NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Tom Brewer

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov

01-12-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-12-2018

I have received a number of calls on Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) commonly known as “Electronic Log Books” for truck drivers. The bottom line is if you had to keep a pen and paper log book in the past, you most likely need an ELD gizmo on your truck to comply now. This law is going to make life difficult for some folks engaged in trucking for agriculture, namely livestock hauling. I don’t like it.

First of all this is a Federal law we’re dealing with. There’s nothing the State of Nebraska can do about it, but I did contact our congressional delegation for their input. Rep. Adrian Smith voted “for” an amendment in the House of Representatives that would have delayed the ELD law two years, but unfortunately this measure was defeated in the US House of Representatives.

The US Senate passed the ELD law. Senator Fischer and Senator Sasses’s offices both have voiced concerns about it and are monitoring it.

Sen. Fischer is providing feedback to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to ensure they understand how this affects agriculture. The FMCSA issued a 90 day exemption from ELDs for the transportation of agriculture commodities, which is in effect until March 18, 2018. You can find more information on the Federal Register website at this link:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/20/2017-27311/hours-of-service-electronic-logging-devices-limited-90-day-waiver-for-the-transportation-of

There is a period of time where the FMCSA is taking public comment on this new ELD law. I strongly encourage those effected by this law to submit a comment on their website here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FMCSA-2017-0360-0001

FMCSA also has an informational email address where people can ask questions: ELD@dot.gov

The Governor’s property tax bill (LB 947) was introduced by Sen. Smith last Wednesday. As you know Sen. Erdman has also introduced a property tax bill (LB 829) I know there may be others coming out next week.

People ask me, “Which one do you support?” I tell them, “All of them.” If it lowers property taxes, I’m voting for it.

Some will argue some aspect of this or that bill is “bad” and try to promote the idea we shouldn’t vote for it. The legislature is a political body, so no one should be surprised when this wrangling begins in the weeks ahead. The fights will all be about “how to pay for it.” Some will argue the measure in question doesn’t do enough, that additional funds from spending shifts or new revenue are needed to deliver real relief. Some will argue that every penny of Nebraska’s $4.5 billion dollar budget is utterly essential and not a dime of it could be shifted to help fund property tax relief. They will say “new revenue” (also known as raising your taxes) will be needed. Nebraska’s budget was $2 billion just ten years ago. Now it is $4.5 billion. That is a 125% increase in the size of the State’s budget. Surely we can save money somewhere.

It’s very likely that some of these property tax bills will not get voted out of committee. Those bills may have a chance to be debated on the floor of the Senators who introduced them use a procedure called a “pull motion.” They would need 25 votes on the floor to accomplish this. Though in the rules, this procedure is not used very often because it may cause hard feelings in the committee the bill is pulled out of.

Sen. Smith (introducer of the Governor’s property tax bill) said he saw “a narrow path” to passing his bill. I think this same rational applies to all of the different property tax measures. If we get to the end of the session and none of the different property tax bills have survived, I will do a pull motion for LB 576. This is my bill currently held in the Revenue Committee since last session. It would “cap” property taxes for four years. SOMETHING has to be passed this session. At the very least, the people shouldn’t be made to suffer further increases in property taxes while the legislature tries to find a solution to this difficult problem.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

01-05-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-05-2018

I read an article in a newspaper today. The author said there are two days in each legislative session where all 49 Senators are friends; the first day and the last day. Despite the huge issues facing us, I’ll hazard a guess that the familiarity we didn’t have last session may produce a little more civility this session.

There is no “majority” in Nebraska’s legislature, so civility is essential. The composition of the legislature makes everyone “reach across the aisle” to get anything done. Every measure that is sent to the Governor’s desk is a collaboration between factions be it conservatives and liberals, urban and rural, big cities or small towns. Hundreds and hundreds of bills are introduced across a two-year session, yet they all boil down to the same very simple math: 33 votes.

Two-thirds of the body is required to end a filibuster so we can vote on the bill question. (2/3 of 49 = 33) Otherwise a bill that makes it out of committee to General File will get three hours of debate and then it is done for the rest of the session unless the author can convince the speaker they have rounded up 33 votes. If so, the speaker “may” put it back on the calendar for continued debate. The “Cloture Vote” (the vote to end a filibuster) is therefore the most important vote there is. Pay particular attention to Senator’s who are “Present but not voting” on cloture votes. I think this practice should be outlawed for cloture votes. “Present but not voting” has its place and is a useful tool in other aspects of legislative procedure – but not a cloture vote.

Property Tax reduction has been my #1 priority since I was sworn in. I’m working closely with Sen. Erdman and his property tax bill, LB 829. This bill would provide about a 30% reduction in property taxes for Nebraskan’s. Even though agricultural land valuation has increased 162% in the last ten years, I’m still not very hopeful this bill will pass the legislature. This is why the people are doing an identical measure for a ballot initiative. Signature gathering for that effort will begin this month. I strongly encourage everyone to support this effort.

I’m working with Sen. Dan Hughes, Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee on an amendment, possibly a whole new bill, to address concerns with LB 504, my wind energy moratorium bill from last session. I want to get that bill or something similar voted out of committee. If all that comes together, this will be my priority bill for this session.

I’ve also introduced four other bills so far this session, with a couple more I am considering. The deadline to introduce bills is the 18th of January. LB 752 would prohibit a public utility company from using its right of eminent domain to condemn private property on the behalf of a private third-party. LB 753 would eliminate some unnecessary bureaucracy in the Military Department by changing the National Guard’s Tuition Assistance Program from a “reimbursement” system to a “waiver” system. LB 754 would offer a Nebraska Park Permit for half-price ($15) when you renew your automobile registration / tags. LB 755 would update a 1987 law that prohibits the operation of all-terrain-vehicles (4-wheelers) on city streets after sundown. Fixing this would allow cities and towns to change their ordinances to permit operation after sundown provided the vehicle was equipped with necessary lighting, etc. As it is, State Law hamstrings cities and towns from passing an ordinance to permit the operation of a vehicle that almost everybody in the 43rd District owns.

I’ve also got an amendment to LB 499 which was my bill to help protect Nebraska Bee Keepers. I am hopeful this will make it out of committee. LB 497 helps veterans by changing the law to allow for the automated use of important veteran documents. I’m still working to get that passed into law this session. As the Chairman of the State Tribal Relations Committee, I have one priority bill for that committee we are working on as well. The rest of my bills from last session remain held in committee, along with many hundreds of others.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

12-29-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-29-17

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Did you know that twenty-six States have constitutions that allow the people to do an “initiative” and or “referendum” process? Nebraska is one of fourteen States that have BOTH initiative (the people pass a law or constitutional amendment) and referendum (the people veto a law passed by the legislature) Nebraska has had this process in our constitution since 1912.

For a people’s ballot initiative to propose a law, signatures equaling 7% of the registered voters in the state are required. In addition, signatures must be collected from 5% of the registered
voters in 38 of the 93 Nebraska counties. Based on the number of registered voters in the last election, that number is 84,908 “verified” signatures have to be delivered to the Secretary of State by the 7th of July 2018 in order for “the people” to put a measure on the ballot to be decided by “the people” in the November 2018 election.

When the legislature repeatedly fails to act and a problem grows and grows, generation after generation, until it gets so bad it is nearly the very worst in the country, one that is actually hurting people, causing population to out-migrate from the State and businesses to avoid locating here – THE PEOPLE MUST ACT. Thank God we have a constitution that permits it. Twenty-four other States aren’t so lucky. We need to count our blessings and use the tools our constitution provides us.

Of course I am talking about Property Taxes, and the ballot initiative that will lower them by 30%. I’m told the petition will be circulating all across the State, and the signature gathering for this will start very soon. I’m not very hopeful this measure will pass in the legislature this session, so the ballot initiative process is really the only hope.

I know many of you vote. You elect people. You expect them to be sworn into office and do their jobs keeping your best interests in mind. You’re busy and just don’t have the time to stay abreast of the issues and engage in the political process. After all, that’s why you took the time to go to the polls and elect people to do all that so you don’t have to. Ordinarily, I’d like to think this approach generally works. When it comes to lowering property taxes in Nebraska however, the history is crystal clear: Pigs will sprout wings and fly before the legislature will fix this problem.

If you are reading this, the responsibility to fix property taxes in Nebraska rests with you.

Constitutional republics are messy, complicated forms of government that require a lot of civic involvement. Nebraska’s Unicameral, more than any other State with bi-cameral governments, was designed to require even more civic involvement in the political process. George Norris called the people the “2nd House” of our State government.
I believe Property Tax relief will only happen if the 2nd House of the Nebraska Legislature makes it happen. I’ll be helping them. Will you?

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

12-22-2017 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-22-17

How do you define “success” when it comes to a government poverty program?

When less people need government assistance, I think that is success. As I’ve said before, the focus of government programs is on making poverty less miserable. The enthusiasm many politicians have toward expanding government poverty programs should, with equal vigor, be directed to policies that make poverty more escapable. Just as we have a collective duty to help those who cannot help themselves deal with the hardships of poverty, we should be working just as hard to permanently lift them out of it and end their dependence on government programs.

In a couple weeks we’ll be in the middle of a budget debate. We’re facing a nearly $200 million deficit because tax revenues did not come in as forecast. Much of the next session will be consumed by the argument over what to cut. The Department of Health and Human Services has a $1.5 billion budget. Much of this is devoted to poverty programs. Just about 35 cents of every tax dollar we appropriate in spending goes to this agency. It doesn’t take an advanced math degree to realize that if you are consuming 35% of the budget, your agency will very likely face serious scrutiny when cuts have to be made. Its times like these I wish we could have been measuring success in poverty programs by how many Nebraskans no longer needed them.

I read a big poverty study done by the Brookings Institute recently. In a nutshell it said if a young person did three things, not only would they avoid poverty, they would end up in the middle class.

1. Graduate high school.
2. Get a job.
3. Don’t have children until you’re married and have completed 1 & 2.

I asked myself, what can government do to provide incentives for people to accomplish these three things? What are we doing right now? Are we doing the right things? Are we doing the right things well?

According to the Omaha World Herald, the state-wide high school graduation rate in Nebraska is 89%. That puts us 5th highest in the country. The national average 82%. Among minorities however, Nebraska’s high school graduation rate falls to 79%. What leads 11% of our young people to the terrible mistake of not graduating high school? What programs are the taxpayers of Nebraska paying for right now that incentivizes a young person to graduate from high school? What is the performance of this program? Has it moved the needle? Are things improving because of it?

When I looked at the “get a job” metric, I found some troubling information. According to US News and World Report, Nebraska has the worst state economy in the country. At the same time, our unemployment rate is at a historic low of 2.8 percent and the number people employed is at an all-time high. Statistically speaking, we have just enough jobs to employ every person willing and able to work. Nebraska’s Labor Participation Rate is one of the best in the country at around 70%. These employment numbers also mean that even if everyone living in poverty and depending on government assistance wanted to, it is increasingly difficult for them to move from government assistance to work. Young, unskilled Nebraskan’s living in poverty have it the worst. What can we do to attract more business to Nebraska so more jobs will be available? Do Nebraska’s high tax policies help this? What effect does raising the minimum wage have on creating new jobs for young, unskilled workers just entering the workforce? What effect does illegal immigration have on young, unskilled workers finding work?

I’ll spend more time with this subject latter in the session. One thing is clear; since the early 1960s when President Johnson started the “War on Poverty” our country has poured over $20 trillion dollars into a host of poverty programs. The poverty rate in 1966 was 14.7%. Today the national poverty rate is 13.5 percent. If simply giving people money through more government spending and bureaucracy actually helped lift people out poverty, then we would have won the war on poverty a long time ago.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

12-15-2017 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-15-17

As many readers of this weekly update know, I’ve spoken about the property tax crisis in Nebraska many times. Lively debate on the subject continues in op-ed pages of newspapers across the state and social media sites. As we approach the second session of the 105th legislature, this debate will intensify. Two camps seem to be forming; those in favor of the “50/50” property tax idea, and those opposed. I am in favor of the 50/50 idea.

I’ll not recite the list of depressing statistics again. Suffice to say property taxes aren’t just too high in Nebraska. They have reached the point of being immoral. They are hurting people every day. It’s the only tax people and businesses cannot avoid. We’re 5th highest in the country and are getting worse.

If you want to reduce property taxes, there are only two possible courses of action. The legislature can pay for it by raising sales or income taxes and/or shifting existing spending from Peter to pay Paul, like ending a program and using the savings, etc. The other way is to make the Local Units of Governments (LUG) pay for it (like school districts, counties, natural resource districts, etc.) This is done by limiting how much a LUG can levy and/or limiting how much they can assess in property value. There are about six hundred and fifty LUGs in Nebraska that depend entirely on property taxes to function. The 50/50 idea requires the legislature to pay for it. One of the many reasons for this decision is the Nebraska constitution requires “…the legislature to provide for the free instruction in the common schools.”

It is important to remember at this point that government will not reform itself. It must be compelled to act.

The argument against the 50/50 property tax reform idea says its bad idea because no one can explain “how it will be paid for.” When you hear this argument – and you will – consider the flaw in reasoning going on here. By this rational, ANY idea which forces the legislature to appropriate money for something is therefore a bad idea. No idea which forces the legislature to appropriate money comes with a gift-wrapped “how to pay for it” explanation, and there is a good reason for this.

There are actually 49 different ways (Senator’s opinions) to pay for something. This is why we have a Revenue and an Appropriations Committee (and why we should explore creating a Ways and Means Committee like other States have). Figuring out the “how to” pay for something is why we have hearings in these Committees. This is why we have motions and amendments during the three different stages of debate for bills on the floor of the legislature. These are the ways “how to” pay for something are developed and created.

“What” must come before “how.” It’s important to remember that NONE of the aforementioned process will happen unless the legislature is forced to act. You cannot pass an appropriations bill (how) until the legislature first debates a bill to do something (what.) Why on Earth would you have an argument about how to pay for something, unless you first had something to pay for? Expecting the author of an idea to show up with the “how to pay for” accompanying the idea, and then condemning the idea when objections are raised about some aspect of the “how to” concept is a political dodging tactic that provides a great excuse for the legislature not to do anything and let the problem persist.

It’s no surprise we’re in the mess we’re in. This tactic has been used with the property tax problem for fifty years. Look where using that reasoning has got us. It has to stop. I urge readers to reject this tactic when they hear it. I hope my colleagues finally “do” something about the property tax problem and pass the 50/50 idea. I welcome the fight about how to pay for it. I say so what if we have to stay late and have food catered in for midnight sessions. So what if we face gridlock for weeks on end. I don’t care if we’re forced into a special session to solve this. The plain truth is, the people being made to suffer out-of-control property taxes in Nebraska are hurting far more than a handful of politicians being made to argue with one another.

I believe the people will put the 50/50 property tax idea on the ballot in November 2018. The legislature can face this reality in the second session of the 105th legislature in a few weeks. They can listen to the people, avoid the heartache created by a ballot initiative, and pass Sen. Erdman’s 50/50 bill during this session. The other option is to hide behind the flawed “there’s no way to pay for it” argument and wait for the political earthquake. When the people pass the ballot initiative, they can begin the first session of the 106th legislature in January 2019 with a $1.1B hole to fill. From what I’ve seen of this place so far, my money is on the latter.

I’m promised to talk about poverty this week, and then the story broke about the 50/50 plan, so I’ll talk about poverty next week. I want to talk about poverty because we have a moral duty to raise people out of poverty, plus we can dramatically shrink the size of State government if we reduce poverty in Nebraska. Instead of making it less miserable, I think we should focus on making it more escapable.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

12-01-2017 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
12-01-17

This week I’m going to give the subject of the University behaving poorly a rest. I’m sure in the weeks ahead that topic will generate more news all by itself. I’m not going to talk about Property Taxes this week either because my good friend and colleague Sen. Tom Briese wrote such a great op-ed in the Omaha World Herald on that topic this week. I hope you check that out. You can find it here:

http://www.omaha.com/opinion/tom-briese-it-s-time-the-legislature-delivers-property-tax/article_66e33d56-0717-5f66-b77f-468e6bd22ee6.html

This week I want to talk about something exceptionally rare; something that is good for State government and is also something good for the citizens AT THE SAME TIME.

A few weeks ago I mentioned how my constituents gave me great ideas for new bills. One of our constituents called the office not long ago and said,

“How come it costs a hundred bucks to go fishing in Nebraska?”

That got my attention so I looked into it. A resident fishing license is $29.50. A Park Permit is $30, and the Aquatic Habitat Stamp is $15. Now when you throw in some bait, a tank of fuel, some sandwiches and a cooler full of your favorite beverage, a person can easily spend over a $100 just to go fishing. That’s just nuts.

President Reagan said there was nothing quite so permanent as a Government program, so I know changing the math here is going to be tough. What’s more, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is a lot like many other agencies of State government – they don’t get a penny of money appropriated to them by the Legislature. Their entire budget is derived from licenses, permits and fees they sell. They are 100% self-funded and don’t cost the tax payers any sales or income tax revenue.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said the many States were great “laboratories of democracy” so it didn’t take long to find a good example of one of our neighbors reducing some of these costs. In 2012 Kansas implemented a program to sell park permits for half-price ($15) when a person renews their license plates for their vehicle. They are the same as Nebraska. They sell Park Permits for $30 over-the-counter at a number of different vendors. This idea gives a person the chance to get a small sticker on their license plate indicating they have a Park Permit valid for the same time period their license plates are valid.

My staff has talked to the Kansas version of Game and Parks and they said they dramatically increased the revenue derived from selling park permits at a 50% discount because it gave a much larger audience of people who wouldn’t ordinarily buy a park permit the chance to get one at half-off.

Citizens get a 50% discount on a Park Permit and the self-funded State Agency that survives on just the money it raises from licenses, permits and fees gets a boost in revenue. Talk about a win-win scenario! Now I know better than to make any predictions about the chances of this bill passing, but we have talked to our Game and Parks Department and they are excited about this idea and will likely come testify at the bill’s hearing in support of it. Stand by for news!

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

11/22/17 Weekly Update

November 29th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11-22-17

Late last Friday afternoon the 17th of November, President Hank Bounds sent a letter to Governor Pete Ricketts and Speaker Jim Scheer and all 49 State Senators which finally recognized that the University has a problem with anti-conservative bias on campus. This effects the freedom of speech of conservative students and faculty. They do not feel comfortable/safe to express their opinions on campus.

Of course this abrupt admission only came on the heels of a freedom of information request which revealed university emails which document their concerns and even a strategy to bury the story using surrogates to write op-ed pieces.

Last Thursday the 16th of November, I met with President Hank Bounds and Chancellor Ron Green along with Senators Halloran and Erdman. At that meeting they continued to deny there was a problem. The date of the emails released Friday clearly show that they were aware of the problem BEFORE our meeting and were taking active steps to bury the story.

It’s unclear what President Bounds knew and when he knew it. That however is not the case for Chancellor Green as he was copied on the aforementioned emails as far back as August. I’ll give President Bounds the benefit of the doubt and assume Chancellor Green did not share his deceptive tactics with him and kept him in the dark.

As a result of his deceitful conduct toward myself and my colleagues, I have lost confidence in Chancellor Green’s ability to lead the University of Nebraska Lincoln Campus. He should be ashamed of himself.

If you or a family member have personally felt that the universities culture was unwelcoming to your beliefs, or you were ever apprehensive about freely expressing your points of views without fear of retribution, I want to hear your story. I also strongly encourage you to contact the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and share your concerns. They are elected to serve you and they need to be made aware of these issues too. For those of you in my district (43), your elected board of regent’s member is Mr. Bob Phares. He can be reached at (308) 532-3180 or bphares@nebraska.edu. If you are unsure as to who your regent is you can contact Carmen Maurer, Corporation Secretary of Nebraska at corpsec@nebraska.edu, 402-472-3906. She is listed as the key contact on the Nebraska Board of Regents website.

The University of Nebraska is your university. Your tax dollars substantially fund the University of Nebraska system. The legislature appropriates over $600 million to the University every year. The university should reflect and respect the beliefs and values of all Nebraskans. It should champion and encourage the free flow of all ideas and perspectives without the slightest hint of apprehension. We all grew up loving our University. We need to get these problems addressed and restore it to it’s former glory. I personally believe we need a change in leadership to do that, but that is up to President Bounds and the Board of Regents.

I want to make a correction to something I wrote in my 17 November update. I said I had a bill about State government collecting Union Dues stuck in the Judiciary Committee. This is incorrect. My bill LB 503 is stuck in the Business and Labor Committee. The bill I meant to say was stuck in the Judiciary Committee was LB 505. This bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to make some data concerning refugees the federal government re-settles in Nebraska available on their website so Nebraska taxpayers could see and understand the burden placed on them by this program.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

11/17/17 Weekly Update

November 29th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11-17-17

We’re about a month and a half away from the second session of the 105th legislature. Most of the forty-nine senators gathered this week for a meeting to prepare for the next session. Many are talking about “new” bills they will introduce in this next session. 667 bills were introduced in the last session. Some of them were killed in committee (“indefinitely postponed” they call it) Some advanced out of the committee and stalled on the floor during general file debate because there wasn’t 33 votes needed to end a filibuster. Most of the bills ended up in the most common status; “held in committee.” In plain English that means they don’t have enough votes on the committee to be advanced to general file, or “voted out of committee.”

Several hundred more bills will be introduced in this next session starting January 3rd. Senators can introduce new bills only in the first ten legislative days of the session. That deadline is the 18th of January. I have several ideas for a few new bills I would like to introduce that I’ll be talking about in the weeks to come. Suffice to say, the learning curve for me and the staff has been very steep, but we know how this place works now and will avoid a lot of the heartache we faced last session. Lobbyists and special interest groups fill the hallways during the first ten days hawking bills. Some of them do fine work and promote worthy issues so I’ll listen to them, but my constituents give me all the bill ideas I could ever need.

Before everyone sends me new bill ideas, I want you to ask, “Is another law really what we need?” We have a lot of laws right now, and one particularly troubling thing I’ve noticed is the laws that force another entity of government to do something, yet do not provide any resources necessary to do it. They call this “unfunded mandates.” The federal government does this to Nebraska, and the legislature does this to counties, cities, towns, school districts, natural resource districts, etc. For example, lacking prison beds because of our overcrowding problems, counties end up housing more prisoners in their jails. The State directs hospitals to provide healthcare to people on MEDICAID, but do not fully reimburse the hospital. The legislature passed laws that overhauled the State’s 911 emergency system. The counties have old 911 communications equipment that doesn’t interact with the new Internet-based systems. Who pays for all this? We need to systematically identify and reexamine these mandates if we are ever going to have a realistic conversation about reducing property tax because the main source of revenue a county has to address these things is property tax.

Of the thirteen bills I sponsored (some call it “carried”) last session, one was passed into law. One advanced to general file. The remaining eleven bills are “held in committee.” Of these eleven bills, I am becoming more confident we will get LB 499 passed. It helps protect our Nebraska bee keepers. LB 497 should pass easily as well. It makes a small but important administrative change to how Nebraska keeps certain important records for Veterans and makes life easier for them. I have five bills held in the Judiciary Committee. Three deal with gun laws. One is about the eVerify system to stop illegal aliens from taking Nebraska jobs. Another is about our State government collecting union dues on behalf of the unions. These five bills are not going anywhere because the political ideology of the majority of the members of this committee is not supportive of the topics raised by these five bills. Following the next election when the first session of the 106th legislature meets in January 2019, committee membership will be decided and this might change.

Until the composition of the Judiciary Committee changes, I’m not going to waste my time bringing another bill before that committee. I’m going to try and get the committee to meet in Executive Session and at least vote on my five bills. They will all lose, they might even kill them, but at least I’ll have a report from the committee that documents how the Senators voted.

Of my four remaining bills, LB 504 (wind energy moratorium) and LB 576 (freezing property taxes) remain my top priorities. Since the end of the last session, I’ve lobbied the senators of the Revenue and Natural Resources Committee looking for a compromise or amendment language that could get these two measures advanced to general file. Each senator gets a “priority bill” which means if it makes it out of committee, it is guaranteed to be put on the agenda and debated on the floor. If a Senator listens to his constituents, figuring out their priority bill is easy. Many thousands of you have made it very clear the top two issues facing the district are wind energy and property taxes, so one of those two subjects will be my priority bill next session.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; tbrewer@leg.ne.gov. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.

11/10/17 Weekly Update

November 16th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11-10-17

Veterans Day weekend is here. I’m out in the district making seven different stops for different Veterans Day events. Me and my Legislative Aide really need to get our pilot’s license up to date. The 43rd District is bigger than Connecticut. In 2021 when we redistrict the State after the census, I’m thinking it will be even bigger. There are ranches in the 43rd bigger than many of my colleague’s districts they can walk around in an afternoon. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s the best part of the State and I am very lucky to represent it.

As a retired US Army Colonel, Veterans Day carries a special meaning for me and all who have served our country in uniform. I have countless friends and acquaintances in this category. Many of my relatives have all served. My Father is a Korean War veteran. Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Baker’s father was in the Navy in the Pacific during WWII. Some confuse Veterans Days with Memorial Day. That day we remember and honor those who died in service to their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead. If you’re a veteran, I’d imagine you’re like me. Every day is Veterans Day. To all of you I say;

Thank you very much for your service.

Regardless of branch or component. Whether you have seen combat or volunteered in peacetime, active-duty or reservist, 20-year career or a drafted. These are all Americans who, for a time in their lives, invested a part of themselves in service to our nation. We honor you this weekend.

To all the many organizations who promote veteran issues I want you to know how incredibly important you are to our society. You help veterans in so many ways, from helping with benefits, or a hot meal, to fighting for veterans in the halls of government by navigating bureaucracy to writing legislation. The most important thing organizations like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (and their auxiliaries) do is remind ordinary Americans of something larger than themselves. They help our country turn outwards and upwards and take pause from our busy lives focused on self to be reminded; to be grateful, to be proud of all the countless millions of Americans who put service to their country above all else. We don’t don the uniform of a tribe, or a sect, or of a particular religion. We don’t fight for our family or the local region of place we live in. The calling answered by Americans past and present has no equal in the world. We took an oath to protect an idea bigger than anything anyone has ever been called to put-on a uniform for in the history of the human species.

On the West steps of our Capitol the words of President Lincoln can be found behind his statute. He said;

“…our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

American veterans, from Valley Forge to Gettysburg to Kandahar, saw a “nation so conceived” as something bigger than themselves and answered the call to protect that idea. I have seen a big part of this world and I can tell you there is only one place on this Earth you can find people who think this way; who give of themselves this way, and that’s right here in the United States. I hope we all take a moment this weekend and quietly reflect how lucky we all are to be surrounded by fellow countryman of this selfless stature. We are truly blessed. It’s why the US has “long endured.” I urge you to take a moment and thank one of the 22 million veterans there are in the United States this weekend.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

11/03/17 Weekly Update

November 16th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
11/03/17

This week there was a bit of a dust-up about a letter Senator Erdman, Senator Halloran and I sent to a number of newspapers across Nebraska. It appeared over the weekend and has since been picked up by other news media. The gist of the letter was a series of questions we three senators have concerning the University of Nebraska. This problem stems from the incident last August where a young sophomore student was accosted and berated and called a vulgar racist name by a member of the University’s faculty. This happened to her because she had set-up a table in a public space and was handing out literature that promoted a conservative organization.

To be fair, the vulgar woman who verbally accosted the young sophomore was also doing graduate coursework, so she was also a student as well as a teaching assistant. The University has assured me this person was disciplined, but cannot describe specifically what action was taken because of State and Federal laws. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what laws prohibit the University from sharing this information.

At any rate, this generated a lot of interest. Social media websites are full of discussion and several newspapers picked up the story. We received many supportive calls. President Bounds and Chancellor Green went on a local Lincoln radio talk show and condemned the letter saying it was full of misinformation. You can go to KLIN website and listen to their interview with Mr. Coby Mach.

Beyond saying I disagree with much of what they said, I’m not going to spend this column debating their comments on the radio. I stand by the letter and I continue to have grave concerns about the campus culture at the university.

The bottom line is the root cause of the incident last August is a totalitarian philosophy called “Social Justice.” This is now firmly embedded as part of the culture at the English Department of University. It is all over the department’s webpage which the university leadership have endorsed. It’s part of the department’s mission statement. Social Justice is simply evil.

There are as many different definitions of this term as there are people you care to ask, but its defining characteristic is tyranny. The aim of this malignant philosophy is silencing dissenting speech. It promotes the suppression of any discussion of an issue the adherents of it believe is insensitive or not in line with their views. If you say something a social justice warrior doesn’t like, they brand you an intolerant bigot and use the kinds of techniques we saw in the August incident to silence you. As much as the University would like to minimize the August incident to one isolated occurrence, I think it is symptomatic of a larger underlying problem that they seem to be avoiding.

I believe there is a pervasive climate of simmering hostility towards all things conservative on the campus, and more importantly, towards all students that are conservative. We are hearing more and more from people who either had first-hand experience from Professors verbally attacking them in class or stories from parents about their children who were afraid to voice their thoughts and opinions for fear of Professors taking it out on them via their grades.

As long as the University of Nebraska continues to embrace the hateful philosophy of “Social Justice” the human and constitutional rights of students and faculty who dare to express conservative views will be threatened. Failing to correct this serious culture problem will result in the sort of incident that prompted this debate to continue, if it hasn’t already. It goes without saying this belief system is incompatible with an institution of higher learning as it suppresses the free and open exchange of ideas, and promotes a toxic culture of fear which destroys the learning environment and silences speech. I urge the University to renounce the evil of Social Justice and embrace a culture where every idea and opinion isn’t just free from attack, but is encouraged without a hint of apprehension. Instead of waiting for the next injustice and shouting “I told you so” I would much rather help UNL take a stand and create an environment where all students, including conservatives, are treated fairly and invited to the table to discuss the issues without the fear of being bullied.

Next week I am going to meet with Mr. Thomas Hoff, Mr. Barry DeKay and Mr. Bill Hoyt. They are directors on the NPPD Board. They represent the sub-divisions on the NPPD map which encompasses the route of the planned “R Line.” This high-voltage transmission line is planned to cut right through the heart of the Sandhills. There are alternate routes for the line that have been recommended by the public, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks. They would avoid most of the concerns that have been raised. I am going to ask these gentlemen why the other routes wouldn’t satisfy the project objectives and try to understand why they voted against them.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2628
Email: tbrewer@leg.ne.gov
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