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We worked on the “Bee Bill” this week. LB 499 was a bill I introduced last session that is now the subject of an “Interim Study” by the Agriculture Committee. Typically, those bills a committee selects to do an Interim Study on tend to easily pass out of that committee in the next session. If all the committee members vote for it (no dissenting votes) then there is a very good chance it can be one of the bills that are put on what’s known as the “Speakers Consent Calendar.” These are bills that are voted out of committee unanimously with no opposition testimony during the hearing. Normally these bills pass quickly without debate on the floor. Obviously, a package of different bills that everyone in the Legislature agrees on is a rare thing around here.
Over a third of the world’s food supply depends on a honey bee to pollinate the crops we eat. Suffice to say these tiny creatures are very important. In the past several years a number of different things have begun to threaten the honey bee and make things ever more difficult for the people who raise and keep them. LB 499 tries to make life a little easier on our Nebraska Bee Keepers. I am cautiously optimistic we can get a minor amendment to the bill done over the summer and get this bill passed early next session.
LB 121 is a bill I introduced last session that would make $50,000 in military retired pay exempt from Nebraska Income Tax. Like hundreds of other bills introduced last session it is “held in committee” because there aren’t enough senators (five) to vote it out of the Revenue Committee. Every single State we share a border with does a better job of this than Nebraska does. Wyoming and South Dakota don’t have an income tax at all, and the rest of the States attract retiring veterans by not taxing military retirement (KS and IA), or giving special reduced income tax treatment to military retirement. (CO and MO).
I’ve slowly been changing the minds of Senators on this committee. Hundreds of military retirees leave Offutt AFB in Nebraska each year (for example) and move to Iowa, only to return to work at Offutt as a contractor or Federal Government employee. The income tax from their post-retirement job is lost, as is the property and sales taxes they would pay. We have a dollar chasing a dime going on here. The meager loss of income tax from the military retired pay is more than off-set by all of the other taxation and economic activity Nebraska is losing by not attracting retiring vets to Nebraska.
Full disclosure – my Legislative Aide and I both are retired Army Colonels and we would personally benefit from this, but so would tens of thousands of Nebraskan’s living here now and the many we would attract to our State. We want military retirees in our communities. They are incredibly well qualified, highly educated and experienced professionals who are exactly the kind of people we want joining the Nebraska workforce. I have a hunch I can get this one voted out of committee early next session. It’s worth noting Nebraska is also one of only six States that tax Social Security benefits, which is another travesty for many of the same short-sighted reasons.
For all of you who are big 2nd Amendment Supporters, it’s worth mentioning that I introduced three different bills that dealt with gun rights last session. They all went before the Judiciary Committee. For those of you so inclined, you’ll see the membership of this committee is made up of Senators who just aren’t very anxious to take up any kind of gun legislation. All of these bills are “held in committee” and I would wager that is exactly where they will stay. January of 2019 the 106th legislature will be sworn in, and the composition of this committee will change, hopefully including Senators with a different view of the 2nd Amendment.
Speaking of things that go “bang” I hope everyone enjoyed the 4th of July. Next to Memorial Day, it’s my favorite holiday. I was asked to dedicate the new Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward and would strongly encourage everyone to visit this outstanding facility. The heart-felt patriotism of my fellow Nebraskans never ceases to humble and amaze me. Few observances remind me so much of what a great place Nebraska is to live, and how fortunate and honored I am to represent some of you in the 43rd District.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at email@example.com or call us at (402) 471-2628.