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Senator Tom Brewer
The Nebraska Legislature is shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. We are “in recess at the call of the speaker.” We have seventeen legislative days remaining in this 60-day session that we must complete. Our state constitution specifies when the legislature will start work — the first Monday after the first Wednesday in January — but it is silent on where the legislative days fall after that. We will reconvene and finish the session, but no one knows when. The situation is changing rapidly. I would like to think it will be sooner rather than later.
Most senators’ physical offices are closed, with all their employees working from home. A handful of us have kept our physical offices in the Capitol open, with some staff on-location and the others working from home on a rotating basis.
As I type this, Congress just passed the largest bill (in terms of money) in the history of the country, and they moved the bill on a “voice vote” so no one can ever know where individual members stood on the $2 trillion piece of legislation. This troubles me. There is also a load of pork-spending in the bill that doesn’t have anything to do with the public health emergency. I realize it is essential that we help the millions of Americans hurt by this virus. Elected officials often have to “hold their nose and vote.” But at what point does our country’s massive national debt become an emergency?
The good news is financial assistance will now begin to flow to those in need. Individual taxpayers should receive direct deposits or checks from the federal government in the next several weeks. Adults who made less than $75,000 and couples making less than $150,000 will get paid $1,200 per person. There are a lot of different loans and grants for business in the bill as well.
The President and his team are doing an outstanding job with this crisis. They are walking a tightrope with a global plague on one side and a global economic depression on the other, and they are doing it right before an election. We’re finding out the virus is not as lethal as was first feared. All of the “mitigation” in government advisories — social distancing, closing down business, etc. — appears to be working very well.
American medical science, in partnership with scientists around the world, is producing new life-saving drug therapies and treatments almost daily. I think all of these efforts have dramatically flattened the curve. I am optimistic that Nebraska will continue to be successful in preventing this disease from overwhelming our healthcare system — a system which is the envy of the country by the way. I am hopeful that Nebraska will be one of the first states to be “open for business” again and to return to normal. The sooner we can do that, the better.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at email@example.com, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.
Senator Tom Brewer
LB 110 is a bill that would make medical marijuana legal in Nebraska. It was introduced on the 10th of January. It is a senator priority bill that was referenced to the Judiciary Committee. I believe this committee will promptly vote this bill out, and we will soon debate it on the floor.
I oppose this bill and will vote against it.
As with most bills there is a long list of pros and cons; supporters and opponents. There are numerous worthy arguments in opposition to this bill, but today I just want to write about one troubling aspect of it – Second Amendment Rights.
I encourage readers to find a copy of the ATF Form 4473. This is the form a person must complete in order to purchase a firearm. Beginning with block 11, there are 13 questions that a person must answer. If the answer is “yes” to anyone of them, you are considered a “prohibited person” by federal law, and you may not possess a firearm. If you lie and provide a false answer, this is a federal felony punishable by a large fine and a prison sentence. Block 11e reads as follows:
“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? WARNING: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medical or recreational purposes in the State where you reside.”
LB 110 contains a provision that creates a “registry” of persons who have been given a “prescription” to purchase medical marijuana. Consider for a moment your name being in this registry. You are now a documented marijuana user whose name is in a government-controlled database. Now consider the fact you own guns and perhaps may like to purchase another gun someday. There is now a record (also called clear evidence) of you being a “prohibited person” who cannot legally possess guns. If you buy another gun and lie on Block 11e, you’re in even more trouble. Either way, your medical marijuana prescription makes you a federal felon if you attempt to possess or purchase a firearm. Even if you’re not charged with a crime, there may even be circumstances where law enforcement could use the fact you are a documented marijuana user to confiscate your guns.
Among other things, the effect of this law is to incentivize the marijuana black market as many people, especially those people who own guns, will not want their name in this registry. Instead of “bringing marijuana out of the shadows” as supporters like to say, this law provides incentive for a whole new black-market of people who would still have good reason to avoid the “legal” medical marijuana dispensary.
People need to read the bill and decide for themselves if getting stoned is really worth losing their Second Amendment rights.
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 #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.
Senator Tom Brewer
On Friday, October 4th, my staff attended a legislative summit hosted by the Omaha-based Platte Institute. The theme of this event was “Imagine the Possibilities.” The Platte Institute supports free markets, lower taxes, and lower government spending, and they do a good job of advocating for these values. Since those are values I share, I am always glad to see Platte Institute folks walking the hallways at the Capitol.
There were a couple of major themes discussed at the Platte event, but they all centered around getting big government out of the way in Nebraska. Two Nebraskans received the “Connie Brown Freedom Award.” Dawn Hatcher of Columbus and Karen Hough of Arnold played a key role in legalizing equine massage, something that Sen. Mike Groene got done in 2018. These two business owners found something they were good at and that their neighbors wanted. Unfortunately, the government was in the way. I join the Platte Institute in cheering on these efforts to make Nebraska better — not just for horses, but for small-business owners who know all too well just how much red tape there is in between a good idea and a paycheck.
Cutting government red tape was also the topic of discussion for a panel that included my friend Sen. John Lowe from Kearney. Sen. Lowe talked about the mountains of bureaucratic regulations on the books here in Nebraska. We have two interim studies from Sen. Lowe scheduled for hearings in the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee for Friday, October 25th. One will focus on rolling back harmful overregulation. The other will discuss some ideas for making state agencies stretch every public dollar.
My committee legal counsel, Dick Clark, was a speaker on another panel, which discussed a good law passed in 2018 that requires the Legislature to review, reform, or even eliminate occupational licenses and other regulations that make it harder for people to work. Dick did hundreds of hours of research needed to get this new law operational. With Nebraska requiring state licenses for over 150 jobs, reviewing these licenses — some over 120 years old — is long overdue. If there is a bad law keeping people from doing productive work, my fellow senators need to know about it.
The single most important discussion of the day was on property taxes. Sen. Mike Groene and Sen. Lou Anne Linehan were the two lawmakers who participated in that conversation. The Platte Institute passed out information on sales and property taxes. Their property tax handout said more or less what I have been saying since the end of session, that the Legislature’s mission in 2020 has to be to “develop a 33-vote consensus on major property tax reform or face a possible constitutional amendment ballot initiative…” Senators who ignore that warning are going to be faced with some unpleasant choices after next November. I continue to hope that we can get them to do the work to make property tax relief more than a campaign slogan. If we cannot, voters will take matters into their own hands.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at email@example.com, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.
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