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We are over a third of the way through the session and it seems like the time has flown by.
I presented LR 13 before the Agriculture Committee. This resolution would urge the respective federal agencies to enforce their standards for labeling milk and dairy products. Earlier this year dairy supporters and farmers from across the country submitted roughly 13,000 comments to the FDA urging them to reserve the use of the terms milk, yogurt, butter, ice cream, and cheese for products derived from real dairy origination when they are labeling products. Dairy farmers have been taken advantage of by non-dairy products using the term “milk.” As a former dairy farmer, I was proud to bring this resolution, and it received a good reception during the hearing.
There were many of you that came to the capitol last week to watch the vote of Senator Brewer’s LB 155. LB 155 would remove a sentence in statute dealing with eminent domain. We had a spirited debate on LB 155. Senator Brewer fought hard for property owners’ rights, but unfortunately fell two votes short. Many of you reached out with your concerns and I really appreciate that. I was a supporter of the bill that day and plan to support it again when Senator Brewer brings the bill back next session.
The Appropriations Committee released their preliminary budget. It was similar to the Governor’s budget proposal in many aspects, and I look forward to seeing the committee’s final proposal. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board threw a wrench into the budget when they announced that it was lowering its prediction of tax revenue by $110 million through the budget period. This means we have to find that $110 million somewhere else in the budget. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board still has one meeting left in late April, and those projections will be the ones we use when debating the budget.
I have worked with Farm Bureau to set up three town halls planned through the district over the month of March. The first is on March 9th at the Sutton Bakery in Sutton at 9:00am. On March 16th, I will be at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Hildreth at 9:00am. Finally, I will be in Blue Hill at City Hall on the March 30th at 10:00am. I look forward to seeing those that come and am working to plan other events throughout the district. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact my office.
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.
We are now past the tenth day of the session, which means that all bills have been introduced for the session. I have introduced three bills and a resolution. They are:
I have also cosponsored a number of different bills, dealing with property tax relief, pro-life issues, and limiting the power and control of government in our lives. You can find more information about these bills on the Nebraska legislature’s website at nebraskalegislature.gov.
My colleagues and I have also started committee hearings, which is probably my favorite part of the legislature. Each bill in the legislature gets a public hearing. At these hearings we hear from the second house, the people, on every bill. Anyone who wants to come to a hearing and speak on a bill is able to do so. I am on the Education and Health and Human Services Committees, two of the biggest committees in the legislature. We have already heard a number of bills on a variety of topics, and I look forward to working for District 38 as we continue this session.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can also find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/senatormurman/ and leave a comment there.
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