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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.
Sen. Tom Brewer
Every week I check two things at the same time; the cattle markets and the national weather service’s drought monitor. As my uncle Pat once said, “when cattle prices get higher, the sand hills get dryer.” Senator Halloran is from near Hastings. Many of his constituents are row-crop farmers. He told me, “you’ll finally get rain when it doesn’t make any difference.” Just when cattle prices look like they may improve, ranchers are forced to sell because they don’t have the grass to support their herd. Agriculture is Nebraska’s #1 industry and it is struggling. Having a serious drought on top of the highest inflation in over forty-years will be the one-two punch that bankrupts and destroys many family farms and ranches. I pray the rain comes and the hills green up soon. The flood three years ago seems like a long time ago.
I’ve been thinking about the last two years I have in the legislature. Myself and the rest of my class from 2017 are now “senior” senators. I want to continue to focus on the issues that I ran my first campaign on. We made some historic progress this session lowering our out-of-control property taxes that are killing our state, but more must be done. Even with the reductions we passed this year, Nebraska remains in the top ten worst property tax states. More than anything else, this is depopulating our state because fewer people can afford to live here.
We have to find a better way to pay for our K-12 public schools. The formula created in the 1990s we use to fund schools is broken. It picks winners and losers. Of our 244 school districts about 25% of them actually get money from the state. All the rest survive on just property taxes. Some of the districts in western Nebraska receive over 70% of their funding from just property taxes.
The climate change scam brought us wind turbines and public power boards that think fossil fuel is evil and is destroying the planet. In truth, black sunshine (coal) is clean, safe, reliable, and above all affordable. It doesn’t tear apart rural communities and it doesn’t leave counties holding the bag for the removal of obsolete wind turbines. Without coal-fired electricity in Nebraska, several large towns in the western part of the state would die. I believe the next administration will end the wasteful federal subsidy for wind energy and you won’t see another one built. In the meantime, we have to make sure the tons of industrial waste created by the “renewable” energy scam doesn’t end up buried somewhere in Nebraska.
I hope everyone is registered and participates in our coming elections. Nebraska’s primary election is May 10th. Every two years the people get a chance for their voice to be heard. The people’s only strength is in their number. High turn-out elections always favor the people who decided to show up. Please get out and vote!
My priority bill this session was LB 773. This would have passed a “constitutional carry” law in Nebraska. Law-abiding citizens would no longer have to apply for a permit and pay money to exercise a constitutionally-protected right to carry a concealed weapon. We would have become the twenty-sixth state to pass this law. Over 120 million Americans live under this law today including every state we share a border with except Colorado. It failed the cloture motion on a 31-6 vote. 33 votes were needed to end the filibuster. Six senators were present not voting. Three senators were excused.
Citizens can see the vote here:
I would like to thank my staff and the thousands of freedom-loving Nebraskans citizens who poured so much of their heart and soul into this effort. All the volunteers and the many gun rights groups are the reason we came within two votes of passing this. No bill like this one has ever made it this far in the unicameral. We knew it was going to be close and hoped to have the 33 votes to bring it over the finish line but that didn’t happen. I will re-introduce this legislation again next year. It will again be my priority bill. We have new group of senators coming in and hopefully we can get this done.
LB 773 was a bill about people, not guns. And it’s not just about any people. It’s about law-abiding people. LB 773 had nothing to do with criminals, or those citizens who have made serious mistakes in their life and lost their gun rights. “Prohibited persons” cannot lawfully own or possess a firearm. This bill has nothing to do with these issues. We already have stacks of laws that carry severe penalties for people who do unlawful things with guns.
The bill was about the constitutionally-protected rights of law-abiding citizens. It said that if you are a law-abiding citizen you do not have to ask permission from the government and pay money in order to use your constitutionally-protected Second Amendment rights. I would like the reader to stop and think of any other constitutionally-protected right you have to ask permission from the government to use. Did I need a First Amendment permit to write this newspaper article?
The Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution and Article One of the Nebraska Constitution both say this right shall not be infringed. I took an oath to protect and defend this right. and will continue to do so.
LB 873 passed and was sent to the Governor this week. As far as tax relief in Nebraska goes, this is the biggest tax cut I have seen since I first came to the legislature in 2017. LB 873 passed because the senators in the revenue committee reached a compromise. There are a lot of different pieces to this bill from Senators Linehan, Friesen, Briese and Lindstrom.
The bill cuts the top income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.84%. It also cuts the corporate income tax rate from 7.81% to 5.84%. Both of these cuts will be phased-in over five years. Nebraska has the highest income and corporate taxes of any state in the central time zone.
This legislation phases out income taxes on Social Security payments by 2025. Nebraska is one of only a handful of states that collect income taxes on social security checks.
For citizens who pay property taxes, please make sure you claim your refundable income tax credit on your 2021 tax return this month. Last year LB 1107 created this credit to pay for 25% of the property taxes citizens pay to schools.
Visit: https://ndr-1107parcel.ne.gov/parcellookup/search.xhtml and look up your place and see how much you qualify for. Senators are being told there is unclaimed money in this fund because it is new and citizens don’t know about it. Please contact your County Assessor for more details.
LB 873 creates another new refundable income tax credit for that portion of property taxes paid to community colleges. This is a credit you’ll have to claim starting next year on your state income taxes. After that, the credit fund can increase no more than 5% each year. The bill also has a provision which fixes a glitch in the property tax reductions that were in last year’s LB 1107. That income tax credit fund was going to drop $200 million in 2024. LB 873 restores that money to the property tax credit relief fund.
In other tax news, LR 264 CA is Senator Erdman’s proposed constitutional amendment to replace income, sales and property taxes in Nebraska with a single consumption tax. It received seventeen votes during General File debate. It needed 25 to advance. I’m confident he will re-introduce it next session. I strongly support this proposal and firmly believe that if this question is ever put on the ballot for the people to decide, it will pass by a sizable majority.
I am not surprised this is difficult to pass. This is a transformational idea. This will take a people’s campaign across the entire state, much like George Norris did for the unicameral idea in 1934.
I think the best thing about the consumption tax idea is transparency and fairness.
Right now labor is heavily taxed relative to capital, but that isn’t saying the way we tax capital is great either. Taxes should be laid bare, nothing hidden or obscured. No more legislative levers to pull or knobs to dial in the existing tax code. It takes away a special interest’s ability to reward friends and pick winners and losers by lobbying a senator to run a bill through the legislature, hence the huge opposition from virtually every lobbyist in Nebraska.
Today we completed day fifty-two of our sixty day session. With time growing shorter, so are tempers. I do not think I have ever seen this many filibusters used in a session. Because of all the time spent doing this, quite a few bills will never get a chance to be placed on the agenda and heard. Senators are upset by this and I don’t blame them.
Every session I have been here I have watched scores of good bills to lower property taxes die. By “lowering property taxes” I do not mean some accounting trick a politician can claim is property tax relief. I mean actual relief where next year your property tax bill will be lower than it was this year. I have watched a number of bills die this session for want of just a few votes to end a filibuster.
I am happy to report that a grand compromise might have been reached. LB 853 is a priority bill from Senator Curt Friesen. Language from a number of different bills has been amended into it. Senator Linehan’s bill to lower income and corporate taxes is in it. Senator Lindstrom’s bill to eliminate income tax on social security is included. Provisions from Senator Briese’s property tax reduction bill is in it. Also, Senator Clements has passed LB 310 which will phase-out Nebraska’s inheritance tax. All and all, almost $1 billion in property, income, and corporate tax reductions are in the bill. If this passes, it will be the most tax relief I have ever seen in the six years I have served in the legislature.
In other news, our federal congress has introduced a bill to require the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative to reinstate mandatory country of original labeling (MCOOL) for beef raised and slaughtered in the USA. This is a great idea I strongly support. This bill joins a companion bill already introduced in the Senate, the American Beef Labeling Act of 2021, S. 2716.
Our U.S. Senator Deb Fischer announced the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act bill introduced in the senate. The bill would facilitate price discovery and address the lack of transparency in cattle markets. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined Fischer in announcing the compromise legislation.
Closer to home, LB 1014, one of the bills to spend the federal ARPA funding, includes $20 million to expand beef processing capacity, $10 million for small and medium processors through the Independent Processors Assistance Program, $4 million for water quality programming, $75 million for workforce housing grants, and $60 million to be divided equally among Nebraska’s six community college areas for capital or programs that support workforce development. Nebraska’s “rural” senators have done a good job making sure greater Nebraska was considered when sorting out how to spend this money.
As of this date, we are on day forty-seven of a sixty day session. We have thirteen legislative days left. Of the 593 bills introduced this session, there are 106 priority bills. If a priority bill is advanced by the committee, it is normally guaranteed to make it on the agenda. There has been a lot of filibustering going on this session, more than I have ever seen. This has wasted a great deal of time. For the first time in my six years in the Legislature there will be quite a few bills that will not make it to the agenda before we adjourn Sine Die. This will hurt bills on both ends of the political spectrum. With no end in sight to the ongoing filibusters, the speaker has a very tough job trying to sort out the agenda.
I’m hoping my bill LB 777 will make it to the agenda in the time we have left. It would require the creation of an indexed video archive of all committee hearings and floor debate. Forty-six other states, and our federal congress, already do this. One of the very unique aspects of our unicameral system is every single bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature receives a public hearing. Nebraska is one of just a few state legislatures that do this.
George Norris, the father of our unicameral system, said; “To get good government and to retain it, it is necessary that a liberty-loving, educated, intelligent people should be ever watchful, to carefully guard and protect their rights and liberties.” I don’t think waiting four to six months for a copy of the written transcript is what Senator Norris had in mind.
It is really hard for the people to be “ever watchful” if you are at work all day and you don’t have a chance to watch the legislature in session. Senators have to leave their committee hearings to testify on bills they introduce in other committees. When they do this they miss everything that happened in their absence with no way to go back and watch the testimony. People in western Nebraska often cannot get the Nebraska Public Media (public television) channel because the local channels in their television package are from either Rapid City or Denver.
Shareable on-line video is everywhere today. Nebraska has had the technology to make these recordings available to the public for a very long time. When I introduced this bill I was stunned to learn nearly every state in the country already provides this service to the public. I can watch virtually anything I want on the internet – except our legislative sessions. Norris said, “Every act of the legislature and every act of each individual must be transacted in the spotlight of publicity.” It’s time to fulfill his promise to the people and pass LB 777.
We have completed all of our committee hearings and we’ve begun full-day debate on the floor. The speaker is focusing the agenda on priority bills from senators, committees and speaker priority bills. We are also working on consent calendar legislation. These are bills that had no opposition in their committee hearing, and were advanced out of committee on a unanimous vote. The process for these bills is accelerated and debate is limited.
We have begun debating the budget, including taxation and spending measures, and bills that appropriate federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Our rules require we take up the budget debate on the 40th day of the session. The budget bills need to be sent to the Governor by the 50th day. So far, two of the four budget bills have passed the first round of debates. Many senators have important questions about the priority of state spending projects, and they will continue the debate into the next round.
The Nebraska Legislature passes the biannual budget every odd-numbered year in a long session. During the short session in even numbered years like this year, the budget debate is ordinarily a minor affair. The main budget is passed using assumptions about revenue. In the short-session year, we typically adjust the budget to fit the revenue the state actually received versus the forecast that was used to build the budget. This year is very different. We have slightly more than $1 billion in extra federal dollars to appropriate and spend.
New fiscal projections would push the “Rainy Day Fund” (the state’s cash reserve) to a record $1.7 billion by the end of the two-year budget period. Senator Stinner, the appropriations committee chairman, has said that a $1.3 billion or $1.4 billion balance would give the state security against the next economic downturn.
The state forecasting board has boosted its projections of state tax collections for the current fiscal year to $5.725 billion, or $370 million more than its previous number. By law, that money will automatically go into the rainy day fund.
Next year, the board added $405 million to its estimate, bringing the total to $5.96 billion. That leaves $392.7 million more revenue available for the two-year budget cycle.
The forecasting board sets the revenue figures used by both the legislature and the governor in building the state’s budget. I’m glad they are projecting economic and revenue growth for Nebraska, but there is a lot of uncertainty in the world today.
The historic skyrocketing inflation we are now experiencing has been caused by historic levels of money-printing that the federal government has engaged in. Nearly eighty percent of all the US dollars in circulation today have been created out of thin air in the last two years. This concerns me very much. I think Nebraska should have a strong cash reserve. With all that’s going on in the world right now, I think having plenty in our savings account is a very good idea. We will be glad later if we save now.
March 11 we advanced my “constitutional carry” bill, LB 773, to the next round of debate. The opposition to the bill conducted an eight-hour filibuster. We needed thirty three votes for the cloture motion to be successful and we received exactly that. After the roll-call vote was tallied, three senators changed their vote to a “yes” for a total of thirty-six yes, nine no, three present not voting, one excused.
I cannot thank my fellow senators enough for their patience and support, and for standing with me through a robust eight-hour filibuster. I also want to say how humbled and honored I am for the overwhelming support I’ve received from thousands of Nebraskans whose advocacy and efforts to promote gun rights in Nebraska made this vote today possible. The help we received from the 2nd House was decisive.
At the end of the day, LB 773 is about rights. They are endowed by our creator and made unalienable and protected by our state and federal constitutions. Law abiding Nebraskans should not have to pay money and jump through government hoops to exercise a constitutionally-protected right they already have. Twenty-two other states have already passed this law, and Nebraska shares a border with five of them. Thankfully we had thirty-three senators willing to stand up for our gun rights, and trust our citizens to lawfully exercise them.
I believe this vote was a referendum on gun rights in Nebraska. The senators know the voters are watching. They know how much support this issue has with the public. Second amendment voters are some of the most politically active citizens there are.
Today was the first round of debate, and we still have two more rounds to go. Both of these could also be filibustered, so the fight on behalf of the people’s rights will continue. But today was a big victory because we’ve moved this bill much closer to the governor’s desk. The Governor supports LB 773 and is ready to sign it into law.
Coal-burning power plants are very important to Nebraska. Coal-fired power is the engine of our economy in Nebraska, powering industry and creating good paying jobs in our state. During extreme weather, coal has literally saved lives. Time and time again, coal-fired power plants have kept the lights on when other forms energy could not. I am very concerned about the plans public power organizations have to “de-carbonize” our electricity generation in Nebraska. We simply cannot ignore the fact that Nebraskans will continue to rely on coal. Wind and solar energy cannot replace coal.
The cost of electricity is greatly influenced by the cost of fuel. Coal is a low-cost fuel that produces low-cost electricity, which acts as a stimulus to the economy, providing more disposable income to consumers and creating a competitive edge for U.S. manufacturers. The average price of electricity in the US is a fraction of what it is elsewhere in the world. We are very fortunate to have affordable electricity and we need to protect the power plants that deliver it.
LB 1058 is a bill I introduced to help incentivize our public power organizations to keep our base-load power plants (coal burning) up and running. Public power in Nebraska is bound by the law to deliver reliable and affordable electricity to Nebraskans. Coal passes this reliability test with flying colors. It is abundant. It is widely available. It is a stable and secure source of supply. It is inexpensive and price-stable. It is versatile. Coal is reliable energy.
The cities of North Platte and Alliance are railroad towns. Imagine what would happen to these communities if the coal trains serving Nebraska’s coal power plants ever stopped rolling. Covering the state in wind turbines and solar panels wouldn’t come close to replacing the economic impact that would be lost in Western Nebraska.
LB 788 is my bill to ensure funding is available in the Rural Projects Act to help expand industrial access to rail service in western Nebraska. The act was created last year and quickly ran out of money as communities applied for grant funding. LB 788 will top-up this fund with $50 million dollars that is needed for grant applications to build new and expanded rail parks in our railroad communities. I’m hopeful the appropriations committee will share my view on this important bill. The budget debate will begin in the legislature in a few days.
LB 906 is a bill introduced by Senator Ben Hansen. It was presented to the Governor today for his signature. It passed on a vote of thirty-seven yes, five no, five present not voting and two senators excused. LB 906 requires the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to develop a vaccine exemption form for Nebraska citizens who are employees of a private company. The new law allows employees to claim an exemption based on his or her strong moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs or convictions. If the employer requires employees to be vaccinated, the employer must also allow for an employee to receive an exemption to vaccination. The employer may also require the employee to be periodically tested and wear or use personal protective equipment, at the employers expense.
This is the Nebraska answer to what is a much larger national debate about the President’s wrong-headed vaccine mandates. This federal one-size-fits-all approach has taken a sledgehammer to the liberty of Nebraskans to make an intensely personal decision according to their own convictions. I am very glad Senator Hansen got this bill passed. A lot of Nebraskans can now breathe a little easier knowing their individual liberty has been defended. And for those who need one, an exemption to mandatory vaccination is now possible in Nebraska.
In 2021, LB 40 was passed to create the Rural Projects Act. The idea was to make sure rural Nebraska was not left behind during the appropriations process. Last month, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) began accepting applications for grant funding under this act. The act was very popular. Numerous applications were received. The act very quickly ran out of money.
LB 788 is my appropriations bill to provide $50 million to re-fund the Rural Projects Act. Among a number of other projects, a new rail access park can be built in the North Platte area. I’ve been working with Senator Stinner and the Appropriations Committee, and I am confident the necessary funding will find its way into the mid-biennium budget. The budget debate will begin very soon. We are now passed the halfway point in our short, sixty-day session.
LB 777 is a bill I introduced this session. The purpose of the bill is to create a video archive of all legislative sessions and all hearings in the various committees. Forty-six states currently have a form of this capability for their citizens. I think it is high time for Nebraska to join this list.
Our one-of-a-kind Unicameral was built on the principle of maximum transparency for the public. This was the major selling point Sen. Norris repeated over and over on his campaign around the state. The unicameral was to be so transparent that the citizens of Nebraska could act as “the second house.” Nebraskans have so much respect for this philosophy we name schools and power districts and even our legislative chamber after this man.
Sen. Norris could have never imagined the information environment we live in today, but we do know how he would have felt about it. The briefest reading of Nebraska history tells us the invention of the internet and the explosion of new communications technology that has resulted, would have been embraced by Norris. “Every act of the legislature and every act of each individual must be transacted in the spotlight of publicity.” George Norris said.
This task is not as easy as one would first think. It is not just as simple as building a webpage. An archive of video files has to be curated and indexed. Closed-captioning capability must also be developed. Clear language in my bill informs users that the written transcript of the legislature remains the “official” record. The Legislature will have to coordinate with Nebraska Public Media. Software engineering, long-term large cloud storage, back-up capability and careful lawyering writing the law will all be needed. Accomplishing this task will take a joint, inter-agency effort.
I think people understand that there is a lot more information in a video than contained in a written transcript. Over 70% of human communication is non-verbal. Listening to someone speak if you are blind, or watching someone speak if you are deaf are both far richer experiences for folks with these disabilities. People can hear the emotion in a Senator’s voice, or see the expression on their face as they speak. The written transcript is no substitute for the context one gets from watching and listening. It is nonetheless very important to have the official record if someone attempts to manipulate the truth about what was actually said.
The LB 777 had an excellent hearing in front of the Executive Board of the Legislature, and it enjoys considerable support among the senators on that committee. I look forward to finishing the amendment on the bill and seeing this idea advance to the floor of the legislature this session. Like Norris, I want to make it easy and convenient for the “second house” (the public) to see what the first house is up to.