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Tom Briese

Sen. Tom Briese

District 41

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Senator Tom Briese introduced a bill today to carry out an efficiency audit of state government. LB213 would require an outside audit of all state agencies of Nebraska government, looking for efficiencies that can save the state money and improve services to Nebraskans. Briese said, “I’ve introduced this bill to complement and build upon the great work of the Ricketts administration in making our state government more efficient. As elected officials, I believe we have a solemn responsibility to the taxpayers to be good stewards of their dollars. I think most people across the political spectrum want to see tax dollars used to get as much ‘bang for their buck’ as possible. That’s why I introduced LB 213.”

Briese went on to say, “I strongly believe that we should do everything we can to make sure that every tax dollar is accounted for, and that every tax dollar is being used in the most efficient way possible. This is a principle you see in almost every successful major business, and I have always believed that it is a good practice to run government like a business. When major companies want to save money, they hire experts in their fields, and experts in performance efficiency, to help them identify and carry out cost-saving measures that don’t hurt the end product or service that the company offers. That is exactly the principle here.”

Briese added, “When we’re talking about how we spend taxpayers’ hard earned dollars, we should never settle for the status quo. We should always be striving for improvement. And when some national rankings suggest our state government spending per capita and spending per GDP falls anywhere from 8th to 14th highest, I believe there is room for improvement.” Briese noted that in other states, where similar outside audits have been conducted, the return on investment to the state has been extremely favorable.

Finally, Briese concluded, “We aren’t talking about reducing government services or programs: we are talking about making sure that those services and programs are run responsibly, efficiently, and with as little waste, duplication of cost, or untapped potential as possible.”

Yesterday, I introduced a bill to guard against meritless lawsuits stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that could set schools, businesses, nonprofits and government back in economic recovery. 

As many segments of society struggle to deal with and rebound from the impact of the pandemic, they face the threat of needless lawsuits related to COVID. To help facilitate our recovery from the pandemic, it’s incumbent on us to provide some level of protection against such lawsuits while ensuring the safety of our citizens and holding bad actors accountable. This legislation will provide that reasonable level of assurance to our business, education, and healthcare communities.

My staff and I spent a great deal of time working with senators from both sides of the aisle, as well as a broad coalition of stakeholders. I have spent several months since the end of the last session working with small businesses, schools, and healthcare providers to craft this bill, in addition to consulting other senators. 

I’m proud of the work that was done behind the scenes on this to make sure that these protections will be broad and serve the greatest number of Nebraskans in areas that have, in many ways, been the worst-hit by this pandemic.

I would note the hard work of Senator Matt Williams, District 36, who co-sponsored the legislation. Senator Williams is someone who is easy to work with, and I would say that’s pretty much a consensus in the body. Having his help and hard work in this process was really instrumental in getting it put together.

The bill, LB 139, would provide limited, temporary liability protection for those who comply with safety standards and regulations related to COVID-19. To ensure the safety of the public and provide a safe harbor against unnecessary lawsuits, the legislation would:

  • Encourage compliance with federal, state and local safety standards and regulations;
  • Preserve the right to file claims of gross negligence and willful misconduct up to two years after an injury or illness incident;
  • Continue to allow for civil damages in claims resulting from a COVID-19 exposure involving a serious injury or death;
  • Reinforce protection for healthcare workers during the pandemic
  • Sunset when the legal risk due to COVID-19 is lessened after a reasonable period of recovery.

From the start, we knew it was important to hold irresponsible actors accountable, so it was important for us to include that language on gross negligence and willful misconduct. It also protects healthcare providers from meritless lawsuits when they were acting in accordance with certain guidelines recommended by public health officials,” Briese said. “Nobody has done more for our communities and our state than healthcare providers. The last thing our hometown heroes need is to worry about being sued for cancelling an elective procedure or an accidental exposure when they were doing the right thing all along.

Column, January 1, 2021
January 1st, 2021

The legislative session will begin on Wednesday, Jan 6. On that day, newly elected members will be sworn in, and the speaker, chair and vice chair of the executive committee, and committee chairs will be elected. What happens after that may depend on the status of the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, we would then introduce bills for ten days, do some preliminary work including adoption of rules and committee assignments, with committee hearings beginning around the second week . But this year, it’s unclear what impact the pandemic will have on our path forward. Our actions will require a balancing of interests, including that of public safety, the need to set an example for fellow Nebraskans, and the need to do the work we were sent to Lincoln for. Regardless of how it occurs, as we move forward, many issues await us.


As a member of the revenue committee, I’m certain we will hear various proposals for tax reform and tax relief. I will be introducing some tax reform/tax relief measures myself, which I will discuss in future columns. One should remember that we passed LB 1107 last year, which created a new refundable income tax credit based on school property taxes paid, and established a statutory minimum of $275 million per year in the property tax credit fund. Revenue projections suggest the initial $125 million per year in income tax credits created by LB1107 could grow to over $200 million in the second year, and may reach over $300 million soon after that. The magnitude of that estimated escalation of the credits may make additional property tax relief more difficult, as some urban senators will think we have done enough on the issue for now. However, rest assured I will continue to work for additional property tax relief and reform.


Nebraska voters in November overwhelmingly adopted a proposal to establish casinos at racetracks, with 70% of the tax revenue ending up in the property tax credit fund. This 70% is conservatively projected to yield $50 million per year for the property tax credit fund. And as per the language of my LB 963 from last year, which was incorporated into LB 1107, these dollars are in addition to the statutory minimum of $275 million. I anticipate introducing legislation to clarify some aspects of the ballot proposal in an effort to ensure the will of the voters is respected and carried out. Assuming I am re-elected chairman of the General Affairs committee, it will be heard before my committee, where we can make adjustments and tweaks as needed.


We also will be discussing how to address prison overcrowding. The director has put forth a proposal to build a $230 million facility, while others suggest comprehensive sentencing and prison reform would alleviate the need for such an investment. As a fiscal conservative, I’m reluctant to spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars of taxpayer money, plus ongoing operational costs, if we can avoid it and still protect public safety. We will see how those discussions go. 


An underlying theme of the session will be trying to help our residents and businesses rebound from the impact of the pandemic. I will be introducing legislation geared toward that goal in the area of liability protections for our businesses, schools, and health care providers, and tax relief for everyday Nebraskans. I also will be introducing various measures geared toward growing our state. I will discuss many of these bills in future columns.

Sen. Tom Briese

District 41
Room 2108
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2631
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