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Three years ago, when I campaigned door-to-door to become your State Senator representing Legislative District 33, the most common issue I heard from concerned citizens was the need for property tax relief. Once elected as your State Senator, I believed that the Legislature could provide a long-term remedy for the current over-dependence upon property taxes. After three years in this office, it has become abundantly clear to me that neither the Legislature nor the Executive Branch will successfully provide substantive property tax relief for Nebraska’s taxpayers. This is not exclusively a criticism of the current Legislature or Executive Branch, but rather an observation of over three decades of both branches of office failing to act. For over three decades, candidates for the Legislature and the Governor’s office have campaigned promising property tax relief, but have failed to deliver. This is why I believe the people, also called the Second House, should be allowed to take action and vote for meaningful property tax relief through an initiative petition. Signatures are actively being gathered.
Is this the first time the public has taken to the initiative petition process to address taxation in Nebraska? The answer is no. Let’s look at the history of our state’s tax structure. Prior to 1966, not only was local government funded by property taxes, but the state government was also totally funded by property taxes. In 1965, taxpayers declared enough is enough and sufficient signatures were gathered to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in the 1966 General Election to forbid the use of property taxes to fund state government. The initiative passed overwhelmingly. The day after the voters or the Second House passed this constitutional amendment, the state had no funding source….zero funding. The Legislature in conjunction with the Governor acted quickly to create income tax and sales tax to fund the state budget. The result was a more stable, broader-based tax structure of property tax, income tax, and sales tax. These three taxes frequently have been referred to as the “three-legged-stool.” The goal of this tax structure was to have all three taxes in relative balance, like a three-legged-stool. Initially, this three-legged-stool tax structure stayed relatively balanced. Over time, however, the tax load has shifted to property taxes carrying a disproportionate share of the tax load. The three-legged-stool is now dramatically out of balance.
Today, 53 years after the Second House approved a constitutional amendment disallowing the state from levying a property tax, Nebraska ranks as the 7th highest property tax state in the country. That is not a ranking Nebraskans can be proud of holding.
As Nebraska’s history has demonstrated, there comes a time for the Second House to speak. Thus, the current effort will place a constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to have an option for substantive property tax relief.
Signatures are currently being gathered on an initiative petition for this purpose. If the required number of signatures are gathered, this initiative will be on the 2020 General Election ballot. The object of this initiative petition is….“Real property owners in Nebraska who have paid property taxes will receive a refund of 35% of said property tax in the form of a Nebraska State income tax credit; if the refund is more than income tax owed, then the taxpayer will be issued a check for the balance.”
It is important to note what this constitutional amendment will do, and what it won’t do, if it passes on the 2020 ballot.
First, this constitutional amendment will do the following. Passing this initiative petition on the ballot will pressure the Legislature and the Governor to step up and do what has been promised for over three decades, to “re-balance” Nebraska’s tax structure. The ultimate goal would be to create a tax structure with a broader base and a lower rate. The state should be duty bound to rebalance the three-legged-stool of taxes. Without the pressure of this initiative petition, state government has no compulsion to act.
Second, this constitutional amendment won’t do the following. It will not interfere with the collection of local property taxes, because this will be a refund from the state on your income taxes paid to the state. Local property taxes will continue to be levied, collected, and distributed as they are now. We need to fund local units of government…. schools, county government, municipalities, villages, Natural Resource Districts, etc. Local property taxes will continue to be the familiar source of funding for these essential local services.
As the Second House, your voices need to be heard. Enough is enough!
The first month of 106 Legislature has been a busy one. On the first day of the session I had the honor of being unanimously elected by my fellow Senators to the position of Chair for the Agriculture Committee. I will work very hard as Committee Chair to make sure that agriculture issues are brought front and center during this legislative session. Along with being the Chair of the Agricultural Committee, I am serving on the Business and Labor and Natural Resources Committees. I moved from Judiciary to Natural Resources Committee this year. I felt my knowledge and experience would be of more use to the legislative body by serving on the Natural Resources Committee.
This session 739 bills were submitted within the ten day window for bill introduction. It is my understanding that this the largest number of bills introduced during the 90 day session since the early two-thousands. Each Senator has the right, under our current rules structure, to submit as many bills as they wish. I have submitted six bills for this session. I believe that working with my fellow Senators on legislation helps cut down on the overall number of bills. I see no merit in introducing bills that other Senators have been focusing on that have similar content. I will be co-signing onto several bills this session that address property tax relief. Since we are a unicameral, we rely on the public hearing process to be our “second house.” That means that all 739 bills will have a public hearing. We have only until March 28th to have all 739 hearings. It’s going to be some late nights for several committees.
As I mentioned earlier, I have introduced six bills session:
• LB 61 Change and eliminate provisions relating to rabies
• LB 198 Change provisions relating to use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and prohibit use of a facsimile firearm to commit a felony
• LB 343 Adopt the School Safety Rapid Response Option Act and authorize schools to allow employees to carry concealed handguns
• LB 693 Neighbor Spoofing Protection Act – Prohibit the selling, renting, or conveying of telephone numbers
• LR 7 Resolution to Congress for an Article V convention of the states to propose amendments to the United States Constitution
• LB 451 Adopt the Faithful Delegate to Federal Article V Convention Act
I encourage everyone to go to the Nebraska Legislatures’ website www.nebraskalegislature.gov to read and track the progress of my bills and other bills that are of interest to you. It is a relatively easy website to navigate. If you need help, please call my office at 402.471.2712 and my staff would be happy to walk you through the steps to find a particular bill.
I want to thank all of the people who came out to my first “Coffee with the Senator” gatherings on January 26th at the C3 Hotel and Conference Center. This is a new location for us this year. I am grateful to th Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and the Adams Farm Bureau for sponsoring this venue for dialoguing with constituents in District 33. The next two Coffee with the Senator will be February 23 at the C3 Hotel and Conference Center in Hastings at 9:00 am followed the same day by a 12:00 pm gathering at Medina Street Vault Coffee Shop in Cairo Nebraska. These coffees provide the opportunity for me to share what is happening in the legislature this session and for constituents to ask questions about certain bills or express their general concerns. All are welcome.
The hot topic of the last “Coffee with the Senator” was my bill LB343, the School Safety Rapid Response Option Act. This bill Provides local control to School / Governing Boards to make the best decisions that address their unique and specific needs in keeping their students safe. The Act would allow a school’s (public, private, denominational, secondary, and post-secondary) governing body to develop a program authorizing school employees who hold valid permits issued under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act to voluntarily conceal carry handguns in or upon the school’s buildings, grounds, vehicle, or school-sponsored activity or athletic event.
A program developed by a school’s governing body may:
• Require school employs who wish to participate in the program to undergo additional training.
• Be limited to specific classes or types of employees.
• Limit the authority to carry a concealed handgun to specific places, events, or circumstances as they deem necessary or prudent.
Two items to note about this bill is that, a school’s governing body is not required to develop a program, and a school’s governing body cannot force any school employee to participate in the program they developed. This bill simply provides “local control” to school governing bodies with a school safety option of having school employees conceal carry on school grounds and school-sponsored activities and events. This is one option among many options a school board should be able to have in their toolbox to address the important issue of keeping our students safe from harm while attending school or school sponsored events.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office. My staff, or I, can be reached at the office in Lincoln, 402.471.2712 or firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my Facebook page, Senator Steve Halloran. Thank you and have a great day in Nebraska!
Thank you to 60+ people who attended my first “Coffee with the Senator” in 2019. We covered a number of issues. My legislative bill LB 343 School Safety Rapid Response Option Act was the most discussed topic of the day. I appreciated the free exchange of questions and perspectives.
The bill is first and foremost a safety bill. It provides ONE option for increasing safety in our schools. It is not meant to be the only solution, rather an additional school safety option. It will take many different programs working together to address this very important issue.
I encourage everyone to read the bill and follow its progress through the legislative process.
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