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February has arrived – it is amazing how quickly January and the first 16 days of the Legislature have gone. All senators must hit the ground running, whether just elected or in the middle of a first or second term. Nearly every day of the early part of the session there are breakfast, lunch and dinner hour meetings. This is the time of year when most organizations and interest groups try to see the senators and present their concerns about upcoming bills. I have learned a great deal from these meetings and have also enjoyed seeing many residents of District 30 who are involved in these associations.
Our legislative schedule right now is to be on the floor for debating and voting on bills every morning, and in committee hearings every afternoon. In the Appropriations Committee, where I serve, we continue to review budget reports daily on every agency and program that receives state funding.
Two of the bills I introduced have been scheduled for hearings. LB 107, dealing with city and village plumbing boards, will be heard by the Urban Affairs committee on Tuesday, February 5th. LB 239 which changes the notice requirements for county budget hearings, goes before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, February 6th. We are waiting for confirmation of a hearing date on the bills dealing with funding solutions for the federal judgement in Gage County. Committees do try to schedule bills of similar topics on the same day, so those who wish to testify at those hearings can make just one trip to the Capitol.
Heard in committee on Thursday was LB 373 introduced by Senator Brewer who represents the Sandhills area of Nebraska. The bill would provide setback and zoning requirements for wind energy projects and require any county wishing to have wind energy facilities to address setbacks, noise and decommissioning. Gage and Lancaster counties already have these requirements in place and Sen. Brewer said his legislation would not supersede existing county zoning regulations; and would only apply in counties that do not have the wind farm regulations. Gage County was well represented at the hearing by Lisa Wiegand who shared the board’s concerns that the county’s existing plans, which are specific to the needs of Gage County, be unchanged by this bill. Lancaster County representatives expressed similar concerns.
Another hearing in recent days which generated hours of testimony from both sides of the issue was LB 110, which would allow the use of medical marijuana. There are a number of restrictions and fees in the bill covering producers, processors and dispensaries; and lengthy directives as to who can write or obtain a prescription. There are several provisions in this bill that I am watching, and I will wait to see what action the committee might take on this legislation.
LB 497 introduced by Senator Friesen is one of several bills addressing property taxes and school funding. Like similar bills, a combination of revenue and spending issues are included: cigarette and alcohol taxes; the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land for school district taxation purposes; some tax exemptions, sales and use tax additions, and levy limit changes. No hearing has been scheduled yet on this bill.
A great deal of effort is going into crafting property tax legislation. I have been meeting with numerous senators and multiple interest groups about some of the property tax proposals that have been introduced.
I appreciate the emails and phone calls received so far at the office. Your opinions and comments matter to me. Contact me any time at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620.