NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at mkolterman@leg.ne.gov

February 16th – Weekly column

February 16th, 2018

Last Thursday marked day 28 of the 2018 Legislative Session. As we approach the halfway point of the session, we are wrapping up most Committee hearings. We are also approaching the deadline for designating priority bills. As many of you know, the Rules of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature allow each senator to designate one bill each year as their priority bill. Senators may prioritize a bill they introduced or legislation introduced by another Member or Committee. In addition to individual Senator priority bills, each standing Committee may prioritize two bills that it advances. The Speaker of the Legislature is permitted to prioritize 25 bills.

Prioritized bills that have been advanced out of a committee will be heard by the Legislature before bills that have not been prioritized. During this short 60-day session, it is unlikely that a bill advanced out of a committee will make it to floor debate without being prioritized. With 49 Senator priority bills, 33 Committee priority bills, and 25 Speaker Priority Bills, we are looking at the possibility of 107 total prioritized bills. Since we have already debated a handful of prioritized bills, the remaining bills will be debated over the course of the next 32 legislative days.

I selected LB439, introduced by Senator Anna Wishart, as my priority bill for this session. LB439 would allow a nurse employed by an assisted-living facility to provide healthcare services to residents. It would limit the services to 10-hours per week for no more than 21 consecutive days. Under current law, nurses are prohibited from performing simple nursing tasks to meet residents’ healthcare needs. Nurses may only assess residents and oversee the management of their medications. The restrictions placed on nurses was intended to establish a bright line between nursing and assisted living facilities. As an unintended consequence, residents requiring short-term nursing care in an assisted-living facility have to hire their own nurses or temporarily transfer to a nursing facility. This seems an ineffective and inefficient way to deliver long-term health care services in Nebraska.

During the hearing last March, representatives from AARP, Nebraska Health Care Association, Nebraska Assisted Living Association and Nebraska Nursing Association testified in support of LB439. By allowing assisted-living facilities to meet the additional medical needs of their resident, I believe we will improve the quality of life for thousands of Nebraskans living in assisted-facilities. For this reason, I prioritized LB439 and will work with my colleagues to get it passed and signed by the Governor.

As Chair of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, I prioritized LB548 and LB1005. LB548 was introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom last year to begin the discussion about consolidating the Class V (Omaha) School Employees Retirement Plan with the School Employees Retirement Plan which is administered by the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System (NPERS). LB548 was held in Committee so we could continue working with Omaha Public Schools (OPS) and other interested groups to identify how to increase the funding status of the plan which is currently at 65% funding.  The plan currently has $712 million in unfunded liabilities.

This year Senator Lindstrom introduced an amendment to LB548 that would authorize OPS to issue pension obligation bonds without a vote of the people, to pay the district’s contributions over the next 30-years which are currently projected to equal $882 million.  I also introduced an amendment to LB548 which would authorize the Nebraska Department of Education to annually withhold state aid from Omaha unless the district has paid the full amount of its annual contribution. Though I believe OPS fully intends to pay these obligations each year, I also believe a mechanism like this is needed to ensure that these pension obligations are met. I am supportive of pension obligation bonds if it can save the school district money and if the question is submitted to Omaha citizens for a vote. The hearing was last week and the Committee has not met since then to discuss what provisions may be advanced to the floor for debate.

LB1005 establishes a financial obligation to provide retirement benefits for affected plan members and assesses actuarial and administrative costs for County and School Plan governmental entities that elect to withdraw from the plan, in whole or in part, for business purposes. Under the bill, affected members are considered fully vested prior to termination from the plan. Within 90 days of the entity’s withdrawal, the affected members will be considered inactive. LB 1005 ensures that the withdrawing employer – not the retirement system – is financially liable for all the costs to the plan for the entity’s business transaction. It minimizes the risk that the State, other entities covered by the plan, or the members of the plan, will bear the cost of any one entity’s business transaction.

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. Todd 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.

February 2nd – Weekly Column

February 2nd, 2018

It is truly an honor to receive an invitation to attend or speak at an event in the 24th Legislative District. I try to attend as many events as possible and interact with a wide array of constituents representing various interests across our state. On Tuesday, I was pleased to attend the 70th Annual York-Hamilton County Cattlemen’s Banquet at the Holthus Convention Center in York. It was great to see so many farmers and ranchers gathered to celebrate the important role that animal agriculture plays in preserving Nebraskan values of loving families, hard work, and strong communities. It was also a great opportunity to eat a delicious piece of prime-rib!

It is important to note that we learned this week that Nebraska grew in both the total number of cattle and the number of cattle on feed. Nebraska’s cattle industry maintained its status as the top state for cattle feeding according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Waco farmer Raymond Luebbe was recognized for his contributions with both animal agriculture and with the York-Hamilton County Cattlemen’s Association, which dates back to the 1960s. Deryl Danielson from Aurora was also recognized at the banquet for his life’s work. Both Luebbe and Danielson have no doubt witnessed a lot of changes in the agricultural industry over the last several decades. They can attest to the struggles that farmers and ranchers have overcome in Nebraska.

The Peterson Farm Bros provided the entertainment at the banquet. They are three brothers – Greg (27), Nathan (24) and Kendal (21) – who farm alongside their parents in central Kansas. In addition to motivational speaking, the Peterson brothers also use social media to promote and educate the general public about modern day farming practices and help correct common misconceptions about the industry. They were very entertaining and I would invite you to visit their website to learn more about them at: www.petersonfarmbrothers.com.

We were also reminded that the 2018 Cattlemen’s Ball will be located at the Hergott Farm near Hebron on June 1st and 2nd.  As one of the Midwest’s premier fundraising events, ninety percent of the Cattlemen’s Ball proceeds will benefit the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, with the remaining 10% donated back to local communities’ health and wellness programs. This year’s entertainment will be Tracy Lawrence on Friday, June 1st, and Trace Adkins on Saturday, June 2nd. For additional information, please visit their website: www.cattlemensball.com.

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee held their second public hearing on a major tax reform proposals. LB947, introduced on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts, would eliminate the state’s current property tax credit program. It would replace the program with a refundable state income tax credit equal to 10 percent of property taxes paid beginning this year for Nebraska homeowners and agricultural land owners. The bill would also reduce the top individual income and corporate income tax rates. The Revenue Committee will consider several other proposals in the coming weeks. I look forward to reviewing these proposals and working with my colleagues to find solutions to our tax challenges.

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. Todd 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.

January 26th – Weekly Column

January 26th, 2018

The first full week of the legislative session started with a winter storm that threatened to shut down the legislature. While a handful of my colleagues were unable to make it to the Capitol, Monday’s blizzard was no match for our determination to forge ahead with the peoples’ business of governing. I am grateful for all the road crews from the cities, counties and State who worked long hours to keep our road and highways open. We were fortunate that there were only a handful of serious accidents across Nebraska. And in these situations, Nebraska’s first responders, police, fire and emergency workers, stepped up to aid those in need.

We had several hearings this week on legislative bills I introduced, including two before the Health and Human Services Committee. First, LB 701 updates statutes to support existing telehealth practices in Nebraska. We all know that access to health care practitioners is critically important to the citizens of Nebraska, especially those in medically underserved areas of our state.

The other hearing was on LB 702. I introduced this bill on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. It updates Nebraska’s Child Support Enforcement Program to comply with new federal regulations. The State of Nebraska would lose over $81 million in federal funding if it fails to comply with the mandated changes by October 1, 2018.

The bill I introduced on behalf of Champion Homes had a hearing before the Urban Affairs Committee. LB707 would allow third-party agencies to inspect manufactured homes produced in York. The Nebraska Public Service Commission currently inspects these homes to insure compliance with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards. It is important to make this change because the inspection fees assessed by the Public Service Commission are more than four times the inspection fees charged by HUD certified third parties. Only ten other state agencies in the country provide this service. Most other states – including those surrounding Nebraska – allow HUD certified third parties to inspect manufactured homes. LB707 would allow Nebraska companies that manufacture homes to compete on a level playing field with out-of-state manufacturers.

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee held the first public hearing on several major tax reform proposals. LB829, commonly referred to as the 50/50 Tax Plan, would provide Nebraska’s property tax payers with an income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the school property taxes they pay. It would offset about 30 percent of the average taxpayers’ total property tax bill. The legislation does not answer questions about how to pay the $1.1 billion price for the proposal. The Revenue Committee will also consider several other proposals in the coming weeks. I know taxes are an important issue to all Nebraskans, and I will work diligently to find solutions to our tax challenges.

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. Todd 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.

January 19th – Second Week

January 19th, 2018

The second week of the legislative session was a short week as we recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This year, the third Monday of January would have been Dr. King’s 89th birthday. With the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights leaders’ assassination this April, we realize the significant contributions Dr. King made in his short lifetime.

Thursday was the tenth and final day for bill introduction this session. There were 468 legislative bills and 9 constitutional amendments introduced this year. During this short 60-day session, it is unlikely that most of these bills will make it to floor debate without being prioritized by a Senator or Committee. A bill may also advance on the consent agenda, if it is not controversial and lacks opposition.

We also heard from Chief Justice Heavican on the State of the Judiciary on Thursday. He reported on efforts to make the state’s court and probation systems more effective. Chief Heavican also provided an update on new problem-solving and re-entry courts.

Last week, one of my colleagues introduced the Irrigation Tax Act, LB 1022. If enacted, farmers would pay a one cent tax for every 10 gallons of ground water used for irrigation. The proceeds would fund the School Aid Fund. Since it generates revenue, this legislation was referred to the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. While I do not serve on this Committee, please know that I strongly oppose this legislation and will work with my colleagues to defeat it should it make it out of the Committee.

This year I introduced thirteen bills including four dealing with retirement issues. Below is a summary of the bills I introduced. Please visit the Nebraska Legislature website if you would like more information about each bill at: www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

LB 698   Changes the Public Employee Retirement Board’s regulation-making authority to permissive for all the plans its administers

LB 699    Technical clean-up bill to insert language omitted from LB 415, which passed last year

LB 700    Removes the obligation of the Nebraska Investment Council to invest the University Trust Fund which is overseen and managed by the University of Nebraska

LB 701 Amends the Uniform Credentialing Act to establish a physician-patient relationship through telehealth

LB 702 Recognizes children covered under Medicaid and other needs-base health care programs

LB 703 Addresses a gap in our medical practice statutes to recognize physicians licensed in another state traveling to Nebraska accompanying a team for an athletic competition or other event

LB 704 Reduces the period of board approved post-graduate medical education requirements for individuals who attended foreign medical schools

LB 705 Changes licensure requirements for an esthetician and an esthetician instructor

LB 706 Clarifies licensing requirements for electrologists

LB 707 Changes provisions of the Uniform Standard Code for manufactured homes

LB 799 Clarifies language in the Surplus Lines Insurance Act

LB 1005  Establishes liability and costs for an entity that elects to withdraw from the County or School Employees Retirement Plan

LB 1127 Creates the Patient Safety Cash Fund

We are continuing to debate bills on General File from last year. Most of the debate this week involved LB 469, the Fantasy Contests Act, and LR 18CA, a constitutional amendment that would decrease the age of eligibility for public office. Both bills were filibustered and received extensive debate. They were both eventually defeated and are finished for the year.

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. Todd 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.

As we continue our first full week of session, I want to share that my office is undergoing a personnel change. My legislative aide, David Slattery, accepted a position with the Nebraska
Hospital Association and I am excited for his new opportunity. He starts the position this week. While I am sad to see him leave my office, I am equally enthusiastic to announce his
replacement, Todd Wiltgen, a longtime family friend who has vast experience in the political arena. Todd also started the position this week and I am expecting a smooth transition within
the office. Fortunately, my committee clerk Katie Quintero, and retirement committee legal counsel, Kate Allen, will continue in their roles in my office.

On that note, the legislature continued with bill introductions and full day debate on Monday. Unlike last year where senators spent weeks debating the rules, we quickly decided to make no
rule changes for this session and got on with the business at hand. We continued to debate bills on General File from last session. On Monday afternoon, we began debate on a priority bill that we discussed last year, LB368, commonly known as the motorcycle helmet bill. After extensive debate and filibustering, that bill was defeated and is now finished for the year.

Last Wednesday was also Governor Pete Rickett’s State of the State Address to the Legislature. In his speech, he discussed a revised plan for tax relief and touted economic development in the state. He also commended senators from both sides of the aisle for growing our state and making Nebraska a better place for families.

This week we will listen to the State of the Judiciary from Chief Justice Heavican. On Tuesday, committee hearings began and five of my bills will be heard in the first week of hearings. On the floor of the legislature, we will continue with debate on bills from last year and are not expecting any bill to be overly contentious during this week.

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. Todd 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.

York News Times: September 1st

September 1st, 2017

State Chamber pays a call on York

Sen. Mark Kolterman shares the dais

 

YORK – The Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce brings annual legislative forums to communities in the state and Thursday was York’s turn.

The presentations and discussions took place over lunch at York Country Club. Speakers were State Chamber officials Joseph Young and Jamie Karl, and Nebraska State Senator Mark Kolterman from Seward.

Young began with a nod to Kolterman.

“We appreciate Sen. Kolterman,” he said, adding there’s a “great relationship” between him and the State Chamber. “He happens to have a 100 percent ranking on our vote scorecard again this year” for ballots he’s cast on issues of interest to the organization.

“We’re trying to make Nebraska the best place to do business,” a task that requires State Chamber staff “to track 350-400 bills” per legislative session.

Why so many? The diversity of members and the issues of concern to them, he explained, account for that number.

Flagship issues to the Chamber, he said, include: Taxes, the cost of doing business, job creation and work force, including affordable housing for families so they can take all those jobs. The latter, he said, “Is probably the biggest issue” over the past four or five years.

Chamber attention does not, he stressed, fall upon the bills that passed exclusively.

“The bills we stop from passing are important, too,” he noted.

Karl went through slides divided into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of how business-friendly the state is as rated by outside entities.

The Good – No. 1 for regulatory climate, No. 5 for unemployment tax costs, No. 3 for legal climate and No. 6 in the fiscal solvency category.

He said the lofty solvency ranking is driven by the fact per-capita debt in Nebraska is only $8.

The Bad – No. 27 for current economic health, No. 26 for growth prospects, No. 33 for technology and innovation, No. 20 for available workforce.

Karl said the state’s workforce ranking has fallen nine spots in two years because not many workers are available in a state with 2.5 percent unemployment.

“Basically anyone who wants a job in Nebraska has a job,” he said. “You don’t want that (unemployed) 2 ½ percent working at your business.”

The Ugly?

“We pay a lot of taxes, $9.8 billion last year” at the state and local levels, he said with a sigh.

The point is made in the fact the average individual income tax rate in states that share borders with Nebraska is 2.03 percent. Here, he said, it’s 6.84 percent.

Obviously that discrepancy builds a fence between Nebraska and those other states when businesses go shopping for place in which to expand or relocate.

Nebraska taxpayers, he said, now face a combined, all-inclusive tax rate of 50 percent.

He also pointed out that 60 percent of property tax dollars statewide go to fund K-12 education.

The state, he stressed, does not collect a single dime of property tax money. That authority exists at the local level exclusively.

To the question of the state returning money to the county and local levels he noted, “One-third of the state budget is going to local governments already.

“Everyone in this room would probably come up with a different plan for tax reform,” he said, based upon “the taxes they pay” personally.

When his turn at microphone came Kolterman began by pointing out the session just ended as his third since being elected to the body.

“The next session is probably going to be one of the toughest” to get through, he predicted. The Unicameral, he said giving fair warning, “is looking at probably more cuts come January.”

Kolterman doesn’t speak much on the floor of the Legislature, but nonetheless influenced a majority of bills passed during the session, often by serving as a bridge between colleagues.

A big challenge on the horizon, he said, is how to stock outstate Nebraska with adequate numbers of doctors, allied health professionals and hospitals.

One answer he mentioned: Tele-medicine.

Told via a note from the audience of a mother who was forced to travel from Broken Bow to Kearney so she could give birth by C-section, Kolterman laughed and said, “Well, I guess we can’t do that by tele-medicine.”

All joking aside, Kolterman said that mother’s quandary perfectly illustrates the point.

One recurring obstacle in the body – term limits – is an enormous limiting factor.

“To turn it (legislative body) over like we’re turning it over is a big problem. With all that retirement (of senators)” the constant flood of newbies “has to rely on the institutional knowledge of the (legislative) staff” because they have none of their own. By the time they get it, they term limit out.

As to specific issues, he said, “Property taxes and how we fund education go hand-in-hand so we’ve really got to pay attention to that.”

Also, he said 53 percent of nursing home occupants today “are paid for by the state” on average.

Some in their elderly years are known to abuse the system by “giving their land away and then expecting the state to pay for them.”

Look for the legislature to tighten the screws on that and similar loopholes.

“I like to think we’re trying to listen to our constituents,” he said. “In our office we track every bill. Reality is we are nonpartisan” and thus should leave both colors – Red and Blue – at the door.

“I didn’t go down there to change the world. I went down there with the idea to help Nebraskans.”

http://www.yorknewstimes.com/news/state-chamber-pays-a-call-on-york/article_9d1c9922-8ec7-11e7-96bf-b70870cad68b.html

This will be my last weekly update for the session, as Speaker Scheer announced that the legislature finished its business earlier than expected and we adjourned sine die on Tuesday, May 23rd, the 86th day of the session.  It is not uncommon to adjourn a few days early.  Officially, the only job of the legislature is to pass a budget.  Now we will wait a few months and watch the tax receipts to see if the budget projections are correct.  If they are not, there could be a possibility of returning this fall for a special session to deal with any budget shortfalls that could occur.

I want to thank everyone that called, emailed, wrote, or visited my office this year.  I can never stress enough how valuable it is to me to listen to the views and opinions of those I represent.  We may not agree on every issue, but hearing from you is valuable insight on what issues effect you the most.  Having open and constructive conversations with those you disagree is something that I think helps make me best represent those I serve.

I had a productive session and am pleased with what the legislature accomplished, but I always feel like we could have done more.  We faced many challenges this year, especially with the budget shortfall due to the ailing agricultural industry.

I would like to have seen a comprehensive tax reform package passed, or at the very least, property tax reduction.  It is my hope that the governor can work with the revenue committee to find a solution to relieve some of the tax burden for hard working Nebraska families.

For my personal bills, the legislature passed nine bills that I introduced, including LB323, a bill that is very personal to me since it helps advocate for the use of palliative care, which is a service that is important to people such as my wife who is battling a terminal illness.  I am also pleased that we passed LB18, a dental hygienist bill that has been in the works for close to ten years, and LB92, my personal priority bill, a bill that extends insurance coverage for the use of telehealth in the state.  During the interim, the Health and Human Service Committee will be taking a closer look and examining the use of telehealth in the state through a legislative resolution that I introduced, LR178.

The legislature passed ten of my retirement bills this year.  Eight of those ten bills were included in LB415, a bill which I have commented in this column extensively about for the past couple weeks.  I introduced a few interim resolutions that will deal with retirement issues, including retired substitute teachers.

Besides interim studies, there is plenty to do this summer and fall before we reconvene next January.  Now that session is over, I look forward to having more time to spend in the community and seeing you all at county fairs, church, town halls, BBQs, and the Seward Fourth of July!

Even though we are not in session, my staff is available to 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.

May 12th – LB415 update

May 12th, 2017

Many educators question why I introduced LB 415. I want to share my reasons with you and explain some of the complexities.  I support defined benefit plans as long as they maintain a healthy funded status. I believe they are a valuable benefit for our public employees and I am committed to protecting these plans.  The State of Nebraska contributes $38 million to the School Plan and an additional $7 million to the Class V (Omaha) School Plan every year. Because of the tremendous state budget deficit, there has been some interest in reducing this annual contribution.  I objected to, and prevented an attempt on the floor to reduce this annual appropriation because I knew it would endanger the healthy funding status of this plan.  I also understand that if we don’t make these annual contributions, the State of Nebraska is liable for the funding.

In addition to keeping the plan well-funded, retirement plans must also be kept in compliance with IRS requirements for qualified plans – which includes ensuring there is a “bona fide separation of service” when a member retires.

Currently in the School Plan, intermittent substitute and voluntary service are allowed during the 180-day separation of service period following retirement.  The Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System (NPERS) advised me they are seeing a trend in retirees providing more and more substitute service during this 180-day period – service that is beyond what can be deemed “intermittent”.  As a result NPERS staff are spending significantly increasing staff time to monitor and investigate “intermittent service” in order to keep the plan in compliance with the IRS.  When NPERS has deemed service has not been intermittent, they had to suspend the retiree’s benefit for a period of time—a result that we all want to avoid.

LB 415 was introduced to eliminate retirees from providing substitute or voluntary service during the 180-day separation of service period in order to create a “bright line” to ensure that the IRS-required bona fide separation of service occurs.

The other proposed changes in LB 415 were in response to information provided by the actuary. During last summer’s examination of all the retirement plans, the actuary determined that members are living much longer — which is great news!  But it also means retirement benefits are paid over longer periods than originally assumed. The actuary also informed the Committee that when incentives are offered that encourage plan members to retire early, then benefits are paid over a longer period of time than assumed.  Both of these findings result in increased costs to the plan which is why LB 415 includes the provisions that require future hires to work until at least age 60 and a longer separation of service period for retirees who take a voluntary separation agreement or other form of early retirement inducement.

These issues were studies throughout the interim. I met numerous times with representatives of NPERS, NSEA and NCSA throughout the interim last year to discuss these proposed changes and I also made presentations to NSEA and NCSA groups.

After the hearing on LB 415, I agreed to reduce the originally proposed Rule of 90 to a modified Rule of 85 with a minimum retirement age of 60 and during debate on the bill, I further agreed to reduce the separation of service period from 3 years to 2 years for retirees who take early retirement inducements and allow voluntary service after 180 days.  During debate other alternatives were offered to reduce the 180-day period, but because of the complexity of determining whether or not they would meet IRS requirements, I agreed to eliminate my proposed changes to the 180-day separation of service and to study this issue further over the interim.

I know many educators are concerned about what I proposed in LB 415.  I want to reassure educators, the 180-day separation of service period that allows intermittent substitute and voluntary service remains in effect – there are no changes.

I also want to assure educators that the new Rule of 85 requiring a minimum retirement age of 60 does not apply to any current member or to anyone who is hired prior to July 1, 2018.  Only employees hired on or after July 1, 2018 will need to comply with the minimum retirement age of 60 requirement.  The actuary determined that this change alone is projected to save the School and Class V (Omaha) Plans a little over $100 million over the next 30 years which will help keep the School plan well- funded.

During the interim the Retirement Committee, joined by several other senators, will study these issues under LR 202, and several Education Committee members have introduced LR 130 to study a number of issues raised about substitute teaching.

I appreciate the dedication and commitment of educators and respect the service provided to our communities and our children.  I will continue to work to protect all retirement plans by keeping them in compliance with IRS requirements and making benefit adjustments in order to keep all plans fiscally healthy.  In addition, I will continue to object to any efforts to reduce funding for the School Plan or efforts to convert any of the defined benefit plans to cash balance plans as long as they remain well-funded.  I look forward to working with all educators in these efforts and welcome any questions.

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.

 

LINCOLN — The Legislature abandoned a proposal Wednesday that would have barred newly retired teachers from working as substitutes.

Instead, lawmakers will undertake an interim study of the issue.

State Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward proposed the study, as well as an amendment stripping restrictions on post-retirement employment from Legislative Bill 415.

The amendment resolved an issue that provoked controversy during first-round debate. Lawmakers adopted the amendment before giving the bill second-round approval. As advanced, LB 415 makes several less contentious changes in state retirement plans, including raising the retirement age for school employees who start work after July 1, 2018.

School employees now can retire at age 55 if they have accumulated 30 years of service, which is called the “rule of 85.” Under the bill, future employees will be able to retire at age 60 if they have 25 years of service.

Kolterman, chairman of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, said the change would help the school retirement plan financially because it would mean paying out benefits for fewer years.

His amendment removed provisions from LB 415 that would have restricted school employees from working or volunteering in schools after they retired.

The original bill would have required teachers to stay out of the classroom for 180 days after retirement. Those who took early retirement buyouts would have had a three-year waiting period.

Kolterman had argued that the restrictions would ensure compliance with federal tax laws, which require a clear end to a person’s employment, and would discourage retirees from drawing a pension while going back to work.

But the Nebraska State Education Association and representatives of several school districts said the proposals would have worsened a shortage of substitute teachers.

Kolterman’s study resolution calls for examining the federal tax law, retirement administration challenges and substitute teacher service.

mstoddard@owh.com, 402-444-1000 x6616

http://www.omaha.com/news/legislature/nebraska-legislators-advance-bill-to-raise-teacher-retirement-age-after/article_8c5a60a9-5f7f-538b-8932-2cca0772d08a.html

We spent most of the week discussing the state budget.  During the debate there were two main parts of discussion. 1) Title X funding, which is tax dollars that are sent to the states for women’s and low income health services, and 2) the ongoing challenge of how to make up the additional revenue shortfall of around $55 million.

Regarding the first part of the debate, I want to explain why I voted the way I did. There was some language in the budget bill that would have stripped the Title X funding from the budget, even though historically it has been a part of the budget for many, many years. Let me be clear that no Title X money, by federal law, is allowed to go towards abortion services. That being said, however, with the removal of this funding, one traditionally pro-choice health clinic would have lost funding, but so would many low income health clinics that provide services throughout the state. These services are utilized extensively statewide and are sorely needed in some rural areas especially.

In addition to not wanting to see the low income clinics lose their funding, I also had concerns about how this pro-life vs. pro-choice issue was being debated as part of a budget bill, a budget bill that needed to be passed to fund the many programs of our state.

Additionally, I had concerns that if this issue being a part of the budget bill was challenged on its constitutionality, it could cause major issues for us in the future, throwing our budget bill into the courts and tying up the funding of all state programs, possibly shutting down state government.

In an effort to resolve this issue, a motion was made to remove this provision from the state budget bill and move forward with a clean budget, leaving this policy issue to be looked at separately in the future. I voted in support of the motion and also in support of the overall budget. While I understood the premise of those who wanted a certain entity to be defunded, I also didn’t believe this was the right way to go about this.

I have had a few people reach out indicating that they felt I had moved away from my pro-life values. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am pro-life and I will always be pro-life and continue to advocate for pro-life principles. Part of being pro-life is supporting all life, and allowing the low income clinics to continue serve under-privileged clients is one way to support their health and well- being.

The second part of the discussion relating to where to come up with the additional $55 million needed was also challenging. I, like many of my constituents, believe we need to do whatever we can to cut waste and create efficiency in state government. Senator Stinner, chair of appropriations, and his committee have done a great deal of work setting priorities and finding places to reduce spending. Some members of the body strongly believe we need to cut more to make up for the $55 million shortfall. While I agree that we need to continue to look at cuts, I am also concerned that across the board cuts could result in major disruption of critical services. We need to be careful as we proceed and find the right balance of cuts in a prioritized manner, while continuing to fund essential state services. The next few weeks will be challenging, and we will do what we can to make the best decisions we can for our state.

I also want to take a moment to address Senator Linehan’s LB651 and her motion to pull the bill from committee.  I supported Senator Linehan’s motion to pull the bill from committee because I believe LB651 is an issue that needs to be discussed by the legislature.  That being said, I do not support the bill in its current form and do not plan to vote to advance it.  I received many calls and emails regarding this bill, so I wanted to make my position clear.

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.

 

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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