NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42

Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

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

Monday 2/27

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB398 Wayne Provide requirements for public school districts relating to swimming activities
LB569 Friesen Establish the Community College Task Force and sunset community college levies
LB490 Walz Adopt the College Choice Grant Program Act

Tuesday 2/28

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB521 Walz Change provisions related to early childhood education in the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act
LB511 Education Committee Change provisions for payment of educational costs for state wards and students in residential settings
LB512 Education Committee Change provisions related to education

Wednesday 3/1

Judiciary
Location: Room 1113
Time: 9:15 AM

Document Introducer Description
LB478 Groene Provide for possession of archery equipment and knives for recreational purposes

 

 

Monday 2/20–President’s Day observed. Capitol offices closed, no hearings

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Tuesday 2/21

Urban Affairs
Location: Room 1510
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB262 Groene Change provisions relating to undeveloped vacant land under the Community Development Law
LB489 Groene Redefine development project under the Community Development Law
LB597 Groene Provide for application process through county assessor and Tax Commissioner prior to using tax-increment financing

Monday February 13

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
Appointment Buckendahl, Chad W. – Technical Advisory Committee for Statewide Assessment
Note: phone confirmation
Appointment Aspen, Gwenn – Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education
LB608 Linehan Adopt the Parental Choice Scholarship Program

Tuesday February 14

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB246 Morfeld Provide a budget exception for expanded learning opportunity programs
LB247 Morfeld Provide for school district levy and bonding authority for cybersecurity
LB525 Morfeld Change distribution provisions related to the Education Innovation Fund
LB575 Kolowski Provide funding for schools offering certain programs and courses as prescribed

Wednesday February 15

Natural Resources
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB218 Groene Provide for installation of ground water pumps by public entities
LB488 Groene Adopt the Water Conservation Grant Act

Thursday February 16

Revenue
Location: Room 1524
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB251 Harr Redefine agricultural or horticultural purposes for revenue and taxation purposes
LB266 Friesen Change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land
LB640 Groene Change provisions of the Property Tax Credit Act and provide school district property tax relief

Home District Column 2/9/2017

February 10th, 2017

Tuesday, we presented LB595 to allow teachers’ disciplinary control of their classrooms. Discipline in the classroom to allow students to focus and learn and teachers to effectively communicate to the entire class is the purpose of LB595. The present Student Discipline Act outlines what student behavior may lead to discipline and empower school boards to adopt additional conduct policies. The Act authorizes short and long term suspension, expulsion, and mandatory reassignment as well as describes the student’s due process rights.

There is a gap, however, as to what actions teachers and administrators may take to contain a violent incident by an unruly student. LB595 fills in this gap, it allows teachers and administrators to use necessary force or physical restraint to subdue the student until such student no longer presents a danger to him or herself, other students, the teacher or administrator, or school property. The bill also allows teachers to remove a student who repeatedly interfered with the teacher’s ability to teach, or whose behavior is so disruptive that it seriously interferes with the class’ ability to learn. The administration can then place the student in another classroom, in-school suspension, or into alternative education programs. The student cannot be returned to the original classroom without the teacher’s permission.

This bill will give teachers and administrators the assurance that they have control of their classroom without fear of legal action or administrative discipline if they acted in a reasonable manner.

I have gained a higher respect for teachers after receiving a multitude of correspondence as to the violence they are experiencing in Nebraska classrooms. The Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA) testified in favor of the bill citing an email survey they conducted on the issue last Sunday. They had the largest response they have ever had to a member survey; overwhelmingly, teachers said there is a growing discipline problem in our schools. 80% said classroom violence is increasing, 80% said they want more control of their classroom.  I now understand that when I ask a former teacher why they retired early, they simply say in some form or another: deterioration on classroom discipline.

LB595 enforces learning in a classroom; not only does it allow learning to happen, it allows teachers to instruct students that there are behavior boundaries that all citizens should follow.  It’s a common-sense approach.  We’re working with all parties to make this work for everyone involved.

You may have noticed recently that there has been a concerted attack on debate points I have made in private conversations. I am undaunted, I take solace in a quote from Mother Teresa “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable, be honest and transparent anyway”

Upcoming hearing dates:

February 15th Wednesday afternoon in the Natural Resources Committee

LB218 – N-CORPE shall sell land while retaining water rights and requiring review of project with public hearing.

LB488 – Department of Natural Resources creates voluntary irrigation water conservation grants to farm irrigated land as dry land on annual basis. LB488 will give a common-sense alternative for farmers to conserve groundwater instead of mining it and pumping it into a creek.

February 16th Thursday afternoon in the Revenue Committee

LB640 – Cap individual school districts property taxes at 60% of total revenue. Lowers maximum tax rate to 1.00

This bill is meant to work on property taxes and school finance in a more straightforward way.  It restores equity funding to districts who didn’t get it.  It will take out some of the variables that allowed for property taxes to grow in each district without approval of the local board.

Feb 21st Tuesday afternoon in the Urban Affairs Committee

LB 262 – Limits the use of open land for Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

LB489 – Removes ambiguous language from TIF statutes

LB597 – Provides oversight by the Department of Revenue for TIF programs

The three TIF legislation proposals will give state oversight, remove ambiguous language and clarify the definition of open land in its use in TIF projects.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.

Monday February 6

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB144 Friesen Change agricultural and horticultural adjusted valuations for calculating state aid to schools
LB265 Friesen Provide for a minimum amount of state aid based on the number of students in a local system
LB571 Friesen Change state aid for education relating to allocated income tax funds

Tuesday February 7

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB554 Smith Provide for a financial transparency web site for schools, school districts, and educational service units
LB645 Pansing Brooks Add dyslexia for purposes of special education
LB595 Groene Provide for the use of physical force or physical restraint or removal from a class in response to student behavior

Thursday February 9

Revenue
Location: Room 1524
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB126 Groene Change sunset dates under the Nebraska Job Creation and Mainstreet Revitalization Act and the Nebraska Advantage Act

Home District Column 2/1/2017

February 3rd, 2017

Nebraska is unique in how state government is operated. The one house Unicameral allows for more citizen involvement than the other 49 states with the two body system of a representative house and a senate.

George Norris, the creator of the Unicameral, convinced the voters of Nebraska to approve the system by ballot initiative in 1934.  One of the main selling points he stressed was that citizens of the state were to be the “second house”.

This session there were 667 bills introduced, every single one of those bills will have a public hearing where citizens can sit in front of legislative committees and share their knowledge and opinions with their elected officials. Not only are they given adequate time to speak, they are also very often given respect for their knowledge by being asked questions by state senators.  Hearings have and will go late into the evening, no one is denied their right to address their elected officials. It is a rather amazing sight to see; in that hearing room there is an air of equality very seldom seen in federal, state, or local governments. These hearings are usually scheduled each afternoon during the first half of the 60 or 90-day legislative session. In order to make sure that these hearings are done in an orderly fashion, 14 Committees were set up around specific subject matter: Agriculture; Appropriations; Banking, Commerce and Insurance; Business and Labor; Education; General Affairs; Government, Military and Veteran Affairs;  Health and Human Services;  Judiciary;  Natural Resources;  Retirement; Revenue; Transportation & Telecommunications; and Urban Affairs.

Tuesday our LB404 requiring, for safety purposes, a 2 man crew on trains operating in Nebraska had its hearing.  Support for the bill was overwhelming. Congressman Don Bacon, the Nebraska State Volunteer Firefighters Association, and the Nebraska Association of County Officials were among those who showed support along with many individual train personnel who provided personal work experiences.  Those strong testimonies led one senator to change their view and support the legislation. Besides the paramount issue of safety, we made the argument that the railroad has been part of our region before there was a state of Nebraska; management and ownership may come and go but the railroad’s working heritage that runs through generations of families in North Platte, McCook, Alliance, etc. is part of the foundation of our state.

Upcoming hearing dates:

February 7th Tuesday afternoon in the Education Committee.  LB595 allows teachers to have disciplinary control of their classrooms. Response has been good from the public education community to the bill.  There is a sense that we need to give guidance and protection to teachers and administrators as to how they may use common sense reactions to students who have had few boundaries set in their personal lives.

February 15th Wednesday afternoon in the Natural Resources Committee

LB218 – N-CORPE shall sell land while retaining water rights and requiring review of project with public hearing

LB488 – Department of Natural Resources creates voluntary irrigation water conservation grants to farm irrigated land as dry land on annual basis

February 16th Thursday afternoon in the Revenue Committee

LB640 – Cap individual school districts property taxes at 60% of total revenue. Lowers maximum tax rate to 1.00

Feb 21st Tuesday afternoon in the Urban Affairs Committee

LB 262 – Limits the use of open land for Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

LB489 – Removes ambiguous language from TIF statutes

LB597 – Provides oversight by the Department of Revenue for TIF programs

The NCORPE legislation is basic to the future of how we manage our ground water resources for future generations. LB218 asks the question: Do we allow the same government entities that we assign to manage our common resources to also own those resources? LB488 will give a common-sense alternative for farmers to conserve groundwater instead of mining it and pumping it into a creek.

The three TIF legislation proposals will give state oversight, remove ambiguous language and clarify the definition of open land in its use in TIF projects.

If you have been waiting for an opportunity to influence these issues, now is your opportunity. Show up and testify at the hearings.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.

1/30/2017

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB58  Craighead Change provisions relating to participation in extracurricular activities
LB427 Vargas Require breastfeeding accommodations for student-parents
LB428 Vargas Require schools and the State Department of Education to adopt policies relating to pregnant and parenting students

1/31/2017

Education
Location: Room 1525
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB214 Halloran Terminate the Master Teacher Program
LB457 Briese Change exceptions to school district levy and budget exceptions for voluntary termination agreements
LB175 Morfeld Adopt the Student Online Personal Protection Act
LB377 Education Committee Change provisions relating to classification of school districts

1/31/2017

Transportation and Telecommunications
Location: Room 1113
Time: 1:30 PM

Document Introducer Description
LB404 Groene Require a train crew of at least two individuals

2/2/2017

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

Document Introducer Description
LB127 Groene Change notice requirements under Open Meetings Act

Home District Column 1/26/16

January 27th, 2017

LB640 is the legislation we have introduced to address Nebraska’s property tax inflation problem.  It is directed towards the largest cause of property tax increases, the way we fund public education. The state aid to education formula, TEEOSA, dictates that local property taxes come first in the equation of how we pay for public schools. It does not take into consideration the ability of a community to pay those taxes.

Property tax makes up 48% of total taxes collected in the state.  The heaviest burden of property taxes statewide is levied to the school districts.  Per the 2016 Department of Revenue report, 60% is levied to the schools statewide. In our District 42, it is nearly 63.

Funding schools comes from three major sources, property taxes, State aid (generated from income and sales taxes), and federal aid.  Since property taxes are accounted for first, when property valuations go up, state aid goes down.  Currently, 175 out of 245 school districts receive no portion of their income and sales taxes back to them through Equalized State Aid to Schools.  District 42 schools Hershey, Brady, Maxwell, and Wallace are included in the non-equalized districts.

The 1990 authors of the TEEOSA formula believed if we limited the tax rate, a school district could levy to 1.05 and it would keep property tax increases to a reasonable inflationary factor. Apparently, they were not good math students in school; controlling only one variable in an equation is like building a fence with only three sides. The intent of LB640 is to close the fence, instead of controlling the variables we put a limit on the answer of the equation.  It caps the maximum local effort (property tax contribution) at 60% in any district of all revenue sources, including all forms of state aid, federal money and even speeding ticket revenues. For those districts that are not at the 60% threshold, such as North Platte Public Schools, LB640 also lowers the max levy rate to 1.00, thus giving all citizens a tax cut.

Here is an example: If a school district has $100,000 total funding (property taxes, federal funding and state aid), the property tax portion would be capped at $60,000.   Wallace school district, for example, in 2015 received no equalized state aid and funded 72% ($72,000 in the example) of their school with property taxes. Of the $12,000 difference, they would receive 75% ($9,000) from the state. Some or all of the remaining amount could be recaptured by a two-thirds majority vote of the school board after holding a public hearing.

How do we pay for it: we earmark that the first dollars in the Property Tax Credit Fund (proposed $204 million annually) will go to fund the Public School Property Tax Relief Act.  LB640 will put property tax relief in statute, where it cannot be easily raided.

LB640 will give long range tax equity in school funding. It eliminates the effect of valuation inflation, it puts local control into local school funding by making local school boards justify any additional property tax asking to fill the gap above the 75% factor.  It will also eliminate some of the shielding effect that the property tax credit gives local government entities that raise your taxes by not lowering your tax rates in the face of rising valuations.

There are other property tax proposals by other senators, we will see which combination of proposals can make it into law.

LB640 is tentatively scheduled for public hearing on February 16th.  Below is a partial list of our upcoming public bill hearings.

1/26:

LB479 – Change public hearings provisions and redefine a term under the Nebraska budget Act

1/31:

LB404 – Require a train crew of at least 2 individuals

2/7:

LB595 – Student Discipline Act

2/15:

LB218 – Provide for installation of ground water pumps by public entities

LB488 – Water Conservation Grant Act

We need your input in Lincoln and welcome your testimony at the hearings.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.

Education Hearing Dates added

January 23rd, 2017

Monday January 30, 2017

Room 1525, 1:30 p.m.

LB58 Kintner Change provisions relating to participation in extracurricular activities
LB427 Vargas Require breastfeeding accommodations for student-parents
LB428 Vargas Require schools and the State Department of Education to adopt policies relating to pregnant and parenting students

Tuesday January 31, 2017

Room 1525, 1:30 p.m.

LB214 Halloran Terminate the Master Teacher Program
LB457 Briese Change exceptions to school district levy and budget exceptions for voluntary termination agreements
LB175 Morfeld Adopt the Student Online Personal Protection Act
LB377 Education Committee Change provisions relating to classification of school districts

1/23-1/27 Hearing Schedule

January 19th, 2017

Education Committee:

Monday January 23, 2017 – 1:30pm, Room 1525

LB103 Murante Change provisions relating to accelerated or differentiated curriculum and require establishment of focus groups
LB235 Walz Clarify grant requirements for the Summer Food Service Program
LB109 Blood Provide for a temporary teaching certificate or permit for military spouses

Monday January 24, 2017 – 1:30pm, Room 1525

LB124 Baker Increase the probationary period of community college staff
LB123 Pansing Brooks Provide for reimbursement when certain postsecondary institutions terminate operations
LB396 Morfeld Change residency provisions relating to postsecondary educational institutions

Bills introduced by Senator Groene:

Thursday January 26, 2017 – 1:30pm, Room 1507

LB479 Groene Change public hearing provisions and redefine a term under the Nebraska Budget Act

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42
Room #1107
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2729
Email: mgroene@leg.ne.gov
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