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As I write this, we are preparing for the last day of this legislative year. There will be some last-minute attempts to kill legislation on Final Reading. An interesting aspect is that since it is the last day, if the Governor were to veto a bill: his veto would stand because by law the legislature is out of time to override his veto.
I am not one to pat myself on the back, but since a local columnist, ignorant of the inner workings of the Legislature deemed to profess his opinion of our accomplishments, I am inclined to list a few from my first term since space is not nearly available for all.
Education Committee; eliminated minimum property tax levy, thus allowing local schools to set their tax levy without fear of loss of state aid. Changed the State Aid Formula so all school districts receive some state aid through the income tax rebate portion of the Tax Equity Educational Opportunity Support Act (TEEOSA). Injected classroom discipline into the discussion on mental health services being included in school funding. That debate will continue next year. I led the filibuster to stop enforcement of an unreliable meningitis vaccination, the following year the Academy of Pediatricians agreed when they came out with a recommendation for their members not to give the vaccination unless certain preexisting medical conditions were present. Last year, my first year as Chairman, in the midst of the budget crisis I crafted LB409. Fighting off lobbying by the larger school districts and complaints by the smaller districts to create legislation that treated all fairly. I have taken the lead in reworking the TEEOSA formula; my LB640 came close to passage this year and a form of it will return next year with me. This year, we worked with Senator Linehan on incorporating her LB651 into committee priority bill 1081. It puts into law citizens’ expectations that their schools make sure children learn to read at a high level.
I was a deciding vote on getting the Governor’s tax overhaul bill out of Revenue Committee and I helped Senator Friesen get his school-aid foundation bill out of my Education Committee for debate. Neither passed, but they have served their purpose as paving stones to a final property tax solution, be it by petition or legislative action next year. Down here you can be successful as a compromising, vote trading politician or take the path I follow of integrity based on principle and openness. Most senators follow that path. Sometimes we waiver and we need a reminder from friends.
A successful senator not only works on legislation to help local citizens like Jeremy Woods and his wife who brought me the idea for LB478, the archery bill to help ex-felons regain their right to hunt and fish, or Karen Hough fulfill her dream to open an equine massage business–the Governor signed LB596 yesterday; a successful senator also creates relationships with state agencies. We have helped the village of Brady overcome Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) regulations when moving their village sign along Highway 30. Just yesterday, we successfully mediated between the village of Hershey and NDOT a reimbursement of $56,987 for work Hershey did during the construction of the overpass. We helped local electricians and Beveridge Drilling with a temporary fix (legislative fix next year) to avoid an unintended state electrical code violation when boring is needed to complete a project. Due to privacy issues, I can not relate to you the many times we helped constituents mediate situations with the Department Health and Human Services.
We have been in the midst of changes in major legislation: Title X, education funding, petition rights, defeat of windmill tax incentives, Natural Resources District taxation and groundwater policy, etc., but what brings me back is helping individuals protect their rights and receive the government services they need.
I never consider personal gain when I get involved in issues and unlike a local political writer, I directly contact individuals for clarification on their position. Not once have I been contacted by him; I guess he prefers to read between the lines of my columns.
Contact Sen. Mike Groene: firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729.