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Last week, Speaker Scheer started late-night legislative sessions, continuing debate up to midnight if necessary. As of Tuesday, there were only 15 days left in the session to finish debate on 63 priority bills. I do not envy the Speaker’s job.
Bills of interest:
LB158: Attempt to take away the right of a juvenile and their family to not exercise their right to counsel in a juvenile criminal court where mostly misdemeanor crimes are involved. The United States Supreme Court made it clear in the 1975 Farretta v. California case that you have a right to not be represented by a lawyer; when Justice Stewart wrote in the Court’s opinion, “The question before us now is whether a defendant in a state criminal trial has a constitutional right to proceed without counsel when he voluntarily and intelligently elects to do so. Stated another way, the question is whether a State may constitutionally hale a person into its criminal courts and there FORCE (my emphasis) a lawyer upon him, even when he insists that he wants to conduct his own defense. It is not an easy question, but we have concluded that a State may not constitutionally do so.” If passed, LB158 would have taken that right away, added the expense of a taxpayer-funded-attorney for poor juveniles to county public defender budgets and burdened middle-class families already stressed by a foolish mistake by a juvenile, with the cost of an attorney. With the support of local citizens involved in the juvenile court system, we successfully filibustered LB158 and for now, we are protecting your constitutional right to represent yourself in criminal court.
LB299: Occupational Board Reform advanced to Select File. The Nebraska Legislature in the past has created in many cases, too many regulatory hurdles involved for citizens trying to pursue their occupation, whether it be in medicine or the vocational trades. LB299 would set up a scheduled review of the certification process for all occupational licenses.
LB596: Our Equine Massage bill is the poster child of over-regulated occupations that LB299 would address; its review process hopefully will catch and fix other over-regulated occupations. LB596 passed with no dissenting votes to Select File. We are working with other senators to amend the bill on Select File to where it will be even less restrictive for an individual to create an equine massage practice.
LB947: Revenue Committee Tax Reform package. This bill creates a property tax credit on your state income taxes starting at 2% on ag-land and 1% for residential, eventually reaching a 20% credit for ag-land by 2027 and residential by 2030, and it would lower the top corporate income tax rate from 7.81 to equal that of the top individual tax rate of 6.84. At present, our corporate tax rates are not competitive with other states when trying to attract new business. As a member of the Revenue Committee, I agreed to be the deciding vote of a 5-3 decision to forward the bill out of Committee after garnering a Committee concession to cut the workforce development funding from $10 to $5 million and to phase in the corporate tax reduction over 5 years from the original 2 years. I remain a firm supporter of the property tax petition, LB947 brings property tax relief at an unacceptably slow pace. I voted the bill out of Committee so the people of Nebraska will have a chance to hear legislative debate on property tax reform, and discover where their elected officials stand on the issue. A lot of variables would have to line up, including the outcome of our priority bill LB640, before I will support the final passage of LB947.
LB256: creates the ability for communities to create a Vacant Property Registration Ordinance. It passed Final Reading and has been signed into law by the Governor. I supported the bill with the fate of the Pawnee Hotel in mind. Community supporters in North Platte would like to pursue redevelopment of the old historic building, but at present, they cannot even identify a person who speaks for the absentee owners. LB256 would force someone to step forward.