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
After extended discussions on the floor over the course of several days, the Legislature has again been able to progress forward, moving bills through the stages of debate. Two of my bills have advanced to Select File, which is the second of three steps every bill must go through.
I introduced LB 239, a simple bill to harmonize county and state laws concerning the notice of hearing dates. Because my bill was similar to others brought to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee, one bill was broadened to include several of these senator’s concepts. As a result, my LB 239, which was amended into LB 212 by the Committee and then the Legislature without dissent, has moved on to Select File.
My bill to address the federal judgment due in Gage County was taken up on the floor on Thursday. LB 472 would allow a county to collect a sales tax, in the amount of one half of one percent, to pay only federal judgements, and then the tax would end. In my opening remarks about LB 472, I emphasized that imposing an additional tax on citizens in the county was not anything an elected official, at the state or county level, would wish to do. However, the judgment is due and must be paid. The options have been exhausted. This is not a “want” or a “need”, it is a federal court ordered mandate.
Consequently, the best way to meet the obligation is to pay it off as quickly as possible, in a manner that is fair to the claimants and all the citizens of Gage County. My fellow senators agreed. I had two amendments to the bill to add clarifications to the use and duration of the sales tax collection. After brief discussion, the body voted overwhelmingly to accept my two amendments and advance the bill.
I mentioned the lengthy and somewhat contentious debate that occurred earlier this week. Let me address some of the procedures that made that happen. The Speaker of the Legislature has held to the practice of allowing three hours of debate on a bill, and then moving on to other bills until the introducer can show there is enough support among the members to end a filibuster. If that can be shown, the Speaker will put that bill back on the agenda, where it can have another three hours of debate and then go to a cloture vote.
A cloture vote to end a filibuster, which requires 33 yes votes, is a taken in order to stop debate; then a vote on the actual bill is taken with no further discussion allowed. Historically, some senators have been known to never vote for cloture for philosophical reasons, believing that debate should continue for as long as it takes. Other senators always vote for cloture, thinking that several hours of talk is enough and minds are not going to change. Of course, actual circumstances will vary according to the subject matter of a bill any time cloture is invoked.
Last week, a bill on the floor was debated up to the three hour time limit and no vote was taken, despite assurances that the discussion was not meant to be a filibuster. This sparked a heated exchange among several senators, which grew to include a number of different bills and issues. Two recess days and a long weekend did little to diminish the sentiment on these issues. The dialogue continued when the Legislature reconvened on Tuesday, with several senators placing amendments on bills that were on the agenda.
The process of making motions and placing amendments is sometimes used as a way to get time to speak on the floor. This is fully within the rules of the Legislature and can be a useful tool. Priority Motions jump ahead of any other amendments or discussion on a bill; and this resulted in the previous week’s conversation continuing throughout the session on Tuesday. However, the remainder of the week progressed a little more smoothly and we were able to act on a fair number of bills.
Communication with my office only requires a few computer clicks or a phone call. Please contact me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620.
The 50th day of the legislative session has come and gone, just 40 days remain to tackle some of the major issues before us. We begin all day floor debate on Tuesday; hearings for every bill introduced were completed this week.
My final bill to be heard in committee was LB 106. The Nebraska State Patrol brought this issue to me for introduction. The bill itself only changes nine words in existing state law, but it will bring Nebraska into compliance with current FBI guidelines for the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). NSP Superintendent John Bolduc joined me in giving testimony in support of the bill.
Also with the end of hearings, it is good to see some of the bills we have worked on move through the legislative process. LB 524 dealing with annexation, which the speaker designated as one of his priorities, should come up for floor debate soon. LB 239, regarding hearing dates for county budgets and which is now amended into LB 212, is on the agenda for next week, as is LB 472.
LB 472 is my priority bill for this session and has been in the que on the legislative agenda for the past few days. It is my hope to debate the bill the week of April 2nd. LB 472 would allow a County Board to enact a one-half of one percent sales tax to help pay a federal judgment. Concerns were raised by the League of Nebraska Municipalities who represent cities and towns across the state regarding a county’s ability to impose a sales tax on city residents and the potential expansion of this tax.
In working with the League, I have introduced an amendment proposing to further narrow and define when and how such a tax can be applied. First, the sales tax could not replace available county property tax levy authority and requires a county to use its maximum available levy authority to pay the judgment during the collection of the sales tax. Second, the sales tax under this proposal can only be used toward payment of a federal judgement over $25 million. And finally, the amendment imposes a specific termination date or ‘sunset’ of January 1, 2027 or upon the complete payment of the judgement, whichever comes first.
I am fine with the additional recommendations that make up this amendment, which will have to be approved by the Legislature before they can advance the bill. My intent is not to expand a county’s taxing authority but to address only a federal judgement such as the one currently owed by Gage County. Any county could find themselves in a similar situation and may need additional revenue streams to pay a judgement in a timelier manner. The county has no choice but to pay the judgement. The sooner a debt is paid, the sooner there is tax relief for all county residents.
As part of my attempt to find viable solutions to pay the federal judgement, I have continued to visit with people about LB473 and 474. These two bills remain in committee – and without that committee action or priority designation – are not likely to come to the floor in this session. The issue has so many moving parts and effects that need to be considered for the good of everyone involved, from plaintiffs to tax payers, it is important to keep this issue ‘on the radar’ of my fellow state lawmakers.
As the state moves from emergency actions into the recovery phase from the blizzard and floods, both Nebraska and Federal emergency managers continue to keep senators updated. If you or anyone you know has flood damage, be sure to document all damage and losses. That is the first step in requesting help from FEMA. Immediate information is available at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
It is amazing how, in just a few days, the world can change so drastically. News and images from the blizzard conditions in western Nebraska and the flooding across eastern Nebraska, and in our own district, show the magnitude of rebuilding needed in our state. I am confident that we will pull together to restore the damage – but it will take time. And of course, there will be stress factors from multiple sides.
We are grateful for our capable first responders, the National Guard, the Salvation Army and Red Cross, all on the scene from the start. In addition, there are many excellent resources available for longer term assistance. If you need help of any kind, good places to begin are the www.nema.nebraska.gov or www.nebraska.gov/nebraska-strong/ websites. You can also simply call 402-817-1551.
Rebuilding will also require money. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, we are charged with balancing the state budget which was already tight. Now we are looking at needs we never dreamed of just days ago. The President granted the state’s request for a disaster declaration and corresponding aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Even with the declaration, the state will need to supply 12.5% of the funding, and local governments another 12.5%, with the remaining 75% coming from federal FEMA dollars.
With 79 of the state’s 93 counties reporting disasters so far, preliminary estimates of local damage are already in the multiple millions of dollars. The statewide total of these approximations is nearing a billion dollars at this writing and I am certain those numbers will rise as farmers, ranchers, homeowners, businesses, adjusters and inspectors are able to get a good look at the aftermath of the storms and floods.
As for District 30 at this time, Gage county’s dollar estimate remains below $1 million. Lancaster county sustained damage closer to $4 million between roads, bridges and well field issues.
Our thoughts are on the survivors and clean-up efforts, yet the work of the Legislature must continue. We have passed the halfway mark of the session and much work remains. This week was the deadline for designating priority legislation. The Speaker chooses 25 bills for his priority list and selected one of mine for that list, LB 524, which harmonizes dates to clarify when tax valuations on newly annexed properties take effect.
Each senator can designate one bill as their priority. My bill, LB 472, could be on the agenda for floor debate as early as next week, and would give a county the ability to create a sales tax of one half of one percent, which could only be used to pay a federal judgment, and would terminate when that payment was complete.
We have one more week of committee hearings; the first bill I introduced, LB 106, will be heard on the last day for hearings, March 28. LB 106 puts our state regulations for the DNA data base in line with federal procedures. We will begin all day floor debate on April 2nd.
Please contact me with your concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2620. I always appreciate hearing from you.
Even with many important issues before the Legislature this week, all eyes have been on the effects the weather has had on our state. I attended a briefing for state senators conducted by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency which includes the National Guard and State Patrol. As a result of the blizzard conditions, snow melt, ice jams, heavy rain and flooding, the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) has been activated. We know a great number of Nebraska citizens are facing costly repairs and rebuilding in the coming weeks. A number of counties will need to fix or replace infrastructure as well.
Here at home in District 30 as we all know, Gage county must pay a federal judgment of over $28 million and I have introduced three bills that deal with that in different ways. Two have already been heard in committee, LB 474 would allow a claim to be made of the state, LB 473 would make it possible to request a low interest loan from the state. This week the Revenue Committee heard LB 472. This bill would give a county the ability to create a sales tax of one half of one percent, which could only be used to pay a federal judgment, and would terminate when that payment was complete. If Gage county used this means of collection, the length of time to pay off the judgement could be shortened, helping reduce the burden that is now on property tax alone.
Once again, the county was well represented at the hearing and the committee members asked excellent questions. I continue to discuss the bill with my fellow senators to encourage them to help Gage county find ways to meet the requirements of the judgment that will mitigate the burden on all of our tax payers.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) brought their SIM-NE (Simulation in Motion Nebraska) truck to the Capitol on Tuesday in support of my bill, LB 666, which would provide a modest amount of funding for this project.
SIM-NE is a statewide, mobile education system that takes state-of-the-art, hands-on training to emergency medical service providers in rural communities, including health professionals in hospitals. SIM-NE provides this training using four 44-foot trucks that provide mobile, real-life experiences designed to enhance lifesaving skills to individuals in their local communities. This also allows training to be team-based as learners train side-by-side with the people they normally work with during an emergency response.
As an EMT myself for over thirty years, I can attest to the quality and vital importance of the training received from the SIM-NE project. It is my hope there will be enough funding in the budget for this, and a few other small ticket items, which bring so much benefit to our communities.
Field trip season is kicking into high gear and I am enjoying the opportunity to see the students and faculty from District 30 schools in the Capitol. If you cannot visit, you can watch on line through the website at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Contact me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620.
With only about three more weeks of committee hearings, many bills have now been sent to the floor for first round debate. This includes my bill, LB107, to update and modernize the statutes governing municipal plumbing boards. The bill would make a variety of clean-up changes to the existing law including: extending the term of office for plumbers serving on plumbing boards, eliminating the requirement that plumbing boards be appointed in August of each year, eliminating the requirement that plumbing boards meet every two weeks and requiring that plumbing boards meet at least once each year or within four weeks of a written request, allowing fees for plumbing licenses to be set by the city councils but not for more than the cost of the licensing program, increasing fine amounts for violations of the plumbing board statutes; and providing that municipalities may apply other applicable regulations, such as continuing education requirements, as part of plumbing licensing.
Another of my bills, LB 239, also advanced by being amended into LB 212. LB 191 was amended into the same bill. LB 239 just changes the five day notice requirement to four, so that county and state notice requirements are the same. The rest of LB 212 deals with additional open meeting topics. Packaging simple, non-controversial and like-topic bills into one bill is a common practice, which helps to streamline the legislative process.
Understanding the rules and procedures is an important matter. There are about 65 pages of rules which govern how we do things in the Legislature. One topic that gets a lot of attention is the cloture rule. A motion to invoke cloture is made when you want to stop debate, usually a filibuster, and take an immediate vote. The presiding officer (usually the Speaker or Lt. Governor) can rule the motion out of order if he/she determines there has not yet been full and fair debate on the issue, and that decision cannot be challenged.
If the Speaker allows the cloture motion, all debate ceases. The first vote taken is whether or not to invoke cloture and it needs a two-thirds vote (33) to pass. If it passes, the next vote is whether or not to advance the bill (or any amendments, in order, if they were offered). However, if the cloture vote fails by not getting the 33 votes, debate ends on the bill for the day. In recent years, it would also signal the end of debate on that bill for the entire session because there is rarely enough time for bills to be placed back on the agenda. As a result, cloture should be used as a last resort since it has come to determine the fate of a bill for the rest of the session.
A more common way to end debate is to “call the question” or “previous question” and if five members raise their hands in agreement when asked by the Speaker, debate can cease and a vote can be taken. Again, the Speaker or presiding officer can rule the motion out of order if he/she feels there has not been adequate debate on the issue. This ruling can be overruled by a motion to overrule the chair and a simple majority vote of the Legislature.
These rules are vital to keeping order and fairness in the business of the Unicameral. It also makes me appreciate organizations like FFA and 4-H that have parliamentary procedure competitions. Having this knowledge is an excellent skill set for everyone to develop.
I have a couple of bills up for committee hearings next week. On Tuesday the 12th, LB 666 will be heard in Appropriations. This bill provides funding for first responder simulation trucks used for training in rural areas.
LB 472 will go before the Revenue Committee next Wednesday the 13th. This bill would allow counties to levy a sales tax to help pay a federal judgment. It would be limited to the purpose and time needed just for that judgment.
The Legislature advanced LB284 this week which begins the process of collecting sales tax on internet sales. As it stands now, the sales tax would be due starting on April 1st. This will be a welcome addition to a very tight state budget.
Please share this update with others in the district and follow me on Facebook. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and 402-471-2620.
With the beginning of March, we are already more than a third of the way through this session of the Legislature. The pace continues to be hectic with debate, hearings, meetings with constituents and district events. And, I had three bills heard in committee on Thursday.
LB 473 is my bill that would allow political subdivisions to acquire a loan from the state to pay federal judgments. Existing law already allows this for state court judgments, but not federal. My bill would add the federal judgment in cases where the subdivision has insufficient resources to pay, and establishes an interest rate of one half of one percent. Again, the bill had support from several testifiers and the senators on the Revenue Committee asked some good questions about how this would benefit Gage County and property tax payers.
The other two bills were heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The first, LB 524, simply harmonizes dates to clarify when tax valuations on newly annexed properties take effect. The second bill, LB 525, would allow counties to transfer an interest in real estate in fee simple to another political subdivision.
The report from the state forecasting board made the work of the Appropriations Committee a little more complicated this week. Coming in with a revenue projection that was $80 million lower means as a committee, we will have to find more rigorous ways to balance the budget. This comes just as we began hearing from numerous state agencies and senators with bills seeking funding for various programs. There will be one more report from the forecasting board later in April after income tax receipts are estimated, and we hope to be in a better position at that time. But for now, more belt tightening will be required.
An interesting consequence of the growing use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles is that less money is going into the fund for roads in Nebraska. All of these vehicles still use the roadways while paying less gas tax. Sen. Bostelman introduced LB 366 to increase the fee required under the Motor Vehicle Registration Act from $75 to $125 in increments over a period of five years. The fee increase is to help make up for lost gas tax revenue as more vehicles utilize alternative fuels. The fee will continue to be credited to the Highway Trust Fund.
March 1st is Statehood Day and marks the 152nd anniversary of Nebraska becoming a state. I think of the changes that have occurred in those years, going from a mostly treeless prairie to a state with cutting edge agriculture, thriving towns and productive citizens. I strive to make my efforts here in the Legislature perpetuate the good things happening in our state.
Thank you to all who have contacted my office with your thoughts on issues and specific bills. I appreciate hearing from you. Contact me any time at email@example.com or 402-471-2620. Follow the Legislature by going to www.nebraskalegislature.gov where you can find bill information or link to a live feed of the proceedings.
We are all thankful for some sunshine in between winter weather events this past week. And there are always some bright spots in the activity of the Legislature as well. One of the bills I introduced aimed at finding a funding solution for the federal judgment in Gage County was heard by the Judiciary Committee in public hearings this week.
LB 474 would allow political subdivisions and claimants to ask the state for financial assistance when the resources of the subdivision are insufficient to pay a claim. Eight residents from District 30 testified in support of this bill on Thursday; and no one testified in opposition. I felt the testimony was presented well and gave a good overview of the extra burden on property tax payers and Gage County.
Factors affecting the advancement of this bill out of committee include the very tight budget of the State of Nebraska and the reluctance of the Legislature to take on additional responsibility in cases like this. I will be discussing this bill with the members of the Judiciary Committee as they decide whether to advance it to the floor for general debate.
I still have two other bills addressing this issue, which are pending. LB 473 would allow for a low interest loan from the state and that hearing is scheduled for February 28 before the Revenue Committee. LB 472 would allow the county to collect a limited-scope sales tax to help pay off the judgment. This bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Other bills generating a lot of interest this week included LB 693 as introduced by Sen. Halloran, to stop “spoofing” phone calls. Nearly all of us have received calls that appear to be from a local number, only to find it is a sales call, or worse, a scam. Sen. Halloran’s bill would prohibit the use of these numbers and gives authority to the Consumer Protection division of the state’s Attorney General. While the solution seems simple enough, there is federal legislation pending and some testified that one national policy would be better than a patch work of different state laws.
School Resource Officers (SROs) are being addressed in several bills this session, including one that would prohibit peace officers from serving in the position. I have discussed this with both school administrators and law enforcement and hear positive reports about having SROs in the buildings. They explain the presence of an SRO as a human point of contact with someone who can make a difference in the life of a student, and foster good relationships for years ahead. Of course, we need to insure this is the outcome in all of our schools and not just ours locally.
Circling back to one of the major issues in the Legislature, property taxes, we are faced with a laundry list of proposals to the state’s revenue streams. The Revenue Committee would like to put together a “package” bill that combines the ideas of senators Briese, Groene, Friesen and several other senators. I agree with this approach, as it will require a coordinated effort to find a way to restructure the state’s tax system.
To find more information on any bill or activity in the Legislature, go to www.nebraskalegislature.gov. You can also get to my official website by clicking on Senators on the left hand side and selecting my name from the list. On the right side, you will find the NET logo, which allows you to watch live debate on the floor or the public hearings. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is 402-471-2620.
This winter’s weather may have caused quite a few cancellations but when the Legislature is scheduled to be in session, it IS in session. We continue to meet in the Chamber in the mornings to debate bills; and in public hearings each afternoon. Of the nine bills I introduced, two have been heard, two have hearings scheduled and five are still in the queue to be placed on committee calendars. With over 700 bills to be heard, there is a lot of work yet to be done.
The South Beltway is a major issue affecting District 30. The Governor announced early this week the project could be completed in three years instead of the original eight. The faster schedule could save the state around $25 million. LB 616, introduced by Lincoln Senator Mike Hilgers, would create the financing mechanisms needed.
According to the Legislature’s fiscal office, LB 616 establishes a build-finance project where the Department of Transportation (DOT) may make payments to the entity who completes the project for up to ten years after the date of completion.
In meetings I have had with DOT director Kyle Schneweis, he said he expects lots of bids on the project and to be moving earth in about a year as it gets underway.
Property tax issues continue to be at the forefront and several key bills had hearings this week, LB 314, 497 and 677. A key fact to keep in mind is that the state does not set the levy on property taxes; the levy, collection and use, is always a local decision. The State only collects sales and income tax. That being said, the Legislature is working to affect property taxes in the ways left to the State, whether that is through valuations, spending caps, or finding other revenue sources to lessen the burden on property tax.
Senator Briese’s bill, LB 314, is a comprehensive “revenue neutral” package that would collect sales tax on internet sales, eliminate some exemptions and raise some specific sales and income rates; and direct all revenue generated which is not otherwise earmarked into the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. Other revenue would be specifically directed to restoring the Allocated Income Tax rate for schools to the 20% included in the original introduction of the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA).
LB 497, introduced by Senator Friesen, includes a combination of increased state aid to schools along with decreased levy rates and lower valuations on agricultural land. Revenue would be generated to cover the increase in state aid through alcohol, cigarette and various sales taxes, including food. Various ag groups have come out in support of this bill. LB 677, brought by Senator Groene, lowers the local levy and increases state funding from the property tax credit fund, which is appropriated by the Legislature. Almost 10 hours of testimony, from both proponents and opponents, was given at the hearing for these three bills.
There is no simple fix for property tax and school funding, and I am closely following the bills in the Revenue Committee. Because of my position on the Appropriations Committee, I am well aware of how tight the budget is for the entire state and how all of these issues are interrelated.
Of course, residents of Gage County are greatly affected by the federal judgment of $30 million. LB 474 which I introduced will be up for hearing on Thursday the 21st. This bill would add language to address the state claims process for paying judgments like this. We need to keep up the effort to insure this issue is on the radar of all state senators as we work to find funding solutions.
Even if you cannot come to the Capitol in person, anyone with internet access can watch public hearings through the NET website. Go to www.nebraskalegislature.gov, click on the NET logo on the right side of the page, then select the hearing you want to stream. You can also watch the Legislature in session, mornings now, and full days later in the session. Please continue to contact me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620 any time!
Every day in the Nebraska Legislature is a learning experience for senators but especially the incoming class. This week there were days spent entirely on just one bill and days when we debated many bills in just a few hours. It was enlightening to see how a bill can be advanced and how another can be defeated, after a lot of discussion back and forth from different points of view. I am appreciating the process and acquiring as much information as I can in these early days of the session.
Two of my bills were heard in committee this week. LB 107 went before the Urban Affairs Committee and deals with plumbing board issues. This bill would change terms on the board from three years to four; eliminate the requirement that the board meet every two weeks and make it easier to meet when needed; bring fees, fines and licensing requirements up to date and clarify city jurisdiction lines. The bill was brought to me by the city of Beatrice and is supported by the Nebraska League of Municipalities as well.
LB 239 is a simple bill to bring county public hearing notices into line with state requirements. This bill was heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee and is similar to a couple of other initiatives to clean up state statutes and put everyone on the same reporting deadlines.
Among bills presented in committee by my fellow senators this week was a constitutional amendment to increase the pay of state senators to one half of the median household income of Nebraskans as reported in the most recent Census. The last time the salary for senators was raised, to a thousand dollars per month, was in 1989. Senator Vargas, who introduced this resolution, pointed out the low level of compensation keeps many qualified people from serving because they simply cannot afford it. A higher pay level would allow more individuals to participate in our citizen legislature but certainly would not be enough to encourage anyone to become a “career politician”, especially with term limits. This issue, if approved by the Legislature, would go before the voters in the November 2020 election.
Three bills in the Revenue Committee this week focused on collecting sales tax from internet retailers. Even though the Supreme Court ruled that states can collect, the laws of Nebraska need to be updated before this can happen. Both LB 284 and LB 291 require online retailers with sales greater than $100,000 or at least 200 transactions to remit sale tax to the state. LB 18 would direct that money to the state’s property tax credit fund.
LB 284 and LB 291 would also require that the tax would be collected by marketplace facilitators – meaning sites such as Amazon and Ebay would need to remit tax from all their suppliers, often referred to as third party sellers. The Nebraska Retail Federation and Grocery Association both supported these bills and say they would protect local brick and mortar retailers and help them to compete.
The state tax commissioner, Tony Fulton, cautioned that the estimate of the collection of an additional $19 million could not necessarily be anticipated, and was already taken into account by the Economic Forecasting Board. Other projections have the collection amount coming in much higher.
My work with the Appropriations Committee continues on a daily basis. We keep in mind the forecasts from the advisory board as we review the various proposals, which this week included the Governor’s budget.
Thank you to all who have contacted my office with your concerns and opinions. I also appreciate all who have requested to be added to my weekly email newsletter list. Reach out at any time to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2620.
You are currently browsing the archives for the Press Releases category.