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I’ve been traveling the State a lot. I went to The Cattleman’s Association mid-year meeting and the 100th Anniversary of the Farm Bureau, which gave me a chance to meet a lot of folks from the district and discuss many issues effecting Western Nebraska like brand inspection and property taxes. I was interviewed by the Scottsbluff, Chadron and Ainsworth radio stations. I will attend my 40th High School reunion in Gordon this weekend. I had a great time with a number of players from the Husker football team teaching them teamwork, communications and long-range rifle shooting. I was so honored to have the chance to mentor this great group of young men.
This week the shooting in Washington, D.C. prompted an interview with the Lincoln paper where I said I thought security in our Capitol building was fine, but it would be a good idea for Senators and Staff to receive special training approved by the State Patrol – over and above a conceal carry class – so we could be armed at events we attend. All of this would be voluntary and done at personal expense. I’d hope no one would ever have to use this training and capability I suggested, but “hope” is a poor course of action in the world we live in today.
Had that baseball game in DC been just a bunch of ordinary members of congress without security details, there would have been a historic massacre take place. The many strict gun laws of Washington, D.C. obviously have no effect on criminals, nor will they ever. Gun Free Zones, like this baseball field, are just tragedies waiting to happen. Only a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun. Think about all of your constitutional rights for a moment and then ask yourself why the 2nd amendment is the only constitutional amendment people need to get permission from the government to exercise.
Quite a few folks have talked to me about their desire to do a ballot initiative to try and solve our State’s terrible property tax problem, so I’ve been learning about it this week.
In 1912, Nebraskans added language to the State Constitution which created the “initiative petition” and “referendum” process. Twenty-one states have some form of this, but we’re one of only fifteen states that have BOTH initiative and referendum rights for their citizens. In plain English, citizens can create laws, create constitutional amendments (called initiatives) and also “veto” laws (called referendums) like what recently happened with the Death Penalty.
Going all the way back to 1912, I found where the citizens of Nebraska have done this forty-nine times.
Signatures from ten percent of the registered voters in the last election (about 121,000 today) have to be collected to amend the constitution (for example), and five percent of the voters in at least thirty-eight of Nebraska’s ninety-three counties have to be included in that number.
County election officials have to verify all the petition signatures against voter registration records. All the signatures have to be turned in to the Secretary of State four months before the election.
Unfortunately, the legislature did not pass property tax legislation this past session, but our constitution makes the people of Nebraska the “second house” of State government. Citizens have the right to seek solutions to problems the legislature fails to address. I’m excited to see what the many groups working on property tax reform come up with. I am following this very closely. The devil will be in the details, but I would be honored to support a ballot initiative idea that delivers real property tax reform, as would many other senators I know who are also concerned about this.
It’s important to remember that it was a ballot initiative petition from the people in 1934 that gave Nebraska its unique one-house Unicameral State government, so the people of Nebraska are capable of doing some pretty big things when they set their mind to it.
If the calls and letters I’ve been getting about the property tax problem are a fair measure of the mood of the people, then I think Nebraskans are ready to do something big about property taxes in the next election. I hope they do.
I’ll close by touching on a subject I have mentioned many times in this column. The State Department of Revenue released a report last Thursday showing that tax receipts were down $9.3 million from what they forecast for the month of May. As I have said before, the rosy predictions about revenue growth used to build the budget were unrealistic. The Governor’s spending vetoes (which I supported) may not be enough if this downward trend in revenue continues.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 471-2628.