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Sen. Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42

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As I continue our objective to clarify that the four NRDs involved in N-CORPE could continue to use the groundwater underlying the augmentation project without continued direct ownership of the land, I am often told by an attorney who is well versed in Nebraska’s ground water law: yes, I am correct that N-CORPE can sell the land but that I should refrain from using the term “separating groundwater from land ownership”. Although my argument is correct, legal mechanisms in existing law do allow for a past or present landowner to assign their groundwater use rights to others by lease, easement or reservation, he is also correct in saying those agreements always tie the ability to use groundwater to the land.

Recently the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Upper Republican Natural Resource District (URNRD) and against Dundy County concerning the county’s attempt to access property taxes on URNRD’s Rock Creek augmentation project. In the ruling the Court quoted from the 1985 Sorensen v. Lower Niobrara (LNNRD) case where the NRD used eminent domain to acquire two ½ acre parcels from Sorensen to establish domestic use water transfer wells for the citizens of Knox County. The Court concluded from the Sorensen decision that “it is clear that the right to use ground water is an attribute of owning fee simple title to land overlying a source of ground water and is inseparable from the land to which it applies.”

Supporters of N-CORPE’s continued ownership of the land are now taking the Court’s words out of context by claiming the Upper Republican decision infers that it must continue to own title to the land. What they are not telling you is that in the Sorensen case the farmer continued to own and irrigate the quarter section of land surrounding the two ½ acre parcels where the NRD transfer wells sat. They also forget to mention in the Sorensen case the Court ruled that under the Municipal and Rural Domestic Groundwater Transfer Permit Act, the “NRD has become a peculiar type of landowner granted very special status with statutory rights contravening common law.” In other words, use of groundwater by NRDs does not follow the same common law applied to private ground water users.

Justice Cassel stated in his concurring opinion in the Upper Republican case, “Perhaps another provision in current law, not invoked by the parties before us, is available to address this problem.”

Those provisions available to the N-CORPE board would include:

—Do what LNNRD did in the Sorensen case. N-CORPE could tie the water to the land by retaining ownership of the half-acre of land under each of their 19 wells and sell off the remainder of the 19,500 acres.

—Sell the land and retain the groundwater use rights through a lease agreement as a condition of sale. The towns of Bartley, Indianola and Cambridge did so, when they created their BIC Joint Water agency to supply water to their towns. They leased the water usage rights along with easements on land from three landowners, thus tying the water usage to the landownership. The farmers continue to own and farm the dry-land acres.

—Sell the land in parcels as N-CORPE did in 2014 when they sold to Lowe L.L.C. 313 acres, while reserving to itself all rights to the use of the groundwater through a deed reservation and easement, again, tying the water to the land through a common real-estate legal procedure.

It is time to stop the misrepresentation of court findings and the phony scare tactics that somehow selling the N-CORPE land will open the door to an absolutely unrelated fictional future attempt to transfer our water to the Colorado front-range. A good first step was the decision by the Chairman of the Natural Resource Committee to hold a hearing on LR 463. To examine existing law on augmentation projects and the relationship between land ownership and groundwater. I plan to also heed Justice Cassel’s second reminder in his concurrence, “But only the Legislature is empowered to determine whether current law is adequate or whether the law should be changed to balance competing public interests differently.” I will again introduce clarifying legislation next year to do so.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

On Friday, June 15th, a group of us senators held a press conference to announce the creation of the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA): School Funding Legislative Study Group which will meet during this 2018 interim. At the end of the session this year, Speaker Scheer encouraged the members of the Unicameral to seek common ground to find a solution to the property tax issue. As the present Chairman of the Education Committee which hears legislation related to the school funding, I took it as my responsibility to initiate an effort to heed the Speaker’s advice.  The ten members of the study group are Tom Brewer (LD 43), Mike Hilgers (LD 21), Brett Lindstrom (LD 18), Lou Ann Linehan (LD 39), Jim Scheer (LD 19), Tom Briese (LD 41), Curt Friesen (34), Suzanne Geist (25), Justin Wayne (LD 13) and myself.  Collectively, this group represents all regions of the state, various sized schools, and local taxpayers affected uniquely by the funding formula.  Furthermore, they have all shown an interest in addressing the problem by previously introducing TEEOSA related legislation or investing time in understanding the issue. The group has a statewide perspective on creating an equitable solution. We have also made it clear that input from all of the senators in the Unicameral will be appreciated and they are free to attend any of the hearings and meetings we have.

At the press conference, we emphasized that “this is a unicameral effort to do the will of the people.” We emphasized that the role of the study group is to look at the side of the school formula that directs how we fund our public schools.

Senator Briese commented at the press conference, that community, business and political leaders across his district have made it clear that property taxes are “choking off economic growth in rural Nebraska.” He stated that he, “looks forward to working with this group.”

The 1990 passage of LB 1059 that created TEEOSA, calculates the sources of school revenue.   It is now obvious that the formula has major flaws. Two factors have come into play: the authors of the original legislation never foresaw the last decade of rapidly increasing property valuations and subsequent Legislatures have made changes to the TEEOSA formula during years when state revenues fell.  Those factors have caused an overreliance on property taxes as the major source of school funding.

The Study Group plans to begin meeting next month and has a three-prong approach to its effort:

  1. Study the history of TEEOSA to understand where we are and where we started. This will include understanding changes made over the years leading to the current formula, comparing public education funding of neighboring states and across the nation, looking at TEEOSA allowable spending growth factors, and studying factors causing the funding shift to property taxes (i.e. property valuations and property tax diversion programs such as Tax Increment Financing, Homestead Exemptions, low income housing exemptions, etc.).

  1. Seek a sustainable and constant local State Aid resource to serve as the Foundation Aid. This will include seeking innovative new ideas, as well as looking at options already presented in recent proposed legislation. Senators Briese, Friesen, Groene, Scheer and Wayne have all introduced related bills.

  1. Create a legislative solution for the 2019 Session that stabilizes state aid to ALL local school districts while reversing the present property tax burden that stabilizes at a responsible inflationary growth.

As the third prong indicated, the end goal of the study is an introduction of a single 2019 legislative bill addressing the TEEOSA revenue flaw that puts equity back into school funding and can garner the support of the full Legislature.

The people of Nebraska have made it clear they want the Legislature to address property tax relief. They have also indicated a desire for statewide, stable and equitable funding for their public schools. Many of the members of the Legislature have heard the message and are ready to roll up their sleeves to look for a solution. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

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The taxes and spending debate seems to always be simplified into two sides. Take, for example, the spending debate of your tax dollars on public education. Those who believe the answer is always new programs and new spending falsely label those who oppose that philosophy as anti-public education. I have a tendency to examine how we spend existing funds. Is it presently efficient and effective? Is there room to eliminate redundancy? An example of this lies in the recent debate over expanding the use of education dollars to inject mental health services and social services into our schools when those services are already offered through private business, non-profits and for the poor through Health and Human Services. I would prefer we look at incorporating our state’s existing Health and Human Services Department social workers into the school environment. Makes sense since that is where the children they serve are.  I also have a hard time accepting the concept that normal childhood misbehavior and revolt against authority should be considered as mental (behavioral) health. Call it what you want, but a good dose of discipline is still the best cure for it and I will continue to pursue legislation to return control of the classroom back to teachers. The spenders are aghast at such sacrilege; how dare one doubt the education establishment’s ability to use tax dollars wisely. (By the way, it was eye-opening to actually see in a recent newspaper column by a local proponent of more spending use the religious term “sacred” when describing education programs).

As the debate goes on, here are some facts you might want to consider:

-According to the well-respected Hightower Report, U.S. Census numbers show that nationally Nebraskans pay the second highest local and state taxes as a percentage of their income. Only the citizens of the bankrupt state of Illinois pay more.

-Our State government spends 43.9% ($1.96 billion) of its budget on early childhood through college education. Another $170 million of the property tax and homestead exemption funds end up in public education coffers.

-According to State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), an organization of statewide postsecondary education representatives, of every $1,000 of a Nebraskan’s income $9.48 of it goes towards taxes for higher education (6th in the nation) and by per-capita basis they spend $474 (5th in the nation).

-Public education; at $12,989 Nebraska ranks in the top 15 nationally in per-student spending. During these last four years of budget shortfalls we still increased funding for schools.  In this biennium the increase was 1.2% annually while the overall budget increased by only ½%.  Taking into account the continued rapid rise in property tax support for public education due to property valuation increases, Nebraska’s taxpayers need not apologize to anyone about their support of public education.

I believe it to be part of my elected duty to ask some basic questions and expect answers from those public employees who administer the spending of our tax dollars on public education.  Shouldn’t Nebraskans be able to expect excellent results in the basics of reading, writing and math with the $4.2 billion of tax money we spent this year on public education before we agree to spend more?

We do need to make changes to how we pay for education. Presently 58.1% comes from property taxes, one of the highest in the nation, 36.4% from income and sales taxes, one of the lowest in the nation, and 5.4% from federal sources.

Tomorrow, we are announcing an initiative to look at the State Aid to Education formula (TEEOSA) by a group of State Senators who have in the past shown a desire to fix it.  The goal is to create a single legislative bill amongst us and to be able to unite behind it. In the past, we have all pursued our own versions of a legislative fix creating a divided effort that in the end failed to produce results. Will we succeed? I believe so, but to not try is to fail.

I will see you at the NEBRASKAland Days parade and rodeo Saturday, but sadly I have to miss a lot of the events this week due to scheduled meetings in Lincoln. Please take part in the festivities; it is the pride of Western Nebraska.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

On Memorial Day, Barb and I attended the ceremony at Fort McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell.  To do so was not only a reminder for us of the sacrifice of those who gave all to protect the freedom we all share, but to realize that many of the living in attendance are the sons, daughters, parents and extended families of those lost loved ones. It must be remembered that the death of these soldiers is more than an individual loss, it creates a huge hole in families and communities that reaches down through future generations.

It was heartening to hear the words of the main speaker, our own David C. Olson, who by his own admission is neither a polished orator nor a man of high military position, but a veteran of common rank. As an advocate for veterans, no one better could have relayed the message that Memorial Day is not a celebration of accomplishments by the politicians or the generals, but instead, of the valor and sacrifice of the common soldier. On Memorial Day, we honor the greatness of those individuals who died in service to their fellow Americans.

With Memorial Day in mind, it is concerning to us the lack of importance that most Americans put into their duty to vote. Recent statewide and local elections have had dismal voter turnout. In the Omaha Public School’s successful $409.9 million bond election to renovate older schools and build 5 new schools in Northwest Omaha, only 21.4% of registered voters voted; meaning that the 14.4% of those registered who voted in favor decided the issue. In a Millard Public Schools levy override election, only 46.8% of registered voters voted and 29.2% of those registered decided to raise property taxes for all of the homeowners in the district.  Even in the recent primary election where winners go on to the general election, the statewide 24.27% voter turnout (25.87% Lincoln County) was disappointing.

Politicians in the past have blamed voter access for the declining turnout, so we expanded early voting from election day to weeks, we expanded the ability to vote by mail and we made it easier to register to vote by creating DMV motor vehicle-voter registration and created provisional ballots for those who have changed addresses. None of it worked, yet we now have more disinterested citizens registered to vote and that has distorted the percentage of active voters; but even with that, the number of voters has decreased nationally. It is akin to saying if we build them a house they will move here, the fact is a person has to be motivated to want to live somewhere and to vote when they get there.

I am approaching the issue through public education. When addressing the State Board of Education last year concerning their upcoming student civic and social study assessments, I stated that we already have an assessment of our public schools’ success in instilling civic readiness in our children; it is voter turnout. As each new generation of voters leave our schools, fewer and fewer of them are voting.

We are preparing proposed legislation to address needed changes to our present statutes that require American civics to be taught in our schools, updating the old 1940’s Americanism Law.  The statute gives guidance to school boards on the subject matter and curriculum that is expected to be offered to students. The present statute makes it a misdemeanor crime by a teacher for not following the statute and basically puts the county sheriff in charge of enforcing it.  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled similar provisions unconstitutional and against a teacher’s free speech rights.  A person does have the right to say what they wish, they cannot be arrested; but they can be fired by their employer. One of the changes we propose will put enforcement in the hands of the local and State Boards of Education. We also will eliminate old cold war terminology starting with the word “Americanism” and instead refer to “American citizenship”. In order to take pride in citizenship, and then take responsibility to vote, one must first know the history and sacrifices of those who came before.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

Recent deadly school episodes of violence in Florida and Texas, by two individual public school students against their peers and school personnel, causing 27 deaths have caused political reaction across the country including Nebraska.  A few of Nebraska’s State Senators have called for interim studies to examine school violence and to seek ideas to improve school safety. I recently examined recent legislation passed by the Legislature concerning school safety and I have reached the conclusion that the issue has been addressed adequately by the Nebraska Legislature. If an interim Education Committee study were to be held, it would be more of an attempt to assure the public on what is presently being done by school officials to address school safety.

In 2014, LB 923 was passed, including an amendment introduced by Senator Kolowski, to create the position of State School Security Director within the Nebraska Department of Education. The Commissioner of Education, currently Matt Blomstedt, was directed to fill the position based on experience, knowledge and skills in the field of school security. Presently, a very well qualified Jolene Palmer holds the position. Previously, she held educational training positions for 15 years with the Nebraska State Patrol; before that, she started out as an elementary school teacher before becoming an elementary school principal.

The job description of the Security Director’s duties is well defined: “providing leadership and support for safety and security for the public schools”; and the legislation is clear as to the Education Department’s and Director’s duties.


–Collect present safety and security plans from all school districts; it directs local school districts to cooperate with the Director and allows the Education Department to withhold those plans from the public (from the planning of a future perpetrator)

–Recommend minimum standards for school security for public school buildings in Nebraska

–Conduct an assessment, to be completed by August 31, 2019, of the security of each of Nebraska’s 1130 public school buildings

–Identify deficiencies in each schools’ security based on the minimum standards adopted by the State Board of Education, and make recommendations to school boards for remedying such deficiencies

–Establish security awareness, preparedness tools and training programs

–Establish research-based model instructional programs for staff, students, and parents to address the underlying causes for violent attacks on schools

–Respond to inquiries and requests for assistance relating to school security from private, denominational and parochial schools


This year we added within LB 1081, a statutory provision requiring school boards to collaborate with their local county attorney and law enforcement officials to review the schools’ rules and standards for student conduct and require the school to contact law enforcement if a student displayed such conduct.


In Nebraska, we value local control of our educational facilities. Citizens, through their State Senators, do create statutes giving direction to their elected State Board of Education on matters that concern them; the Board in turn directs and advises local elected school boards. The State Board is then required to measures their performance.


School security is, and should be, a local issue decided by local voters through their elected local school board. They have tools available to them. They can create an inter-local agreement with local law enforcement to have a police officer on site at school buildings, as North Platte Public Schools (NPPS) presently does, or they can hire a security officer themselves. Through LB 923 and school accreditation requirements, school districts should have in place a school security plan.  NPPS has done so with the creation of a “School Safety Committee” comprised of law enforcement officials and school administrative staff.  School districts can create a secure entrance to their school buildings and install metal detecting devices, as the Lincoln County Commissioners recently did at the courthouse with an investment of $23,724 for scanning equipment.


Providing a safe environment for our school children is a local issue; local school boards have the authority to spend your tax dollars on projects they deem to be their top priorities. One would think the safety of our children would be at the top of that list.


Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

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In the last weeks of the legislative session, senators introduce Legislative Resolutions (LRs) suggesting interim studies on topics of interest to them.   They are sorted by the Executive Committee and assigned to the appropriate committee for consideration. They are meant to lead to legislative bills the following year.   The Committee Chairman can choose which, if any, of those studies the Committee will take up. If an LR is not selected by the Committee, the sponsoring senator of the LR is free to have their staff do a study in house.

LRs involve senators’ time, taxpayer cost for travel and meals, and committee staff time for research and planning to make sure those knowledgeable in the subject are invited to testify. You may recall the Urban Affairs Committee held one of their hearings in North Platte last year on Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Those hearings led to Committee Chairman Justin Wayne’s LB874; I co-signed that bill. The legislation passed and new statutes were created giving clearer instructions to city councils on the guidelines for TIF projects.

Thirteen LRs have been assigned to the Education Committee.  Topics include the student option enrollment program, Student Discipline Act, school violence, anti-bullying policies and early childhood education.  As Chairman of the Committee, with the help of committee staff, I must decide which meet the requirement that they address a pressing issue that necessitates more research than what is covered during committee hearings when legislation is normally introduced during the session.

So far we have selected Senator Vargas’ LR 452 examining alternative teacher certification programs. In Nebraska, we have a shortage of teachers in certain academic areas, and in rural Nebraska we have a hard time getting young teachers to move to the country.  The goal is to draw to the teaching profession the individuals who hold college degrees that have pursued other careers but may be looking at a career change and have a passion to teach.  Last session, Vargas had introduced related legislation (LB1135) based on his experience in a program he was enrolled in as a teacher in the state of New York.  During the Education Committee hearing on the bill, there was confusion as to what present Department of Education requirements are and what additional college coursework is required.  The ultimate goal is to make it easier for individuals with real world experience to transition into the classroom.

We are also pursuing an interim study on the funding side of the Tax Equity Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA).  Along with Committee members, I plan to invite to the conversation senators outside of the Committee who have in the past showed interest in the subject or have introduced unsuccessful TEEOSA bills.

No matter where you seek the answer for Nebraska’s high property taxes, you first have to look at how we fund our schools. No less than 50% and as high as 70% of each Nebraskans’ property taxes go toward public education. Over time, the present formula is by design set up to shift school funding to property taxes from income and sales taxes. That flaw needs to be fixed if we are to address long term property tax relief.

Outside of the Education Committee I introduced LR 463, an interim study to examine statutes related to augmentation projects in relationship to N-CORPE. During the Natural Resources Committee hearing on our LB1123 (to clarify that the N-CORPE land could be sold while the NRDs involved could continue their river augmentation projects), it became obvious that there was much misinformation circulating about the issue that distracted from the legislation being passed.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Dan Hughes has agreed to take up the issue.  The goal is to stop the fearmongering, define the truth of existing statutes, allow for the voluntary sale of the land, lower the occupation tax burden on irrigated farmers and at the end of the process get everybody who is interested in protecting irrigated farming through better management of our limited groundwater resources to be on the same page for future actions. After everything, my end goal is to have Senator Hughes and I agree on a legislative solution.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.


The “interim” is the official government term for the time between the 60 and 90 day sessions of the Legislature.  Government looks at this time as a waiting period before they can intervene in your life and freedoms to a greater depth; you should look at it as a respite from the onslaught of the nanny state. To me, it is a return to the sanity of real life of God, family, friends and the pursuit the freedoms we still share.  Although, for me, it is not a true absence; government growth resists being restrained completely.  There will be times I will return to Lincoln for interim studies in the Education Committee, which I chair, and the Economic Development Task Force, which I am a member of.

Governor’s Vetoes:

LB998; is an attempt to codify in law the expansion of Educational Service Units’ (ESUs) duties into the area of family services and student mental health by establishing a social worker program.  It was to be funded by private donations, which should throw up red flags; private money comes with conditions.  Nebraska does need to have a discussion on the expectations we have of ESUs.  Are they outdated? Do we need to refocus their purpose? Or should we go so far as to eliminate them and incorporate their mission into the public school system and the State Department of Education? The Governor’s veto was the correct action.

LB873; Urban Affair’s Priority Bill is a perfect example of a Christmas tree bill with too much weight.  It originally was a cleanup bill, meant to eliminate antiquated, obsolete or unnecessary language in statutes and to alphabetize and clarify provisions and references in existing law.  It grew into a Christmas tree when senators wishing to pass their bills pressured the committee to hang their legislation onto the Committee’s priority.  Components of seven unrelated bills were amended into LB873. They included everything from creating municipal land banks where a city could enter into real-estate ventures by purchasing dilapidated properties and then replace or refurbish before placing them on the open real-estate market to requiring cities to address early childhood development in comprehensive plans and also use Quality Growth Fund (LB840) tax dollars.  Christmas trees allow bad laws to be passed as they slide through the legislative process on the backs of needed legislation, all without enough time for fair and full debate.  As chairman of a committee, there is pressure to help a friend get their dying legislation passed by allowing it to be amended into a priority bill. As Education Committee Chairman, I resist those overtures, any exception better have an overriding urgency to do the public good. The Governor’s veto is good government.

LB449 Senator Chambers’ repeal of the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. I voted for the repeal based on my strong belief in protecting property rights. I thought the statute gave county government excessive enforcement authority to abrogate a citizens’ property rights.   Either way, the law has no effect on Lincoln County or 91 other counties who have not enacted a related ordinance. Only Sheridan County has done so and it has never enforced the ordinance. I realize the threat of the law is often enough to get an irresponsible landowner to control his prairie dog infestation and I fully understand why the Governor vetoed LB449. It isn’t like Senator Chambers and the Governor have a good working relationship.

A recent local editorial about an email exchange I had with an individual critical of my positions is best described as “much ado about nothing” although JoAnne Young, a reporter from the Lincoln Journal Star, did contact me and wrote an accurate story about the exchange and the individual’s Facebook post. Make no mistake I take no bait unless I am reversing who is doing the reeling-in.  Radical groups that even Bernie Sanders would not claim use the internet to distort and create false news to attack and threaten political officials they disagree with. I will not be intimidated nor forfeit my free-speech rights. This endeavor has garnered the response I sought. It is now in the hands of the authorities.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

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: or 402-471-2729.

The session is basically over. Monday was the last day to vote on first round General File bills, Tuesday was the last day for Select File bills. Next week Wednesday, we will finish the last bills on Final Reading and the Governor will give a speech. The Legislature will applaud how great we are and how we saved babies (a good thing) and how we wrung our hands about property taxes and did nothing. The lobby behind the glass will mail out their political donations to those who jumped the highest for them. Another year of politics as usual.

I will get right to the point, you will not get a voluntary effort of property tax relief out of this Legislature. Efforts by Senators Erdman, Briese, and Friesen were either blocked or hijacked by the lobby. The Governor and Senator Smith’s LB947 was doomed at the start with a demand from the State Chamber of Commerce for a 15% corporate income tax cut from 8.04 to match the top individual rate of 6.84. The property tax relief portion of the bill was a Washingtonian attempt to claim relief by pushing it out over a 12-year period–an effort that would barely keep up with inflationary factors.

Our LB640 to give long-range property tax relief addressing how we fund our schools and alleviate the overreliance on property taxes had the best chance of passage. In earlier debate, it received positive votes on amendments of 30 and 43 votes. It was being filibustered by a few senators who represent larger school districts; the administrations of those districts do not want to give up property taxing authority in exchange for more state funding. They recognize they have the property taxpayers around the neck who will pay or lose the farm. They justifiably don’t trust the Legislature to fund schools.  I had presented to the Speaker a list of 33 senators who said they were willing to consider a cloture vote if it was amended. LB640 was not given that opportunity and it died.

Last Sunday, the Speaker asked the 6 senators who had presented property tax legislation to meet to see if a compromise could be reached. To ease the chances of success, I was willing to leave my LB640 out of the compromise. The state aid to education formula needs to be fixed but it can be done another day.  Today, we need immediate property tax relief. We got into this property tax fiasco because past Legislatures shifted school funding to property taxes.  The reality is that the fix will have to include a shift back to income and sales taxes.  It was a doomed effort when the first thing on the table is not an attempt to raise more state revenues but instead a tax cut for corporations.  I sarcastically said that maybe we need to take out of Nebraska’s Constitution the requirement for a balanced budget. Then we could be like Washington: the tax cutters could cut taxes, the spenders could spend and both will go home and get reelected. No compromise was reached.

One last thing. We did pass legislation that will cause your property taxes to go up.  Supporters of the Bankers Association’s (who reported record banking profits last year) workforce housing LB496, to allow Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to cover construction cost, defeated a filibuster effort from property tax relief proponents. TIF in the past has been limited to shift property tax dollars intended for schools and other local county taxing entities to pay for public costs of city infrastructure. Private construction covers everything from purchasing the building lot to sodding the yard after construction. LB496 will allow bankers and real estate speculators to recoup as much 30% of their cost over 15 years.  If taxes paid by citizens living in TIF’ed housing aren’t going towards schools and public safety, you will pay more! It still amazes me when one observes the legislative influence 30 pieces of silver from lobbyists buys in Lincoln.  The Governor could veto LB496 and stop this tax shift to homeowners and ag-landowners but first, he would have to recognize the severity of Nebraskans’ property tax burden.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

We have 8 days left in this year’s session, it is a dangerous time of the year for freedom loving citizens. As Mark Twain has been credited as saying, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session”.  As the clock ticks, senators become more willing to compromise to get their pet projects passed, more often than not creating bad results. Nebraskan’s rights and tax dollars hang in the balance.

What has happened since last week:

LB 1009; allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to raise highway speed limits.  Many citizens have contacted me over concerns of raising the interstate speed limit to 80 mph. I have the same concerns; presently, on-ramps and the presence of semi-trucks governed at 65 mph cause hazards that are not conducive to 80 mph.  The bill’s sponsor, Senator Murante, agreed to remove the interstate speed limit increase from the bill, and I supported the remaining speed increases. There is no good reason why there are two or three different speed limits on state highways when traveling between North Platte, Imperial or Broken Bow.  Kansas and Colorado, long ago went to a 65 mph limit on their rural highways. Also, in the bill is a new maximum 70 mph limit for newly created super-two highways. Major construction will occur on Highway 83 between North Platte and McCook turning it into one of Nebraska’s first super-two highways. That event, plus the ability to travel 70 mph will increase traffic through Lincoln County, it will naturally help economic activity. The bill passed General File with my support.

LB 909; change titling requirements for assembled and kit vehicles. I have been approached by citizens who have expressed frustration on getting titles and licenses for reproduction kit cars and vehicles that have had major repairs. Senator Bostleman’s bill makes changes to the law that will facilitate an easier licensure process for those vehicles. I supported its passage on General File.

LB 596; our equine massage practice bill. It has passed General File and will have friendly amendments added on Select File by Senator Kuehn (a licensed veterinarian) to eliminate government oversight on those practitioners, plus Senator Chambers is adding dogs and cats to the bill.  LB 596 has become the poster child of government over-regulation and licensure of non-harmful business occupations.  I have been interviewed on LB 596 by the Wall Street Journal and AP stories on our bill have run in the US News & World Report, Washington Post, London Daily Times and New York Times.  This human-interest story points out government’s tendency to become overbearing in the lives of average citizens.

LB 944; mainline budget bill. This is being filibustered by some for political reasons—the accurate language authorizing the Health and Human Services Department’s granting of federal Title X tax-dollars to family health clinics (including North Platte’s Peoples Family Health Services). LB 944 accurately mirrors the federal statute’s prohibition of using Title X money for abortion as a family planning method. The fight is over a federal Health and Human Service’s bureaucratic Regulation 59.5 which directs clinics to provide information and counseling regarding abortion but cannot perform them to receive a Title X grant.  Federal legislation has since overturned that federal regulation with the passage of the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits any federal agency from discriminating against those who do not wish to refer for abortion–whether or not those reasons are for religious, conscience, or any other reason.  Federal HHS currently interprets the provisions in Regulation 59.5 to be in conflict with the Weldon Amendment, which is later in time and of higher authority as a statute rather than a rule. We need to pass changes to the $8.8 billion-dollar state budget and I will continue to support the present language and thus, guarantee our local health clinic’s access to federal funding.

LB 1069; an update of our American Civics’ guidelines for public school curriculum.  If a bill that is held up in committee is deemed necessary by the majority of senators to be enacted, the sponsor, Senator Brasch, can ask the body to pull it from committee to the floor. That action is in process. Stay tuned.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: or 402-471-2729.

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42
Room #1107
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2729
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