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With the beginning of the school year less than a month away and summer rapidly winding down, I thought it would be a good time to give a brief update on some of the things that have happened since the Legislature adjourned at the end of May.
I must admit I was definitely ready for a little down time from politics. The final weeks of the last legislative session were grueling, to say the least, as we debated the budget for the next biennium. Faced with the reality of the state’s increasing revenue shortfall, we had to make difficult choices on spending cuts. In the end, an $8.9 billion budget package was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
Final state tax receipt figures for Fiscal Year 2016-17 have just been released and continue to be down. Revenues for the year totaled $4.266 billion, approximately $34 million short of earlier projections. I still think it is unlikely we will need to convene a special session but if revenues continue to be down, it is not out of the question.
Of course even though it’s down time from politics, it’s still a busy time on the farm. I always look forward to getting back to working around the farm. Spending time by myself in the tractor is one of the best stress reducers I can think of.
My wife Nancy and I have been enjoying attending some of the many parades, city celebrations, and county fairs throughout District 34 this summer. As part of the Hall County fair, I had my first opportunity to take part in a watermelon eating contest. Competition was fierce, especially between my team and that of Senator Dan Quick of Grand Island. In the end our two teams tied for first place. Senator Quick and I have agreed to share the first place trophy; it will be proudly displayed in our offices in the State Capitol.
One of the best things about getting out into the communities is having the chance to talk with constituents. If you see me at an event I hope you will come up and visit with me about any concerns you have on how things are going in the state or the district, or ideas for legislation for next session.
I am planning to be at the Nebraska State Fair at the end of August and encourage you to stop by and say hi.
After Labor Day the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee will start holding hearings on our interim study resolutions. My top priority is how to improve broadband telecommunications services in the state. We are planning to hold several public hearings outside of Lincoln to get input on this critical topic. I am especially interested in finding ways to incentivize private industry and/or public-private partnerships to deliver more and better services to rural areas. Hearing dates and locations have yet to be determined.
Over the summer I will be attending several out-of-state legislative conferences including the Midwest Council of State Governments conference in Des Moines and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Denver. Conferences such as these are excellent sources of information on current trends in state government and public policy issues. In addition, they provide an opportunity to informally network with legislators and policy makers from similar states to discuss like problems and creative solutions.
As a reminder, even though the Legislature has adjourned for the year my office in the Capitol is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about your legislative concerns or other issues you would like to discuss. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our telephone number is 402-471-2630.