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 firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, November and December seem to go by quickly as everyone prepares for the holidays. Here at the Legislature the pace picks up rapidly, gearing up for the next session.
The month of November began with a meeting of area school superintendents and ESU administrators and an important discussion of education and school finance issues as it pertains to property tax. Those keywords – property tax – will be an obvious theme in my updates for the foreseeable future.
I was able to participate in a round table discussion on herbicide use in early November. The Department of Agriculture continues to investigate this matter which concerns a fair number of farmers in our district.
It was good to be able to talk a bit with Ted Carter, who is in line to become the next president of the University of Nebraska system if approved by the Board of Regents. He has an impressive background and range of experiences that could be a benefit to NU.
My guest on KWBE Radio in November was Senator Tony Vargas of Omaha. I appreciated his willingness to come to Beatrice and discuss how he represents his district in the Legislature and the ways our districts are similar and vastly different.
The Appropriations Committee held two more hearings in November and another this past week. We had joint sessions with the Revenue Committee to receive reports on research projects at the University all across the state and a tax expenditure report from the Department of Revenue; and a session with the Transportation Committee to hear from the Department of Transportation. Joining me in the office for his job shadowing project on one of the hearing days was Trystin Somers of Palmyra High School. I enjoyed meeting him and learning about his goals for the future.
My legislative aide and I took a tour of the Nebraska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Lincoln last week. The Center works with sight impaired individuals of all ages, training them to live independently.
In the office and across the district, we continue to meet with stakeholders and organizations to discuss their concerns and potential legislation. The range of topics is quite varied, as you would expect in a district with both urban and rural interests.
I was a panelist for the Peace and Civility Project event on the UNL campus on Nov. 19th. Also on the panel were senators Patty Pansing Brooks, Tom Brandt, Suzanne Geist and Anna Wishart. UNL journalism professor Rick Alloway was the moderator. We discussed ways to work “across the aisle” for the students and members of the public who attended, and took questions afterwards.
Just before Thanksgiving, the members of the Legislature met for the annual Legislative Council. Most of us had not seen each other since May, and this informal setting allowed us to catch up and talk about issues in general terms rather than in specific bill language. We also heard updates from the chairman of the major committees, an important preview to what’s ahead when we convene in January.
If you have visited the Capitol in the past year, you have seen the HVAC project underway, which affects a significant portion of the building. My office will be moving into the tower for the coming session, so you will need to call ahead to arrange any visits. You are always welcome and encouraged to contact me. Wishing you all a very merry and blessed celebration of the Christmas season. Here’s to a good new year for everyone in District 30. email@example.com 402-471-2620
A cold harvest season is flying by and we are headed into the last few weeks of planning before the Legislature convenes in January. To be prepared for the next session, I’ve attended several public hearings, district events, met with senators and had many conversations with constituents and stake holders.
Early in the month, the Appropriations Committee met jointly with the Agriculture Committee to hear from the state Brand Committee and get an update from the Nebraska Department of Ag. We will meet again jointly with the Revenue Committee next week. I also attended programs presented by the Open Sky Policy Institute and the Platte Institute. I appreciate being able to hear from both these organizations, which have different approaches to the issues.
Working with my fellow senators is an important aspect of serving in the Legislature. A couple weeks ago, I participated in a town hall meeting with Senator Lynn Walz in Scribner. I was able to hear some of the stories of how communities around Fremont dealt with the March flooding, and some of the flooding issues they still have including refurbishing houses, roads that are still closed and farm ground that has been taken out of production.
As you may recall, Senator Hunt spoke on KWBE with me in September. Later this week, Senator Vargas will join me on the radio program. Both of them represent areas of Omaha. Again, I believe it is helpful to hear why people approach the issues in different ways and the concerns that affect their districts.
At a pancake breakfast in Bennet on the 12th, I spoke with quite a number of constituents. We talked about property tax relief, conceal carry permits for volunteer fire department and rescue squad members, and the need for strong volunteer departments in our rural areas.
The junior class at Beatrice High School attended a school board meeting held over the noon hour at the school in mid-October. This helped fulfill the requirements of the new “civics” bill implemented by the Legislature this year. I was glad to see and hear about many important activities happening at Beatrice High School.
Another event I attended was the CAFCON forum held in Lincoln at Lutheran Family Services. CAFCON is a consortium of a dozen organizations which form the back bone of child welfare services in the state. They discussed many matters they are facing, the primary one being state funding and how it is handled.
Lincoln police Chief Bleimeister and staff from the mayor’s office met with me to discuss issues relating to District 30. Several organizations have met me in my office to talk about their legislative goals for the coming year. Along with other senators who represent portions of our capitol city, I talked with the editorial board of the Lincoln paper about the most pressing issues for the district.
The Nebraska Association of County Officials met at SCC in Lincoln in mid-month as well. We talked about the condition that county roads are in and how to fund them. I outlined the topics that will be discussed in the next legislative session. There were also concerns about how bills passed have impacts on counties, and more importantly, county budgets.
I was a panelist at a convention on solar and wind power in late October, along with several other senators whose districts are looking at energy generation projects. Part of our discussion centered on the new solar farm going in northeast of Lincoln.
In between these events, I have continued to meet with various groups to discuss ways to handle the property tax issues across our state. Since the upcoming session is only 60 days in length, we will need to be very intentional with bills introduced and our priorities.
My staff is at work on upcoming legislation, as well as working with individual constituents who have contacted my office. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2620. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in District 30.
Homework isn’t just for our students this time of year, it is for your state senators as well. It is a season of balancing the work I need to get done at home in the farming operation with the work of studying the issues facing the Legislature.
As a result, I have been able to attend several listening sessions, hosted by a variety of organizations. In September I participated in gatherings with the Educational Service Units, the Blue River Area Agency on Aging in Beatrice, Public Health Solutions in Crete, and both the Platte Institute and OpenSky Policy Institute. I also met with individuals in my office, and with several senators to discuss what we have been hearing at these sessions.
The Appropriations Committee, on which I sit, has convened several times in recent weeks. We held joint hearings with the Health and Human Services Committee to discuss provider rates and hear updates on expanded Medicaid. At the end of this week we will be meeting jointly with the Agriculture Committee to hear from the Nebraska Brand Committee and get a briefing from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
All of this information gathering is very helpful as we focus on the big issues like property tax and business incentives, health care and problems in corrections. These are the areas that will command the most attention in the coming session and rightly so.
In the meantime, I believe we can also find ways to support and revitalize our state on a slightly smaller scale. And in truth, those critical services require attention to stay viable. I am continuing to work on securing sustained funding for the SIMS-NE program. The Simulation in Motion trucks go out to rural EMTs and hospitals to provide training and lifelike, hands-on experience in the areas of Nebraska where we do not have quick access to paramedics and ambulance service like Lincoln and Omaha do. The SIMS-NE program is one way to keep our quality of life in rural areas strong and inviting. My study resolution, LR 181, was heard by the Appropriations Committee last Friday. Doctors, EMTs and University personnel were on hand to speak in support of the program and educate my fellow committee members on the vital need to fund this project.
I had the privilege of hosting Beatrice high school student Chance Earnhart from Diller as a job shadow on the date of the hearing. In a very meaningful coincidence, Chance was able to provide testimony at the hearing about the role of EMTs in helping save the life of his father, Jim, who received Bryan Health’s Trauma Champion award for 2019. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know Chance and his willingness to speak at the hearing in support of EMT training.
On the last day of September, I participated in another listening session at the Legion Hall in Bennet, organized by the Center for Rural Affairs. We had an excellent turn out of residents from across District 30 and very good discussion. I appreciate very much the time people take to attend a listening session, their thoughtful questions and interest in the workings of our state government. A big thank you to all who came out and to CFRA for putting it together, and providing pie!
Please continue to contact my office as we begin to put together possible legislation to be introduced in January, or with any concerns you might have. 402-471-2620 or email@example.com.
The month of August, filled with fairs, the start of school, area sports and the anticipation of harvest season, was also a busy one at the Legislature. Even though we are not meeting in session, there is plenty of work being done.
I was able to attend two leadership events that will be helpful to me as I represent you in the Unicameral. The first was the Global Leadership Summit hosted by the Reformed Church in Firth. Even though I was only able to take in the first day of the conference, it was good to meet with fellow residents of southeast Nebraska and hear world class speakers. The next day I was off to Minneapolis as a Fellow in the 2019 Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development (BILLD). As one of 36 selected to participate, it was a great experience. Meeting other state representatives and senators from 11 Midwestern states and Canada gave me the opportunity to hear about the issues they are facing in their states and provinces, which are very similar to Nebraska. The speakers were top notch and they kept us very busy with presenters and workshops.
With little time to spare, I returned to Nebraska to go on a tour of the Beatrice State Developmental Center and the Lincoln Regional Center with members of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. I was able to share some insight about BSDC with my colleagues on that committee, and get a firsthand look at the Regional Center for myself.
Norris Public Power hosted a tour of their Centerville operations facility in late August. We had a good discussion with NPPD administrators about a number of matters regarding public power in our state.
Listening sessions continued with different sectors of our state’s economy and those receiving state funding. Senators DeBoer, Brandt, Friesen and myself have been meeting with various groups and then discussing what we hear. There will be more of those in the next couple of months.
In late August, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce had a statewide tour with a stop in Beatrice on the 27th. Governor Ricketts and I both spoke about the impact of business incentives on our budget and the state’s economy, as well as the ongoing need for property tax relief.
Related to this, I was part of a joint hearing of both the Revenue and Appropriations committees about the business incentive proposals pending before the Legislature. Good questions were asked, and I continue to see the need for a link between property tax relief and tax credits to businesses.
On the last day of the month, I invited Senator Megan Hunt of Omaha to join me for a live broadcast on KWBE Radio. We discussed some of the similarities and differences in our districts and how we approach being a state senator. I appreciated Sen. Hunt coming to Beatrice for the program.
Following the radio program, a number of urban senators were invited to Senator Tom Brandt’s farm near Plymouth. I spoke to the group about the challenges facing agriculture and helped show off the good life in our area.
A number of interim hearings are scheduled for the month of September, including one that will take a look at my funding proposals for the SIM-NE project that trains rural EMTs. As we move through the fall months, we senators will be firming up our ideas for legislation to be introduced in January, as well as looking at any adjustments that need to be made to the budget given current economic conditions in the state.
My office is staffed year round, so contact me at any time, I appreciate hearing from you. 402-471-2620 and firstname.lastname@example.org
We enjoyed a typical July in Nebraska – temperatures hovering near 100, kids on detassling crews and other summer jobs, community celebrations and county fair activities. At the Capitol, we used this time to take a close look at the issues, find new solutions and prepare for next year’s session. That includes everything from attending national conferences to small group meetings in the office.
In late June I traveled to Washington DC to a Budget and Tax Academy, sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). This was an intense program with many good speakers; and state senators and representatives from across the country. It was interesting to find that many states are encountering the same problems that we have in Nebraska. Property taxes are a common issue – even in states with lower rates than we have here. Many states are dealing with expanded Medicaid. In the case of medical marijuana and gambling, some states have seen a degree of success while others seem to wish they had not taken a similar route. I appreciated the opportunity to learn as much as I could from the presenters and meet fellow legislators from across the nation.
Also in June I toured the Sheldon power plant at Hallam along with Sen. Brandt of District 32. Just to the south of the Sheldon plant, the new Monolith facility is under construction, which will be making carbon black. Senator Brandt and I were given an overview of the progress and a timeline for starting operations.
I had the privilege of attending a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the Homestead National Monument in June. In addition, I have written in support of changing the name of this fine landmark to simply Homestead National Park, which more clearly represents the park’s attractions.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of the Nebraska Investment Council. Two of my fellow Appropriations Committee members were there, as well as the chair of the Retirement Committee. The program was enlightening and educational regarding the state’s investment funds, how they invest and the financial condition of the state program.
Along with Sen. DeBoer of Omaha, I participated in a listening session in Lincoln to gather input on taxation and spending. Many discussions and meetings are taking place concerning property taxes during these interim months between sessions. We will meet next week to summarize what we learned and talk about any possible legislation that could be developed as a result.
My staff and I have met with several individuals who have concerns about distracted driving and recent motor vehicle accidents in the district. As many of you are aware, distracted driving has increased as cell phone use has increased. There are several bills that will carry over to next year’s session which could help address this matter.
While on the topic of transportation, I was able to meet with our area district engineer Tom Goodbarn, and Erich Strach from the state Department of Transportation office recently in Adams. We looked at ongoing and future projects and discussed the roads and bridges in District 30, including the south beltway project.
On June 17th, the Governor held his annual economic development conference in Lincoln. The main speaker was Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton. Many state senators were there and the speakers focused on being economically successful. The Governor also talked about Nebraska’s success the past several years, noting that the state has been awarded the national Governor’s Cup for the most economic development projects per capita of any state for three years in a row.
Mike Boehm, vice chancellor of the University’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), met me in Adams for lunch late in July. We discussed ways the ag college impacts our state, not just in District 30 but from border to border. This week I met with interim university president Dr. Susan Fritz. It was good to get her take on the overall status of the university system, and the search for a new president.
Another important meeting was held with Tom Bliss of the Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD). This organization is working hard to connect needs with the right resources for the good of our part of the state.
County fair season is in full swing in the area and I enjoyed the annual agriculture appreciation barbecue at the Gage County fair in July and the chance to talk with so many acquaintances and fellow local producers. I attended a luncheon this week at the Lancaster County fair to learn more about the Event Center and Ag Society, and observed some of the exhibits designed to connect urban and rural residents in the county.
This month I will convene a working group studying ways to improve the funding stream for the SIM-NE program. This is the educational equipment and staff that travels from the University’s med center, UNMC, out to local EMTs and emergency rooms in small hospitals, providing hands-on realistic training. As an EMT myself, I consider this a vital program for health and quality of life in rural areas.
I have invited several Omaha area senators to visit in the next couple of months. Learning more about the similarities and the differences between our districts will go a long way in the coming session. We have a lot to show them in District 30!
Contact me through the same channels as during the legislative session – by email or phone. email@example.com or 402-471-2620.
Rather than being at the Capitol this week, I have been able to spend a little more time at the farm with my family. It comes as a welcome break after the 12-14 hour days of the session – even though farming usually means even longer days!
We did adjourn “sine die” on May 31st, which means we will not meet again until next January, barring any need for a special session. But it would be accurate to say our work is not done on many issues.
Those bills that were passed and signed by the Governor into law in this session will take effect on September 1st. The exceptions would be bills which had an “e-clause” meaning they take effect immediately upon being signed, or those with an effective date which stipulates a specific time.
The bills that were waiting to be debated when we adjourned will stay there, waiting for a turn on the agenda next January. When we convene in 2020, we will have ten days for new bill introduction as we did in this session, but since we already have things ‘in the hopper’, floor debate can begin right away.
These months between the long and short sessions are called the interim. While I do not intend to be in the office at the Capitol every day, my staff will be there and I will come in for meetings and conferences as scheduled. We will use this time to study several topics in depth and look at proposals for new legislation. The time is also valuable for meeting with fellow senators and fine tuning the existing bills or writing new ones. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will be attending some budget briefings and workshops as the nine members of the committee continue to look into state spending.
Interim Studies, introduced as legislative resolutions, LRs, have been assigned to committees for work over the summer. Some of these require public hearings and those generally begin about the same time as school starts, although some may be sooner. All hearings will be listed on the Unicameral website at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.
I introduced LR 181, to examine new funding streams for financial stability of the simulation-in-motion Nebraska program which trains local EMTs. We will meet with various stakeholders over the summer to figure out the best way to insure the continued success of this vital service to rural areas. A hearing for this study will be held on September 27th at the Capitol.
The Nebraska Legislature is a member of several national organizations of state representatives. I have been chosen to represent District 30 and Nebraska at a Budget and Tax Academy in Washington DC, and was named to the Agriculture Committee of the Midwestern Conference of CSG, the Council of State Governments. I was also honored to be recommended by my colleagues to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and was selected as a Fellow in BILLD, the Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development.
The summer and fall months will give me additional time to travel through the district. My plan is to attend some town board meetings and drop in at local coffee shops to talk directly with fellow residents in Lancaster and Gage counties. I will also be scheduling some community conversations so be watching for announcements about dates and locations over the next few months.
As I mentioned, my staff works year round, so unless they are attending an event in the district where you can talk with them in person, feel free to contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in at 402-471-2620. I welcome your comments and concerns and ideas about how to improve our state government. Here’s to a productive summer for everyone in District 30!
At the end of a school year we have term papers, final exams, and that last report card. At the end of a legislative session we finish up debate and vote on bills, act on any of the Governor’s vetoes, extend some issues into next year’s agenda, and make plans about what to work on over the summer and fall “interim” months.
Similar to work in the classroom, some subjects are just harder than others. Grading the work of the Legislature these past few months, the marks easily run from an A to a D depending on the topic. Some would say a few issues scored even below that.
Passing Grade – On the plus side, I am glad my colleagues saw fit to pass, and then override the veto, of LB 472 which will allow Gage County to pay the pending federal judgment in a shorter time frame. I was also pleased to introduce and pass into law LB 239, 524 and 525; all dealing with streamlining the business side of local governments.
Keep Studying – Because one of my bills for educating area EMTs is still sitting in committee, I introduced a study resolution, LR 181, to look at new funding streams for the financial stability of the simulation-in-motion Nebraska (SIM-NE) program. SIMs are mobile trucks that provide hands-on training with high-fidelity, life-like mannequins. These trucks travel across the state and provide invaluable training to emergency care providers, including doctors, emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians, nurses, paramedics, and other emergency health care personnel. We will look at the Health Care Cash Fund and other ways to provide this vital instruction to small towns and rural areas.
Needs Improvement – Along with many Nebraskans and residents of District 30, I was disappointed to see no real resolution to the property tax dilemma happen in this session. There was some property tax credit provided in the budget, but what we really need is a major change in our tax system. However, as I have mentioned previously, do not give up hope. The issue is still front and center for a number of senators, especially those who represent districts similar to ours – where agriculture is one of the primary economic drivers. This topic, as well as business incentives, will definitely be studied and refined before we reconvene next January; and I will be involved in those discussions.
As a freshman senator, I feel my past service on various boards and organizations prepared me well for the Legislature. There are many people and resources available here to help you learn the procedures and navigate the rules. This summer I will represent the Unicameral at a couple of regional workshops dealing with state budgets, leadership and agriculture and I look forward to expanding my knowledge base and experience for the benefit of the District.
Please contact me at any time at email@example.com. Or call 402-471-2620. You can follow me on Facebook, look for Senator Myron Dorn, and access my official web page at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.
As expected, long hours and lengthy conversations characterized the past week in the Legislature. We are the point in the session where some big issues are on the agenda. When much is at stake, the different needs between the legislative districts become more evident, leading to extended debate. On two days we stayed in session well into the evening hours. By statute, the legislative day must end by 11:59 pm. We came very close to that mark on Wednesday, adjourning at 11:36 pm.
Final reading was held on Thursday for the 30 bills on Consent Calendar. The Consent Calendar is a way for the legislature to move bills through the process that are fairly straight forward. For a bill to be placed on the Legislature’s Consent Calendar, the sponsor of the bill submits a letter to the Speaker. Only bills which had no opposition at the hearing can be submitted to the Speaker; or if there was opposition, any concerns must be addressed. Also the bill had to have advanced from committee with no dissenting votes from committee members – only then can a bill be considered for Consent Calendar. After the letter is submitted to the Speaker, his office reviews all requests. The Speaker decides which bills will be on Consent Calendar and then the list is printed for all the senators and the public to see.
I wanted to explain this process in relation to LB 533 which was on Consent Calendar, to indicate at no time was this bill ‘slipped in’ or ‘rushed through’ but was offered honestly and within all the rules of the legislature. It had a public hearing, it had General File and Select File debate. Senators, staff, lobbyists, organizations, constituents and even the executive branch, have the opportunity to review all bills and amendments that are introduced.
I had not heard from anyone who was in opposition to LB 533 until late Thursday, after floor action on the bill. The bill had a public hearing on February 21st before the Judiciary Committee. The day of the hearing, no one spoke in opposition to this bill and all eight senators who serve on this committee voted to advance the bill out of committee. LB 533 did pass on Friday morning. Another bill on the Consent Calendar, LB 427, relates to the legitimacy of children born to parties in a marriage. LB 427 strikes the words, “the wife” and replaces it with “either spouse.” This bill was passed on Final Reading earlier on Thursday with 40 senators in support.
Some communication to my office said that Federal law states a marriage is between a man and a woman. However, in June of 2015, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision making gay marriage legal in all 50 states. Our personal opinions aside, this is now the law to which states must adhere.
The debate about property tax became linked to business incentives this week as we took up LB 720 and LB 183 on the floor. LB 289 is continuing to be discussed among senators but does not have the 33 votes to proceed. I saw an editorial that said there were a lot of wheels spinning, but none getting any traction. That is a good description of the problem when it comes to finding property tax solutions. For example when one suggestion to lower land valuations to 50% for taxing purposes was amended out of LB 183, a number of senators would no longer support that bill. Another idea to remove sales tax exemptions on certain products and services was rejected by several others. Opinions differ on how, and how much, to cap spending and to cap tax credits, causing some to say they can’t support a bill on those grounds. We have senators digging in their heels on revenue and spending, some because they feel it represents their views and their constituents, and some for political reasons. I am not saying any of these reasons are right or wrong, but the result is a lack of consensus it takes to move a solution forward.
This has been a trying process and certainly reinforces the comment that if reforming the tax code was easy, it would be done by now. However, it is important to note that none of these proposals are dead. I will help work on these over the summer interim, and any bills held over to next year can be taken up for debate right where they were left when we reconvene next January. Remember also that new bills can be introduced to correct things that aren’t working in the laws that do get passed in this session. All this to say – don’t give up hope.
As we recess for Memorial Day, I am grateful for all who have served in the armed forces. We have just a few days left in the session – whether we adjourn early or stay until day 90. Please continue to contact me with your concerns. My office is open year round, and the answering machine is always on. firstname.lastname@example.org 402-471-2620.
In this first session for me as a state senator, I have learned so much. Looking at how the legislature works and what the rules are, to the long and varied list of topics addressed in the bills – there is a lot to learn. We are now at the point in the calendar where nearly every bill is a key one.
After a late night session on Wednesday of this week, the budget bills have finally advanced to Final Reading, which is the last stage for a bill. On Tuesday, the main budget bill got several hours of debate and failed to advance. At issue was the funding of a study about future needs for nursing home care in the state. The amount of funding needed for the study is small in comparison to other budget items, and even draws in some federal dollars to help with it. So the discussion was not just about funding a study but also about the responsibilities and duties of state agencies and different senator’s views on spending. Eventually on Wednesday evening, the bill did advance with the study included.
There will likely be more floor debate and proposed amendments to the budget bills prior to a final vote; and then I anticipate some line item vetoes from the Governor. The Legislature will take up those vetoes during the final week of May.
Another of the big bills before us right now is LB 720. This bill, introduced by Sen. Kolterman, gives incentives such as wage and tax credits, and some tax refunds and exemptions based on investment levels and hiring of employees. Sen. Kolterman had an amendment to require these businesses to provide health insurance. Several senators wanted to amend the bill with provisions for job training, more direct oversight by the Legislature and caps on the amount this bill would cost the state in lost revenue.
I believe a good addition to LB 720 would be a requirement for incentivized business to contribute to scholarships in areas where Nebraska needs to train and retain workers in certain professions. However, the bottom line for me is that the first thing our state needs is property tax relief and reform. Until that happens, I find it difficult to whole heartedly support this bill.
The bill that would achieve at least some degree of property tax relief is LB 289. Because we spent three hours debating this bill last week, the Speaker wants to see that the sponsors have 33 votes on the bill before he places it back on the agenda. Senator Linehan and Revenue committee members, as well as myself, continue to talk to fellow senators and work on amendments to address concerns about the bill – but I do not believe the necessary votes are there yet.
Some of the primary concerns I am hearing as I talk to citizens in the district and my fellow senators are about the education funding portion of LB 289. There is a definite division between the larger schools in Lincoln and Omaha, and smaller schools in the rest of the state. Others do not wish to see any increase in sales tax. The mechanics of the property tax credit fund and dispersion of funds to schools trouble a few senators, and some simply do not want to go against the wishes of the Governor and won’t support the bill.
Late on Wednesday we took up LB 110 which addresses the use of medical marijuana. We had a three hour debate about the legal aspects, the medical benefits, and good debate by senators both for and against this issue. I felt the talk remained on track and brought out some important points. Sen. Wishart worked with many interests to amend the bill into a form I felt was better than as originally introduced. However, she does not think she has the 33 votes to show the Speaker to bring it back. As a result, proponents could mount a petition drive this summer to put medical marijuana use on the ballot in 2020.
The plan by the Speaker at this time is to adjourn for the year on May 31st. That would be a week earlier than initially shown on the calendar, since May 31st would be the 86th day of the 90 day session. Even though adjourning early saves the state a small amount of money and allows senators to return to their jobs in the districts, there are still some senators with pending priority bills who would like to see us work through that first week in June. I have been fortunate in moving nearly all of my bills through the process already and into law.
Your calls and emails are as important now as at the beginning of session. Contact me at email@example.com or 402-471.2620.
The Legislature continues to take up a wide range of issues, but most of those topics were overshadowed by two complicated subjects this week – tax revenue and the budget. I say these bills are complicated because revenue includes all forms of taxation and yet greatly impacts school funding. Of course the budget is affected by the economic conditions of the state. And one factor influencing the economic condition of the state is – taxation.
Before looking into these, let me point out that the Legislature has only one constitutional requirement as far as passing bills in any session – it must appropriate funds for the expenses of the state government, and, the budget must be balanced. Of course, in every session many bills do become law and other important matters are addressed.
Coming back to the two main proposals brought to the floor this week, we have one set of bills that will be acted upon – those that make up the budget from the Appropriations Committee. The other main bill is less certain, LB 289 from the Revenue Committee.
The appropriation bills can be amended as we go through the stages of debate, but we will pass a budget in some form. The set of bills that comprise the budget are LBs: 293, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298 and 299. Of these, LB 294 is the mainline budget bill and is 268 pages long. All of these are on the Legislature’s website and linked to the home page (see site information at the end of this article).
Regarding the revenue bill, LB 289, the three hours of discussion we had were largely philosophical in nature and no specific details about collecting property, sales and income taxes, or how to fund education, were hammered out. Following the protocol set up by the Speaker, after three hours the bill’s sponsors must show him they have enough votes to invoke cloture (33 votes required) before the bill is put back on the agenda.
Nearly every senator points to property tax as a key concern. This has been a common theme for the past twenty years. As Senator Linehan, chairman of the Revenue Committee pointed out, if it was easy to fix the property tax issue, it would have been done by now. But that does not lessen the necessity to find a better and fairer solution for all tax payers. The problem is deciding on what is better and what is fair. For example, differences between populated versus less populated areas of the state, agricultural versus industrial areas, large schools versus small schools, and even political divisions all became evident during the debate on LB 289.
While there is some agreement on needing to reform the tax system in our state, the communication I receive in my office is also divided in supporting or opposing the elements in LB 289. No one wants to bear the brunt of higher taxes, but neither is anyone willing to suffer all the spending cuts – and understandably so. The senators on the Revenue Committee are working hard to find compromises that are acceptable which would stand up as amendments to the bill. We shall see if they are able to bring this issue back for debate.
There will be no letup in intensity in the coming week. Bills already scheduled for debate include LB 720, known as the “ImagiNE Act” concerning business incentives; and LB 670, the Opportunity Scholarship Act which would give tax breaks to those making scholarship contributions. LB 720 has a fiscal note of over $30 million in the biennial budget; and LB 670 could cost $ 22.5 mil in that same two-year time frame.
Also on the agenda will be LB 110, the Medical Cannabis Act. The bill’s sponsors have spent many hours with medical professionals and others and as a result the sponsor does have a lengthy amendment to add to the bill. This is an issue that could be important to have regulated by the state rather than let it happen by other means. I will be listening intently to the debate on this one.
All in all, it has been an interesting week, and promises to be the same next week. I encourage you to get on the website and look carefully through the budget yourself. As taxpayers we all need to be educated on where our dollars go and all the areas the state funds. You can find it at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Click (here) or on the page link for the Appropriations Committee Proposed Budget. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2620.
You are currently browsing the archives for the Column category.