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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 email@example.com, 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.