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Over the next 40 legislative days, a number of controversial and complicated issues will come to the floor of the Nebraska Legislature. From gas taxes to the death penalty, extended debate is anticipated to take place when each comes to the floor for deliberation. Polarizing topics, many of the bills will elicit strong opinions and feeling in support and in opposition. To each issue, every individual brings their own life experiences, religious perspective, and political ideology. I have already heard from many of you in District 38 regarding a number of the upcoming issues, in both strong support and equally strong opposition.
LB 610 would add 1.5 cents per gallon to the current gas tax annually over a four year period, to a total of 6 cents per gallon. The revenue would be directed to infrastructure improvements in roads and bridges. While I am certainly not in favor of increased taxes, the overwhelming need to repair aging bridges and other transportation infrastructure is a real and pressing need in rural Nebraska. As agriculture equipment continues to increase in size, the need is greater than ever to update our transportation infrastructure. Balancing the needs with the costs is the legislative challenge.
LB 268, which would repeal the death penalty, has advanced from the Judiciary Committee and has been prioritized by Senator Chambers. While I certainly feel the ultimate penalty should remain for the most heinous of crimes, the practical reality is that Nebraska does not have a legal death penalty in place now. Given that we have not executed a death row inmate since 1997, some feel the penalty is not an effective deterrent. The costs associated with maintaining death row inmates for decades without a legal means of execution available is a significant use of taxpayer dollars.
LB 106 would remove local control of livestock facility siting. LB 472 would expand the Medicaid program in Nebraska. LB 586 would extends workplace protection to LGBT individuals. LB 623 would enable children of DACA status to obtain driver’s licenses and state identification cards. LB 599, which I prioritized, allows an exception to the increased minimum wage for high school students.
None of these are simple issues. I have spent, and will continue to spend, many hours exploring and reflecting on each of these issues. My faith and my values are at the forefront of my meditations. My work on the Appropriations Committee has given me a new perspective on the costs associated with decisions made by state government, and their impact in both the short and long term on Nebraska taxpayers.
It is easy to have a strong, inflexible position on a controversial issue as a private individual. However, when I press the button on my desk and cast my vote, I am well aware of the implications and responsibility. My votes have real costs to Nebraska families. They impact the jobs and working conditions of my constituents. It may even be the difference between life and death.
Whether you agree or disagree with my votes on upcoming issues, please know two things. First, I have listened to your concerns and taken the opinions of all of my constituents on both sides of an issue into account during my deliberations. Second, I do not cast my votes on the amendments, procedures, and underlying bills without deliberate thought, research, prayer, and reflection.
Many difficult decisions on spending, policy, and social issues lie ahead. I appreciate your input on all issues before the Legislature. To contact my office, please call 402-471-2732 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For daily updates, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38