NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Mike Jacobson

Sen. Mike Jacobson

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 mjacobson@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 3rd, 2024

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 Jacobson

Tuesday, February 20, marks Day 30 of the 60-day legislative session. So far, the session has been moving along at a good pace, and the demeanor on the legislative floor has been very positive. We have had some robust debate, but bills have been moving along quickly. It should be noted that most of the bills that have been scheduled thus far have been noncontroversial bills that advanced with a unanimous vote out of committee. I expect the second half of the session to be more challenging as more controversial bills are scheduled. Fortunately, every Senator has bills important to them that will need floor time, which is an incentive to keep moving. The Speaker will certainly be mindful of which bills to schedule and how to keep everyone focused on the bills to come.

This past week, I was able to introduce the full Legislature to LB1087 (Hospital Quality Assurance and Access Assessment Act). In my opening statement I said, “This may be the most impactful piece of Legislation that we have the opportunity to pass this session.” I say this because the passage of the bill will allow Nebraska to join 44 other states to tap into over $1 billion of new Medicaid dollars to be used by Nebraska hospitals that provide services to those who need Medicaid services.

From the middle of 2020 until now, the average cost to provide care at our hospitals is up 33.2% on average. Meanwhile, Medicaid rates have only increased an average of 2.25% per year. Due to inflation-forced expense growth and insufficient rate increases from public payers, a majority of Nebraska hospitals are now losing money from operations. This includes 59% of our small, rural critical access hospitals.

These financial dynamics have forced Nebraska hospitals to make difficult decisions. In the past 18 months, three rural hospitals have closed their labor and delivery units. Two hospitals closed their hospital-owned nursing homes. Hospitals have also eliminated behavioral health, hospice, and home health services. All of these were needed community services that could no longer be sustained by our non-profit hospitals with current reimbursement rates. Just this week, the first rural hospital in Nebraska made the transition to a Rural Emergency Hospital. This means this hospital will close its inpatient services and become a standalone Emergency Department with some outpatient services.

LB1087 allows Nebraska to leverage additional federal funds to support Medicaid rate increases for inpatient and outpatient hospital services. This is carried out through a partnership between the state and hospital providers. Under the proposal, hospitals would pay an assessment to the state – up to 6% of patient revenue that would be matched by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). For each $1.00 in the program, the current federal match would be about $2.19. These Medicaid Directed Payments, as they are called, would then be distributed by the state to hospitals based on their share of Medicaid inpatient and outpatient services.

For the state to continue to qualify for this federal subsidy, the hospitals will need to collectively outperform four performance metrics agreed to by the State, CMS, and the hospital association. These metrics include improvements in behavior health outcomes for children and adults, aging and chronic care, maternal safety, and patient safety.

The bill passed the first round of debate on a vote of 40-0, with four senators absent and four “present not voting.” On to round two soon!

Speaker Arch will announce the rest of his Speaker Priority bills on Tuesday. I am hopeful that LB32 (Medigap Bill) will be included on the list. It was voted out of committee last week on a vote of 8-0 and I think it’s time to pass this legislation.

Julie and I had the opportunity to spend this past weekend in North Platte. On Saturday night, we had the opportunity to join former State Senator Dan Hughes at a fundraising gala in Grant to raise money for their new assisted-living facility. It was a wonderful evening and a great opportunity to connect with constituents in Perkins County. We look forward to attending similar events throughout the District in the coming weeks and months.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

Much has been written about the Governor’s property tax reduction goals and how changes in sales tax can play a role in funding the cost of the reduction. I would like to review once again how taxes are currently collected in Nebraska and who collects them.

There are three major taxes currently assessed in Nebraska: income, sales, and property. Income tax is collected only at the state level. Sales taxes are collected at the state level (currently 5.5%) on various goods and services, and municipalities are entitled to assess an additional sales tax at the local level. Property taxes are collected exclusively by local governing entities.

In 2023, the state collected approximately $4 billion in income taxes and $2.3 billion in sales taxes. Meanwhile, local political subdivisions assessed $5.308 billion in property taxes to support their public school districts, counties, cities, NRDs, ag societies, airport authorities, etc. This total includes both personal property taxes as well as property taxes on real estate. The largest portion of local property taxes (approximately 60%) goes to support public schools. However, the state does provide some support to local public schools through the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunity Support Act (TEEOSA) formula. In Legislative District 42, only North Platte Public Schools is an “equalized” district that receives TEEOSA funding. All other public schools in the District receive $1,500/student in state aid, some support for special education students, and school lunch program subsidies. The balance of the funding comes from local property taxes.

When you receive your property tax statement in December of each year, there is a line item on the statement labeled “tax credit.” That credit comes from the state and, in 2023, amounted to $345.6 million statewide. Additionally, the state refunds back to each county the amount of their total “Homestead Exemptions” granted that year. In 2023, those refunds amounted to $142.1 million statewide. So, in 2023, the net property taxes paid by local property taxpayers amounted to $4.82 billion.

The Governor’s current property tax relief plan assumes local budget increases will result in a $150.6 million increase in local property tax assessments in 2024 prior to any state-funded offset. He would like to provide a new property tax credit (funded by sales tax and cigarette tax increases) amounting to $975 million. Additionally, the state will provide direct funding to community colleges in the amount of $226.6 million in 2024 since we passed the 2023 bill to take them off the property tax rolls. This will reduce the gross property tax bill to $4.2568 billion in 2024. The existing property tax credit would increase to $413 million when new gambling receipts are added to the total. After applying the Homestead Exemption of $149 million and converting the current “Income Tax Rebate” (tied to the amount of property taxes paid to public schools) of $748.9 million to a front-end credit, the net property tax would drop to around $2.9 billion. This would bring property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes all in the $3 billion range.

The $975 million credit would be funded by a 1% increase in the state sales tax rate ($279.4 million), a $1 dollar increase in the cigarette tax ($54.3 million), and a broadening of the sales tax base by taxing or increasing the tax on the following: business legal services ($49.2 million), candy and soda ($30 million), certain advertising ($26.8 million), ag parts ($23.1 million), vaping products ($19 million), games of skill ($14.6 million), lottery ($10.3 million), storage and moving services ($9 million), accounting services ($6.8 million), data center sales ($5.9 million), clothes cleaning services ($3 million), and funds generated from the compounding effect of existing sales taxes ($25.6 million). Each of the items listed above has bills introduced in the Revenue Committee to authorize the funding, and the Revenue Committee will likely propose a committee priority bill that includes portions of some or all of those bills. However, if every bill were included, the total taxes generated only be just over $557 million. The balance of the funding still needs to be identified. The original plan was to take the sales tax rate up by 2% instead of 1%, which would generate another $279 million, taking the total to $836 million. I have issues with a few of the proposed items, but I wanted you to know what was out there.

Many have criticized this plan as a tax shift, and some have called it a tax increase. I think that it is important to remember that the Legislature has fully eliminated the state income tax on Social Security income for 2024 and will continue to phase down the maximum income tax rate to 3.99% over the next few years. Meanwhile, local property tax assessments have risen by $1.3 billion over the past six years. It seems to me that we have already been shifting our tax load over the past few years. Those in the metro areas have suggested that they don’t want to increase sales taxes because it will do more to reduce property taxes in the rural areas of the state.

In the end, it is important to remember that property taxes are spent and assessed locally because they are funded locally. If the source of funds becomes statewide, then the State will also control how the funds get spent. I would ask anyone supporting an effort to only allow the state to collect taxes if they also would be willing to give the state Legislature total control of how the funds are distributed. If that should happen, I would not look for nearly as much funding to make it back to western Nebraska.

Now that you know the basics of the plan, I would invite your responses. When I was campaigning, there was one message I heard loud and clear: LOWER MY PROPERTY TAXES.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

When I accepted the appointment to the Legislature two years ago this month and then ran for election later that year, I did so with the intention of representing every resident of District 42. Although I am a conservative Republican, I have always understood that I represent Republicans, Democrats, farmers, ranchers, commercial businesses, teachers, organized labor, etc. As a result, I have focused on introducing bills that positively impact the residents in the district and give my full effort to get them passed. My wife Julie has committed her time to being there to help me stay focused.

When I first introduced LB31 last year, many of my conservative colleagues questioned why I would bring a bill that had never gone anywhere in the past and would impose regulations on a private business. I was quick to respond by pointing out that businesses of all kinds deal with federal, state, and local safety regulations on a regular basis. I also reminded them that the railroads (although private businesses) enjoy many federal subsidies and operate much like public utilities. I also made it clear that imposing the two-person crew requirement did not change their current operating environment. It simply prohibited them from removing the crew through collective bargaining. I believe that collective bargaining is used by labor and management to negotiate wages, benefits, and certain working conditions, but when it comes to public safety, no one is at the table to protect us. That has been my argument from the beginning.

As many of you know, moving legislation takes planning and much work behind the scenes. In the case of LB31, the bill was the first bill I introduced last year. It had its public hearing later in the session but was not brought up for a committee vote in the hopes that the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) was close to issuing a ruling on this issue. Accordingly, I agreed to wait until this session to push the bill if no ruling was issued. Since no such ruling took place, I sent the Speaker of the Legislature my personal priority designation for this bill once this session began so that my priority would be read into the record first. I then immediately met with each of the committee members and the committee chair to get an early vote out of the committee and get it to the floor for debate.

The committee met two weeks ago and voted the bill out of committee on a 6-1-1 vote (one member against and one “present not voting”). I also spent time meeting informally with members of the body to confirm vote counts prior to the bill reaching the floor. I knew early on that I had 29 solid votes to move the bill forward. However, last Wednesday morning, Senator Linehan told me that she would need to filibuster the bill. I encouraged her to let the bill move on from General File (the first round of debate) to know where the votes were, then filibuster on Select File (the second round of debate) if she felt the need to do so. This move would have saved us time since the first round of debate can run for eight hours before a cloture vote, and the second round of debate is only four hours. Unfortunately, she and the railroad companies had done their own vote counts and knew that we had as many as 32 votes for this bill, and if the bill got to Select File, I might get the additional vote necessary to invoke cloture.

It is important for everyone to know that in the end, we received 24 yes votes for cloture, while five of the six Senators who had excused absences were all prepared to vote yes. Two of the bill sponsors voted “No” for cloture. Had everyone been present, we would have been close to the 33 votes needed for a cloture vote. Unfortunately, the bill failed to advance.

After LB31 was introduced, Julie and I both heard from many constituents along the way about their personal stories regarding safety issues, family sacrifices, and the challenges that go with those who ride the trains or work in the yard to keep them running. I didn’t realize until after the vote on Friday how much Julie and I were both personally invested in this bill. It was all she could do to hold back her tears as the vote was announced. I did not imagine that the labor leaders present in the Rotunda would need to comfort my wife for a loss that directly impacted them. All she could think of was how many people were counting on us to get this bill passed. I must say, it was more disappointing than either of us imagined it could be.

Although the bill did not pass, we were able to spend eight hours making the case to the public for the need for a two-person crew. We also made a statement that the Legislature is watching. I also believe that this vote sent a message to the FRA that they should act. Should the FRA fail to act, there is also the possibility of a ballot initiative to put it to a vote of the people. It should be noted that two surveys in 2018 and 2019 indicated that 77% of Nebraska residents believe that a two-person crew should be the standard.

In closing, I want to say thank you to all our railroad workers for your hard work and dedication. I have learned so much more about your daily challenges and will continue to work to make your lives better.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

Tuesday, January 30, marks the Day 18 of the 2024 legislative session. After devoting the first three weeks to bill introduction and rules debate, the legislature got down to business with morning floor debate and afternoon committee hearings. So far, the floor debate has been very productive, and bills are moving along at a good pace. It has also been noteworthy that several bills have advanced with strong bi-partisan support in the officially non-partisan body. It is clear that the collective body wants to keep the session on track, and many in the term-limited senior class want to use this year to pass any bills they have been championing in recent years. I am not so naïve to believe that the session will not have its moments as some of the more controversial bills reach the floor, but I do believe that the progress thus far is a great sign.

In addition to getting LB628 (a technical bill dealing with professional limited liability companies and professional corporations I introduced last year) advanced to final reading last week, the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee held an executive session and advanced LB31 (Two-Person Crew Bill) out of committee on a vote of six in favor, one against, and one not voting. In all of the attempts in the past to pass a bill like this one, it has never been advanced out of committee. Since it is my priority bill, I have spoken to the Speaker and encouraged him to get it scheduled for the first round of floor debate as early as possible. If we can keep the session moving, this bill has time to reach the finish line. I continue to work my colleagues to support this bill once it reaches the floor. Many are beginning to understand that this is a genuine public safety issue and recognize that I would not have prioritized it if I did not plan to keep it moving.

I was notified last week that LB1087 (Hospital Quality Assurance and Access Assessment Act) will get a hearing on Friday, February 2, before the Health and Human Services Committee. I introduced LB1087 this session at the request of the Nebraska Hospital Association. I am very grateful to Senator Armendariz, who has agreed to designate this bill as her personal priority bill, and to all of the 30 other state senators who signed on to the bill as co-sponsors.

LB1087 is one of those rare opportunities to allow hospitals to access nearly $1 billion in federal Medicaid dollars in exchange for collectively achieving higher quality scores in areas of need in the state. I have referred to this as a great win-win for the state. Not only do hospitals see their Medicaid reimbursement rates rise to levels closer to their actual costs, but it happens without the need for the State to increase its current provider rates. These improved provider reimbursements will help encourage providers to see more Medicaid patients. It will also help take the pressure off of health insurance costs as hospitals will have less pressure to increase charges to insured patients to make up the operating losses created from Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.

I also want everyone to know that the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee will likely hold an executive session this week to move LB32 (Medigap) out of committee. It is possible that this bill will be combined with LB852 (Durable Medical Equipment Bill). The Durable Medical Equipment bill closes the loophole that would prohibit non-participating providers of durable medical equipment from charging a Medicare beneficiary or Medicare Supplement provider more than 115% of the Medicare allowed amount. This limitation is already in place for Medicaid patients and for physicians and other providers who accept Medicare. Today, only a few providers are using this loophole, but the amount of overcharging is unbelievable in many cases. These abuses cost all of us through higher health insurance premiums.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

Monday, January 22, marks Day 13 of the session and the first day for half-day floor debate followed by afternoon committee hearings. The task now begins to hold public hearings for nearly 600 bills introduced this year. Hearings will continue through the end of February. At that time, the remainder of the session will be all day floor debate until we adjourn the 108th Legislature on April 18.

Last week, the Unicameral considered some proposed changes to the rules governing how we operate. There was a concerted effort by the progressives in the body to filibuster all of the rule changes in an effort to keep the more controversial proposed rule changes from being heard. In the end, most of the noncontroversial rule changes were adopted, as was a rule change offered by Senator Ben Hansen to limit the number of bills that can be offered by any one Senator in a single legislative session to 20. In the end, only one of the three “controversial” changes proposed by Senator Erdman was heard. That rule would have required all votes for leadership to be done in an open vote as opposed to a secret ballot. That proposed rule change failed to garner the necessary 30 votes to pass.

All of us are holding our breath to see how the session will go. If we can avoid most of what happened last year, we should have some noncontroversial bills passed through the “consent calendar,” and I would expect many other bills (many with bi-partisan support) to pass after the normal debate. Keep in mind that we also carried over 500 bills from last year that have not yet been debated. That is why personal and committee priority bills are so important; they bring key issues to the front of the queue. As we start debate on priority bills this week, it could set the tone for much of the remaining session. However, there will be more controversial bills offered out of committee as the session moves on that will likely cause filibusters to reemerge. Hopefully, they will be short-lived, and the session can be a productive one.

This week, I have four bills scheduled for hearings, including three on Monday, January 22 (LB851, LB854, and LB960). LB852 will be heard on Tuesday, January 23. If the Natural Resources Committee hearings are completed early enough, I will plan to sit in on the Revenue Committee hearing to listen to the testimony on LB1088 introduced by Senator Linehan. This bill makes necessary changes to the Nebraska Advantage Act to allow Sustainable Beef to maximize the benefits allowed for in the act, and I am a co-sponsor of the bill.

Below is a quick summary of my bills that will be heard this week:

LB851 improves the statewide internship program in an effort to expand the program and help retain and transition more graduates to jobs in Nebraska.

LB854 reduces the required credit hours for those wishing to sit for the CPA exam. This change removes one of the barriers to qualifying more professional CPAs by eliminating the need for additional classes if the applicant is able to pass the exam without additional educational costs.

LB960 was brought to me by a constituent who wants the Athletic Commissioner to be able to create and regulate matches and exhibitions for amateur bare-knuckle mixed martial kickboxing and boxing sparring.

LB852 prevents providers who sell durable medical equipment but do not participate in Medicare from charging a Nebraska Medicare patient more than 15% above the Medicare-approved rate. This rule already applies to Medicaid patients but not to Medicare patients.

Now that we have passed the deadline for bill introduction and finished the rules debate, it is time to get to work holding public hearings and debating the more than 1,200 bills that have not yet gotten through the legislative process. Any bill not dealt with this year will die at the end of the session. Time to go to work!

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

As we moved into the three-day weekend, we completed the first eight days of the 60-day session. The first part of last week was devoted to bill introduction, with Thursday dedicated to rules debate. Friday was simply a check-in day due to the snowstorm in Lincoln, so we simply called the session to order and took an hour or so to introduce bills prior to adjourning until Tuesday morning, January 16, at 10:00 a.m. As of Friday morning, 354 new bills were introduced with two more days of bill introduction left, and 21 priority bills have been designated. Three of those priority bills were Speaker priorities. I also was notified that three of my bills have been scheduled for hearings the week of January 22. I also have confirmation that LB31 will get a committee vote. I am confident that I have the votes to get it out of committee and onto the floor. Given the early priority status, I expect to get it heard on the floor for the first round of General File debate early in the session.

The Speaker has made it clear that he wants to finish up the rules debate by the end of the day on Friday, January 19 (Day 12). Floor debate will begin the week of January 22, with morning debate followed by afternoon committee hearings. For those who have been watching the Legislature, you likely have noticed that we have what I can best describe as a “Friendly Filibuster” going on with the proposed rule changes. The minority in the body do not want the more controversial rules to pass, so they are slow-walking the rules that are simply technical in nature, so time will run out before we get to the more substantive rule changes. Since a rules debate cannot be stopped with a cloture vote, it is hard to change the rules unless there is nearly unanimous agreement. Any rule perceived to reduce minority rights will likely not get unanimous agreement.

When we speak of minority rights, we are not just speaking of the ratio of Democrats to Republicans. Speaker Arch made a very important floor speech last week when he mentioned that the protection of minority rights could also extend to rural vs. urban and other divisions of the body because of issues that create differences of opinion. We got a dose of that last week when many were vocal about opposing the Governor’s intent to support a sales tax rate increase to provide more property tax relief through direct property tax rebates. It was clear that many conservatives did not want to support the plan to shift taxes from one form, perceiving it as a tax increase. I support the Governor’s goal to either expand the sales tax base and/or increase the rate to create funding to increase the existing property tax credit. In this case, many living in larger cities believe that the cities collect a much higher percentage of sales taxes, yet rural Nebraska would benefit more from a direct property tax credit if it were distributed equally. The moral of this story is to remind yourself that if the state ever gets control of all funding sources, the distribution to rural Nebraska would be severely reduced. Being in the minority can be a problem if that happens.

I also want to address LR276, introduced this past week by Senator Ibach, which I agreed to co-sponsor along with Senator Brewer. The legislative resolution urges Congress to change the current boundary lines that divide the Central Standard Time Zone and Mountain Standard Time Zone by moving it west to the Colorado/Nebraska state lines and then north from there to line up with the western state boundaries of North and South Dakota. The intent of the change would be to help counties and school districts in southwest Nebraska be in the same time zone. However, it also would solve a problem that many residents in Hooker County have experienced with their television feed. Many residents in Mullen have asked me to find a way to allow those who live in Mullen to receive the TV news feed from North Platte’s KNOP as opposed to a Denver news affiliate. Residents in Mullen use services in North Platte and want to see news and advertising from North Platte, not Denver. News feeds are determined by the Nielsen ratings group, who use time zones to determine your TV station feed. Although this resolution is nonbinding, if passed, it would encourage Congress to consider this request if other states affected would do the same. Senator Ibach and I have both heard from constituents for and against this change. I would encourage you to reach out to us with your opinion on this bill. I should note that this bill is not a Daylight Savings Time bill. That is a separate issue that could also be taken up with this issue.

As we start to get into the substance of the session, I believe it would be a mistake to assume that it will be filled with filibusters. That does not mean that we will not see filibusters along the way, but there are far too many in the minority who want their bills passed this year. This is certainly the case for those who are term-limited. There is much we can agree on, and I think that we will see several bills passed this year with strong bipartisan support.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

The second session of the 108th Legislature began last Wednesday, January 3. The first three days of the 60-day session are in the books! Our first order of business was to elect Sen. Ray Aguilar to serve as Chair of the Executive Board following Tom Briese’s resignation to take the post of our State Treasurer. Sen. John Lowe was elected to replace Sen. Aguilar as Vice Chair, and I was honored to be selected by my caucus to serve as the additional Third Congressional District Representative. As promised, I also named LB31 (Two-Person Crew) as my personal priority bill on Day One. In fact, it was the first priority designation to be read into the record this session.

Although the session will go fast, I am very focused on getting my proposed legislation across the finish line this year. I have introduced seven new bills so far, and intend to introduce a few more bills before the end of bill introduction on January 17. I spent much of the interim working on new and pending legislation so that I could get to the bill drafters early. As you may have guessed, the bill drafters are very busy now and it is likely any new ideas may not get drafted into legislation before the deadline to file passes. I continue to get ideas sent to me by constituents and, although it may be too late to draft a new bill, there may be opportunities to amend other bills to include issues raised depending upon the subject matter. So please continue to keep me informed about your concerns, but understand that getting an additional standalone bill introduced this year is unlikely.

In addition to passing LB31, I will focus on getting LB32, the Medigap bill, passed. After several meetings with the health insurance industry and the supporters of the bill, I have drafted an amendment that I believe is the best compromise to ensure that the bill can pass while keeping Medicare supplement premiums affordable for those already enrolled in these plans. There will certainly be those who disagree with the compromise, but I believe that several hundred Nebraskans will now have coverage that will likely keep many of them out of bankruptcy and allow them to have the care they need. This is one of the best parts of serving as your State Senator.

The other major bill I introduced this session is LB853, which affects the Homestead Exemption. After meeting with Lincoln County Assessor Julie Stenger this summer, I decided to make this legislation a priority to help both our elderly and our Veterans stay in their homes. Julie, like many county assessors across Nebraska, take their jobs seriously and in some cases find existing rules inconsistent with the objectives of the law. Julie shared with me an anonymous situation where a widow living in a modest home on Lake Maloney has lost her homestead exemption because the value of the land has risen so much over the past two years (due to market demand for lake lots) that she no longer meets the home value limitation. Meanwhile, she lives on social security, and her home is valued well under $100,000 when the lot is not included. I also have heard of far too many Veterans who are less than 100% disabled and unable to qualify for this exemption. After working with the Governor’s property tax working group this past summer, I have concluded that a change needs to be made in this exemption to better carry out the original intent of the law.

Today, you can qualify for a homestead exemption if you are over the age of 65, fall below a certain income level, and have a home that does not exceed a certain maximum value. You also qualify if you are a Veteran who is 100% disabled. LB853 raised the maximum income level and the maximum home value for those over the age of 65. It also makes provisions for Veterans who are disabled at something less than 100%. The bill, if adopted would allow Veterans to qualify for a homestead exemption equal to their percentage of disability (i.e., a 50% disabled Veteran would have their property taxes cut in half). It is important to keep in mind that a homestead exemption allows for a qualified homeowner to avoid paying local property taxes, but the local political subdivisions are fully reimbursed by the State. Therefore, other property taxpayers are unaffected.

Although property taxes are only assessed by local political subdivisions, the State can play a role in reducing the net cost of your taxes in four ways. First, the State can provide direct credits to each taxpayer through a property tax credit, allow for a homestead exemption, increase funding to local public schools to offset their property tax ask, or cap the amount a political subdivision can tax. At this point in time, the State is using each of these methods to help reduce local property taxes. I can assure you that the Governor and the Legislature is working to adjust each of these methods to find the right balance to reduce the property tax burden. I will discuss this further in future articles.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

This week marks the beginning of the second half of the 108th Legislative session, which officially begins on Wednesday, January 3. The first few days are reserved for bill introduction, as well as the Rules Committee’s consideration of proposed rule changes. We will begin all-day rules debate on January 10, continuing through the following Friday if necessary.

I plan to introduce most of my bills on Day One and immediately begin working the committee chairs to secure early hearings, with the goal of getting them to the floor quickly. As promised, my staff delivered my priority designation of LB31 (Two-Person Crew bill) to the Speaker last week. I have gotten back from the health insurance industry the final draft of the amendments to LB32 Medi-gap so I can get the amendment approved by the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee and sent to the floor.

As many of you may recall, after the ballot initiative passed allowing gambling in the state, the Legislature passed language regulating casino operations. State law allowed the Gaming and Racing Commission to approve casino operations at the existing race track facilities but did not allow them to approve any new race track construction until a study was completed examining the new sites’ impact on racing and gaming in the state. The study was to be completed no later than January 1, 2025.

As of this time last year, the study had not yet been started and several in the Legislature wanted to pressure the Commission to keep moving forward. As a result, I introduced a bill to allow the Commission to approve additional sites west of the 100th Meridian without the need to wait for the study to be completed. Since all the existing racetrack facilities were in the eastern third of the state, I saw no reason that western Nebraska should continue to be deprived of the economic benefit of a racing and gaming facility.

Although I have made it clear in the past that I am not a gambler (unless you include farming and banking as gambling), since gambling is here in the state, our part of the state should be allowed to enjoy the economic benefits of the tax revenue if we were going to be saddled with the negative effects of gambling in our communities. At that time, both North Platte and Ogallala had operators interested in locating a racetrack and casino in their respective communities. Ogallala still has an operator ready to move forward, but the interest in a North Platte site has cooled. They purchased land, but have not moved forward at this time with a proposal to apply for a license.

Meanwhile, the Racing and Gaming Commission has completed their study, and the results of that study were released last week. I must say that the results were confusing, to say the least. According to the results, the number one location identified to be granted a license was Bellevue, and the primary sites out west that were identified were Kimball, Gering, and McCook. North Platte and Ogallala were lower on the list.

The Racing and Gaming Commission only needed to have the study completed to move forward but had no requirements to follow the recommendations of the study. I can assure you that there will be a major pushback by the legacy tracks against Bellevue adding a facility. I can also assure you that North Platte and Ogallala would be seen as more attractive than the other towns mentioned. In the end, however, the next steps will come from the Racing and Gaming Commission and not the Legislature.

I am looking forward to the beginning of the session and will plan to keep you updated each week regarding legislative activities. I also plan to reinstate my weekly call in with the North Platte Chamber and Development Corporation. This call is open to anyone in District 42, and you can join in person or on the phone; the day and time are still to be determined.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

Since this will be my last column of 2023, I want to start by expressing my appreciation for all the support I have gotten throughout the year. This job has become an enormous time commitment, but I am truly honored to serve as your State Senator. I take this job very seriously and will never forget that I am here to serve all the constituents in District 42. Your ongoing input continues to keep me focused on the issues that are important to you.

As you know, the 2024 session begins on January 3 and is scheduled to end on April 18. However, we will only be in session for 60 of those days. The Speaker has allocated only 47 days for actual bill debate, and 24 of those will be morning bill debate and afternoon committee hearings. This leaves a very limited amount of time to take a bill from start to finish if the bill is newly introduced in this session. Because of the limited time to move bills, I have pared back the number of bills I plan to introduce and will focus my time on getting each bill on a path to passage.

At this point, I have six bills that carried over from the last session. LB148 is no longer needed since it dealt with allowing the western part of the state the opportunity to proceed with a racing and gaming application without waiting for the economic impact studies to be completed. Both are now scheduled to be completed very soon. LB628 makes technical changes to professional limited liability companies. This bill made it to the final reading (the last round of debate) last session, but due to the constant filibusters, we ran out of time to get it passed. I fully expect it to be passed early in the session since it is still on final reading.

LB149 would rebase the rates paid to providers of mental health services under the medical assistance program, and I believe will be incorporated into an appropriations bill. LB69 is a bill that would require life insurers to notify a third party upon request should a life insurance policy be at risk of lapsing due to nonpayment of premium. This bill has strong industry objections and may struggle this session. I shared last week that LB32, my Medigap bill, has taken much of my time this past summer to craft a compromise amendment that the health insurers can agree to. It is my intent to get it added to the committee priority bill this year. Finally, LB31, which requires two-person crews in all trains and light engines, will be my priority bill and my primary focus.

I currently have seven other bills I plan to introduce early in the 2024 session. They deal with several issues important to residents of District 42. The first bill makes technical changes to existing law to restore grants for preparing low-income rural housing projects in the third Congressional District. North Platte would receive $1 million of the $10 million of ARPA funds included in this program.

I also will be introducing a bill that makes needed changes to the Homestead Exemption for the property of disabled Veterans and taxpayers over the age of 65. The bill would allow disabled Veterans to receive a homestead exemption equal to their percentage of disability. It would also raise both the maximum income and the maximum home value to allow those over the age of 65 making less than the average state household income to be eligible if their home value does not exceed 3 ½ times the average home value in the county of $300,000, whichever is greater.

I also will introduce legislation at the request of the Farm Bureau to provide coverage for ag producers who have limited options for health insurance. In addition to this, I will be sponsoring a bill requested by the Nebraska Hospital Association that increases the federal dollars coming to Nebraska for the Medicaid program. This should not only increase funding to rural hospitals but also reduce the State of Nebraska’s Medicaid costs.

I also will be working with Senator Eliot Bostar and Senator Tom Brewer to introduce a bill that makes needed changes to the county veterans service fund allocations to allow for veterans who did not serve during a time of conflict to be eligible for needed assistance.

This is an ambitious agenda, but I am optimistic that I can get many of these initiatives across the finish line if we can keep the session moving.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

Sen. Mike Jacobson

District 42
Room 1523
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2729
Email: mjacobson@leg.ne.gov
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