The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Tim Gragert

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at

This past week, the Legislature hit the half way mark in this year’s 60-day legislation session. The public hearing process is complete and senators will now meet in full-day session. Discussion will focus on bills that have been given priority status either by a senator, a committee, or the speaker. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 23.

LB 424, introduced by Grand Island Senator Dan Quick, proposes to allow municipalities throughout Nebraska to create a joint land bank with one or more other municipalities through an interlocal agreement or join an existing land bank. Currently, only cities in Douglas and Sarpy counties are authorized to create land banks and only Omaha could create a stand-alone land bank. An amendment to LB 424 would also allow Lincoln to create a stand-alone land bank.

LB 424 was debated last year, but the vote to stop the filibuster and advance the bill fell two votes short of the necessary 33 votes. Senator John Stinner of Gering, who prioritized the bill last year, did so again this year, giving the bill new life. Senators spent three hours debating the issue this past week. According to the speaker’s rules, Senator Quick will have to show that he has the necessary 33 votes for the bill to be placed on the agenda again.

A land bank is a tax-exempt political subdivision that acquires, manages and develops vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties into productive use. I signed on as a co-sponsor of LB 424 because I have seen in my hometown how this legislation could benefit all communities in Nebraska, not just the larger ones. Oftentimes, it is too costly or time consuming for private investors to rehabilitate blighted properties. These properties become an eyesore and an expense for cities to provide basic upkeep. Opponents claim that land banks decrease the property tax base when they purchase property because it becomes tax-exempt. However, after a land bank can secure and clean the property, the property is more likely to be attractive to individuals or private developers to purchase and rehabilitate the property, thereby resulting in an increase in valuation of the property and thus an increase in the property tax base.

LB 962, the Nebraska Fair Pay to Play Act, was given first round approval on a 36-4 vote this past week. The Nebraska Fair Pay to Play Act allows athletes to receive payment for their name recognition, images used, and athletic reputation. It eliminates the compensation cap on scholarships provided to athletes and allows athletes to sign with a licensed agent. It does not require colleges to pay athletes. This legislation would allow athletes to sign sponsorship deals, teach summer camps, or hire an agent without being penalized by losing their athletic scholarship or amateur status under NCAA rules.

Omaha Senator Megan Hunt explained that other students are not prohibited from earning income from their skills or talents, but due to NCAA restrictions, student athletes are prohibited. NCAA rules also require that universities limit the value of an athletic scholarship. However, the universities make significant profits from college sports.

LB 962 is modeled after a California law. At least 20 states are considering similar legislation. After the California bill passed, the NCAA Board of Governor’s reversed their historic stance and voted to allow student athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness, but the details haven’t been worked out yet.

As the Legislature begins all day debate, I encourage you to contact me with your opinion on the bills before us. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My email address is and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2020 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy today announced that USDA is providing funds to rural projects that support regional economic and community development planning.

This Strategic Economic and Community Development (SECD) funding is authorized through a Farm Bill provision for applications submitted through the following programs:

To apply for the funding, applicants must meet underlying program requirements and submit the Form RD 1980-88 to the nearest USDA office. Program funds available under SECD expire on June 30, 2020. Additional information is available on page 11947 of the Feb. 28, 2020, Federal Register.

Interested parties can learn more about this opportunity during a webinar on Thursday, March 12 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Register for the webinar at  In Nebraska, contact Community Programs staff at 402-437-5551 opt 3; for Business Programs staff 402-437-5551 opt 4.

USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB) to help improve the quality of life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:

  • Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
  • Developing the Rural Economy
  • Harnessing Technological Innovation
  • Supporting a Rural Workforce
  • Improving Quality of Life

USDA also encourages applications that will support the Administration’s goal to combat substance use disorder, including opioid misuse, in high-risk rural communities by strengthening the capacity to address prevention, treatment and/or recovery.


WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2020 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to make available up to $100 million in competitive grants for activities designed to expand the sale and use of renewable fuels.

The Department plans to publish application deadlines and other program information in the Federal Register this spring.

USDA will make the grant funds available under the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP). Its purpose is to increase significantly the sale and use of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products. The program is also intended to encourage a more comprehensive approach to marketing higher blends by sharing the costs related to building out biofuel-related infrastructure.

Grants will be available to help transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities convert to higher-ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs related to installing, retrofitting and/or upgrading fuel storage, dispenser pumps, related equipment and infrastructure.

USDA plans to make available approximately $86 million for implementation activities related to higher blends of fuel ethanol, and approximately $14 million for implementation activities related to higher blends of biodiesel.

For additional information, see page 11946 of the Feb. 28, 2020, Federal Register.  In Nebraska, contact Energy Coordinator Jeff Carpenter at 402-437-5554 or

USDA will encourage applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB) to help improve the quality of life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:

  • Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
  • Developing the Rural Economy
  • Harnessing Technological Innovation
  • Supporting a Rural Workforce
  • Improving Quality of Life

In February 2020, Secretary Perdue unveiled the Agricultural Innovation Agenda, a department-wide initiative to align resources, programs and research to position American agriculture to better meet future global demands. Investing in the availability of innovative fuels for American consumers supports this vision while we fulfill our motto to “Do Right and Feed Everyone.”

It’s that point in the legislative session when only bills with priority status make the agenda. The deadline for selecting priority bills was Friday, February 21. Every senator is authorized to select one bill as his/her personal priority bill. Committees are allowed to select two bills and the Speaker of the Legislature can designate up to 25 bills as speaker priority bills. Since committees are limited in the number of bills that they can select, they tend to incorporate a number of other bills into the committee amendments when the bill is advanced and prioritized.

As I mentioned last week, I selected LB 770 as my personal priority bill. It allows disabled veterans to qualify for a free lifetime park permit. LB 770 was given second round approval this past week and is now ready for Final Reading.

Some of the other bills that have been designated as a priority include the following:

LB 147, introduced by North Platte Senator Mike Groene, amends the Student Discipline Act, to allow teachers to use reasonable physical intervention in certain situations.

LB 627, introduced by Lincoln Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of prohibited types of discrimination.

LB 720, introduced by Seward Senator Mark Kolterman, creates the ImagiNE Nebraska Act to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act, which provides tax incentives for businesses that meet specified investment and employment criteria.

LB 814, introduced by Lincoln Senator Suzanne Geist, prohibits the performance of dismemberment abortion.

LB 962, introduced by Omaha Senator Megan Hunt, creates the Nebraska Fair Pay to Play Act, which would allow college athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness rights, or athletic reputation and permits them to sign with a licensed agent.

LB 1202, introduced by Elkhorn Senator Lou Ann Linehan, creates the Opportunity Scholarships Act, authorizing tax credits for contributions to organizations that provide scholarships for students to attend private schools.

Three pieces of legislation designated as a priority relate to property tax relief:

LB 974, introduced by the Revenue Committee, would lower the valuation of property and add a foundation factor to the school finance formula.

LB 1073, introduced by Bennington Senator Wendy DeBoer, would lower the valuation of agricultural land, as well as decrease the local effort rate and add basic funding aid to the school funding formula.

LR 300 CA, introduced by Bayard Senator Steve Erdman, would prohibit all forms of taxation other than a consumption tax, which would apply to all new goods and services.

Of the three pieces of legislation that dealt with property tax relief, only LB 974 has been advanced to the floor of the Legislature. Under LB 974, agricultural land would be reduced from 75% to 55% and residential and commercial real estate from 100% to 87% of actual value for school taxing purposes. Foundation aid would be phased in and by the third year, 15% of state sales and income tax receipts would be allocated to school districts on a per pupil basis. The allocation is estimated at $2,416 per student. Beginning with fiscal year 2023, schools would be guaranteed that 15% of their basic funding needs would come from state sources. Limits on school spending would be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Senators began debating LB 974 this past week and reached the three hour mark, where the sponsor of the legislation, Revenue Chair Senator Lou Ann Linehan, must show the speaker that she has the necessary 33 votes for the bill to be placed on the agenda again. Schools, both large and small, have expressed concern with LB 974. Their concern is that the funding isn’t sustainable and that they would not be able to make up for the loss in property tax revenue. Senator Linehan pledged to work with school districts in an effort to reach a compromise.

As the Legislature discusses priority bills, I encourage you to inform me of your opinion on them. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My telephone number is (402) 471-2801 and my email address is

One of the bills that I introduced this session was LB 770. It authorizes a free lifetime park permit for disabled veterans. This past week, LB 770 was advanced from the Natural Resources Committee on an 8-0 vote, I designated it as my priority bill, and the Legislature gave it first-round approval on a 38-0 vote.

Under LB 770, a veteran would be eligible for the free permit if they are a Nebraska resident, honorably discharged, and rated 50% or more service connected disabled or 100% disabled non-service connected and receiving a pension from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. From my experience in the military, the disabled veteran is the most worthy of receiving this benefit.

I worked with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on this legislation. I suggested an increase in nonresident park permits as a way to compensate for the free park permits to disabled veterans, considering that the vast majority of visitors to Lake McConaughy are from Colorado, where the cost of a park permit is $80. The commission calculated the projected cost and suggested an increase in the maximum amount they can charge for an annual nonresident park permit, raising the cap to $65, and increasing the cap on the daily permit for nonresidents from $8 to $12.

In researching the park permit fees in other states, I found that of the 40 states that have park permits, 19 offered free permits to disabled veterans. Another 8 states offered free or reduced price park permits to the military, of which 5 states offered benefits to both disabled veterans and the military.

LB 974, the Revenue Committee’s proposal for property tax relief, was advanced from the Revenue Committee this past week on a 6-2 vote. It proposes to lower the valuation of property and add a foundation aid factor to the school funding formula. I look forward to debate on this issue, as I think it is the most important topic before the Legislature this year.

Senator Steve Erdman of Bayard introduced LR 300, which is a constitutional amendment that would ban all forms of taxation (including the sales, income and property taxes) and replace them with a consumption tax. If passed by the Legislature, the proposed constitutional amendment would be on the November 2020 general election ballot.

The consumption tax would apply to all new goods and services. The sponsor of the resolution envisions a pre-bate to compensate for taxes paid for necessities up to the poverty level. A pre-bate is similar to a rebate, but given prior to expenditures.

The public hearing on LR 300 CA was held this past week before the Revenue Committee. There are many questions surrounding this resolution, which can be expected as it would radically change our tax system. I signed on as a co-sponsor to LR 300 CA, as I believe that we must explore all options in our quest to provide significant property tax relief to Nebraskans.

With the recent announcement that the final bridge on the state system was reopened as a result of the damage sustained from the March 2019 flood, there have been some questions about the replacement of the bridge across the Niobrara River between Boyd and Holt Counties. This statement referred to bridges on state highways, whereas the Stuart/Naper bridge is on a county road. I have been in contact with the Holt County Supervisor chairman, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and the engineering company that is working on the project.  Bids could be let early this summer. However, the final plan reviews cannot take place until the environmental documents are complete. The Department of Transportation assured me that this project is at the top of their priority list. Funding for the project will come from federal aid and county sources.

The legislative session is more than one-third complete. As the Legislature continues to debate issues before them, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions. I have heard from quite a number of constituents expressing their opposition to LB 58, the “red flag” bill. It is good to know their stance on this legislation pertaining to the temporary removal of guns from a person who may present a danger to themselves or others. Should LB 58 be debated by the full Legislature, I am planning to oppose it. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My email address is and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

Currently, forty-nine state senators serve in the Nebraska Legislature. Under the Nebraska Constitution, this number could be increased to fifty senators, but an even number of senators could result in a vote ending in a tie, requiring the Lieutenant Governor to cast the deciding vote. Speaker of the Legislature, Senator Jim Scheer, introduced LR 279, which is a constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to increase the number of state senators up to fifty-five. If LR 279 is passed by the Legislature, the proposed constitutional amendment would be placed on the November 2020 ballot for voters to decide its fate.

Each senator represents approximately 39,000 Nebraskans. District boundaries are refigured every ten years after the census through a process called redistricting. As the population continues to move to the urban areas of our state, the geographical boundaries of rural areas will increase in size. The intent of LR 279 CA was to reduce or at least keep the boundaries of rural districts from growing larger. However, opponents pointed to the additional cost of six more lawmakers and doubted that this proposal would benefit rural lawmakers, predicting instead that the added districts would be in the metropolitan area. According to the speaker’s rule, after three hours of debate on legislation that is being filibustered, it is pulled from the agenda until the sponsor can prove there are thirty-three votes in support of the measure for it to be discussed again. Whether Speaker Scheer has the votes is unknown at this time.

This past week, I introduced LB 995 before the Appropriations Committee. LB 995 seeks to appropriate $150,000 annually for the Legal Education for Public Service and Rural Practice Loan Repayment Assistance program (RLAP). This program provides loan repayment assistance to attorneys that either work for tax exempt charitable organizations that provide legal services to low-income people or attorneys that practice in designated legal profession shortage areas. Currently, Boyd County has no attorney and Rock County only has one attorney. Cedar, Dixon, Holt and Knox each have ten attorneys are less within the county, according to statistics compiled by the Nebraska State Bar Association. The shortage of attorneys in rural areas results in people having to drive hundreds of miles for legal assistance. Furthermore, as Nebraska’s population continues to age, many attorneys in rural areas are reaching retirement age. Therefore, it is important to attract young attorneys to these areas of the state.

Applicants for the RLAP must agree to remain employed for at least three years or the loan assistance must be repaid. The maximum annual amount that may be awarded to a participant is $6,000, with a lifetime cap of $42,000. The average debt of a law school graduate is estimated to be between $125,000 and $150,000.

RLAP was created in 2008 but was not funded. In 2014, an appropriation of $500,000 was granted and in 2017, a transfer from a different fund was used to sustain the RLAP for a couple years. I became interested in this program when a constituent contacted me about loan assistance and I found out that the fund was depleted. Permanent funding for this loan repayment assistance program may provide that necessary encouragement for students to practice law in rural communities or in public service jobs where the initial salary is less than what is offered in bigger cities or larger law firms. The executive director of the Nebraska State Bar Association, the dean of the Nebraska College of Law, the dean of the Creighton University School of Law, the executive director of Legal Aid of Nebraska, and a recipient of the program testified in support of LB 995 at the public hearing. No one testified against it.

If you have any comments on bills that are before the Legislature, either in committee or on the floor, I encourage you to inform me of your thoughts. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My email address is and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

Last year, I introduced and prioritized LB 243, which created the Healthy Soils Task Force. Since the bill’s passage last April, the Governor has appointed 14 members to the task force, representing production agriculture, agribusiness, Natural Resource Districts, environmental organizations, and academic experts in the fields of agriculture and natural resources. In addition, the Director of the Department of Agriculture serves on the task force, along with representatives of the Agriculture Committee and the Natural Resources Committee of the Legislature. Lisa Lunz of Wakefield and Jeff Steffen of Crofton were appointed to the task force and I am serving as the representative of the Natural Resources Committee. Keith Berns, of Bladen, was selected as chair and is doing a fantastic job.

The task force, which is charged with developing a comprehensive healthy soils initiative and action plan, has met numerous times since last summer. Another meeting is scheduled for February 6. Additionally, task force members have broken out into four subcommittees: Economics, Education, Ecosystem Services, and Initiative. The subcommittees are meeting in between our full task force meetings. There is a page on the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s website devoted to the Healthy Soils Task Force. It can be found at: I have been very impressed with the knowledge of the task force members and their dedication to this project. The task force is to submit its comprehensive action plan and report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Agriculture Committee of the Legislature by January 1, 2021.

LB 126 was introduced last year by Senator Dan Hughes of Venango, the chair of the Natural Resources Committee. This legislation would give landowners up to four free firearm deer hunting permits and allow them to hunt prior to the beginning of the season if the landowner consented to make at least 50% of his land available for public deer hunting during the firearm season. Senator Hughes asked the Natural Resources Committee to advance the bill at the end of the session last year, in an effort to put pressure on the Game and Parks Commission to work with him and other farmers experiencing damage by herds of deer on their land.  This is a serious issue so I voted to advance LB 126 to the floor of the Legislature.

Since that time, the Game & Parks Commission has worked with Senator Hughes and other senators on the depredation permit issue. However, Senator Hughes still decided to take up LB 126. Furthermore, the Natural Resources Committee amendments struck the requirement for landowners to open up their land to public hunting if they take advantage of the early permits. The Legislature debated LB 126 for several hours this past week and only a couple of senators, including myself, had problems with the bill, which was easily advanced to the second stage of debate. Although I am concerned with the damage that deer cause on farmer’s land, this bill does nothing to resolve that issue. I have no problem with the free permits for landowners experiencing damage, but I do have a problem that these permits aren’t “doe” permits, thereby allowing landowners to get the “big buck” ahead of other hunters who aren’t fortunate enough to own their own land, when the underlying issue is the overpopulation of deer. Furthermore, this would interfere with the bow hunting season and could cause hunters to lose interest in the sport. There are individuals that invest a good deal of time and money in enhancing their hunting areas on leased land, by planting food plots, clearing cedar trees, etc.

Governor Ricketts visited the O’Neill and Spencer fire departments on January 31, recognizing them for their heroic efforts to serve Nebraskans during the historic floods of 2019. It was an honor for me to be able to attend the ceremonies.

If you have any comments on legislation before us, please contact my office. Your input helps me do my job in representing you. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My email address is and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

Almost 500 new bills were introduced by members of the Legislature during the first ten days of the legislative session. All of the proposed legislation will have a public hearing before the relevant committee. The public hearing process has already started and will continue through February.

I introduced five bills this year. The first three will have public hearings next week before the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

LB 769 requires that each member of the Natural Resources Commission be a resident of the State of Nebraska.

LB 770 would provide a free park permit to disabled veterans.

LB 771 expands current law, which allows owners of passenger vehicles to purchase a decal in lieu of a front license plate if the vehicle does not have a front license plate bracket, to also apply to pickups.

LB 995 proposes to appropriate $150,000 for the Legal Education for Public Service and Rural Practice Loan Repayment Assistance Aid, so that funding can continue for this loan repayment assistance program, in an effort to encourage lawyers to seek employment in rural communities or by working for Legal Aid.

LB 1108 updates the unclaimed property statutes in an effort to return unclaimed property to its rightful owners in a more timely manner.

Chief Justice Michael Heavican gave his annual State of the Judiciary address this past week. He noted that the primary goal of the judiciary is access to justice for all Nebraska citizens. The Nebraska Supreme Court created an Access to Justice Commission in an effort to fulfil this goal. The purpose of the Commission is to provide equal access to expeditious and fair justice for all Nebraskans, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, age, or language. He reviewed how the court system is addressing language barriers, fostering conversations with Native American communities, focusing on the welfare of children and the elderly, and providing educational events. He also highlighted the work of the Office of the Public Guardian.

Chief Justice Heavican informed senators that there are now 32 problem-solving courts, including Drug and DUI Courts, Veterans Treatment Courts, Reentry Courts, and Young Adult Courts. These courts have shown that they effectively reduce recidivism and increase community safety, while also being very cost-effective. The average annual cost to supervise a problem-solving court participant is approximately $2,865, compared with the average cost to incarcerate a prisoner which can reach as high as $38,000 per year.

This past week, the Revenue Committee held a public hearing on LB 974, the committee’s proposal for property tax relief. The legislation would reduce the valuation of property for school district taxing purposes and add a foundation aid factor to the state aid formula. By the 2022/2023 school year, it would guarantee a certain amount of basic funding for every school district.

Proponents of LB 974 at the public hearing included the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Pork Producers, Nebraska Dairy, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom and the Nebraska Platte Institute. Opponents included Nebraska Association of School Boards, Nebraska Council of School Administrators, Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, Nebraska State Education Association, Omaha Public Schools and Lincoln Public Schools, as well as schools of various sizes, the Center for Rural Affairs, and OpenSky Policy Institute.

Supporters stressed that property taxes are too high, that our state aid formula is too heavily dependent on property taxes, and that something needs to be done this year. Opponents voiced concern that state revenues won’t be able to pay for this in the future without a new revenue source and schools feared that they would lose state aid, as well as local control.

The Revenue Committee will try to get LB 974 advanced quickly, so the full Legislature can debate this important issue. I realize that the proposal isn’t perfect, but I believe we should work together to get property tax relief passed this year. When fully implemented in three years, it is projected that taxpayers on average will pay 11.8% less than what they would have paid in property taxes. This is in addition to the approximate 11% reduction in property taxes attributed to the Property Tax Credit fund, which is left intact with LB 974.

If you have any thoughts or concerns with legislation before us, I welcome your input. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My email address is and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

On Wednesday, January 15, Governor Ricketts presented his State of the State Address to the Nebraska Legislature. The beginning of his speech focused on the events of last year. Although there was much devastation, he emphasized how Nebraskans responded with determination and generosity. A recent federal report pegged the losses stemming from last year’s weather at more than $3.4 billion. This figure does not include all the damages to the private sector, creating hardship for many homeowners, business owners, and farmers. The governor specifically recognized those that lost their life as a result of the flooding.

Eighty-four counties and five tribes submitted more than $400 million in disaster relief projects to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA generally covers 75% of the total cost, with the state and local government each contributing 12.5%. Therefore, the Governor included $50 million in his budget recommendations to cover the state’s portion, as well as an additional $9.2 million for counties that were most severely impacted by the disaster, to assist with their share.

Governor Ricketts went on to outline his top four priorities for this year. In addition to flood relief, the governor’s priorities include property tax relief, working to retain our veterans in the state, and workforce/business expansion.

The governor noted that last year the Property Tax Credit Fund was increased by 20%, bringing the annual funding up to $275 million. Governor Ricketts recommended approximately $500 million in property tax relief over the next three years. The Revenue Committee recently introduced LB 974 and the governor stated that he will work closely with them.

LB 153, which was introduced by Senator Tom Brewer, at the request of the governor, received first-round approval this past week on a 46-0 vote. This legislation would exempt 50% of military retirement benefits from the state income tax, thereby making Nebraska more competitive with surrounding states as we work to keep more veterans in our state.

The governor has proposed to invest $16 million in scholarships for students in high needs fields in an effort to increase the pool of younger generation workers. His budget recommendations also include funding for LB 720, the bill that revamps our business tax incentives, to help Nebraska compete nationally in expanding job opportunities. Eight million dollars are contained in his recommendations for the Department of Corrections to enhance salaries in order to attract and retain correctional workers.

As mentioned previously, the Revenue Committee introduced their property tax relief proposal. LB 974 will have a public hearing on Wednesday, January 22. The bill proposes to reduce the valuation of property, but only for school district taxing purposes. The taxable value of residential and commercial property would be reduced by 5% each year for three years, reducing valuations from 100% to 85%. Agricultural land would be reduced by 10% each year for two years, or from 75% to 55% of actual value.

LB 974 would also add a foundation aid factor to the state aid formula. The amount would be determined by calculating a percentage of the total state sales and income tax receipts for the prior year and dividing it by the fall membership, arriving at a state average. The percentage used increases from 5% to 15% over the first three years. There is also a provision added in the third year that would guarantee a certain amount of basic funding for every school district.

It appeared that some of the larger schools could experience a loss under LB 974. Therefore, transition aid was added to assure that no school would receive less than the previous year. The transition aid would be phased out over a 3-year period.

As we continue with bill introduction and the public hearing process gets underway, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions on the legislation. I can be reached at and my telephone number at the Capitol is (402) 471-2801. My mailing address is District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509.

Wednesday, January 8 marked the first day of the One Hundred Sixth Legislature, Second Session. This also marks the beginning of the second year that I am serving as the representative of the 40th Legislative District. The 40th district covers the counties of Boyd, Cedar, Dixon, Holt, Knox and Rock.

Legislative sessions in even-numbered years last for 60 days. During the short session, senators will make any necessary adjustments to the two-year budget that was developed during the 90-day session in 2019. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met in October and increased previous forecasts for state revenue upward by $266 million over the current biennial budget period. By statute, the projected increase of $161 million for fiscal year 2019-20 must go into the Cash Reserve Fund. The projected increase in revenue of $105 million for the next fiscal year (2020-21) is retained in the General Fund. The Governor, as well as many senators, have stated that this should be dedicated to property tax relief.

Legislative bills that were not killed or passed by the Legislature last year are automatically carried over to this year’s session. There are approximately 85 carryover bills that have been advanced from committee, but have not been passed by the Legislature. Another 400 bills remain stuck in committee.  The Speaker has indicated that carryover 2019 priority bills that are still in play will be scheduled ahead of bills listed in worksheet order (the date that they advanced from committee). However, bills designated as 2020 priority bills will take precedence over any other piece of legislation. Senator Mark Kolterman of Seward has already designated LB 720 as his priority bill for 2020, as he did in 2019. LB 720 proposes to revamp Nebraska’s tax incentive program which rewards businesses for investment and employment growth. The current Nebraska Advantage Act sunsets at the end of 2020.

Property taxes will again be a top issue this year. I am optimistic that the Legislature will work together to provide additional tax relief for Nebraskans. In addition to business tax incentives and property tax relief, other priority issues this year include overcrowded prisons, funding for correction’s officers, Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, student discipline, and workforce shortage.

Bills can be introduced during the first ten days of a legislative session, which occurs on January 23rd this year.  All bills that are introduced are guaranteed a public hearing before the committee that has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the legislation. The Legislature will meet in the mornings and the various committees meet in the afternoons for the first two months. Last year I was selected to serve on the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. I will continue serving on these committees this year. Beginning in March, the Legislature will meet in all day sessions until April 23, the scheduled date of adjournment.

A wealth of information is available on the Legislature’s website – Viewers can read the text of bills introduced, search state laws, find their senator, follow the progress of a certain bill, read the Unicameral Update, and watch the Legislature live through video streaming. I encourage you to check out this site.

With the beginning of session, I will be in Lincoln during the week and home in Creighton on the weekends. My office is still located on the 11th floor, due to the HVAC project. If you are ever in the Capitol and want to visit with me, please call my office and my staff will come down and escort you up the elevator, as access in the tower is limited to staff and senators. Alex Brechbill serves as my administrative assistant. He is responsible for my calendar and answering the phone. Kim Davis is my legislative aide and is responsible for constituent issues and legislation.

In order to effectively represent District #40, I encourage your input. My email address is and my mailing address is District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My telephone number at the State Capitol is (402) 471-2801.

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40
Room 11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2801
Search Senator Page:

You are currently browsing the District 40 News and Information blog archives for the year 2020.

Committee Assignments
    Business and Labor
    Natural Resources
    State-Tribal Relations
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
View video streamView live streams of floor activity and public hearings

Streaming video provided by Nebraska Public Media

Find Your Senator