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It is a real pleasure to report that LB 103 has been signed into law by the Governor. This was my priority bill, and it appropriates $2M in each of the next two years to counties that meet certain criteria in paying off a federal judgement. This statute will allow Gage county to receive funds from the state’s general fund and apply the entire amount to the “Beatrice Six” case payment.
I want to thank the senators, the Board of Supervisors, organizations and constituents who supported LB 103. Your letters and phone calls explaining the burden on the county and the need for this legislation were vital and much appreciated.
I was appointed to a special committee, outlined in LR 141, to look at school financing. Senators Bostar, Brandt, DeBoer, Flood, Friesen, Groene, McKinney, Pahls, Wishart and Education Committee Chair Walz are the other members charged with reviewing how revenue is collected and distributed to our K-12 public schools. I look forward to diving into the nuts and bolts of school finance and hope we can develop some sorely needed recommendations for reform, no small task.
With final action on a large number of bills, the Legislature has adjourned “sine die” for this session. On Wednesday morning, the body debated LR 134, the resolution which outlines the way we will take up redistricting later this year. The complete list of guidelines can be found on the website at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Watch for a schedule of public hearings on the calendar tab of the website.
Veto overrides were taken up in the afternoon. Three bills were returned with a veto by the Governor, LB 108, 147 and 306. I supported LBs 108 and 306 which would provide assistance to some of the lowest income earners in our state. Food, shelter and heat are not luxuries but are essential to the health and well being of every person. I supported both of these bills and voted to override the vetoes.
LB 147 would transfer duties and responsibilities for management of the Class V retirement system (Omaha Public Schools) to the Public Employees Retirement Board effective September 1, 2024. The bill specifies accounting and audits that must be completed to accomplish the transition, and identifies the Omaha school district as the party responsible to pay all related costs related to the transfer of management. The bill clarifies that the school district remains solely financially responsible and liable during the transition and after the transfer of management to the Public Employees Retirement Board occurs; and specifies that the State of Nebraska, the Public Employees Retirement Board and the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System are not liable for any of the funding obligations of the Class V retirement system. I also supported this override motion.
Thursday was largely centered around clean up and bookkeeping procedures that allow the official records of the session to be completed. Governor Ricketts addressed the Legislature, and then the motion to adjourn was approved. Now the focus will turn to interim studies and special committee work for the next few months.
The past year has reminded us we can never know the future with any certainty, but conditions definitely look brighter than a year ago. During the interim months when we are not in session, my staff will still be in the office to handle your communications. I will be in the office as needed, and attending events in District 30. Contact me at email@example.com, 402-471-2620, or send your mail to PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604. Wishing you a safe and productive summer.
On Thursday, my priority bill, LB 103, was passed on final reading by a vote of 44 to 3. Now we wait to see if the bill is signed into law. It is my fervent hope that the bill will help the Beatrice 6 receive their funds a little faster and ease the tax burden on the citizens of Gage County. LB 103 would allow the state to appropriate $2 million to Gage County in July of this year and again in 2022, to be used towards paying off the federal judgment.
The session is winding down, but the pace of work has been anything but slower. Around 50 bills have been on the agenda each of the last two days on final reading, interspersed with several hours of filibusters. We will recess for the next four days, necessary for the Governor to sign or veto the bills. Then we will come back next week to take up motions to override, if any, and adjourn “sine die” on Thursday, which becomes the last day of the session.
Since we already know we will be back in late September to work on redistricting, we will be adjourning just a few days earlier than the allotted time for this session. The pandemic delayed the census numbers, which are required before we draw district maps, so redistricting could not be accomplished inside our sessions’ 90 day time frame. There will be maps for the 49 legislative districts, our three congressional districts, the Supreme Court, Public Service Commission, Board of Regents and State Board of Education. Each of these will have a separate bill with a hearing and debate during the special session this fall. Before we convene, there will also be public hearings in each congressional district during the summer. The dates will be publicized on the legislative website at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. We will be debating LR 134 on Wednesday, the 26th, the resolution that outlines the substantive criteria to be used during the 2021 redistricting process. Note, this is an LR, legislative resolution, not a bill (LB), which can affect your search on the webpage. As with all sessions and hearings, you can watch live on Nebraska Public Media, by clicking on the link on the right side of the webpage noted above.
Many important bills were acted on this week, including LB 2 as introduced by Sen. Briese of Albion. Right now, agricultural land is valued at 75% of its actual value for purposes of property taxation. This bill would reduce that further, to 50% of valuation, only when a school district levies taxes to pay for bonds passed by the school district. The bill applies only to new bonds going forward and none already in progress. Some school districts in Nebraska have 90% farm land; the Lincoln and Omaha districts are at less than ½ of 1%. This bill will have a very minimal impact on the two large cities, but will help schools like Beatrice, where you are closer to 30-50% in farms. Ag land has been paying off a greater share of bonds than what they represent as voters. This bill puts the paying of the bond financing on a more even playing field.
A concealed carry bill introduced by Sen. Brewer was scaled back after the State Attorney General advised that it could be unconstitutional in its current form. LB 236 would have allowed counties to authorize residents to carry without a state issued permit. Sen. Brewer offered an amendment on his bill to remove that section and include three other provisions. The bill now allows transportation of firearms in vehicles for lawful purposes when unloaded, stored in a case. and kept separate from ammunition; permit holders would be notified four months before a permit expires; and given a 30 day grace period to renew after expiration.
LB 542, a bill introduced by Sen. Walz to allow the state highway commission to issue bonds was discussed on the floor, but is being held over until next session. Working with the Governor and the Nebraska Department of Transportation, Sen. Walz will come back with the issue in January. In present form, it would allow for $450M in bonds to be paid over 10 years for road construction; 75% of it for an expressway system and federally designated high priority corridors. With talk at the federal level about infrastructure, it is probably best to wait and see how that plays out, especially since road projects for this year are already all bid out, and there are not enough crews available to add much more work this year.
Sen.Vargas had introduced a bill concerning employee conditions in the meatpacking industry after holding hearings last summer. With improvements in the pandemic, some of the restrictions in the bill were loosened up, and remaining provisions would help ensure sick leave, testing and so on. But senators who opposed the bill did not think it would be necessary in light of increased vaccination rates and lower covid hospitalization cases. The bill was bracketed, which means it will not be taken up again during the session.
It is great to hear about events like the upcoming College World Series expecting to be at full capacity. We constantly think about those who have lost loved ones and the economic challenges of the past 18 months. But finally we are going in a good direction. Hopefully vaccines continue to be effective and allow people to return to normal.
Please remember you can contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 402-471-2620, or send mail to PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604. Thank you.
Sen. Myron Dorn invites students to youth legislature
High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 13-16. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.
“Unicameral Camp is a great way to get an in-depth look at our state’s one-house legislative system,” Dorn said. “As a voter, a citizen, a tax payer, or perhaps as a future office holder, it is so important to be as informed as possible about how our government works.”
The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.
To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 28.
An F6F-5 Hellcat fighter plane from World War II, along with a P51 Mustang, flew into the Beatrice Airport on Sunday, March 28. Flying Ace pilot Don McPherson of Adams, NE was the honored guest. Adams Village Board Chairman Chris Schiebur (left) and Sen. Dorn (right) joined in the festivities. Thank you so much Don, for your service!
No need to check the calendar this time of year in Nebraska – you know it is March when there is a snow storm in the west and thunderstorms in the east. Hopefully, precipitation will fall where needed. This week has also brought more news regarding Gage County.
I started last summer visiting many times with county supervisors, Chairman Erich Thiemann and former board member John Hill, about new legislation regarding the “Beatrice Six” case. I also talked with the entire board and those newly elected before the session began, discussing the process here in the Legislature and possible outcomes. The result was my introduction of LB 103, which would take $2 million per year from the general fund in each of the next two years, to help a county pay a federal judgement greater than 20% of their annual budget.
During the hearing for this bill before the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Erdman asked several questions and commented that the state should be liable for all of the judgment against Gage County. In later conversations with Sen. Erdman, we discussed the history behind the bill and how Gage County is paying off the judgment through a combination of property tax, sales tax and the insurance judgement. Sen. Erdman offered an amendment in committee to my bill, to raise the level of support to $5 million each year, for a total of $10M. Sen. Clements added the stipulation that the county must tax at their maximum levy of 50 cents, which Gage County has already done. I agreed with these changes to my bill.
The Legislative Fiscal Office is now writing the language to incorporate these amendments; and LB 103 came out of committee with a vote of 9-0. I am very pleased and happy, and really thankful for what the Appropriations Committee has done.
This is, however, just the first step. LB 103 will need to pass three rounds of debate on the floor with the full legislature, and be signed into law by the Governor, to take effect. So we still have a lot of work to do, and we have a period of time before we will know if it is successful.
Quite honestly, a big impact on the success of getting LB 103 out of committee in this form, is the revenue coming into the state. A lower cash reserve, poor revenue growth during the pandemic, or a less positive revenue forecast would have prevented LB 103 from gaining this amount of traction. I am very grateful to the committee, their support has been very positive.
I have designated LB 103 as my personal priority bill, so it should come up in the next few weeks for debate. We are already starting to take up some of the other priority bills, so I am hopeful that discussion by the whole legislature will happen relatively soon.
Other issues discussed this week included a voting bill brought by Sen. Bostar. The bill would make it automatic to register to vote when you get a driver’s license. If you don’t want to register to vote at that time, you would simply opt out of that. That is the opposite of how it is presently, where you need to opt in to get registered. The part of his bill that I do not support is making election day a holiday. Citizens have ample opportunities to vote. If a holiday was the only possible way to vote, I could see it. But we are able to request mail in ballots and vote early in person at the clerk’s office; we have many ways to vote outside of just election day. In addition, there is a cost to making this a holiday; the government and many businesses would still be paying for this. I support covering the cost of elections but not making it a holiday.
Another bill garnering attention this week was Sen. Wishart’s LB 474 for medical cannabis. Senator Wishart has brought this bill before, and has been working with the medical community on this bill. They were working on a bill last session that the medical community could come out as neutral on. However, that bill was filibustered and did not pass. Then a petition to put medical cannabis on the ballot in the general election was thrown out for not meeting the ‘one issue’ standard. I would be okay with LB 474 the way it is written now. I have heard from so many people with seizures and other medical conditions who find some relief from cannabis use, however many people fear this is the first step that will lead to recreational marijuana being passed. I would not be for recreational marijuana, I’d vote against that. But if we have the proper bill for medical use only – and I think we have come a long way from when it was first introduced – I would keep an open mind and could support it. We will need to see how the debate goes and if any amendments are offered.
Next week, we will be moving to all-day debate on the floor. You can always contact me through my email at email@example.com or talk to my staff at 402-471-2620. I always appreciate hearing from you.
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