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

Weekly Column – March 16th

March 16th, 2018

Each morning during the legislative session, the Presiding Officer asks everyone in the chamber to rise for the opening prayer lead by the Chaplain of the Day. Over the years, leaders from many different faiths have served as the Chaplain. Last Monday, we were blessed to have Reverend Monsignor Daniel Seiker, Assistant Spiritual Director at the St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, lead us in prayer. It was very encouraging to have him join us in praying for the leaders of our State. I would invite any faith leader interested in serving as Chaplain of the Day to contact my office for additional details.

Last Tuesday, the Legislature commenced debate on the proposed adjustments to the State’s budget among others. Speaker Scheer introduced LB944 at the request of Governor Ricketts. It included the Governor’s 2018 mid-biennium budget adjustment recommendations for state operations, aid and construction programs, provides for transfers, and modifies intent language and earmarks accompanying appropriations approved last year during the 2017 Legislative Session. These adjustments are necessary to rebalance the two-year biannual budget due to increased child welfare costs, a lower federal Medicaid match rate, and a significant reduction in revenue forecasts resulted in a budget shortfall of roughly $210 million.

While I do not serve on the Appropriation Committee, I followed their progress closely since the start of the session. The Committee held numerous public hearings to develop their revised budget proposal and advanced LB944 out of the committee on a unanimous vote 9-0. While most of Tuesday was spent debating the revised budget on General Final, the Legislature adopted the amended version and moved it to Select File.

On Wednesday, the Revenue Committee met to consider a revised version of LB947, the comprehensive property and income tax reduction bill Senator Smith introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts. In addition to retaining the state’s current property tax relief credit program, the revised bill adds a refundable state income tax credit starting at 2 percent of property taxes paid on agriculture land and would gradually rise to 20 percent. The total relief for agriculture land would eventually reach 30 percent. For homeowners, the credit would begin at 1 percent of property taxes paid and gradually increase to 20 percent. The maximum credit for homeowners will be $500. LB947 would also reduce the corporate income tax rate from 7.81 percent to 6.84 percent over two years. It also includes an additional $10 million for job training. At this point in the session with only 15 days left, we are waiting to see what, if any, major tax reform bill advances out of the Revenue Committee.

Even though I do not serve on the Revenue Committee, I have worked with my colleagues to lower property taxes. They are too high and impact every individual who owns property, from our retired senior citizens to our farmers and ranchers who depend on their land to make a living. In reality, there is no quick fix. The only way we will be able to achieve meaningful property tax relief is through building a broad coalition of Senators representing both urban and rural interests. This is necessary because my colleagues representing urban communities will tell you that they are looking for income tax relief. A package including both property tax and income tax relief has the best chance of becoming law.

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.

March 9th – Weekly Column

March 9th, 2018

The Legislature wrapped up the fortieth day of the session last Friday. With two-thirds of the short legislative session complete, it was the first week of full-day floor debate. We debated several bills, ranging from increased child safety seat requirements to exempting horse massage from State regulation to creating a new sovereign city in the Nebraska panhandle.

Last Wednesday, the Legislature debated the bill I introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, LB702. It updates Nebraska’s Child Support Enforcement Program to comply with new federal regulations by clarifying that children covered by Medicaid and other needs-based health care programs have health care coverage. LB702 also modifies how child support orders are handled when a parent is incarcerated for more than 180 days. Failing to comply with the mandated changes by October 1, 2018, would subject the state of Nebraska to the loss of $81 million in federal IV-D child support and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding. LB702 advanced to Select File on a 38-0 vote.

Also on Wednesday, the Legislature gave second-round approval to LB44 and it advanced to Final Reading on a 34-7 vote. LB44 would require some retailers without a physical location in Nebraska to collect state sales and use tax, pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June. I supported this legislation because I do not believe it is fair to local retailers that are required to collect sales tax, while out of state online retailers do not have to collect it. This legislation levels the playing field for ‘Main Street’ businesses and allows them to compete with online retailers.

There was a lot of activity last Thursday. My priority bill, LB439, advanced to Final Reading on a 30-0 vote. This is the bill that would allow nurses employed by an assisted-living facility to provide health care services to residents. The Legislature also advanced LB1090 to Select File. Introduced by Senator Smith, LB1090 would nullify the effects of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had on Nebraska state income taxes. It would prevent a tax increase of an estimated $220 million.

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.

March 2nd – Weekly Column

March 2nd, 2018

As most of you know, one of the unique characteristics of the Nebraska Legislature is that every bill introduced by a senator receives a public hearing. On Tuesday, February 27th, we concluded committee hearings for the 468 legislative bills and 9 constitutional amendments introduced this year. The legislature began full day debate on bills on Wednesday, February 28th. With 23 days remaining in this short legislative session, we still have a lot of important legislation to tackle, including rebalancing the two-year biannual budget.

One of the bills I have been hearing about from constituents is LB1009, a bill that provides a super-two rural highway classification and changes maximum highway speed limits. Upon being introduced by Senator Murante, LB1009 was referred to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, of which I am not a member. According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT), the State Highway Commission requested a review of rural speed zones in response to concerns about the consistency of speed limits across Nebraska.

First, LB1009 adds a new classification for highways that already exist across Nebraska. These are two-lane highways with passing lanes spaced intermittently on alternating sides of the highway to provide opportunities to pass slower moving vehicles. LB1009 would also increase the speed limit on highways by 5 miles per hour and allow the NDOT to increase the speed limit on the interstate from 75 to 80 miles per hour should a traffic and engineering study support it. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee recently advanced LB1009. Since Senator Hughes prioritized it, we should be debating LB1009 on the floor soon. I am interested in learning more about the rationale for raising speed limits when LB1009 is debated on General File.

Also on Wednesday, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board increased its revenue projections for the current fiscal year and next year by about $55 million over its October forecast. The revenue forecast for the next fiscal year FY2018-19 increased $365 million. This includes an estimated $335 million increase in individual income and corporate tax receipts as the result of the federal Tax Cuts and Tax Jobs Act of 2017. LB1090, introduced by Senator Smith, is intended to offset this increase. I will work with my colleagues to prevent this big tax increase.

Last Thursday, March 1st, marked the 151st anniversary of President Andrew Johnson signing the presidential proclamation declaring Nebraska’s statehood. Nebraska was the 37th state admitted to the union and the first after the Civil War. The United States Congress voted to admit Nebraska provided that suffrage was not denied to non-white voters. The bill was vetoed by President Johnson, but it was overridden by a supermajority in both Houses of Congress. To this date, Nebraska is the only state admitted to the Union by means of a veto override.

Every year, the NEBRASKAland Foundation hosts the Statehood Day dinner in the State Capitol Rotunda to recognize Nebraskans who have distinguished themselves and the state. The honorees this year included former University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken, former Governor and U.S. Senator E. Benjamin Nelson, and my twin brother Clark Kolterman.

Clark has dedicated his life to giving back to Seward through his work teaching at Seward High School and the leadership roles in various nonprofit, community and civic organizations. Clark was instrumental in revitalizing the Seward Fourth of July celebration. His leadership efforts helped Seward receive the official designations as Nebraska’s Official Fourth of July City from Governor J.J. Exon and later as America’s Official Fourth of July City – Small Town USA by a resolution of Congress.

It’s hard to imagine the Seward Fourth of July without Mr. Fourth of July himself. It’s been a joy to watch him thrive in leading the celebration for so many years and get so many different people involved. No one more deserving of the Distinguished NEBRASKAlander Award than Clark.

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 23rd – Weekly Column

February 23rd, 2018

Last week was a short week for the Nebraska Legislature as we observed Presidents’ Day on Monday. The Holiday is more than just a three-day weekend for retailers and advertisers to sell stuff. Presidents’ Day is a time to honor the achievements of our Commanders-in-Chief who built our great nation and brought freedom to many parts of the world.

I celebrated Presidents’ Day by attending the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership annual extravaganza where they honored many businesses and individuals for their contributions to the community. Congrats to Colt’s Corral; Poly Tech LLC; Hefty Seed Company; FullField Ag; Nebraska Cellular Store; A4K Plumbing, Heating & Air; Krieser Insulation; and EJ Sulc for the awards and recognitions.

I would also like to congratulate Joyce Schriner of Utica for being named Volunteer of the Year. Joyce has long been one of the pillars of Utica. She delivers Meals on Wheels, serves on the Cemetery Board and Seward County Historical Society Board, started the Utica Museum, runs the Utica Senior Center, and is constantly raising funds for or personally participating in Downtown Revitalization efforts in Utica. She should be commended for her extensive work and I’m pleased she has been recognized for those efforts!

Two close friends, Don and Barb Suhr, were also honored at the event with the Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing their contributions to the community through their business over the past 55 years. Don and Barb brought me into the insurance industry and I will forever be grateful for the mentoring they provided me in teaching me the importance of trust, respect and honesty in business, as well as the importance of focusing on the needs of clients first and foremost. I was fortunate to learn from them and congratulate them on their many years of service to the Seward community.

There was a lot of activity around the Capitol on Wednesday. In addition to being the mid-point of the legislative session, Speaker Scheer announced his priority bills. I am grateful that he choose to prioritize one of the bills I introduced, LB702. This is the bill introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to update Nebraska’s Child Support Enforcement Program to comply with a new federal regulation.Failing to comply with the mandated changes by October 1, 2018, would subject the State of Nebraska to a loss of all federal Title IV-D and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding, amounting to over $81 million.

Leadership York also visited the Capitol on Wednesday. I appreciated the opportunity to recognize their attendance during the legislative debate on the bill I prioritized, LB439. This is the bill that Senator Wishart introduced that would allow a nurse employed by an assisted-living facility to provide healthcare services to residents. The bill advanced to Select File with the support of 38 of my colleagues and without any opposition.

Wednesday also marked the last hearing for a bill that I introduced. LB1127 was heard before the Health and Human Services Committee. LB1127 provides for a $10.00 annual patient safety fee for persons licensed as a physician, osteopathic physician, physician assistant, nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist, or physical therapist. The revenue would be used to support the educational and patient safety activities of the Nebraska Coalition for Patient Safety.

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 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

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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