NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Tom Brewer

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43

04/14/17 Weekly Update

April 19th, 2017

I always begin this update with “floor debate on priority bills continued this week.” It did as always, but this week we had two important bills before the Legislature, both of which I co-sponsored. LR 6 is a Resolution that would add Nebraska to the ten States that have already passed applications to Congress. This calls for a Convention of States for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. I have received a lot of calls about this subject. Please keep them coming.

The idea this will become some run-away convention that re-writes the whole constitution is simply false. You may have heard from a group promoting this idea. If you would like to learn more about this issue, please give my office a call and speak to my Legislative Aide, Tony Baker about this. Please remember – the Article V Convention of States can only PROPOSE amendments to the US Constitution. 38 States still need to ratify them before they become part of the constitution whether 2/3’s of Congress proposes the amendment, or 2/3s of States propose them.

LB 68 was heard on the floor again this week. I also co-sponsored this bill. It would enforce Nebraska State Law on the carrying of guns State-wide without exemption by cities and towns. An amendment for Omaha was included. This was a hotly debated measure, but the introducer, Senator Hilgers of Lincoln, was able to put together the 33 votes needed to break the filibuster and invoke cloture. The vote was a close one, but the cloture motion prevailed by 33 votes and the bill advanced.

The Governor’s Bill, LB 461, will be debated on the 21st. This bill changes how agricultural land is valued by the County Assessor from a “comparable sales” method to an “income” method. States around Nebraska are doing this already. It will be a historic change in how property taxes for agricultural ground are assessed in Nebraska. The idea is ground will be valued based on how much income can be derived from farming or ranching on that ground. The staff and I continue to analyze these bills, but I am very encouraged by what I see so far. The Revenue Committee and the Governor’s Office have worked very hard on this. Like I said last week, I think real property tax reform for agriculture ground is really going to happen this session.

I cannot tell you enough how important it is we continue to hear from you. Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

04/07/17 Weekly Update

April 12th, 2017

04/07/17 Update:
Floor debate on priority bills continued this week. The speaker established the “Late Night” schedule to begin soon, so the legislature will be in session well into the evenings. This was a busy week, and things will only get busier. The White Clay Hearing at the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission was held this week. Closing arguments will be April 14th and they will render a decision on the Liquor Licenses in White Clay by May 2nd. The hearing on the challenge to Sen. Chamber’s residency was Friday, April 7th. He prevailed.

LB 68 was heard on the floor this week. This bill would enforce Nebraska State Law on the carrying of guns State-wide without exemption by cities and towns. An amendment for Omaha was included. This was a hotly debated measure. It wasn’t immediately clear if the votes to break a filibuster and invoke cloture (33) were available, so the bill was taken off the agenda.

On that point it’s important to note that this very same thing will happen again and again with other controversial bills this session. If the introducer “doesn’t have cloture” (33 Senators who have pledged to support a motion to end debate) then the bill simply won’t be back on the agenda. Given the first third of the session was spent on the rules argument, there just isn’t any time left. It’s not fair to other priority bills waiting in the queue for the body to keep arguing on a bill there isn’t the votes to stop debate and take a vote on. I support Speaker Sheer’s decision to enforce this policy. It’s a good idea.

The Revenue Committee reported a bill I co-sponsored, LB 640 (Sen. Groene, North Platte), to general file. Keep an eye on this one. This is a GREAT bill to reform education funding and take pressure off property taxes. LB 338 (The Governor’s AG Property Tax Bill) is also out of the committee after being heavily amended with language from other good bills. It is now called LB 461 and it has an amendment AM 954. Keep an eye on these too. The staff and I are currently analyzing these bills. There are a few important changes to some of the language I have in mind, so I will be discussing an amendment to the amendment with the Governor’s Policy Research team and members of the Revenue Committee, but we are really close with this bill. The Committee and the Governor’s office have worked very hard on this, and it is a night and day difference from what was first introduced. If we can pass these two measures, I think real property tax reform for agriculture ground is really going to happen this session. I was very pessimistic about this happening until I saw LB 461 and AM954. Now I am cautiously optimistic about it. Now is the time to call and write every Senator in the legislature and urge them to support these bills. We need the “33” Senators I spoke of to get these passed and we cannot do it without YOU!

I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills before the legislature. Please keep your calls and letters coming. I wish you could see how important citizen involvement is to this process. The “2nd House” of the Nebraska Legislature is vital. Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.

03/31/17 Weekly Update

April 5th, 2017

Floor debate on priority bills continued this week. It was the first week of full day sessions with all of the committee hearings behind us. Debate on mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of human trafficking (LB 289) was very spirited and took up two full days. I was surprised by the number of Senators who objected to tough, long sentences in prison for people convicted of this despicable crime. I certainly didn’t object.

LB 356, a bill that would fund about $75,000 for a “Civic Engagement” program faced tough bi-partisan debate, so much so the Speaker used a very rare rule and put a “Speaker Hold” on the bill so it could be properly amended. The tough debate on this bill I believe foreshadows things to come. We have a very tough budget situation where we are nearly $1 billion dollars in the red. Bills that will cut tens of millions in spending are coming up. Every penny counts, even $75,000 for civic engagement. Had the speaker not put this bill on hold, I would have voted against it. We MUST cut spending. We have no choice. Nebraska’s Constitution requires a balanced budget. I am so thankful it does.

The Revenue Committee has met in Executive Session all week. So far, they haven’t reported any bills to the floor. By my count there are about fifteen bills that address property taxes in the Revenue Committee. The governor’s bill, LB 338, will likely come out of the committee, as well as others. My bill, LB 576, would cap property taxes for four years beginning in 2019. I think it’s a great idea, but I am not filled with optimism this bill will make it out of the Revenue Committee. There are quite a few really good ideas on property taxes in the form of several different bills this session. I think there will be a bill come out that is amended to include a number of these different good ideas.

My priority bill, LB 340, was advanced to Enrollment and Review on a 39-0 vote last week. This bill will reorganize State agencies so the Department of Veterans Homes will come out of the Department of Health and Human Services and go under the Director of Veterans Affairs. It is going to be on the agenda next week for debate and voting to select file. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think this will be the very first piece of legislation I get signed into law by the Governor. It saves tax money and delivers better care for Nebraska’s Veterans.

I received a lot of calls this week on LB 502. This bill would establish “Constitutional Carry” of firearms, otherwise known as “Permit-less Carry.” This has generated a lot of interest both pro and con. This caused me to learn an old political lesson.

I learned that the voices of opposition are always more numerous and much louder than the voices of support. I mention that because it is just as important for me to receive calls and letters from people who SUPPORT something I am doing as it is for me to hear from those who OPPOSE something before the legislature. I do my best to “represent” the 43rd District. To do that, I need to hear from everyone. No matter which side of something you are on, please take a few seconds and give us a call. 402-471-2628.

I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills before the legislature. Please keep your calls and letters coming. Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.

03/23/17 Weekly Update

March 29th, 2017

Floor debate on priority bills continued this week. For the first time this session, I can honestly say the “pace” of the debate and action on bills on the floor was “fast” compared to what I have seen thus far. One thing worthy of note is the amount of interest generated by budget and appropriations bills. With the budget shortfall we face, spending cuts will no-doubt feature prominently in the debates ahead. One bill we debated this week cut a small amount of spending. That debate went all the way to a cloture vote (a motion to stop debate). If this is any indication of things to come, the months ahead are going to be filled with very long days and very tough debates as other measures that make much more significant spending cuts come up.
All that said, I want to be crystal clear on one point: I will not vote for a bill that raises taxes. Period. In the weeks ahead you will hear a lot about the need to “raise revenue.” Just remember that is political speak for “raise taxes.” You will hear all about how this or that spending cut is going to “hurt” some group who currently benefits from the program in question. I don’t want to appear heartless to anyone, but as far as I am concerned, the people I am worried about “hurting” are the ones who have to PAY the taxes, not the ones who consume them.
I introduced my very last bill on Thursday the 23rd in front of the Judiciary Committee. LB 502 would establish “Constitutional Carry” of firearms, otherwise known as “Permit-less Carry.” More than a dozen States already have this law on the books and Nebraska shares a border with two of them. I strongly believe a person shouldn’t have to get a permit from the government to exercise a constitutional right. Did I have to take a class and pay for a permit to exercise my first amendment right and write this newspaper column? The 2nd amendment is the only constitutional right you have to ask permission to exercise. This is just wrong.

I’m still hopeful my bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on commercial wind energy development in the Sandhills (LB 504) will be voted out of committee. The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Dan Hughes (LD44) opposes the bill. Without his support, it will remain in committee for the rest of the session. For those folks interested in seeing this bill debated on the floor of the legislature, I encourage you to politely call Sen. Hughes and urge him to support it.

The Revenue Committee has met in Executive Session all week. None of the many tax-related bills in that committee have been reported out. My bill to put a four-year cap on property taxes beginning in 2019 (LB 576) is one of them being considered by the committee. There are quite a few really good ideas on property taxes in the form of several different bills this session. I believe one bill amended to include a number of these different good ideas will likely come out of the committee. This is very tough work. Fixing this extremely complex problem at a time of low commodity prices and very low tax revenues is incredibly difficult. I would urge people interested in my bill to contact the members of the Revenue Committee, most especially the Chairman, Sen. Jim Smith (LD 14) and politely ask them to advance LB 576 to general file.

My priority bill, LB 340, was voted out of committee and debated on General File this morning. It was advanced to Enrollment and Review on a 39-0 vote. This bill will reorganize State agencies so the Department of Veterans Homes will come out of the Department of Health and Human Services and go under the Director of Veterans Affairs. I think this bill is going all the way to the Governor’s desk! It saves tax money and delivers better care for Nebraska’s Veterans.

I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills before the legislature. Please keep your calls and letters coming. Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.

03/17/17 Weekly Update

March 22nd, 2017

Floor debate on priority bills continued this week. A lot of time continues to be spent on the “Choose Life” license plate. This is a controversial issue and has generated a lot of debate and cloture votes. The Helmet Law Bill from Sen. Lowe of Kearney is also a controversial issue where debate went to a cloture vote. That failed by one vote which was disappointing. Sen. Lowe is a good senator. Like Senator’s do, he tirelessly promoted his bill with all the Senators of the body. I supported him. He had received promises from several who pledged to vote for cloture (stopping debate) and they changed their vote at the last minute. I am taking the time to explain this because I hear from folks all the time who tell me they don’t like the political partisanship they see in our non-partisan legislature. I would urge folks to remember that integrity; being true to one’s word, is far more important than political ideology. Lack of integrity causes far more problems in our Unicameral than any political party ever did and I am sad to report I see it every day.

My bill that would establish a two-year moratorium on commercial wind energy development in the Sandhills (LB 504) survived a kill motion and is now “held in committee” and will very likely stay there without any action for the rest of the session. The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Dan Hughes (LD44) opposes the bill, and as long as he does, it will never come out of the committee to the floor of the legislature for debate. I would like to thank the many hundreds of my constituents in the 43rd District who took the time to come testify for the bill, and who have called and written letters and emails to the committee. Thank you for being Nebraska’s “2nd House.”

The Revenue Committee will meet in Executive Session very soon. My bill to put a four-year cap on property taxes beginning in 2019 (LB 576) will be on the agenda. I have worked closely with the eight members of the Revenue Committee and as I write this the vote is too close to call. We need five votes to advance the bill to general file. As I have said before, Nebraskans should not have to suffer future increases in property taxes while waiting for the legislature to fix this extremely complex problem. I would urge people interested in this bill to contact the members of the Revenue Committee, most especially the Chairman, Sen. Jim Smith (LD 14) and ask him to vote to advance the bill to general file.

I have two bills left to introduce:

LB 503. Stops the State from collecting union dues from employees.
Business & Labor Committee, 20 March at 1:30pm, room 2102.

LB 502. Implements “Constitutional Carry” for guns.
Judiciary Committee, 23 March at 1:30pm, Room 1113.

I’ll be doing a Town Hall in the district this Saturday. Please join me at the Bunkhouse in Valentine at 8:00am on Saturday the 25th of March. It’s at 109 East Highway 20.

I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills before the legislature. Please keep your calls and letters coming. Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.

03/10/17

March 15th, 2017

We had a short week this week with a recess day on Friday. Floor debate on priority bills continues, although we are way behind compared to previous years. I worry we will not be able to hear all the priority bills. The bottom line on bills is if it has not been designated a priority bill by a senator, a committee, or the speaker, I seriously doubt it will make it to the calendar and be heard on the floor.

I introduced two bills this week. LB 501 clarifies language in the law about the requirement to post signs that govern the concealed carry of handguns on private property. Since it was a “gun related” bill it faced a spirited debate from Sen. Chambers (LD11) and a lot of questioning from the other members of the Judiciary Committee.
LB 576 would put a four-year cap on property taxes beginning in 2019. This bill drew a lot of attention in the Revenue Committee. I was very impressed by the number of folks from the district who came to testify. As I have said before, Nebraskans should not have to suffer future increases in property taxes while waiting for the legislature to fix this extremely complex problem. That said, I am not hopeful this bill will make it out of the Revenue Committee, and even if it did, it wouldn’t be heard on the floor because of how little time is left in the session. I suspect a number of other Property Tax measures will face the same fate. During my testimony for this bill, I publicly stated I would make it my priority bill next session if the measure fails to make it to the floor this year.

The Natural Resources Committee met in Executive Session this week. A motion was made to kill LB 504, which is the bill I introduced to put a two-year moratorium on commercial wind energy in the Sandhills. The motion was defeated so the bill remains “held in committee.” The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Dan Hughes (LD44) did go on record opposing the bill. When the committee report is published I will name how the Senators voted on the kill motion. At present, the committee has not voted to advance the bill. Even though a motion to advance the bill would likely fail, I want that vote anyway. At the very least, the people of Nebraska, and in particular those in the Sandhills, deserve to know how the Senators of this committee would vote on a motion to advance this important issue. I would urge my constituents to contact Chairman Hughes and members of Natural Resources Committee and ask them to vote on a motion to advance LB 504.

The two committees I sit on (Government, Veterans and Military Affairs; and Banking, Commerce and Insurance) continue to hear bills every day. We are meeting in executive session and voting on a large number of bills.

I have two bills left to introduce:

LB 503. Stops the State from collecting union dues from employees.
Business & Labor Committee, 20 March at 1:30pm, room 2102.

LB 502. Implements “Constitutional Carry” for guns.
Judiciary Committee, 23 March at 1:30pm, Room 1113.

I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills before the legislature. Please keep your calls and letters coming. The last day of committee hearings is the 23rd of March. After that, the legislature is in session all day (and probably into the night on some days!) Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.

03/03/17 Update:

March 8th, 2017

This week things were moving right along for a while, but we’ve become bogged-down with a filibuster on LB 46 which would create a “Choose Life” license plate. There was a tragedy on Thursday at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. The legislature is now looking into this situation. I believe this will take priority on the floor in the week ahead, as we look into what happened. I would urge folks to wait for the State Patrol to finish its investigation. The report will no doubt contain recommendations for all to consider.
I introduced three bills this week. Two of these bills were controversial. LB 504 will establish a two-year moratorium on commercial wind energy development in the Sandhills, and LB 505 will require State agencies to report certain information about refugee re-settlement in Nebraska. These bills drew considerable attention from the public and testimony ran late into the evening. I was humbled by the people supporting these measures who came from far and wide in the middle of calving season to testify. Thank you!
March 8th I will introduce LB 501 which cleans up some language in the law governing the concealed carry of handguns on private property, and on March 9th I will introduce LB 576. This bill would put a four-year cap on property taxes beginning in 2019. I want people to know I understand the incredible importance of reducing property taxes in the district and Nebraska. This is a very old problem. The people of Nebraska have been very patient for decades as the legislature has tried and failed to solve this problem. At the very least, Nebraskans should not have to suffer future increases in property taxes while waiting for the legislature to fix this extremely complex problem. If we can pass LB 576 into law, hopefully a “cap” on property taxes looming in the future may generate the kind of political will necessary to solve this problem once and for all. I see my bill as a great “companion” to one or more of the other property tax bills being considered. I think it makes any other idea to fix this problem easier. The bottom line is kicking this can down the road again is not an option. Property taxes, especially on agricultural ground in the district, aren’t just “too high.” I believe they have reached the point where they are immoral.
The two committees I sit on (Government, Veterans and Military Affairs; and Banking, Commerce and Insurance) continue to hear bills every day. I chaired the Government committee this week when LR1CA was heard. This measure would put a question on the ballot in the next election that would amend Nebraska’s constitution requiring an ID to vote. There was a lot of public interest in this measure. Testimony for this hearing ran late into the evening.

I have four bills left to introduce:

LB 501. Clarifies laws concerning signage prohibiting concealed-carry.
Judiciary Committee, 8 March at 1:30pm

LB 576. Puts a cap on Property Taxes.
Revenue Committee, 9 March at 1:30pm

LB 503. Stops the State from collecting union dues from employees.
Business & Labor Committee, 20 March at 1:30pm

LB 502. Implements “Constitutional Carry” for guns.
Judiciary Committee, 23 March at 1:30pm.

I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills before the legislature. Please keep your calls and letters coming. The last day of committee hearings is the 23rd of March. After that, the legislature is in session all day (and probably into the night on some days!) Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.

February 24th Weekly Update

March 1st, 2017

02/24/17 Update:
Another busy week in the legislature has flown by! This is the first week there were no extended fights on the floor about rules, so we actually began addressing bills and moving them through the process of amendment and debate.
This week I introduced two more bills in committee, LB 165 which concerns the eVerify system that would help address the problem of illegal aliens in our work force, and LB 498 which makes some language changes to make the property tax relief provided by the Homestead Exemption Act easier to use for seniors, disabled, and low-income folks.
I’ve made a decision to name LB 340 as my priority bill. Every senator gets one priority bill that “should” be put on the calendar and debated on the floor of the legislature. This bill restructures the function of administering our State Veteran Homes from something the Department of Health and Human Services does to the Department of Veterans Affairs. I urge everyone to take a look at this bill. It will greatly improve the delivery of important services to our Veterans. I am very excited about working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to see the bill make it all the way to the Governor’s desk.
Another busy week looms ahead as I introduce two bills on the 1st of March (LB 500 and 504) and another on the 2nd (LB 505) I strongly encourage folks to take a look at my bill concerning wind energy development in the Sandhills (LB 504). I would really appreciate hearing from you on this bill. This is a very contentious issue and I welcome your input no matter what side of the issue you are on.
The two committees I sit on (Government, Veterans and Military Affairs; and Banking, Commerce and Insurance) continue to hear bills every day. I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills I will hear in those committees. It is very helpful.
The property tax issue is working it’s way through committees in the form of at least fifteen different bills I know of. People visit with me every day about this serious problem. LB 576 is my bill to help deal with this. As I write this, I cannot honestly say I am hopeful a solution will emerge this session. I hope I am proven wrong.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather and see the snowfall totals we have in the district. So far I haven’t heard about any problems getting cattle to feed, and hope it’s not making the calving season too tough. Please keep me posted. With what we have on the ground right now, we’re one bad snow storm away from real trouble.

I have seven bills left to introduce in committee. I encourage everyone interested in these bills to consider attending the hearing or writing letters to the committee chairperson.

LB 500. Changes laws concerning concealed-carry for Law Enforcement officers. Judiciary Committee, 1 March at 9:15am

LB 504. Creates a Wind Energy Task Force / Moratorium.
Natural Resources Committee, 1 March at 9:15am.

LB 505. Requires certain information about Refugee Resettlement to be made public. Judiciary Committee, 2 March at 1:30pm

LB 501. Clarifies laws concerning signage prohibiting concealed-carry.
Judiciary Committee, 8 March at 1:30pm

LB 576. Puts a cap on Property Taxes.
Revenue Committee, 9 March at 1:30pm

LB 503. Stops the State from collecting union dues from employees.
Business & Labor Committee, 20 March at 1:30pm

LB 502. Implements “Constitutional Carry” for guns.
Judiciary Committee, 23 March at 1:30pm.

Again, I appreciate all of your input and concerns. Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.

24 February 2017 Press Release

February 24th, 2017

For Immediate Release:

Hearing for LB 504
Two-year moratorium on the construction of commercial wind energy in the Sandhills

LINCOLN – Senator Tom Brewer, Representing Nebraska’s 43rd legislative district which covers most of the area known as “The Sandhills,” will testify in front of the Natural Resources Committee at 9:15am Wednesday morning the 1st of March, where he will introduce LB 504. This bill directs the creation of a task force to study the impact commercial wind energy projects are having on the Sandhills, and places a two-year moratorium on the new construction of these projects while the task force studies the issues, and compiles a report for the legislature. Senator Brewer urges citizens interested in the subject to consider attending the hearing, or sending letters to the committee voicing their opinion on this important issue.

02/20/17 Weekly Update

February 23rd, 2017

This week we extended the temporary rules for the 3rd time this session. The debate will resume on Monday, the 20th of March. Hopefully between now and then, we can debate and pass some bills as we have spent a third of the session fighting over the rules and little else has gotten done.
Friday the 17th was a recess day at the Capitol, and that night I met with the Niobrara Council at the Peppermill in Valentine. It was very informative and I appreciated the chance to meet those on the Board.
This past Saturday the 18th, was my first townhall meeting as a Senator of District 43 at the American Legion in Gordon, NE. Many are very involved and asked great questions. It is important to keep the lines of communication open and I look forward to the next townhall meeting in the district.
Sunday, I had the opportunity to meet informally with several who have concerns about LB 504 which addresses the commercial wind energy in the Sandhills. It was a good discussion and a very emotional issue for all involved. I look forward to hearing from everybody from all sides of this issue.
Wednesday, February 22nd, is the day I testify in front of the Judiciary Committee on LB165 E-Verify. This bill implements the E-Verify system for private employers in Nebraska. It is already in use for state and federal government hiring.
Friday, February 24th, my bill LB 498 Homestead Exemption will be heard in the Revenue Committee. Currently the Homestead Exemption stays with the property, my bill will change the language of the Homestead Exemption Act so this important benefit is connected with a person instead of a piece of real estate.
Again, I appreciate all of your input and concerns. Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in our current legislature.

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43
Room #1202
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2628
Email: tbrewer@leg.ne.gov
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