NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

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State Attorneys General Unite Against Robocalls

August 15, 2022 

Nothing has been able to kill scam robocalls — not federal regulation, not individual state lawsuits, not private software. Each effort has made a dent, but the unwanted calls keep on coming, much to the consternation of Americans on the receiving end.

Now, all 50 state attorneys general, Republicans and Democrats, have come together through a newly formed task force to go after U.S. telecommunications companies that allow robocalls originating overseas to reach their customers.

Stopping nuisance calls from foreign countries has been particularly challenging. The AGs have put telecom companies on notice that they must stop the scam calls before they go through to customers, or face prosecution. Experts say that strategy just might work.

“Technology has advanced to the point so AGs can see when telecom carriers are carrying illegal traffic,” said Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail, a robocall-blocking software company that keeps track of robocalling in the United States.

“The problem has been that the [Federal Communications Commission] fines someone … one at a time, or one AG shuts down a carrier,” he said. “Now, it’s 50 going after them and 50 court proceedings and 50 fines. I’m optimistic that this will make some impact. Enforcement really is key.”

Further, Quilici said, by coordinating lawsuits, the attorneys general make it more expensive for the robocaller companies, which earlier had calculated the cost of individual court cases into their cost of doing business. “The key thing you want to do is raise the cost for the robocaller,” he said.

As an example, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein in January sued telephone service provider Articul8 for allegedly facilitating illegal and fraudulent telemarketing phone calls in his state. Stein alleges the company sent 65 million fraud calls to his constituents in just a few months.

Now, Stein, a Democrat, and GOP attorneys general Todd Rokita of Indiana and Dave Yost of Ohio are leading the effort to coordinate similar suits against telecom providers on a 50-state (plus the District of Columbia) basis by forming an Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force.

As its first act, the task force this month issued 20 investigative requests to 20 companies that are “allegedly responsible for a majority of foreign robocall traffic,” Stein said.

Rokita, in a news release, pointed out that robocalls “aren’t just a Hoosier problem. They are a nationwide problem.” He put the telecom industry on notice that if it “won’t police itself, this unprecedented task force will.”

State attorneys general have taken some coordinated actions in the past few years, such as calling on internet resellers like eBay Inc. to stop selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and raising concerns about illegal alcohol sales online. And together, they’ve pushed companies to beef up anti-robocalling technology.

But mostly the attorneys general have split along party lines. The Republican AGs association, for example, was on the winning side in its “friend of the court” brief supporting a lawsuit in Pennsylvania arguing that religious institutions that ban same-sex foster parents should be allowed to take part in Philadelphia’s foster care system.

And the Democratic AGs issued a statement this month praising President Joe Biden’s executive order aimed at protecting some abortion rights.

But they all hate robocalls.

“I think we can give all the credit to the robocallers,” said former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, founder of StateAG.org, an educational group that studies the offices of state attorneys general. “They have been able to do the politically impossible feat: They have been able to unite the attorneys general when they don’t unite on anything else. I don’t know who they are, or what country they are in, but everybody hates robocallers.

“They [the AGs] are going to lose the pro-robocall vote, but I think they are willing to take the risk,” said Tierney, a Democrat.

Some government actions have seemed to reduce the scourge a bit, but not enough to get rid of constituent hate for the scam calls. (There is some legitimate “opt-in” automatic calling, such as when schools notify parents of a snow day, for example.)

The National Consumer Law Center and the Electronic Privacy Information Center found that in 2021, about 60 million Americans were bilked out of $29 billion by scam robocalls and texts.

YouMail reported that American phones got just over 3.8 billion robocalls in July, a nearly 12% decrease from June. That was due mostly to the July Fourth holiday and one extra weekend in the month, Quilici said. He said robocalling is notably down on weekends and holidays. Still, in July, there were an average 123.1 million calls a day, YouMail reported.

But the reported decrease in calls in July might be misleading, YouMail said in its report, as many robocalls go undetected because of a regulatory quirk related to so-called spoofed numbers.

A spoofed number appears to be a legitimate number, likely one with a local area code and exchange, but is actually falsified information showing on the Caller ID to disguise where the call is coming from. Quilici said the FCC’s Stir/Shaken program — a digital verification system that makes it easier to identify spoofed or fake numbers — is driving down the number of obvious spoofed calls, but there may be many others that are going undetected.

Large carriers such as Verizon have implemented Stir/Shaken for a couple of years. The AGs are focusing on smaller carriers, such as the one Stein sued, which only came under the program in June, so its effect is not obvious yet.

“Verizon is a strong advocate of tracking down and shutting down sources of illegal robocalls and we stand ready to help law enforcement with that goal,” Verizon spokesperson Rich Young said in an email to Stateline.

Louis Jacobson, who writes about attorneys general for University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball website, said political polarization among attorneys general has increased in recent years. “There’s not as much cooperation, especially on high profile issues,” he said in a phone interview. “There is mostly partisan alignment.”

Still, he added: “While I think that general partisan division is still in force, robocall is the kind of thing that everyone can get behind stopping. There’s no political downside.”

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2022/08/15/state-attorneys-general-unite-against-robocalls?utm_source=National+Conference+of+State+Legislatures&utm_campaign=6189919fca-Today_Aug_15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1716623089-6189919fca-377907268

Exciting news for Seward, Milford and York!

 

Allo announces expansion plans for 5 Nebraska cities

Matt Olberding
Nov 29, 2021

Allo Communications on Monday announced expansion plans for five more cities in Nebraska.

The Lincoln-based telecommunications provider that’s owned partly by Nelnet said it plans to start internet, phone and TV service in Ashland, Milford, Seward, Sidney and York next year.

Allo said it currently is working closely with officials in each city to complete necessary agreements and plans to start building out fiber networks in the spring.

Allo has been in expansion mode, especially in Nebraska, recently starting service in Norfolk, Wayne and Valentine, and currently working on completing fiber builds in Columbus, Fremont, Grand Island and Kearney.

“We have always had a big focus on our home state of Nebraska, said Allo President and CEO Brad Moline. “We are excited to connect hundreds of thousands of Nebraska residents and businesses to our award-winning fiber technology while also bringing economic growth to each community.”

The company also announced plans earlier this year to provide service to Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Allo now serves more than 20 cities in three states with a total population of more than 800,000 people.

 

​​https://journalstar.com/business/local/allo-announces-expansion-plans-for-5-nebraska-cities/article_72c4b659-d75c-58fb-9411-4710c2b670ce.html

Martha Stoddard and Kelsey Stewart World-Herald Bureau
Nov 29, 2021 | Updated Nov 30, 2021

 

LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday called the preliminary injunction blocking federal enforcement of a coronavirus vaccine mandate on health care workers “positive” news.

A federal judge blocked the mandate on health care workers in Nebraska and nine other states that had brought the first legal challenge against the mandate.

The court order said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.

The preliminary injunction by St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp applies only to the coalition of 10 states. The others are Iowa, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Similar lawsuits are pending in other states.

“This is very timely,” Ricketts said on his call-in radio show, noting that the federal mandate was slated to take effect this week.

While Ricketts called the COVID-19 vaccine a miracle of medicine, he also said Americans should not be forced to decide between their jobs and getting a shot. He said the injunction will help health care providers, especially those in rural areas, who are struggling to find staff.

A caller who identified himself as Cory from Holt County welcomed the news. He said his wife works at a local hospital and was faced with a Dec. 5 vaccine deadline.

Ricketts noted that the injunction stops the federal government from imposing mandates on health care providers but that providers may have their own vaccine requirements.

Eight large Omaha- and Lincoln-based health systems announced in early August that they planned to require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Officials said at the time that the move was to ensure the safety of patients and employees and the communities in which they operate.

By early November, 90% of those health systems’ employees had received vaccines. All of the systems granted exemptions to a small percentage of their employees on medical or religious grounds. Those employees typically have agreed to wear masks and be tested regularly.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement that the ruling is significant for Nebraska health care workers, especially those who work in rural hospitals.

“Today’s ruling immediately prevents enforcement of the mandate. While we do anticipate the federal government will seek immediate review by the Eighth Circuit, we are confident that the analysis by the trial court will be confirmed,” he said.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement saying she applauds the court’s decision.

“Medical providers that have been on the frontlines of this pandemic saving lives deserve the freedom and ability to make their own informed health care decisions,” she said. “I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but I also firmly believe in Iowans’ right to make health care decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families, and I remain committed to protecting those freedoms. President Biden should do the same.”

The federal rule requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers nationwide in about 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers that get funding from government health programs. Workers are to receive their first dose by Dec. 6 and their second shot by Jan. 4.

The court order against the health care vaccine mandate comes after President Joe Biden’s administration suffered a similar setback for a broader policy. A federal court previously placed a hold on a separate rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure that their workers get vaccinated or else get tested weekly for the coronavirus.

The administration contends that federal rules supersede state policies prohibiting vaccine mandates and are essential to slowing the pandemic.

But the judge in the health care provider case wrote that federal officials likely overstepped their legal powers.

“CMS seeks to overtake an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to federally dictate the private medical decisions of millions of Americans,” Schelp wrote. “Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism.”​​

Even under an exceedingly broad interpretation of federal powers, “Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact the this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate,” he wrote.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

https://omaha.com/news/state-and-regional/biden-vaccine-rule-for-health-workers-blocked-in-nebraska-and-nine-other-states/article_dc41ddc6-5144-11ec-af08-cfef8791aef2.html

I wanted to share an update Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson posted regarding his response to the federal vaccine mandates. I applaud him for his hard work in pursuing lawsuits regarding the Biden Administration’s CMS, OSHA, and federal contractor vaccine mandates. Fighting these mandates through the judicial system is the best and most efficient action we can take as a State.

 

Attorney General’s Response to Federal Vaccine Mandates

In the last months, the Attorney General’s Office has received numerous phone calls asking about the federal vaccine mandates announced by the Biden administration. Nebraskans want to know whether these federal mandates are enforceable. This is understandable since many are facing the loss of their livelihood and are exploring ways to maintain employment without being required to take one of the vaccines.
It is also understandable that many Nebraska employers and employees are confused as to the status of these mandates. Although the Biden administration first announced them on September 9, 2021, the rules were slow to be released, and the guidelines are lengthy and complex. The Attorney General is concerned that these federal mandates are unlawful. In response, Attorney General Peterson has filed lawsuits regarding the Biden Administration’s CMS, OSHA, and federal contractor vaccine mandates.
The Attorney General serves as legal adviser for the State of Nebraska, its agencies, and its officials. By law, the Attorney General or members of his staff are prohibited from providing legal advice, opinions, or representation to private citizens. If your inquiry concerns a private legal matter, you should contact a private attorney in order to protect your legal rights. You may wish to visit this link for guidance on locating legal assistance.
Office move!
October 18th, 2021

Senator Kolterman’s office has moved from Room 2004 to Room 1101, which is located on the first floor on the west side of the Capitol. If you have any trouble locating the office, please call 402-471-2756.

Weekly Column – March 8th
March 11th, 2019

In this week’s column, I would like to discuss LB 720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act with you a second time.  This week, on March 6, the Revenue Committee held the hearing on LB 720.  As a reminder, LB 720 will increase the value of the incentive program to the Nebraska tax payer through better investments, better jobs, more robust reporting and more overall transparency as compared to the Nebraska Advantage Act.  LB 720 accelerates the value of the tax credit by simplifying the process, will increase the competitiveness of the program by increasing the Net Present Value of tax credits, thus helping Nebraska to win more projects and other opportunities for our state.  Finally, LB 720 will allow the State to build stronger relationships with businesses in order to encourage greater levels of investment and will allow the Department of Economic Development to better understand the needs of businesses and the evolution of business thinking in real time.

During the hearing that lasted approximately four and a half hours, the Revenue Committee heard from testimony from the Director of Department of Economic Development, Dave Rippe, Chad Denton on behalf of the State Chamber of Commerce, Walker Zulkowski on behalf of the Nebraska Economic Developers Association, David Brown on behalf of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, David Arnold on behalf of Buildertrend and Andy Hunzeker on behalf of Lincoln Industries, all of whom argued feverously that LB 720 is a critical piece of legislation that our state needs in order to grow the state.

The Revenue Committee also received letters expressing their support of the legislation from the City of Lincoln, the North Platte Area Chamber & Development, Advanced Power Alliance, Novozymes, Great Plains Communication, Omaha Public Power District, the United Cities of Sarpy County, First Five Nebraska, and the Nebraska Public Power District.

I completely agree with those who expressed support, both in person and via letter.  LB 720 is a critical piece of legislation for our state.  I am very passionate and am on record in finding ways to lower Nebraska’s already high property and income tax burden but I also believe if we cannot provide a competitive package to attract businesses to invest or to even relocate to Nebraska, there will be no money available for any type of tax relief and there will be less money for education.  If we, as a state, do not provide business incentives to recruit new industry to our state, I believe we will hurt the opportunities of our children and our grandchildren.

I am not alone in this effort.  I am thankful for all of those who testified in support of growing Nebraska.  I am honored that 21 of my colleagues from all corners of the state and of all political persuasions have cosponsored the ImagiNE Nebraska Act to ensure our state’s economic future in this ever changing global environment.  Having incentives to help grow our tax base is critical for our children’s future, for tax relief, and for job opportunities down the road.

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. Tyler 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 9th – Weekly Column
February 12th, 2018

During each Legislative session, we schedule several recess days to allow Senators to return home to their communities and hear from their constituents. During Friday’s recess day, I met with nine of the school superintendents from Legislative District 24. I have also been hearing from quite a few constituents regarding several bills in the legislature that deal with education in Nebraska and I wanted to hear their perspectives. This includes bills that create independent public schools, school voucher programs, expanding educational savings plans for private school tuition and tax credits for private school scholarship donations.

Several of these bills were introduced last year and have been carried over to this session including LB608, LB630 and LB295.

LB608 would provide a scholarship to a student attending a public school with the lowest performance level established by the Nebraska Department of Education. The student would then be able to use the scholarship to enroll in a private school. LB630 would allow the creation of independent public schools that would operate under separate boards from public school districts and would be exempt from most state education rules and regulations. The state would provide funding for the scholarships and independent schools. Neither bill has advanced out of the Education Committee.

LB295 was also introduced last year and would create a nonrefundable tax credit for individuals and entities who donate money to nonprofit organizations that grant scholarships for students to attend private elementary or secondary schools in Nebraska. The bill limits the total amount of the credit to $10 million for 2018 and allows a 25% annual increase every year if most of the credits are claimed. Eligibility for the scholarships would be limited to students from a household with an income less than twice the required level of the federal reduced-price lunch program. While the Revenue Committee advanced this bill, it has not been placed on the General File calendar.

Introduced this year, LB804 would expand the list of qualified expenses for Nebraska’s Education Savings Trust Plan in 2020 to include tuition to public, private and parochial elementary or secondary schools. Currently, only withdrawals from 529 accounts for qualified higher education expenses are exempt from state and federal taxes. The Revenue Committee has not advanced this bill.

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.

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 were 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.

At this time, I am not sure which bills will advance to the full legislature for debate. I would not support the creation of voucher programs for public education or the creation of charter schools in Nebraska. However, I am supportive of expanding educational savings plans for private school tuition and tax credits for private school scholarship donations. Neither bill would alter local or state aid to public school districts.

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.

The Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee is rescheduling the LR91 and LR92 hearing on December 1st to Fri., December 15th at 1:30pm in Room 1525.

If you have any questions, please call our office at 402-471-2756. You can also email Kate Allen at kallen@leg.ne.gov or Katie Quintero at kquintero@leg.ne.gov.

April 28th – LB415
April 27th, 2017

LB 415 is one of the Retirement Committee’s Priority bills.  I have said many times that I support defined benefit plans for public employees as long as they are well-funded and sustainable.  In order to achieve that goal, I believe it is necessary to monitor events that cause funding impacts along the way, and to make adjustments before plans get into funding difficulties.

Funding levels can change quickly.  For example, in 2014 the actuary projected that the School Plan would be 100% funded in 2019 and no actuarially required contributions (ARCs) were projected for at least 30 years.  But a number of things happened since 2014 and now the School Plan is projected to not reach 100% funded status until 2040, and ARCs are projected to begin in 2020 and increase every year after that.

So what happened?  Since 2014 there have been two years of low investment returns on the retirement plans —  3.9% in 2015 and 1.6% in 2016 — and an Actuarial Experience Study was conducted which resulted in two major assumption changes.  Beginning July 1, 2017, the assumed investment rate will be reduced from 8% to 7.5% and a new mortality table will be used to reflect the fact that plan members are living longer.  While the mortality experience is great news for our plan members, it’s expensive news for the plans.  When defined benefit plan members can retire in their 50s, but mortality tables indicate they are living much longer, it means that benefits are likely to be paid over a longer period of time.

My goals in introducing this bill are to make benefit adjustments to the school plans to lower long-term funding obligations.  Plan changes will also encourage school employees to work until they are truly ready to retire and limit double dipping.  Changes also will ensure there are bona fide separations of service and no sham terminations, which are important changes in order to comply with IRS requirements for qualified pension plans.

I have been working with representatives of school employees, school administrators and the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems for the past two years regarding many of these proposed changes. Since the bill was introduced, I have continued to meet with school groups and have agreed to compromise on some of the original provisions in the bill.

The bill was advanced from Committee with a number of changes to LB 415.  As introduced, the bill proposed a Rule of 90 with a minimum retirement age of 60.  This was changed to a Rule of 85 with a minimum age of 60.  This means that school employees may retire with full benefits if their age and years of school service are equal to or greater than 85.  The new Rule of 85 with a minimum retirement age of 60 applies only to new members and does not affect any of the current plan members. This change is responsive to the new actuarial information that employees are living longer and encourages and requires members to work and contribute to the plan in order to reduce the number of years that benefits will be paid.  It also encourages members to work until they are truly ready to retire so hopefully there are fewer members who return to work and “double dip”.  The actuarial analysis conducted on this benefit change indicates that this will result in a cost savings over the next 30 years of $100 million for the statewide School Plan and the Omaha School Plan.

Another major change in the school plans are new separation of service requirements.  Currently, in the school plan, a 180-day break in service is required for members before they can return to work for a school district.  However, there are current exemptions to this break in service – for example — members may currently return to work for a school if they provide intermittent voluntary or substitute service.  Allowing intermittent substitute service has resulted many challenges trying to determine what intermittent means, and in some cases has been seriously abused or ignored.  Under LB 415 these exemptions are eliminated in order to draw a bright line about what constitutes a true bona fide separation/break in service.  Retirees or terminated employees will be required to sit out the full 180 days – no exceptions.  I understand that this change can create challenges for school districts who need substitute teachers, however, let me be clear – this change has no effect on those retirees or school employees who have been retired or ceased employment once 180 days have passed.  After that 180 break in service, these former members and retirees will remain available to provide voluntary and substitute service whenever called upon.

The bill also adds an additional separation of service period for school employees who accept an early retirement inducement – also called a voluntary separation agreement.  These inducements include, for example, lump sum cash payments, payment of insurance costs until the employee is eligible for Medicare, additional wages, or purchase of a retirement annuity. This inducement is in addition to the retirement benefit that is paid for the lifetime of the member.

As originally introduced this separation period was 36 months, however I have agreed to reduce this period to 24 months.  During this 24 month period, members who accepted an early retirement inducement will not be allowed to provide any substitute service to any school district, nor work as a consultant or contractor for any school district.  Once 180 days has passed, the member can provide unpaid voluntary service to a school district.  This new requirement does not impact a school retiree’s ability to work in the private sector, and once the 24 month period has passed the retiree can provide substitute service or return to work as an employee.  Though this additional separation of service period will create limited savings for the plans, I am mindful of the tax dollars that pay for these multiple benefits particularly when most taxpayers don’t have access to either a defined benefit retirement plan or a buyout package.  As a fiscal conservative, I believe it is necessary to be mindful of how we spend taxpayers’ dollars.

Like many other Committee Priority bills, LB 415 as advanced from Committee with a number of other bills amended into it.  Most of the additional 7 bills that were added were technical clean-up bills introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems – the agency that administers the plans.  Here is a brief summary of each bill:

  • LB 31 eliminates the ability of a school employer to purchase additional service for a school plan member in order to increase the member’s retirement benefit.  It also declares the only types of leave that will be counted as creditable service.
  • LB 32 makes a change in the County Employees Retirement Plan regarding the calculation of an annuity that is paid to county employees who worked for counties before the statewide County Plan was created.
  • LB 110 eliminates an annual reporting requirement for political subdivisions that offer defined contribution plans.  Governmental entities with defined benefit plans will now have to provide an annual report to the State Auditor and the Auditor will post these annual reports on the Auditor’s website.
  • LB 219 makes changes to definitions in each of the retirement plans to comply with new actuarial assumptions that were adopted last year following an Actuarial Experience Study.  The changes are primarily focused on changes to the mortality tables and to the interest rate used to calculate annuities in the State and County cash balance plans.
  • LB 278, clarifies the definition of disability in the County, State and School Employees Retirement Acts and also clarifies that a medical condition may be qualifying if it is either initially diagnosed or becomes disabling while the member is an active participant in the plan.  All disability applications must be filed within one year of termination of employment.
  • LB 413 is a technical clean-up bill introduced at the request of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems to clarify the definition of “officer” in the Nebraska State Patrol Retirement Act and to clarify language in the Judges’ Retirement Plan regarding a discretionary payment.
  • Under the changes in LB 532, the state is liable for funding any obligation in the Judges’, State Patrol and State Employees Retirement plans to provide benefits based on the period of military service for a member who has returned to work after providing military service. The county in which the employee is employed, and the school district in which a school member is employed is responsible respectively, to provide funding for benefits based on the period of military service of the returning member.  The employer is not required to pay the member and employer contributions for military service provided under the state Military Code.

If you have any questions about any of the changes in LB 415 or any of the bills that were amended into it, please don’t hesitate to contact my Committee Legal Counsel, Kate Allen.  She can be reached at 402-471-2626 or if you want to e-mail her, at kallen@leg.ne.gov.  My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756.  My legislative staff, 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.

 

April 14 – LB44
April 13th, 2017

Last week, we debated LB44, bill that requires remote sellers (online retailers without a physical presence in our state) to collect and remit sales tax if their gross revenue in Nebraska exceeds $100,000 or their sales in Nebraska consists of 200 or more separate transactions.  Requiring remote sellers to collect sales tax on purchases can help add between $30-$40 million annually to the state’s general fund. This is money that can help close the budget deficit and is desperately needed.

Right now, when people purchase items online, they should be tracking those purchases and paying the use tax on their 1040 Form during tax season.  However, in 2012, the Department of Revenue reported over 11,000 people paid about $850,000 in taxes, and estimated about $45 million in taxes were owed to the state.  That was five years ago which means it is possible that Nebraska has missed out on over $100 million in lost tax revenue.

LB44 is not a tax increase.  It closed a loophole and only requires online retailers to follow the law and collect and remit sales tax to the state.  It is way past time that they do what local retailers have been doing for many years, leveling competition among retailers.  Beginning in January of this year, Amazon, the largest online retailer, voluntarily began collecting sales tax for online purchases in the state.  It is expected that Amazon will collect over $20 million annually for Nebraska.  That is in addition to revenue that LB44 would collect from other online and catalogue retail sources.

At the committee hearing, LB44 was supported by many organizations, including the Nebraska and Lincoln Chambers of Commerce, the Farm Bureau, Nebraska Retail Federation and the League of Municipalities. Additionally, many small, locally owned businesses from across the state came out in support of this legislation.  I do not think the status quo is fair to local retailers who are required to collect the tax, while out of state online retailers do not have to collect it.  If main street businesses close, it obviously hurts the local community.  I support this legislation because it will help even the competitive playing field with online retailers.

LB44 advanced from General File on a 28-13 vote, with many senators not voting or absent for the vote.  The Governor has vowed to veto this legislation should it get to that point, so LB44’s still has some challenges ahead before it becomes a law.  The legislature will revisit this bill on Select File in the next week or two.

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 1101
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2756
Email: mkolterman@leg.ne.gov
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