NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

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

A bill that is receiving a lot of interest across the state and media is LB632, an omnibus bill that handles many liquor control issues.  I have been contacted by several constituents and people from all over Nebraska who are concerned with this proposed legislation. The craft beer brewers did an outstanding job of raising awareness at the grassroots level by encouraging their consumers to contact state senators.  Since I have received my fair share of emails and calls, I want to address the issue in this column.

For a little history, I was a member of the General Affairs Committee last year when we passed LB1105.  That bill contained language that allows for craft brewers to operate up to five retail locations in addition to where they brew beer.  Several breweries have built or have plans to build these retail locations in cities where they are not located.  This year’s LB632 strips out the language that allows for these additional retail locations.  Both bills have the same sponsor, so it is puzzling to me why he introduced a bill this year that undoes what he wanted the legislature to pass last year, especially since it was overwhelmingly passed and hailed by the craft brewers.

I am not sure the reasoning behind this bill other than big, out of state breweries are trying to stifle growth of these small, locally owned breweries.  That it is not something I can support.  I do not support the bill as it is currently written for several reasons. LB632 would harm economic growth and kill jobs, which is a terrible thing to do when the state is facing a budget shortfall.  Zipline Brewing Company based in Lincoln currently is constructing their second non brewery retail location in downtown Omaha that will employ about 25 full and part time employees. That is in addition to construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and others involved in the construction of the building. LB632 would prevent a brewery like Kinkaider or Infusion from building a retail location in a city like York or Stromsburg.  LB632 could also give pause to any home brewer thinking about starting their own brewery.  It does not make sense to make things more difficult for entrepreneurship for anyone trying to grow a business, not just brewers.

This past week, I met with the owners of Bottle Rocket Brewing, a privately owned and operated brewery located in Seward.  We discussed LB632 and concerns that they have regarding the bill.  It was a fun visit and they recorded it for social media.  You can view our visit on the Bottle Rocket YouTube channel or on their Facebook page.

After speaking with a few of my colleagues on the General Affairs Committee, it does not appear that this bill will advance out of committee in its current form.  I hear an amendment is being drafted to reinsert the language that allows for the retail locations, which has been the objective of the craft breweries.  I commend them for their interest in the legislative process and for getting involved with a piece of legislation that will impact them.

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

February 10th – LB30

February 8th, 2017

Since 2014 the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee has required political subdivisions with plans funded less than 80% to appear before the Committee and describe the circumstances that led to the underfunding and the entity’s plan to improve solvency and reach full funding.

The past two years I have heard the presentations on the metropolitan and primary class city Police and Fire Retirement Plans and have become increasingly concerned.   For example, the Omaha Police & Fire Plan has over $600 million in unfunded liability and are 51% funded – which hasn’t changed that much in the past number of years.

I introduced LB 30 in order to provide secure retirement benefits for current and future police and fire employees in the metropolitan and primary class cities, and to keep their pension plans solvent and sustainable.  We had an excellent hearing this week with 20 invited testifiers which included police officers, firefighters, city council representatives, and representatives of the Platte Institute, Reason Foundation and Retirement Security Initiative.

I appreciate the service provided by these brave public servants who risk their lives every day for all of us.  It is not my intent to take any retirement benefits away from current plan members.  My motive for introducing this bill is to ensure that current plan members receive what is promised them.  I believe that a promise is a promise.  I also want to ensure that new members receive an adequate and sustainable pension that is affordable for our metropolitan and primary class city taxpayers.

LB 30 requires cities of the primary and metropolitan class to place new police officers and firefighters in a cash balance retirement plan beginning on an unspecified date.  LB 30 also allows metropolitan and primary class cities to provide a supplemental retirement plan to provide an additional benefit since firefighters and police officers in these cities do not participate in social security.

Cash balance plans are hybrid defined benefit plans because they guarantee an interest credit rate.  Each employee has an individual account which consists of employee contributions and employer contributions (if vested) with an interest credit that increases the value of the account.  Investment losses do not affect the members’ account balances – investment risks are borne solely by the employer.

What I am proposing in LB 30 is not a defined contribution plan which is like a 401(k) where the member assumes all the risk of any investment losses. These are the types of plans generally offered in the private sector for employees.

A cash balance plan is a solid and reliable pension plan. In Nebraska, state and county employees have been in cash balance plans since 2003.  These plans are solidly structured and were able to sustain the 27% investment losses in 2008 and 2009 without requiring any additional funding by the state.

It is clear to me that our metropolitan and primary class cities are struggling financially to pay their ongoing funding obligations to the plans.  This level of funding does not appear to me to be sustainable over the long-term.

I appreciate all the comments and written testimony presented at the hearing on LB 30 and I will continue to meet and work with all interested parties to seek a workable resolution to this problem.

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

January 3rd – Budget

February 3rd, 2017

The legislature began discussing the state budget this week.  I have mentioned in previous columns about the $900 million budget shortfall the state faces over the next two years.  The first budget bill we debated was LB22, a bill introduced by Speaker Scheer for Governor Ricketts.  LB 22 contains the Governors recommendation for changes to the existing FY2016-17 appropriations as well as various fund transfers as part of his FY2016-17 budget adjustments.  LB22 eliminates over $137 million from the current budget.  I support this bill and do not feel that raising taxes to shrink the gap is in the best interest of Nebraskans.  I also support the Governor’s ban on nonessential out of state travel and state agency hiring freezes for non-critical positions.

Some people have asked me how Nebraska got into such a deep hole.  The main reason is agriculture commodities prices are extremely stressed to the tune of several hundred million dollars in Nebraska alone.  We also face lower than expected tax receipts.

This is a very difficult session for everyone, including lawmakers, tax payers, programs, and families.  I have met with many people, organizations, associations, and groups that have asked to be spared from budget cuts.  If we said yes to everyone then we would not save any money.  As difficult as it is to say, we must all tighten our belts and cuts need to be made across the board.  We may also have to consider dipping into the cash reserve fund.  At this point, almost all options are on the table, except for tax increases.

While examining the budget this year, I look at the same way I am sure the most of you do.  If your household budget suddenly needed to be trimmed significantly, where would you make the cuts?  Nebraska statute mandates a balanced budget each year, so we are not able to kick the can down the road by financing programs on credit.  For the most part, if any new legislation carries a fiscal note, more than likely, it will not pass the legislature this year.  As lawmakers, we will do our best to provide essential state benefits as we address the current budget situation.

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

The legislature is beginning to kick into full swing.  We spent most of this week debating changes to the rules.  On Wednesday, I was pleased to address the Independent Insurance Agents of Nebraska during an event at the Governor’s mansion.

I have heard from a few constituents regarding a couple bills in the legislature that deal with the privatization of education in Nebraska.  There are bills in the legislature that create independent public schools, school voucher programs, and additional school accountability.

All these bills have been referred to the Education Committee, of which I am not a member.  At this time I am not sure which bills will advance to the full legislature for debate.  I have many questions regarding voucher programs for public education and the creation of charter schools in Nebraska.

As we face a budget constraint, I also am waiting to see the fiscal impact that the privatization of school, vouchers, and charter schools.  Like many other institutions, public schools are on a tight budget, and I am not sure this is the right time for the state to be diverting state resources to new programs.

My two daughters attended parochial school through their elementary years.  They attended public high schools following elementary school before attending private colleges, so I have experience with both institutes of learning.  My wife and I are pleased with all their years of education. I struggle with this issue a lot, because I truly believe in the value of a Christian based education and see how vouchers can be a part of making that possible for families.  At the same time, I also know that my wife and I made a very conscientious decision to send our children to a parochial school fully knowing that it would be a sacrifice within our family to be able to afford it.  Yes, it was going to cost us money to both pay taxes towards the public schools and the tuition for the parochial school, but that was a decision we made because we thought it was worth the investment.

It is my belief that since the State of Nebraska requires all children to attend school, it is our obligation to ensure that public schools are adequately funded to provide a good, quality education.  I believe that public schools across the state are above average in comparison to other states.  Many parents have the option of sending their children to private school now, it is just not subsidized by the government.  As these education bills advance out of committee, I will keep an open mind on how to advance these bills while expressing my concerns to the legislative body.

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

Even though it was a short week in the legislature, it was certainly a busy week as well.  Wednesday was the tenth and last day for bill introduction, and it is usually the day where the most legislative bills are introduced, and this year did not disappoint.  177 bills were introduced on the tenth day.  In total, 667 legislative bills and 5 constitutional amendments were introduced by the 49 senators.  I personally introduced 25 bills, with 11 of those dealing with retirement issues.  Here is a list of all the bills I introduced this session.  If you would like more information about each bill, please visit the Nebraska Legislature website at: www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

LB18 – Change licensure and scope of practice for dental assistants and dental hygienists

LB19 – Change requirements for the practice of acupuncture

LB20 – Change provisions relating to homestead exemption certifications

LB29 – Eliminate the Class V School Employees Retirement Cash Fund

LB30 – Provide for a cash balance benefit plan by cities of the metropolitan and primary classes for certain police officers or firefighters as prescribed

LB31 – Change school retirement plan provisions relating to service credits

LB32 – Eliminate a duty of the Public Employees Retirement Board and change provisions relating to prior service retirement benefit payments for county employees

LB61 – Adopt the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

LB92 – Require health carriers to provide coverage for telehealth services

LB94 – Increase amount of funds offered by the state investment officer to financial institutions as deposits under the Nebraska Capital Expansion Act

LB110 – Change duties and requirements relating to certain retirement plan reporting and change duties of the Auditor of Public Accounts and the Public Employees Retirement Board

LB166 – Change provisions of Uniform Controlled Substances Act and Pharmacy Practice Act

LB231 – Authorize disciplinary action under the Insurance Producers Licensing Act for failing to maintain a license in good standing

LB232 – Provide a property tax exemption for property leased to the state or a governmental subdivision

LB278 – Redefine disability and change disability retirement application and medical examination provisions for various retirement acts

LB323 – Adopt the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Act

LB324 – Adopt the Pharmacy Benefit Fairness and Transparency Act

LB359 – Authorize damages for property taxes and special assessments paid on property lost through adverse possession

LB360 – Adopt the Surgical Technologist Registry Act

LB406 – Change provisions relating to notice of cancellation, nonrenewal, or nonpayment of a premium for automobile liability policies

LB413 – Change a retirement application timeframe for judges and Nebraska State Patrol officers as prescribed and change supplemental lump-sum cost-of-living adjustments under the Judges Retirement Act

LB414 – Change a retirement application timeframe for judges and Nebraska State Patrol officers as prescribed and change supplemental lump-sum cost-of-living adjustments under the Judges Retirement Act

LB415 – Provide and change notification requirements and duties and benefits for certain retirement system members, change certain annuity and disability benefit provisions, and provide duties for school districts and the Public Employees Retirement Board relating to retirement

LB486 – Change continuing education requirements for insurance licensees

LB532 – Change provisions relating to a military service credit for certain retirement plans as prescribed

Committee hearings began on Tuesday and public testimony was heard on six of my bills.  Much of this week on the floor was spent debating referencing a few bills’ committee designations and debating the rules.  Chief Justice Michael Heavican also delivered the State of the Judiciary on Thursday.  Chief Justice Heavican stressed the need for the legislature to adequately fund justice reinvestment programs.  He also discussed the state of the Office of Public Guardian, juvenile justice, and technological updates in the courts.

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

Bill would remove acupuncture referral requirement

A bill heard Jan. 18 by the Health and Human Services Committee would remove a requirement that an individual receive a referral from a medical practitioner before seeking services from a licensed acupuncturist.

Under current law, a patient must obtain a letter of referral from a medical practitioner within a 90-day period prior to seeking services from an acupuncturist.

Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, sponsor of LB19, said a recent state review determined that the requirement serves no public safety interest and should be removed.Under current law, a patient must obtain a letter of referral from a medical practitioner within a 90-day period prior to seeking services from an acupuncturist.

“LB19 simply codifies in statute the findings of the [review] report,” he said.

Under the bill a licensed acupuncturist instead would be required to refer a patient to an appropriate practitioner if his or her symptoms were beyond the training, experience or competence of the acupuncturist.

Donna Huber, a licensed acupuncturist and representative of the Nebraska Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Association, testified in support of the bill. The state currently has stringent licensure requirements for acupuncture practitioners, she said, adding that referral by a doctor does not make treatment safer, only more expensive.

“This [bill] is standard language adopted in other states and that we are trying to make uniform,” Huber said. “We are committed to making acupuncture accessible, affordable and above all safe.”

No one testified in opposition and the committee took no immediate action on LB19.

 

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To view the Unicameral Update website, click below.

Bill would remove acupuncture referral requirement

 

As the legislature winds down the first full week of the session, senators are furiously scrambling to introduce bills before the Day 10 deadline this coming Wednesday.  Senators can only introduce bills for the first ten days, and there are currently around 400 bills that have been introduced.  At this time, I have introduced over twenty bills, many dealing with retirement issues, but they also include better access to health care for rural Nebraskans, insurance oversight, and tax exemptions for disabled veterans.  For more information regarding each bill, committee hearing date, and bill status can be found on the Unicameral’s website: www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

Before the legislature is able to bring legislation to the floor for General File Debate, we must vote on permanent rules to govern the body.  We are currently operating on temporary rules from last session.  The Rules Committee met last Wednesday for an extended hearing and discussed 27 proposed rule changes.  We will begin debate and vote on each rule that advances out of the Rules Committee this week.  The rules are an extremely important step of how the legislature conducts business each session, and I look forward to the debate.

On Thursday, Governor Pete Ricketts delivered a gritty State of the State Address.  Besides highlighting that Nebraska is embarking on our historic 150th year of statehood, Governor Ricketts stressed the need for controlling spending first, then the need for responsible budgeting and responsible tax relief.

As a State Senator from a rural area, I continue to be very concerned about the high property taxes in our state.  These property taxes impact all citizens who own property, from our retired senior citizens to our farmers and ranchers who rely on the land for their income. The economy in the State of Nebraska relies heavily on agriculture, and with the down turn in the farm economy, we need to work hard to find real and meaningful property tax relief.

While I do not serve on the Revenue or Appropriations Committees – the two committees that will work with taxes and spending – I will rely on the members of these committees as they develop the best way, in partnership, to address the budget challenges we face.  Most likely, the solution will involve financial restraint, reliance on money from the cash reserve or “rainy day” fund, and tax reductions to help spur more growth in our local economy.

Governor Ricketts also spoke about the resilience of Nebraskans – and I agree that our tenacity ability to work hard to overcome challenges are great traits we need to emulate. One line that really stood out to me during his speech was, “We have a chance to give a voice to the voiceless, to improve lives, and to craft policies that build a brighter future for generations to come.”  With  senators coming from diverse backgrounds, it is imperative that we find ways to work together for the good of the people.  Reaching across the aisle to make compromises and reach agreements with those you disagree is how we will solve the problems that face our state.

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

January 6th – New Session

January 13th, 2017

Greetings and Happy New Year!  I hope everyone was able to spend time with loved ones during the Christmas season.

The 105th Legislative Session kicked off on Wednesday, January 4th.  This year we will conduct a 90-day session, also known as the long session, with the expected adjournment date in early June.  There are many changes to the makeup of the legislative body.  We welcome 17 new Senators in the freshman class, and 10 of the 13 Standing Committees will have new chairpersons leading the way.

In a close Speaker of the Legislature race, we had two excellent candidates, but Jim Scheer of Norfolk defeated Matt Williams of Gothenburg by a close vote of 27-22.  Notable chair races include Mike Groene of North Platte defeating Roy Baker of Lincoln for chair of the Education Committee; and Merv Riepe of Omaha defeating Sara Howard of Omaha for chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.  A few other important Chairmanships were John Stinner of Scottsbluff was elected Appropriations Committee Chairman, Jim Smith of Omaha was elected Revenue Committee Chairman, and Laura Ebke of Crete was elected Judiciary Committee Chairwoman.

Without opposition, I was unanimously re-elected as chairman of the Retirement Committee.   Moving forward in my role, I intend for the Retirement committee to continue its work in protecting the plans assets, responsibly managing taxpayer dollars via the State’s contribution to the plans, while fulfilling the promised return to our retirees.

This year, I will again serve on the Health and Human Services Committee.  However, instead of serving on the Agriculture and General Affairs Committees, I will be a member of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee.  I will also serve on the Committee on Committees which is a committee that assigns senators to committees.

The legislature faces many challenges this year, the greatest being a significant budget shortfall to the tune of roughly $900 million.  Governor Pete Ricketts and the legislature will have to work hand in hand in order to make difficult, yet appropriate funding cuts to balance the budget.  The legislature will also examine tax reform while taking a close look at ways to find property tax relief.  The Revenue Committee will also consider the elimination of some tax emptions for certain items and services.  I know taxes are an important issue to all Nebraskans, and we will work diligently to find solutions to our tax challenges.

The first ten days of session is the only time Senators are allowed to introduce legislation.  While we do not know all the bills that will be introduced during this time, some of the bills and issues expected to garner attention this year in addition to tax reform include the discussion for new correctional facilities, staffing concerns within the Department of Corrections, and tourism reform.

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

Previously I wrote about my support of the York County Board of Commissioners working to designate York County as a “Livestock Friendly” county.  I am excited to report that York County was officially designated as “Livestock Friendly” earlier this week. I was excited to be in York County with members of the York County Board, Director of Agriculture Greg Ibach, Lt. Governor Mike Foley, and members of the farming community as they officially proclaimed York County “Livestock Friendly”. 

Serving on the Agriculture Committee, I have heard from countless young men and women who want the opportunity to come back and be a part of their family farms.  With the price of land today, it’s often times hard to find a way to bring a child back to the farm – and many farmers are starting to utilize livestock operations as a way to start another generation of farmers as part of the family operation.  Counties that designate as “Livestock Friendly” not only send a clear message that they are open for business, creating an environment for growth, they also exhibit the potential to grow their local tax base.  A 2014 University of Nebraska study suggests that there is much room to grow livestock production in Nebraska, and that the potential economic impact on the state’s economy could be tremendous.  For these reasons I support the expansion of this program and encourage other counties to consider it.  

I also wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to my new Legislative Aide, David Slattery.  David comes to my office after having served three years as the Legislative Aide for Senator Colby Coash. Other political experience for David includes working for Senator Lydia Brasch, the Mike Johanns for U.S. Senate campaign, and several years in Washington, D.C., as a Legislative Bill Clerk for the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with David on a number of pieces of legislation during the past year and a half and I have been extremely impressed by his work ethic, his attention to detail, and his engagement in the legislative process.  I’m excited to have him on board and know he is going to be a great member of our team.  

Finally, I want to thank you for the continued support you have provided our family during the past several months as we learned about my wife Suzanne’s pancreatic cancer and as she began treatments.  So many of you have reached out with your kind words, good wishes, and to share with us that you have us in your prayers.  We have felt those prayers and I am happy to report that Suzanne is responding well to the treatment she has been receiving.  She is getting stronger every day!  My daughters Jessica and Jennifer have set up a Caring Bridge website and you can follow Suzanne’s journey at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/suzannekolterman.  This website allows you to sign up for updates on Suzanne.  We are so humbled by the outpouring of support from the 24th legislative district.  Suzanne is feeling your prayers and we are all strengthened by them!  Thank you! 

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. David 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 any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

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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