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 – April 20th

April 23rd, 2018

The 60th and final day of the Second Session of the 105th Legislature adjourned sine die on Wednesday, April 18th. On the last day we concluded Final Debate on a handful of legislative bills including LB1005, which is the legislation I introduced and prioritized as Chair of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee. It addresses the withdrawal of an employer from the County or School retirement plans and ensures that the withdrawing entity would be financially responsible for all costs to the plan so those costs do not fall on state taxpayers or other plan members or employers.

LB1005 also incorporated three additional bills I introduced including: LB698 – makes the Public Employee Retirement Board’s regulation authority permissive for all the plans it administers; LB699 – a technical clean-up that inserts language omitted from LB415, which passed last year; and LB700 – removes the obligation of the Nebraska Investment Council to invest the University Trust Fund which is overseen and managed by the University of Nebraska.

Also on the final day, the Nebraska Legislature unanimously adopted my Legislative Resolution 481 designating April as Shingles Awareness and Improvement Month in Nebraska. Nearly one in three people in the United States will contract shingles in their lifetime, corresponding to an estimated one million people annually. The risk of shingles increases with age, with nearly half of those affected over 60 years of age and half of those living until 85 years of age developing shingles. The viral infection causes a painful rash that can be severe along with other symptoms, including long-term nerve pain, scarring, and a decrease or loss of vision or hearing.

Much attention has been paid to the importance of childhood vaccinations, but there is a general lack of awareness of vaccines recommended for adults and a misperception that immunizations are unnecessary for healthy adults. Despite the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention officials and other experts that healthy adults be vaccinated against shingles, only 30 percent of eligible adults had received the shingles vaccine as of 2015. For this reason, I introduced the resolution to increase public awareness of the importance of adults receiving vaccines against shingles, to promote outreach and education efforts concerning adult vaccination, and to encourage health care practitioners to discuss vaccines for shingle with adult patients.

During his farewell address for the end of the session, Governor Pete Ricketts praised the Legislature for their efforts this session working together to pass meaningful legislation to prevent opioid abuse, increase speed limits on state highways, make certain Nebraska students are able to read at grade level by the end of third grade and eliminate burdensome occupational licensing regulations.

We also heard farewell messages from the eight senators departing due to term limits (Bancroft Sen. Lydia Brasch, Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher and Papillion Sen. Jim Smith) or deciding not to seek reelection to a second term (Lincoln Sen. Roy Baker and Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn).

In his closing remarks before adjournment, Speaker Jim Scheer said that while we had accomplished a lot during the 60-day session, we left several issues for future legislatures to deal with. He instructed those of us returning next session to start thinking about what we want to accomplish during the interim.

During the interim period, I will be traveling through the district attending as many events and meetings as possible. My staff and I will also be busy working on several interim studies. They include:

LR368 – Examine the public employees’ retirement systems administered by the Public Employees Retirement Board

LR369 – Carry out the provisions of 13-2402 which require the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee to monitor underfunded defined benefit plans administered by political subdivisions

LR376 – Examine whether the Property and Casualty Insurance Rate and Form Act should be amended to modernize and reduce regulatory requirements for commercial lines of property and casualty insurance

LR421 – Examine the operating expenses and fees charged for inspections, plans reviews, and other services by the Housing and Recreational Vehicle Dept. of the Public Service Commission

LR422 – Examine the issuance and usage of electronic prescriptions in accordance with regulatory standards

LR423 – Examine the application of adverse possession in the State of Nebraska and to consider recommendations for modernizing the doctrine to meet contemporary requirements

LR440 – Examine issues relating to 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.

Weekly Column – April 13th

April 13th, 2018

At the end of last week, Speaker Jim Scheer expressed his disappointment in a lack of substantive debate on property tax relief during this session. In a last ditch effort to develop a compromise, Speaker Scheer met with Senators over the weekend. I very much appreciate Speaker Scheer’s leadership and his attempt to construct a workable solution. In the end, the group of seven Senators were unable to craft a responsible tax reform proposal that we could debate. I am frustrated their efforts were unsuccessful.

On Thursday, I received a letter from Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale asking if I would join other senators in requesting a special session for the purpose of adopting legislation to reduce property taxes. This was in response to a petition for a special session signed by 13 of my colleagues, which is permitted by the Legislature’s Rules and Nebraska Statutes. It requires 33 of the 49 senators to initiate a special session. The deadline to respond to Secretary Gale is Monday, April 23rd.

While I strongly support reducing property taxes, it must be done responsibly. The Legislature would not be able to accomplish this goal during a special session due to limitations in the law. During a special session, the Legislature may only address the objective provided in the petition, which was “reduction of property taxes.” We would not be able to discuss any other matters, including budget adjustments, effects on local government or alternative revenue sources to offset reductions in property tax revenues. It would be impossible to provide property tax relief without discussing and addressing the ramifications it would have on Nebraska. For this reason, I will not be joining the call for a special session.

Last Wednesday, we concluded day 59 of this 60-day short session. The 60th and final day will be Wednesday, April 18th. It will be a busy day with 25 bills on the Final Reading agenda. The Legislature will also have the opportunity to override any veto issued by Governor Ricketts.

Looking ahead at the interim – the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature’s Office four-day legislative simulation, the Unicameral Youth Legislature (UYL), is scheduled for June 10-13. It offers high school students a hands-on opportunity to experience the legislative process. The UYL meets in the Warner Chamber and provides an in-depth learning experience using our process, rules and bills, with the support of legislative staff.

The UYL is jointly sponsored by the Clerk’s Office, 4-H and the University of Nebraska Big Red Summer Camps program. The camp is generously supported by senator donations for student scholarships. Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. The registration deadline is May 15th. If you or any young Nebraskan you know are interested in participating in the UYL, please visit www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/UYL or contact the Unicameral Information Office at (402) 471-2420 or uio@leg.ne.gov.

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.

Weekly Column – April 6th

April 9th, 2018

Since being elected, I have worked with my colleagues on many important issues. One of my priorities has been 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. Unfortunately, agriculture land owners have been more adversely affected by property taxes due to a combination of increasing land values and declining revenues from sagging commodity prices.

In reality, there is no quick fix to reducing the property tax burden. 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. I also have a few colleagues who do not want any tax relief – property or income.

Having reached the 56th and final day for General File debate, I thought I would summarize the attempt to provide property tax relief. There were several major tax reform proposals introduced during this Legislative session:

  • LB829, commonly referred to as the 50/50 Tax Plan, was introduced by Senator Steve Erdman. It 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. It would generate a $1.1 billion budget shortfall next year.
  • LB947 is a comprehensive property and income tax reduction bill Senator Jim Smith introduced on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts. It would eliminate the state’s current property tax credit program replacing it with a refundable state income tax credit equal to 10 percent of property taxes paid for Nebraska homeowners and agricultural land owners. The bill would also reduce the top individual income and corporate tax rates.
  • LB1084 introduced by Senator Tom Briese would direct an additional $234 million to the property tax credit cash fund and increase state aid to schools by $144 million in fiscal year 2018-19. It would pay for the property tax credits and school funding by increasing the state sales tax from 5.5 percent to 6 percent and the cigarette tax $1.50. It would also impose new sales and use taxes on more than a dozen services while eliminating several state sales tax exemptions.

All three bills were referred to the Revenue Committee, which I am not a member. The committee advanced an amended version of LB947 to the floor of the Legislature on a 5-3 vote. 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. It also creates a dedicated source of work force development funding of $5 million annually. We briefly debated LB947 for three hours last Tuesday. Unfortunately, the tax reform bill was filibustered and we were unable to have a meaningful debate on the proposal.

There were two bills, LB640 and LB1103 that would have provided property tax relief by modifying the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) formula. Both bills were referred to the Education Committee and were advanced to General File. LB640 was introduced by the Education Committee Chair Senator Mike Groene. It would reduce the maximum levy for school districts from $1.05 per $100 of taxable valuation to $.987 per $100. It would use the state’s property tax credit cash fund – which is funded by state income and sales taxes – to direct more state aid to school districts that lose money as a result. LB640 was filibustered and failed to advance a few weeks ago.

Introduced by Senator Curt Friesen, LB1103 would provide a minimum amount of state aid to each local school district. The amount would be 25 percent of local school district basic funding. This legislation also failed to advance when an amendment was filed on it to include LB1084, triggering a filibuster.

Following the LB1103 debate, Speaker Jim Scheer expressed his disappointment in a lack of substantive debate on property tax relief during this session. He announced he was placing LB640, LB947 and LB1103 on the agenda for debate on Monday, April 9th. In a last ditch effort to develop a compromise, Speaker Scheer will meet with Senators on Saturday. While I am not participating in the meeting, I am hopeful there is something we can debate on Monday.

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.

Last Thursday marked the 52nd day of the 105th Nebraska Legislature. With eight days left in this short session, we only have four days left to debate bills on General File. Bills that do not advance from General File by Friday, April 6th, would be dead unless they were amended onto another piece of legislation. The next four legislative days – and nights – will be very busy.

My staff and I have been very busy this session working to pass meaningful legislation. I thought I would provide an update on the bills I introduced and prioritized.

Two of my bills have advanced to Final Reading as well as my priority bill LB439. My priority bill that Senator Anna Wishart introduced would allow a nurse employed by an assisted-living facility to provide healthcare services to residents. I believe this will improve the delivery of long-term health care services in Nebraska. On a side note, LB439 would be my first personal priority bill to become law.

My second bill on Final Reading is LB702. This is the bill that I introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services updating Nebraska’s Child Support Enforcement Program to comply with new federal regulations. Failing to enact this legislation would cost Nebraska $81 million in federal funding.

And finally, LB1005 is the legislation that I introduced and then prioritized as Chair of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee that addresses the withdrawal of an employer from the County or School retirement plans. This legislation ensures that the withdrawing entity would be financially responsible for all costs to the plan so those costs do not fall on state taxpayers or other plan members or employers.

In case you are not familiar with the legislative process, Final Reading is the last round of debate in the Legislature. Once the Legislature passes a bill on Final Reading, it heads to Governor Pete Ricketts’ desk for his signature and then it becomes a law.

Last Monday and Tuesday, we debated bills on the General File consent calendar agenda. Bills on the consent calendar are noncontroversial bills that are considered and quickly advanced to Select File. Debate on each bill is limited to 15 minutes and three Senators can remove it from the agenda. For these reasons, Speaker Jim Scheer only included bills on the agenda that had no opposing testimony presented during its hearing and advanced unanimously out of the committee. I was grateful that Speaker Scheer included two of my bills on the consent calendar agenda. First, LB701 updates statutes to support existing telehealth practices in Nebraska. The other bill, LB799 cleans up a couple of items in the Surplus Lines Insurance Act. Surplus lines insurance is insurance for specialized risk that cannot be found on the admitted market in Nebraska.

I introduced two other bills, LB703 and LB704 that would have qualified for the consent calendar agenda, but were not included. LB703 amends the Medicine and Surgery Act (MSA) to clarify that physicians licensed in another state who accompany a team to Nebraska for an athletic competition or event are lawfully practicing medicine. LB704 also amends the MSA to reduce the period of board approved post-graduate medical education requirements for graduates of foreign medical schools. I drafted an amendment to LB1034 that includes both bills. This will be considered a friendly amendment since I received approval from Senator Merv Riepe who introduced LB1034. I am hopeful that these two bills will be considered during the debate next week.

Last Thursday, the Legislature amended and advanced the mainline budget, LB944, thanks to a compromise on Title X provisions that ended a filibuster. This would not have been possible without Senators Sara Howard, Mike Hilgers, Kate Bolz, Dan Watermeier, and Burke Harr and the leadership of the Appropriations Committee Chair John Stinner. Thanks to their hard work, we were able to advance the budget with a 44-4 vote.

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.

Weekly Column – March 23rd

March 23rd, 2018

Last week we celebrated National Ag Week, which gave us the opportunity to recognize the unsung heroes of our State – the farmers and ranchers. It also allowed Nebraskans to recognize the important role that agriculture plays in our everyday lives. On Monday, I joined Governor Pete Ricketts and two of my colleagues, Senator Lydia Brasch and Senator Lou Ann Linehan, at the Pioneer Hi-Bred seed-corn plant north of York. We were also joined by several students from the Agronomy Academy.

Later Monday, I had the opportunity to attend the Seward County Agriculture Recognition Banquet, helping them celebrate the 50th year of their event. It was a great evening, hosted by the Kiwanis Club, the Seward County Agriculture Society, and the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership. One thing that was especially impressive was the number of FFA students who attended to assist with the meal. These kids are the future of agriculture in our state and District #24, and I was so pleased to see such a vibrant group. I appreciated the opportunity to host Governor Ricketts, Director of Nebraska Department of Agriculture Steve Wellman, and Chair of the Legislature Agriculture Committee Senator Brasch. They all work tirelessly to support and promote agriculture in Nebraska. Congrats to the award recipients – Roy, Dave, and Doug Cast and Families, Bill White, and the many scholarship winners: Bailee Tucker, Colton Hackbart, Andrew Cast, Molly Suhr, Kane Aegerter and Riley Kamphaus. Agriculture has been such an important part of my family’s heritage. It was great to see so many residents of Seward County celebrating agriculture.

It is hard to believe that last Friday was the forty-eighth day of the 105th Legislature session. With only twelve days left in the Legislative session, we still have a lot of priority bills to debate. On Tuesday, we debated a Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee priority bill, LB1005. It addresses the withdrawal of an employer from the County or School retirement plans, which are administered by the State. LB1005 ensures that the withdrawing entity would be financially responsible for all costs to the plan so those costs do not fall on state taxpayers or other plan members or employers. During the floor debate the bill was amended to include several other minor retirement bills. LB1005 eventually advanced to Select File on a 38-1 vote.

During Wednesday’s debate, the Legislature advanced an amended version of the bill creating a super-two rural highway classification and changing the maximum highway speed limits, LB1009. The bill no longer includes a provision to increase the speed limit on the Interstate System to 80 miles per hour. LB1009 would authorize the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to do the following:

Increase speed limits from 60 mph to 65 mph on any four-lane divided highway that is not a part of the state highway system and any part of the state highway system other than an expressway or freeway;

Increase speed limits from 65 mph to 70 mph on expressways that are part of the state highway system and freeways that are part of the state highway system but not part of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways; and

Increase speed limits from 60 mph to 65 mph on any portion of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways located in Douglas, Lancaster and Dakota counties.

It is important to note that NDOT will not raise speed limits unless it is supported by a traffic and engineering study. LB1009 advanced to Select File on a 35-2 vote.

Also on Wednesday, the Legislature failed to advance the mainline budget bill, LB944, during an extensive second-round of debate, due to a filibuster led by opponents to a provision of the bill restricting the distribution of Title X funds to health clinics that also provide abortion services. Failing to adopt this provision could jeopardize approximately $1.9 million Nebraska receives in Title X funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An attempt to pass the budget on Friday also failed to overcome the filibuster. It is frustrating that we were unable to approve a budget bill that advanced out of the Appropriations Committee unanimously. I am confident that the Legislature will reject the Washington-style politics that has stalled the budget and adopt it before we adjourn.

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.

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.

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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