NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Suzanne Geist

Sen. Suzanne Geist

District 25

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Today the Legislature adjourned sine die for the first session of the 106th Legislature. We passed many good bills, but unfortunately, we were not able to come to an agreement on property taxes. I hope that we are able to accomplish this next session.

My interim will be spent working on interim studies, spending time in the district and researching ideas for bills to bring next session. I look forward to updating you during the interim on the interim studies that come before the Natural Resources and Transportation and Telecommunications Committees.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

The weeks continue to be busy in the Nebraska Legislature. We entered into our second to last week of session on Monday. The week was filled with several late nights and a lot of floor discussion.

This week we passed my bill, LB561 to adopt updated audit standards under the Legislative Performance Audit Act, on final reading. It’s a simple cleanup bill for the Performance Audit Committee. The vote was 45 to 0. Final reading is the third and final stage at which a bill is considered by the full Legislature. The clerk reads the entire bill aloud, unless the final reading is waived, and the senators vote without debate on whether to submit the bill to the governor. I am very pleased that LB561 is headed to Governor Rickett’s desk.

The Nebraska State Budget was also passed during final reading. Overall, I was pleased with the budget and commend the diligence of the Appropriations Committee. There were some concerns expressed during the debate, of further trimming our spending. I agree with that concern. However, I am very supportive of the funding we provided the University of Nebraska and State Colleges. I was also pleased that this year’s budget provided the funding for four additional specialty courts across the State of Nebraska. I believe they are a great addition to our justice system because they will provide Nebraskans with an option for diverting people from incarceration.

One of the most intensely debated bills from this week was LB720. LB720 introduced by Senator Kolterman is the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. It provides business incentives that are targeted toward economic development for the entire state of Nebraska. I was fully supportive of the bill. I believe that business incentives are extremely important for Nebraska to be competitive in the Midwest Region. Every surrounding state has a business incentive package. LB720 is written narrowly and it requires rigid standards of job growth. It also limits the amount of credits that are awarded to businesses each year. In addition, LB720 creates a review board that meets annually in order to gain transparency and accountability. The bill was filibustered on select file and failed to get 33 votes to break the filibuster. We will probably see this bill coming back in some form next session.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

 

It has been yet another busy week in the Nebraska Legislature. We continued with our late nights this week as we debated the budget and some other major bills.

One of our most important accomplishments as a body was passing the Nebraska State Budget. Overall, I was pleased with the budget and commend the diligence of the Appropriations Committee. There were some concerns expressed, during the debate, of further trimming our spending. I agree with that concern. However, I am very supportive of the funding we provided the University of Nebraska and State Colleges. I was also pleased that this year’s budget provided the funding for 4 additional specialty courts across the State of Nebraska. I believe they are a great addition to our justice system because they will provide Nebraskans with an option for diverting people from incarceration.

In addition to the budget we also tackled the discussion of medical marijuana, LB110 introduced by Senator Wishart to Adopt the Medical Cannabis Act. I appreciate Senator Wishart’s hard work on this bill for the past three years. However, I am not in favor of a Legislative solution to medical marijuana. I have deep compassion for the suffering, for those looking for answers, and for those needing different treatment options, but I have many concerns regarding this bill. I come from a medical family (my father is a physician) and I also was a Pharmaceutical Salesperson in the area of neuro sciences, which included medications for anxiety, depression, and pain, so that history forms my opinions.

Among my concerns are, that LB110 places no limit on THC levels, this is the component of marijuana that is responsible for the “high” that can be dispensed. For example, industrial hemp’s THC levels are around .3%, marijuana of the 1960’s and ‘70’s was around 5%. Today’s recreational marijuana is around 20-30% and lab created THC can be as high as 90+%. There is also no limit on how often some people could get access to the drug. I believe that medical marijuana should be handled by the FDA. The Legislature is not a group of medically or scientifically minded people, we are a group of regular citizens with drastically different backgrounds. I truly believe this a job for scientists and not for a citizen legislature.

There are so many unknown risks when it comes to approving a drug and I don’t feel comfortable putting those who are suffering, as well as their families, through a process that could come with unforeseen pain and risks, in addition to what they have and are experiencing.

These are some of the reasons that I choose not to support LB110.

We wrapped up the week on Thursday, May 16th and during that session day, Speaker Scheer announced that we will be ending the Legislative Session earlier than expected. This year’s Legislative Session will be ending on Friday, May 31, 2019.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

It has been yet another busy week in the Nebraska Legislature! We began late night debates this week which will continue on and off throughout the rest of the legislative session.

The theme of this week seemed to center around our state finances. We began this legislative week on Tuesday, May 7th and the debate centered on property tax relief that afternoon. We began discussions on LB289 introduced by Senator Linehan and the amendment from the Revenue Committee to make changes to property taxes in the state by raising the sales tax and eliminating sales tax exemptions.

Once debate on LB289 began it went on for a total of 3 hours. I am hesitant to raise sales taxes and unfortunately raising sales taxes is a part of the bill. There are still discussions and negotiations about the bill going on and I believe that it will come back up before session ends.

On Wednesday, May 8th we began our Nebraska State Budget debate. When it comes to the budget it is often hard to predict how the conversation will go. I am very happy to say this year it went very smoothly. There were a few tweaks made in the budget which allowed us to give our constituents some property tax relief. We passed an amendment that added $25 million more to the property tax credit relief fund. I was very pleased with how the budget turned out and how well the debate went.

Today, Friday, May 10th we discussed our consent calendar bills. The consent calendar is a portion of the agenda in which relatively noncontroversial bills are considered and quickly advanced to the next legislative stage. Usually, a bill on consent calendar can be debated for no more than 15 minutes.

My bill, LB561 to adopt updated audit standards under the Legislative Performance Audit Act, was placed on the consent calendar. I introduced this bill because I am the Chair of the Legislative Performance Audit committee. The bill made simple updates to the auditing standards for the Legislative Audit Office. It assists the Audit Agency in maintaining its compliance with Federal Audit Standards. There was no opposition to the bill and it passed 35-0.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

We were able to pass quite a few bills on final reading this week and I have an update about two of my bills.

As the chair of the Legislative Performance Audit Committee, I introduced LB560 as the Legislative Performance Audit Committee’s priority bill. This bill would make changes to the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act. The Legislative Performance Audit Committee audits programs in statute to make sure that they are following the original intent of the statute and the Performance Audit found an issue with this program. The Performance Audit Committee voted to let the Revenue Committee decide the best policy choice for bringing the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act into compliance with the audit. The Revenue Committee had two options to choose between my bill, LB560 and Senator Williams’ bill, LB623. The Revenue Committee decided to amend in Senator Williams’ LB623. LB560 passed on the first and second rounds of debate.

The Governor signed my priority bill, LB252 into law on May 1st. LB252 requires the Nebraska Lottery to disclose the odds of winning the prize with the largest value on advertisements. The requirement would include all print advertisements, including billboards and in-store wobblers to have the disclosure be no less than thirty-five percent of the largest font. Online advertisements are required to have the odds disclosed in a ten point font before the ad is scaled down to fit the online advertisement. LB252 was advance on the second round of debate and we passed it on final reading today.

The Revenue Committee voted out an amended property tax bill yesterday afternoon. The amendment is very long and I plan to spend my recess days reading and studying the new amendment.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

This week has been another busy week in the Legislature. We were able to debate quite a few bills including passing my priority bill LB252 on final reading.

LB252 which requires the Nebraska Lottery to disclose the odds of winning the prize with the largest value on advertisements. The requirement would include all print advertisements, including billboards and in-store wobblers to have the disclosure be no less than thirty-five percent of the largest font. Online advertisements are required to have the odds disclosed in a ten point font before the ad is scaled down to fit the online advertisement. LB252 was advance on the second round of debate and we passed it on final reading today. The next step is to send the bill to the Governor for him to sign the bill into law.

LB44 introduced by Senator Chambers to eliminate the death penalty and change provisions relating to murder in the first degree was debated yesterday. We debated the bill for almost three hours and then voted on the bill. I voted no on repealing the death penalty because the voters spoke loud and clear in 2016 when they voted to keep the death penalty. As an elected official, I feel it is my duty to uphold the will of the people.

We also debated LB 616 introduced by Senator Hilgers that provides for build-finance projects under the Build Nebraska Act and the Transportation Innovation Act for the second time. LB616 would help speed up the process for the South Beltway and save an estimated $25 million in costs and $7 million in interest. The South Beltway has been talked about for decades and is needed in our community. I am proud to say that I voted in favor of this bill.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

I would like to first and foremost wish all of you a Happy Easter!

We have officially completed another busy week in the Nebraska State Legislature before going into the four day holiday weekend. The Executive Board has authorized Administrative Leave for all permanent employees of the Legislative Council for Friday, April 19th and Monday, April 22nd. My office along with the other Senators will be closed until Tuesday, April 23rd.

In the spirit of the holiday, I thought we could switch gears and talk about some of my favorite aspects of being a Nebraska State Senator. So for now, let’s put the legislation aside and dive in to some of the wonderful interactions that I have had over the past few weeks.

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to the Attorney General’s Youth Conference, many 4th graders, and organizations that have visited the Capitol since session began.

I believe that it is of crucial importance to teach young people about the Legislature.

It doesn’t matter if they are in Elementary School or High School. It is never too early to start exposing our young people to how the Legislature works.

I believe that it is my duty to share what we do here with them just like I do with all of you. I enjoy talking about my experiences and my path to becoming a Nebraska State Senator.

It is truly a privilege to watch students learn about both the rich history of the State of Nebraska as well as the process of how the Legislature works. We are unique in the fact that we are the only state that has a unicameral system of government and that is something that we should all be proud of. It’s especially something that we should talk about with our students.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

 

This week has been a busy week in the Legislature. We were able to debate quite a few bills including my priority bill LB252.

LB252 which requires the Nebraska Lottery to disclose the odds of winning the prize with the largest value on advertisements. The requirement would include all print advertisements, including billboards and in-store wobblers to have the disclosure be no less than thirty-five percent of the largest font. Online advertisements are required to have the odds disclosed in a ten point font before the ad is scaled down to fit the online advertisement. LB252 advanced on the first round of debate with no opposition and it received 38 votes in favor of the bill.

LB512 was introduced by Senator Linehan that changes revenue and taxation provisions was debated last Friday and this week. Senator Erdman introduced an amendment that will help flood victims and anyone who has had their property destroyed after the county assessor has finalized the assessed value for the property for the current year. For example, if their property was destroyed on January 3 the amendment allows for the property to be re-assessed to the current value so that victims do not have to pay such high property taxes when they are not able to utilize it. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the flooding and natural disasters and I voted in favor of the amendment and bill, in an effort to assist those who have lost so much in our state.

We also debated LB 616 introduced by Senator Hilgers that provides for build-finance projects under the Build Nebraska Act and the Transportation Innovation Act. LB616 would help speed up the process for the South Beltway and save an estimated $25 million in costs and $7 million in interest. The South Beltway has been talked about for decades and is needed in our community. I am proud to say that I voted in favor of this bill.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

This week was the start of all day debate in the Legislature. We will begin the budget debate on Day 70 of session and are required to have the budget passed by Day 80.

This week we debated LB217 that was introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks that will prohibit discrimination against an employee for communicating about employee wages, benefits or other compensation. An amendment was brought by Senator Hansen and I was happy to vote in favor of the amendment and bill.

We also debated LB 637 that was introduced by Senator Stinner that authorizes the sales of tourism promotional products by the Nebraska Tourism Commission. This means that the Nebraska Tourism Commission will be able to sell mugs and t-shirts with the slogan “Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone” on them. The tourism commission has had quite a few requests for merchandise with the new slogan on it and this will help them to continue promoting the state. I voted in favor of this bill because I think that this will be a great opportunity for the Nebraska Tourism Commission.

Lastly, I would like to talk about a program that the Legislature puts on every summer for high schoolers called the Unicameral Youth Legislature. It is a four-day event that teaches students about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators, staff and lobbyists. The student senators sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and learn the process of the unicameral. Please help me share this unique opportunity with any high schoolers that you know. They can find more information about the opportunity by visiting NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

Welcome back to our second legislative update of the year! This week in the Nebraska Legislature, all of the committees have finished their hearings and we will start all day debate next week.

At the beginning of the Legislative Session we convene for the first half of the day and have committee hearings during the afternoon. Once committee hearings are done, we switch to all day debate on bills.

I want to share an update on my priority bill and an update on what is going on in your legislature.

My priority bill, LB252, was voted out of the General Affairs Committee with all members voting in favor of the bill this past Monday. It was then placed on General File on March 26, 2019. When a bill is placed on General File it means that the bill is ready for the first stage of debate by the full Legislature. Bills on General File may be amended, returned to committee, indefinitely postponed, or advanced to Select File. Due to it being placed on General File, it has been added to the Legislative Agenda for next week, April 2nd. I look forward to keeping you posted on what happens to the bill next.

I also wanted to mention another bill this week that I am very passionate about. It is LB316, sponsored by Senator Mark Kolterman from Seward. LB316 would provide protections for pharmacies to disclose information regarding drug prices and prohibit insurers from charging covered individuals in excess of certain amounts.

This bill projects what I see as good government. It provides the oversight that is needed when it comes to both prescriptions and insurance companies. The transparency in turn produces better service to the patient and the taxpayer.

LB316 would provide a level of transparency in the pharmaceutical department that I believe is desperately needed. As of right now, pharmacies are restricted on sharing pricing information with patients which means that they cannot tell a patient if there is a cheaper prescription for them or not. This bill would allow them to be able to share that information with the consumer and inform a patient if it is cheaper to pay for the prescription out of pocket, rather than pay the insurance copay. Currently, the pharmacist can only tell a patient the cheaper option for their prescription if the patient specifically asks that pharmacist.

As always, feel free to contact my office. My office phone number is 402-471-2731 and my email is sgeist@leg.ne.gov.

Sen. Suzanne Geist

District 25
Room #12th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2731
Email: sgeist@leg.ne.gov
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