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“The Interim” has begun, (that time between when the legislature adjourns and when we’re back in session next January). I’m getting caught up on all kinds of appointments and chores you have to put off while the legislature is in session. While Senators are out for the summer, we are back to being “normal citizens” and run/work our private businesses, but we are still available to assist and serve the people in our districts, and I am happy to do so.
Close to the end of the session we passed a law (LB 127) that created the “Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee.” Along with the Chair of the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Laura Ebke) five other senators and I make up this committee. We will visit Nebraska’s ten different correctional institutions this summer in an on-going effort to study the various problems in Nebraska’s Correctional System. I have a lot of faith in Director Scott Frakes. He has an incredibly tough job to do, but there clearly have been some problems in the recent past that I think the legislature can help with. Maybe we can move past the finger-pointing and actually work on helping fix some things. I look forward to being part of the solution.
My staff are busy digging through thousands of emails and researching all kinds of ideas that came to me over the session from so many people across the district. We’re trying to follow up on so many calls, such as:
“I was pardoned by the Governor. How come my criminal conviction still shows up on my police background check?”
“Why in the **** do fishing licenses cost $43? When you add the $30 park permit, I’m out nearly $100 just to go fishing. What is going on!!”
“I need to sell 80 steer calves just to pay the property tax on my 16,000 acre ranch. Why is it so high?”
“Why does the State have to put in this gigantic traffic circle on the highway when they could just put up a traffic light?”
These issues and many more are important to me and my staff. We are here to help, and we appreciate all your patience while we work through these together.
I finally had a chance to catch my breath and reflect on some things. For example, I wonder how Texas does it. They have 25.5 million more people than Nebraska does, 1,300 miles of international border, nearly 400 miles of seacoast, no income tax and yet their legislature only meets once every two years for about four months. Would the good people of the State of Nebraska be better off if the legislature was only in session every other year?
I wonder how is it that ranchers in my district with land in both South Dakota and Nebraska tell me their property taxes on their SD ground have gone down, while their property taxes on their NE ground have gone up. What is South Dakota doing that we aren’t?
I wonder what is going to happen in 2021 when we re-district the State after the 2020 census. The population in the western end of the State will continue to shrink while it steadily grows in the Lincoln and Omaha area. Right now only six senators represent all the people living west of Kearney. Lincoln has nine senators today, for example. How will our one-house unicameral system serve Western Nebraskans then? Will Western Nebraska have more or less of a voice in the Legislature? The tyranny of simple math tells me Western Nebraska needs to get set for a disappointment.
I think of everything that has happened during this first session in the legislature as a State Senator, and the one thing that stands out the most is how surprised I was about something. I came to the Capitol thinking my State was a “conservative” State. Nebraska may well be a conservative State, but Nebraska’s Legislature most definitely is not. I came here thinking lower taxes, smaller government, and more freedom and liberty for our citizens were the principals almost everyone in Nebraska shared. Those will always be my principals, but I discovered putting together a simple majority of twenty-five like-minded Senators is something that is very hard to do in “conservative” Nebraska. Putting together thirty-three so we can end a filibuster and actually vote on something is even harder.
We all know the old yarn about how important it is to stay abreast of what your elected officials are doing (or not doing) in your name, and how “elections matter” but this last session really put those old lessons in sharp focus for me.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 471-2628.