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With harvest completed and, as hard as it is to believe, the end of the year in sight, I thought it would be a good time to talk about some on-going issues and look forward to the next legislative session which convenes on January 3, 2018.
Many of you have expressed your concerns over the limited availability of reliable, affordable broadband service, especially in the rural portions of the state. In a number of places, even if service is available, it is slow and struggles to meet the demands of today’s modern technology. I see this as a tremendous problem not only for individuals who need ready access to the Internet but for our communities as they try to attract new businesses and keep the ones they have.
The Transportation & Telecommunications Committee, which I chair, will be holding several hearings in November and December to talk about broadband issues. The hearings are intended to gather information about things as they currently stand, and perhaps more importantly, to get ideas and suggestions from the public about how we can move forward creating the capacity that we need. With government dollars tight, we have to come up with innovative strategies on how the public and private sectors can work together to meet this challenge.
Hearings will be held in McCook on November 28, Central City on November 30, and Lincoln on December 1. The hearings are open to the public and I encourage you to come and give us your thoughts or just come and listen. The times and locations for the hearings are posted on my legislative web page.
The biggest issue facing the legislature continues to be the state’s fiscal condition. Much of the 2017 legislative session was devoted to budget issues and the 2018 session is shaping up to be more of the same. Revenue receipts are significantly below projections and with the ag sector still depressed that is unlikely to change anytime soon. This shortfall almost certainly means additional and sometimes unpopular budget cuts ahead.
I am still committed to fighting for property tax relief as I have been throughout my previous three years in the Legislature. Last session I introduced several bills to cut property taxes which unfortunately did not advance. There is a slim chance some of these bills may come up again next year but I am also considering additional legislative options to introduce in 2018.
In conclusion I want to tell you what a great privilege it has been to serve as your state Senator. The time since my election in 2014 has flown by. I think there is still important work to be done and I have decided to run for reelection in 2018.
One of the things that has surprised me as I think back over my time in the Legislature is how often policy decisions are influenced by emotion rather than facts. As I decide how I’m going to vote on an issue I try to stay focused on the facts and what I believe will be good for my constituents and the state. I think that’s what you sent me here to do. I really appreciate it when you take the time to let me know your opinions on the issues with which we are dealing. Your input is an important factor in my decision making.
From time to time people ask me why I decided to run for office in the first place. What I tell them is that I firmly believe that complaining in the coffee shop rarely results in meaningful change. If you want things to change you can’t stay on the sidelines and wait for someone else to do it. I saw some important policy issues that weren’t being addressed such as how to fund our public schools in a more fair and equitable way and rather than complaining about it thought I would try to do something about it. I wanted to be a strong voice for rural Nebraska. Thank you for that opportunity.
In December I will be working on bills to introduce when we convene in January. If you have any ideas for legislation please contact me or my staff. My email address is email@example.com and our telephone number is 402-471-2630.