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The Legislature has completed its work for this 60-day legislative session which took an extended break from the middle of March until July 20, due to COVID-19. Although what was accomplished earlier this session seems like it was a long time ago, I was pleased with the work done during the last 17 days of the session. On its final day, the Legislature passed LB 1107, providing for property tax relief, a revamped business tax incentive program, and a pledge to provide matching funds for a major project at UNMC, if primarily funded by the federal government.
Although I would have rather altered our school finance formula to require more state funding for our schools, I was pleased with the compromise amendment in LB 1107. School districts, both large and small, united to oppose the school finance changes, as they feared loss of future funding, as well as the loss of local control. Primarily due to their opposition, the measure did not have sufficient votes to pass.
The compromise reached in LB 1107 provides for a statutory minimum of $275 million annually for the Property Tax Credit Fund, which is shown on property tax statements. It also creates a new refundable income tax credit based on the amount of school district property taxes paid. The annual funding for the income tax credit will increase from $125 million the first year to $375 million by the fifth year. Increases are based on revenue growth, with safeguards to protect our budget. By the fifth year, $650 million will be appropriated annually for property tax relief from these two programs. Furthermore, the $375 million in funding for the income tax credit will increase annually based on the percentage change in overall statewide valuations. By 2025, the income tax credit is estimated to result in an approximate 15% reduction in school taxes paid, which is in addition to the amount of relief shown on your property tax statement.
LB 814, which prohibits dismemberment abortion, was also passed by the Legislature on the final day. I signed on as a co-sponsor of this bill. Debate earlier in the week centered on the constitutionality of the measure. Senator Ernie Chambers noted that a previous Supreme Court ruling said that any interference with the dilation and evacuation procedure (D&E) would place an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion. He requested an attorney general’s opinion, which ruled that the measure was likely constitutional because it did not impose a substantial obstacle on access to abortion in Nebraska.
Two other bills that I co-sponsored, LB 153 and LB 424, were passed by the Legislature this past week. LB 153 will exempt 50% of military retirement from the Nebraska income tax. It will take effect in 2022. LB 424 will allow Municipal Land Banks in smaller cities, as well as cities in Douglas and Sarpy counties. I believe it will provide another tool to help rural communities rehabilitate blighted properties.
Six senators are affected by term-limits this year. They include Senators Jim Scheer, Ernie Chambers, Kate Bolz, Sue Crawford, Sara Howard and Rick Kolowski. It was an honor having served with them. Norfolk Senator Scheer has served as the Speaker of the Legislature for the past four years. Omaha Senator Chambers has been term-limited out of office for the second time. At age 83, he has served 46 years in the Legislature. Senators who are term-limited must sit out for four years before they are eligible to run again.
I will be back in Creighton now that the Legislature has adjourned. The Legislature is set to convene on January 6, 2021. 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 District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my office telephone number is (402) 471-2801.