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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 40th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Tim Gragert
Nebraska farmers have until July 19th to apply for funding via a new pilot program to help repair ephemeral gullies on their fields. Ephemeral gullies are those areas in fields where small gullies appear after heavy rains. Nebraska is one of five states selected by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to take part in the pilot project which will provide $2 million to producers. Funds can be used by farmers to implement conservation practices such as cover crops, crop rotation, no-till, contour farming, buffer strips, terraces, waterways and others.
In 2017, USDA announced enforcement changes for Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas related to highly-erodible land. This change targeted repair of ephemeral gully erosion. Since the passage of the 1985 Farm Bill, farmers have been required to control erosion on fields that are classified as highly erodible. Each spring, NRCS conducts compliance reviews on a random selection of highly erodible fields to determine if erosion has been adequately controlled. A non-compliance ruling can affect eligibility for farm program payments and federal crop insurance. If erosion control issues are identified during compliance reviews, farmers may be given variances, which provide time for farmers to make adjustments and install needed conservation practices.
Nebraska Farm Bureau continues to work with our counterparts in other states as well as the federal congressional delegation and NRCS staff to ensure implementation and enforcement of these changes are consistent with the law.
To sign up for the pilot program, or if you have questions, please contact your local NRCS office. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/ne/contact/local/
LINCOLN, NEB, June 28, 2019 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering a special Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) sign-up for farmers in Nebraska who could not plant their crops because of flooded or wet fields. This sign-up provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers plant cover crops, an alternative to letting fields go fallow and uncovered. The deadline to apply is July 19, 2019. This is an extension of the June 21 sign up deadline announced in April.
Excessive moisture and flooding in 2019 have prevented or delayed planting on many farms across Nebraska. Many producers are unable to plant crops by a final planting date or have experienced significant delays in planting.
Fields that are saturated for an extended period can lose important soil organisms. Cover crop roots add organic matter and create pathways for air and water to move through the soil, which is key to restoring its health.
“Cover crops help farmers manage soil erosion, weeds, and pests and improve soil health,” said Craig Derickson, NRCS state conservationist in Nebraska. “They can also help soil health recover after a flood or a long period of remaining wet.”
Cover crops also improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. Cover crops approved for funding through this sign up can potentially be hayed or grazed.
Work currently being done to maintain conservation structures as well as sediment removal, debris removal or grading and reshaping can be stabilized and protected from further erosion and damage by planting a cover crop.
Derickson said, “For Nebraska’s cropland that suffered significant damage, planting a cover crop can be a great way to help protect fields and restore productivity.”
For more information, or to apply for this special EQIP funding, contact your local NRCS office.
Other USDA Programs
Farmers with prevented planting coverage through USDA-administered crop insurance can hay, graze, or chop a cover crop. USDA’s Risk Management Agency adjusted the final haying and grazing date from Nov. 1 to Sept. 1 to help farmers who were prevented from planting or delayed in planting due to flooding and excessive rainfall.
USDA offers a disaster assistance discovery tool that walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of what USDA disaster assistance programs meet their needs. For more information on disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA service center or farmers.gov/prevented-planting.
Update on the Highway 11 Bridge, South of Butte. Instead of only replacing damaged pavement as originally planned, recent evaluations determined that the entire bridge deck will have to be replaced. In the long-term, this will help ensure that more work will not have to be done in the upcoming years. The expected completion time of the Highway 11 Bridge has been pushed back to December 31, 2019.
Lincoln, Neb. — The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) continues to take immediate action to restore and open roads and bridges damaged by catastrophic flooding. NDOT will be holding several open house public meetings to share information about its flood recovery plan and Emergency Relief (ER) projects in response to the historic flooding in March 2019. Nebraska residents and visitors are encouraged to attend the meeting located in the area of interest to them.
The open house meetings are scheduled as follows:
Restoring safe and efficient travel of Nebraska’s Highways is NDOT’s top priority through temporary emergency relief and permanent solutions. The open houses will feature informational displays and handouts including project details and timelines with NDOT representatives available to help answer questions about flood recovery efforts. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings at any point during the posted times.
Information about NDOT’s flood recovery efforts is available and updated at https://dot.nebraska.gov/news-media/nebraska-flood-2019.
LINCOLN – During the recent legislative session, Governor Pete Ricketts signed three bills to provide Nebraskans with additional property tax relief.
More information about each of these bills can be found below.
LB103: Ends Automatic Property Tax Hikes
The Governor signed LB103 to give Nebraskans greater insight and input into proposed property tax increases. The bill requires taxing entities—like school districts, cities, and counties—to hold a public hearing and vote before they can raise property taxes. Previously, as property valuations went up, property taxes would often soar higher and higher—even as tax rates remained the same. This meant Nebraskans paid more in property taxes without ever debating or approving the increased amount.
With LB103 signed into law, Nebraskans will now receive public notice whenever a political subdivision (such as a school district, city, or county) wants to increase its property tax receipts.
“Nebraskans deserve to be fully informed, and to have a fair say, before they pay more in property taxes,” said Governor Ricketts. “This bill adds much-needed transparency and accountability to the property taxation process.”
The Legislature passed LB103 47-0-2, and it is already in effect as law.
LB294: Adds $51 Million Annually to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund
LB294 includes the Governor’s recommendation to add $51 million annually to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund in the 2019-21 budget. This represents a 23% increase for a total of $275 million in property tax relief per year for Nebraskans.
“The key to delivering real, sustainable property tax relief is to control spending,” said Governor Ricketts. “The State budget limits spending increases to less than 3%, while raising the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund by 23%. Over the last five years, Senators and I have successfully worked together to nearly double the amount of direct relief to Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and homeowners.”
Taxpayers will see the additional relief when their property tax statements are sent out in December 2019.
LB512: Accounts for Disaster Damage to Property
LB512 provides property tax relief to Nebraskans who suffer damage to real property as a result of a natural disaster such as a flood, fire, or tornado. Under normal circumstances, property is assessed for tax purposes on January 1 each year. However, LB512 allows taxpayers to report property damage occurring after January 1 and before July 1 in order to obtain a revised assessment that takes the damage into account. So long as the damage exceeds 20% of the assessed value for the current tax year, the property’s value will be lowered to reflect the damage.
“In March, Nebraskans experienced the most widespread natural disaster in state history,” said Governor Ricketts. “LB 512 will help Nebraskans who are working to get back on their feet as the state rebuilds bigger and better than ever before.”
The Legislature passed LB512 without opposition, and it is now in effect.
Nebraskans who have experienced significant property damage due to a natural disaster in 2019 should fill out a Report of Destroyed Real Property. This report, Form 425, is available by clicking here and must be completed by July 15, 2019.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy commended a new agreement between U.S. EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to speed the availability of funding used to restore vital water infrastructure in times of disaster.
The federal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a framework for EPA-funded State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs to assist and collaborate with FEMA disaster assistance grant programs. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) has state revolving funds available for communities whose water systems were impacted by historic flooding.
“This agreement is important because it helps provide recovery funds more swiftly for our local infrastructure needs, such as the restoration of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities impacted by the flood,” Gov. Ricketts said. “It’s a great example of the ongoing federal, state and local cooperation which is helping Nebraska rebuild bigger and better after the most widespread natural disaster in our history.”
The MOU also ensures that communities that receive SRF loans will still be eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
“This MOU allows state agencies to better serve our communities impacted by federally declared disasters,” Macy said. “The clarity that this MOU provides will allow state SRF programs to offer 0% bridge loans so communities can deliver clean drinking water and effectively manage wastewater to help our communities recover quickly and return to normal operations. Reliable infrastructure is the key to community success.”
These SRF funds will act as an interim loan for communities that were impacted by the March floods until they receive reimbursement from FEMA. Then, those FEMA funds can be used to pay off the SRF loan. When communities repay SRF loans, those funds go back into the SRF to sustain the program for future loans.
Jim Gulliford, Region 7 Administrator, also stated that the agreement is beneficial from a regional perspective.
“This comes as welcomed news for our Midwest states that have been hit hard by the spring 2019 floods,” Gulliford said. “The flexibility to use state revolving funds to restore vital water infrastructure, coupled with the opportunity to seek reimbursement from FEMA, is a win-win for our communities.”
The MOU and a fact sheet are available https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf/memorandum-understanding-between-environmental-protection-agency-and-department-homeland
Owners of properties destroyed or significantly damaged by flooding, a tornado, or other natural disasters can request a new property assessment — what could amount to a tax break if officials agree that a property’s value has dropped.
That applies to all types of properties — homes, businesses and agricultural land. The measure amends a previous state law that required a property’s assessed value to be set as of Jan. 1 — no exceptions, even if a house burned down on Jan. 2.
State Sen. Steve Erdman, the amendment’s sponsor, actually introduced the bill last year and again this year before the March floods. The proposal gained new urgency, and supporters, afterward.
“Hopefully the word will get out,” said Debbie Churchill, the Dodge County assessor. “People, take advantage of it. Don’t wait until the last minute.”
There are fairly strict parameters and a narrow window to apply:
LINCOLN, Neb. – Homeowners, renters and business owners in Holt county may now apply for Individual Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for losses resulting from the severe winter storm, straight-line winds and flooding that occurred Mar. 9 to Apr. 1, 2019.
FEMA disaster grants for qualified homeowners and renters may help pay for basic repairs to make a home habitable, provide temporary rental assistance, and provide assistance for disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other sources.
The deadline for registration is June 19 for Individual Assistance.
How to register with FEMA:
Applicants will need the following to apply:
After registering for disaster assistance with FEMA, homeowners and renters may also be contacted by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to apply for a low-interest disaster loan. SBA disaster loans provide the largest source of long-term federal disaster recovery funds for survivors.
Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or email email@example.com for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call 800-877-8339 (TTY).
For flood insurance information, visit FloodSmart.gov or call the NFIP helpdesk at 800-427-4661.
Currently, 28 counties and one tribe are designated for FEMA Individual Assistance: Antelope, Boone, Boyd, Buffalo, Burt, Butler, Cass, Colfax, Cuming, Custer, Dodge, Douglas, Hall, Holt, Howard, Knox, Madison, Nance, Nemaha, Pierce, Platte, Richardson, Saline, Sarpy, Saunders, Stanton, Thurston and Washington counties and the Santee Sioux Nation.
LINCOLN – Nebraska Labor Commissioner John H. Albin announced today that Holt County, Nebraska is now eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). The filing deadline is July 5.
Individuals who live in or worked in the eligible county, and whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a direct result of flooding in the state, may qualify for unemployment assistance. The Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program was triggered when President Trump designated portions of the state a disaster area on March 21, 2019.
“FEMA is continuing to review counties for individual assistance and they will be added as they qualify. DOL will provide updates should additional counties become eligible,” said Commissioner Albin.
The filing deadline has passed for fifteen other Nebraska counties and the Santee Sioux Nation, which were previously declared eligible for DUA. Counties already declared eligible include Antelope, Boone, Boyd, Buffalo, Burt, Butler, Cass, Colfax, Cuming, Custer, Dodge, Douglas, Hall, Howard, Knox, Madison, Nance, Nemaha, Pierce, Platte, Richardson, Saline, Sarpy, Saunders, Thurston and Washington.
The first week of unemployment eligible for DUA is the week of March 10 through March 16, 2019. Applicants should file an unemployment insurance claim online at NEworks.nebraska.gov. All DUA applicants will be required to provide documents to verify wages.
“Even if an applicant doesn’t qualify for DUA, he or she can still take advantage of the resources and services provided by our job centers throughout the state,” Commissioner Albin added. A listing of job centers is available at https://dol.nebraska.gov/Home/AboutUs.
To be eligible for DUA benefits under the Presidential Disaster Declaration, individuals must:
Also eligible to apply for DUA are individuals who:
DUA applicants will need their Social Security Number and the name and address of their last employer or prospective employer to file for DUA. Applicants are required to provide proof (at the time of filing or within 21 days of filing their DUA claim) that they were employed or self-employed at the time the disaster occurred or were scheduled to begin (or resume) a job or self-employment when the disaster occurred. A copy of the most recent federal income tax forms or check stubs may also be required (self-employed individuals should also provide Schedules SE and Schedule C or Schedule F.)
Individuals can generally receive up to 28 weeks of DUA benefits as long as unemployment continues to be a result of the disaster. Eligibility for DUA benefits will be determined on a week-to-week basis. General information about DUA can be found at https://dol.nebraska.gov/UIBenefits/Programs/DUA.
The One Hundred Sixth Legislature, First Session, has adjourned sine die. The Legislature passed some important bills and failed to agree on other critical issues. Of the forty-nine individual priority bills, thirty-four became law. Of the thirty-three committee priority bills, twenty-nine were passed by the Legislature.
LB 720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, was the priority bill of Seward Senator Mark Kolterman. It proposed to replace and update the Nebraska Advantage Act, which offered tax incentives to businesses for investment and employment growth. LB 720 was voted on two days after the property tax relief measure failed. Although I believe our state needs some type of tax incentives in order to compete with other states, I had to withhold my support for LB 720. I did not think we should proceed with appropriating funding for tax incentives prior to funding property tax relief. I felt we needed to keep these two issues as a package deal, if we wanted any hope of getting property tax relief passed next year, as property tax relief is my top priority. The vote to end debate on LB 720 fell three votes short. All bills pending at the end of this legislative session are automatically carried over to the 2020 session.
Priority bills that were passed include LB 686 dealing with prison overcrowding, LB 149 raising the legal age from 18 to 19 for purchasing and using cigarettes, tobacco and vaping products, and LB 657 allowing Nebraskans to grow, process, and handle hemp and hemp products. Priority bills left pending include LB 44 to eliminate the death penalty, LB 110 to allow for medical marijuana, LB 483 to change the method used to assess agricultural land, and LB 670 offering scholarships to private school students.
A balanced budget was passed, limiting spending growth to 2.9%, which was lower than the Governor’s recommendation. The budget included additional funding for the Property Tax Credit Fund, increasing the annual funding for this property tax relief program to $275 million annually.
Both of the bills that I introduced were passed. LB 243 creates the Healthy Soils Task Force, which will be appointed by the Governor in the next couple weeks. The task force will develop a comprehensive healthy soils initiative and action plan. LB 406 updated the statutes pertaining to the State Treasurer’s unclaimed property division.
An initiative petition drive calling for property tax relief is currently underway to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2020 general election ballot. The proposal would give taxpayers a refundable income tax credit in the amount of 35% of property taxes paid each year. Property taxes collected in 2018 amounted to just under $4.2 billion, of which 35% would be approximately $1.5 billion. Although budget cuts would be considered, to deal with this amount of property tax relief, the Legislature would most likely also have to increase taxes or broaden the tax base by repealing exemptions or taxing more services in order to fund the income tax credit proposal.
The residents of Northeast Nebraska that were victims of the March flooding still continue to be a top priority to me. The Legislature passed LB 512, which will require the County Board of Equalization to adjust the value of destroyed real property to its assessed value on the date of the damage. Current law required land and buildings to be valued for property tax purposes on January 1 of each year. The passage of this bill will put a process in place to reduce property values when damaged by a natural disaster between January 1 and July 1.
With the completion of the legislative session, I will be spending more time back in Creighton. During the interim, I will try to get around the district as much as possible. I will still travel to Lincoln periodically for meetings and office work. If I’m not in Lincoln, my staff will be able to assist you. My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org. My telephone number at the State Capitol is (402) 471-2801 and my mailing address is District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.