I have just completed my first session in the Nebraska Legislature and I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts and impressions of this year. As slow moving as it may have seemed for most of you it went by extremely fast for me. We witnessed a divided legislature to begin the session resulting in a battle over the rules for the first 30 days. Near the end of the session we experienced almost the same division when we voted to override the Governor’s veto on the budget. There were 667 bills introduced this year and we worked together to pass more than 170. We worked through a major budget shortfall and passed a balanced budget for the next 2 years.
Each Senator has his or her motive for supporting or opposing a bill and I understand that it is next to impossible to please everyone. Before voting on a bill I would make sure I understood how the bill would affect my constituents and all Nebraskans for that matter and then come to a decision on whether to support or oppose it. When asked about my position I was honest with my response in explaining my decision. The experience I gained this first session was invaluable and I have enjoyed my time working in Legislature even though there were times I was disappointed in how a vote would turn out. I would say the most disappointing moment for me was near the end of session when we voted to override the Governor’s veto on the budget. Even though several of us voiced our concerns and shared our personal stories we could not muster up the votes to override the veto. This was a cut to provider rates for facilities that provide care to people with behavioral health issues, those with disabilities and for the elderly. The Appropriations Committee did an excellent job of putting a budget together that was balanced and took care not to cut needed services too deeply so Nebraskans would not be harmed. I put my trust in them and I wish others had as well.
When I was going door to door before the election many of you expressed the need for property tax relief. LB461 was brought to the floor during the session, but it didn’t offer true property tax relief and it came at a time when we were dealing with a $1.1 billion-dollar shortfall. This bill gave income tax relief and changed the formula for agricultural land from property value to more of an income value based tax. There would be no property tax relief for those living in urban areas. The income tax portion provided tax relief to corporations and higher wage earners and provided little to no tax relief for working families. Another problem is that schools, municipalities, counties, and many other local boards rely on property tax revenue for their budgets. If we are going to reduce revenue we need to make sure we have revenue from somewhere else to help fund them.
I know it has nothing to do with legislation, but on several occasions, I had the opportunity to visit with 4th grade classes who had traveled to the Capitol for their field trip. They were all very polite and I even had the opportunity to answer some of their questions and have my picture taken with them. I enjoyed speaking to the children and I want to thank you for letting me visit with you and those students.
On the bright side, I did have two of my bills pass this year. One is LB383 which allows for a member of planning commission hold another office within a community of the first class, second class or village if they do not already serve as mayor, on a city council or village board, as a member of any community redevelopment authority, or a citizen advisory review committee. This would solve a problem in some smaller communities where elected positions go unfilled because there are not enough people interested in holding those positions.
The second bill is LB455 which updates the minimum standards set forth in the National Electrical Code issued and adopted by the National Fire Protection Association which govern the State Electrical Board. It allows the State Electrical Board to continue to have the power to adopt, promulgate, and revise the rules and regulations necessary to enable it to carry into effect the State Electrical Act.
I still have three other bills on general file awaiting debate during the next session which begins in January 2018.
I introduced LR164 to request an interim study which will examine the need for restoration, development, and capital improvement of sites that attract tourists to Nebraska. During the summer and fall I will be involved with several interim studies through the committees I serve on. Some will have hearings in Lincoln and others in out-state Nebraska including Grand Island. Interim studies are open to the public and there will be notification of a location and time for all hearings.
I recently made a trip along with Senator Lynn Walz to Washington D.C. to speak with Nebraska’s Congressmen and Senators. Senator Walz and I were appointed as the legislative commissioners to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission or MIPRC. There are 11 states included in the Midwest region with 9 states having active membership. The membership states are Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Iowa and Ohio are the two states not represented. There is intercity passenger rail as well as long distance which would be Amtrak that runs through Nebraska. In Nebraska in 2016 there were 54,593 passengers who used Amtrak with the most riders traveling from Omaha to Chicago and Omaha to Denver. Another 118,692 passengers traveled by Amtrak through our state with some de-training here in Nebraska. President Trump’s current budget proposal would cut funding for long distance passenger rail which means no funding for Amtrak in Nebraska. We were visiting our representatives in Washington D.C. to express our concerns and educate them on the importance of Amtrak to our state and to find out what their feelings were on the President’s plan. Other issues discussed were frequency of service in Nebraska and how in the future there are plans for a separate line running through Iowa from Chicago to Omaha to increase daily service and ridership. Another possible plan for the future is a line that runs from Kansas City to Omaha, but that may be further down the road.
Also, this summer and fall my plans include participating in interim studies. I will be working on bills for next year, attending local events, talking with constituents through meetings and even going door to door to get your input.
Please feel free to contact my office if you have an issue or would like to schedule a meeting and visit my face book page at State Senator Dan Quick