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The 50th day of the legislative session has come and gone, just 40 days remain to tackle some of the major issues before us. We begin all day floor debate on Tuesday; hearings for every bill introduced were completed this week.
My final bill to be heard in committee was LB 106. The Nebraska State Patrol brought this issue to me for introduction. The bill itself only changes nine words in existing state law, but it will bring Nebraska into compliance with current FBI guidelines for the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). NSP Superintendent John Bolduc joined me in giving testimony in support of the bill.
Also with the end of hearings, it is good to see some of the bills we have worked on move through the legislative process. LB 524 dealing with annexation, which the speaker designated as one of his priorities, should come up for floor debate soon. LB 239, regarding hearing dates for county budgets and which is now amended into LB 212, is on the agenda for next week, as is LB 472.
LB 472 is my priority bill for this session and has been in the que on the legislative agenda for the past few days. It is my hope to debate the bill the week of April 2nd. LB 472 would allow a County Board to enact a one-half of one percent sales tax to help pay a federal judgment. Concerns were raised by the League of Nebraska Municipalities who represent cities and towns across the state regarding a county’s ability to impose a sales tax on city residents and the potential expansion of this tax.
In working with the League, I have introduced an amendment proposing to further narrow and define when and how such a tax can be applied. First, the sales tax could not replace available county property tax levy authority and requires a county to use its maximum available levy authority to pay the judgment during the collection of the sales tax. Second, the sales tax under this proposal can only be used toward payment of a federal judgement over $25 million. And finally, the amendment imposes a specific termination date or ‘sunset’ of January 1, 2027 or upon the complete payment of the judgement, whichever comes first.
I am fine with the additional recommendations that make up this amendment, which will have to be approved by the Legislature before they can advance the bill. My intent is not to expand a county’s taxing authority but to address only a federal judgement such as the one currently owed by Gage County. Any county could find themselves in a similar situation and may need additional revenue streams to pay a judgement in a timelier manner. The county has no choice but to pay the judgement. The sooner a debt is paid, the sooner there is tax relief for all county residents.
As part of my attempt to find viable solutions to pay the federal judgement, I have continued to visit with people about LB473 and 474. These two bills remain in committee – and without that committee action or priority designation – are not likely to come to the floor in this session. The issue has so many moving parts and effects that need to be considered for the good of everyone involved, from plaintiffs to tax payers, it is important to keep this issue ‘on the radar’ of my fellow state lawmakers.
As the state moves from emergency actions into the recovery phase from the blizzard and floods, both Nebraska and Federal emergency managers continue to keep senators updated. If you or anyone you know has flood damage, be sure to document all damage and losses. That is the first step in requesting help from FEMA. Immediate information is available at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.