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It was definitely an interesting first week at the Nebraska Legislature, not only for those of us in the freshman class, but even for those who have been in and around the legislature for decades. Much of Wednesday through Friday in the first week of 2017 was the swearing in of new and re-elected senators, the election of Senator Jim Scheer of Norfolk to Speaker of the Legislature, committee assignments, and the introduction of some bills, but there was much speculation, accusation, and lamentation surrounding the election of chairs and the assignment of committees.
Some folks have labeled what happened an “ideological shift.” Since the imposition of term limits, every election year changes the membership of the Unicameral by 25 to 35 percent. Just as there have never been two people with the same views on every single issue, there has never been a senator replaced by someone with the exact same ideology. Regardless of the degree of the shift, perceived or otherwise, the goal of the Legislature must always be to make sound policy for our state, and to put forth the best effort by each of us to work in the interest of the roughly 39,000 men and women we each represent, and the nearly 1.9 million citizens we collectively speak for. I will always do my best to represent the 41st district of Nebraska as best I can.
In the first week, I received positions on two committees: Transportation and Telecommunications, and on Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs. You can find the areas of responsibility for both of my committees, as well as each of the other committees in the Legislature, at nebraskalegislature.gov/committees.
By the 18th of this month –the last day to introduce new bills– I intend to have introduced 2-3 bills addressing property taxes, along with a bill addressing the housing shortage in many parts of Nebraska.
Additionally, my staff and I were assigned an office during the first week, and we now have a phone number and an office to call home this year. You can reach us at (402)471-2631, and if you’re ever in Lincoln, feel free to stop by our office in room 1120. It is on the south side of the building, just west of the central hallway.
I want to start by wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year, and I hope that your Christmas was merry. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Tom Briese, I am a farmer in Boone county, raising corn and soybeans, and I am honored and humbled to have earned the opportunity to represent the 41st district of Nebraska in the Unicameral Legislature. District 41 comprises Antelope, Boone, Garfield, Greeley, Howard, Pierce, Sherman, Valley, and Wheeler Counties, and has been represented since 2009 by Senator Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids. I want to thank Senator Sullivan for her years of dedicated service and leadership in the Nebraska Legislature. She set an outstanding example of leadership and service to the 41st District, and I can only hope to live up to that example.
The First Session of the 105th Legislature will convene on January 4th, and I will be sworn in along with 16 other new senators.In that first week, we will elect committee chairs, senators will be assigned to committees and placed in offices, and we will have until the 18th to introduce bills. As this will be an odd-numbered year, the session will run for 90 working days, until early June, and we will be tasked with creating and passing a biennial budget. This will be an especially difficult year, with the tone dictated by revenue shortfalls projected into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite the challenges we will face, I look forward to this session, and to serving the people of the 41st District.
Expect to see a column like this from my office every two weeks during the legislative session, barring unforeseen circumstances. Once I have been assigned an office, email address, and phone number, I will include that information in a subsequent column. I encourage you to get in touch with my office by email, phone, or letter, and you are always welcome to swing by our office when you are in Lincoln to say “hi.”
Lastly, I am excited to introduce the staff you may speak with if you call or visit. Elizabeth Todsen will be my Administrative Assistant. She is a native of Ord, Nebraska and has been very involved with elections and policy in Valley County, at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and at the state level. Edward Boone will be my Legislative Aide. He has legislative experience in Nebraska, is a veteran of Afghanistan, and is involved in several local charities. I am confident that Elizabeth and Edward will help me to do the very best job possible of serving you in Lincoln.
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