NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Tom Brewer

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43

Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

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

06/16/17 Weekly Update

June 21st, 2017

I’ve been traveling the State a lot. I went to The Cattleman’s Association mid-year meeting and the 100th Anniversary of the Farm Bureau, which gave me a chance to meet a lot of folks from the district and discuss many issues effecting Western Nebraska like brand inspection and property taxes. I was interviewed by the Scottsbluff, Chadron and Ainsworth radio stations. I will attend my 40th High School reunion in Gordon this weekend. I had a great time with a number of players from the Husker football team teaching them teamwork, communications and long-range rifle shooting. I was so honored to have the chance to mentor this great group of young men.

This week the shooting in Washington, D.C. prompted an interview with the Lincoln paper where I said I thought security in our Capitol building was fine, but it would be a good idea for Senators and Staff to receive special training approved by the State Patrol – over and above a conceal carry class – so we could be armed at events we attend. All of this would be voluntary and done at personal expense. I’d hope no one would ever have to use this training and capability I suggested, but “hope” is a poor course of action in the world we live in today.

Had that baseball game in DC been just a bunch of ordinary members of congress without security details, there would have been a historic massacre take place. The many strict gun laws of Washington, D.C. obviously have no effect on criminals, nor will they ever. Gun Free Zones, like this baseball field, are just tragedies waiting to happen. Only a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun. Think about all of your constitutional rights for a moment and then ask yourself why the 2nd amendment is the only constitutional amendment people need to get permission from the government to exercise.

Quite a few folks have talked to me about their desire to do a ballot initiative to try and solve our State’s terrible property tax problem, so I’ve been learning about it this week.
In 1912, Nebraskans added language to the State Constitution which created the “initiative petition” and “referendum” process. Twenty-one states have some form of this, but we’re one of only fifteen states that have BOTH initiative and referendum rights for their citizens. In plain English, citizens can create laws, create constitutional amendments (called initiatives) and also “veto” laws (called referendums) like what recently happened with the Death Penalty.

Going all the way back to 1912, I found where the citizens of Nebraska have done this forty-nine times.

Signatures from ten percent of the registered voters in the last election (about 121,000 today) have to be collected to amend the constitution (for example), and five percent of the voters in at least thirty-eight of Nebraska’s ninety-three counties have to be included in that number.

County election officials have to verify all the petition signatures against voter registration records. All the signatures have to be turned in to the Secretary of State four months before the election.

Unfortunately, the legislature did not pass property tax legislation this past session, but our constitution makes the people of Nebraska the “second house” of State government. Citizens have the right to seek solutions to problems the legislature fails to address. I’m excited to see what the many groups working on property tax reform come up with. I am following this very closely. The devil will be in the details, but I would be honored to support a ballot initiative idea that delivers real property tax reform, as would many other senators I know who are also concerned about this.

It’s important to remember that it was a ballot initiative petition from the people in 1934 that gave Nebraska its unique one-house Unicameral State government, so the people of Nebraska are capable of doing some pretty big things when they set their mind to it.
If the calls and letters I’ve been getting about the property tax problem are a fair measure of the mood of the people, then I think Nebraskans are ready to do something big about property taxes in the next election. I hope they do.

I’ll close by touching on a subject I have mentioned many times in this column. The State Department of Revenue released a report last Thursday showing that tax receipts were down $9.3 million from what they forecast for the month of May. As I have said before, the rosy predictions about revenue growth used to build the budget were unrealistic. The Governor’s spending vetoes (which I supported) may not be enough if this downward trend in revenue continues.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

06/09/17 Weekly Update

June 14th, 2017

The staff and I have been working on a property tax proposal for the next session. As you may remember, I attended a press conference on the last day of the session with Sen. Steve Erdman (LD 47, Bayard). He announced that one way or another he would introduce a legislative resolution next session that would change the Nebraska Constitution and fix the property tax problem. So far nearly a dozen groups are involved helping with this. I think the people are so fed up there will probably be a ballot initiative. Stand by for news as this effort evolves over the summer.

I am behind Sen. Erdman and the people 1000%. Property taxes are crushing Nebraska. We are the 5th highest in the Country and getting worse. People in my district are being forced to sell homes, farms, and ranches because they can’t afford the property taxes. I had a rancher tell me he has to sell 80 steer calves just to pay the property taxes on a 16,000 acre ranch. Failing to address this in the last session really upset me. Far too many senators in our legislature are not taking this problem seriously enough.

I’ve been to several meetings on Veterans and Native American issues this past week. I did an interview on Sirius Satellite Radio. My staff were interviewed by a French reporter for a Paris newspaper on the Fair Repair Bill. We have our interim study going on with LB 499. This bill will update the law and protect Nebraska Bee Keepers. I will go out on a limb and predict it sails through the legislature next session. It has generated a lot of very positive interest on the Agricultural Committee. Once we work out the details with the Department of Agriculture on how the new laws will be implemented, I think we’ll have a very good piece of legislation that is sorely needed by our commercial bee keepers.

We still have eleven bills “held in committee” right now. We’ll be working on those over the interim with amendments to help address the concerns we heard during the hearings. I said during the hearing last session that LB 504 would be my priority bill next session, and I mean that. This bill puts a two-year moratorium on the construction of new commercial wind energy projects in the Sandhills. I’m all for private property rights but there has to be a way we can do this without tearing the community apart. Pausing construction as this business is carefully studied is prudent to say the least.

I sent a lot of letters to graduating high school Seniors this year, which reminded me that I better go to my 40th class reunion in Gordon next weekend. I look forward to seeing my old classmates.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

06/02/17 Weekly Update

June 8th, 2017

“The Interim” has begun, (that time between when the legislature adjourns and when we’re back in session next January). I’m getting caught up on all kinds of appointments and chores you have to put off while the legislature is in session. While Senators are out for the summer, we are back to being “normal citizens” and run/work our private businesses, but we are still available to assist and serve the people in our districts, and I am happy to do so.

Close to the end of the session we passed a law (LB 127) that created the “Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee.” Along with the Chair of the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Laura Ebke) five other senators and I make up this committee. We will visit Nebraska’s ten different correctional institutions this summer in an on-going effort to study the various problems in Nebraska’s Correctional System. I have a lot of faith in Director Scott Frakes. He has an incredibly tough job to do, but there clearly have been some problems in the recent past that I think the legislature can help with. Maybe we can move past the finger-pointing and actually work on helping fix some things. I look forward to being part of the solution.

My staff are busy digging through thousands of emails and researching all kinds of ideas that came to me over the session from so many people across the district. We’re trying to follow up on so many calls, such as:
“I was pardoned by the Governor. How come my criminal conviction still shows up on my police background check?”
“Why in the **** do fishing licenses cost $43? When you add the $30 park permit, I’m out nearly $100 just to go fishing. What is going on!!”
“I need to sell 80 steer calves just to pay the property tax on my 16,000 acre ranch. Why is it so high?”
“Why does the State have to put in this gigantic traffic circle on the highway when they could just put up a traffic light?”
These issues and many more are important to me and my staff. We are here to help, and we appreciate all your patience while we work through these together.

I finally had a chance to catch my breath and reflect on some things. For example, I wonder how Texas does it. They have 25.5 million more people than Nebraska does, 1,300 miles of international border, nearly 400 miles of seacoast, no income tax and yet their legislature only meets once every two years for about four months. Would the good people of the State of Nebraska be better off if the legislature was only in session every other year?

I wonder how is it that ranchers in my district with land in both South Dakota and Nebraska tell me their property taxes on their SD ground have gone down, while their property taxes on their NE ground have gone up. What is South Dakota doing that we aren’t?

I wonder what is going to happen in 2021 when we re-district the State after the 2020 census. The population in the western end of the State will continue to shrink while it steadily grows in the Lincoln and Omaha area. Right now only six senators represent all the people living west of Kearney. Lincoln has nine senators today, for example. How will our one-house unicameral system serve Western Nebraskans then? Will Western Nebraska have more or less of a voice in the Legislature? The tyranny of simple math tells me Western Nebraska needs to get set for a disappointment.

I think of everything that has happened during this first session in the legislature as a State Senator, and the one thing that stands out the most is how surprised I was about something. I came to the Capitol thinking my State was a “conservative” State. Nebraska may well be a conservative State, but Nebraska’s Legislature most definitely is not. I came here thinking lower taxes, smaller government, and more freedom and liberty for our citizens were the principals almost everyone in Nebraska shared. Those will always be my principals, but I discovered putting together a simple majority of twenty-five like-minded Senators is something that is very hard to do in “conservative” Nebraska. Putting together thirty-three so we can end a filibuster and actually vote on something is even harder.

We all know the old yarn about how important it is to stay abreast of what your elected officials are doing (or not doing) in your name, and how “elections matter” but this last session really put those old lessons in sharp focus for me.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

05/26/17 Weekly Update

May 31st, 2017

This first session of Nebraska’s 105th Legislature has adjourned. If I had to describe it in one word I would have to say “frustrated” sums it up pretty well. I wish I could tell you it was about all the things that we got done. Worthy of note is the fact we overcame a $1.1 billion budget deficit and passed “two” budget bills, one that addressed the shortfall we have in the current fiscal year and the other for the next biennium (the next two years.)
We got the Department of Roads and the Department of Aeronautics combined into one new State Agency (Department of Transportation). We got the States Veteran Homes out of the Department of Health and Human Services and under the control of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both of these changes save money and improve services.
I have learned a lot in this session, as have the other seventeen freshmen senators. I think next session will be completely different, armed with the knowledge and experience we all now have.

I was disappointed we didn’t get the rules changed early in the session. A lot of really good legislation was killed by filibuster this session because we didn’t get the rules changed.

Most of all I was sorely disappointed that we accomplished nothing on Property Taxes. I have teamed up with Sen. Steve Erdman (LD 47, Bayard) and many other senators exploring different options to address the property tax problem next session. A number of ideas are already out there and some groups are considering initiatives to put the matter on the ballot in the next election. I have drafted a legislative resolution that would amend the Nebraska constitution and change how property tax money can be spent. I will keep you posted on all these efforts. The people are fed up and demand action. I will be working on this issue all summer and welcome your thoughts and comments.

I have three interim studies we have introduced to work on over the summer, plus I will get my schedule of town hall meetings in the district over the summer published soon. Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

Press Release

May 24th, 2017

PRESS RELEASE

 

Date: 19 May 2017                                                                             Contact: Julie Condon

jcondon@leg.ne.gov

For Immediate Release:                                                                  Phone: 402-471-2628

 

This session the Legislature passed a $2.47 billion budget that funded four different programs over the next two years.  MEDICAID/MEDICARE, Development Disability Aid Program, Division of Behavioral Health and the Division of Children & Family Services. Governor Ricketts line-item vetoed a total of $32.5 million of the spending across these programs. This amounts to about 2 ½%.

This past Wednesday, May 17th, 2017, we debated a number of veto overrides and in the end upheld the Governor’s veto on LB 327. My vote was included in those to uphold the vetoes. The Governor’s veto cut a small amount of funding to programs that generated a lot of interest from people contacting my office and lobbyists calling me off the floor. I want to address those concerns because a lot of what I heard was either misinformed, or out-right scaremongering falsehoods. These cuts will NOT affect provider rates.

Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care: Capping payments at the Medicaid rate, as 44 states do, would achieve the general savings necessary to meet the requirements of the Governor’s veto.  This does not impact services not covered by Medicare like long-term care, nursing home care, and assisted-living services.  The Medicaid program will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services like long-term care.

Division of Developmental Disabilities: The line-item veto of funding in the DD aid budget will not mean providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions.  DD has the responsibility to manage the program within its appropriation and minimize adverse access-to-service issues for DD eligible individuals and families.  DD will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services.

Division of Behavioral Health:  The line-item veto of funding in the Behavioral Health aid budget will not mean providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions.  The amount of funding included in the line-item veto represents 1% of total contracts funds to the Behavioral Health Regions.

Historically, behavioral health providers under contract with the Regions have received a 10% increase in rates over the last four years, including a substantial increase in two services through DHHS cost model work.  Those rate increases are sustained in the current budget plan and Division of Behavioral Health will work with the Regions on the implementation plan to protect critical services.

Division of Children and Family Services: The line-item veto of funding in the Children & Family Services (CFS) budget will not mean providers or contractors will receive across-the-board rate reductions.  CFS has identified efficiencies in how it administers drug testing contracts that will garner savings in excess of the amount included in the line-item veto.

I supported these small cuts in spending because without them the legislature was using accounting tricks and unrealistic revenue projections to balance the budget. Without these small cuts in spending, we would have to be called back into special session this fall to make drastic cuts to balance the budget because the gimmicks and rosy projections would have failed to do so.

No one likes to cut State programs people have grown to depend on. This was made very evident by the legions of lobbyists and special interest groups who all loudly opposed these small spending reductions. Watching this I couldn’t help but wonder – where were all the lobbyists and special interest groups screaming for property tax reform this session? Who represents the rancher or farmer who has to sell their place because they can’t raise a crop that will even pay the property tax bill? Who speaks for them? Where is all the passion and enthusiasm to protect ordinary citizens from crushing taxation? I think we need to be just as vigorous in our defense of those who have to pay for the State spending as we are in defense of those who consume it.

 

-End-

 

05/19/17 Weekly Update

May 24th, 2017

This session is coming to a close. The Speaker has announced the legislature will “Adjourn Sine Die” on Tuesday the 23rd of May. “Sine Die” is Latin for “without day.” It means to adjourn without any future date being designated to resume the session, thus will end the first session of the 105th legislature. It will be good to get out of Lincoln and back up to the Sandhills, but I’m disgusted by how little actually got done this session. I suppose we can take comfort in the words of Mark Twain, “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”

The Tax Increment Financing bill (LB 496) was debated and defeated in a filibuster this week. I voted against it because the TIF program has grown far beyond its original purpose of urban renewal for blighted areas. TIF provides property tax breaks to encourage these sorts of projects in the poor part of town. Instead, LB 496 would have included the construction cost of private housing for new development projects. This is not what TIF is supposed to be for. The true purpose of property taxes is for members of a community to equally share in the funding of our public safety, schools, and common infrastructure. That’s not what LB 496 did. Sen. Mike Groene (North Platte) said this bill “is an outrage against good government and a strong statement on the power that special interest has on politicians through campaign donations.” I agree. I’m glad it was defeated.

I said last week that I was afraid we were “kicking the can down the road” on the budget problem by using some accounting tricks like reducing our cash reserves and using “creative financing” by making unrealistic future revenue projections. The Governor saw this same set of circumstances and used his line-item veto authority to cut another $32.5 million in spending from across a number of programs. I voted to uphold the vetoes and have issued a separate press release on this subject. The State’s tax collections are still on a downward trend. April’s numbers were $55 million short of what was forecast. Even with the Governor’s vetoes we may not be out of the woods on the budget yet.

I realize people depend on tax-payer dollars to fund programs they have come to depend on, but we had to balance a budget with a $1 billion deficit. The many lobbyists and special interest groups who contacted my office, came to the Capitol, and called me off the floor spoke with a loud voice. I wish this same passion could be generated to defend ordinary Nebraskans being crushed by property taxes. I care about the people dependent on government programs with exactly the same enthusiasm I care about the Nebraskans who have to pay the taxes that fund this State spending.

Next week I will outline the interim studies we have introduced, and will continue to work on a schedule of town hall meetings in the district over the summer. Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

05/12/17 Weekly Update

May 17th, 2017

We had another short, but very busy week. Friday was a recess day. We continued budget debate this week. In spite of the $1 billion deficit, the budget we have still increases spending 1.0%. Many of us feel this is unacceptable, so the budget as written faces a lot of push-back. Tuesday, the three main budget bills were passed and sent to the Governor. He still has the option to line-item veto individual appropriations.

The “combined” State Budget is $10.8 billion. This includes federal tax dollars. The $4.5 billion annual general fund budget is what we’ve spent the last two weeks debating. To accomplish the 1% increase, we had to reduce our cash reserves and use some accounting tricks I really don’t like. My colleagues are making an assumption that Nebraska’s economy is going to rebound quickly and state tax revenues are going to increase from the 1% they are now to 5% in the next two years. This is just wishful thinking in my opinion. The downturn in our State’s economy that caused the revenue shortfall in the first place is caused by the sharp decrease we’ve seen in Nebraska’s #1 economic engine: agriculture. That is not something that is bounces back up to 5% growth so easily. I joined 12 other senators voting no on LB331. I predict we will be right back next fall facing the old argument of cutting more spending or increasing the tax burden on our citizens. All we did was kick the budget can down the road in my opinion. I’m not voting for tax increases.

We debated LB75 this week. It was a bill that attempted to give felons voting rights immediately after completing their prison sentence / parole. The law right now restores felons voting rights two years after completing their sentence provided they have no further trouble with the criminal justice system. I voted for the bill during General File debate because I believe there should be a point where someone’s debt to society is paid, but it became clear during subsequent debate this bill was probably unconstitutional. I didn’t support it on final reading and I did not vote to override the veto.

LR1CA was a resolution meant to put a constitutional voter ID requirement on the 2018 ballot for voter approval. I supported this resolution, but it failed to advance because it didn’t have enough votes to overcome a filibuster. Once again, the “cloture” rule of 33 votes stopped a good piece of legislation. The vote was 26 yes, 17 no and 3 present – not voting. That tells me 20 senators did not like the idea of letting the people of Nebraska decide whether or not someone should need an ID to vote.

I am very upset this legislature did not address property taxes reform this session. It is the #1 issue State-wide. Everything we have tried to do to address this serious problem this session has failed. The reason property taxes are out of control in Nebraska is because how we fund K-12 schools in Nebraska is seriously broken. We are 49th in the nation in terms of State funding for schools, the vast majority of funding comes from property taxes. In the Western part of the State, most of the schools are 100% funded by property taxes. We are 5th highest in the nation in terms of property taxes, and getting worse. This issue is crushing our agriculture economy and hurting families and small business all over the State. Far too many of my colleagues are simply unwilling to address this issue. As we approach our adjournment without a single thing being done about this reminds me time is running out for a growing number of people who are no longer able to pay a tax that is levied on people with no regard for their ability to pay it. We need a solution that’s as big as the problem. I am sick of the excuses. I am going to lead on this issue from here on out and provide a real solution if it’s the last thing I do.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

05/05/17 Weekly Update

May 10th, 2017

 

We had another short, but very busy week. Monday was a recess day. We did three late night sessions debating the budget this week. In spite of the $1 billion deficit, the budget we have still increases spending 1.5%. Many of us feel this is unacceptable, so the budget as written faces a lot of push-back. I think some of my colleagues are using some pretty rosy predictions about future revenue growth that I don’t think will actually be there. If we don’t cut more spending in this budget, I think there is a good chance the Governor will end up calling a special session later in the year where we will have to come back and do across-the-board spending cuts. We shall see how this all unfolds in the days ahead. I hope the legislature can muster the courage to make some carefully considered cuts now instead of waiting for a Special Session and using an ax to do it.

 

LB 461 is a bill from Sen. Smith (Papillion) on income and property taxes. It was debated again this week. I introduced an amendment (AM 1104) to this bill, but it was so far down in the queue it was never was debated / voted on before the time was up. When the time for debate the speaker has allocated has passed, a motion called “cloture” is made. What this does is end debate on every other motion or amendment pending so a vote can be taken on just the underlying bill. It takes 2/3 of the legislature (33) votes to “invoke cloture” and end debate. The cloture motion on LB 461 failed on a vote of 27 “for” with mine included in that number. 9 voted “against” the motion. Since the motion failed, this means debate would continue. Since the time allotted by the speaker was all used up, no further debate was allowed and LB 461 was effectively killed for this session.

 

It is important to pay close attention to cloture votes because they are often more important than voting on the bill itself. 13 senators were “present but not voting” on this cloture motion. Such a vote is often just as good as a “no” vote, but it is a lot easier to explain to a constituent. I really don’t like “present but not voting” on cloture motions which is why I made a motion and tried to change the rules early in the session.

 

LB 461 was far from perfect, but failing the cloture vote prevented voting to advance the bill to select file where we would have another chance to amend it. I fear LB 461 may have been the last chance to do something about property taxes in Nebraska this session and that really upsets me. Property taxes are out-of-control in Nebraska. We have the 5th highest property taxes in the country and it is getting worse. They are crushing AG producers which is the biggest driver of the Nebraska economy. They drive people and business out of the State. They are out of control because the way Nebraska funds K-12 schools. The current system is terribly unfair to rural school districts. That system is completely broken and in urgent need of reform. Nebraska is 49th in the country in terms of State aid to schools. It is the #1 concern of the constituents in the 43rd District and despite everything my colleagues and I have done, we simply can’t get the bills we need passed because there are too many senators in the legislature who love taxing and spending.

 

There might be another bill I could offer my property tax amendment to coming up, but like everything else this year, finding 33 votes to invoke cloture so we can actually take a vote on the bill is very difficult.

 

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

04/28/17 Weekly Update

May 4th, 2017

We had a short, but very busy week. Friday was Arbor Day and the legislature was not in session. We got a lot of bills passed final reading and sent to the governor. We debated some controversial bills, got started on the budget, and did our first (of many) late night sessions.

My priority bill, LB 340, was signed in law by the governor this week. LB 340 takes the control of Nebraska’s Veteran Homes out of the Department of Health and Human Services and puts it under the control of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is a very good thing for a host of reasons. LB 340 is also the first piece of legislation I have ever had signed into law as a new Senator. I want to thank the many folks who have congratulated me on this. More is coming!

Sen. Groene’s (North Platte) LB 595 was heard this week. I think it is a good bill. It would protect teachers and school administrators from violent students. It was a hotly debated bill. The opposition filibustered it and filed a large number of amendments and motions against it. Like everything else this session, Sen. Groene will have to round up 33 votes to invoke cloture (stop debate and vote on the bill) in order for this measure to advance. We’ll see how this works out.

Sen. Linehan (Omaha) made a fairly rare motion to “pull” one of her bills out of committee to General File. LB 651 would adopt strict standards for school reading proficiency and would cause children to be held back in school if they fail to meet the standard. I support this bill but I seriously doubt it will go anywhere this session. I hope I’m wrong.

Sen. Smith (Papillion) introduced LB 461 last week. In my opinion, this is probably one of the most important bills we will debate this session. It makes significant changes to property and income tax laws in Nebraska. Along with many others, I have introduced an amendment to this bill. AM 1104 makes a few very important changes and additions to the bill. I think LB 461 will come up for a second round of debate sometime in the first week in May. I will have a very hard time supporting LB 461 if the changes and additions I have proposed in my amendment are not included in the final bill.

Debate began on the budget this week. Nebraska is over $1 billion in the red. The legislature must make some serious spending reductions to balance the budget. Wednesday we received another “Revenue Forecast” which predicted another $55 million LESS in revenue, making the requirement to come up with a balanced budget even more difficult. The arguments on the floor are along two lines of thought. Those who want “more revenue” (raise taxes) so State spending on their favorite programs can continue without interference, and those of us who believe money is best left in the hands of the people who worked for and earned it, and we should cut State spending instead.

I think the people of Nebraska are the best judge of what to do with their money. Just because the forty-nine of us Senators got elected to public office doesn’t suddenly make all of us a bunch of masterminds who know best how to spend someone else’s money. We need to focus on making sure the essential, constitutional functions of State Government have adequate resources (law enforcement / public safety, courts, correctional facilities, infrastructure and schools) but beyond that, I think a spending idea must demonstrate it serves an urgent public necessity and not just some special interest. We will spend most of what remains of the legislative session arguing about the budget, so I will be commenting further about it in the weeks ahead. I am finding out that Ronald Reagan was right; there is nothing quite so permanent as a government program.

Let me close with a word on the White Clay situation. I have received quite a number of calls and emails both for and against closing the liquor stores there. To start with, please remember that a State Senator has no more influence over those decisions than an ordinary citizen does. Secondly, I have always said and I will continue to say that I want to see the law followed. Whether or not beer is sold in White Clay has to be a decision reached after the law has been followed. Nebraska’s motto is “Equality before the law” and I want to see that motto lived up to in this and every case. Clearly, that process is well underway. At some point soon, I believe the Courts, the Attorney General and the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission will sort out this situation and reach a decision. Until then, speculation doesn’t make anything any better, so I urge folks, regardless of which side of this issue you are on, please let the legal system work through this issue. Regardless of the final decision, I will continue to lead the effort to make things better in White Clay. I will not spend my term as your State Senator turning a blind eye to this lawless place and simply kick the can down the road as my predecessors have done. Beer or no beer, whats going on in White Clay is wrong and it needs to change.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

04/21/17 Weekly Update

April 26th, 2017

We had a hot week in the Legislature. They haven’t turned on the air-conditioning yet, and they have apparently already solved all the easy problems in Nebraska because the calendar is full of bills that are tough issues.

LB 640 was heard on the floor this week. I also co-sponsored this bill. It would dramatically change the formula used to provide much more State-aid to schools, and bring much-needed property tax relief. I really like this bill, and Sen. Groene (North Platt) did a great job with it, but like a lot of other good bills this session, there simply isn’t thirty-three votes to end the filibuster (end the opposition debate with a “cloture” motion) and get to a vote on the bill where we only need twenty-five votes to pass it. It’s a fact of life with anything that is the least bit controversial this year. A lot of really good bills will simply sit and be carried over to next year because they do not have thirty-three votes to end the filibuster. The legislature’s failure early in the session to reform the “cloture” rule is something we get to the see the results of everyday.

Debate began on LB 461 this week. This is the Governor’s bill brought by Sen. Smith (Papillion). The bill would completely change how AG ground property taxes are assessed and bring income tax relief as well. I introduced an amendment to this bill, AM 1104. It makes changes to some technical language, but most importantly it also addresses residential and commercial property taxes as well. It drives down valuations on all three classes of real property at the same time. I think this approach is vital. Ag ground property taxes are not just too high. When farmers and ranchers have to take out second mortgages, when they can’t sell a crop of grain or cattle that even covers the tax bill for the ground, when folks on a fixed income have to start taking money out of a retirement account to pay the property taxes on their house – that’s not just taxes being “too high” – that is taxation that has become immoral. Every Nebraska property owner is being crushed by out-of-control property taxes. This isn’t just and “urban vs. rural” issue. I really hope there is time left for my amendment to be debated on the floor and it becomes part of this bill. Property Taxes are the #1 issue in the 43rd district. We shall see how debate continues next week.

I cannot tell you enough how important it is we continue to hear from you. Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43
Room #1202
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2628
Email: tbrewer@leg.ne.gov
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