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Sen. Steve Halloran

Sen. Steve Halloran

District 33

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469 New bills this session

January 19th, 2018

This week’s message will be short and sweet. We have a lot happening at the capitol. Committee hearings on new bills began this week. In total 469 new bills and 13 legislative resolutions were submitted this year. That brings the total number of bills for biennium session to 1,136. In Nebraska, every bill receives a hearing. These hearings are often called, “the second house” or the “people’s house” because these hearings present the opportunity for interested parties and the public at large to express their opinions about bills being proposed. Senators usually serve on more than one committee. Currently I serve on three committees: Agricultural Committee, Business and Labor Committee, and Judiciary Committee.

My busiest committee is the Judiciary. By the end of this first week of hearings, we as committee will have heard testimony for no less than fifteen bills. Often these hearings go late into the night. However, the time spent is well spent. The testimony help inform myself and other Senators which enable us to make better decisions on whether or not a bill should be voted out of committee and sent to the floor of legislature for debate by the entire body.

The two bills that I submitted this session are LB718 – Adopt the Higher Education Free Speech Accountability Act and LB1058 – Adopt the Faithful Delegate to Federal Article V Convention Act. LB718 ensures that the Free Speech rights, granted in United States Constitution, are protected for everyone on Nebraska’s public institutions of higher education. The public hearing for this bill is scheduled for January 30th within the Education Committee. Since the bill was submitted, I have had further discussions with several parties. As a result of those discussions, I wrote an amendment to the bill to make the bill stronger. I encourage you to read the amendment and to testify at the hearing later this month.

LB1058 – Adopt the Faithful Delegate to Federal Article V Convention Act directly addresses concerns by those who unrealistically fear a “runaway” convention. LB1058 creates a structure for how the State of Nebraska will elect and govern delegates to a called Convention of States by the United States Congress. In the coming weeks I will discuss in more detail each of these bills. Again, I encourage you to read the bill and contact my office if you have any questions on LB718 and LB1058.

Saturday, January 27th the Adams County Farm Bureau Federation and Hastings Area Chamber will be hosting my first Coffee with the Senator this session at Kitty’s Roadhouse in Hastings. The meeting will start at 10:00 a.m. I hope to see you there!

We hit the ground running during week two of legislative session. On Monday we started to debate general file carry-over bills from last session.  During the second session of a biennium, bills can be “carried-over from the last session and debated.  However any bills that are not passed during this session will be indefinitely postponed.   In simpler terms, the bill is now dead.   If a Senator such as my self wants to bring back a bill, the Senator will have to resubmit the bill the following year and go through the entire process again as if it was a new bill.   The bill will have to be referenced to a committee, have a hearing, be voted out of committee and then placed on general file.  The success of a bill in the past does not always guarantee future success.   Committee make-up of members can change as well as social and political climates of the day.

One such bill that has gone through this process several times is the “helmet bill.”  Over the years this bill has come to floor in many different forms.  This year it was LB368 which sought to change helmet provisions, change passenger age limits, and require eye protection for operators of motorcycles and mopeds.  The bill was brought by Senator John Lowe.   The bill was unable get the necessary thirty-three votes to evoke cloture and end debate last session.   The bill saw new life this year when Senator Bob Krist made it his priority for this year.   When a Senator designates a bill as a priority bill, it “jumps the line” and it is called to floor over other non-priority bills.   Therefore LB368 was debated on Monday and then again on Wednesday.  Once again, the bill was unable to gain the necessary thirty-three votes to evoke cloture.   The bill will most likely not be brought back to floor this year.   So if a Senator wants to present a helmet bill next year, he or she will have to start all over again.

Wednesday was also the day the Governor presented his State of the State address to the Legislature and the people of Nebraska.   Governor Ricketts plan is one of several tax relief plans being proposed this session.    I have been posting links to these bills on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SenatorHalloran/) so you can read these for yourself.   Through discussions with my fellow Senators I have heard that there may be additional tax relief related bills to be presented this session.  I encourage you to share your thoughts with my office on these different proposals.

I fully support tax relief and reform in Nebraska.   The federal government in Washington, D.C., has struggled to reach solutions that will unleash a new era of American economic growth, many state governments have forged ahead in meeting their particular fiscal and economic challenges.   Many of our surrounding States that have adopted pro-growth policies have seen their economies grow.    Many of the more successful, economically growing states have found that competitive tax policies are the key towards viable growth.   Nebraska’s focus should be on pro-growth policies.   One of the goals of implementing pro-growth tax policies is to first stop the out migration of citizens.  Citizens are increasingly “voting with their feet” and moving to states with better economic outlooks.  This underpins the fact that taxes absolutely bear a relationship to the economic health of our state.  Nebraska is a small population state and can be easily influenced by people leaving our state to due to our burdensome taxes.

Governor Pete Ricketts, in his State of the State address, declared his interest in reducing both income taxes and property taxes.  His proposal is dependent upon economic growth, with tax reductions triggered incrementally when economic growth occurs.  I personally believe that without first reducing taxes, economic growth will be sluggish.  My preference for tax relief would be to focus on property tax relief.  As your representative, I have heard from constituent after constituent that property taxes are unreasonably high, and there has been a loud cry for property tax relief.  I have not heard this same concern for income tax relief.

Here are some facts regarding Nebraska’s property taxes.

  •        Nebraskans pay the fifth-highest residential property tax rates in the country and the fifth-highest agricultural land property tax rates, and these rates are increasing annually.
  •        According to the Nebraska Revenue Department, between 2006-2014 Adjusted Gross Incomes for Nebraskans increased by only 22.78%.
  •        For that same period average Property Taxes for Nebraskans increased by 45.07%. That is double the rate family incomes have gone up in only an 8 year period.
  •        We collect 70 percent more in property tax revenue in Nebraska than all state, local and motor vehicle sales tax revenue combined.
  •        We collect 50 percent more in property tax revenue than individual and corporate income tax revenue combined.

 

I am looking forward to a healthy tax reform debate on the floor of the legislature.    It is my sincerest hope that we as a body can come together and pass meaningful tax relief this session for the good people of Nebraska.

 

 

Wednesday, Jan 3rd marked the beginning of the second session of the 105th  legislature.   As an interesting tidbit of information.   This is the earliest date a session of the legislature can convene. According to our state constitution, article III section ten, the legislature shall commence at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January of each year.   Since Monday was the 1st, we could start on the Wednesday the 3rd .    I am going to take this as a good sign that we are ready to get started and that we will get a lot accomplished during this short session.

As you may know we call this session a short session because we meet for sixty legislative days during even numbered years and we meet for ninety legislative days during odd numbered years.   Why do we not meet for the same number of days each year?    It’s because during the long session which is ninety days we are tasked with creating the biennium budget.

The short session can be a very busy session for several reasons. For instance, we have several bills that carried over from the last session.   Since these bills have already had their hearings we can start to debate them on floor right away.    As a matter of fact we will start full session debates on bills starting Monday the 8th.    Second, Senators are finishing up drafting new bill for this session and these need to be submitted within the first ten days.   Third, sometimes, like this year, we unfortunately had to address a projected budget shortfall.  Currently that budget shortfall is projected to be somewhere between 150 to 200 million dollars.

On Wednesday, the Governor will address the Legislature to give his State of the State Address at 10 a.m. in which he will lay out his plan to address the budget shortfall.    His plan will then be given to Appropriations Committee to review.   The Appropriations Committee will study the Governor’s plan, make some changes and recommendations.   I do not see the legislature starting the debate on the budget changes until late January, early February.    So in the interim we will be addressing carry-over legislation and starting on committee hearings for the new bills proposed for this session.

One bill that I have written is LB718 – Adopt the Higher Education Free Speech Accountability Act.   This bill looks to guarantee free speech for all on college campuses in the state of Nebraska.   The impetus for this bill was born out of well published incident on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus in which a college sophomore was denied her right to free speech.   I want to be clear that this is not the only reason I felt this bill needed to written.   After it was known that I, along with Senator Edman and Senator Brewer had raised our concerns to the university, our offices were flooded with phone calls, emails of support and stories from others who felt their freedom of speech rights were suppressed as well when they attended college.   So it’s not based on a single, isolated incident but a pattern of behaviors over time.   Seven states have already passed similar legislation and ten states have legislation pending.   Based on communications that I have received from both supporters and detractors, I am drafting an amendment that will strengthen the bill.   My ultimate goal is defended and protected everyone’s First Amendment rights to free speech at institutions of higher learning.

This will be a busy short session (60 Days) dealing with the budget shortfall (which I and many of my fellow Senators predicted) and multiple tax reform bills taking center stage.

I am looking forward to working with my fellow Senators to pass legislation this session that will bring meaningful change / relief benefiting all Nebraskans.

 

Sen. Steve Halloran

District 33
Room #1306
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2712
Email: shalloran@leg.ne.gov
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