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A wide variety of topics have come before the Legislature in the past week. While the state’s budget and tax concerns continue to top the list, we also discussed everything from how eggs are graded to banking laws to juvenile justice issues. This demonstrates the vast array of interests expressed by the people of our state and district.
In recent days, the Legislature has been conducting extended debate on Sen. Watermeier’s LB 46, providing for vehicle owners to pay for “Choose Life” license plates. By the time you see this update, it is likely that a cloture motion will have been offered, and the vote taken. Under temporary rules, 33 of the 49 Senators must vote for cloture, to end the debate and conduct a vote.
Originally license plates served to identify vehicles. However, in recent years, the flood gates have opened for all kinds of special interest plates. As a result, we are dealing with a proposal that is perceived by some to be a billboard for a contentious issue.
Recently, I attended a press conference in the Rotunda at which the Nebraskans United for Property Tax Reform and Education rolled out their concepts. The coalition, comprised of agricultural and educational interests, includes the Gage County Property Tax Group, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska State Education Association, Reform for Nebraska’s Future, Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, Nebraska Fair, Women Involved in Farm Economics, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Pork Producers, Nebraska Wheat Growers, Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, STANCE (Schools Taking Action for Nebraska Children’s Education), Greater Nebraska Schools Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska Farmers Union.
The two primary principles held by the Nebraskans United coalition are (1) tax reform which reduces the over-reliance on local property taxes, necessary to ensure our tax system is fair to all Nebraska taxpayers; and (2) adequate and sustainable funding of high quality K-12 education is imperative for future of Nebraska. I am an enthusiastic supporter of those guiding principles. The bill that most closely pursues those ends is Sen. Briese’s LB 313, which calls for an increase in sales tax revenue to enable a reduction in property taxes. Some tweaking of LB 313 is likely to occur, particularly as related to removing sales tax exemptions.
On Friday, February 24th, we debated LB 470 by Senator Tyson Larson. The bill would allow for the use of electronic tickets for keno although paper tickets would be available upon request. A player could possibly use a phone app to play keno, however the licensed keno operator would have to take “reasonable measures” to prevent someone outside of the premises from participating. The bill would also reduce the time from five to four minutes in between games and allow the use of a debit card for payment. An indefinite postponement motion was filed and was successful. A simple majority of those voting was needed to kill the bill. There were 24 ayes and 9 nays. I voted to kill the bill. I don’t think creating an electronic means of keno is a positive step for the state.
On February 23rd, I introduced LB 298 which would build upon a law passed last year. In 2016 the legislature passed LB 746 by Senator Campbell to establish normalcy for children in foster care. The “Nebraska Strengthening Families Act” codified the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.
The law establishes a “reasonable and prudent parent” standard to allow foster parents and individuals at child care institutions to use their best judgment in making day-to-day decisions relating to what age and developmentally appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities youth in care may participate.
LB 298 would apply certain provisions of this Act to children placed in juvenile facilities and require child care institutions, juvenile facilities and youth rehabilitation and treatment centers to develop a written normalcy plan and an annual normalcy report.
The bill also permits and requires the establishment of a procedure for the public dissemination of a picture of and information about a child missing from a foster or out-of-home-placement subject to state and federal confidentiality laws.
During the hearing, concerns were raised by juvenile probation regarding parental rights still being in place and how the bill would take into consideration those rights. I agreed to work with those who raised these issues before moving forward. All those involved in bringing this issue to my attention will be meeting this week.
The Judiciary Committee hearings on February 22 extended for seven hours. Much of that time was given to testimony on LB173. The Nebraska Constitution provides that the state shall not discriminate against, or give preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. LB173 would add Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) to the list. Proponents say that social justice demands the inherent dignity of all humans. Opponents cite the right of freedom of expression of religion to oppose granting rights to LGBT. It appears that LB173 will not survive a filibuster if the measure reaches the floor of the Legislature.
Whatever your concerns are, please feel free to bring them to my attention. My staff can direct you to the appropriate local and state agencies or we can work together on future legislation. firstname.lastname@example.org 402.471.2620