NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Tom Brandt

Sen. Tom Brandt

District 32

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 tbrandt@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 5th, 2022

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 32nd 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. Tom Brandt

From Hastings Tribune coverage:

Tom Brandt, Nebraska senator representing District 32, invited the audience to imagine first stepping off the train 150 years ago.

While named Belvidere, meaning ‘beautiful to see,’ Brandt said the view was likely prairies as far as the eye could see if not obfuscated by smoke from the steam engine.

He believed people worked hard and returned to the train depot to collect freight, ship livestock or mail and receive letters from home.

The train would also bring new immigrant arrivals, many speaking languages other than English.

“This is the common story of many Nebraskans, including my own family, who have been here for generations,” he said. “Today, we stand in the same spot to celebrate, knowing Belvidere has a long history of being a railroad town.”

Brandt said he was in awe of the endeavor to restore the last railroad depot of the ABC line in Thayer County.

“Because of the hard work started 10 years ago, this project is now a reality,” he said. “This depot you are dedicating today will be an excellent attraction, especially when coupled with the adjoining Thayer County Museum.”

Through the energy of Thayer County’s best, the treasure of the Alexandria depot has been preserved and moved here to be explored by those generations that will follow.”

Belvidere Mayor Linda Hudson speaks to (from left) Kelli O’Brien, Union Pacific senior director of public affairs for Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota; Tom Brandt, Nebraska senator representing District 32; and Jackie Williamson, curator of the Thayer County Museum, during a dedication ceremony for a renovated train depot on Sunday in Belvidere.

Read the full article of the dedication ceremony here.

NDA AWARDS GRANTS TO 64 NEBRASKA MEAT PROCESSORS

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) has selected 64 meat processing facilities to receive grants designed to support the growth of meat processing in Nebraska. NDA awarded a total of $4,914,247.08 of grants in the first round of funding through the Independent Processor Assistance Program.

The Independent Processor Assistance Program was created in Senator Tom Brandt’s LB324 that was passed in 2021 by the Legislature. This year’s LB755 asked for $10 million to fund the program and the funds were ultimately included in LB1014, which allocated Nebraska’s share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds. In the end, NDA will award approximately $9.8 million in grants to support projects designed to improve and/or expand Nebraska’s meat processing capabilities.

The meat processors who received the grant money had to meet certain criteria which included: existing meat processors to facilitate improvements, enhancements, or expansions to increase harvest capacity and/or product throughput; operating as either a USDA-FSIS facility or a federally regulated custom-exempt slaughter and processing facility; being domiciled in the State of Nebraska and registered in good standing with the Secretary of State to conduct business in Nebraska; existing sales revenue of less than $2.5 million; and employing fewer than 25 people.

Additional Independent Processor Assistance Program grants will be allocated again in the first half of 2023 until funding is gone. Previous recipients of grant funding will be eligible to apply in subsequent rounds, but preference will be given to applications not previously awarded funding. For questions, contact Breanna Wirth, NDA Legislative Coordinator, at 402-890-1509 or breanna.wirth@nebraska.gov.

Here are the list of award recipients:

1. 4 His Glory
2. Ace & Ida Inc.
3. AK Meats LLC
4. Albion Locker
5. ASC Lockers
6. B and J Main Street Market
7. B&B Locker
8. B.I.G. Meats
9. Belschner Meats
10. Borchard Custom Cuts
11. Busy Bones Butcher
12. C.R. Packing
13. Cedar Rapids Locker
14. C&G Wild Game Processing, LLC
15. Chuckwagon Meats
16. Cornelius Butchery
17. Cornhusker Beef Company
18. Country Butcher
19. Den’s Country Meats
20. Diller Locker
21. Elmwood Meat Plant
22. Faltin Meat Market
23. Flat Water Meats LLC
24. Franklin Locker
25. Fremont Meat Locker
26. Gentert Packing
27. Grant Packing
28. HD Processing dba Blue River Meats
29. Hearty Rancher
30. Homeland Processing
31. Husker Meats
32. Jansen’s Custom Cut
33. KB Quality Meats
34. Kelley’s Custom Pack
35. McLean Beef
36. Melcher’s Locker
37. M-K Meats
38. NE Family
39. Nelson’s Butcher Shop
40. North Bend Locker
41. Oakland Meat Processing
42. Oxford Locker
43. Patriot Beef
44. Pelicans Meat
45. Pickrell Locker
46. Polk Locker

47. Prairie Processing
48. R&M Meats
49. Ravenna Locker
50. Rodriguez Brothers Processing
51. Shelton Locker
52. Steve’s Butcher Shop
53. Table Top Meats
54. The Fairfield Butcher Shop
55. The Rusty Butcher
56. Twin Cities Pack
57. Twin Loups Quality Meats
58. Valentine Locker
59. Wahoo Locker
60. Wausa Locker
61. Whiskey Creek Critters
62. Wildcat Locker Inc
63. Willow Creek Meats
64. Winfield Foods

Nebraska’s statewide farm to school network, created by Senator Tom Brandt’s bills – LB396 (2021) and LB758 (2022) and administered by the NE Department of Education – are helping schools address childhood obesity, as covered in the September 25th Omaha World Herald article ‘Nebraska physicians, schools addressing childhood obesity’. From the article:

Public and private schools across the state have adopted a variety of programming to tackle the rising obesity rates in the past decade or so. From school gardens and calorie-limited vending machines to longer recesses and partnerships with local food producers, the strategies aim to reduce obesity while encouraging healthy habits for all children, regardless of weight.

One such initiative that has become more popular recently is farm-to-school programs that connect schools with local farmers and food producers. In the 2021-2022 school year, schools across the state spent more than $3 million on locally produced dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables. That includes more than 1,840 pounds of broccoli, 66,000 ears of corn, 107,000 pounds of chicken and millions of milk cartons.

Sarah Smith, the farm to school coordinator at the Nebraska Department of Education, says that recent policy victories have led to increased interest in the program. In 2021, the Nebraska legislature passed the Farm to School Act, which allocated funding and created Smith’s full-time position to coordinate the programs. 

“It’s a triple win,” Smith said. “The students win, the farmers and the economy wins, and the communities win. There are public health and food security benefits, as well as lifelong health benefits when farm to school is in the picture.”

Especially in rural areas of the state, farm-to-school programs are becoming more common. Many teachers and families already engage in farming or ranching, and the small district sizes make it easy to coordinate with local food producers.

Yesterday the Office of the Governor recognized October as Nebraska’s Farm to School Month. I’d like to thank the NE Department of Education (NDE) for making this happen and I wish Nebraska continued success in the Crunch Off competition.

The following are excerpts of remarks delivered by Sarah Smith, NDE Farm to School Specialist:

Farm to School Month fosters an opportunity for partners and stakeholders to celebrate the connection between students and local food, to share our farm to school stories, and to show gratitude to our school nutrition and farmer heroes providing essential services while we continue to grapple with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We acknowledge the energy and dedication that is empowering farm to school activity in our state with the 2021 passage of Senator Tom Brandt’s LB 396, the Nebraska Farm to School Act. This Act has helped set the stage for stakeholders to strategically work together in pursuit of a more equitable, robust, and comprehensive farm to school program statewide. We celebrate this forward movement as it crafts a triple win: a win for our students and schools, a win for our agricultural sector, and a win for our communities. 

October will also bring us into the annual Mountain Plains Crunch Off where schools and early childhood institutions will bite into local and crunchable produce. In 2021, Nebraska won the Crunch Off competition against eight Mountain Plains states, having the most Crunch registrants per capita.  More than 58,000 participants (3% of Nebraska’s population) crunched on apples, carrots, peppers, and even roasted pumpkin seeds! 

There is potential to have lifelong impact on our communities when leveraging farm to school as a pathway to advance food education, access, and security. Nebraska celebrates our agricultural heritage and cultural diversity with farm to school month during October’s Farm to School Month.

Legislative Update
September 5th, 2022

Happy Labor Day!

Voting is one of our important rights as Americans and the general election is quickly approaching so I would like to provide some pertinent information regarding it. This year you will have the opportunity to vote for many offices including governor, state senator, House of Representatives, and many more. First and foremost, you should register to vote if you have not done so already. If you cannot remember whether you have
registered or not, you can check your status at: https://www.votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/voterview.  To register to vote, go to your county election office (clerk’s office) or NEReg2Vote. Any registered voter in Nebraska can request a mail-in ballot. Nebraska is a “no-excuse” state so any registered voter may request an early-voting (absentee) ballot. If you voted by mail in the last election, you must re-apply in order to vote by mail in this year’s election. You can register for a mail-in ballot when you register to vote and if you’re already registered, contact your county election office or the Nebraska Secretary of State for the application. The last day for an early-voting application to be received is 6 p.m. on October 28th. Early-voting ballots are not sent out until October 3rd. Early-voting ballots should be mailed back at least one week before the general election. You can also hand deliver your mail in ballot to the county dropbox by 8 p.m. on election day, November 8th. You may also vote early in-person at your county election office for 30 days prior to the general election until the day before the election, November 7th. If you have questions about voting, call the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office at 402-471-2554.

Dilapidated buildings, especially in our downtown areas, are a serious issue in rural and small town America that needs to be addressed, and Legislative District 32 is no exception. Last month I met with officials from Fairbury, Geneva, Thayer County, Chester, Hebron and Beatrice along with my colleague Senator Myron Dorn, to discuss dilapidated buildings and what can be done about them. We talked about the reasons that almost every community in Nebraska seems to have them, the cost and number of such structures, assisting local communities, the relevant groups to get involved, and how we can address the problem. I am going to continue to have conversations with community stakeholders on dilapidated buildings and come up with some feasible solutions, including consideration of introducing a bill with Sen. Dorn, who sits on the Appropriations Committee.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate Hebron-based MetalQuest on its $125,000 grant award to interest more Nebraska teens in high-tech jobs. MetalQuest is using the grant to purchase robotic equipment to introduce students to industrial robotics automation and coding. The grant came from the Developing Youth Talent Initiative. Nebraska is facing a crisis in attracting workers, with about 50,000 vacant jobs across the state, so every little bit helps. Good work MetalQuest!

Abortion issue to be front and center, in 90-day session

BEATRICE – Even though there was no special session of the Nebraska Legislature called by the Governor on the abortion issue, that doesn’t mean the topic won’t be front and center next year.  Lawmakers start a 90-day session January 4th.

“If we’d had a special session, it probably would have been in September. We’re coming back in January, anyway…we’re reasonably confident this will be at the forefront of the session…and you will have 16 to 18 new senators there, also. It would have been difficult, probably, in a special session to pass something with the existing body. Let’s save the hundred thousand dollars….let’s learn from the other states that are in court right now…Idaho, Texas, Tennessee. A lot of these states have what they call trip laws…and that’s what Nebraska would have had, had that passed.”

Senator Tom Brandt, of Plymouth says lawsuits are being filed on both sides of the issue across the U.S., since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe V. Wade.

Brandt said he was in Wichita, Kansas at a council of state governments convention two weeks before the vote. “You just sort of get a sense from talking to people that they have some reasonableness on rape, incest, life of the mother…healthcare…how far should a policy making organization like a legislature interfere with what goes on between a doctor and his(or her) patient.”

Read the entire article by Doug Kennedy here.

Legislative Update
August 16th, 2022

Our office is constantly working with the Nebraska Department of Transportation and private companies on improving and expanding roads in Legislative District 32. I am happy to report that one such project came to fruition recently and was celebrated with a ribbon cutting where I was honored to be invited and participate. A new mile of pavement on Southwest 42nd Street, between West Hallam Road and Pella Road, opened late last month. The new stretch is located adjacent to the Monolith facility, located north of the Village of Hallam. Lancaster County Engineering was awarded a grant for the project from the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) Economic Opportunity Program (EOP), which was created as part of the Transportation Innovation Act. The remaining costs for the project were split between Lancaster County Engineering Department and Monolith. Lancaster County Engineering designed this section with asphalt to include a 28-foot surface with 4-foot turf shoulders. This 10-inch asphalt slab has a 12-inch stabilized lime base. New culvert pipes have also been installed at two locations. Rumble strips have been added to the edges of the pavement to notify drivers that they are about to leave the road. It is great to see another successful public private partnership and a smooth road!

As always during the first weekend of August, I attended Czech Days in Wilber, one of the most fun events of the year! My campaign team and I marched in the parade and handed out candy. During and after the parade, I enjoyed visiting with constituents in Sokol Hall and on Main Street. I also attended a lunch before the parade to meet with Czech queens and dignitaries as well as the Czech leadership in Wilber and greater Nebraska. This year, I learned more about a proposed Czech brewery that will be run by Wilber residents. The group has been working with Alpha Brewing in Lincoln to identify brewing equipment and with consultants from the Czech Republic who specialize in setting up authentic Czech breweries. I look forward to a pint of Czech beer when it opens! And Czech Days wouldn’t be complete without eating some delicious homemade kolaches as well as all of the local and Nebraska vendors who brave the heat and humidity to give the festival its unique atmosphere. Na zdravi!

Finally, the application process is now open for the Legislative Page Program to any Nebraska college student who is interested. Pages are selected in the fall each year to work for the upcoming legislative session, beginning the following January. Pages run errands, deliver messages, photocopy materials, assist the presiding officer, set up and staff committee hearings, and perform other duties as assigned. The deadline for submitting page applications with letters of recommendation for the 2023 legislative session will be Friday, October 7 at 5:00 p.m. The page selection committee will meet in October to select individuals for page positions. For further information, go to: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/unicampages/ or contact the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271 or unicampages@leg.ne.gov. Feel free to contact my office at 471-2711 or tbrandt@leg.ne.gov if you have any questions or for help with the application process. 

 

My bill LB1009, to create a domestic abuse death review team for Nebraska, was amended into LB741, which passed and went into effect recently.

Flatwater Free Press mentioned the review team in an article on the Christiansen’s family:

In 2021, Brooke Koch was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, who then turned the gun on himself. The family was working on legislation with Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth.

This year, the Kochs and Christiansens helped pass the creation of the Domestic Violence Death Review Team. Nebraska was one of only nine states that didn’t have one.

The hope: Looking at trends from past deaths in Nebraska will lead the team to make recommendations that become law – and prevent future deaths, MacTaggart said. 

Other states are already devising potential solutions that show promise. In other states, police conduct a specific risk assessment when a domestic violence offender is arrested. It can influence whether to set bail, and how high bail should be. The newly formed Nebraska review team may start to look at these ideas, and others.

“I have high hopes that this team will give the Legislature some useful information that can be acted on, and not sit on a shelf and collect dust,” Brandt said. 

Read the full article here.

Legislative Update
August 2nd, 2022

Last week at the Capitol, a meeting was held on our interim study LR400 to examine current farm economic conditions in Nebraska and how best to aid and support beginning farmers and livestock producers in the state. The Agriculture Committee brought together the members of the Ag Leaders group (Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen Association, Pork Producers Association, and many others) and producers to hear from the NextGen program administrator and the State FSA Director on how state and federal programs are working, respectively. Some of the questions of the interim study are to examine current statutory policies used to support beginning farmers and livestock producers, the effectiveness of such policies, and potential changes to the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act. It also looks to determine the type of support most beneficial to beginning farm and livestock producers.

Last session I introduced LB1103 to increase the number of applicants that would be eligible for the NextGen program, which included raising the net worth from $200,000 to $1 million and exempting personal assets such as pensions and retirement plans from net worth. There was a hearty discussion at the meeting about increasing the lease for beginning farmers and the tax credit for the owner from 3 years to 5 years. We also discussed a cap on NextGen program acres eligible for a tax credit and what different ways to spread the word about NextGen to farmers that may qualify – both tenants and owners. If you would like more information, stop by their table at Husker Harvest Days or contact Karla at 471-4876 or agr.NextGen@nebraska.gov.

As a member of the Building and Maintenance Committee of the Legislature, I have traveled to several state-owned facilities around Nebraska. It is always enlightening to see the management of existing infrastructure and look at future needs. My most recent meeting last week was held at the Nebraska Department of Corrections Reception & Treatment Center (RTC), formerly the Lincoln Correctional Center & Diagnostic Evaluation Center. We had the opportunity to hear from Director of Corrections Scott Frakes as well as the Engineering Administrator, Warden, and Maintenance Manager on the current state of the RTC. Our May meeting was held at Platte River State Park where we heard from Bill Oligmueller, Game & Parks Regional Superintendent, and the director of the Department of Administrative Services. We received a tour of the park and reviewed Game & Parks budget requests. 

Finally, I was the keynote speaker of the second annual Pork Expo that was held in York at the Holthus Convention Center. It was the state’s second pork expo hosted by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture (AFAN). Nebraska is the sixth largest pork producer so it is one of our state’s biggest and most important industries. The event included many speakers, breakout sessions, a panel, the annual NPPA meeting and a social hour. I had a very pleasant time talking to members, producers and processors, particularly about the recently passed LB1261 that amends the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act. The new law raises the ceiling for accepted applications from the current $1 million to $10 million, and the refundable credit against taxes allowed a taxpayer with an approved application would increase from the current 10% of the investment not to exceed $150,000 to 10% of the investment not to exceed $500,000 per application. If you have questions about this bill or others, please contact my office.

 

This is Nebraska’s second pork expo hosted by AFAN, or the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska. AFAN’s mission is to grow and support the livestock industry in Nebraska. Steve Martin, the executive director of AFAN, said the point of a pork expo is multi-faceted. It includes people who are first exposed to the pork industry, to people who can answer all their questions.

“Nebraska is growing in the pork industry,” said Al Juhnke, the executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. “We have roughly 3.6 million pigs in our farms. Nebraska is a great place to grow pigs, we are centrally located, we have feed resources, a good solid workforce, and we have a lot of room”.

The keynote speaker for the day was Nebraska State Senator Tom Brandt, who is a farmer and a livestock feeder outside of his many other responsibilities. He spoke on funding and the bills that were passed in which farmers were active.

Read the full article at the York News-Times here.

Sen. Tom Brandt

District 32
Room 1528
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2711
Email: tbrandt@leg.ne.gov
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