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We are fully into the swing of hearings and floor debate now. Our days are packed from sun up until sun down with meetings, floor debate, and hearings.
I recently introduced my first bill to the revenue committee. LB 705 deals with tax-exempt savings plans for individuals with disabilities. These savings plans are also known as Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts. These ABLE accounts allow for disabled individuals and their family members to save for long-term needs without worrying about losing eligibility for social security income and Medicaid. After discussion with the Department of Health and Human Services we brought an amendment to the committee that aligned the wording federally. This bill brought attention to ABLE accounts and started a conversation with my colleagues.
I had my first taste of a property tax debate on the floor with Senator Briese’s LB 183 and Senator Linehan’s LB 103. LB 183 would reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land solely for the purposes of educational bonds. This bill would reduce the valuation of agricultural land from 75 percent to 30 percent when it came to repaying school bonds. After much spirited debate, the proposal was put on a speaker’s hold while we wait for more comprehensive property tax bills to make it to the floor.
LB 103 would keep local governments from receiving a windfall due to higher property valuations. If property valuations increase, the local levy would have to decrease by the same amount, keeping the amount of taxes the same. If a local government would like to increase the levy, they would have to hold a public hearing before voting to do so. This bill passed the first round of voting 35-2, with 9 not voting. I supported this common-sense legislation, and will continue to do so through further rounds of voting. I have full confidence in Senator Linehan and the rest of the Revenue Committee to bring forward a fair and comprehensive plan to deal with the issue of high property taxes. I have received phone calls, letters, and emails from many of you, and I assure you that I remain committed to comprehensive property tax reform.
Last week the Appropriations Committee removed pro-life language from the budget. This language would have kept the state from sending any taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood clinics. A budget debate will be coming up soon and I can assure you that this issue will be addressed.