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Tim Gragert

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40

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We have reached the one-third mark of this 60-day legislative session, but still have a great deal of work to do. The various Standing Committees are busy holding public hearings on the 600 bills that were introduced in January. As of February 3rd, public hearings have been conducted on 257 bills during the first three weeks of hearings, but 343 bills have yet to be heard during the next four weeks before the public hearing process concludes and the Legislature begins to meet on the floor in full-day debate.

LB 925, the bill I introduced to create the Resilient Soils and Water Quality Act, was advanced from the Natural Resources Committee this past week. I have designated it as my priority bill. The purposes of the Act are to accelerate the use of best management practices for healthy soil; protect and improve soil and water quality; protect the public’s health and enhance agricultural production and profitability; and to increase awareness, education, and promotion of best management practices for healthy soils through peer-to-peer relationships, as well as demonstration and research farms.

Under LB 925, the Department of Natural Resources would hire a facilitator to assist in the formation of a producer learning community (PLC). The PLC is an agricultural producer-led nonprofit voluntary organization dedicated to fostering the learning and sharing of knowledge, while carrying out the purposes of the Act. The intent is that the PLC would become self-sufficient after five years.

Thirty-seven other states have formed Producer Learning Communities, which were started because their members wanted to learn and enhance their working knowledge to promote best management practices for healthy soils to others. It has been found that producers can effectively learn from their peers. When I ran for the Legislature, water quality was one of my top priorities. The quality of our soil and water are vital, not just for increased agricultural production, but for economic viability, long-term food security, and our quality of life. High nitrate levels in wells across the state are of major concern to me. Rather than focusing on being reactive and treating water with high nitrate levels, I am supportive of being proactive and pushing for a comprehensive plan of best management practices for healthy soils.

Public hearings were held this past week on two bills that I introduced. LB 779 was heard before the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. It would remove the 10-year limitation on access to state tuition assistance for members of the Nebraska National Guard. This bill would harmonize the National Guard with the Reserve component, which has no lifetime limit on tuition credit. This could serve as a recruiting and retention tool and would not require additional state funding. The National Guard testified in support and no one opposed the bill.

LB 1082 was heard before the Natural Resources Committee. It would require applications for annual hunting or fishing permits to include a question asking applicants if they want to add their name to the Donor Registry and donate their organs upon death. Although potential donors can also register when obtaining a driver’s license, this would allow for an annual registration opportunity, instead of waiting on our 5-year drivers’ license cycle. Other states with a similar law have seen immediate success in growing their donor registry. On any given day, there are approximately 300 Nebraskans and 100,000 Americans waiting for an organ transplant. A father of a son who died while waiting for a heart transplant gave compelling testimony, noting his promise to his son that he would carry out his mission to obtain more donors.

The Legislature spent several hours discussing LB 986, as the bill was filibustered this past week. LB 986 would limit an increase in a school district’s property tax asking to 2.5% or the three-year inflation average, whichever is greater. This limit could be exceeded with a 75% vote of the school board or a 60% majority of voters. The amount by which it could be exceeded ranges from 7% for school districts with an average daily membership of 471 or less to 4% for districts with more than 10,000 students.

As we continue the public hearing process, I encourage your input on the legislation before us. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is tgragert@leg.ne.gov and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40
Room 11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2801
Email: tgragert@leg.ne.gov
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