NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Tom Briese

Sen. Tom Briese

District 41

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 tbriese@leg.ne.gov

Dear Neighbor,

Since mid-February, the revenue committee has now held hearings on four more bills I introduced to that committee as part of a comprehensive look at ways we can begin to address the property tax crisis. I’ll briefly cover each proposal, and also give you an overview of what I expect to see coming out of the committee in terms of tax relief.

LB314 probably got the most attention of any of my bills so far this year, and understandably so: if passed as introduced, it would represent a significant change to the reliability of K-12 education funding, a comprehensive alteration to our state tax structure, and would nearly tripled the amount of money every homeowner, farmer, and non-ag business owner receives from the property tax credit fund. The bill had its share of opponents, as any change to tax structure is bound to, but I was also glad to see that representatives of education groups, ag groups, and everyday property taxpayers all came out to support it.

LB507 and LB508 are very similar bills which serve the same purpose: close loopholes in our sales tax law and direct any new money as a result to the Property Tax Credit Fund. Every fiscal policy group I’ve come across, from the OpenSky Policy Institute to the Platte Institute to the Tax Policy Center, agrees that the best sales tax must be applied broadly to almost all consumer purchases. Various groups, of course, take different approaches to whether necessities like medical expenses and food should be included. Most agree that business inputs should be excluded. Both of these bills would close dozens of loopholes in our sales tax code, carved out over decades by special interests and lobbyists. When one purchase is arbitrarily not subject to sales tax while others are, the state collects less money. The more this happens, the less money the state has to spend on things like K-12 education and state services. The best policy is to close all of the loopholes at once, so that no one group or industry is singled out. This, of course, is easier said than done: the common refrain from almost every special interest at these hearings is “good tax policy dictates a broad base, and almost all transactions should be subject to tax. Now, here’s why my carve-out is special….” I appreciate the hard work that many of the lobbyists for these special interests do to protect special treatment for their clients, but at the end of the day, when property taxes are starting to have a crushing impact on our state’s economy, we simply cannot maintain that special treatment.

Lastly, LB506 is a comprehensive tax asking cap on K-12 property tax requests which would ensure that any new money directed to K-12 education would result in a corresponding drop in property taxes for all Nebraska taxpayers.

Now, there are a lot of competing property tax relief proposals out there. I expect to see the aspects of my bills, and the aspects of others’ bills, which are most likely to have traction in the body be put together into a comprehensive package. When everyone has contributed a piece to the whole, and when everyone has several things to like -and maybe a couple of things to dislike- about a proposal, it has a better chance of passage than one single concept from one person.

I’m glad this year to be serving with great colleagues on the revenue committee, and very grateful that the body elected someone like Sen. Linehan to chair the committee. Working together, and keeping the best interests of all Nebraskans at heart, I am confident that this year will be the year that a meaningful step forward for property tax relief has a fighting chance in Lincoln.

Last week, the 106th Legislature convened on Wednesday and elected chairs and made committee assignments. I was fortunate enough to have earned the trust and confidence of my colleagues to serve as the chair of the General Affairs Committee. The General Affairs Committee has a wide mandate which covers a number of topics including the regulation of alcohol and gambling, libraries, music licensing, cemeteries, the Nebraska Electrical Act, and the Nebraska Arts Council.

On Wednesday, the Committee on Committees was selected and, caucusing by congressional district, assigned senators to serve on committees for the next two years. Again I was very fortunate to be placed on the Urban Affairs Committee and on the Revenue Committee. That second one is something I’m particularly excited by. Almost all of the bills I have introduced over the past two years which targeted property tax relief were heard in the Revenue Committee. While I will be only one of eight senators sitting on the committee, I am very hopeful that we will be able to work together to craft legislation which will give Nebraskans the property tax relief they are demanding. I say I am hopeful because Senator Lou Ann Linehan, who was elected chair of the committee, has stated her commitment to property tax relief, as have a majority of our fellow committee members. The tricky part, as always, will be finding a consensus: first among committee members, and then among the Legislature as a whole.

Over a hundred bills were introduced on the first day of session, and bill introduction will continue until Wednesday the 23rd. Only time will tell which bills draw the most attention from the public, and which bills even make it to the floor of the legislature for debate. But I always take the input of my constituents seriously, and my staff maintains a file for each bill we get your feedback on, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. For feedback on bills, email is the best option as it allows us to organize a folder for all the folks who weighed in on that bill.

On the topic of staff, there are a couple of changes to my office this session. Elizabeth Todsen, who served as my Administrative Assistant since day one, was offered the opportunity to move up in the world and serve as the Legislative Aide to Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil, who represents a rural district in south-central Nebraska. She will do an excellent job, and I congratulate Sen. Murman on a great hire. I have hired Alexander DeGarmo to replace her, who will also serve as the General Affairs Committee Clerk. Additionally, I have hired Loguen Blazek to fill the vacancy as the Legal Counsel to the committee. Edward Boone remains my Legislative Aide.

When you come to Lincoln, feel free to stop by the office and say hi. I always have time for constituents if I am in town – although calling ahead is always appreciated. Our new office is room 1019, on the west side of the Capitol, but our phone number remains (402)471-2631 and my email is still tbriese@leg.ne.gov.

Apply to be a Legislative Page
September 7th, 2018

I invite students from the 41st District who are enrolled in a college or trade school to apply to be a page for the Nebraska Legislature. Pages respond to senators’ lights on the legislative floor, answer incoming calls to the chamber, prepare for committee hearings, and most importantly experience the Nebraska Legislature first-hand.

Pages are required to have a GPA between 2.5 and 4.0 and must be able to work 20 hours a week in Lincoln at the State Capitol. Applicants need to complete and submit an application to the Clerk’s Office, Room 2018, at the State Capitol. I would encourage you to also call my office and ask me to prepare a recommendation letter on your behalf.

Applications are due Friday, September 28th at 5:00 p.m. If you have any questions or wish to request a recommendation letter please call (402) 471-2631.

Click here to download the application.

 

My Office Has Moved
August 27th, 2018

Due to the HVAC renovation project happening in the Nebraska State Capitol, our office has been moved to the 8th floor. As always, if you are in Lincoln we would love to have residents of District 41 come visit! The 8th floor has restricted access so if my constituents would like to visit they’ll need to contact our office. They can do so by by calling (402)471-2631 and my staff will get you upstairs.

By the time you read this, the legislature will have debated the governor’s tax relief proposal, LB 947. And hopefully, we will have debated a version of my LB 1084 as an amendment to another bill.

The approaches of 947 and 1084 are drastically different. LB 947 provides corporate income tax relief phased in over five years. It also provides for a refundable income tax credit based on the 2% of property taxes paid on ag land, and 1% paid on residential property, although many versions and amendments have been proposed. These amounts increase annually, with the ag refund growing by another 2% each year, to reach 20% in 10 years. The residential portion increases another 1% per year for five years, then grows at 2% per year until reaching 20% in thirteen years. However, residential credits are subject to a maximum of $25 dollars per home the first year, and growing to a maximum of $500 after thirteen years.

The amended version of LB 1084 raises the sales tax rate and cigarette taxes, reinstates the alternative minimum tax, repeals the personal property tax exemption, and places a surtax on high incomes. The revenue raised is then used to restore the remaining one year of cuts to K-12 education contained in last year’s LB 409, to fund a 30% allocated income tax similar to that found in the original TEEOSA formula, to fund $500 per student aid to all school districts, to fund an additional $80 million to special education reimbursement, and to further fund the property tax credit fund.

LB 1084 will also place a two year property tax asking cap on local school districts, and will call for a comprehensive study of how K-12 funding in Nebraska is structured.

As the legislature compares the proposals, I have asked my colleagues several questions. First, which proposal provides immediate and substantial property tax relief, and which proposal defers relief to many years down the road? Second, which proposal identifies how it is to be funded, and which proposal leaves it up to future leaders and future generations of Nebraskans to ensure it is paid for? Third, which proposal places limits on local taxing authorities to help ensure long term property tax relief, and which proposal does nothing to control property tax growth across the state?

For me, the answers to the above questions point in favor of LB 1084.

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. Lastly, be sure to sign up to my office’s mailing list to receive updates over the summer about town halls and events I will be holding near you. Sign up at: http://eepurl.com/dlRS6n

Dear neighbor,

While the road to property tax is still a narrow one, much will happen in the legislature in the week between the deadline for this column and its publication. But there is more going on in the body which is worth addressing.

My legislative bill 256 passed the legislature last week, and is currently headed to the Governor for his signature. That bill will allow our towns, cities, and villages to address vacant properties with ordinances to encourage making those properties available for new workforce housing. The bill is permissive legislation, which means that no community has to enact anything, only that they may, if necessary for their constituents. Lincoln and Omaha both already have similar ordinances they enacted years ago under their respective home rule charters. This bill will offer another valuable tool in the toolbox of economic developers in rural Nebraska.

The legislature also began last week to discuss the mid-biennium budget adjustments, as recommended by the Governor and amended by the Appropriations committee. There was lengthy and contentious discussion regarding LB 944, one of the three budget bills that prohibits Title X funds from going to an organization that performs or suggests abortion services. This bill was discussed for six hours and then was voted to advance to select file. This was the latest night that I have experienced on the floor of the legislature, as we adjourned around 11:30 PM.

I want to let you know that the registration for the Unicameral Youth Legislature is now available. This is a four day program for students who are interested in the legislative process. Each student is considered a senator who brings bills, listens to committee hearings, and practices debate in the historic Warner Chamber. There are scholarships available to cover costs. Please visit https://nebraskalegislature.gov/education/unicamyouth.php for more information.

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 tbriese@leg.ne.gov, 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.

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:
Heidi Uhing
Nebraska Legislature
Unicameral Information Office
(402) 471-2788
huhing@leg.ne.gov

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 tbriese@leg.ne.gov, 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 tbriese@leg.ne.gov, 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.

BiWeekly Column, February 9, 2018
February 15th, 2018

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

Sen. Tom Briese

District 41
Room #1019
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2631
Email: tbriese@leg.ne.gov
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