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Last week was a busy one–even with the state holiday day off on Monday.
On Tuesday, we welcomed former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, from Oklahoma, to Lincoln. He came here as a supporter of the Convention of States Project, which is connected to my LR35–which would serve as Nebraska’s application for a convention of states to consider proposing amendments which would limit the power of the federal government, impose some sort of fiscal restraints, and consider term limits for federal officials.
It should be noted that no matter what comes out of any convention called under the authority of Article V of the Constitution, that’s just the “proposal” stage–just like when two-thirds of both houses of Congress propose amendments. The second stage comes in the ratification of the amendments, when three-fourths of the states must approve of any amendment (that’s 38 states) before they become part of the Constitution. That resolution will likely be on the floor on Tuesday, so will likely have been decided–at least on General File–before you read this.
On Wednesday, I introduced two bills in two different committees. LB936 would make changes to our Inheritance Tax structure. Inheritance taxes are taxes paid by those who have inherited money or property. We currently have a 3 tiered system of inheritance tax assessments. For those who are first degree/direct relatives, the tax is 1% on the value of the estate on anything above $10,000. For second degree relatives (nieces, nephews, etc.), the tax is 13% on the value of anything above $15,000; and for non-relatives (or distant relatives, step children, etc), the tax is assessed at 18% for anything above $40,000. You can do the math, but when I opened on the bill, I provided an example which pointed out the disparities–property (which is taxed via property tax before the decedent’s death and will be taxed to the beneficiary after): on 320 acres of property at $6000/acre, a first degree relative would be taxed about $18,800; a second degree relative would be taxed $244,000; a non-relative/distant relative would be taxed $338,400! While I doubt this bill will move anywhere this year, I think this is a conversation we need to have: is it good public policy for the state to tax people based on the relationship that they had with someone who remembered them in their will?
The other bill I introduced, was LB992, which would provide some limits on the ability of political subdivisions to use what’s known as a Certificate of Participation bond to purchase certain items on installment contracts. At this point in time, the only statutory we can find for the use of these particular bonds are for Primary class cities (Lincoln).
Our week on the floor was taken up with the question of whether there should be a constitutional amendment on the ballot which would allow 18 year olds the opportunity to run for the legislature and other state offices. The bill was ultimately killed on the floor through filibuster. Likewise, we spent most of Friday on LB970, which would regulate certain types of gambling (fantasy sports, keno, etc.). The debate revolved around whether this represented expansion of gambling, whether fantasy sports are “games of skill” or “games of chance”, and how much of this was constitutional. We will finish debate on this on Monday. At this point, it doesn’t look like it will have the votes to break cloture
As always, feel free to contact my office. On Saturday, the 27th, I’ll be in Friend, at the City Hall, for a Town Hall meeting, at 10 a.m. Everyone is welcome. More details will follow, but there will also be a Town Hall event in Plymouth on Saturday, March 12, and one in Crete on Saturday, March 19.