannabidiol oil and its effects on treatment-resistant epileptic seizures. This bill addressed the issue in the correct way, by facilitating scientific and medical research on a drug that is not well researched.

LB643, on the other hand, provides for no medical or scientific research regarding cannabis use. Additionally, without the infrastructure set in place to ensure uniformity and purity in medical cannabis, the potential for harmful byproducts and other impurities is cause for concern. There were comments on the floor during LB643 debate that there have been no deaths attributed to marijuana use. This simply isn’t true. An 18-year-old from Brighton, Colorado died in September of 2012 after stabbing himself 20 times, once in the heart. According to the autopsy report, his THC level was nearly eight times the legal limit in Colorado. This wasn’t the first death in Colorado due to marijuana intoxication.

Numerous medical organizations have policy statements that oppose the legalization of cannabis as is proposed by LB643. Among them are the American Medical Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Cancer Society, the American Glaucoma Society, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states regarding ingestion, “Marijuana edibles, particularly those that look like baked goods or candy, present a poisoning risk to children. All forms of marijuana should be sold in childproof packaging to prevent unintentional ingestions.” In Colorado, hospitals have seen a surge in kids accidentally eating marijuana after it became legalized. Similarly, the AAP opposes the practice of smoking marijuana: “No drug should ever be administered through smoking. Smoking marijuana has a well-documented negative effect on lung function.”

LB643 would also create a greater burden on the Department of Health and Human Services a relatively short time after they have made tremendous strides to improve their service to the State of Nebraska. Essentially, a whole new office would need to be created to oversee the legalization of medical cannabis.

I appreciate all the feedback I have received from District 24, and I hope to receive more. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the issue of medical cannabis. Please email your thoughts to mkolterman@leg.ne.gov. We do track our emails, and I do appreciate your input.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Every year I receive dozens of invitations to attend or speak at events across Nebraska and in the District I represent. I try to get to as many things as possible and interact with a wide array of groups that represent various interests across our state. I was pleased to speak last week with a group of prisoners at the State Penitentiary in Lincoln. I was invited by Seward resident Kathy Miller who is a sponsor for a program called “7th Step”. This program is made up of prisoners, former prisoners, and non-offenders with the common goal of reducing recidivism for safer communities through mental fitness and transitional services. The goal of the program is to help prisoners change while they are in prison and successfully become law abiding citizens upon their release.

Upon entering the prison, my daughter Jessica and I were greeted by Kathy and several guards. After the clearance procedures, we were escorted to a building across the prison yard where we met with a group of approximately 20 prisoners who are members of the 7th Step program. They were all very friendly, and they introduced themselves and made us feel at ease and at home. As part of their program, I was invited to share my story of getting involved in public service.

Before we did that, however, they opened the meeting by reciting goals of the 7th Step program, after which I shared with them my background, how I came to serve today, and talked about my decision-making processes. Then I opened it up for questions.

One of the things that struck me about these individuals, in addition to how respectful and attentive they were, is how interested they were in the legislative process. They asked thoughtful questions about the legislation and were very aware of the many issues the state is facing. The topics they asked about ranged from retirement issues, to judicial issues, to community betterment issues. They had clearly taken a great deal of interest in legislation and had prepared thoughtful questions.

One of the prisoners who indicated he had been there for quite some time asked if people on the outside of the system realize the benefit of programs like 7th Step as well as some of the other betterment programs offered through corrections. I indicated that I wasn’t sure if the general public understood or recognized the benefit of such programs, but that I would try to take this opportunity to share with my constituents my thoughts on the importance of such programs.

As State Senators we are faced every day with decisions that impact a lot of individuals in our state. These are not easy decisions. When it comes to decisions regarding corrections, I generally think back to the first time I visited a prison, which was back when I was working on bachelor’s degree as a young adult. One thing I remember about that visit was how scary it was to have a door slam shut behind you, if even for a visit, knowing that the only way I was going to leave is if someone let me out. I think about what that must be like to prisoners. Obviously, the prisoners are there for a different reason than for visitors. But ultimately, many of those prisoners are going to eventually be released, and I believe it makes the most sense for us as a society to help them work through some of their issues while they are there and provide them with the tools they need to become successful once released. After all, penitentiaries should be places that help to develop penitent men and women.

Programs such as 7th Step are critical in making our society better because ultimately, when these fellow citizens re-enter our society, their success in becoming productive and thoughtful members, rather than re-offenders, is important to Nebraska’s wellbeing. Not only are these programs valuable from a practical standpoint, they make sense from a fiscal standpoint as well. Last year the Nebraska Legislature passed LB605, a bill to address Nebraska’s prison over-crowding. The law was based on a data-driven approach designed to reduce corrections spending and reinvent a portion of savings in strategies that reduce recidivism and increase public safety. The goal of the legislation was to avert construction of a new facility, reduce the amount of people in prison by around 1000, and provide more supervision to those released in hopes that, with increased supervision and assistance, they are more likely to be successful.

As we finished our time with the group, we joined in their 7th Step pledge, which reads, “Knowing that my freedom depends on my thoughts and actions, I hereby pledge: To face and accept the truth about myself, to maintain my freedom, to become a useful member of society, and to help others as I am now being helped.” I hope those 7th Step members continue to follow that pledge, and as a State Senator I will continue to do my best to support programs that provide tools for prisoners to be successful in their future endeavors, whether inside or outside prison walls.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Earlier this Session, I received some comments from education officials in Legislative District 24 about some bills they believe will negatively impact public school districts in the area. Legislative Bills 958, 959, and 1066 are three of those bills. Thank you to the officials who brought these bills to my attention. With this article I hope to answer the questions and address the concerns I received from school officials and provide the general public with information on public school financing legislation.

Senator Gloor introduced LB958 at the request of the Governor to limit the amount political subdivisions statewide may increase agricultural and horticultural land valuations to three percent per year. While the bill touches on public school district funding, there is a limited effect in that regard. The only change to public school districts made by LB958 is that they will receive more property tax credit funding. Because additional tax credit funding tends to change the amount of State aid to public school districts, I should clarify that the funding implicated by LB958 is not an accountable receipt in the State aid formula. Therefore, LB958 will not adversely affect public school districts. School districts should actually see a benefit from the bill, especially those non-equalized school districts because those districts will see even higher credits. An amended version of LB958, as of March 24, is pending in the Revenue Committee.

LB959 was also introduced at the request of the Governor, but was introduced by Senator Sullivan and referred to the Education Committee. The bill has two major components: 1) it amends the public school levying formula; and 2) it restructures the permissible projects for which capital improvement levies may be utilized. There are pros and cons to both components.

With regard to the levying formula, one of the prospective benefits of LB959 is that each school district under the new formula is allowed the maximum level of State aid, regardless of its individual levy. The current formula influences school district levies because, if they levy below a certain limit, they lose State aid. This leads to the practice where school district boards decide to “levy up” in order to obtain their maximum available State aid. Under LB959, school districts would not be influenced in this way.

Prospective disadvantagesto the levying formula under LB959 are the costs associated with making this change as well as the decrease in Nebraska Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) funding. With an estimated fiscal note of $3.5 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year and the drop in TEEOSA funding, we must carefully weigh the pros and cons to ensure that school districts are not unnecessarily burdened.

The second component of LB959 restricts the list of capital improvement projects for which school districts may levy funds. While this allows for transparency for the costs associated with improving old school buildings and/or building new ones, it reduces the flexibility of school districts to improve their facilities. Again, we must be careful in determining the costs and benefits for our public schools. LB959 is currently on General File.

Finally, LB1066, another Education Committee bill introduced by Senator Sullivan, would, among other things, change the laws related to option special education costs. In essence, LB1066 would allow “option school districts” to implement educational programming for an “option student” and bill the “resident school district” for the costs. Current law allows special education students to opt into a school district other than his or her resident district, but the resident district determines the programming and support for those special needs students. I have received comments from local educators that LB1066 takes away resident school districts’ ability to properly provide for their special needs students while still being accountable to their taxpayers. While it stands to reason that option districts should be allowed to provide input regarding the needs of their option students, I understand the concerns of my constituent schools. Notably, LB1066 passed from General File to Select File on March 24 – as my staff and I were finalizing the final draft of this article – with an amendment that struck the provision I explained above.

Primarily, I am glad the constituents of District 24 continue to contact me with their comments and concerns about the bills that affect them most. When considering legislation, it can be very difficult to fully understand the pros and cons, especially because of the large number of bills we consider. With information from my constituents who know the issues best, I am better prepared to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of legislation. I hope that by carefully considering the information at my disposal I can help enact legislation that benefits District 24 and the entire State of Nebraska. I am not fully supportive of any of the previously mentioned bills, but I look forward to working on all the underlying issues with my colleagues. I expect to see a thorough comments from the District.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Medicaid expansion legislation has been renewed again this year with Senator McCollister’s LB1032, the Transitional Health Insurance Program Act.  While I appreciate the continued efforts to ensure health benefits for Nebraska’s underserved populations, I believe our efforts are best spent on other forms of health care reform.  Unfortunately, expanding Medicaid to additional portions of the population is simply unsustainable, and this would only be a detriment to everyone in the future.

The number of individuals covered by Medicaid has increased substantially since the program’s inception in 1965, with the greatest increase happening in the most recent decades.  If Nebraska were to expand the eligibility pool even further, the already burdened program will simply not have enough funds to sustain itself for long.  We should remember as well that Medicaid was originally created to benefit the country’s most vulnerable citizens, including children in low-income families, caretaker relatives, the elderly, and people with disabilities.  According to the Platte Institute for Economic Research, “Creating a new entitlement for able-bodied adults under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion will not only hurt the most vulnerable, but undermine Nebraska’s long term reform efforts.”[1]

Furthermore, LB1032 would be funded by the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund, which is funded solely by the Nebraska Medicaid Intergovernmental Trust Fund and the Nebraska Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund and was created to be perpetually funded.[2]  Even without further obligations from Medicaid expansion, the Health Care Cash Fund is itself unsustainable.  The Nebraska Investment Council, in 2014, indicated in its letter to the Legislature, “At the current pace of spending the projections suggest that there is a high probability that the [Health Care Cash] Fund transfers are not sustainable indefinitely.  The Fund earning cannot keep pace because a significant portion of the earnings are being used to cover a growing negative distribution amount and not reinvested.”[3]

Legislative Bill 1032 would be funded by monies that are already unsustainable.  I understand the challenges we face as lawmakers to protect our society’s most vulnerable citizens, but I cannot support LB1032 because, in the end, it will only be a detriment.

This is not a simple issue.  Rather, it is very complex.  I applaud Senator McCollister and others for their efforts in health care reform, and I hope that we can all work together to find a solution that protects our citizens and can be funded indefinitely.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district.  Please stop by any time.  My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756.  Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs.  If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs.  Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

[1] See Jessica Herrmann, Medicaid’s Midlife Crisis, Aug. 6, 2015 (available at

http://www.platteinstitute.org/research/detail/medicaids-midlife-crisis) (last visited Mar. 11, 2016).

[2] See Neb. Rev. Stat. § 71-7611(1).

[3] See letter from Jeffrey W. States to Patrick J. O’Donnell Re:  Sustainability of Health Care Transfer, Sept. 30, 2014 (available at http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/103/PDF/Agencies/Investment_Council/139_20140930-131617.pdf) (last visited Mar. 11, 2016).

Legislative Resolution 378CA, a constitutional amendment to ensure the right of farmers and ranchers in Nebraska to farm and ranch, was voted out of the Agriculture Committee last week. In an extended executive session the resolution advanced to General File on a 5-3 vote.

The resolution, if passed by the Legislature, will be placed on the general election ballot this year to be voted on by the citizens of Nebraska. Introduced by Senator John Kuehn, LR378CA was proposed “to protect agriculture as a vital sector of the Nebraska economy by guaranteeing the rights of citizens and lawful residents of Nebraska to engage in farming and ranching practices.”¹

As Senator Kuehn shared in the Agriculture Committee hearing, “Agriculture is the undisputed foundation of Nebraska. The economic engine of our state, Nebraska agriculture represents one in every four jobs and over $23 billion in economic impact.” Because of the potential for expensive lawsuits from anti-agriculture groups inside and outside of Nebraska, Senator Kuehn introduced this resolution which would create the highest level of protection for the right to farm and ranch. Senator Kuehn adds, “Nebraska’s farm families do not have the resources to defend legal challenges in response to suits filed by deep-pocketed, anti-agriculture activist groups.”

LR378CA creates what is called in legal jargon the “strict scrutiny” level of judicial review. Essentially, this means that, if the State of Nebraska passes a law that restricts the rights of farmers and ranchers to run their businesses, it must justify such a law with a very strong reason. Generally, this means that farmers and ranchers will be free to farm and ranch.

I support LR378CA because I believe it will provide protection for farmers and ranchers to continue their operations without the risk of being sued by environmental groups and other anti-agriculture organizations. The constitutional amendment, if passed, does not provide an exemption for farmers and ranchers to circumvent federal regulations. But in an age when farming and ranching practices are becoming more difficult to maintain, it is important to provide legal protection for our number one industry. In representing a district where the economy is widely driven by agricultural interests, I feel it is important to show strong support in protecting farmers’ and ranchers’ agricultural heritages.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

¹  Senator John Kuehn, Statement of Intent for LR378CA (available at  http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/SI/LR378CA.pdf).

At the request of Governor Ricketts, Senator Mike Gloor, Chairman of the Revenue Committee, introduced a bill to “slow down the increase in state-wide agricultural and horticultural land valuation and to slow the growth of property taxes levied by the political subdivisions.”¹  LB958 would limit the amount political subdivisions statewide may increase agricultural and horticultural land valuations to three percent per year.

The Governor was the first proponent of the bill during a Revenue Committee public hearing on February 4 that lasted more than six hours. The Governor’s plan is to reduce the budget and spending increases year-to-year by limiting local governments’ ag land valuations and levies. If the statewide aggregated increase of agricultural land values in any year exceeds three percent, the Property Tax Administrator will uniformly and proportionately reduce the value of every parcel of agricultural land to prevent the statewide aggregate increase from exceeding three percent. This adjustment would also effect the calculation of the school finance formula.

The bill received support from three of Nebraska’s largest agricultural groups, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, and the Nebraska Pork Producers, which all testified that LB958 will help to relieve the disproportionate burden placed on farmers for support of public schools.

There was also a long list of opponents to the bill. In addition to Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, Nebraska Association of County Officials President Robert Post, and Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen, the Open Sky Policy Institute testified in opposition to LB958. The Institute’s recent policy brief argued that if a policy related to LB958 were in effect for this year, it would have yielded shortfalls for schools and other localities and that the largest tax benefits would go to farmers and ranchers near urban areas, not to greater rural Nebraska.

On February 10, the Health and Human Services Committee, on which I sit, heard testimony for LB1032 (McCollister), which is another biennial attempt to expand Medicaid in Nebraska. In an extended hearing, the proponents alone took four hours to testify.

Though I applaud the efforts of my fellow legislators to extend affordable health care coverage to those who are unable to obtain it on their own, Medicaid expansion is an unsustainable way to try to accomplish this feat. Among the states that have expanded Medicaid, there were 17 that made their expansion enrollment projections available to the public. Every one exceeded their annual projections in 2014 and in 2015 they all exceeded their total maximum projections. This means that more people enrolled for Medicaid by 2015 than were projected to enroll in the entire course of expansions.²  This is simply unsustainable.

LB1032 is essentially the same type of Medicaid Expansion that has already failed in Arkansas, where private insurance costs more per patient than regular Medicaid expansion.³  As we have seen, Medicaid has not made health insurance more available or more affordable. In fact, the opposite effects have occurred. I doubt anyone disagrees with the idea that all Nebraskans should have access to affordable, quality health care services. However, it has been demonstrated time and time again that expanding Medicaid in any form creates higher costs and increased burdens on taxpayers as a whole.

Instead, I hope the members of our Legislature will seriously consider LB817 (Riepe), which creates the opportunity for individuals, families, and corporations to defray the exorbitant costs of health insurance premiums by essentially becoming monthly members of their primary care doctors offices. Dr. Clint Flanagan, a native of Fremont and a supporter of LB817, has been providing Direct Primary Care (DPC) in Colorado with great results. For a low monthly rate, his patients have virtually unlimited access to his services and can see him as many times as they need. Dr. Flanagan noted that his DPC patients have access to his cell phone number and email address and can contact him any time with questions.

Another benefit of DPC is that Dr. Flanagan, as well as other DPC providers in Colorado, work directly with specialty health care providers to significantly reduce costs for specialty visits. While the DPC model would not provide a patient an exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Direct Primary Care patient would essentially only need to supplement his or her health care with cheaper catastrophic insurance that would also provide coverage for expensive procedures and operations.

The main draw for DPC is that it allows the patient to be more proactive in his or her health, and through this model, it reduces the reliance upon increasingly unaffordable and ineffective health insurance.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

¹ See LB958 Statement of Intent, available at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/SI/LB958.pdf
(last accessed February 9, 2016).

² See Vokal, Jim, Legislative Testimony: LB1032, Arkansas-Style Medicaid Expansion, (2/10/2016) (available at http://www.platteinstitute.org/blog/detail/legislative-testimony-lb-1032-arkansas-style-medicaid-expansion)
(last accessed 2/11/2016).

³ Id.

 

 

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24
Room #2004
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2756
Email: mkolterman@leg.ne.gov
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