This year I introduced and prioritized LB 1090. It would provide grants for the Summer Food Service Program. This bill would help children access nutritious foods during the summertime when they are susceptible to hunger. In Nebraska, 20.7% of the children can’t always count on their next meal. The Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded USDA program. Unfortunately, barriers such as the ability to purchase refrigerators, dishwashers and information to families, prohibit school districts and nonprofit organizations from serving the meals. LB 1090 would provide a modest, one-time grant to programs in high-need areas of Nebraska, with a preference to programs using educational and/or physical enrichment activities. Since I prioritized this bill, it will be considered ahead of other bills.
LR 365 was recently adopted by a 40-0 vote. It provides for the continuation of the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative Committee. The resolution would extend jurisdiction for one year
A series of tax relief proposals were heard before the Revenue Committee. One measure, introduced by Senator Nordquist would exempt Social Security benefits from being taxed. Nebraska is one of only five states that tax Social Security benefits; however the other four exclude the portion that is paid to the federal government. Another proposal came from Senator Mello. It would give homeowners approximately $76 million in property tax relief through an exemption on the first $8,000 of a home’s value. He said the tax cut would deliver between $150 and $160 in property tax relief to the average Nebraska homeowner. A third bill, introduced by Senator Wightman, would increase exemptions for the state’s inheritance tax and lower the rates over time. The senator said his measure would give counties time to adjust their budgets gradually, following cuts in state aid last year. Lastly, Senator Heidemann’s bill, LB 1061 would slow the increase in property taxes paid by farmers and ranchers. Heidemann said ag producers are paying an unfair share of the cost of K-12 education through property taxes, which have increased 54 percent in the past five years.
Companies looking to build a large data center could receive tax incentives to locate in Nebraska under a bill that advanced from select file recently. Under LB 1118, introduced by Senator Cornett, a company investing at least $300 million in qualified property for the purpose of building a data center would qualify for the incentives. They must also create 30 or more new jobs. On the floor, Senator Cornett emphasized the importance of the Nebraska incentives and stated our neighboring states have more attractive plans. Other senators mentioned the need to remain competitive as the data storage industry grows. I agreed that this bill could improve our state’s economic development in the future and voted with the majority. Many people want to settle in small, safe communities with good schools and the data centers are ideally suited for rural Nebraska.
We gave second round approval to Senator Avery’s proposed constitutional amendment (LR19CA) that would allow impeachment of a public officeholder for any misdemeanor alleged to have been committed to attain office. Currently the Constitution only allows for impeachment for misconduct while in office. As you may recall, David Hergert ran for the Board of Regents in 2004 and was impeached by the Legislature in 2006 for breaking campaign finance laws to win the 2004 election. Hergert was found guilty on two of 10 counts, false reporting and obstructing government operations. Under state law candidates had voluntary spending caps of $25,000 for the primary and $50,000 overall. Candidates who agreed to abide by the limits qualified for public funds if their opponents exceeded the cap. Candidates who did not abide by the caps had to estimate what they would spend and inform the state Accountability and Disclosure Commission when they reached 40% of that total in order to trigger the release of matching funds. Hergert did not agree to the cap and spent $65,000 in the primary, thus qualifying his opponent for $40,000 in public funds. Hergert then estimated that he would spend $40,000 for the general election but exceeded the cap and didn’t notify the commission by the deadline. That deprived his opponent $15,000 in matching funds in the closing days of the campaign. Hergert spent much of his money advertising that attacked his opponent, who won the primary by 18 percentage points but lost by 11 percentage points in the general. After the election, Hergert reported spending nearly $90,000 on his campaign, more than twice his estimate. Senator Avery’s measure faces one more round of consideration. If it passes, it will be placed on the ballot for Nebraska voters to consider.