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Sen. Tom Briese invites students to youth legislature
High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 10-13. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.
Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other scholarships are also available.
The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.
To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 15.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Unicameral Information Office
The last two weeks in the legislature saw a flurry of activity. The deadline passed for designating priority bills, and three of my bills were designated as priorities. But first, let me explain what that means.
In a short 60-day session like the one we are in this year, four to six hundred bills can be introduced. Even accounting for the number of bills which are never advanced out of committee, there can be upwards of three hundred bills placed on general file, eligible for debate by the whole body. Obviously, between procedural motions, long debates, and filibusters, the requirement to hold three separate rounds of debate and voting in order to pass a bill is not possible to meet for every bill. This makes prioritization, especially in a short session, almost the only way a bill has a chance.
Each senator may designate one bill as his or her personal priority, which I did for my own LB 1084. The senator need not prioritize one of his or her own bills, and in fact this year Speaker Scheer designated my LB 845 as his personal priority bill. Each of the 14 standing committees, plus the Executive Board and Performance Audit Committee may designate two priority bills, and the State-Tribal Relations Committee gets one. The Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee designated my LB 1015 as one of their priority bills. Finally, the speaker may designate up to 25 bills as Speaker Priority bills.
For those of you keeping track at home, we’re now up to 107 priority bills, and during some years, not even all priority bills get the chance to be heard. However, I am deeply grateful to Speaker Scheer and the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee for giving a fighting chance to two pieces of common-sense legislation designed to protect Nebraskans.
LB 845 would protect parents with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of their disability in circumstances in which they would face losing custody of their children. My staff and I spent much of the last year working with many good people in the disability rights community in Nebraska, and I hope to see that work pay off.
LB 1015 would prevent the unauthorized disclosure of a person’s private medical information when he or she has been involved in a workplace accident.
I have several other bills which still have a chance at passage, and I will explain the circumstances surrounding those bills in a future column.
Lastly, I’d like to remind you that my office is accepting applications for a temporary administrative assistant over the summer. If you know someone who would be interested in this, please pass the word along to them! Inquiries can be sent directly to me at email@example.com, using the subject line “Assistant.” If you have questions on this, or any other issues pertaining to your Legislature and state government, please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office at (402)471-2631.
It’s been two weeks since my last column, and I’d like to be able to tell you that your Nebraska Legislature has advanced many of the dozens of bills representing common-sense legislation which will benefit all Nebraskans. But unfortunately, that did not happen. The last couple of weeks have seen floor debate bogged down in lengthy filibusters over only a handful of issues. However, off of the floor, my staff and I have been at work preparing to get good bills to the floor which have the right policy pieces to benefit life for all Nebraskans, and gain the support of a majority of senators.
I had another two of my bills in hearings over the last two weeks, and another to be heard this week. After a bill’s hearing, the next step is to work with my colleagues in the various committees. Together, we craft changes to the bills which will make sure that they are voted out of committee and presented for the consideration of the whole body as the best they can be.
The hearings for my bills so far went very well, in my opinion. There was excellent testimony for many of them from a wide range of folks from all across Nebraska. There were even some of you, my constituents in the 41st District, who made the drive down to Lincoln to let your voices be heard on some bills. I want to sincerely thank those of you who follow the legislative process, who keep in touch with my staff on issues important to you, and especially who come down to testify on bills. For me, and for my colleagues, there is no testimony in a hearing more important than that of everyday Nebraskans who are simply there representing themselves, their families, and their communities.
Finally, I’d like to bring your attention to an opportunity for someone from the 41st District, perhaps a young person attending college in Lincoln, but that’s not necessary. My office will be accepting applications for the next couple of months for a temporary Administrative Assistant to work with us over the summer months. Organizational skills are a must, and a knowledge of the district and an interest in policy are a major plus. The pay is competitive, and the temporary job has the potential to lead to permanent employment. If you know someone who would be interested in this, please pass the word along to them! Inquiries can be sent directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, using the subject line “Assistant.” If you have questions on this, or any other issues pertaining to your Legislature and state government, please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office at (402)471-2631.
Last week, the governor presented his tax relief bill to the Revenue Committee. Sponsored by Papillion Senator Jim Smith, it would permanently and immediately cut the top income tax rates for individuals and corporations. It would also stair step property tax relief to be implemented over the next 13 years. It funds this relief by eliminating the property tax credit fund and with unspecified future state revenue. I have my concerns about that approach, but I understand that the proposal is still being adjusted.
This week, I will present my education funding/property tax relief bill, LB 1084, to the Revenue Committee. LB 1084 will provide immediate and substantial property tax relief, specify funding sources for that relief, reaffirm our commitment to funding education, provide soft property tax asking caps to help ensure lasting property tax relief, and it will call for a comprehensive study of K-12 funding in Nebraska. Many of the components are still in play, and I anticipate changes to some of the details I describe below.
Instead of kicking the can down the road, LB 1084 would generate revenue to pay for property tax relief from a variety of sources. It would sunset several sales tax exemptions and eliminate various exclusions. It would increase the sales tax rate by ½ cent, and raise the cigarette tax to mirror the national average. It would reinstate the alternative minimum tax and eliminate income tax loopholes commonly known as the Subchapter S exclusion and the Special Capital Gains exclusion. It would impose a modest surtax on our very highest income earners. It would sunset the New Markets Job Growth Investment Act and the personal property tax exemption. It would also direct internet sales tax revenue to property tax relief.
With this revenue, the bill would reinstate the 20% allocated income tax to our schools, and replace the TEEOSA cuts of last year’s LB 409. It would then nearly quadruple the amount in the Property Tax Credit Fund.
All of the above would be accompanied by a limit on K-12 property tax asking increases equal to the higher of 2.5%, the rate of inflation, student growth, poverty growth, or ELP growth. The allowable property tax asking would also be lowered by any amount other revenue sources increase, or increased if those sources fall off. These limits could be surpassed by a 75% vote of the school board, or a public vote.
Finally, LB 1084 would call for a comprehensive study of school finance in Nebraska.
I believe that LB 1084 is the responsible approach to property tax relief. It can help us to alleviate the inequities in our school funding structure, and our tax structure itself.
Finally, my office will have an opportunity coming up this summer for someone who is interested in the workings of the Legislature and would like to start down a path in policy in Nebraska. Please keep an eye out for further details in my upcoming columns.
If you need to get in touch, the best way is to call my office and speak with my staff (or leave a message if you call over the lunch hour) at (402) 471-2631. My legislative website is news.legislature.ne.gov/dist41/ and my facebook page is at facebook.com/SenatorTomBriese
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