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I visited the Omaha Community Correctional Center and the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility (NCYF) in Omaha this week. I see the same issues everywhere we go in the Department of Corrections. I am anxious to see legislation introduced in the next session so we can start addressing these problems. Because of LB 605, a law passed in 2015, all of these problems have to be corrected by 2020 or the law requires the release of inmates to correct the overcrowding problems.
I spent Wednesday morning with the Aging Partners Program. They work with Senior Citizens and provide a range of services for older adults and their care-givers across the State. As our population ages and people live longer, access to these services becomes ever more important. This is particularly important in the 43rd District where services are not as available as they are in the more densely populated part of our State.
My staff attended a meeting of the local FairTax group at the Lincoln Independent Business Association which promotes the elimination of all forms of income tax (including the elimination of the IRS) and replaces it with a national consumption (sales) tax. Many of these same people are active in and help us with efforts to reform State and local tax issues.
The idea for reducing property taxes is being reviewed by a number of prominent Nebraska attorneys to ensure it will comply with constitutional requirements. The committee to launch the ballot petition initiative is being formed. I am hopeful the first signatures will be collected early next month. They will need to collect about 150,000 signatures state-wide. A certain percentage of signatures must come from a certain percentage of counties. The idea will reduce the property taxes paid in Nebraska by about $1.2B. Nebraskans should see about a 30% reduction in the property taxes they pay. I am very excited about this idea. If you would like to help, please contact my office. This effort will need all the help it can get.
I met with executives from NPPD concerning the R Line this week. The chairman of the Natural Resources Committee (Sen. Dan Hughes) and the State Ombudsman’s Officer also attended. I consider this meeting a “beginning” to the dialog I need to have with NPPD on this very divisive subject. I’ve received a number of documents from concerned citizens that clearly indicate the R Line is to be built, in whole or in part, to service future wind energy development in the Sandhills, which I strongly oppose. On the other hand, NPPD officials insisted in our meeting that providing connection to wind power in the Sandhills IS NOT the reason the R Line is urgently needed. The current routing of the line appears to be designed to service future wind energy projects, and takes it through the most environmentally fragile area of our State. This has the potential to cause harm to the land that may take generations to heal, not to mention the impact on property values and on tourism.
At this late stage of the project, changing the route will be very difficult. It’s my hope this option is not off the table, but I am not optimistic it is very likely. NPPD is a unique sub-division of State government with a popularly-elected board of directors serving as the only oversight that governs NPPD operations. Since the NPPD board has already approved the R Line project, there is little citizen recourse to the board’s decision. There is no other agency of State government that someone could appeal the decisions made by the NPPD board of directors that I am aware of.
I’m not against infrastructure projects. They are important to the future growth and prosperity of our State and provide much needed benefits to our citizens. That said, such a project and the interests of a public utility must be balanced with that of the citizens affected by the project.
Right now, I don’t see this balance. Other routes for the power line are available. I realize a number of public meetings and comment periods have been held. Nonetheless, considering the significant public opposition to this project, I believe all parties concerned would welcome additional public hearings to answer questions and clear the air. Both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NPPD have agree to extend the public comment period for this project and are waiting for this extension to be made official. I’m still waiting to receive word on any scheduled hearings. I’ll continue my dialog with the committee chairman, citizens and NPPD to try and find a solution that better balances the interests of everyone concerned.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at email@example.com or call us at (402) 471-2628.