NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. 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

Column 12/19/19
December 19th, 2019

It came as no surprise to me when I heard of N-CORPE pursuing a windmill project. The Nebraska value of local government control has been abused and attacked throughout the creation of the N-CORPE interlocal. Any reasonable person after reading the interlocal agreement governing N-CORPE would conclude that its purpose was solely to “regulate/manage water to assist the State of Nebraska with compliance with the Republican River Compact and to assist with implementation of Twin Platte NRD’s Integrated Management Plan and the State of Nebraska’s responsibilities under the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program”.

The four NRDs involved in N-CORPE have 46 total board members; of those, only 9 reside in Lincoln County. 37 non-resident board members should not be making decisions affecting our way of life in Lincoln County!

We know the sales pitch: “Let’s put 100 windmills on the public N-CORPE land and garner $879,000 in nameplate capacity taxes, pick up another $800,000 for the leases and promises of lower occupation and property taxes.” But there is a problem: the majority of the citizens of Lincoln County do not want windmills in the Sand Hills. We are not willing to sell our soul or the integrity of who we are as ranchers, farmers, railroaders and power-plant workers for an ill-gotten windfall from windmills.

What we want is to have N-CORPE sell the land and put it back into private hands. We are willing to continue to be good neighbors and bail out the residents of the Upper and Lower Republican NRDs and protect their livelihoods by sharing Lincoln County ground water to augment the flows of the Republican River.

In Lincoln, we are continuing to bring legislation forward to clearly state that N-CORPE can sell the land without harming the augmentation project. The legislation has evolved to where it is ready to become law.

We have had two Nebraska Supreme Court cases on N-CORPE which clarify the present situation. In the Estermann case, the Court said the Legislature changed Nebraska common law that permitted use of the ground water only on the overlying land when it gave NRDs the power to augment streams. Therefore, N-CORPE could transfer ground water off the overlying land. In the Dundy County property tax case, the Court reaffirmed that under common law you must own the land overlying a source of ground water, reaffirming the 1985 Sorensen vs. Lower Niobrara NRD decision, where the NRD owning a ½ acre tract of land over the well site was sufficient to satisfy common law because the Legislature had exempted public ground water use for domestic purposes by enacting the Municipal and Rural Domestic Ground Water Transfers Permit Act.

I was asked by members of the Natural Resources Committee to work with the Attorney General’s office and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources. I did, and gained their understanding that our latest effort would cause no harm to interstate water compacts or augmentation projects. I worked with a prominent Nebraska law professor on the language and consulted a very successful private law firm, well-known as being successful water law attorneys.

Our latest effort to clarify that N-CORPE can sell the land will protect the augmentation project from a lawsuit by defining beneficial use of the augmentation project as a public purpose, thus exempting N-CORPE from  the dictates that the ground water used is limited to the “reasonable and beneficial use on the overlying land”.  What we are attempting to do is nothing new. It has been done before when we protected municipal and rural domestic ground water use and industrial uses such as ethanol plants.

After working with legal minds in the public and private sector on this legislation, it is frustrating to be stymied by ill-informed opinions on what is tradition and what is truth about Nebraska’s water laws, mostly by NRD resistance based on the legal opinion of an attorney whose motives and loyalties are suspect.

This is a statewide issue and needs to be addressed. I see no good reason why the bill will not be advanced from the Natural Resources Committee and quickly passed into law. But, we understand, politicians aren’t always guided by good reasoning.

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

Column 11/28/2019
November 28th, 2019

I started to write this column pondering the things government has done to be thankful for.  I soon realized how foolish that frame of thought was. Government in any form exists from the will of the people, from those it rules over or, if you live in America, serves. We are blessed to live in a country where for over 500 years, it has been settled by hardy individuals seeking freedom of religion, economic opportunity or land ownership. Others had to first overcome the evil of slavery to garner freedom. Throughout our history, thousands of Americans have risked all, in worldwide military conflicts to protect the gift of freedom and to end government-supported slavery, not only for Americans but in the hope of planting the seeds of freedom in foreign lands. As any veteran will tell you, “Freedom is not free”.

Free will is a gift from God, the pursuit of freedom is thus a natural result of that gift. Wisdom and common sense are also God-given gifts and if pursued stand as a natural check on absolute freedom.

We live in a society where some seek to define freedom as the ability to pursue pleasure through sloth, drugs, alcohol or deviant behavior; but the wise understand: when those pursuits are gained they do not provide freedom but slavery.

Government does not supply blessings; in fact, too often it not only restricts the rewards garnered from a person’s good choices, but also acts as an enabler for a fool to be foolish.

So on Thanksgiving Day, as on all days, I am thankful for the freedom to worship God without government persecution, to protect my health with what I choose to eat, drink and breathe, to associate with those who have my best interests in mind, to work and live where I see fit, and as an elected official to speak the truth without fearing the wrath of the fool. Freedom, most of all, offers the lasting blessing of forgiveness; for if we fail today to be vigilant in how we exercise our freedoms, tomorrow is a new opportunity to try again.

During the Thanksgiving Holiday, I consider the ability to surround myself with family and friends a reward for the wise exercise of my freedom.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!!

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

Column 11/21/2019
November 21st, 2019

When a lottery ticket is purchased in Nebraska, a portion of the money goes to the state of Nebraska; last year it amounted to $46.6 million. Our State Constitution requires that the proceeds are allocated as follows: the first $500 thousand plus 1% of the remainder goes into the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund, 44.5% to the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund, 44.5% to education and 10% to the Nebraska State Fair.

Every five years the Legislature directs the Education Committee to make recommendations on how the 44.5% for education should be allocated to best advance the education priorities of the state. Last year, the distribution to education was $20.5 million.

Through June 2021, by statute, the education funds are allocated as follows:

Sixty-two percent goes into the Nebraska Opportunity Grant Fund, which provides financial aid to college undergraduates who qualify due to low family incomes and who already qualify for federal Pell grants. Mid-Plains Community College students are eligible for this financial aid.

Seventeen percent goes into the Department of Education Innovative Grant Fund. Approximately half of the money pays for the ACT test given to all juniors in Nebraska’s public schools. The remainder is awarded to individual schools through competitive innovative grant applications. In 2017, four districts and the Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council were awarded grants. The idea is to encourage innovation in public education with the hope that good ideas will eventually spread throughout the state.

Nine percent goes into the Community College Gap Assistance Program Fund to provide financial aid for courses of study (welding, CDL license training, etc.), which are not eligible for federal Pell grants. To date, Mid-Plains Community College has received $250 thousand. So far the program has been underutilized by community colleges.

Eight percent goes into the Excellence in Teaching Cash Fund, which provides forgivable loans to teaching students working on a bachelor’s degree or teachers working on a master’s degree. Priority funding is given to students majoring in shortage areas, and loan forgiveness is provided for those teaching in a very sparse district or high poverty school. Wallace Public Schools is designated as a very sparse school district. Buffalo Elementary School and Adams Middle School in North Platte, as well as the Brady Elementary School and High School, all meet the poverty definition.

Three percent goes to distance education incentives which are meant to encourage school districts to share educational courses using technology.

One percent goes into the Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant (ELO) Fund which provides matching grants to afterschool programs. North Platte’s Kids Klub has received ELO grants, this year they received a grant for the next two-year period totaling $45,000.

The Education Committee must issue its report by December 31st with recommendations for the next five-year period. One of my priorities is to include funding for behavioral identification and intervention training at the building level across every district in the state to help create a safe classroom environment for teachers and students.

One challenge of the current grant structure is that small school districts don’t generally have access to dedicated, full-time, professional grant writers. The application packet for the 2017 innovative grants was 42 pages. Smaller school districts where administrators serve as principals, coaches, technology specialists and/or bus drivers shouldn’t be left at a disadvantage to receive the benefits of lottery proceeds. By giving direct aid to each school district, it would create fair access to lottery funds.

We held a hearing this last Friday at the Capitol to hear from the agencies responsible for managing the various funds, and a few other invited guests that could provide insight on what is (and isn’t) working well with the current allocation amounts. Now the hard work begins. The Committee is working to determine the best use of the lottery dollars and to make fiscally-responsible recommendations. It is essential that the Legislature pass a bill in 2020. Current and future funding recipients deserve to know what they can expect come July 2021 and need time to plan their programs accordingly.

A copy of the Committee’s report will be publicly available online at the end of the year.

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

We’ve Moved!
November 18th, 2019

My office has moved back to Room 1107 which is located on the south west side of the Capitol Building.

My office phone number has not changed.

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

Column 10/31/2019
October 31st, 2019

To achieve property tax relief and limit government, I continue to pursue wasteful spending; the prime example is the NCORPE project and its unnecessary ownership of 19,500 agricultural acres.   A recent newspaper guest opinion submitted by an NCORPE official is a case study of a wasteful government entity out of control. I must ask what do the subjects of government paying property taxes, pasture land rental rates, and public hunting lands have to do with groundwater management?

To counter some of NCORPE’s points made in the newspaper piece:

–Property taxes: Unless used for private purposes, government entities should not be paying property taxes; no matter how you sum it up, government paying taxes is double taxation.  If NCORPE land had remained in private hands, Lincoln County taxing entities would be receiving approximately $757,000 in property taxes in contrast to the NRDs agreeing, for now, to voluntarily pay 2019 property taxes of $145,800.

–Management and labor cost of NCORPE infrastructure of 30 wells and 22 miles of underground pipeline.  Without the taxpayer burden to maintain the land, NCORPE’s $370,870 payroll cost could be eliminated, saving more of your tax dollars.  NCORPE could easily contract out the maintenance services for a fraction of their labor cost; even now, when a well has a malfunction the NCORPE staff hires a well service company to do the repair work. The wells are presently operated remotely eliminating any need for manual startups by an employee.

–Mortgage:  Remember when NCORPE claimed they could not sell the land due to the mortgage? We have completely dismissed that claim by simply reading the mortgage documents. Now they claim a bond insurance document limits the sale of the land.  The reality is if you sell the land and pay down the bond or you keep the land as collateral, it has the same result on the bond insurer’s exposure.  What secures the bonds is the $10/acre occupation tax–period.

–May sell the Land: Yes, may sell the land. Our LB606 gives the NRDs the ability to voluntarily sell the land by protecting the continuation of the augmentation project, it does not mandate it. We have worked with the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Natural Resources, the Governor’s office and well-respected private water-law attorneys to create legislation that satisfies our state constitution’s beneficial use requirement.  LB606 will make augmentation the beneficial use for a public purpose, thus eliminating the common law’s tradition of use on the overlying land.  By defining augmentation as a public use, similar to how our state statutes handle municipal and rural domestic water projects, the beneficial use now becomes water necessary to accomplish surface water augmentation.

–Lawsuits: The statewide NRD bureaucracy scares NRD board members with fears of lawsuits.  The two NCORPE lawsuits so far that have been brought are against an NRD’s eminent domain powers and related to property tax collections. In the Dundy County property-tax case, the court referred to language from a 1985 Supreme Court case that actually strengthens our argument for enacting LB606.  In that case, the Court affirmed that ownership of as little as a half-acre of land encompassing the well was sufficient to satisfy the beneficial use requirement for a public purpose. The lawsuit they have not yet seen and should fear is when the Court is asked to answer the question, “How does pumping groundwater down a creek satisfy the common law’s requirement that use of the groundwater must directly benefit the public’s domestic or agricultural need on the overlying 19,500 acres?” LB 606 when enacted will eliminate that fear.

I have taken on powerful political entities many times and I have become accustomed to being politically threatened and shunned, but nothing comes close to what I have witnessed dealing with the NRD establishment. My personal livelihood has been threatened, brave public servants who have aided my efforts have been confronted by the establishment, a helpful professor versed in water-law was told in no uncertain terms to stop or face exclusion from the good-ole-boy club, and local farmers and ranchers who have stepped up on this issue have endured character attacks.  There is presently an unhealthy political environment within our State’s Natural Resource community. It needs to be addressed.

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

Column 10/10/2019
October 10th, 2019

Column 10-10-19

Economic growth is driven by the old real estate adage: The top three reasons real property sells are “Location, location, location!” Union Pacific’s railyard is in North Platte because it sits on the Platte River’s natural transportation route and lies at the midpoint of the United States; its national location is the paramount reason. Regionally, location again is the reason the Walmart distribution center is in North Platte and on a smaller scale, why North Platte is considered a natural place for medical and lodging facilities.

In a perfect world, the economy moves smoothly and government concentrates its efforts on providing public safety, streets and utilities. Problems start to arise when government tries to become more than the supplier and conduit needed to deliver public services to citizens and businesses. When government expands into areas of public wants such as entertainment, tourism, and attempts at job creation, taxes must go up to pay for those activities. High taxes then in turn create a barrier to economic development that would naturally occur. For businesses, location now becomes secondary to simply being able to make a profit.

A recent example is a company’s interest in building large-space warehousing facilities in North Platte. Due to the growth of the marijuana industry in Colorado, the cost of warehousing has tripled there. The natural response is for warehousing services to expand to nearby locations in states where marijuana is not legal. In these states, the marijuana industry cannot compete for space with construction material and other commodity sellers who rely on reasonable storage cost in order to be profitable. North Platte’s location fits that description, but apparently our high state and local taxes have raised a barrier to the warehouse investor’s ability to profit from their investment. Even North Platte’s ideal location can’t overcome burdensome taxation. Thus starts the vicious cycle of tax abatement for new commercial projects and tax increases for existing residents to fund the additional city infrastructure needed for the project. As taxes go up, a city becomes more desperate and the cycle grows in magnitude.

The use of a million dollars of Quality Growth Fund and up to 15 years of lost property tax revenues from TIF probably will not be the final tally for North Platte taxpayers. The company in question is well-known for accessing Nebraska’s Advantage Act, and if it does the city will lose thousands more in sales tax receipts on the project’s materials cost.

The above scenario is why next year I will hesitate to support the present form of LB720, Nebraska’s newly proposed economic development plan. The new legislation has been given the name the “ImagiNE Nebraska Act” and would replace the existing “Advantage Act”.

Last year, the Advantage Act refunded $152 million in sales and corporate income taxes as incentives for business growth in Nebraska. You would think that the purpose of an economic development plan would be long-term job growth, but in fact, sales tax refunds amounted to approximately $109 million and income tax refunds amounted to the remaining $43 million. Only 2,489 new jobs were reportedly created from the taxpayer investment. I have a philosophical distaste for sales tax abatements on products not produced in Nebraska. For example, windmills for wind energy projects have received millions in sales tax refunds on materials built in other states that created no jobs in Nebraska.

I am also concerned with language added to LB720 that for an unexplained reason added new construction for commercial banks as qualifying for incentives. With the exception of businesses doing 75% of their sales outside of Nebraska, no other retail businesses qualify. Why do banks?

Politics, political donations and lobbyists play a part in economic incentives, making their cost higher than necessary. The reality is that incentives of some sort have become part of our state’s tax policy. I will vote for a version of LB720, but first I must be assured that property tax relief is achieved with the passage of a version of LB289. I firmly believe property tax relief for the average citizen will do more for our economy than all the tax giveaways combined.

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

Home District Column 9-26-19
September 25th, 2019

Thanks to those who attended the McCook Natural Resource Committee hearing on the N-CORPE land ownership issue. The testimony came from successful agri-business people, attorneys and from Lincoln County officials. The Natural Resources Committee heard the truth; it was convincing, pertinent and backed by fact.

N-CORPE’s public land ownership is a direct assault on a highly-valued Nebraska governing tenant: “LOCAL CONTROL” on issues of property taxation and land use. They also heard a very weak defense by NRD employees as to why taxpayers need to own 19,500 acres of land for a groundwater to river augmentation project that in a physical aspect is unrelated to how much land is involved.

Their argument for land ownership is based on old English Common Law, which is based on tradition and related court cases. Common law goes back to the days when water for domestic and livestock use primarily came from surface water streams. It was commonly accepted that you could not dam up a stream and deny a neighbor his share of the stream water as it flowed through his property. Nebraska’s common law on water, as defined by the Nebraska Supreme Court is, “your use of groundwater is limited to the beneficial use needed on the ownership of overlying land.”

Nebraska’s Constitution of course takes precedent over all laws: legislative, court case or common. It states “The use of the water of every natural stream within the State of Nebraska is hereby dedicated to the people of the state for beneficial purposes.”

The Nebraska Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed that when the Legislature enacts a statute that is contrary to any common law, the new statute takes precedent, common law and past court cases are no longer relevant. The Nebraska Legislature has in the past created statutes that have made an exception to common law. In 1963 they created the Municipal and Rural Domestic Groundwater Transfer Permit Act, which defined the Constitution’s beneficial use clause for public water projects as other than the common laws use on the overlying land. It is the reason the City of North Platte does not have to own 19,500 acres of land surrounding their water wells in order to supply you drinking water. The statute was upheld in the 1985, “Sorensen vs. Lower Niobrara NRD” case in which the Court clearly stated that NRD’s ownership of half acre well sites to supply domestic water to rural citizens was sufficient for the public purpose and that, “in permitting transfer of groundwater from the site of its extraction the act has removed use on overlying land as an index for the ‘reasonable and beneficial’ required by common law.”

How much water NCORPE uses can easily be protected from lawsuit by deed reservations on the land sales and by the local NRD’s ability to set allocations on the amount of water used.

Two recent Supreme Court cases concerning NCORPE make it clear that the augmentation project is a public purpose similar to public domestic use water projects. In both of the cases the Court made references to the Sorensen Case by stating in Estermann, “Since the Nebraska common law of groundwater permitted use of the water only on the overlying land, legislative action was necessary to allow for transfers off the overlying land for as pressing a need as supplying urban water users.” In the Dundy County Case the Court referred back to language in the Sorensen case where concerning a public use a half-acre of land ownership over a well-site was sufficient to satisfy the common law’s requirement of land ownership over the source of the groundwater.
It is a complicated issue, but as you can see we have done our homework. At the hearing Thursday when NRD representatives were asked by senators about the ability of the Legislature to rectify the competing interest in this matter, they had no answers. I believe that a majority of senators on the Natural Resources Committee now see through the scare tactics and misinformation presented by the landowner proponents. I would not continue to be in Lincoln if I did not believe that commonsense and justice can prevail. It is time for legislative action.

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

Home District Column 09-19
September 19th, 2019

As the arid West was settled, Mark Twain is attributed as saying, “Whiskey is for drinkin’ but water is for fightin’.” Reality is, more wars and legal disputes have been fought over ownership of land.

Thus you have a description of the fight Lincoln County is in over the NRD groundwater to river augmentation project, N-CORPE, which sits on 19,500 acres (over 30 square miles) in the middle of the county. This fight is over water and land ownership, making the skirmish a little more intense.

Of the four NRDs involved in the project, the citizens in the Twin Platte (TPNRD) and the Middle Republican (MRNRD) have the most at stake; the land in the project lies in their districts. They have to be accountable to the State of Nebraska for the groundwater under the project and their irrigated farmers have an additional tax burden to pay a share of the project’s cost. The other two NRDs, the Lower Republican (LRNRD) and Upper Republican (URNRD), have only to pay their share of cost. So you see the injustice, citizens of Lincoln County’s taxing entities lost the tax revenues on 15,800 irrigated acres and the local economy lost production inputs associated with those acres. Plus, the county’s two NRDs have to account for the groundwater consumed by the project. Meanwhile, the only burden the citizens in the URNRD and LRNRD have is the occupation tax paid by their irrigated farmers to cover a share of the project’s cost.

The injustice does not end there: The management of N-CORPE, in order to expand the project, is pursuing buying more irrigated land to take off the tax rolls, and they are seeking contracts with wind and solar energy companies to install windmills on Lincoln County land against the will of the county’s residents.

If you weren’t already aware, you now know why I have passionately introduced legislation to address the issue. In Lincoln County, we have broad shoulders and are willing to bail out the State of Nebraska and our neighbors with our groundwater, but we are a little irritated that the NRD’s statewide bureaucratic establishment has not worked with us to return control of our land back to us. I must clarify that the MRNRD board and management has bravely bucked the bureaucratic pressure and has stood with us in this fight.

The legislation I plan to offer next year is simple: “If real property was acquired to develop and operate an augmentation project for streamflow enhancement, the owner or owners of such project may later sell such real property and continue to pump ground water, subject to the provisions of section 46-739, in the amount necessary for augmentation purposes without regard to land area or acres owned.”

Since this fight began five years ago, there have been two Nebraska Supreme Court cases that have helped clarify the land ownership issue. Adding those to existing court opinions and working within existing law, we crafted our legislation. We have vetted our language with State Attorney General Doug Peterson’s office and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). They have both indicated that the language does no harm to the state’s interest in complying with the Republican and Platte River agreements.

The benefits of our legislation are manyfold. Selling the land not directly over the wells and paying down the bonded indebtedness with the proceeds will greatly reduce the tax burden on our irrigated farmers. It will protect the State of Nebraska’s interest and that of the augmentation project by decoupling the amount of groundwater used by the project from Nebraska common law’s tie to beneficial use on the overlying land. It protects the local control of groundwater management by the MRNRD and TPNRD. Plus, and most importantly, private ownership will lead to better land management and return the land’s future to local government control.

Over the last five years, we have refined the language of the bill; disproved the scare tactics of the opposition; and worked with the Attorney General’s office, the DNR and members of the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee to get it right. It’s time to fix the injustice in Lincoln County.

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

Home District Column 08/22
August 22nd, 2019

A new school year begins again. Every year the Legislature enacts statutes making changes to how schools function, thus affecting the overall experience of students. As a member of the Education Committee, I have taken note of the seeming absence of average parents and citizens in the process. The testimony at our bill hearings is usually from lobbyists representing the interests of school administrators and teachers concerned about the operation of public education. We also hear from special interest groups who want to latch on to some of the tax dollars intended for public education. Occasionally, we will get testimony from the higher education establishment coming down from their ivory towers bearing their newest theories and studies. As parents, we have all experienced the latest trends, from outcome-based education to “let’s give them a computer so they don’t have to think” and everything in between. Parents who have been successful at getting their kids through school understand that what worked a century ago still works today. It is evident that having children memorize the alphabet, teaching them phonics and grammar, and instilling the love of reading in them opens their doorway to all of the world’s knowledge. If you were lucky, your student attended a school where the administration allowed the teachers to follow that same proven route and, in the process, a productive citizen emerged knowing how to think instead of what to think. But still we seek the theoretical method that will achieve an easier path to the same outcome without the necessity of instilling the attributes of hard work and discipline in a student that common sense tells us are requirements to succeed.

New statutes affecting K-12 public education:

LB 390, addressing school resource officers, police or security guards in our schools. Schools are required to create a memorandum of understanding with the law enforcement or security agency providing the officer. The memorandum outlines necessary training, procedures as to when a student is referred to law enforcement for prosecution for a crime, record keeping, understanding behavior due to a student’s special needs and notifying a parent when their child is involved. Overall, I supported the legislation’s goal to have everyone – including administration, teachers, parents, local police and the community as a whole – understand what is expected of a police officer walking the halls of our schools. I did have some concerns about the social engineering aspects within the bill.

LB 399 updates the American civics and social studies requirements that school districts must teach in our schools. Most of you probably did not realize that school boards must have an American Civics subcommittee comprised of three members whose duty each school year is to review and approve the school’s social studies curriculum to ensure it follows the statutory requirements in state law. In the past, it was mostly ignored by school districts. At best, a committee was created, but never actually met. A new requirement in LB 399 directs the committee to hold at least two public meetings a year and to accept public comment, ensure that curriculum approved by the committee is made readily accessible to the public and, for the first time, assure that an assessment is created to measure a student’s mastery of the social studies standards.

Presently, the Nebraska Department of Education is updating their social studies standards to reflect state statute. But in all endeavors in education, social engineering rears its ugly head, and there are those advocating a distorted view of history with the goal of emphasizing a diverse array of public figures and events in lieu of the greater relevance of historical accomplishment. Public comment on the standards is accepted. You may review them and comment to the State Education Board if you have concerns.

LB 675 includes the state’s budgetary requirement for public school funding. In the past, the state has reduced school aid funding in lieu of other spending “priorities” thus shifting the cost of public schools to the property taxpayer. This biennium budget, the Education Committee resisted attempts to cut and kept them to a minimum. State aid increased by $65 million this year to $1.065 billion.

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

Home DIstrict Column 08/15
August 15th, 2019

During the 106th Legislature’s First Session, 739 bills were introduced by the 49 senators. Senator Wayne topped the list with 48 and Senator Moser (a very good, pragmatic freshman senator) had the least with one. I introduced 17 total, five involving my duty as Chairman of the Education Committee. Five became law and two sit on General File.

234 bills were passed. Of those, 26 had an Appropriations bill attached with an estimated $7 million cost. Three were successfully vetoed by the Governor, leaving a total of 231 new laws that will take effect by September 1st.

Another 86 bills are on General File awaiting the start of next year’s floor debate. Included is our LB 148, a requirement for a separate budget hearing by local governments, and LB 147, our student/teacher classroom protection act. 382 introduced bills are still in committee, and if history repeats itself, another 600 or more new bills will be introduced in January.

Are too many bills introduced each year? I would say, yes. In the past, legislative rules limited Senators to ten bills; that rule was changed in 1983. I believe a return to such a limit would cause bills with minor changes to present law to be consolidated into a committee bill. An example of a bill with minor changes to existing law is LB 75, which changed terms of members of the Grape and Winery Board. I frankly did not know that such a board existed, but to those involved in that industry, it is of importance.

Needed legislation did pass last year, including:

LB 399, replacing the old School Americanism law, which was being ignored by schools due to its inability to be enforced and its antiquated language. The law has been retitled School American Civics requirements. Amongst its many attributes, schools must now include financial literacy in their curriculum, teach the benefits and advantages of representative government, and teach our children the dangers and fallacies of forms of government that restrict individual freedoms or possess antidemocratic ideals. Schools now must assess a student’s knowledge of American civics and report it to parents. An enforcement provision of the standards has been assigned to the Department of Education. With the ignorance shown by elected officials across America and by the citizens who elected them, it is critical we demand our children understand who we are as Americans and how we got to this point in history.

Another important bill was LB 209, which requires a medical practitioner inform a woman of their ability to reverse the effects of the abortion pill if they were to change their minds.

LB 65 will lower the cost of business by eliminating an electrical regulation. Electricians will now be able to contract with a boring company to install underground electrical conduit in lieu of having to own their own horizontal boring equipment. Excessive regulations cost the consumer money. Any time we can eliminate unnecessary regulations the consumer wins.

Some very burdensome legislation did pass:

LB 405 adopted the newest version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), making Nebraska only the second state to do so. It creates excessive residential home building codes. A report issued with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the new codes will add $3,000 to the cost of a new home. In the face of claims that workforce housing is already beyond a working family’s ability to purchase, I believe LB 405 is contrary to the wishes of Nebraskans.

Nebraska already has the most local government entities, from 93 county courthouses all the way down to cemetery boards. Yet this year we passed LB 492 to potentially create a new government entity, a Public Transit Authority, which has an elected board with its own taxing authority. Citizens living in large municipal areas have the potential of a 20% increase in their municipal property tax burden.

Never underestimate the ability of elected officials to tell you one thing and do the other. LB 492 is a perfect example of where voters are demanding one thing, property tax relief, and instead witness their elected officials doing the exact opposite.

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

Note: The original version of this column was edited to correct a bill number and the name of the International Code.

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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