The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at email@example.com
A blessed Easter to everyone! The Legislature is in recess until Tuesday the 23rd and the four day weekend is welcomed by those not able to get home on a regular basis from the Capitol to their home districts across the state. It is also welcomed by those of us involved in agriculture as we try to catch up on field work and working livestock after a very long winter and late spring.
Two of my bills were passed into law this week. LB 239, as amended into LB 212, and LB 472. Looking back on the weeks since I took office, I see how much work went into these issues and the effort required to move a bill through the legislative process. Representing you and the varied concerns of District 30 is definitely a full time job, which I have enjoyed very much.
The Revenue Committee has released a tax reform bill in an effort to revise school funding and address property taxes. Because this is an amendment to LB 289 and has new components, a public hearing will be held on Wednesday the 24th at 4pm.
This bill has a large number of moving parts, none of which are set in stone at this point. I will give you a summary of the basics of the bill. Dealing with state aid to schools will help provide property tax relief. This would be accomplished by moving revenue generated by a state sales tax increase directly into a property tax credit fund and into school aid. Every school district would get a third of its funding from state aid.
The proposed state sales tax increase, the first one since 2002, would be three-quarters of a cent. In addition, some exemptions would be removed, meaning we would pay on items previously excluded from sales tax such as pop, candy and a few services. The tax on cigarettes would rise to $1 per pack.
The Revenue Committee calculates that property owners would receive a ten percent reduction in valuation, with the average decrease in property taxes at 20%. Eventually these measures would result in $540 million in property tax relief, although not right away. The bill includes provisions for year one and year two to phase in the changes.
LB 289 would put a lid on spending based on the consumer price index (CPI), but also allow for student growth in a school district. As I mentioned, the state would contribute at least 33% of school district funding.
To say this is a complicated issue would be an understatement. There are eight members on the Revenue Committee and there is not consensus among the members on how property tax relief should be accomplished. However, they do agree that something must be done in a state that has some of the highest property tax in the country. To that end, I will be studying the bill, watching the public hearing on the 24th, and look forward to the debate on the floor.
Please send your comments and concerns to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2620. Thank you.
Successful over ride vote of the Governor’s veto of LB 472 on April 30.
Sen. Dorn greeting international journalists from across northern Africa and the Middle East; here to study freedom of the press and hosted by the Lincoln Council for International Affairs and District 30.
A recent University dinner for senators gave us the opportunity to meet basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, football coach Scott Frost, and women’s basketball coach Amy Williams.
4th graders from Wymore Southern visited the Capitol on April 24.
A very large flag visited the Capitol this week (usually our visitors are people!). A retired firefighter from New Jersey is taking the flag around to all the state capitols and enlists the help of local firefighters and veterans. A class of 4th graders from Norfolk also got to participate as they exited the building to get on their bus. The organizer hopes to take the flag to Normandy in time for D-Day commemorations in June. The flag display was right outside the District 30 office window.
It is field trip season at the Capitol! Visitors on April 16th included Stoddard Elementary, Beatrice; and Diller-Odell 4th graders.
Several state senators and staffers were our guests at a tour of BSDC on Friday, April 12. We walked the campus and met with residents and their families, care givers and administrators. The event was organized by the Family and Friends organization, the parents and guardians of residents at BSDC. Pictured above left: Monica Brettinger, leader of Family and Friends, Sen. Dorn, and Sen. Walz of Fremont. Picture above right: Sen. Dorn talks with parent Dee Valenti.
After extended discussions on the floor over the course of several days, the Legislature has again been able to progress forward, moving bills through the stages of debate. Two of my bills have advanced to Select File, which is the second of three steps every bill must go through.
I introduced LB 239, a simple bill to harmonize county and state laws concerning the notice of hearing dates. Because my bill was similar to others brought to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee, one bill was broadened to include several of these senator’s concepts. As a result, my LB 239, which was amended into LB 212 by the Committee and then the Legislature without dissent, has moved on to Select File.
My bill to address the federal judgment due in Gage County was taken up on the floor on Thursday. LB 472 would allow a county to collect a sales tax, in the amount of one half of one percent, to pay only federal judgements, and then the tax would end. In my opening remarks about LB 472, I emphasized that imposing an additional tax on citizens in the county was not anything an elected official, at the state or county level, would wish to do. However, the judgment is due and must be paid. The options have been exhausted. This is not a “want” or a “need”, it is a federal court ordered mandate.
Consequently, the best way to meet the obligation is to pay it off as quickly as possible, in a manner that is fair to the claimants and all the citizens of Gage County. My fellow senators agreed. I had two amendments to the bill to add clarifications to the use and duration of the sales tax collection. After brief discussion, the body voted overwhelmingly to accept my two amendments and advance the bill.
I mentioned the lengthy and somewhat contentious debate that occurred earlier this week. Let me address some of the procedures that made that happen. The Speaker of the Legislature has held to the practice of allowing three hours of debate on a bill, and then moving on to other bills until the introducer can show there is enough support among the members to end a filibuster. If that can be shown, the Speaker will put that bill back on the agenda, where it can have another three hours of debate and then go to a cloture vote.
A cloture vote to end a filibuster, which requires 33 yes votes, is a taken in order to stop debate; then a vote on the actual bill is taken with no further discussion allowed. Historically, some senators have been known to never vote for cloture for philosophical reasons, believing that debate should continue for as long as it takes. Other senators always vote for cloture, thinking that several hours of talk is enough and minds are not going to change. Of course, actual circumstances will vary according to the subject matter of a bill any time cloture is invoked.
Last week, a bill on the floor was debated up to the three hour time limit and no vote was taken, despite assurances that the discussion was not meant to be a filibuster. This sparked a heated exchange among several senators, which grew to include a number of different bills and issues. Two recess days and a long weekend did little to diminish the sentiment on these issues. The dialogue continued when the Legislature reconvened on Tuesday, with several senators placing amendments on bills that were on the agenda.
The process of making motions and placing amendments is sometimes used as a way to get time to speak on the floor. This is fully within the rules of the Legislature and can be a useful tool. Priority Motions jump ahead of any other amendments or discussion on a bill; and this resulted in the previous week’s conversation continuing throughout the session on Tuesday. However, the remainder of the week progressed a little more smoothly and we were able to act on a fair number of bills.
Communication with my office only requires a few computer clicks or a phone call. Please contact me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620.
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.
It is amazing how, in just a few days, the world can change so drastically. News and images from the blizzard conditions in western Nebraska and the flooding across eastern Nebraska, and in our own district, show the magnitude of rebuilding needed in our state. I am confident that we will pull together to restore the damage – but it will take time. And of course, there will be stress factors from multiple sides.
We are grateful for our capable first responders, the National Guard, the Salvation Army and Red Cross, all on the scene from the start. In addition, there are many excellent resources available for longer term assistance. If you need help of any kind, good places to begin are the www.nema.nebraska.gov or www.nebraska.gov/nebraska-strong/ websites. You can also simply call 402-817-1551.
Rebuilding will also require money. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, we are charged with balancing the state budget which was already tight. Now we are looking at needs we never dreamed of just days ago. The President granted the state’s request for a disaster declaration and corresponding aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Even with the declaration, the state will need to supply 12.5% of the funding, and local governments another 12.5%, with the remaining 75% coming from federal FEMA dollars.
With 79 of the state’s 93 counties reporting disasters so far, preliminary estimates of local damage are already in the multiple millions of dollars. The statewide total of these approximations is nearing a billion dollars at this writing and I am certain those numbers will rise as farmers, ranchers, homeowners, businesses, adjusters and inspectors are able to get a good look at the aftermath of the storms and floods.
As for District 30 at this time, Gage county’s dollar estimate remains below $1 million. Lancaster county sustained damage closer to $4 million between roads, bridges and well field issues.
Our thoughts are on the survivors and clean-up efforts, yet the work of the Legislature must continue. We have passed the halfway mark of the session and much work remains. This week was the deadline for designating priority legislation. The Speaker chooses 25 bills for his priority list and selected one of mine for that list, LB 524, which harmonizes dates to clarify when tax valuations on newly annexed properties take effect.
Each senator can designate one bill as their priority. My bill, LB 472, could be on the agenda for floor debate as early as next week, and would give a county the ability to create a sales tax of one half of one percent, which could only be used to pay a federal judgment, and would terminate when that payment was complete.
We have one more week of committee hearings; the first bill I introduced, LB 106, will be heard on the last day for hearings, March 28. LB 106 puts our state regulations for the DNA data base in line with federal procedures. We will begin all day floor debate on April 2nd.
Please contact me with your concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2620. I always appreciate hearing from you.
Even with many important issues before the Legislature this week, all eyes have been on the effects the weather has had on our state. I attended a briefing for state senators conducted by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency which includes the National Guard and State Patrol. As a result of the blizzard conditions, snow melt, ice jams, heavy rain and flooding, the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) has been activated. We know a great number of Nebraska citizens are facing costly repairs and rebuilding in the coming weeks. A number of counties will need to fix or replace infrastructure as well.
Here at home in District 30 as we all know, Gage county must pay a federal judgment of over $28 million and I have introduced three bills that deal with that in different ways. Two have already been heard in committee, LB 474 would allow a claim to be made of the state, LB 473 would make it possible to request a low interest loan from the state. This week the Revenue Committee heard LB 472. This bill would give a county the ability to create a sales tax of one half of one percent, which could only be used to pay a federal judgment, and would terminate when that payment was complete. If Gage county used this means of collection, the length of time to pay off the judgement could be shortened, helping reduce the burden that is now on property tax alone.
Once again, the county was well represented at the hearing and the committee members asked excellent questions. I continue to discuss the bill with my fellow senators to encourage them to help Gage county find ways to meet the requirements of the judgment that will mitigate the burden on all of our tax payers.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) brought their SIM-NE (Simulation in Motion Nebraska) truck to the Capitol on Tuesday in support of my bill, LB 666, which would provide a modest amount of funding for this project.
SIM-NE is a statewide, mobile education system that takes state-of-the-art, hands-on training to emergency medical service providers in rural communities, including health professionals in hospitals. SIM-NE provides this training using four 44-foot trucks that provide mobile, real-life experiences designed to enhance lifesaving skills to individuals in their local communities. This also allows training to be team-based as learners train side-by-side with the people they normally work with during an emergency response.
As an EMT myself for over thirty years, I can attest to the quality and vital importance of the training received from the SIM-NE project. It is my hope there will be enough funding in the budget for this, and a few other small ticket items, which bring so much benefit to our communities.
Field trip season is kicking into high gear and I am enjoying the opportunity to see the students and faculty from District 30 schools in the Capitol. If you cannot visit, you can watch on line through the website at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Contact me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620.
With only about three more weeks of committee hearings, many bills have now been sent to the floor for first round debate. This includes my bill, LB107, to update and modernize the statutes governing municipal plumbing boards. The bill would make a variety of clean-up changes to the existing law including: extending the term of office for plumbers serving on plumbing boards, eliminating the requirement that plumbing boards be appointed in August of each year, eliminating the requirement that plumbing boards meet every two weeks and requiring that plumbing boards meet at least once each year or within four weeks of a written request, allowing fees for plumbing licenses to be set by the city councils but not for more than the cost of the licensing program, increasing fine amounts for violations of the plumbing board statutes; and providing that municipalities may apply other applicable regulations, such as continuing education requirements, as part of plumbing licensing.
Another of my bills, LB 239, also advanced by being amended into LB 212. LB 191 was amended into the same bill. LB 239 just changes the five day notice requirement to four, so that county and state notice requirements are the same. The rest of LB 212 deals with additional open meeting topics. Packaging simple, non-controversial and like-topic bills into one bill is a common practice, which helps to streamline the legislative process.
Understanding the rules and procedures is an important matter. There are about 65 pages of rules which govern how we do things in the Legislature. One topic that gets a lot of attention is the cloture rule. A motion to invoke cloture is made when you want to stop debate, usually a filibuster, and take an immediate vote. The presiding officer (usually the Speaker or Lt. Governor) can rule the motion out of order if he/she determines there has not yet been full and fair debate on the issue, and that decision cannot be challenged.
If the Speaker allows the cloture motion, all debate ceases. The first vote taken is whether or not to invoke cloture and it needs a two-thirds vote (33) to pass. If it passes, the next vote is whether or not to advance the bill (or any amendments, in order, if they were offered). However, if the cloture vote fails by not getting the 33 votes, debate ends on the bill for the day. In recent years, it would also signal the end of debate on that bill for the entire session because there is rarely enough time for bills to be placed back on the agenda. As a result, cloture should be used as a last resort since it has come to determine the fate of a bill for the rest of the session.
A more common way to end debate is to “call the question” or “previous question” and if five members raise their hands in agreement when asked by the Speaker, debate can cease and a vote can be taken. Again, the Speaker or presiding officer can rule the motion out of order if he/she feels there has not been adequate debate on the issue. This ruling can be overruled by a motion to overrule the chair and a simple majority vote of the Legislature.
These rules are vital to keeping order and fairness in the business of the Unicameral. It also makes me appreciate organizations like FFA and 4-H that have parliamentary procedure competitions. Having this knowledge is an excellent skill set for everyone to develop.
I have a couple of bills up for committee hearings next week. On Tuesday the 12th, LB 666 will be heard in Appropriations. This bill provides funding for first responder simulation trucks used for training in rural areas.
LB 472 will go before the Revenue Committee next Wednesday the 13th. This bill would allow counties to levy a sales tax to help pay a federal judgment. It would be limited to the purpose and time needed just for that judgment.
The Legislature advanced LB284 this week which begins the process of collecting sales tax on internet sales. As it stands now, the sales tax would be due starting on April 1st. This will be a welcome addition to a very tight state budget.
Please share this update with others in the district and follow me on Facebook. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and 402-471-2620.
Sen. Dorn and Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks were guest speakers at the State Chamber’s weekly meeting on March 27.
The State Historical Society Foundation hosted the senators on the 27th, with a display of Nebraska artifacts. Sen. Dorn is holding a cane presented to J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, on April 22, 1887. It is inscribed with the Latin phrase “Si Quaris Monumentum Circumspice” meaning “if you seek a monument, look around”.
Bob Lassen and Sandy Block were in the Capitol on Tuesday the 26th, to discuss issues of concern to AARP.
Public Health Solutions Staff visited the Legislature and attended public hearings on Monday the 25th. Senator Dorn and Sen. Tom Brandt met with them in the Rotunda. From left to right (front row): Sonya Williamson, Rhonda Theasmeyer, Layla Cabrera, Kate Lange (back row): Kelly Erikson, Jill Kuzelka, Laura Wooters, Kim Showalter, Megan Garcia, Carmen Chinchilla
Students from Beatrice and Tri County visited the Capitol on March 20 as part of the “No Limits” anti tobacco group. Great conversation with the students about smoking and vaping in the middle and high schools! Students included: Robert Wade, Breonna Wade, Ivy Parker, Jamie Bartels, Ema Ziegler and Hailey Holmer.
University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) “Simulation-in-Motion Nebraska” (SIM-NE) emergency training truck parked on the south side of the State Capitol for touring and inspection by state senators on March 12 in support of my bill to provide training for first responders and emergency medical technicians in rural communities across Nebraska.
Sen. Dorn visited with students and staff at Stoddard Elementary School in Beatrice on Friday, March 8.
At the annual NSEA banquet on March 5. Seated, left to right: Fran Martin, Beatrice; Sen. Dorn; Susan Wait, Beatrice. Standing, left to right: Gene Martin, Beatrice; Rich Wergin, Seward; Burke Brown, Palmyra; Ed Ankrom, Beatrice.
Kaylean Gentry and her four children Barrett, Liam, Annabelle and Nikolaus, visited the Capitol from Adams, NE.
With the beginning of March, we are already more than a third of the way through this session of the Legislature. The pace continues to be hectic with debate, hearings, meetings with constituents and district events. And, I had three bills heard in committee on Thursday.
LB 473 is my bill that would allow political subdivisions to acquire a loan from the state to pay federal judgments. Existing law already allows this for state court judgments, but not federal. My bill would add the federal judgment in cases where the subdivision has insufficient resources to pay, and establishes an interest rate of one half of one percent. Again, the bill had support from several testifiers and the senators on the Revenue Committee asked some good questions about how this would benefit Gage County and property tax payers.
The other two bills were heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The first, LB 524, simply harmonizes dates to clarify when tax valuations on newly annexed properties take effect. The second bill, LB 525, would allow counties to transfer an interest in real estate in fee simple to another political subdivision.
The report from the state forecasting board made the work of the Appropriations Committee a little more complicated this week. Coming in with a revenue projection that was $80 million lower means as a committee, we will have to find more rigorous ways to balance the budget. This comes just as we began hearing from numerous state agencies and senators with bills seeking funding for various programs. There will be one more report from the forecasting board later in April after income tax receipts are estimated, and we hope to be in a better position at that time. But for now, more belt tightening will be required.
An interesting consequence of the growing use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles is that less money is going into the fund for roads in Nebraska. All of these vehicles still use the roadways while paying less gas tax. Sen. Bostelman introduced LB 366 to increase the fee required under the Motor Vehicle Registration Act from $75 to $125 in increments over a period of five years. The fee increase is to help make up for lost gas tax revenue as more vehicles utilize alternative fuels. The fee will continue to be credited to the Highway Trust Fund.
March 1st is Statehood Day and marks the 152nd anniversary of Nebraska becoming a state. I think of the changes that have occurred in those years, going from a mostly treeless prairie to a state with cutting edge agriculture, thriving towns and productive citizens. I strive to make my efforts here in the Legislature perpetuate the good things happening in our state.
Thank you to all who have contacted my office with your thoughts on issues and specific bills. I appreciate hearing from you. Contact me any time at email@example.com or 402-471-2620. Follow the Legislature by going to www.nebraskalegislature.gov where you can find bill information or link to a live feed of the proceedings.
You are currently browsing the District 30 News and Information blog archives for the year 2019.