NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Myron Dorn

Sen. Myron Dorn

District 30

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 mdorn@leg.ne.gov

February 28, 2020 Update
February 28th, 2020

The session is now half done. Committee hearings are finished and we are returning to full day debate on the legislative floor. While it seems like that would help move things along, there are about 35 priority bills still sitting in committee, waiting to be voted out to the floor. Other major issues that are waiting for debate before the legislature e the budget, property tax, business tax incentives, the UNMC NeXT program and prison overcrowding. Some days we can get a lot accomplished and other days we get sidetracked in our discussion and move very few bills forward. So at this point in the session, there is only a small chance of discussing a bill if it has not been made a priority.

I am pleased that my own priority bill has already moved to the second stage of debate. I chose LB 1014 as my priority bill even though it was introduced by Sen. Lindstrom.  The purpose of LB 1014 is to amend the Multiemployer Welfare Arrangement (“MEWA”) Act to allow self-employed individuals who are members of associations to participate in a multiemployer welfare arrangement in Nebraska. The practical result of this change allows farmers to obtain health insurance through entities such as their local cooperative at a lower cost than has been available to them in the market place.

A little history on this issue and LB 1014:  Land O’ Lakes is a large farmer-owned cooperative and they offered farmers another avenue for health insurance.  It was a group plan and so would be cheaper than what a farmer could find on the open market as an individual.  Land O’ Lakes had a little over 1,000 people in the program.  Late last fall, there was a federal ruling which said Nebraska was missing specific statutory language to allow this type of program. While the plan was able to remain in effect until the end of 2019, the Nebraska Department of Insurance has no independent state statutory authority to approve a MEWA for self-employed individuals so the cooperative farmer health plan could not be offered to Nebraska farmers in 2020. Hence the need for LB 1014.  Senators Kolterman, Williams, La Grone and Lindstrom worked on language to address concerns raised at the bill’s public hearing and the bill advanced to Select File with 42 yes votes and 6 present and not voting.

One of the issues that was debated at length on the floor this past week was land banks.  This allows government to revitalize properties that private investors do not want to tackle, because there is no financial gain for them. So land banks take these properties, fix them up and get them back on the tax rolls. Representatives from Hickman have talked to me about how this may help them clean up some of the more neglected homes in this city in our district.

There was also considerable discussion about “Pay for Play”.  Senator Hunt introduced this bill to allow students to use their image to make money.  The college or university would not be paying these players but players could capitalize on their ‘fame’.  They would have to disclose to the school who they are working with, and it would be counted as income. Sen. Hunt believes that the federal government will step in and pass something so there would be uniformity in the law. If a national law is passed, then Nebraska law would be void.  If passed, Hunt’s bill would not take effect until January of 2023.

Thank you for your calls and emails –keep them coming! You can reach me at mdorn@leg.ne.gov or call my office at 402-471-2620.

Representatives from the city of Hickman met with Sen. Dorn at the Nebraska League of Municipalities conference on February 25th.  Mayor Doug Hansen, Sen. Dorn, City Administrator Silas Clarke, Council Chairman Phil Goering, and Assistant City Administrator Kelly Oelke.

 

After the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic was formed as the first-ever fraternal organization for veterans. In 1881 the Grand Army of the Republic created the Sons of Union Veterans to carry on the memory and traditions of the G.A.R. after the last G.A.R. members were gone. Today, the Sons of Union Veterans are recognized by Congress as a Veteran’s organization, charged with keeping alive the memory of those who served our country during the Civil War, 1861 to 1865. In addition to their Presentation of Colors today in the legislative chamber, the Sons of Union Veterans have an honor guard posted at the Lincoln Statue at the west entrance.

 

Nebraska FFA members Megan Fehr (left) and State Secretary Savannah Gerlach (right) visited the Capitol on Monday, February 10th.

 

Even the skies above the Capital got into the spirit of Valentine’s Day!

One third of the session is behind us. Public hearings continue in our committees and we are deciding which bills should be advanced to the floor for debate. As individual senators, we are in the process of evaluating which bills should be designated as a priority. I have a couple of issues in mind and will be making that selection in the next few days.

During morning debate on the floor of the Legislature this week, we spent several hours discussing a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow future legislatures to increase the number of state senators up to 55. A bit of history: Nebraska went from a two-house system like Congress and the other 49 states have, to a Unicameral one-house system in 1937. At that time there were 43 state senators who each represented about 27,000 constituents. Today there are 49 state senators, and with our current population, each one represents close to 40,000 people. The discussion included the geographical size of districts, the number of rural and urban senators, technology that allows for easier communication, and the cost of adding more senators and staff. After three hours of debate, no vote was taken. Because it is a proposed amendment to the constitution, it requires 30 votes to pass and be placed on the November ballot.

I did not introduce a bill asking for state help in paying the “Beatrice 6” judgment this session. In last year’s session I had LB 474 which was similar to a bill brought by Sen. Baker before me, allowing for the claim to be paid by the state, through the state claims process. It was not advanced by the committee and based on my communications with the chairman, it will not be, which effectively kills the bill. I continue to have conversations with the Gage County Board and with senators here at the Capitol about funding the judgement. Some senators have indicated support, some senators have commented that they will not support any help from the state in paying the judgement. The state has seen an increase in revenue the past year. There are many requests for those funds and bills introduced for that purpose; the biggest ones being property tax relief (LB 974), economic incentives (LB 720), school funding and other needs. While we all want to see immediate assistance and relief of this issue for Gage County, it is a process that requires educating fellow senators while building relationships and trust.

LB 1033 was heard in the Revenue Committee this week, a measure which would assess state sales tax on the sale or lease of aircraft and use those funds to maintain Nebraska’s airports. The bill would create a capital improvement fund to be administered by the state Department of Transportation. The estimated revenue would be $1.3 million in the first year with small increases in future years. The fund would help smaller airports to access matching federal grant funds without having to borrow or bond to make improvements to their local airfields. That bill is still in committee.

LB 1152 was another bill in committee this week, it would streamline the process for hemp growers in Nebraska as far as licenses and consistency with the federal guidelines. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture supports the bill, and hopes to make the program self-supporting. February 3rd was the start date to sign up online for the program.

LB 857 was introduced to require periodical review of any new state rules and regulations, to make sure they are achieving what they were intended to do. A report would have to be filed 10 years after the effective date, beginning in 2021. The idea behind the bill is that with changes in staff or the composition of the Legislature, a law can drift from its original intent. There were two organizations in support of the issue and one against. This bill is also still in committee.

Remember that you can look up the status of any bill on the website, www.nebraskalegislature.gov. The website has contact information for all senators and committees as well as the legislative calendar. You can email or call me at any time at mdorn@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620

 

 

 

 

 

January 31 Update
February 3rd, 2020

This week the Legislature has continued with morning debate on the floor and afternoon committee hearings. We will stay with this schedule until committee hearings are completed at the end of February.  Morning debate has focused on bills that carried over from last year’s session as we wait for Committees to act on new bills. There are important matters that have waited over the interim months for a chance to be discussed by the Unicameral, even though we know the bigger issues lie ahead of us.

With that thought in mind, LB 974 is still sitting in the Revenue Committee while additional information is being gathered and possible amendments are being drawn up. Conversation is taking place between senators, and between senators and stake holders such as land and home owners and school administrators. One primary concern is the effect that LB 974 will have, especially out three to four years. That time frame is the hardest to get a good set of numbers on, because you have to use assumptions about future revenue, the economy and so on.  We are dealing with a wide variety of topics right now, but property tax relief is still the main theme.

I introduced LB 761 dealing with funding for the Simulation In Motion (SIMS NE) project used to train rural EMTs and hospital personnel, primarily in rural areas.  The bill was heard by the Transportation Committee this week and we had excellent representation from UNMC staff who run the program, and first responders from the western to eastern borders of the state. Ten people testified in support of the bill, with many more in the audience to register their official support. There were also 25 letters submitted as part of the official record as proponents of the bill.  There were four opponents, and while they acknowledge the value and importance of the program, did not want to see another fifty cents per year fee on a motor vehicle registration.

The fifty cents per year for SIMS would generate $1.2 million. It would sustain the program and staff, maintain the four semi-trailers which house the high tech mannequins and equipment that simulate real life emergency trauma, and keep the program free of charge to rural communities’ EMTs, first responders and critical access hospital staff.  The SIMS NE trucks allow rural volunteers to stay home for training; otherwise they leave their communities with no EMT service while they are traveling to educational sites. In areas of our state far from large hospitals or city paramedic services, the volunteer EMTs and first responders are often the difference between life and death.

Another safety issue I have my eye on is LB 789 which seeks to crack down on drivers who do not obey school bus stop arms. It only takes a few minutes to wait while children board a bus, and only a few seconds for a terrible tragedy to occur by not stopping.   LB 870 is also of interest in view of last year’s flooding. This bill would allow cities to borrow money to recover from disaster; right now only counties are able to do this.

I am also watching a package of bills which includes LB 147, LB 920 and LB 998.  LB998 would provide training to school personnel on recognizing signs of potential problems, de-escalation techniques and training for appropriate restraint of students who might harm themselves or others. LB 920 would use $1.9 million from state lottery funds to reimburse schools at least $2000 for this training. These bills were brought forward in response to last year’s LB 147 which focuses on these situations in our schools.

As I mentioned, there are important issues to consider, encompassing a very wide range of subjects. I will continue to keep budget issues and tax concerns at the top of the list. Whatever matters of concern you have, I hope you will contact me.  mdorn@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620.

 

 

 

January 24 Update
January 24th, 2020

Eleven days of the session are in the books, which means bill introduction is over, and public hearings have begun.  There were 482 new bills introduced for a total of 1221 for this session, which spans 2019-2020. A large number of bills address taxation and spending; some offer new ideas to increase revenue or distribute funds, and some have been written as back up to pending legislation.

During bill introduction, I read through the one-liners (a brief one sentence explanation of a bill or constitutional amendment). As varied as the ideas are, my reactions to some are just as varied – from a nod of my head and thinking that sounds like a good idea, to why do we as a state need this bill?  Then I put it into perspective.  There is usually a constituent or a group of people who have asked for a bill to fix a problem, or it springs from an idea a senator has. A senator decides if the issue needs a bill or can be handled some other way.  It may be as simple as giving that constituent or group a chance to present their issue; or the other extreme where a situation is dire and needs legislative attention.  Almost every bill has someone behind the scenes believing the issue is important.

The legislative process allows for all of those ideas to be presented to the committee at a public hearing, a process very unique to Nebraska, whereby the committee members have the opportunity to hear proponents, opponents and neutral testimony.  If the majority of committee members agree the bill has merit, it will be advanced to our first stage of floor debate.  A committee can also hold a bill for further discussion by committee members or hold it for other reasons.  The committee can also indefinitely postpone a bill, which kills the bill for that session.

With that said, here are some of the bills being heard by committees this past week:

The main property tax bill, as introduced by the Revenue Committee, is LB 974. The bill had a hearing on Wednesday with good representation from the school districts, agriculture and property owners from across the state. The basic framework reduces reliance on property taxes for school funding, and has a projected cost to the state of $520 million over three years, which will go directly to property tax relief.  A cap would be placed on school budget growth, tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).   As with any bill, there will be an opportunity to offer amendments and continued work on the details. The Revenue Committee will have to keep working to build consensus to get this moved through the legislative process, but it is a start.

Senator Jim Scheer, the Speaker of the Legislature, has introduced a constitutional amendment to increase the number of senators from 50 to 55.  Currently the legislature has 49 senators but we could add one more with the existing constitutional language. Senator Scheer’s LR 279CA would ask the voters to consider increasing the number to 55 senators.  Every senator’s district is based on population.  Scheer said the change would decrease the number of constituents in each legislative district and hopefully keep the some of the rural districts that cover hundreds of miles, from growing even larger.

One of the bills I introduced had a quick and efficient public hearing this week. LB 763 would add townships to the list of entities that can access their funds on a regular basis from the county treasurer without cumbersome paper work. The bill simply corrects the oversight of including townships when the county fund disbursement legislation was enacted many years ago.

The Health and Human Services Committee held a briefing Wednesday morning on the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC). They detailed what has happened the last six months with the Geneva, Kearney, and now Lincoln facilities.  The Committee listed 14 recommendations for improvements and guidelines with the state’s YRTC institutions. Out of this report and those recommendations, the Committee introduced six new bills to help with the problems.  We will have opportunities to have public hearings and discussion on this important issue.

The Appropriations Committee also began meeting this week.  At this time we are reviewing state agency budget reports and will work through those before holding hearings on new bills. As you can imagine, there are a large number of requests for funding with the last year of revenue coming in above projections.

Last week the Governor gave the executive branch report to the Legislature in his State of the State address. The Governor outlined key issues of property tax relief, LB720 which is a business tax incentive package, funding for last year’s flooding concerns, and an income tax credit for military retirement benefits.

This week we heard from the judicial branch of government. Chief Justice Mike Heavican reported on activities of the Supreme Court to be accessible to everyone in the state while building confidence in the system. New initiatives put in place across Nebraska by the court system include ways to reach all races, genders, income levels and languages.

As you can see from this report, which covers just a few days, many important topics come to my attention. Let me assure you, your concerns are just as important and I encourage you to contact me at mdorn@leg.ne.gov or call 402–471-2620.

Update from District 30
January 16th, 2020

In the first seven days of the session, bills that address the major issues facing our state have been introduced. These include property tax, corrections, Medicaid and underlying all of this – the state’s budget.  We have three more working days for bill introduction, and hearings on new bills begin on Tuesday the 21st.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I get a first-hand look at the income and expenditures of our state. Many excellent ideas and projects are proposed each session but the reality is that they must fit within the budget or be self-funded. One program that I strongly support is SIMS-NE, the Simulation in Motion educational trucks which are used to train rural EMTs and hospital personnel. My bill, LB 761, proposes an addition to the “Fifty Cents for Life” initiative to insure the SIMS program will continue and that their equipment will remain up to date. As an EMT for over 30 years, I know from experience how important it is to have realistic training and the impact of having a rescue squad in a rural area that knows what it is doing.

I introduced two other bills, LB 762 and 763.  LB 762 provides funding for the Nebraska Hall of Fame. Basically, the bill helps with the cost of placing a family member into the Hall and removes that financial burden from the descendants.

LB 763 simply includes townships in the current method of distributing funds which are collected by the county. Entities which receive these funds include villages and cities, school districts, ag societies, rural fire districts, ESUs and so on; but townships had not been included on the list resulting in a cumbersome process for the county treasurer and the townships. The bill takes care of that. Improving and streamlining our government is part of the legislative process, and I appreciate when these proposals are brought to my attention.

The beginning of the session is a good time to review “how a bill becomes a law” and how you can get involved. Every bill goes through a long process before being enacted, and often undergoes many changes along the way. In Nebraska, every bill has a public hearing and testimony is open to the public. After the hearing, the committee votes to advance, hold or kill the bill. As a citizen, you can testify in person, send a letter of support or opposition, and send letters or emails to the committee members.

If the bill is advanced out of committee to the full legislature, it goes through two rounds of debate and voting (General File and Select File) before one last vote on Final Reading. Sometimes the bills will have amendments recommended by the committee which had the hearing; and other times, senators will propose amendments to the bill during the debate stages. This is a good time to contact your own senator with your opinions. You can also send your communication to every senator. Information about the progress of every bill, and contact information for all senators can be found at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

Due to the Capital HVAC project, my office has moved into the tower for the current session, so you will need to call ahead to arrange any visits. You are always welcome and encouraged to contact me. mdorn@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620

Second Session Begins
January 8th, 2020

On Wednesday, January 8th the 106th Legislature, Second Session convened at 10 am. This will be a 60 day session and at this time, the last day is scheduled for April 23rd.

The first ten days of session are when new bills can be introduced. There are also 481 carry over bills from last session.  I have heard talk that normally in the second session you can expect around 350 new bills to be introduced.

As we start the new session the state has experienced revenue growth. At the end of the 2019 session, the Cash Reserve Fund balance was projected to be about $333 million. The budget was passed by the Legislature using those projections.  The actual receipts at the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year on July 1, 2019 included around $176 million in additional revenue. The fund balance of $333 million, plus the additional revenue of $176 million, minus $54.7 million which was transferred to the Nebraska Capitol Construction Fund, increased the unobligated Cash Reserve Fund balance to approximately $455 million.

The Cash Reserve is not a “savings account” as we might understand it. It is to be used for temporary transfers to the state’s General Fund when balances are not sufficient to process expenditure transactions.  It is important to maintain the Cash Reserve Fund to insure strong financial health for the state in future years. It has also been crucial in years of revenue shortfalls, to help in balancing the budget, which is required by our state constitution.

However, with that $176 million in revenue growth in FY18-19, discussion during the interim has certainly proposed using some of those funds, and funds from future revenue growth projections, to help achieve property tax relief. Early in the session, the Revenue Committee has plans to introduce a proposal to accomplish that. Of course, there will be many additional ideas for utilizing that revenue.

Other major issues of interest during the 2020 session will be:  LB 720, the tax incentive bill for businesses, the Department of Corrections staffing issues and prison overcrowding, deficit funding for the Department of Transportation as well as 2019 flood damage costs of roughly $52 million, and Department of Health and Human Services issues with Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) at Geneva and Kearney.

On Monday January 13th we will begin full floor debate on bills carried over from 2019. Public hearings for new bills will begin on January 21st. You can access the legislative calendar, daily agenda and information on every bill at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

In preparation for the session, I have been doing my homework on a wide variety of topics and meeting with a lot of people and organizations. The December schedule included educators and administrators, county officials, public power interests, special needs providers, safety and brain injury protocol proponents, farmers and land owners, University chancellors and the new NU president, Ted Carter.

That, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Whatever your interests or concerns are, I encourage you to contact me. Call 402-471-2620 or email mdorn@leg.ne.gov.

 

December Activities
December 5th, 2019

Sen. Dorn toured Mosaic’s Beatrice agency on December 6th. Pictured (l-r) Kent Rogert, Sen. Dorn, Jessica Javorsky of Mosaic and seated, resident Jack!

 

The Tri-County Board of Realtors hosted a coffee for Sen. Dorn and Sen. Brandt of Plymouth on Friday December 6th in Beatrice.

 

The annual dinner of the NSEA Capitol District at Misty’s in early December. Standing Gene Martin, Susan Wait, Carol Floth and Fran Martin.  Seated from left to right are Rick Koenig, Jolene Walker, Sen. Dorn, and Sheryl Wiese.

November News
November 12th, 2019

Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha joined Sen. Dorn on KWBE Radio on Nov 8th to discuss the upcoming legislative session and issues facing the state.

Sen. Dorn was a panelist at 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 (not pictured) Anna Wishart. UNL journalism professor Rick Alloway was the moderator.

October Summary
November 7th, 2019

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 mdorn@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2620.  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in District 30.

 

 

 

 

Sen. Myron Dorn

District 30
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2620
Email: mdorn@leg.ne.gov
Search Senator Page:
Topics
Archives

You are currently browsing the archives for the In the News category.

Committee Assignments
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
Find Your Senator