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

02-02-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
02-02-2018

This week I introduced my priority bill, LB 1054. It’s a bill that addresses wind energy in Nebraska. It’s been a long, hard road coming to this place. In the past 13 months, since I was sworn-in a Nebraska State Senator, I have been fighting to get a bill passed that addresses this issue. Second only to high property taxes, there is nothing more important to the people of the 43rd Legislative District than wind energy. Speaking of, the people of the district have answered the call and endured the drive to Lincoln. On three separate occasions – some of them driving over 8 hours one way – they have come to fill the hearing room and testify before the Natural Resources Committee. Patiently waiting their turn, they have sat for hours on end. They have passionately and often emotionally recounted the long list of harm brought about by industrial wind energy. Those who couldn’t make the trip have written dozens of letters in support. I am humbled by the people of the district. I cannot put into words my profound respect for them. It is an honor it is to represent such an exceptional group of Nebraskans.

The committee now has to meet in executive session to vote my bill out to general file.

This story starts two years ago when LB 824 passed in 2016. This bill was sponsored by some Senators who are still in the legislature. Former Senator Ken Schilz was the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee in 2016. He made LB 824 a committee priority bill and led the effort that got this bill passed. He is now a lobbyist for wind energy. This bill took away the people’s voice in wind energy projects. They oppose my bill and will definitely lead a filibuster against it because my bill reverses what LB 824 did for big wind. The battle for LB 1054 is really just beginning. I welcome the chance to debate LB 1054 on the floor, but make no mistake. We will need 33 votes to break the filibuster. The hundreds of millions of dollars they make off the backs of tax-payers is why wind energy companies trample the rights of their neighbors in the first place, and they will fight hard to protect their special status. The spectacularly wealthy big wind lobbyists will fill the rotunda that day, and their patron Senators in the legislature will vigorously argue against my bill. In the weeks to come, I’ll use this weekly update to call for your support, and I’ll need it.

I welcome the chance to debate LB 1054 on the floor because this bill is about fairness. This bill is about giving citizens that are affected by industrial wind energy projects a voice that was taken away from them two years ago. The pro-wind energy bill that passed two years ago exempted wind energy from much of the Power Review Board (PRB) process. The PRB is a sub-division of Nebraska state government that regulates and has oversight over power generation, transmission and distribution in Nebraska. One of the steps in the PRB process is a public hearing on proposed projects. Members of the public “with standing” (lawyer-speak for; people who can legally prove they are affected by a project) have an opportunity to be HEARD before the board and have what they say MATTER to the board such that it must be considered when the board issues it’s ruling to approve or reject a proposed project.

Nebraska is the only State that is 100% “public power.” Public utilities in our State are subject to numerous layers of oversight and regulation that gives members of the public multiple opportunities to be heard. Add to this the fact the board members in charge of our public utilities are elected.

PRIVATE generators of electricity on the other hand, such as wind energy, managed to get themselves exempted from this sort of oversight two years ago when LB 824 passed. They are not elected. They took away the people’s right to be heard. My bill LB 1054 simply restores this right. It puts wind energy back into the only process Nebraska has; the Power Review Board. When they testified in opposition yesterday to this “burdensome, unnecessary regulation” I was forced to wonder; “How did they manage to build all the wind energy in Nebraska before 2016 when they had to go through the PRB process?”

Don’t be fooled. You’ll hear supporters of big wind say “local control” provides the people a voice. Ask yourself how that is possible when the wind energy business model is to first come into a county and sign-up as many elected officials as they can as investors / paid land-owners. How can a county board or a planning and zoning commission member be objective and unbiased and look out for the best interests of everyone if they have a conflict of interest? This exact set of circumstances is playing-out in counties all over Nebraska.

The people need to get their voice back. If an industrial wind energy project really is the good neighbor they claim to be, they should have no problem listening to the people around their project testify in a public hearing. What are they afraid of?

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.

01-26-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-26-2018

Sen. Erdman introduced his property tax bill (LB 829) this week. There was a big turn-out of supporters and opponents. The hearing lasted until 6:00pm in the evening. Sen. Erdman’s bill is very similar to the ballot initiative I expect the people to bring this fall. I think pigs will fly before this is voted out of the Revenue Committee and the legislature will pass LB 829, so I sure hope the people will get behind the ballot initiative.

I want to talk about an issue that affects property taxes: Natural Resource Districts.

Nebraska has 23 different Natural Resources Districts. Unlike most States that perform these functions along county lines, the boundaries of Nebraska’s NRD’s are built around river basins, which is a very smart way to do this. Our NRDs are organized under the Platte, Republican, Loup, Niobrara, Elkhorn, Nemaha, Blue and Missouri river basins. The law charges the NRDs with a lot of responsibility. They do erosion and flood prevention and control. Drainage improvement. Forestry and range management. Development of fish and wildlife habitat. Pollution control and solid waste disposal, management of recreational and park facilities, and soil conservation. Our NRDs do a good job at something very important to Nebraska.

The one mission of the NRDs I want to focus on today is their responsibility for the development, management, utilization, and conservation of groundwater and surface water in Nebraska.

State geologists determine how much ground water can be used / pumped in a given NRD’s area. Using 100% of this amount of water is called being “fully appropriated.” Exceeding this water use is called “over appropriated.” 10 of Nebraska’s 23 NRDs have a water problem. They are either fully or over-appropriated.

NRD’s can levy 4.5 cents of property tax (per $100 dollars of value). With a super-majority vote of the board (3/5) they can increase their levy by 1 cent to 5.5 cents. To help alleviate the water problem in the 10 NRDs, the legislature authorized those NRDs an additional 3 cents of levy authority. This happened back in 2004 and it has been re-authorized three more times. The 3 cent levy authority “sunsets” again this year. LB 98 was introduced last session to re-authorize the 3 cent levy again. In layman’s terms, this means if I vote against LB 98, the 3 cent levy will sunset (end) and the 10 effected NRDs will no longer have this additional taxing authority. Voting for LB 98 may increase your property taxes.

This bill will come up this session. Before I vote on it, I want to hear from you. Should we re-authorize this additional 3 cents in taxing authority for NRDs, or should it sunset?

As it turns out, the 2004 law doesn’t require the money collected from the additional 3 cent levy to be accounted for separately. All the tax revenue collected by an NRD goes into the same pot. 7 of the 10 districts with water problems actually used part of the extra 3 cents, and only two of those NRDs were already at their 5.5 cent maximum levy. Its hard to tell if they needed the extra money to implement projects. Should an NRD already be at it’s 5.5 cent maximum levy before they use the extra 3 cents?

In the last ten years, the total property valuations in the NRDs taxing jurisdiction have increased from $2.37 billion to $6.8 billion. That means the “value” the NRDs can apply their maximum levy authority of 5.5 cents to has increased 186%.

Like I said to start with, the NRDs have a big, important job to do, especially the full and over-appropriated districts. I realize this job costs money. I was elected to lower property taxes. Re-authorizing this 3 cents may result in increased property taxes.

On another issue, why does the NRD N-CORPE need to own 30 square miles of land just to pump water? This land should be sold. This is why I support Sen. Groene’s LB 1123. This bill would protect the water rights the NRDs that need to comply with Nebraska’s stream augmentation project. This would allow the land to return to private ownership and restore over $700,000 in property taxes being paid on that land to schools, counties and NRDs.

Once again, before I vote on LB 98 for the extra 3 cent levy for the NRDs, I need to hear from you.

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.

01-19-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-19-2018

It’s not often I get a chance to talk about something the government is doing right, so I was very excited to learn about the State Patrol’s on-line concealed carry renewal process.

If you go to this website: https://www.nebraska.gov/apps-nsp-chp/ you can renew your concealed carry permit on-line. The old process for renewing or replacing permits could be a time-intensive task which required permit holders to show up in person at one of the six Nebraska State Patrol branch offices around the State to renew their permit. This new online portal will be helpful to Nebraskans, especially those in the 43rd District who would have to travel long distances. No waiting in line and no appointments needed. Well done Nebraska State Patrol!

The 2nd Session of the 105th Legislature is moving right along. Being a “short-session” (60 legislative days) things are very compressed compared to last year. The 18th of January was the last day to drop new bills in the 105th legislature. All told, 1136 bills were introduced, 667 last session and 469 this session. Now I understand with much sharper clarity what Mark Twain meant when he said, “”No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” You look at a number like that and you have to wonder if we really need that many new laws. I think of this when I hear someone say, “There ought to be a law!”

What I’ve found is very few of those 1136 bills are actually new laws. There are 90 “chapters” of Nebraska laws (statutes). As it turns out, almost everything someone can think of is already in one of those chapters. The vast majority of the 1136 bills is changing something in a law that already exists, fixing language that doesn’t work, or updating old laws to keep up with technology. The creation of the internet causes a lot of bills, for example. In the end, very few bills actually create brand new laws that there wasn’t a statute for already. One thing is for sure; all of the easy bills were passed long before I got here. It is very difficult to get a bill turned into a law, and I am glad it is. Only a fraction of these 1136 bills will ever make it to the Governor’s desk.

LB 1054 is a bill I introduced this session that deals with Wind Energy. It is my priority bill. It will restore the practice of requiring wind energy companies to make application to the Power Review Board before wind energy projects can move forward. If it passes, this will be the first time people directly affected by a wind energy project will have a voice in the Power Review Board process. It will also make that voice matter in the boards’ decision-making. The hearing will be in the Natural Resource Committee in early February. I hope we can fill the hearing room with interested parties. More to follow.

I really like Sen. Erdman’s Property Tax Bill, LB 829. I co-sponsored this bill and worked very closely with him on this bill all summer. The hearing will be in the Revenue Committee this coming Thursday on the 25th of January. I strongly encourage folks to follow it because it is very similar to the people’s ballot initiative. It will lower property taxes in Nebraska by about 30%. People who wish to send a letter to the committee to be included in the record for the hearing must do so by 5:00pm the day before the hearing. If you can make it to the hearing that day, we would really appreciate the support.

I have heard from a great many of you about the incident last August at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. This is where a young student was accosted by a faculty member while she was promoting a conservative organization. I was involved with this issue from the beginning, and have worked closely with my friend Sen. Halloran from Hastings. He has introduced LB 718 which addresses the conduct of university faculty and staff. I have also co-sponsored this bill. It will be heard in the Education Committee on the 30th of January. As with Sen. Erdman’s bill, I am certain he would also appreciate your support.

You can find more information on all of the bills on the legislature’s website: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/. You can sign up for the “Unicameral Update” to be mailed free of charge by calling 402-471-2788 or email at: uio@leg.ne.gov.

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.

01-12-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-12-2018

I have received a number of calls on Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) commonly known as “Electronic Log Books” for truck drivers. The bottom line is if you had to keep a pen and paper log book in the past, you most likely need an ELD gizmo on your truck to comply now. This law is going to make life difficult for some folks engaged in trucking for agriculture, namely livestock hauling. I don’t like it.

First of all this is a Federal law we’re dealing with. There’s nothing the State of Nebraska can do about it, but I did contact our congressional delegation for their input. Rep. Adrian Smith voted “for” an amendment in the House of Representatives that would have delayed the ELD law two years, but unfortunately this measure was defeated in the US House of Representatives.

The US Senate passed the ELD law. Senator Fischer and Senator Sasses’s offices both have voiced concerns about it and are monitoring it.

Sen. Fischer is providing feedback to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to ensure they understand how this affects agriculture. The FMCSA issued a 90 day exemption from ELDs for the transportation of agriculture commodities, which is in effect until March 18, 2018. You can find more information on the Federal Register website at this link:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/20/2017-27311/hours-of-service-electronic-logging-devices-limited-90-day-waiver-for-the-transportation-of

There is a period of time where the FMCSA is taking public comment on this new ELD law. I strongly encourage those effected by this law to submit a comment on their website here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FMCSA-2017-0360-0001

FMCSA also has an informational email address where people can ask questions: ELD@dot.gov

The Governor’s property tax bill (LB 947) was introduced by Sen. Smith last Wednesday. As you know Sen. Erdman has also introduced a property tax bill (LB 829) I know there may be others coming out next week.

People ask me, “Which one do you support?” I tell them, “All of them.” If it lowers property taxes, I’m voting for it.

Some will argue some aspect of this or that bill is “bad” and try to promote the idea we shouldn’t vote for it. The legislature is a political body, so no one should be surprised when this wrangling begins in the weeks ahead. The fights will all be about “how to pay for it.” Some will argue the measure in question doesn’t do enough, that additional funds from spending shifts or new revenue are needed to deliver real relief. Some will argue that every penny of Nebraska’s $4.5 billion dollar budget is utterly essential and not a dime of it could be shifted to help fund property tax relief. They will say “new revenue” (also known as raising your taxes) will be needed. Nebraska’s budget was $2 billion just ten years ago. Now it is $4.5 billion. That is a 125% increase in the size of the State’s budget. Surely we can save money somewhere.

It’s very likely that some of these property tax bills will not get voted out of committee. Those bills may have a chance to be debated on the floor of the Senators who introduced them use a procedure called a “pull motion.” They would need 25 votes on the floor to accomplish this. Though in the rules, this procedure is not used very often because it may cause hard feelings in the committee the bill is pulled out of.

Sen. Smith (introducer of the Governor’s property tax bill) said he saw “a narrow path” to passing his bill. I think this same rational applies to all of the different property tax measures. If we get to the end of the session and none of the different property tax bills have survived, I will do a pull motion for LB 576. This is my bill currently held in the Revenue Committee since last session. It would “cap” property taxes for four years. SOMETHING has to be passed this session. At the very least, the people shouldn’t be made to suffer further increases in property taxes while the legislature tries to find a solution to this difficult problem.

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.

01-05-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-05-2018

I read an article in a newspaper today. The author said there are two days in each legislative session where all 49 Senators are friends; the first day and the last day. Despite the huge issues facing us, I’ll hazard a guess that the familiarity we didn’t have last session may produce a little more civility this session.

There is no “majority” in Nebraska’s legislature, so civility is essential. The composition of the legislature makes everyone “reach across the aisle” to get anything done. Every measure that is sent to the Governor’s desk is a collaboration between factions be it conservatives and liberals, urban and rural, big cities or small towns. Hundreds and hundreds of bills are introduced across a two-year session, yet they all boil down to the same very simple math: 33 votes.

Two-thirds of the body is required to end a filibuster so we can vote on the bill question. (2/3 of 49 = 33) Otherwise a bill that makes it out of committee to General File will get three hours of debate and then it is done for the rest of the session unless the author can convince the speaker they have rounded up 33 votes. If so, the speaker “may” put it back on the calendar for continued debate. The “Cloture Vote” (the vote to end a filibuster) is therefore the most important vote there is. Pay particular attention to Senator’s who are “Present but not voting” on cloture votes. I think this practice should be outlawed for cloture votes. “Present but not voting” has its place and is a useful tool in other aspects of legislative procedure – but not a cloture vote.

Property Tax reduction has been my #1 priority since I was sworn in. I’m working closely with Sen. Erdman and his property tax bill, LB 829. This bill would provide about a 30% reduction in property taxes for Nebraskan’s. Even though agricultural land valuation has increased 162% in the last ten years, I’m still not very hopeful this bill will pass the legislature. This is why the people are doing an identical measure for a ballot initiative. Signature gathering for that effort will begin this month. I strongly encourage everyone to support this effort.

I’m working with Sen. Dan Hughes, Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee on an amendment, possibly a whole new bill, to address concerns with LB 504, my wind energy moratorium bill from last session. I want to get that bill or something similar voted out of committee. If all that comes together, this will be my priority bill for this session.

I’ve also introduced four other bills so far this session, with a couple more I am considering. The deadline to introduce bills is the 18th of January. LB 752 would prohibit a public utility company from using its right of eminent domain to condemn private property on the behalf of a private third-party. LB 753 would eliminate some unnecessary bureaucracy in the Military Department by changing the National Guard’s Tuition Assistance Program from a “reimbursement” system to a “waiver” system. LB 754 would offer a Nebraska Park Permit for half-price ($15) when you renew your automobile registration / tags. LB 755 would update a 1987 law that prohibits the operation of all-terrain-vehicles (4-wheelers) on city streets after sundown. Fixing this would allow cities and towns to change their ordinances to permit operation after sundown provided the vehicle was equipped with necessary lighting, etc. As it is, State Law hamstrings cities and towns from passing an ordinance to permit the operation of a vehicle that almost everybody in the 43rd District owns.

I’ve also got an amendment to LB 499 which was my bill to help protect Nebraska Bee Keepers. I am hopeful this will make it out of committee. LB 497 helps veterans by changing the law to allow for the automated use of important veteran documents. I’m still working to get that passed into law this session. As the Chairman of the State Tribal Relations Committee, I have one priority bill for that committee we are working on as well. The rest of my bills from last session remain held in committee, along with many hundreds of others.

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.

12-29-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-29-17

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Did you know that twenty-six States have constitutions that allow the people to do an “initiative” and or “referendum” process? Nebraska is one of fourteen States that have BOTH initiative (the people pass a law or constitutional amendment) and referendum (the people veto a law passed by the legislature) Nebraska has had this process in our constitution since 1912.

For a people’s ballot initiative to propose a law, signatures equaling 7% of the registered voters in the state are required. In addition, signatures must be collected from 5% of the registered
voters in 38 of the 93 Nebraska counties. Based on the number of registered voters in the last election, that number is 84,908 “verified” signatures have to be delivered to the Secretary of State by the 7th of July 2018 in order for “the people” to put a measure on the ballot to be decided by “the people” in the November 2018 election.

When the legislature repeatedly fails to act and a problem grows and grows, generation after generation, until it gets so bad it is nearly the very worst in the country, one that is actually hurting people, causing population to out-migrate from the State and businesses to avoid locating here – THE PEOPLE MUST ACT. Thank God we have a constitution that permits it. Twenty-four other States aren’t so lucky. We need to count our blessings and use the tools our constitution provides us.

Of course I am talking about Property Taxes, and the ballot initiative that will lower them by 30%. I’m told the petition will be circulating all across the State, and the signature gathering for this will start very soon. I’m not very hopeful this measure will pass in the legislature this session, so the ballot initiative process is really the only hope.

I know many of you vote. You elect people. You expect them to be sworn into office and do their jobs keeping your best interests in mind. You’re busy and just don’t have the time to stay abreast of the issues and engage in the political process. After all, that’s why you took the time to go to the polls and elect people to do all that so you don’t have to. Ordinarily, I’d like to think this approach generally works. When it comes to lowering property taxes in Nebraska however, the history is crystal clear: Pigs will sprout wings and fly before the legislature will fix this problem.

If you are reading this, the responsibility to fix property taxes in Nebraska rests with you.

Constitutional republics are messy, complicated forms of government that require a lot of civic involvement. Nebraska’s Unicameral, more than any other State with bi-cameral governments, was designed to require even more civic involvement in the political process. George Norris called the people the “2nd House” of our State government.
I believe Property Tax relief will only happen if the 2nd House of the Nebraska Legislature makes it happen. I’ll be helping them. Will you?

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.

12-22-2017 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-22-17

How do you define “success” when it comes to a government poverty program?

When less people need government assistance, I think that is success. As I’ve said before, the focus of government programs is on making poverty less miserable. The enthusiasm many politicians have toward expanding government poverty programs should, with equal vigor, be directed to policies that make poverty more escapable. Just as we have a collective duty to help those who cannot help themselves deal with the hardships of poverty, we should be working just as hard to permanently lift them out of it and end their dependence on government programs.

In a couple weeks we’ll be in the middle of a budget debate. We’re facing a nearly $200 million deficit because tax revenues did not come in as forecast. Much of the next session will be consumed by the argument over what to cut. The Department of Health and Human Services has a $1.5 billion budget. Much of this is devoted to poverty programs. Just about 35 cents of every tax dollar we appropriate in spending goes to this agency. It doesn’t take an advanced math degree to realize that if you are consuming 35% of the budget, your agency will very likely face serious scrutiny when cuts have to be made. Its times like these I wish we could have been measuring success in poverty programs by how many Nebraskans no longer needed them.

I read a big poverty study done by the Brookings Institute recently. In a nutshell it said if a young person did three things, not only would they avoid poverty, they would end up in the middle class.

1. Graduate high school.
2. Get a job.
3. Don’t have children until you’re married and have completed 1 & 2.

I asked myself, what can government do to provide incentives for people to accomplish these three things? What are we doing right now? Are we doing the right things? Are we doing the right things well?

According to the Omaha World Herald, the state-wide high school graduation rate in Nebraska is 89%. That puts us 5th highest in the country. The national average 82%. Among minorities however, Nebraska’s high school graduation rate falls to 79%. What leads 11% of our young people to the terrible mistake of not graduating high school? What programs are the taxpayers of Nebraska paying for right now that incentivizes a young person to graduate from high school? What is the performance of this program? Has it moved the needle? Are things improving because of it?

When I looked at the “get a job” metric, I found some troubling information. According to US News and World Report, Nebraska has the worst state economy in the country. At the same time, our unemployment rate is at a historic low of 2.8 percent and the number people employed is at an all-time high. Statistically speaking, we have just enough jobs to employ every person willing and able to work. Nebraska’s Labor Participation Rate is one of the best in the country at around 70%. These employment numbers also mean that even if everyone living in poverty and depending on government assistance wanted to, it is increasingly difficult for them to move from government assistance to work. Young, unskilled Nebraskan’s living in poverty have it the worst. What can we do to attract more business to Nebraska so more jobs will be available? Do Nebraska’s high tax policies help this? What effect does raising the minimum wage have on creating new jobs for young, unskilled workers just entering the workforce? What effect does illegal immigration have on young, unskilled workers finding work?

I’ll spend more time with this subject latter in the session. One thing is clear; since the early 1960s when President Johnson started the “War on Poverty” our country has poured over $20 trillion dollars into a host of poverty programs. The poverty rate in 1966 was 14.7%. Today the national poverty rate is 13.5 percent. If simply giving people money through more government spending and bureaucracy actually helped lift people out poverty, then we would have won the war on poverty a long time ago.

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.

12-15-2017 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-15-17

As many readers of this weekly update know, I’ve spoken about the property tax crisis in Nebraska many times. Lively debate on the subject continues in op-ed pages of newspapers across the state and social media sites. As we approach the second session of the 105th legislature, this debate will intensify. Two camps seem to be forming; those in favor of the “50/50” property tax idea, and those opposed. I am in favor of the 50/50 idea.

I’ll not recite the list of depressing statistics again. Suffice to say property taxes aren’t just too high in Nebraska. They have reached the point of being immoral. They are hurting people every day. It’s the only tax people and businesses cannot avoid. We’re 5th highest in the country and are getting worse.

If you want to reduce property taxes, there are only two possible courses of action. The legislature can pay for it by raising sales or income taxes and/or shifting existing spending from Peter to pay Paul, like ending a program and using the savings, etc. The other way is to make the Local Units of Governments (LUG) pay for it (like school districts, counties, natural resource districts, etc.) This is done by limiting how much a LUG can levy and/or limiting how much they can assess in property value. There are about six hundred and fifty LUGs in Nebraska that depend entirely on property taxes to function. The 50/50 idea requires the legislature to pay for it. One of the many reasons for this decision is the Nebraska constitution requires “…the legislature to provide for the free instruction in the common schools.”

It is important to remember at this point that government will not reform itself. It must be compelled to act.

The argument against the 50/50 property tax reform idea says its bad idea because no one can explain “how it will be paid for.” When you hear this argument – and you will – consider the flaw in reasoning going on here. By this rational, ANY idea which forces the legislature to appropriate money for something is therefore a bad idea. No idea which forces the legislature to appropriate money comes with a gift-wrapped “how to pay for it” explanation, and there is a good reason for this.

There are actually 49 different ways (Senator’s opinions) to pay for something. This is why we have a Revenue and an Appropriations Committee (and why we should explore creating a Ways and Means Committee like other States have). Figuring out the “how to” pay for something is why we have hearings in these Committees. This is why we have motions and amendments during the three different stages of debate for bills on the floor of the legislature. These are the ways “how to” pay for something are developed and created.

“What” must come before “how.” It’s important to remember that NONE of the aforementioned process will happen unless the legislature is forced to act. You cannot pass an appropriations bill (how) until the legislature first debates a bill to do something (what.) Why on Earth would you have an argument about how to pay for something, unless you first had something to pay for? Expecting the author of an idea to show up with the “how to pay for” accompanying the idea, and then condemning the idea when objections are raised about some aspect of the “how to” concept is a political dodging tactic that provides a great excuse for the legislature not to do anything and let the problem persist.

It’s no surprise we’re in the mess we’re in. This tactic has been used with the property tax problem for fifty years. Look where using that reasoning has got us. It has to stop. I urge readers to reject this tactic when they hear it. I hope my colleagues finally “do” something about the property tax problem and pass the 50/50 idea. I welcome the fight about how to pay for it. I say so what if we have to stay late and have food catered in for midnight sessions. So what if we face gridlock for weeks on end. I don’t care if we’re forced into a special session to solve this. The plain truth is, the people being made to suffer out-of-control property taxes in Nebraska are hurting far more than a handful of politicians being made to argue with one another.

I believe the people will put the 50/50 property tax idea on the ballot in November 2018. The legislature can face this reality in the second session of the 105th legislature in a few weeks. They can listen to the people, avoid the heartache created by a ballot initiative, and pass Sen. Erdman’s 50/50 bill during this session. The other option is to hide behind the flawed “there’s no way to pay for it” argument and wait for the political earthquake. When the people pass the ballot initiative, they can begin the first session of the 106th legislature in January 2019 with a $1.1B hole to fill. From what I’ve seen of this place so far, my money is on the latter.

I’m promised to talk about poverty this week, and then the story broke about the 50/50 plan, so I’ll talk about poverty next week. I want to talk about poverty because we have a moral duty to raise people out of poverty, plus we can dramatically shrink the size of State government if we reduce poverty in Nebraska. Instead of making it less miserable, I think we should focus on making it more escapable.

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.

12-01-2017 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-01-17

This week I’m going to give the subject of the University behaving poorly a rest. I’m sure in the weeks ahead that topic will generate more news all by itself. I’m not going to talk about Property Taxes this week either because my good friend and colleague Sen. Tom Briese wrote such a great op-ed in the Omaha World Herald on that topic this week. I hope you check that out. You can find it here:

http://www.omaha.com/opinion/tom-briese-it-s-time-the-legislature-delivers-property-tax/article_66e33d56-0717-5f66-b77f-468e6bd22ee6.html

This week I want to talk about something exceptionally rare; something that is good for State government and is also something good for the citizens AT THE SAME TIME.

A few weeks ago I mentioned how my constituents gave me great ideas for new bills. One of our constituents called the office not long ago and said,

“How come it costs a hundred bucks to go fishing in Nebraska?”

That got my attention so I looked into it. A resident fishing license is $29.50. A Park Permit is $30, and the Aquatic Habitat Stamp is $15. Now when you throw in some bait, a tank of fuel, some sandwiches and a cooler full of your favorite beverage, a person can easily spend over a $100 just to go fishing. That’s just nuts.

President Reagan said there was nothing quite so permanent as a Government program, so I know changing the math here is going to be tough. What’s more, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is a lot like many other agencies of State government – they don’t get a penny of money appropriated to them by the Legislature. Their entire budget is derived from licenses, permits and fees they sell. They are 100% self-funded and don’t cost the tax payers any sales or income tax revenue.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said the many States were great “laboratories of democracy” so it didn’t take long to find a good example of one of our neighbors reducing some of these costs. In 2012 Kansas implemented a program to sell park permits for half-price ($15) when a person renews their license plates for their vehicle. They are the same as Nebraska. They sell Park Permits for $30 over-the-counter at a number of different vendors. This idea gives a person the chance to get a small sticker on their license plate indicating they have a Park Permit valid for the same time period their license plates are valid.

My staff has talked to the Kansas version of Game and Parks and they said they dramatically increased the revenue derived from selling park permits at a 50% discount because it gave a much larger audience of people who wouldn’t ordinarily buy a park permit the chance to get one at half-off.

Citizens get a 50% discount on a Park Permit and the self-funded State Agency that survives on just the money it raises from licenses, permits and fees gets a boost in revenue. Talk about a win-win scenario! Now I know better than to make any predictions about the chances of this bill passing, but we have talked to our Game and Parks Department and they are excited about this idea and will likely come testify at the bill’s hearing in support of it. Stand by for news!

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.

11-22-2017 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

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.

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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