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Sen. Tyson Larson

Sen. Tyson Larson

District 40

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Dear Residents of the 40th District,

The Legislature debated significant legislation on the second round of debate this week. LB235, identifying the state aid formula for public schools, was advanced. LB305, legislation to begin the process of implementing a state meat and poultry inspection agency, was also advanced.

My priority legislation, LB 229, which allows for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to apply for a Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) grant, was also advanced after an amendment was adopted that establishes the required benchmarks that DNR must meet in order to continue receiving NET funds.  Under the amended LB229, after the first 3 year grant of $3.3 million per year, DNR will be required to submit a report to the Legislature in order to qualify for a second 3 year grant of $3.3 million per year. This report will provide demonstrable evidence of the benefits accrued from the projects and activities conducted with grant funds as well as documentation that the matching fund requirements have been met. In addition, the Natural Resources Committee of the Legislature will be required to provide a report, which will include an outline and priority listing of water management and funding needs in Nebraska, an outline of statewide funding options which create a sustainable funding source to meet the needs set forth in the report, and recommendations for legislation. DNR will not be eligible for funding beyond the first 3 years unless the projects and activities have resulted in enhanced stream flows, reduced consumptive uses of water, recharged ground water, supported wildlife habitat, or otherwise contributed towards conserving, enhancing, and restoring Nebraska’s ground water and surface water resources. LB229 is a step in the right direction for preserving our water resources, and I am pleased that the interested parties were able to agree on the mechanisms included in this bill as well as the future benchmarks that must be met.

Another bill, LB698, which removes the requirement to label ethanol at the gas pumps, was not advanced. Senator Christensen, the bill’s introducer, requested that the bill be laid over to next session after some Senators raised concerns about consumer awareness. While ethanol production is vital to the agricultural economy in Nebraska, the impact on the consumer must be further evaluated.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

The Legislature took up important bills relating to education this week. Senator Greg Adams of York introduced LB637, which was debated and advanced. LB637 ensures minimum standards of operation for private or out-of-state post secondary institutions and provides consumer protection, calls for a study of the need for uniform policies and practices regarding dual-enrollment courses and career academies, and enables the University to offer certificates in additional fields upon approval from the Coordinating Commission if the preponderance of the courses comprising any such certificate are above the associate-degree level. These provisions will benefit Nebraska’s students by improving college readiness and opportunities within post-secondary education.

LB235, also introduced by Senator Adams, was debated and advanced as well. LB235 lays out the changes to the state aid to education funding for the 2011-2013 biennium. LB235 authorizes $822 million in state aid to schools next year and $880 million the following year, which is $32 million more for the biennium than was included in Governor Dave Heineman’s proposed budget. Because $140 million in federal stimulus money that was received last year will not continue and because state aid to education is nearly a quarter of the state’s total budget, unfortunately some cuts to state aid are necessary. However, the Education Committee worked diligently to make the changes in state aid as fair as possible.

Another bill advanced by the Legislature was LB177, introduced by Senator Gwen Howard of Omaha. The purpose of LB177 is to assist the Department of Health and Human Services in accomplishing the following: using due diligence to notify adult relatives when a child is removed from parental custody; making efforts to place siblings together, or provide for sibling time if placement together is not possible; and creating transition plans for children aging out of foster care. These are very important goals for our foster care system, and LB177 is a positive step towards achieving them.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

The Legislature debated LB305 on general file and, with strong support, advanced the bill to the second round of debate. The Legislature also adopted an amendment to LB305, which clarifies the funding needed to move forward. I am very pleased that my colleagues understand the importance of this issue, and I will continue to work diligently on the development of state meat inspection in Nebraska.

LB229, my priority bill for this session, was also passed through to the second round of debate. LB229, as originally introduced, transferred $7 million per year from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) to the Water Resources Cash Fund, administered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). NET; various environmental, conservation and agriculture groups; and members of the Legislature worked to develop a compromise plan. As amended, LB229 now allows DNR to apply for grant funds up to $3.3 million per year for 3 years from NET. These projects must relate to any river basin determined to be fully appropriated or designated as overappropriated pursuant to the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act. The Legislature will match these funds for the water projects selected. This compromise demonstrates the commitment of the Legislature and NET to more adequately address the numerous water resource concerns that our state faces.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

The Legislature debated a very important bill this week, LB84, which adopts the Build Nebraska Act. LB84 will strengthen our infrastructure and provide funding mechanisms for maintaining our roads by directing one half cent of existing state sales tax to the State Highway Capital Improvement Fund to be used for construction of high-priority highway projects. This tax diversion will begin in 2013, after the current budget, and will continue until 2033. This will generate $125 million per year. LB84 also authorizes $500 million in highway bonds to accelerate construction of high-priority, high-dollar projects, with such bonds required to be paid within 20 years.

LB84 is essential for our state. Nebraska has not made maintenance of our roads a priority in recent years, and the funding from user fees and fuel tax has been insufficient due to lower revenue and increased costs. Specifically, consumers are purchasing less gasoline because of high prices and more fuel efficient vehicles. As a result, the Department of Roads has not been able to meet its needs. There has been considerable deterioration of the highway system, and many needed projects have not been addressed. LB84 offers a solution to these problems without increasing taxes.

Investing in the infrastructure in our state will stimulate business growth throughout Nebraska, and an adequate highway system is vital to commerce. It is important that we complete the expressway system that connects mid-sized towns to the Interstate, as well as replace unsafe or dilapidated roads and build new roads to meet any increasing demand. LB84 contributes to a positive business climate in Nebraska, and diverting sales tax to pay for our infrastructure is a responsible approach. While we face many budgetary concerns, revenue is expected to increase as the economy rebounds, and we all have to determine which expenditures should be our highest priorities.

LB84 was advanced on Friday, but with several amendments pending, additional debate will certainly be required.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

This past week saw the conclusion of committee hearings in the Judiciary Committee and others, and next week, the Legislature will begin all day floor debate on bills that have advanced out of their respective committees.

The Legislature debated many priority bills that relate to reducing state spending and balancing our budget. LB465, introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, eliminates certain Medicaid, SNAP, and other public assistance benefits for certain legal immigrants who have been in the United States for less than 5 years. LB465 mirrors federal public assistance law, and Nebraska will see savings of approximately $4 million per year with the elimination of these expenses. LB468, also introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell, would allow for increased co-payments and other reductions or restrictions to be placed on the amount, scope and duration of goods and services within the Medicaid program. LB468 is expected to result in savings of at least $400,000 in the next year and, according Governor Dave Heineman’s budget, even more savings in following years. Medicaid costs encompass a substantial portion of the State’s budget, and these cost savings are essential in reducing total expenditures. Both of these bills were advanced following debate.

The Legislature also advanced LB451, introduced by Senator Galen Hadley of Hastings, which would enact the Business Innovation Act to provide that the Department of Economic Development (DED) shall establish programs to provide financial assistance to companies receiving federal SBA grants, creating prototypes, identifying commercial products and processes, using Nebraska public college and university researchers and facilities for applied research projects, and engaging in value-added agriculture and microenterprise. The bill would repeal the Agricultural and Value-Added Partnerships Act, the Microenterprise Development Act, and the Building Entrepreneurial Communities Act. LB451 includes a provision that the Act will terminate on October 1, 2016. LB451 streamlines these programs and allows for greater investment. LB451 results in savings of approximately $1.5 million per year, but the appropriation for the new program is $7 million per year, which will lead to greater business growth.

This week I also introduced LR121, which encourages the support and continuation of the University of Nebraska at Omaha collegiate wrestling program. This program is one of the most successful sports programs in our state, including winning 6 national titles in the past 8 years, and yet UNO announced that it planned to cut the program in its move to Division I. If you also feel strongly that this program should be continued, please contact the members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, who will vote on the announced plans on Friday, March 25.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

As the legislative session nears its halfway point, Senators and the standing committees have designated their priority bills to ensure that they are debated on the floor. The Agriculture Committee has selected LB305, my bill which begins the process of implementing a state meat inspection agency, as one of its priorities. I have selected LB229, introduced by Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine, as my priority bill for this session. LB229 transfers $7 million per year until 2021 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to the Water Resources Cash Fund for administration of water projects and studies. By transferring funds pursuant to LB229, we are focusing on meeting our State’s obligations under various water agreements and still addressing the purpose of the Nebraska Environmental Trust, including ground and surface water conservation and protection of wildlife habitat.

This week, the Legislature passed LB284, introduced by Senator Bob Krist of Omaha. LB284 changes Neb.Rev.Stat. § 28-1320.02, prohibiting picketing of a funeral or memorial service within three hundred feet of a cemetery, mortuary, church, or other place of worship at the time of a funeral or memorial service, to extend the prohibition to five hundred feet. This legislation is significant in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Snyder v. Phelps et. al., 562 U. S. ____ (2011), in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of persons to picket at funerals under the First Amendment.  In that decision, however, the Supreme Court recognized that picketing can be subjected to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, and LB284 puts appropriate restrictions in place for these types of situations.

The Legislature also spent considerable time debating LB421, introduced by Senator Dave Pankonin of Louisville, which increases the fees for entry into Nebraska State Parks. LB421 authorizes an increase of $1 in the fee for a temporary permit and $5 for an annual permit. The Legislature recognizes that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has faced high maintenance costs for the numerous parks that they manage, and as a result, the Legislature also advanced three bills to convey property owned by Nebraska Game and Parks to a nearby local government to handle future administration and maintenance of such land. LB421 is a positive step in ensuring that our state parks will be adequately supported and that all Nebraskans will have access to affordable recreational activities at our state parks.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

The Legislature debated LB22, which would adopt the Mandate Opt-Out and Insurance Coverage Clarification Act. Under LB22, introduced by Senator Beau McCoy of Omaha, Nebraska will not allow health insurance plans that cover abortions to participate in health insurance exchanges. LB22 also seeks to prohibit private health insurance sold in Nebraska from providing coverage for an elective abortion except through an optional rider that is paid for solely by the insured. After much discussion, the bill was advanced to select file. As a strong supporter of pro-life legislation, this bill is an important step in preserving life by making it more cumbersome to have an abortion in our state.

The Judiciary Committee held hearings on many controversial bills. LB276, introduced by Senator Brenda Council of Omaha, would seek to eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment. I oppose this legislation and believe that the people of Nebraska should have the opportunity to punish offenders of the most heinous crimes with a sentence of death.

The Judiciary Committee also heard testimony of several bills related to immigration concerns. LB48, introduced by Senator Charlie Janssen of Fremont, pertains to local law enforcement officers’ responsibilities in checking immigration status as well as making it a state crime to be employed without legal authorization to work in the United States. LB569, introduced by Senator Colby Coash of Lincoln, would require all employers in the state to use E-verify when hiring new employees. Senators Brenda Council of Omaha and Tony Fulton of Lincoln introduced resolutions urging action by federal government and local law enforcement agencies, respectively. Dealing with illegal immigration has been a challenge for state governments, and I support stricter state laws to address these challenges. Specifically, E-verify is a low cost system that is already required for new public employees and could be extended to a broader range of employers.

The Agriculture Committee and the General Affairs Committee have both concluded their public hearings and will be making final determinations about which bills to advance to the floor. The Legislature passed several bills this week that I strongly support, including LB383, eliminating state aid to cities and counties, and LB81, disallowing cities from enacting a wheel tax on nonresidents.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

The Revenue Committee held a hearing this week on LB253, which I introduced to eliminate the tax credit available to the wind energy generation facility in Knox County. The tax credit, passed by the legislature last year in LB1048, meant that Knox County and other political subdivisions, including the Bloomfield School District, would not be able to collect any taxes on the wind farm for several years because the wind company would be able to credit previously paid taxes towards the current tax due. Senator Abbie Cornett of Bellevue also introduced legislation, LB360, to clarify the tax consequences of wind farms in Knox County and the rest of Nebraska. These two bills directly affect District 40, and I am diligently working to find a legislative solution to this issue.

In addition, the Judiciary Committee held more hearings this week on bills relating to firearms. LB298 amends some of Nebraska’s use of force and self-defense statutes to strengthen and simplify when a resident of Nebraska can use force to defend themselves, others, or their property. This bill is important for preservation of a person’s right to use force to protect oneself, and I am very supportive of this legislation.

The Legislature debated two important bills relating to tax policy in Nebraska. LB383, which eliminates state aid to counties and cities, was debated once again on select file and advanced by the Legislature. In addition, LB165, introduced by Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine, addresses the use of occupation taxes. With proposed amendments, LB165 limits imposition of existing occupation taxes to telecommunications services and establishes a maximum rate of 6.25% rate for occupation taxes on telecommunication services. I am fully supportive of managing the budget concerns with which we are currently faced, but I am also concerned with the rising reliance on additional fees and taxes. If we truly intend to focus our efforts on fiscal responsibility, raising these other fees and taxes cannot be the answer, and as such, I support the limitations proposed in LB165.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

The Agriculture Committee voted to advance LB305, which I introduced and which creates a state meat inspection agency. This issue is very important to the state of Nebraska, and I am pleased that the bill will soon be debated on the floor of the Legislature.

The Judiciary Committee advanced LB202, which provides for a resentencing procedure for juveniles who were convicted of a Class I and Class IA felony and sentenced to life imprisonment. This procedure would only be available to persons convicted of a crime committed before their 18th birthday and who meet other enumerated criteria that demonstrate rehabilitation.

In addition, the Judiciary Committee held hearings on very important bills relating to firearms. LB618, introduced by Senator Burke Harr, and LB516, introduced by Senator Mark Christensen, both address firearms at schools. LB618 allows a school district to permit peace officers or law enforcement officers to possess a firearm when contracted to provide school security or school event control services. LB516 allows all governing bodies of educational institution in Nebraska the option to create a security policy that enables either their security guards, administrators, teaching staff, or a combination of all three to carry a concealed handgun in or on school property. Safety concerns at schools in Nebraska have prompted a discussion on this topic, and while I am supportive of the concealed carry law, I believe security personnel are better suited to provide this type of protection in a school setting.

The Legislature debated several bills relating to budget concerns, including LB333, which implements the recommendations of the Education Committee to lower expenditures on Early Childhood Education Grants, high ability learner grants, an integrated information system, and the Center for Student Leadership and Extended Learning. The Appropriations Committee also released its preliminary report for the biennial budget, which can be accessed on the Unicameral’s website (www.nebraskalegislature.gov). In this report, the Committee finds that spending growth will be approximately 1.2% in fiscal year 2011-2012 and 3.4% in fiscal year 2012-2013. The Committee also estimates that $256 million in Cash Reserve funds will be required for the upcoming biennial budget, and that revenue growth is expected to be 5.8% in fiscal year 2010-2011, 2.6% in fiscal year 2011-2012 and 3.9% in fiscal year 2012-2013. This preliminary budget varies only slightly from the Governor’s proposed budget.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Dear Residents of the 40th District,

This past Tuesday, the hearing on LB305 to create a state meat inspection agency was held. There was considerable support for this bill (including groups such as the Nebraska Cattlemen, Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Farmers’ Union, Nebraska Pork Producers, and Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association), and I appreciate the comments from many people in District 40 and around Nebraska. The hearing showcased the benefits of this program for producers, particularly those who are looking to expand into specialty and niche markets, and consumers who are interested in having more locally grown meat products.

LB383, which eliminates state aid to political subdivisions, was debated on the floor this week. While many senators expressed concerns about the potential impact on these political subdivisions and property taxes, there was a consensus that the State’s budget constraints required action of this type. LB383 cuts approximately $44 million over the next two years, and while this impacts many cities, counties, and NRDs, many of those governments have known that this type of cut was necessary and have been able to plan for the differences in their budgets.

Bills that have been advanced by the General Affairs Committee to general file for debate by the Legislature include LB314, which allows licensed retailers to sell wine tasting cards, and LB281, which allows alcohol consumption in chartered limousines and buses. A bill advanced by the Judiciary Committee this week is LB61, which further defines electronic intrusion of persons in a place of solitude or seclusion and increases the possible penalties. This intrusion includes viewing, recording, and live streaming of content on the Internet, and the bill prescribes even tougher penalties for persons who distribute this content. These bills will be debated on the floor next week.

Please feel free to contact my office with your questions and comments at (402) 471-2801 or tlarson@leg.ne.gov.

Best Wishes,

Senator Tyson Larson

Sen. Tyson Larson

District 40
Room #1019
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2801
Email: tlarson@leg.ne.gov
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