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On Tuesday of the week we had the public hearing for my bill LB718 – Adopt the Higher Education Free Speech Accountability Act. I want to thank all the people for and against the bill who took the time to come out and testified using the free speech right to do so. It is important that we have a venue, open to the public, where the free exchange of opinions can be heard. This is truly the crux of what LB718 would achieve on the campuses of institutions of higher learning in Nebraska. LB718 was written to guarantee / protect the free-speech rights for ALL – students, faculty, staff and invited guests.
After carefully listening to ALL the testimony and reviewing the numerous emails and articles written leading up to the hearing and the days that have followed, resulted in me working on a new amendment to the bill that will address concerns that have been raised. I have received a number of requests for this newest amendment to LB718. This amendment is in the final drafting stages. We will release it as soon as it is finished – expected early next week. This amendment was drafted with the collaboration of my office and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, otherwise known as (FIRE). With the University Nebraska Board of Regents only releasing their newly written and approved policy late last week titled: Commitment to Free Expression: Guide for Facilities Use: and Education, FIRE worked with us up to the last minute before the hearing to create a rough draft of a new amendment that we could present to the Education Committee. We continued our discussions after the hearing to take into account the testimony from the hearing. I did not want to release the rough draft that evening because of concerns that there may be changes to the proposed amendment based on the testimony and I did not want to confuse the issue.
Also this week, the second major tax reform bill – LB947 sponsored by Senator Smith on behalf of the Governor had a hearing in the Revenue Committee. I was personally unable to attend the hearing because of my Judicial Committee’s commitments that day. I did speak with my staff and fellow colleagues about the hearing. I was encouraged by several amendments proposed by Senator Smith. Clearly this bill is still evolving. I therefore am withholding my position on this bill. I believe that this bill will be sent out of committee and onto the floor of the Legislature. I further believe this will result in a lively debate.
The third major tax reform bill LB1084 written by Senator Briese who has a hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 8th within the Revenue Committee. LB1084 will generate new revenue by closing a number of current tax exemptions, raising the state sales tax by ½ cent and raising taxes in other areas like the tax on tobacco products. The new revenues that are generated will help fund K-12 education and it will also direct hundreds of millions of much-needed dollars into the Property Tax Credit Fund.
I am STRONGLY for tax reform! My concern leans much more for the need to address property taxes. Property taxes are out of control, especially in rural Nebraska. We have kicked the can down the road for forty years. We, as a Legislative body, must address tax reform this session. I look forward to working with my fellow Senators to make tax reform a reality for the good people of Nebraska.
Recently I signed on to co-sponsored LB747 – the Nebraska Liquor Control Act, authored by Senator Thibodeau. LB747 brings “bottle clubs” in line with other establishment that have alcohol consumed on premise. I have received significant correspondence from constituents who are concerned about operation of these “bottle clubs” operating within our district. I would like to thank all the people who came out to Kitty’s Roadhouse last Saturday for the first “Coffee with Senator” of the year. I always enjoy meeting with constituents and discussing their issues and concerns. The next Coffee with Senator is scheduled for 9:00am, March 3rd, at Kitty’s Roadhouse in Hastings.