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This week the Legislature spent long hours debating numerous important bills as this session nears its end. LB970, the tax cut bill, was again advanced and will now be placed on final reading for a determinative vote. I voted for advancement of this bill. The Legislature also passed the various budget bills and have sent them to Governor Heineman for approval. I voted against these bills because I feel it is important to be fiscally responsible regarding the tax cuts provided in LB970. As a supporter of the tax cut, I could not vote for the budget bills that called for increased spending by the state. Voting for spending increases this year only leads to more drastic cuts next year with LB970 in place.
Another bill regarding taxes, LB745, introduced by Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine, was also advanced after a compromise amendment was adopted. LB745, as amended, would limit a city’s ability to levy a new occupation tax on its residents without a vote of the people, if such tax revenue received under the tax would exceed certain amounts that vary depending upon the size of the municipality. A city may also modify the rate of an existing occupation tax relating to a specific project without a vote of the people. LB745 allows for more accountability of local officials when they implement occupation taxes and places some authority in the hands of the taxpayer when additional taxes are proposed.
LB806, allowing instant racing terminals for wagering on historic horseraces, was also advanced to final reading after extensive debate. An amendment to LB806 during this debate would allow the licenses issued for instant racing terminals to expire after four years unless the there is an increase in the number of days for live horseraces or an increase in the purse offered at the racetrack compared to 2011.
The Legislature also spent time considering LB239, introduced by Senator Charlie Janssen of Fremont. LB239 would require valid photo identification to be presented at which time an individual casts a ballot in an election in Nebraska. Persons who cannot display a photo id would be allowed to vote provisionally until such time as their identity and registration could be confirmed. The primary goal of this bill is to ensure voter identity and to prevent cases of voter fraud, which have become commonplace in other states. This bill has been debated extensively, but no vote has yet been taken. While I support this bill and planned to vote to advance it, there were not enough votes to stop a filibuster by those who opposed the legislation, and the bill has been taken off of the agenda at this time. With the end of session looming and other bills that need to be taken up, LB239 may not make it back on the agenda, and this issue will then need to be taken up again in the future.
LB1057, introduced by Senator Tom Carlson of Holdredge, was debated and advanced to final reading. LB1057 increases the corn checkoff from one quarter cent to one half cent. I introduced an amendment to include a refund option in LB1057, similarly to numerous large corn producing states and even a checkoff in Nebraska, the dry edible bean checkoff. This amendment would have allowed producers to have an opportunity to decide whether to participate in the increased checkoff. However, my colleagues did not adopt this amendment. I will continue to work to allow producers to have more control over their checkoff funds and their investment in the Nebraska Corn Board.
I would also like to bring a great program to the attention of high school students in District 40. Nebraska 4-H & University of Nebraska Extension will be hosting the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 10-13, 2012. If you have an interest in government, politics, leadership, or public speaking, I would strongly urge you to apply for this program. The application deadline is May 15, 2012. Please visit http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/education/unicamyouth.php for more information.
Senator Tyson Larson