NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. 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 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

11/22/17 Weekly Update

November 29th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11-22-17

Late last Friday afternoon the 17th of November, President Hank Bounds sent a letter to Governor Pete Ricketts and Speaker Jim Scheer and all 49 State Senators which finally recognized that the University has a problem with anti-conservative bias on campus. This effects the freedom of speech of conservative students and faculty. They do not feel comfortable/safe to express their opinions on campus.

Of course this abrupt admission only came on the heels of a freedom of information request which revealed university emails which document their concerns and even a strategy to bury the story using surrogates to write op-ed pieces.

Last Thursday the 16th of November, I met with President Hank Bounds and Chancellor Ron Green along with Senators Halloran and Erdman. At that meeting they continued to deny there was a problem. The date of the emails released Friday clearly show that they were aware of the problem BEFORE our meeting and were taking active steps to bury the story.

It’s unclear what President Bounds knew and when he knew it. That however is not the case for Chancellor Green as he was copied on the aforementioned emails as far back as August. I’ll give President Bounds the benefit of the doubt and assume Chancellor Green did not share his deceptive tactics with him and kept him in the dark.

As a result of his deceitful conduct toward myself and my colleagues, I have lost confidence in Chancellor Green’s ability to lead the University of Nebraska Lincoln Campus. He should be ashamed of himself.

If you or a family member have personally felt that the universities culture was unwelcoming to your beliefs, or you were ever apprehensive about freely expressing your points of views without fear of retribution, I want to hear your story. I also strongly encourage you to contact the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and share your concerns. They are elected to serve you and they need to be made aware of these issues too. For those of you in my district (43), your elected board of regent’s member is Mr. Bob Phares. He can be reached at (308) 532-3180 or bphares@nebraska.edu. If you are unsure as to who your regent is you can contact Carmen Maurer, Corporation Secretary of Nebraska at corpsec@nebraska.edu, 402-472-3906. She is listed as the key contact on the Nebraska Board of Regents website.

The University of Nebraska is your university. Your tax dollars substantially fund the University of Nebraska system. The legislature appropriates over $600 million to the University every year. The university should reflect and respect the beliefs and values of all Nebraskans. It should champion and encourage the free flow of all ideas and perspectives without the slightest hint of apprehension. We all grew up loving our University. We need to get these problems addressed and restore it to it’s former glory. I personally believe we need a change in leadership to do that, but that is up to President Bounds and the Board of Regents.

I want to make a correction to something I wrote in my 17 November update. I said I had a bill about State government collecting Union Dues stuck in the Judiciary Committee. This is incorrect. My bill LB 503 is stuck in the Business and Labor Committee. The bill I meant to say was stuck in the Judiciary Committee was LB 505. This bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to make some data concerning refugees the federal government re-settles in Nebraska available on their website so Nebraska taxpayers could see and understand the burden placed on them by this program.

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 #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

11/17/17 Weekly Update

November 29th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11-17-17

We’re about a month and a half away from the second session of the 105th legislature. Most of the forty-nine senators gathered this week for a meeting to prepare for the next session. Many are talking about “new” bills they will introduce in this next session. 667 bills were introduced in the last session. Some of them were killed in committee (“indefinitely postponed” they call it) Some advanced out of the committee and stalled on the floor during general file debate because there wasn’t 33 votes needed to end a filibuster. Most of the bills ended up in the most common status; “held in committee.” In plain English that means they don’t have enough votes on the committee to be advanced to general file, or “voted out of committee.”

Several hundred more bills will be introduced in this next session starting January 3rd. Senators can introduce new bills only in the first ten legislative days of the session. That deadline is the 18th of January. I have several ideas for a few new bills I would like to introduce that I’ll be talking about in the weeks to come. Suffice to say, the learning curve for me and the staff has been very steep, but we know how this place works now and will avoid a lot of the heartache we faced last session. Lobbyists and special interest groups fill the hallways during the first ten days hawking bills. Some of them do fine work and promote worthy issues so I’ll listen to them, but my constituents give me all the bill ideas I could ever need.

Before everyone sends me new bill ideas, I want you to ask, “Is another law really what we need?” We have a lot of laws right now, and one particularly troubling thing I’ve noticed is the laws that force another entity of government to do something, yet do not provide any resources necessary to do it. They call this “unfunded mandates.” The federal government does this to Nebraska, and the legislature does this to counties, cities, towns, school districts, natural resource districts, etc. For example, lacking prison beds because of our overcrowding problems, counties end up housing more prisoners in their jails. The State directs hospitals to provide healthcare to people on MEDICAID, but do not fully reimburse the hospital. The legislature passed laws that overhauled the State’s 911 emergency system. The counties have old 911 communications equipment that doesn’t interact with the new Internet-based systems. Who pays for all this? We need to systematically identify and reexamine these mandates if we are ever going to have a realistic conversation about reducing property tax because the main source of revenue a county has to address these things is property tax.

Of the thirteen bills I sponsored (some call it “carried”) last session, one was passed into law. One advanced to general file. The remaining eleven bills are “held in committee.” Of these eleven bills, I am becoming more confident we will get LB 499 passed. It helps protect our Nebraska bee keepers. LB 497 should pass easily as well. It makes a small but important administrative change to how Nebraska keeps certain important records for Veterans and makes life easier for them. I have five bills held in the Judiciary Committee. Three deal with gun laws. One is about the eVerify system to stop illegal aliens from taking Nebraska jobs. Another is about our State government collecting union dues on behalf of the unions. These five bills are not going anywhere because the political ideology of the majority of the members of this committee is not supportive of the topics raised by these five bills. Following the next election when the first session of the 106th legislature meets in January 2019, committee membership will be decided and this might change.

Until the composition of the Judiciary Committee changes, I’m not going to waste my time bringing another bill before that committee. I’m going to try and get the committee to meet in Executive Session and at least vote on my five bills. They will all lose, they might even kill them, but at least I’ll have a report from the committee that documents how the Senators voted.

Of my four remaining bills, LB 504 (wind energy moratorium) and LB 576 (freezing property taxes) remain my top priorities. Since the end of the last session, I’ve lobbied the senators of the Revenue and Natural Resources Committee looking for a compromise or amendment language that could get these two measures advanced to general file. Each senator gets a “priority bill” which means if it makes it out of committee, it is guaranteed to be put on the agenda and debated on the floor. If a Senator listens to his constituents, figuring out their priority bill is easy. Many thousands of you have made it very clear the top two issues facing the district are wind energy and property taxes, so one of those two subjects will be my priority bill next session.

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 #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

11/10/17 Weekly Update

November 16th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11-10-17

Veterans Day weekend is here. I’m out in the district making seven different stops for different Veterans Day events. Me and my Legislative Aide really need to get our pilot’s license up to date. The 43rd District is bigger than Connecticut. In 2021 when we redistrict the State after the census, I’m thinking it will be even bigger. There are ranches in the 43rd bigger than many of my colleague’s districts they can walk around in an afternoon. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s the best part of the State and I am very lucky to represent it.

As a retired US Army Colonel, Veterans Day carries a special meaning for me and all who have served our country in uniform. I have countless friends and acquaintances in this category. Many of my relatives have all served. My Father is a Korean War veteran. Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Baker’s father was in the Navy in the Pacific during WWII. Some confuse Veterans Days with Memorial Day. That day we remember and honor those who died in service to their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead. If you’re a veteran, I’d imagine you’re like me. Every day is Veterans Day. To all of you I say;

Thank you very much for your service.

Regardless of branch or component. Whether you have seen combat or volunteered in peacetime, active-duty or reservist, 20-year career or a drafted. These are all Americans who, for a time in their lives, invested a part of themselves in service to our nation. We honor you this weekend.

To all the many organizations who promote veteran issues I want you to know how incredibly important you are to our society. You help veterans in so many ways, from helping with benefits, or a hot meal, to fighting for veterans in the halls of government by navigating bureaucracy to writing legislation. The most important thing organizations like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (and their auxiliaries) do is remind ordinary Americans of something larger than themselves. They help our country turn outwards and upwards and take pause from our busy lives focused on self to be reminded; to be grateful, to be proud of all the countless millions of Americans who put service to their country above all else. We don’t don the uniform of a tribe, or a sect, or of a particular religion. We don’t fight for our family or the local region of place we live in. The calling answered by Americans past and present has no equal in the world. We took an oath to protect an idea bigger than anything anyone has ever been called to put-on a uniform for in the history of the human species.

On the West steps of our Capitol the words of President Lincoln can be found behind his statute. He said;

“…our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

American veterans, from Valley Forge to Gettysburg to Kandahar, saw a “nation so conceived” as something bigger than themselves and answered the call to protect that idea. I have seen a big part of this world and I can tell you there is only one place on this Earth you can find people who think this way; who give of themselves this way, and that’s right here in the United States. I hope we all take a moment this weekend and quietly reflect how lucky we all are to be surrounded by fellow countryman of this selfless stature. We are truly blessed. It’s why the US has “long endured.” I urge you to take a moment and thank one of the 22 million veterans there are in the United States this weekend.

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

11/03/17 Weekly Update

November 16th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11/03/17

This week there was a bit of a dust-up about a letter Senator Erdman, Senator Halloran and I sent to a number of newspapers across Nebraska. It appeared over the weekend and has since been picked up by other news media. The gist of the letter was a series of questions we three senators have concerning the University of Nebraska. This problem stems from the incident last August where a young sophomore student was accosted and berated and called a vulgar racist name by a member of the University’s faculty. This happened to her because she had set-up a table in a public space and was handing out literature that promoted a conservative organization.

To be fair, the vulgar woman who verbally accosted the young sophomore was also doing graduate coursework, so she was also a student as well as a teaching assistant. The University has assured me this person was disciplined, but cannot describe specifically what action was taken because of State and Federal laws. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what laws prohibit the University from sharing this information.

At any rate, this generated a lot of interest. Social media websites are full of discussion and several newspapers picked up the story. We received many supportive calls. President Bounds and Chancellor Green went on a local Lincoln radio talk show and condemned the letter saying it was full of misinformation. You can go to KLIN website and listen to their interview with Mr. Coby Mach.

Beyond saying I disagree with much of what they said, I’m not going to spend this column debating their comments on the radio. I stand by the letter and I continue to have grave concerns about the campus culture at the university.

The bottom line is the root cause of the incident last August is a totalitarian philosophy called “Social Justice.” This is now firmly embedded as part of the culture at the English Department of University. It is all over the department’s webpage which the university leadership have endorsed. It’s part of the department’s mission statement. Social Justice is simply evil.

There are as many different definitions of this term as there are people you care to ask, but its defining characteristic is tyranny. The aim of this malignant philosophy is silencing dissenting speech. It promotes the suppression of any discussion of an issue the adherents of it believe is insensitive or not in line with their views. If you say something a social justice warrior doesn’t like, they brand you an intolerant bigot and use the kinds of techniques we saw in the August incident to silence you. As much as the University would like to minimize the August incident to one isolated occurrence, I think it is symptomatic of a larger underlying problem that they seem to be avoiding.

I believe there is a pervasive climate of simmering hostility towards all things conservative on the campus, and more importantly, towards all students that are conservative. We are hearing more and more from people who either had first-hand experience from Professors verbally attacking them in class or stories from parents about their children who were afraid to voice their thoughts and opinions for fear of Professors taking it out on them via their grades.

As long as the University of Nebraska continues to embrace the hateful philosophy of “Social Justice” the human and constitutional rights of students and faculty who dare to express conservative views will be threatened. Failing to correct this serious culture problem will result in the sort of incident that prompted this debate to continue, if it hasn’t already. It goes without saying this belief system is incompatible with an institution of higher learning as it suppresses the free and open exchange of ideas, and promotes a toxic culture of fear which destroys the learning environment and silences speech. I urge the University to renounce the evil of Social Justice and embrace a culture where every idea and opinion isn’t just free from attack, but is encouraged without a hint of apprehension. Instead of waiting for the next injustice and shouting “I told you so” I would much rather help UNL take a stand and create an environment where all students, including conservatives, are treated fairly and invited to the table to discuss the issues without the fear of being bullied.

Next week I am going to meet with Mr. Thomas Hoff, Mr. Barry DeKay and Mr. Bill Hoyt. They are directors on the NPPD Board. They represent the sub-divisions on the NPPD map which encompasses the route of the planned “R Line.” This high-voltage transmission line is planned to cut right through the heart of the Sandhills. There are alternate routes for the line that have been recommended by the public, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks. They would avoid most of the concerns that have been raised. I am going to ask these gentlemen why the other routes wouldn’t satisfy the project objectives and try to understand why they voted against them.

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

10/27/17 Weekly Update

November 16th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
10/27/17

This week I attended a “Public Comment Period” meeting in Thedford put on by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. After two previous meetings had been canceled under questionable circumstances, the public finally got a chance to voice their concerns about Nebraska Public Power District’s “R Line” project. This is a 225-mile long, 345kv high-voltage power line. The line is routed right through the heart of the most environmentally sensitive part of our State from the Gerald Gentleman Power Station near Sutherland to a new substation planned for Holt County. Providing connection to wind energy projects is listed as one of the reasons for this project in NPPD documents on their website. I am strongly opposed to wind energy in the Sandhills for a host of reasons.

More than one hundred people attended this meeting which lasted over three hours. Once again I saw the gut-wrenching passion people have for their land, many the fourth or fifth generation of the same family. Once again, I heard a government agency basically tell people “we hear you” but we can’t do anything. To be fair, USFW is east of the rock and west of the hard place on this. All things considered they ran a good meeting, but “hear” people and be neutral on this project is really all they can do. The simple fact is, if NPPD checks all the blocks and legally satisfies all of the USFW requirements, that agency is then obligated to issue NPPD an incidental “take permit” for the threatened species that is jeopardized by the R Project. In this case, the species that needs a “take permit” is the North American Burying Beetle.

At the moment, the only thing holding up the construction of the R Line is not the hundreds of citizens begging a sub-division of State government to reconsider their plans. It’s not a State Senator asking for other routes for the line be given a second look. The only thing holding up the R Line is the federal government giving NPPD permission to accidently kill an endangered bug.

Concerned citizens have until November 7th to submit information to the US Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the R Project, and I strongly encourage them to do so. After that date, further public comment on this issue cannot be considered. I am very concerned about this. If NPPD were to submit plans or documents related to the project AFTER the USFW public comment period has ended, will citizens have an opportunity to review that information and submit comment that rebuts or questions the voracity of the information? Will USFW extend and re-open the public comment period (as they have in the past) in that event? I’m waiting on an answer to this.

There are 11 members of the NPPD board of directors. Mr. Thomas Hoff is the NPPD Board Member that represents Subdivision 5, the area most of the R Line is routed through. I have requested a meeting with him. The only check and balance on the vast power and authority given to public utilities in Nebraska is the fact their board of directors are popularly elected. Concerned citizens, State Senators, the Governor, even the US Fish and Wildlife Service can do nothing to stop or change a public utility project like the R Line – only the board of directors can. I urge people concerned with the R Line to contact Mr. Hoff. 308-872-3352 or email him: tjhoff@nppd.com. Mr. Hoff is 1/11th of the reason why the R Line is where it is. I therefore hope he takes an opportunity to speak to local media, address the many issues being raised and help inform citizens on the project he voted for.

I learned this week Nebraska State Law allows a public utility like NPPD to use it’s power of eminent domain to build feeder lines that connect private wind energy facilities to the power grid. The wind company can build these lines itself but if they face a land owner who refuses to grant them an easement, the wind power company can have NPPD build the feeder line and use it’s power of eminent domain to do it. The idea a private company can use a Nebraska Public Utility to forcibly take land from its neighbor’s shocks me. I’m stunned thug tactics like this are actually legal in Nebraska. I’m drafting legislation that will stop this.

Speaking of travesty in the law, currently Nebraska law does not prohibit an elected official from personally benefiting from something they vote on. If a county official is also personally invested in a Wind Energy company, for example, he can vote on a zoning ordinance that will result in his own financial benefit so long as he publically discloses this fact before the vote. Again, I was astonished our laws allow this. The law should require elected officials to recuse themselves from such votes. I’m drafting legislation that would stop this nonsense as well.

All of this stuff is far from over. I’m going to engage the NPPD board of directors. They have the power to change the route of the R Line. I’m going to find out why a “take permit” for an endangered bug was needed, yet one for the Whooping Crane wasn’t included in the Environmental Impact Study. The R Line goes right through their fly-way. I’m drafting legislation to correct some serious problems with Nebraska law. I’m engaging more and more Senators everyday who share my concerns with these issues. I’m watching the deadline for the USFW Public Comment Period very closely. If NPPD delivers documents to USFW after that date, I will ask USFW to re-open the public comment period so the public can evaluate them. Even though I’m convinced they solved all the easy problems long before I got here, I still count my blessings. I am so grateful for the kind of people I have in my district. They make being their Senator such an honor and privilege. They are well informed. They give of themselves so much. They care. I’m so lucky to represent such incredible people. They truly are the best in Nebraska. They remind me of Ulysses S. Grant. When President Lincoln was asked why he had hired General Grant he replied;

He fights.

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

10/20/17 Weekly Update

October 25th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
10/20/17

I’m a member of the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee. This committee came about as a result of Legislative Resolution 127 which was passed last session. The mission of this committee is to study the many serious problems facing our Department of Corrections. This is the third legislative committee to do this and it continues the work of the LR 424 Committee (2014) and the LR 34 Committee (2015).

During the course of the summer we toured all ten correctional facilities across Nebraska. We spoke to staff and prisoners alike. Problems common across the board include over-crowding, understaffing, and high staff turn-over. Mandatory overtime because of the understaffing causes moral problems. The parole situation is a vicious circle problem. Prisoners otherwise eligible for parole aren’t qualified and can’t be released on parole because they lack the training required to be considered for parole. The pre-parole programs the prisoners need to complete can’t be staffed and operated because of the understaffing problem. Lack of a competitive pay and compensation program makes fixing the staffing problem more difficult.

Since January 2015, the Department of Corrections has reduced the prison population by 25% and the number of prisoners released on parole has increased 136%. During this same time however, the population in our county jails has increased by 46%. I see this as an unfunded mandate on the counties. Nebraska’s prison problem is also now a county problem. Our county jails shouldn’t be used to help reduce the State’s prison population. This isn’t funded and it’s not what the jails are designed for.

LB 605 was passed in the 104th legislature. It forces Nebraska to reduce the prison population to the designed capacity of the facilities. Presently we’re at about 160% of designed capacity and forecasted to get worse. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a civil rights lawsuit against Nebraska in August of 2017 due to the overcrowding and lack of adequate healthcare for inmates. By 2020, the law mandates reductions in our prison population which I think could result in a public safety problem if we were ever reach that point. Obviously, this is something the Legislature has to work on in the next session. The same could be said for a number of other very serious problems.

We heard testimony from Director Frakes today. I think it is important to point out the Department of Corrections requested funding for ninety-six fulltime positions in the last budget, and the Legislature only funded twenty-nine of those. As a result efforts to run the needed programs the inmates require so the population could be reduced through parole have been limited.

I’ve heard other ideas like “exporting” prisoners to other States with excess prison capacity or hiring a private company and contracting out our correctional services. I don’t like these ideas. These are Nebraska problems that need a Nebraska solution. I support additional funding for the Department of Corrections. Public safety is the very first and most important function of government. I also believe it is not necessary to raise tax revenue to do this. Spending on other State functions can be prioritized and that money reallocated.

Out-of-control property taxes, the prison problem, and a budget shortfall, which will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will be that subjects that dominate the next session.

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

10/13/17 Weekly Update

October 19th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer

43rd District

10/13/17

 

This week we joined Governor Pete Ricketts and Courtney Dentlinger, Director of Economic Development in visiting the Perrin Manufacturing facility in Alliance, NE. Perrin Manufacturing specializes in making auxiliary power units and heating and cooling units for many industrial applications such as what is used in the trucking industry. It is great to see a local business like Perrin grow and thrive.

 

My staff attended the Community Leader breakfast in Lincoln on Mental Illness Awareness and Suicide Awareness. These are important issues, most especially to veterans and many of the rural communities in the 43rd District who are under-served when it comes to mental health resources.

 

I attended the McPherson County Farm Bureau meeting in Tryon. I met with a number of citizens from Dawes, Sioux and Sheridan Counties who were all concerned about Property Taxes. This is an all too common event for me and it serves to illustrate the point that this issue continues to be the most important thing in the district, and for the all Nebraskans.  It is one of the top items on my to do list. Citizen-lead efforts to do a ballot initiative to put a property tax measure on the ballot in the next election are on-going, and so are efforts to address this problem in the legislature in the next session. My property tax bill remains stuck in the Revenue Committee (LB 576).

 

I held a Townhall meeting in Gordon at the American Legion. I’m a big supporter of the Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I’m grateful for their continued support. Senator Erdman from the 47th District joined me.  Again, we discussed the on-going misery of property taxes, along with the harm being done by Wind Energy in the Sandhills, and the continuing serious issues concerning the “R Line” powerline project. We also discussed the Whiteclay situation since the beer stores have closed. There has been a lot of positive developments and progress made, there is a lot that remains to be done, and there are genuine concerns going forward that I am addressing in working with the Department of Road, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the Attorney General such as traffic safety along the highways. I’ll keep you updated as we move forward.

 

My Legislative Aide and I, as well as my daughter attended the Annual Pine Ridge Wild Turkey Hunt in Chadron. Deb Cottier with the Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation, along with the many sponsors and organizers of this event did an incredible job.  The many landowners who guided the hunters were the very best ambassadors Western Nebraska could ever ask for.   Senator Justin Wayne from Omaha, Senator Suzanne Geist from Lincoln and Senator Lou Ann Linehan from Elkhorn joined us and we were able to share the incredible beauty of the Sandhills and the Pine Ridge area with them for the first time. My Eastern Nebraska colleagues had never seen this part of Nebraska, and had never participated in a Turkey Hunt before. (One had never used a shotgun.) This was the first time I attended this outstanding event, and I will do my best to have as many Senators as possible, (including the Governor), in joining me next year in showcasing our part of Nebraska to them.

 

I toured the new Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance. I was very impressed by the dedicated and professional staff, and so happy to see such a state-of-the-art healthcare facility in Western Nebraska. Like many other healthcare providers in Nebraska, they face serious challenges, namely they have a very hard time getting paid. Recent changes in how the State performs MEDICAID reimbursement and the multiple layers of bureaucracy and the confusing labyrinth of procedures and rules often results in claims going unpaid altogether or only partially paid. I’m very glad the CEO Lori Mazanec and her staff took the time to show me their exceptional facility. I appreciated hearing their concerns and I will be talking with the Department of Health and Human Services about this to learn more of the details of this complicated problem and helping to find a solution.

 

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

 

10/06/17 Weekly Update

October 12th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
10/06/17

This week I visited Valentine and Mullen and learned about all of the incredible developments going on with the internet in the district as part of the Nebraska Telecommunications Association’s tour. High-speed internet is now and will continue to become more and more available in the district, even to our many small towns and distant ranch and rural locations. A combination of companies developing fiber optic cable infrastructure and others delivering internet wirelessly via the cellular telephone network are rapidly expanding their service footprint. We had a great lunch stop in Mullen where I got to visit with quite a few folks from the district. This event was well attended by the public and the local schools. The exciting possibilities that come from high-speed internet access are incredible and I am very glad to see this capability finally coming to Western Nebraska.

I was able to attend the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War at the Hay Springs Community Hall. It was a themed USO show with Miss Nebraska, Allison Tietien as part of the cast. It was very well attended by many in the district. It is good to show our Vietnam Vets that they are not forgotten.

The Logan County Farm Bureau had their annual meeting in Stapleton which I attended and gave a Legislative update. They are a great organization. They are very invested in property tax relief/reform and understandably so. We continue to work on efforts with Senator Erdman to get a bill passed that will lower property taxes for Nebraskans and change how we assess the value of agricultural ground.

As part of the Whiteclay Task Force, we met in Whiteclay this past weekend to continue to build upon the progress that has been made. Continued economic development was discussed. The University of Nebraska Medical Center demonstrated the new “Tele-health” technology which makes delivering primary healthcare to rural Nebraska. I toured the new Family Dollar Store. My office is working with the Sheriff and the Nebraska State Patrol to ensure highway 87 is sufficiently patrolled.

This week I met with a veterans group on LB 121 which I introduced last session and is still stuck in the Revenue Committee. It would exempt some military retired pay from Nebraska income tax. This exemption is a good idea because every state we share a border with does a way better job of this than Nebraska does. We are losing thousands of outstanding, highly educated and qualified people (military retirees) who settle in other states to avoid Nebraska’s confiscatory income tax laws. This same group also supports ending Nebraska’s income tax on Social Security. We are one of only six States who tax Social Security. It’s a dumb idea taxing military retired pay. It’s a dollar chasing a dime. Taxing Social Security is just immoral. The money was already subjected to income tax when the person earned it and had it taken out of their pay check. Taxing it again is just wrong.

A lot of folks have expressed concern to me about the tragedy in Las Vegas. Like everyone else, I am shocked and heartbroken by this senseless crime, but a “crime” is exactly what it is. The shooter broke the law. Murder is already illegal. A “gun control” law would not have prevented it, nor would it stop it from happening again. Laws only govern the behavior of the law-abiding. What really bothers me are those who employ the tired old straw man fallacy which promotes the idea that being against a gun control law somehow means I don’t care about the victims. This is as dishonest as it is false. Someone’s outrage and demand for additional limits on our constitutional rights doesn’t make them the morally superior side of this argument. The number of people slaughtered in Chicago amounts to a Las Vegas tragedy every month, yet that city has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Where’s the outrage for that? We need “common sense criminal control.” The 2nd amendment is already the only constitutional right you have to ask permission to use. Further infringement on something that the constitution says “shall not be infringed” won’t stop criminals from ignoring the law because that is what criminals 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.

09-29-2017 Weekly Update

October 3rd, 2017

 

There is a term used a lot in the Nebraska Capitol. “Nebraska Nice.” Wind energy is not Nebraska Nice. Wind energy is a scam that hurts people and animals, wastes billions in tax dollars, and isn’t “green” energy by any definition of the term. Industrial wind energy projects also make terrible neighbors and will utterly destroy the most environmentally sensitive part of our State.

Last week the Natural Resources Committee held an interim study hearing on Public Power. A portion of that hearing was devoted to “renewable” energy (wind energy). The chairman of the committee, Sen. Dan Hughes, supports wind energy, but to his credit, he ran an excellent hearing and was exceptionally fair to all who participated. Sen. John McCollister of Omaha is on the committee. He posted an Op Ed in the Omaha paper this week about how wonderful wind energy is. This probably explains why he left the hearing early and didn’t hear the many citizens who testified against it. I hope he shows more courtesy to his constituents than he did the people who took time away from work and family and drove hundreds of miles from all over the State to be at that hearing.

We are just beginning to understand the health effects on people and animals of the low frequency noise made by industrial wind turbines known as “infrasound.” The aerodynamic reflection from the blade when in alignment with the tower causes a “thump, thump, thump” that cannot be ignored. The sound, which is most disturbing at night, invades the quiet of our bedrooms and disturbs Nebraskans who are trying to sleep. The “shadow flicker” from the blades passing in front of the sun casts disorienting shadows in homes more than a mile from the turbine and causes vertigo and nausea and has been linked to migraine headaches.

Many industries in the US receive some kind of government subsidy, but the Wind Energy Industry is 100% reliant on federal subsidy known as the “Production Tax Credit.” Wind projects don’t farm the wind, they farm tax avoidance credits as confirmed by Warren Buffet who admitted, “That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” Under the current policy, the industry is forecasted to reap $24 billion in subsidies between 2016 and 2020 or electricity production subsidies – nearly double the subsidies planned for any other renewable option. None of these figures include the significant benefits granted the industry in the form of state production tax credits, lower local taxes, and ratepayer-funded transmission. Our country is over $20 trillion in debt. Why are we paying this kind of money for an intermittent source of electricity that only makes power about 30% of the time?

Since wind power is intermittent, no amount of wind turbines installed in the US will result in an existing “dirty” power plant ever being decommissioned nor will it negate the need to build reliable generation. Americans are being asked to pay for two energy systems, one that produces wind energy and the second that delivers reliable electricity.  Obviously, this excess generation capacity costs money to build and operate and that cost gets added to the rate-payers bill. My Legislative Aide and I just spent ten days in Germany. The Germans are finding out the hard way how disruptive and costly reliance on wind power is. Catastrophic, cascading failure of the national power grid is now a daily struggle to prevent in Germany. Plans to decommission their last remaining nuclear power stations have been put on hold because of how unstable their power infrastructure has become.

Connecting a wind farm to the grid often requires new power-lines and the use of eminent domain to forcibly take land from people to build a power line across their ground for no other reason than to cater to the wind developer. Despite NPPD denials, reports from their own meetings clearly state the “R Line” has been, “…proposed chiefly to provide access for wind energy developments in Cherry Co…” This project will tear through the heart of the most sensitive part of Nebraska’s Sandhills.

Wind energy development in the Sandhills of Nebraska will cause damage to the ground (blowouts) that can never be mitigated or repaired. Wagon ruts from pioneers from over a century ago are still visible in the Sandhills. How can 20 semi-loads (just to put up the construction crane) cross the Sandhills without permanent damage? Countless more concrete trucks and loads of blades and tower sections will put a lasting scar on a place that has no equal in the world. Untold numbers of birds and bats are killed, including threatened and endangered species. The government even issues 30-year permits for the “taking” (killing) of bald and golden eagles. Siting hundreds of turbines in the Sand Hills with blades spinning at 200 mph at the tip presents a danger to flying creatures like nothing else.

The lost property value a neighbor to a wind turbine suffers is not compensated. Who would buy a house next to an industrial wind energy facility? The lost use of that portion of a neighbors ground inside the minimum safe distance from a wind turbine is not compensated. Wind Energy companies fight for the smallest set-back they can get to maximize the number of wind turbines they can build in an area with no regard for their neighbor’s property rights. Wind turbines run-off wildlife and spoil hunting in rural areas. They spoil pristine views and tourism. The promised boon in property tax revenue for local governments is over-rated and often doesn’t materialize as promised. Unless the local resident has the proper licensees and training certifications, the so-called “jobs” that are created by a wind energy development are taken by here-today-gone-tomorrow workers from out of State. One in four wind companies go bankrupt before their projects are even finished and are often bought by foreign investors.

To add insult to injury, most of the wind energy generated in Nebraska won’t even be consumed in Nebraska.

In the mad land rush to build turbines before the production tax credit runs out, local county governments are under a lot of pressure to approve the zoning and never think to require a surety bond be in place to fund the decommissioning costs for a wind turbine. As the turbine is retired and taken off line, many will stand there forever as monuments to greed and the short-sighted public policy that so often enables it.

Electricity should be above all reliable and as economical as we can make it. Wind energy delivers neither. Wind energy is very harmful to the environment it is supposedly built to save. The only “green” in wind energy is the color of the money their powerful lobbyists loot from the tax payers. We shouldn’t build industrial wind energy projects anywhere near where people live. We should think really hard about throwing billions of tax dollars at another scheme that can never stand on its own, and only benefits a few lucky people at the expense of everyone else. We should think very hard about something that will permanently destroy an environmentally fragile and very unique place like the Sandhills. At least Kansas was smart enough to protect about 11,000 square miles of their environmentally sensitive “Flint Hills” from the destruction wrought by industrial wind energy construction. We should do the same. Wind energy is a scam that hurts people. It’s not Nebraska Nice. Urge your State Senator to pass LB 504, my bill to protect the Sandhills.

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

 

9/22/2017 Weekly Update

September 26th, 2017

On Friday, September 8th the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission fined me $500 for not disclosing campaign costs associated with my campaign for the Legislature during the summer of 2016.

An Alliance man, Richard Schommer, alleged in a complaint that I didn’t disclose the amount I paid for horse feed, food, lodging and fuel. It was for this infraction I was fined. His complaint also alleged my use of my Army surplus HUMWV (hum-vee) wasn’t properly reported. Lastly, his complaint said the gift of Henry Rifles I made to my friends who accompanied me on the ride also wasn’t properly reported. The Henry rifles were my personal gift to my veteran friends that endured the 500 mile ride. I paid for these out of my own pocket. The HUMWV was simply rented for a parade. The commission did not find these complaints sufficient to merit any fines.

As many of you know, I did what I called “The Freedom Ride” during the campaign. Along with a number of friends (veterans) who I served with in my thirty-six years in uniform, we rode mules 500 miles around all thirteen counties of the 43rd Legislative District. My opponent, former Sen. Al Davis, out-spent me during the campaign more than four to one. My campaign was ran on a shoe string. We didn’t have the money to saturate the newspapers, radio and TV stations, pay for multiple weekly mailings of attack ads or buy thousands of signs. We had to do something else to generate some publicity for the campaign.

The idea for the ride was actually something one of my veteran friends came up with. Stick a “Brewer for Legislature” sign on a mule, and ride the animal around the entire district. It was a novel idea. A 92-year lady in Brewster told me the last time she saw a politician campaign on horseback was when she was a little girl. The original plan was to bring together a group of old friends, all of us Army veterans, some I served with in Afghanistan, and do something together so we could catch up on old friendships. It was a “Veteran Ride” as much as it was a political campaign event. Scattered across several states, many of us hadn’t seen each other in decades. My friend Tony (my Legislative Aide) flew home from working in Afghanistan to do this. Win or lose the campaign, it gave me memories I will cherish for the rest of my life, one last ride for some old soldiers. In spite of some complaints from my back, I don’t regret a minute of it.

Ignorance of the law is no defense. It’s true. I didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of expenses on the ride. In particular, I didn’t do a thing called “in-kind” donations very well. A typical day of this 23-day ride we would stop and camp in a little town along the route. Folks would often greet us and sometimes bring a picnic supper. I didn’t record the “value” of a tub of potato salad, or a bale of hay a rancher may have given the mules, or a tank of fuel I bought out of my own pocket for my own pickup, or a package of hamburger one of my friends may have bought and grilled burgers for supper. I didn’t try and “estimate and report” the value of the grass the mules ate along the Cowboy Trail or the State-owned right-of-way along the roads and highways we rode. I didn’t keep track of the occasional hotel room my friends bought so they had a bed and a hot shower for a change, instead of a cot in a tent.

Everything on that ride I paid for was out of my own pocket, or something one of my friends bought on their own. I didn’t spend a dime of what little I had raised in campaign contributions to pay for any of it.

Regardless, all of those sorts of things should have been reported. Anything of value that is used by a campaign has to be reported. That’s the law. I’ve paid my fine and I’ll take my licks for this. The Accountability and Disclosure Commission told me I could pay my fine with campaign funds. I paid for it out of my pocket because people didn’t donate money to my campaign to pay for my mistakes. Obviously I know better now and it won’t happen again. I guess I’ll just have to find an accountant who knows how to ride a mule the next time I do this.

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
Search Senator Page For:
Topics
Archives
Committee Assignments
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
Find Your Senator
>