NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Tom Brewer

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43

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 tbrewer@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 6th, 2021

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 43rd 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. Tom Brewer

02-26-2021 Weekly Update
March 2nd, 2021

Last year, we saw nearly a dozen Nebraska counties join a growing movement across the country to announce that they are “Second Amendment Sanctuary” counties. While those resolutions send an important message, unfortunately they do not have much direct legal impact. Watching those county officials speak out in favor of our God-given, constitutionally recognized rights made an impression on me. I started working with my staff on ways to give those elected officials another tool to protect our cherished rights.

That is why I introduced LB 236. Under that bill, counties would be granted the power to adopt an ordinance to  become “constitutional carry” counties. In other words, in that particular county, citizens could carry a concealed weapon without a state-issued permit. This does not change the state or federal laws that define “prohibited persons” who are not allowed to possess or carry weapons. 

State law already grants local governments the authority to create more restrictions on our right to carry weapons. We have tried to eliminate that local gun control authority, but Lincoln and Omaha senators have stubbornly opposed those efforts. My bill will give counties the power to reduce restrictions on the people they serve. I am proud to say that police, gun owners, and other patriots turned out in force to support my bill. Only one person showed up to testify in opposition. My bill had one hundred and forty five letters in support and one letter in opposition. In just one day, we fielded over one hundred telephone calls in support of the bill. 

Senator Steve Halloran has another bill, LB 188, that would declare Nebraska a second amendment sanctuary state. This means that we would not allow state and local law enforcement resources to be used to enforce federal gun control schemes. The bill would still permit our law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on task forces enforcing laws that exist on both the federal and state level. We received two hundred and thirty-eight letters in support of Senator Halloran’s bill, three letters in opposition. We received one hundred and eight phone calls in support without a single one opposed. Thirty citizens testified in support of the bill. I know that other legislative offices received a similar quantity of constituent calls.

Gun owners are often in the position of playing defense against gun-grabbing politicians with new schemes to take away our rights. I am proud, along with Senator Halloran and others, to be part of a new effort to do more than just play defense on our rights. I think the laws in Nebraska need to get better, and we are working hard to make that happen. I encourage all Nebraskans who care about our right to keep and bear arms to contact my colleagues and politely educate them on why the Second Amendment is so important to free people, and why they ought to support these good, pro-freedom bills. Nebraska’s “Second House” must lead the way on this issue.

02-19-2021 Weekly Update
February 22nd, 2021

How is it possible that a “regional transmission authority” in Arkansas can order our Nebraska public power utilities to shut off electricity to Nebraskans? Nebraska by itself has more than enough electrical generation within our own state to meet the load requirements that Nebraska users have. Why must power be shut off to Nebraskans?

In 2009, when Nebraska’s public power organizations decided to join the Southwest Power Pool, they made this decision all by themselves. The decision to join a 17-state consortium of electrical utilities was never a question before the Legislature. No bill was ever introduced, no public hearings before a committee were ever held, and no public debate by our elected representatives was ever conducted. No bill was ever put on the Governor’s desk for signature or veto. No question was ever put on the ballot for the people to decide.

I question whether or not the Nebraska Public Power District had the legal authority to make such a choice on behalf of our entire state in the first place, especially when it works against one of the reasons the Legislature provided for the existence of public power districts in the very first law written to create them. Nebraska law says that public power districts “have an obligation to provide the inhabitants and customers of the district an adequate, reliable, and economical source of electric power and energy.” Willfully turning off the heat during the coldest winter in generations is the opposite of providing reliable power. It ought to be criminal.

I can tell you one thing for certain, no rancher trying to keep his cattle alive in record cold weather ever voted for this wrong-headed idea. Some years back the Legislature was not pleased with how the Department of Health and Human Services was dealing with government programs for children, so they created an Inspector General for Child Welfare the Legislature could call upon when issues arose. 

The issue of prison overcrowding raised similar concerns in the Legislature so a special investigative committee for the department of corrections was created and they also have an inspector general now. 

In 2011, an entire special session of the Legislature was convened to pass a body of laws that addressed how the Keystone XL pipeline would be routed and built in Nebraska. 

It is plain to see the Nebraska Legislature has a long history of creating more oversight and demanding more accountability for things that our State is not doing very well. Deliberately shutting off electricity to Nebraskans because some outfit in another state ordered us to do so is a life-or-death matter that cries out for more accountability. There are numerous opportunities this year to find a way to bring public power before this legislature under oath. They have some tough questions to respond to. Their very existence may rely on their answers.

02-05-2021 Weekly Update
February 8th, 2021

I have introduced sixteen bills this session. This is my second in a series of updates where I want to explain what these bills are about. Last week I discussed my State Meat Inspection bill, and my bill to end applying income tax to social security payments. This week, I want to devote this update to LR13CA.  

LR13CA is a legislative resolution to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for the voters to ratify in 2022. This requires 30 votes (not the normal 25) to pass. I have introduced a version of this every year I have been in the legislature. This resolution is designed to lower property taxes by addressing the root cause of the problem. High property taxes are a very easy problem to understand, yet one of the most difficult to solve. Nebraska has some of the highest property taxes in the country because we rely upon them to fund public education far too much. Nationally about 40% of the funding for K-12 schools comes from property taxes. In Nebraska, that’s about 60% and in some school districts it is much more. We are 47th in the nation in terms of how much the legislature appropriates and spends on K-12 education. 46 other state legislatures provide more funding for K-12 than we do.

LR13CA places a limit in the constitution on how much property taxes can be used to fund schools. The resolution says no more than 33% of the funding for our public schools can be derived from property taxes. If this was the law today and spending was at the same level, the legislature would have to come up with about $670M in a new general fund appropriation. The question, “How are you going to pay for it?” kills a lot of bills and this is no exception. Soon the debate turns to what spending would senators vote to cut? What tax would they vote to raise? Very quickly discussing the merits of the bill is replaced by arguments over revenue sources and the bill dies (again.) 

The fact remains that having no limit in our constitution for how we fund “the free instruction in the common schools” is the root cause of our high property tax problem. I’m confident the people would pass this proposed amendment by a comfortable margin were it ever put on the ballot. But there are quite a few people and groups who would prefer to never give the public that opportunity. Forcing this body to find an extra $670M would cause a historic political fight because of the massive spending cuts in other programs that would be required. If the past fifty years is any guide, it’s clear that as long as the legislature can continue to pass-off the lion’s share of the funding for schools on to the school districts to fund themselves with property taxes, they will continue to do so.

01-29-2021 Weekly Update
February 4th, 2021

The first session of the 107th Legislature has convened. First sessions are long, ninety legislative days. Bills introduced but not passed in the first session carry over into the second session. The current end of the session is scheduled for the 10th of June. 

I have introduced sixteen bills this session. I want to devote the next several weekly updates to explaining what they are about. 

LB 237 is a bill to stop applying Nebraska income tax to Social Security payments. Nebraska is one of thirteen states that tax Social Security. Two-thirds of people drawing Social Security benefits have only this money to live on — they have no other source of income. Besides that, the money people pay into Social Security has already been subject to income taxes when you earned it. I consider the practice immoral. I’ve introduced this bill every session I have been a state senator and I’ll continue to until we pass it. As it turns out, Sen. Lindstrom has also introduced a very similar bill so the Revenue Committee will get to hear this idea twice!

LB 235 is a bill to “turn on” state meat inspection and make Nebraska the 28th state to do so. It will take two sessions of the legislature to get this done. This bill is the first step. In 1968 Congress passed a food safety law requiring all meat be inspected. At the time, most every state had their own meat inspection program. Like a lot of states, Nebraska turned off their state meat inspection program in 1971 to save money on something the federal government decided they were going to do. It was a good idea at the time. Now it is increasingly difficult for small meat lockers to actually get a USDA meat inspector. The agency’s focus is on the big packer that slaughters thousands of animals a day, not the small town locker that might do twenty a week. 

I agree with a recent Nebraska editorial that said that “Nebraska should be to beef what Napa is to wine.” In fact, I think we are already there. Our  state has “the best in the world” of something, and we need to take every opportunity to promote and support that industry. Small town, state-inspected meat lockers in Iowa can sell beef and pork on-line and sell it across state lines. Small meat lockers in Nebraska cannot. The bottleneck created by the response to COVID showed us how a great market for beef quickly began to struggle because we lack slaughter capacity in Nebraska. We need laws that incentivize the opening of small town meat lockers in Nebraska. We need laws that open up these new markets for ranchers who make the most valuable thing we produce in Nebraska.  

We are the Beef State. It is long past the time when the Nebraska Legislature recognized this and did something about it. LB 235 will be heard in the Agriculture Committee Tuesday, the 2nd of February.

01-22-2021 Weekly Update
January 26th, 2021

The first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature convened on January 6th while our society continues to cope with the Chinese virus. I prefer to devote this weekly column to issues important to my legislative district. This week however, I think it is important I pass on some important changes to the legislative procedure that have happened because of the virus.

On January 25, the Legislature will commence public committee hearings. Public committee hearings are one of the most important parts of our legislative process—a critical time in which Nebraska’s “second house” (the people) can be heard. To ensure that the committee hearings are as safe as we can make them, I want to pass along some information. Here are four ways that the process is changing this year:

1. Morning and afternoon hearings. In order to minimize the chances of having to suspend our session, the Legislature will have both morning and afternoon committee hearings rather than floor debate in the morning and committee hearings in the afternoon.

2. New modes of public input. The Legislature wants to help reduce the need for people to testify in person while still making their voices heard. The Legislature has developed a process for “written submitted testimony.” During the 2021 session an individual may hand deliver the morning of the hearing their testimony which will be provided to the committee members during the public hearing. This will allow someone who has health concerns to limit their exposure to others by not having to sit in the hearing room for an extended period of time.

The option of submitting a position letter for the hearing record via email is still available. However, the deadline for submitting these letters will be earlier: noon the day before, instead of five o’clock (Central time). Position letters should be submitted via email to new designated committee email addresses.

In addition, the Legislature has implemented a new feature allowing the online submission of comments on a bill at any stage of debate. These comments will be accessible by all Senators and staff to read. You can learn more about how to take advantage of these public input options at [https://nebraskalegislature.gov/committees/public-input.php].

3.  Limited physical space. To accommodate social distancing, seating in the hearing room is limited. And because of the restricted physical space caused by the ongoing HVAC renovation of the State Capitol, there will be no overflow rooms available.

4. Modified hearing protocols. Hearings will look and feel different. These include a number of procedures, including extra sanitization efforts, masks, and social distancing. This is a unique year with unique challenges. We look forward to doing the people’s work in the Legislature and appreciate your understanding of these modified procedures.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.

01-15-2021 Weekly Update
January 26th, 2021

I have spent a lot of my life fighting for this country. The fact that the United States is a beacon of freedom in the world is what always made me proud to wear the uniform. We believe that people ought to be free. The right to keep and bear arms is one of the most sacred rights enshrined in our federal and state constitutions. 

The past twelve months have presented steady reminders of why this right is so important. More and more, people of all political stripes have decided to take responsibility for protecting themselves and their families. Month after month, 2020 set records for new gun sales. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, about 8.5 million people became first-time gun owners in 2020.

In Article I, Section 1, our Nebraska Constitution recognizes “the right to keep and bear arms for security or defense of self, family, home, and others, and for common lawful defense, hunting, recreational use, and all other lawful purposes, and such rights shall not be denied or infringed by the state or any subdivision thereof.”

This version of the constitutional language was placed there by voters not in some ancient time, but in 1988 by initiative measure 403. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues in the Legislature have been reluctant to fully honor this promise. Because of that, state law prohibits most people from carrying defensive weapons concealed. 

To carry a concealed handgun legally, folks have to pay hundreds of dollars for a required course and permit application fee. In my first year in office, I introduced LB 502 to make Nebraska a “constitutional carry” state. That bill was shot down by anti-gun senators. The same year, Senator Mike Hilgers introduced his LB 68, to end the patchwork of local gun control measures that are layered on top of state and federal law. Despite heroic efforts by Senator Hilgers, that bill died on Select File, mostly because of urban senators who claimed that the bill violated the principle of local control. 

During floor debate on LB 68, anti-gun Senator Adam Morfeld stood on the floor and said, “I am in support of responsible policy that allows for local control to react to the varying circumstances of their locality or city or county. […] Maintaining that local control is critical because the reality in Ainsworth is a lot different than the reality in north Lincoln or north Omaha[.]”

On Day 4 of the 2021 legislative session, I introduced Legislative Bill 236. It proposes more local control, and recognizes that many counties in Nebraska have taken our gun rights more seriously than state lawmakers. In 2020, nearly a dozen Nebraska counties, most of them rural, passed “Second Amendment Sanctuary County” resolutions. I appreciate that these county officials are standing up and declaring that they will honor their duty to uphold our God-given, constitutionally recognized rights. LB 236 would give counties the power to declare that permitless carry of concealed weapons is lawful in their jurisdictions for anyone who is not a felon or otherwise prohibited from possessing weapons. I do not believe Nebraskans ought to have to pay hundreds of dollars to exercise a constitutional right. If LB 236 is passed into law, I believe that rural Nebraska counties will lead the way and show our more timid urban neighbors that freedom is the best policy.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.

01-08-2021 Weekly Update
January 26th, 2021

I was disappointed to learn recently the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) has decided to greatly expand its spending on “renewable” energy. NPPD and Monolith have entered into an agreement that outlines Monolith’s plan to buy two million megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable power from NPPD. Most of this will come from wind energy. 

“The approximately two million megawatt-hours of generation would create a sufficient number of renewable energy credits (RECs) to meet 100 percent of Monolith’s average annual energy usage and meet their environmental and sustainability goals,” said NPPD’s president and CEO, Tom Kent.

Just a couple years ago, Mr. Tom Kent and NPPD’s chief legal counsel sat in my office and told me they had no plans to expand their “renewable portfolio” and what few wind turbines and solar facilities they had were all they wanted. It is clear something has changed, or perhaps nothing changed and this was their intent all along.

NPPD has made a decision to enter into an agreement with a company that is driving further expansion of wind energy in Nebraska. To supply two million megawatt hours (MWh) of “renewable” power will require the construction of hundreds of the newest, biggest wind turbines and scores of new power lines. When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, where will NPPD get the “renewable” power this agreement requires them to deliver? Will they buy it off the grid? How much will that cost ratepayers? How many years is this power purchase agreement for? How many citizens will be forced to be neighbors to an industrial wind energy facility because of this? Where will these be built? How many angry neighbors at county board meetings will this cause? 

Wind energy rips apart the fabric of Nebraska communities. It makes bitter enemies out of families that have been neighbors for generations. I have seen this sad scenario played out across my legislative district, and around the state many times. It is wrong-headed for the State of Nebraska to promote energy policies that rely on erratic and unreliable generators of electricity. There are many ways to reduce CO2 emissions for far less than building windmills and solar farms. If our State’s energy policy is going to drive a wedge between neighbors, and cost ratepayers more, it should at least make sense. 

Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.

07-10-2020 Weekly Update
July 14th, 2020

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
7-10-2020

The recent decision by the federal court to put a halt to Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) R-Project high voltage power line continues to be in the news. The President and CEO of NPPD, Mr. Tom Kent, was quoted in the North Platte paper the other day with respect to the R-Project power line. He said, “Nothing’s changed from a factual basis to change our decision at this point.”

Speaking specifically to the route of the R Project, Mr. Kent also said, “From what we’ve seen, we’re in the best place from a utilities standpoint.” The article did not mention what would be considered the “best place” for this powerline from a citizen’s perspective.

The landowners’ eight-year struggle against this power line should have ended when the judge issued his ruling in this lawsuit. Given Mr. Kent’s comments to the newspaper, it is clear he intends to press on with this misguided project along the same bad route regardless. Unfortunately, NPPD can make decisions and do things the people of Nebraska have no effective recourse against. The only check the law places on NPPD’s power is their elected board. Given the history of the public being ignored on this project, this remedy is clearly insufficient. The people need a much stronger say in the laws that govern our public power entities in Nebraska. The process we use to site power lines in this state is broken. The statutes empowering public electrical utilities to conduct this process is badly in need of updating. A lot has changed since we decided to be the only state in the union with 100 percent public-owned electrical utilities.

I have often wondered why we need these new transmission lines intended to hook up new production capacity when the state has over 900 megawatts of surplus electrical generation. We have enough excess electricity in Nebraska to power a second city of Lincoln. Transmission lines are built to move electricity long distances. There are no industrial generators of electricity in the vicinity of the R-Project, unless you consider all the wind energy facilities that will sprout like weeds if this power line is ever built. Not taking the impact of those projects into consideration even though they are bound to be built is a part of the reason the judge said that the permitting process failed to follow the law.

When Nebraskans have to pay a lawyer and haul government agencies into court in order to get them to finally listen to them, something is dreadfully wrong with the laws that govern that agency.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.

07-03-2020 Weekly Update
July 14th, 2020

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
7-3-2020

I have traveled all over the world, and I believe America is the most multi-ethnic, most racially integrated, most colorblind country on Earth. We promise civil rights with the rule of law, and we rely on our courts to back up that promise. Our market economy makes economic mobility possible here in a way that is only a dream in many other nations. The idea the United States today is a horribly racist country has no relationship to truth or reality.

We fought a Civil War to end slavery. That war resulted in over 800,000 casualties. Adjusted for today’s population, that would be the equivalent of over eight million casualties. No nation on the face of the Earth has ever laid such a sacrifice upon the altar of human freedom.

In 1863 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the states in rebellion.

1865, President Lincoln led the effort to get the 13th Amendment passed in Congress, legally abolishing slavery throughout the United States.

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1871, the Enforcement Act of 1870, the Force Act of 1871, the KKK Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. These were all efforts to advance the cause of integration.

In 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified by the states. It guarantees due process and equal protection of all citizens, especially freed African slaves. In 1870, the 15th Amendment was passed to guarantee the right to vote for all citizens.

The Insurrection Act was amended in 1871 to allow use of the military to enforce, among other things, voting rights and desegregation. In 1871, Ulysses S. Grant sent a thousand soldiers to hunt down Klansmen in South Carolina and they captured 600 of them.

In 1948, President Truman issued an executive order to desegregate the US military.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in the Brown versus Board of Education decision, nine to zero. It ended legal racial segregation in schools.

In 1957, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, AR to protect nine black students entering Little Rock Central High School against the order of the governor. In 1959, he ordered the desegregation of the Washington, D.C. public schools.

In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act with an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate. It prohibits discrimination in voting, public accommodations, public facilities, public education, Federal assistance programs and employment.

In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that prohibited denial or restriction of the right to vote. It forbids discriminatory voting practices nationwide.

This list just scratches the surface. I could fill every page of this newspaper with all the things Americans have done to make this the least racist country on Earth. We will continue to make our union “more perfect” as Americans have done throughout our history. We have always grown as a society by building people up, not tearing things down.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43
Room 1101
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2628
Email: tbrewer@leg.ne.gov
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