NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Rick Kolowski

Sen. Rick Kolowski

District 31

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 rkolowski@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 8th, 2020

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 31st legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Rick Kolowski

PRESS RELEASE 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: 1/10/2020

 

CONTACT: Adolescent Community, (402)-470-1235, adolescents@prairiehill.com

Senator Rick Kolowski Introduces a Resolution into the Legislature Written by Middle  Schoolers about the Climate Crisis.

Senator Rick Kolowski will submit a resolution about the climate crisis in the Nebraska Legislature. The resolution was researched and written by a group of students ages 11 to 14 from Prairie Hill Learning Center, a school near Roca, Nebraska. The students currently have seven senators agreeing to co-sign the resolution. They’re getting the co-signers signatures on Friday, January 10th at the state Capitol.

“Scientists are in agreement that climate change will significantly harm our planet. We need to start fixing our mistakes for our future generations,” stated Conor Willeke, age 14. 

The students’ resolution is asking the Legislature to acknowledge that we are in a “climate and ecological crisis caused by humans” and that “the Legislature has a moral obligation to combat the climate and ecological crisis.”  Senator Kolowski declared,“My generation and our national leadership has failed to acknowledge and address climate change in a meaningful way. A group of local middle school students, however, are paying attention and are doing something about it. They are exercising their right as citizens of our state to voice their concerns in weekly protests and in the language of this legislative resolution. It is with great pride that I introduce this resolution on their behalf.” 

“This is our future and we need to stand up for it. We can’t just wait around and let people in power ignore what’s happening,” said Clio Baird, age 11.

Since September 20th the group of middle schoolers have been regularly striking down at the capitol along with local college and high school students. The middle schoolers go down for an hour every Friday to strike as a part of their weekly routine. The school strikes were inspired by 17-year old Greta Thunberg and the Friday for Futures movement. 

“According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change we only have 11 years left to deal with this problem before the worst effects of climate change are unalterable. We need to take this opportunity to fix the problem that, whether you like it or not, we all took part in causing,” stated Lane Albrecht, age 12. 

“The passion and leadership of these students is absolutely inspiring. The Nebraska Legislature should definitely take the time to listen to them,” said Senator Kolowski.

Prairie Hill Learning Center

 ###

 

Climate crisis resolution
January 10th, 2020

ONE HUNDRED SIXTH LEGISLATURE

SECOND SESSION

LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

Introduced by Senator Rick Kolowski

 

WHEREAS, according to a warning published on November 5, 2019, about the effects of climate change, signed and supported by over eleven thousand scientists, the climate crisis “is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.” Later on in the statement the

scientists wrote that “climate change reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable” and that because of the climate crisis, humanity could face “untold suffering”; and WHEREAS, the United States Environmental Protection Agency states that intense weather phenomena, including large storms and heat waves, are likely to

occur more frequently because of the climate and ecological crisis. Major storms can lead to loss of property and both storms and heat waves can cause death; and

WHEREAS, the Fourth National Climate Assessment says that over time these heat waves increase drought and wildfire risks. Heat waves and droughts have depleted water supplies, which has contributed to over ten billion dollars in losses for the agriculture sector; and

WHEREAS, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, many forests are burning because of changes in temperature, precipitation levels, and soil moisture due to global warming. Hotter temperatures in the spring and summer, and the fact that snow is melting earlier in the spring, are likely to cause a longer wildfire season and cause wildfires to be more intense and burn for longer; and

WHEREAS, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were eleven major wildfires between 2000 and 2017 in the United States of America. In that eighteen-year period, both the number of deaths and the financial damage caused by each wildfire dramatically increased. In the first wildfire of 2000, no one died, and the cost was $1.6 billion. In the last wildfire of 2017, fifty-four people died, and the cost was $18.7 billion; and

WHEREAS, the Fourth National Climate Assessment also states that flooding might increase across the United States of America, including in areas where precipitation is expected to decrease. All flood types, including flash flooding, urban flooding, river flooding, and coastal flooding are, to different degrees, affected by the climate. The risks from future floods are very major; and

WHEREAS, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sea levels are rising at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year. The two major causes of rising global sea levels are oceanic expansions due to the warming of oceans and increased melting of glaciers and ice sheets. The oceans are absorbing about ninety percent of the increased atmospheric heat that results from human emissions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration goes on to state that “with continued ocean and atmospheric warming, sea levels will likely rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century”; and

WHEREAS, higher sea levels cause deadly and destructive storm surges to push farther inland, which means there will be more nuisance flooding, which is estimated to be three hundred to nine hundred percent more frequent in United States coastal communities than it was fifty years ago. Nearly forty percent of the United States’ population lives in such coastal communities. Eight out of the ten largest cities in the world are close to a coast according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans; and

WHEREAS, according to a 2014 report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, animals have an increased risk of extinction because of the climate crisis; and

WHEREAS, a report done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln concluded that disruptions in the climate have decreased agricultural yields in Nebraska over the last forty years and are predicted to decrease agricultural yields significantly over the next twenty-five years; and

WHEREAS, the State of Nebraska has contributed to the climate crisis but has done little to nothing to slow the effects.

 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE MEMBERS OF THE ONE HUNDRED SIXTH

LEGISLATURE OF NEBRASKA, SECOND SESSION:

  1. That the Legislature acknowledges that we are in the midst of an anthropogenic climate and ecological crisis.
  2. That the Legislature has a moral obligation to take steps to combat the climate and ecological crisis.
  3. That a copy of this resolution be sent to Prairie Hill Learning Center.

Thank you to the Prairie Hill Learning Center students for bringing the very important issue of climate change to the forefront. The dedication of the students to this issue is phenomenal.  It is more true today than ever —  that these students ARE the future.

This resolution gives scientific facts and data about how our climate is changing and asks the leaders of Nebraska to acknowledge their role in the changing climate and to make a commitment to the work that needs done to mitigate the effects of that change.  The students wrote the resolution and asked me to submit it. I consider it my honor to do so. Students gathered signatures from Senators and participated in a press conference this morning and will stay through the afternoon for their Friday strike event to bring awareness to climate change issues.

The bill is expected to be submitted Monday, January 13, 2020. Look for a resolution number after that date and watch nebraskalegislature.gov for a hearing date and progress of the resolution.

           

Wind and Solar Conference
October 31st, 2019

Senator Rick Kolowski participated in the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference in Lincoln on October 29. Long a supporter of wind energy, Senator Kolowski now has a bill in Committee to expand residential use of solar energy systems.

A few tidbits from the conference:

Nebraska is poised to “pop” with solar production expected to grow exponentially in the next few years.

Nebraska is a net exporter of electricity.

The overall carbon footprint of power production in Nebraska has already been greatly reduced by the retiring of coal and the increase in renewable energy sources, mostly wind. This trend will continue for the near future. This change is driven by market forces, not regulation of any kind.

We love public power!

For specifics please look for the presentations from the conference on the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference website: https://www.nebraskawsc.com

Senator Rick Kolowski is among the honorees of the Holland Children’s Movement. “As a father, a high school principal and now as a grandfather, I have always worked for the safety and health of all children. It is imperative that our state policies and budget reflect strong support for the needs of our children,” Senator Kolowski stated. “I want to thank the Holland Children’s Movement for their work on behalf of children and for recognizing the contributions of policy makers.”

Senator Kolowski and his aide, Margaret, met with members of Students for Sustainability to talk about renewable energy standards. The discussion was enlightening and the breakfast at La Peeps was delicious. The students are so informed and so full of passion!! From left to right are: Corah Johnson, Cate Kelly, T.J. Pfannenstiel, Senator Rick Kolowski, Libby Dogger, Margaret Buck.

Senator Rick Kolowski

2019 Session Summary

 Three of the bills I introduced passed:

LB 619 – private insurance coverage of mental health services provided in a school

 LB 409 – design and building standards for health care facilities updated to 2018 standards (from 2001 standards) with an exemption for remodeling of nursing homes

 LB 733 – accessibility standards at polling places

  • Amended into LB 411, Government Committee bill
  • Secretary of State has already ordered equipment to make voting more private for persons with disabilities and is include new information in training of election officials

Status of my other bills:

LB 140 – to prohibit tanning before the age of 19. Held in committee.

LB 410 – sales tax holiday for back to school shopping. Held in committee.

LB 620 – to make texting while driving a primary offense. Held in committee.

LB 621 – To prohibit Homeowners Associations from banning solar power. Held in Committee.

 

I opposed:

LB 147 – restraint bill for schools/students

Chairman Groene’s pull motion was successful. The bill (without being amended) is on General File and will be addressed next year. The amendment remains pending.

LB 670 – Private school scholarships and tax credit program

The filibuster was successful, the bill was stopped.

 

Major legislative action in 2019:

LB 294 – Budget

School funding

$49 million for new max security prison beds

Increased behavioral health provider rates in Medicaid

Court system – more $ for problem solving courts

Property tax credit fund – added $51 M for total of $275 M

 

Medicaid Expansion – This budget includes funding for the first 9 months of Medicaid expansion. However, the Governor has chosen to apply for what’s called an“1115” state plan waiver. The proposal includes the addition of more eligibility requirements on Nebraskans and making it more difficult to qualify. An 1115 waiver would apply to even those currently on Medicaid. This was unnecessary. He could have implemented a “1332” waiver in 2019 through the Affordable Care Act for just the expansion population. Although the Legislature was disappointed with this, we had no legal way to force the administration to implement in a certain way.

LB 183 – DID NOT PASS – Revenue/tax package to try to shift tax burden from property to sales tax by removing exemptions for Pet related veterinary, Storage facility rental, Moving services, Hair care, nail, spa and beauty services, Tattoos, Maintenance on single family housing remodeling and repair, Interior design, Limousine, Taxi and Ride share, Lawn care, garden, landscape, Parking, Swimming pool, Dating, Telefloral

LB 289 – DID NOT PASS – Revenue/tax package to do the same as 183 but with a rewrite of TEOSSA, school funding.

LB 720 – DID NOT PASS – Business tax incentive program: Would give more transparency for cities so they know what tax deferrals they have to budget for. Some rural Senators opposed it on the basis of too little property tax relief.

 

Other items that took legislative time:

  • Expanding the regional metropolitan transit authority to provide more public transportation in Omaha. LB 492 was vetoed by the Governor. Override attempt: successful.
  • Civic class – Too much time was given to curriculum in social studies classes. Passed.
  • Bonding authority for natural resources districts in a metropolitan city.
  • Remote seller sales tax – sales tax will now be mandatory on internet purchases. Some companies already paid it but many didn’t.
  • Legalization of hemp farming. Passed.
  • Raising the age to use tobacco products to 19, including vaping. Passed.
  • Information/misinformation regarding medication abortion. Passed
  • Corrections reforms in LB 686: Passed.
    • New thresholds for declaration of a prison overcrowding emergency and adds requirement to the process of the parole board with guidance on who should be paroled in an emergency.

 

Wind energy:

LB 155 – Eminent domain. Passed. Landowners now have a rebuttable presumption basis to challenge a utilities use of eminent domain for transmission lines.

 

LB 373 – Bill to require county zoning laws that include create a 3-mile set-back for wind generation, noise thresholds and decommissioning regulation. Held in Committee.

 

Gubernatorial vetoes/override attempts:

LB 472 – Allows a county board to institute a ½ percent county wide sales tax to help pay a federal judgement. This is specific to Gage County’s federal judgment in the case of six people wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Override attempt: successful.

 

LB 492 – Expanding the regional metropolitan transit authority to provide more public transportation in Omaha. Override attempt: successful.

 

LB 533 – Updating state statutes to be consistent with federal law by using gender neutral terminology of “spouse” to replace “husband and wife” in statute and on marriage licenses and certificates. Vetoed. Override motion made and withdrawn.

 

LB 470 – Created a program to allow employers to make a contribution to the 529 College Savings Plan of an employees’ family member and to exempt military housing from property tax in exchange for payments in lieu of taxes by developers. Passed. Vetoed after the Legislature had adjourned for the year.

 

LB 436 – Complete Count Committee to encourage people to respond to census requests. Passed the Legislature, vetoed after session adjourned sine die.

 

 

 

Student learning
May 17th, 2019

Ackerman elementary student, Hunter, learns about the Legislature by playing Senator Rick Kolowski in their class “wax museum.” Great job, Hunter!

You can view Hunter’s presentation by going to Nebraska State Senator Rick Kolowski’s Facebook page.

 

Last week three Legislative Committees held a joint hearing on LB 289. The Revenue Committee, the Education Committee and the Retirement Committee all participated in this hearing that lasted from 4 p.m. to 10:50 p.m. It was a long one. I am on all three of these Committees.

LB 289 is an attempt to provide property tax relief and restructure how schools are funded without changing the current “needs” formula. Senator LouAnn Linehan filed AM 1381 that becomes the bill so the hearing addressed both. There were a four proponents in favor of the bill and many opponents.

After the hearing a revised version, AM 1572, was filed. AM 1572 to LB 289 proposes to raise the state sales tax rate from 5.5% to 6%. It raises the cigarette tax from 64 cents per pack to $1.00 per pack. (There has been attempted almost every year for the last decade to raise the cigarette tax.) The increased revenue from these proposed rate increases will be credited to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. The proposed operative date is July 1, 2019.

The amendment repeals the Personal Property Tax Exemption beginning in tax year 2020. AM 1572 also proposes to repeal the sales tax exemption for a number of services. The most harmful items are car repairs and home repairs. Beginning tax year 2020, the amendment proposes to reduce taxable value for residential and commercial/industrial from 100% of market value to 90% of market value. Agricultural and horticultural taxable value would be reduce from the current 75% of market value to 65% of market value. The proposed reduction in the taxable value for residential and commercial/industrial land reduces the acceptable range for valuing the property to 82% to 90%, instead of the current 92% to 100%. The acceptable range for agricultural land would reduce to 59% to 65% of actual value from the current 69% to 75%.

The amendment also changes allowable levy rates for school funding and creates a “basic” funding mechanism similar to what we used to call foundation aide so that the state aid to schools would actually increase and school districts would have less dependency on property tax. There are many other details in the bill – too numerous to explain in this article. The Committee has now advanced the bill to General File with AM 1572. Debate on it will begin next Tuesday, May 7, at 1:30p.m. I will be analyzing the bill and consulting with constituents over the weekend.

I commend the effort to find property tax relief and to fully fund schools. It’s a tall order and no one knows yet if this is the right combination to pass the Legislature.  More information and all things related to the Nebraska Legislature can be found at nebraskalegislature.gov. The Unicameral Update newsletter is found in the “For Citizens” menu on the left side of the home page under “Legislative Publications.” As always you can contact me via email at rkolowski@leg.ne.gov and by phone at 402-471-2327.

Sen. Rick Kolowski

District 31
Room #1018
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2327
Email: rkolowski@leg.ne.gov
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