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This past week the deficit appropriations bill and Cash Reserve Fund transfer bills passed first round of debate. Many important initiatives, including the Infrastructure Bank, levies around Offutt Air Force Base, and Corrections facilities expansion were included in transfers from the Cash Reserve Fund. The revenue shortfall was filled with unspent appropriations from prior years to balance the state budget for the final year of the biennium. A number of complex issues are up for debate before the Nebraska Legislature in the coming week. We are awaiting the committee executive process of the Revenue Committee to wrap up and advance property tax reform measures to floor. Many controversial issues also await discussion, expansion of entitlement programs and medical marijuana just a few among them.
As debate continues on a number of bills before the Nebraska Legislature, many of you have likely been contacted by advocacy groups, associations to which you belong, or social media action alerts to contact my office about a particular bill. Citizens expressing their voice and views on issues before the Legislature is an integral and critical part of the democratic process. When voters contact me and provide their perspective on legislation I find it invaluable. Personally, I find a short personal email, letter, or call from a constituent more effective than form emails, online petitions, or pass through calls which I can not verify the identity of the sender.
An informed electorate is the foundation of our democratic process. Voters need to stay informed and engage in policy issues, as the legislation passed will ultimately impact their families and businesses. It can be a challenge to keep up on the daily changes to legislation that take place. Most voters rely on the guidance of associations and advocacy groups with paid lobbyists who track the status of bills and provide information to group leaders. Organization staff then relay that information to the internal structure of the organization.
It has been my experience in my first term in the Legislature that some “action alerts” from advocacy groups to their membership are not always completely accurate about a bill, its current language, or even its intent. Constituents may then contact my office about a bill, representing those inaccuracies. At times, advocacy groups with a political agenda will try to misrepresent a bill as a means of defeating it, intentionally misleading voters. This kind of intentional misinformation corrupts the policy process.
I encourage voters to actively participate in the legislative committee processes of groups and organizations to which they belong. Be skeptical about political messages you see on social media or circulated in emails, and understand what the objectives of the advocacy group or sender are. Bad facts and inaccurate information can take on a life of their own, particularly on social media. I do not want to cast votes based on bad information. As my constituents, you want to make your decisions based on facts as well. It is not uncommon for good policy to become victim to a political effort to kill it.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with questions or to express your position on legislation at 402-471-2732 or email at email@example.com. For daily updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38