NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42

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 mgroene@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 5th, 2022

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 42nd legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Mike Groene

LB785 hearing: 1/26/2022
January 19th, 2022

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
Room 1507 – 1:30 PM

LB785 Groene Change provisions relating to early voting
LB786 hearing: 1/20/2022
January 12th, 2022

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
Location: Room 1507
Time: 1:30 PM

LB786 Groene Change information required for a statement of financial interest under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act
Column 1-6-2022
January 6th, 2022

Calming the future with ARPA funds

The 60 day legislative session began Wednesday January 5th. As always there will be a multitude of bills introduced by the 49 senators. Many will focus on how to spend the first half of the $1.04B Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund (CSFR) Nebraska received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  Governors have the authority to allocate the funds; our Governor Ricketts has indicated that he will make his recommendations on the allocation of the first half of the funds we have in our possession but will work with the Legislature on the final appropriation of the money.  It is unclear as to how the final $520M in funds will be appropriated since the Legislature will not be in session when it is expected to be received next May.

Through other programs within ARPA Nebraska’s 93 County governments received $375.7M, the four largest cities split $176M and 525 smaller towns divided up $111M. Public schools received $545M, private schools $18.6M and colleges received $208.3M. In addition, direct payments amounting to $3.38B were available. Eligible individuals were issued up to $1,400 each and money was also given for childcare grants and rent and homeowner assistance.  In total nearly $6B in ARPA money will flow into Nebraska, this is on top of the $1.25B that Nebraska government entities disbursed from the earlier 2020 CARES Act.

An amazing amount of money has been passed out in less than two-and-half years, it is no wonder why we have low workforce participation and historically high inflation.  But we live in the present and we are faced with the duty to allocate over a billion dollars to qualifying entities.  Used wisely, ARPA funds could help keep Nebraska’s economy stable in what looks to be a very volatile future.

The Governor has accepted input from senators and we are obliging him.   I have requested and have prepared legislation for $75M in ARPA funding to aid the long-term sustainability of North Platte’s new Sustainable Beef project.  The project fits well under three of the five restrictive parameters set by the federal government for the use of ARPA funds.  First, the new plant qualifies as an impacted industry; no sector of agriculture was disrupted by the pandemic more than the beef processing industry. When compact working conditions exposed industry workers to the virus, it quickly became evident the industry was susceptible to a supply chain failure as it was already operating at max capacity. The overall effect has been a 20% inflation increase in consumer beef prices.

Second, ARPA funds can be used to provide grants to employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work; meatpacking employees fit that description. Third, ARPA funds can be used for water and sewer investments, the new plant faces large expenses to assure those issues are handled correctly. Finally, the project is shovel ready and will be able to follow the requirement that ARPA funds must be used for expenses incurred between March 2021 and December 31, 2024.  ARPA funds are badly needed to offset a projected 20% inflationary cost overrun on the project created by the pandemic’s effect on our economy. The success of a locally owned, financially sound, employee safe and highly efficient beef processing plant has the potential to give a measure of stability and prosperity to a wide swath of our State’s agriculture industry and can assure that another bottleneck in an important food production industry does not happen again in Nebraska’s foreseeable future.

We have also thrown into the mix a proposal to fully fund and add to the $50M for the Rural Projects Act, which includes Lincoln County’s Rail Park proposal.  The Nebraska Department of Economic Development accepted the initial application for the funds this past Monday.  Along with Lincoln County, three other communities have presented proposals with requests for $73M in matching funds.

Other proposed ARPA investments which are being discussed:  a new prison facility to alleviate overcrowding, a large lake in eastern Nebraska to address a future domestic water supply shortage and investing in some private nonprofit and state park improvements that will help get more citizens back outside and focusing on living life again.

Contact Senator Groene: 402-471-2729; mgroene@leg.ne.gov

Column 12-30-2021
December 30th, 2021

Transparency needed in higher ed

When I decided to run for the Legislature, an issue that concerned me was the spiraling-out-of-control cost of postsecondary education and the lack of public oversight and measurement of the return on investment to taxpayers and students.

I understood how important local control and responsible spending is to Nebraskans. I went on to examine the issue as a state senator on the Education Committee for six years, four of those as chairman. My pursuit has given me a unique perspective on the importance of accountability and outcome-oriented policies when it comes to big government spending.

With student debt and taxpayer support becoming a burdensome red-flag issue to Americans, it is past time to turn a spotlight on the spending habits of our postsecondary education institutions.

American taxpayers invest nearly $150 billion annually in higher education institutions. Unlike other institutions receiving significant taxpayer dollars, this massive investment comes with effectively zero conditions.

For decades, underperforming and predatory higher education institutions have been handed billions of taxpayer dollars with little oversight. The lack of guardrails has given bad actors a free pass to make a fortune off the backs of Nebraskans. In turn, this has dwindled down the competitiveness of our postsecondary institutions and academics, statewide and nationally.

The economic impetus for strengthening higher ed polices is clear. Increasing the number of students enrolling in and graduating from technical schools, colleges and universities with practical degrees that have economic value is a nonpartisan, statewide priority.

Higher ed is the largest producer of skilled labor in our state, and a weak school-to-work pipeline makes for a vulnerable economy. According to a 2021 Nebraska Higher Education Progress Report, preliminary estimates indicate that Nebraska’s total postsecondary enrollment decreased 3.1% between fall 2009 and fall 2020. Enrollments have been generally declining since 2010.

Given the sheer amount of public and private dollars entering these institutions, it makes no sense that some Nebraska universities are reporting program completion and graduation rates as low as 7%, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Outcome Measures survey.

To add insult to taxpayer injury, data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that 31% of higher ed institutions leave a majority of former students earning below that of the average high school graduate. This leaves young adults unable to pay back their loans, and less likely to participate as a consumer or stakeholder in our state’s economy.

Presently, at the federal government level, the bipartisan College Transparency Act introduced by Senator Scott of South Carolina is attempting to address the need for more accountability in higher ed. It does not threaten local control or create burdensome government red tape.  Its intent is to modernize the college reporting system by requiring schools to report common-sense numbers that should, frankly, already be available.

Trustworthy statistics surrounding enrollment, program completion rates, students’ ability to pay down debt and post-graduate income earnings are self-explanatory. Reporting requirements like these has benefits for students, schools, prospective employers and our economy alike. By making critical information accessible to the public, students get a clearer picture of the financial burden they take on when enrolling.

I am on principle, opposed to expanding cumbersome bureaucracy. However, transparency and accountability are necessary tools of the vigilant citizen. I view the Federal College Transparency Act as a tool for Nebraska stakeholders when choosing a higher education institution that will lead to a solid return on their investment in higher ed. We state level lawmakers also need to step-up and do more. We can and must reform higher ed to protect our students.

Contact: Senator Groene 402-471-2729; mgroene@leg.ne.gov

Column 11-24-2021
November 24th, 2021

Thanksgiving is shared by all

Thanksgiving being celebrated in America without commercialization like our other holidays is a statement of the American character. America’s stature as a place of personal freedom and Liberty has endured World Wars, regional conflicts and terrorist attacks. Presently, from within, our individual freedom is being assaulted by fear mongers and socialist ideologies that conspire to redefine the universally understood opening words of our Constitution, “We the people of the United States” as a distorted interpretation that wishes to transform us into a country of, “We the subjects of the United States Government”.

As thousands gather at our borders and millions worldwide look to America for defense of freedom, I firmly believe that with our individual vigilance, America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world. As we gather as family this Thanksgiving, we still have much to be thankful for. If we have exercised our freedom to work hard, take personal responsibility for our actions, and offer assistance to those who have not the wherewithal to do likewise, the blessings of freedom and liberty is still ours to have.

I have always opposed attempts in the Legislature that seek to tempt citizens to give up their self-reliance in exchange for the assurance of government handouts by the expansion of food stamps (SNAP), granting education outcomes with little effort or giving welfare assistance without work. In today’s economy a paycheck is available to all who are physically and mentally capable; how one spends that paycheck helps decide if poverty remains at one’s door. It does not aid an individual when government enables behavior that encourages one to remain mired in poverty. Thanksgiving is a day that should remind us all that America is still a nation of opportunity.

A case in point of government working against the American ideal of individual effort bringing individual blessings is the recent surprise announcement by UNL chancellor Ronnie Green on the University’s new “Commitment to Action” diversity plan. In an attempt to address past racial injustices by a higher education establishment that since the 1960’s has been dominated by liberal thinkers, Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion Marco Barker ’s office has created a so called anti-racist plan that only serves to inflame individuals who see race as a character attribute. Since the Civil War, America has been on a steady march to fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that his children (and ours) “… will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” But it seems that every time we make progress, a politician or government bureaucrat derails it by devising a law or a plan to fix racism. Green’s plan first separates us by defining our physical differences and then seeks to forcibly incorporate us into a whole. The author of the racial theory that the University’s new diversity plan is based on is Ibram X Kendi, a Boston University professor. Kendi claims that there is no such thing as a non-racist person, to him you are either a racist or an anti-racist. Therefore, the University’s anti-racist plan divides Nebraskans and UNL’s faculty and students into one camp or the other. The plan on its face disavows a reality that would allow for King’s dream to reach fulfillment.

I am thankful I live in western Nebraska and specifically Lincoln County, where we have melted into a community of many different national heritages where the vast majority of us only see each other as fellow humans who work, worship and play together.   The American dream is alive where I live and all have equal opportunity. I am very grateful I do not live in a community that shares Chancellor Green’s or University of Nebraska President Ted Carter’s vision of who Nebraskans are.

Contact Senator Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729

Column 11-4-2021
November 4th, 2021

Legislature Bends to Biden Mandate

There will be no special Legislative session to address the Biden Administration’s tyrannical COVID-19 mandates. The final tally was 28, five short of the necessary 33. Senators Williams and Pahls added their name to the original 26. Of the 21 senators who refused to support your individual health care choice on COVID vaccines, 16 are registered Democrats and five are Republicans.

Since the Governor has refused to call a special session on his own authority and left the decision to a weak legislature, the only hope now that our constitutional rights will be protected, before the harm is done, rests in the Federal Courts. Nebraska Attorney General Peterson has added Nebraska’s name to a 10-state coalition that filed suit to halt the Vaccine Mandate for employees of Federal Contractors. Another nine states have similar suits filed in different Federal Courts across the nation.

I understand the clock is ticking and many of you who work for a federal contractor are faced with deciding sooner than the December 8th deadline since the two-shot vaccines must be administered at least three weeks apart to be considered fully vaccinated.  I understand there is also the choice of the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine which gives more time.

I am angry! No American should ever be put into the position Biden has put American workers. I am not alone; the outcome of the Virginia elections Tuesday night showed that a majority of Virginians have reached a boiling point over the abuse of power that Biden, along with members of the public school establishment, have arrogantly demonstrated.  Those abuses have also risen to the forefront in Nebraska’s politics. I am sure, for good or bad, the decision by Nebraska State Senators to support or not support a special session will come into play next November.

Even if the Federal Courts rule against the federal mandates, it does not stop employers from taking action on their own to make vaccines a term of employment.  The Nebraska Red Cross has recently mandated the vaccine to its volunteers and employees, as have large medical organizations and big-pharma corporations. One would suspect that The Union Pacific Railroad, as a good faith action with its workforce and community, would rescind its vaccine mandate if the courts put a restraining order on the Biden Administration.  The Nebraska Legislature still needs to act quickly when we convene in January. There will be legislation introduced to protect your right to decide your own health care choices and stop employers from discriminating against the unvaccinated. A majority of senators will fight to protect your liberty; our success will depend on continued public pressure on those senators who are fiercely loyal to Biden. I am looking forward to the floor debate, I am very curious how tyranny is defended.

I have been asked why, in last week’s column, I publicly told of my ordeal handling the ludicrous mud throwing complaint brought against me by a Lincoln, Nebraska resident to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. First off, the individual and the reporter aiding her did not even have the decency to contact me with their concerns, which could have been easily cleared up without issuing false accusations. Second, it’s time good people publicly stand up against the mudslinging, race baiting, arrogant, disdain for decency, loathing of the self-righteous political left and those in the liberal press. It happened in Virginia; it needs to happen in Nebraska.

My constituents know Barb and I live in North Platte. They know, when they ask, that we sold our large family home and in the meantime are renting a home while waiting out the high real estate market. I strongly disagree with Ms. High; I don’t believe one needs to be a property owner to hold elective office, such a belief would be blatant discrimination against those who rent a place to live. I never spend a full week in Lincoln.  On recess days during session, I return to Western Nebraska and North Platte.

One last clarification: as to why I keep my North Platte address unpublished, I do not personally fear the threats of left-wing cowards, I do have concerns for my wife’s safety when I am away in Lincoln.

Contact Senator Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729

Column 10-28-2021
October 28th, 2021

The Ugly Side of Politics

Reading of the recent political attack on Representative Fortenberry, by President Biden’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, reminded me of a recent political witch hunt I endured.

A longtime political activist from Lancaster County, by the name of Kate High, filed a complaint against me with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC), the state agency that oversees the adherence by political candidates and elected officials to the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act (NPADA).

The complaint claimed I no longer lived in my district.  Most of you know that Barb and I decided it was time to downsize our home, a common lifestyle decision by empty nesters.  We had enough of mowing an acre of grass and were tired of keeping up with the Jones, so we sold our home last November and rented a small place in North Platte. Due to death threats I have received from not-so-friendly progressives and Barb being home alone while I am in Lincoln, we decided to make our mailing address a post office box.  We wanted to deter left-wing fanatics from easily locating our residence.   Since High’s organization was unable to find our new physical address, they assumed I must not live in my district. Of course it was a foolish charge and easily proven wrong. Another complaint dealt with filing details, which the NADC admitted was an omission error on their part when they transcribed my report to their electronic files.

Finally, she claimed I did not report owning a Lincoln residence, a small 1980’s era condominium unit.  NPADA requires elected officials must report annually their financial interests which, amongst other things, includes their employment, business owned, creditors, stocks and bonds and all real-property owned in Nebraska, excluding the residence of the individual.

I did not report my Lincoln residence, because the legal definition of residence stipulates that a person may simultaneously have more than one residence. Nebraska case law concurred.  The NADC agreed with my argument and dismissed High’s complaint. They further plan to change the 30 year old instructions on their forms to clarify that a filer may have more than one residence.  As a double check, I am also bringing a bill to clarify existing statute. To show the absurdity of the issue, at least two senators own retirement homes in Florida and others have out of state vacation homes, but because they are not Nebraska properties, the NADC did not require them to be reported.  Apparently, the senators who at that time authored the NPADA must have decided fessing up to owning a home in another state would be a political inconvenience.

She also filed a freedom of information request for the reimbursements I have received for my living and travel per-diem expenses; they are public record and are uniformly calculated and paid to all senators. High also sought the address of my residence from the Legislative Executive Committee. After hearing of this, with past threats in mind, we were concerned about why someone would be so insistent on learning our physical address.  Her request was denied by the Committee Chairman. Soon after, a reporter sought a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s (AG) office on his similar request denied by the Chairman.  The AG confirmed the Chairman’s decision.

The complaint was frivolous, an attempt to distract me from doing the peoples’ work.  When I ran I promised I would not become a politician; I have never taken campaign money from Political Action Committees or special interest groups, nor have I participated in the common practice of going on special interest paid junkets.  I have never run a negative ad against an opponent and have shied away from the influence of the lobby. In retrospect, I now take their attacks as a compliment.  Unable to defeat me in open debate, they revert to the dark tactics of the political swamp.

The ado I seem to attract is more due to my habit of telling the truth, a trait that doesn’t fit well in the collegial world of the political establishment.

Special session update: Some Republican senators believe employers should be able to dictate your personal health decisions and most Democrats are “Team Biden”.  Government and Corporate interest may again squash individual liberty.

Contact Senator Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729

Column 10-21-2021
October 21st, 2021

Freedom on the Brink

What have we become? Is America, let alone Nebraska, a people who seek safety over liberty, socialism over personal responsibility rooted in freedom? As Benjamin Franklin, the elder among the Founding Fathers, warned, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Of course, I am talking about President Biden’s recent tyrannical executive orders, mandating COVID-19 vaccines. Unable as of yet to mandate a national vaccine requirement, he instead cynically uses our own tax dollars against us by holding vaccine requirements over the paychecks of federal employees or federal dollars over the household incomes of families who happen to work for a company that contracts with the federal government.

We are treading on unprecedented ground. Never before has the federal government dictated a medical procedure to employees in private industry or to civilian federal government workers employed domestically. For example, across the nation, public-school MMR vaccine mandates are by state laws and not by federal mandates. Expected soon are additional mandates directed at health care employees and perhaps even children as young as 3.

If facts were to dictate that it was a do-or-die decision, citizens would become vaccinated on their own without government coercion, but that is not the case. It is quite clear who is at risk: It is the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It is not the young and healthy, nor the 40% or more of Americans who are estimated to be asymptomatic based on those testing positive to COVID-19, or the large percentage who have natural immunity from a prior infection.

Neither the executive branch nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have adequately answered the questions that are repeatedly asked. If the vaccine is effective, why the need for quick-turnaround booster shots? Will those booster shots be also mandated in the future? Why have reputable studies on natural immunity by Israel, the Cleveland Clinic, etc., been ignored by the CDC? Can citizens be blamed for not trusting a government when their own personal, family and friends’ experiences have not matched the dire warnings of the CDC? Finally, if the vaccine is so successful, why not just recommend the vaccine to those that the medical science community has determined are most susceptible to serious health issues and even death? Americans are not an ignorant people, nor are they sheep. They just want to hear the truth.

Last Saturday on the Lincoln County Courthouse lawn, I attended a gathering of over 300 citizens to protest the actions of the federal government. A government that has recently demonstrated a total disregard for President Abe Lincoln’s definition of America’s governance: “… government of the people, by the people …” Hard working self-sufficient citizens that seldom ask government for assistance have suddenly had their livelihoods threatened by an aggressive federal government.

I heard their plea loud and clear! This week I and many other senators have given input into a request to convene a special session of the Legislature. The specific language sent to the secretary of state states “… for the purpose of adopting legislation to prohibit employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines and Legislation to prohibit government and/ or educational entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of receiving services.”

The secretary of state will poll the 49 senators. They have 10 days to reply. If 33 senators reply in the positive, the Legislature must be convened within five days. At the time of this writing, 26 senators have indicated they will sign the letter. We need the support of an additional seven who are willing to lay aside partisanship. For this is not a partisan issue; citizens of all political persuasions have told me they fear they are losing their sovereign right to decide what medical procedures they deem is in their best interest.

America is at a critical crossroad: Do we continue on the path of individual liberty and freedom, or do we seek security of government promises? No matter your view of the vaccine issue, we should all respect our neighbors’ personal medical decisions. If ever there was a time to make your voice heard, it is now!

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

Column 10-14-2021
October 14th, 2021

Columbus Day: a Reminder of the Possible

Monday was Columbus Day, a federal Holiday that many, including myself, observe in honor of the achievements of Christopher Columbus. His story is the genesis of the American Dream. He was born into a modest family of weavers who lived above their shop in the Italian city-state of Genoa.

Columbus’s accomplishments belong among a select few human events that changed the course of humanity. His early life defines a self-motivated man. He went to sea at the age of 14, later studying navigation in Greece and mapmaking in Portugal; while there he apprenticed on ships traveling to Africa, Ireland, England and Iceland.

After the Muslims’ conquest of Constantinople in 1453, trade-routes to the Orient were closed to European merchants. Columbus singularly believed that the Orient could be reached by a sea route to the west. The weaver’s son brought his plan to the governments of Portugal, England, France and Spain. Only Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella accepted his offer. It took another six years to convince them to fund his expedition. In 1492 he sailed west into the unknown in search of the Orient. On October 12 he landed on the island of San Salvador, located between the two continents that make up the western hemisphere.

The settlements that he founded were the origin of America’s Manifest Destiny, the makings of a land of opportunity that became the hope of immigrants from across the world who strained to be free. Today it remains a shining beacon for those seeking liberty.

In the timeline of human history, mankind’s quest for individual justice and liberty has always been marred by injustice and inequity. Today in our affluent society, there exists a politically correct movement called WOKE. This self-righteous philosophy of judgmental hindsight originated on liberal college campuses and is propagated by tenured professors who live a privileged life amongst the impressionable minds of America’s youth. These individuals have sought to discredit the accomplishments of historic figures that they disagree with by judging their then commonly practiced official or personal actions through the eyes of today’s societal mores. Yet they give a pass to the more recent atrocities committed by their socialist heroes, such as Lenin, Stalin, Castro or Chairman Mao.

Columbus has been a main target for their antagonism.  During the 2020 legislative session Senator Pansing Brooks brought LB848. Its intent was to eliminate Columbus Day and rename it Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The bill should have died in committee; instead it was allowed to go forward by amending Senator Brewer’s LB937 into it. I originally supported LB937’s effort to highlight the contributions of Native American culture to our State’s heritage by displaying the Tribal Flags of four of our largest tribes in the capitol’s Warner Chamber. A further compromise was reached when an agreement was made to rename the Day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day”.  14 senators, including myself, didn’t support the final bill.

My plea during debate on the bill was to leave Columbus Day alone. The holiday has gained added meaning as Americans of Italian descent have adopted the holiday as a day to celebrate their heritage. I explained that we already have two days designated to honor Native Americans. In 1983 the Legislature designated the fourth Monday in September as American Indian Day. In 2009 the United States Congress designated the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. Also, I worked with Senator Slama on her LB399 (2019), a successful update of history and civics requirements taught in Nebraska’s schools.  Native American Heritage Day was added as a holiday that shall be observed. In hindsight I regret that Columbus Day was not also made a required observance, despite the protest of cancel-culture nihilists.

Obviously, the original intent of LB848 was never to honor the American Indian. It instead was a blatant act of cancel-culture, obscuring one of the greatest milestones in the annals of history, sullying the memory of an exceptional man and rewriting the history of America’s beginnings. It attempts to discount the amazing story of the men on three small ships—the Nina, Pinta and Santa-Maria—and of the man who opened the gates to freedom.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

 

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42
Room 1302
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2729
Email: mgroene@leg.ne.gov
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