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Senator Tom Brewer
The 1st session of the 106th Legislature of Nebraska begins in a month. Our constitution says the Legislature only has to do two things: It has to meet on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January (the 9th of January this year), and it has to pass a balanced budget. The first day of session we elect the speaker and all the committee chairs and all 49 Senators are assigned to committees.
The “Committee on Committees” figures out committee assignments. For a supposedly non-partisan legislature, there sure is a lot of partisan politics involved in this process. It’s difficult but very important work because you live with these assignments for two years.
Some time ago I publicly announced my intention to run for the Chair of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. I am humbled by how much support I have received from my fellow senators so far. The election of committee chairs is the very first order of business on the first day of the session, so we will know by close of business on the 9th of January if I am elected.
I am trying to change my committee assignment from Banking, Commerce and Insurance to the Education Committee. How we pay for K-12 public schools is an important part of finding a solution to our property tax crisis. Nebraska is 49th in the nation in terms of how much money the legislature appropriates for school funding. Forty-eight other states spend more than we do and this has led to a severe over-reliance on property taxes to fund our schools.
Property Tax relief continues to be my top priority. I think we have a slim chance to come together and get something passed this session. To that end, I see three keys to success: (1) We need to elect a chairman of the Revenue Committee who will get property tax bills voted out of that committee. (2) We need to get a lot of bills voted out, and they need to be voted out early in the session. The more Senators with a bill on the floor, the more skin there will be in the game. The more Senators who can claim a little credit for property tax relief, the better. (3) Most importantly, the Speaker (Sen. Jim Scheer) needs to be re-elected and he needs to lead on this issue like he did last session. Unfortunately this wasn’t able to happen until very late in the session, but he was certainly very effective. His leadership early in the session is an essential component to success with this issue.
I do believe this session is going to be very hard. There is going to be a big fight over the budget that much is clear. However, the collective personality of this legislature is going to be completely different with the 13 new senators in the mix. New or old I know every senator in the body ran their campaign at least in part on solving the property tax crisis. Therefore I think it’s too early to be a pessimist. I think all 49 senators know in their heart we need to finally solve this problem. I hope we’re not too hard on each other and we have enough good will left over after the budget debate to get this done.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.