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In the Rotunda with Zoe Olson, Beatrice, Blue Rivers Area Agency on Aging.
Nebraska State AFL-CIO members visiting the office on February 26th: Sue Martin, Leonard Zeman and Steve Jones.
American Heart Association, American Lung Association & American Cancer Society representatives in the Capitol on Thursday the 21st, including Jill Duis from District 30.
Giving testimony at the Judiciary hearing on Thursday, Febr 21, for LB 474.
District 30 native Erica Johnson, with ESU 10 in Kearney, and Sen. Dorn at the Capitol on Thursday.
Extension educators from around the region met with senators in the Capitol on Wednesday the 13th.
Sen. Dorn and Dr. Brenda McNiff, administrator of Educational Service Unit 5 in Beatrice; ESUs from across the state displayed their latest educational programs for the senators.
In the Rotunda with Deb Albers, District 30 native and leader in the Nebraska American Legion Auxiliary.
February has arrived – it is amazing how quickly January and the first 16 days of the Legislature have gone. All senators must hit the ground running, whether just elected or in the middle of a first or second term. Nearly every day of the early part of the session there are breakfast, lunch and dinner hour meetings. This is the time of year when most organizations and interest groups try to see the senators and present their concerns about upcoming bills. I have learned a great deal from these meetings and have also enjoyed seeing many residents of District 30 who are involved in these associations.
Our legislative schedule right now is to be on the floor for debating and voting on bills every morning, and in committee hearings every afternoon. In the Appropriations Committee, where I serve, we continue to review budget reports daily on every agency and program that receives state funding.
Two of the bills I introduced have been scheduled for hearings. LB 107, dealing with city and village plumbing boards, will be heard by the Urban Affairs committee on Tuesday, February 5th. LB 239 which changes the notice requirements for county budget hearings, goes before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, February 6th. We are waiting for confirmation of a hearing date on the bills dealing with funding solutions for the federal judgement in Gage County. Committees do try to schedule bills of similar topics on the same day, so those who wish to testify at those hearings can make just one trip to the Capitol.
Heard in committee on Thursday was LB 373 introduced by Senator Brewer who represents the Sandhills area of Nebraska. The bill would provide setback and zoning requirements for wind energy projects and require any county wishing to have wind energy facilities to address setbacks, noise and decommissioning. Gage and Lancaster counties already have these requirements in place and Sen. Brewer said his legislation would not supersede existing county zoning regulations; and would only apply in counties that do not have the wind farm regulations. Gage County was well represented at the hearing by Lisa Wiegand who shared the board’s concerns that the county’s existing plans, which are specific to the needs of Gage County, be unchanged by this bill. Lancaster County representatives expressed similar concerns.
Another hearing in recent days which generated hours of testimony from both sides of the issue was LB 110, which would allow the use of medical marijuana. There are a number of restrictions and fees in the bill covering producers, processors and dispensaries; and lengthy directives as to who can write or obtain a prescription. There are several provisions in this bill that I am watching, and I will wait to see what action the committee might take on this legislation.
LB 497 introduced by Senator Friesen is one of several bills addressing property taxes and school funding. Like similar bills, a combination of revenue and spending issues are included: cigarette and alcohol taxes; the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land for school district taxation purposes; some tax exemptions, sales and use tax additions, and levy limit changes. No hearing has been scheduled yet on this bill.
A great deal of effort is going into crafting property tax legislation. I have been meeting with numerous senators and multiple interest groups about some of the property tax proposals that have been introduced.
I appreciate the emails and phone calls received so far at the office. Your opinions and comments matter to me. Contact me any time at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620.
A dozen legislative days are already in the books and all bills for the session have been introduced. The total for this session is 739, above average for the past few 90-day sessions. Each and every bill gets a public hearing in Nebraska – only a few states in the country grant this – making our citizens the “second house” of our unicameral legislature.
I introduced nine bills for this session, have signed on as a co-sponsor for several and am considering a few more. Three of my bills deal with funding solutions for Gage County and the federal judgement. Those are LB 472, LB 473 and LB 474.
LB 472 would adopt the Qualified Judgment Payment Act and authorize a sales and use tax to pay for federal judgments. This would be a short term, specific and limited tool to allow political subdivisions like Gage County to broaden the base for paying off an otherwise insurmountable judgment more fairly. A sales tax, for example, would even garner some funding from sales tax paid in Gage County by those simply traveling through. The sales tax would end when the judgement is paid. This bill has the support of the Gage County Board which continues to look for ways to pay the judgment.
LB 473 would be a different avenue towards paying federal judgments, and would make it possible to obtain a low interest loan from the state. LB 474, the last of this group of bills, would change the way wrongful incarceration and convictions claims are handled and paid by the state. The road ahead for these bills will be a long one, given the pressing issues of property tax relief and the state budget.
I have three bills that will be heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Those include LB 239 which changes the requirements for giving notice on county budget hearings; LB 524 relating to annexations under the Nebraska Budget Act; and LB 525, regarding the sale of county land in fee simple.
One of my bills, LB 106, deals with the disclosure of DNA records under the DNA Identification Information Act. I have reintroduced a bill, now under LB 107, first brought by my predecessor which would clean up some language regarding city and village plumbing boards.
My final bill, LB 666, provides for the transfer of a program to train first responders and EMTs in rural areas to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. This bill will go before the Appropriations Committee because it involves the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund.
And speaking of the Appropriations Committee, that’s the committee seat I wanted and got – so now I am working hard to come up to speed as quickly as possible on this important duty. All my afternoons are spent in Appropriations, this being my only committee assignment because it meets five days a week.
Right now we (in the Appropriations Committee) are getting reports from the Legislature’s Fiscal Office. We will review the state budget three separate times over the course of the next few months and the first step is hearing from the Fiscal Office. Each fiscal analyst provides an overview of budgets for agencies, boards, and commissions.
After this first ‘run-through’ of the budget, public hearings are held. At this stage, the committee hears from state agencies regarding their budget requests along with other legislative bills seeking funding through the budget process.
Once the public hearings are done, the committee again sits down and reviews agency requests and bills asking for state dollars, which are debated and reviewed. This is when the real work begins. The nine of us on the committee will hammer out what will be in the budget and what will be out.
The committee must present a balanced budget to the legislature by the 70th day. The committee tries to leave some General Funds available for bills that went to other committees which may have a fiscal impact (known as an “A” Bill). The budget is voted on and passed first before any of these other funding requests. After the passage of the budget, the legislature knows how much additional funding is available for those remaining requests. As in the past couple of years, I expect this amount to be limited.
As bills are scheduled for hearings, I encourage you to come to the Capitol and testify on any of the issues that concern you. Each public hearing is scheduled with at least seven days’ notice, and can be found on the legislative website: www.nebraskalegislature.gov. If you have any questions or comments, or if we can help guide you through any of the legislative processes, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2620.
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