NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Tom Brewer

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43

Press Release

May 24th, 2017

PRESS RELEASE

 

Date: 19 May 2017                                                                             Contact: Julie Condon

jcondon@leg.ne.gov

For Immediate Release:                                                                  Phone: 402-471-2628

 

This session the Legislature passed a $2.47 billion budget that funded four different programs over the next two years.  MEDICAID/MEDICARE, Development Disability Aid Program, Division of Behavioral Health and the Division of Children & Family Services. Governor Ricketts line-item vetoed a total of $32.5 million of the spending across these programs. This amounts to about 2 ½%.

This past Wednesday, May 17th, 2017, we debated a number of veto overrides and in the end upheld the Governor’s veto on LB 327. My vote was included in those to uphold the vetoes. The Governor’s veto cut a small amount of funding to programs that generated a lot of interest from people contacting my office and lobbyists calling me off the floor. I want to address those concerns because a lot of what I heard was either misinformed, or out-right scaremongering falsehoods. These cuts will NOT affect provider rates.

Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care: Capping payments at the Medicaid rate, as 44 states do, would achieve the general savings necessary to meet the requirements of the Governor’s veto.  This does not impact services not covered by Medicare like long-term care, nursing home care, and assisted-living services.  The Medicaid program will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services like long-term care.

Division of Developmental Disabilities: The line-item veto of funding in the DD aid budget will not mean providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions.  DD has the responsibility to manage the program within its appropriation and minimize adverse access-to-service issues for DD eligible individuals and families.  DD will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services.

Division of Behavioral Health:  The line-item veto of funding in the Behavioral Health aid budget will not mean providers will receive across-the-board rate reductions.  The amount of funding included in the line-item veto represents 1% of total contracts funds to the Behavioral Health Regions.

Historically, behavioral health providers under contract with the Regions have received a 10% increase in rates over the last four years, including a substantial increase in two services through DHHS cost model work.  Those rate increases are sustained in the current budget plan and Division of Behavioral Health will work with the Regions on the implementation plan to protect critical services.

Division of Children and Family Services: The line-item veto of funding in the Children & Family Services (CFS) budget will not mean providers or contractors will receive across-the-board rate reductions.  CFS has identified efficiencies in how it administers drug testing contracts that will garner savings in excess of the amount included in the line-item veto.

I supported these small cuts in spending because without them the legislature was using accounting tricks and unrealistic revenue projections to balance the budget. Without these small cuts in spending, we would have to be called back into special session this fall to make drastic cuts to balance the budget because the gimmicks and rosy projections would have failed to do so.

No one likes to cut State programs people have grown to depend on. This was made very evident by the legions of lobbyists and special interest groups who all loudly opposed these small spending reductions. Watching this I couldn’t help but wonder – where were all the lobbyists and special interest groups screaming for property tax reform this session? Who represents the rancher or farmer who has to sell their place because they can’t raise a crop that will even pay the property tax bill? Who speaks for them? Where is all the passion and enthusiasm to protect ordinary citizens from crushing taxation? I think we need to be just as vigorous in our defense of those who have to pay for the State spending as we are in defense of those who consume it.

 

-End-

 

05/19/17 Weekly Update

May 24th, 2017

This session is coming to a close. The Speaker has announced the legislature will “Adjourn Sine Die” on Tuesday the 23rd of May. “Sine Die” is Latin for “without day.” It means to adjourn without any future date being designated to resume the session, thus will end the first session of the 105th legislature. It will be good to get out of Lincoln and back up to the Sandhills, but I’m disgusted by how little actually got done this session. I suppose we can take comfort in the words of Mark Twain, “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”

The Tax Increment Financing bill (LB 496) was debated and defeated in a filibuster this week. I voted against it because the TIF program has grown far beyond its original purpose of urban renewal for blighted areas. TIF provides property tax breaks to encourage these sorts of projects in the poor part of town. Instead, LB 496 would have included the construction cost of private housing for new development projects. This is not what TIF is supposed to be for. The true purpose of property taxes is for members of a community to equally share in the funding of our public safety, schools, and common infrastructure. That’s not what LB 496 did. Sen. Mike Groene (North Platte) said this bill “is an outrage against good government and a strong statement on the power that special interest has on politicians through campaign donations.” I agree. I’m glad it was defeated.

I said last week that I was afraid we were “kicking the can down the road” on the budget problem by using some accounting tricks like reducing our cash reserves and using “creative financing” by making unrealistic future revenue projections. The Governor saw this same set of circumstances and used his line-item veto authority to cut another $32.5 million in spending from across a number of programs. I voted to uphold the vetoes and have issued a separate press release on this subject. The State’s tax collections are still on a downward trend. April’s numbers were $55 million short of what was forecast. Even with the Governor’s vetoes we may not be out of the woods on the budget yet.

I realize people depend on tax-payer dollars to fund programs they have come to depend on, but we had to balance a budget with a $1 billion deficit. The many lobbyists and special interest groups who contacted my office, came to the Capitol, and called me off the floor spoke with a loud voice. I wish this same passion could be generated to defend ordinary Nebraskans being crushed by property taxes. I care about the people dependent on government programs with exactly the same enthusiasm I care about the Nebraskans who have to pay the taxes that fund this State spending.

Next week I will outline the interim studies we have introduced, and will continue to work on a schedule of town hall meetings in the district over the summer. Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

05/12/17 Weekly Update

May 17th, 2017

We had another short, but very busy week. Friday was a recess day. We continued budget debate this week. In spite of the $1 billion deficit, the budget we have still increases spending 1.0%. Many of us feel this is unacceptable, so the budget as written faces a lot of push-back. Tuesday, the three main budget bills were passed and sent to the Governor. He still has the option to line-item veto individual appropriations.

The “combined” State Budget is $10.8 billion. This includes federal tax dollars. The $4.5 billion annual general fund budget is what we’ve spent the last two weeks debating. To accomplish the 1% increase, we had to reduce our cash reserves and use some accounting tricks I really don’t like. My colleagues are making an assumption that Nebraska’s economy is going to rebound quickly and state tax revenues are going to increase from the 1% they are now to 5% in the next two years. This is just wishful thinking in my opinion. The downturn in our State’s economy that caused the revenue shortfall in the first place is caused by the sharp decrease we’ve seen in Nebraska’s #1 economic engine: agriculture. That is not something that is bounces back up to 5% growth so easily. I joined 12 other senators voting no on LB331. I predict we will be right back next fall facing the old argument of cutting more spending or increasing the tax burden on our citizens. All we did was kick the budget can down the road in my opinion. I’m not voting for tax increases.

We debated LB75 this week. It was a bill that attempted to give felons voting rights immediately after completing their prison sentence / parole. The law right now restores felons voting rights two years after completing their sentence provided they have no further trouble with the criminal justice system. I voted for the bill during General File debate because I believe there should be a point where someone’s debt to society is paid, but it became clear during subsequent debate this bill was probably unconstitutional. I didn’t support it on final reading and I did not vote to override the veto.

LR1CA was a resolution meant to put a constitutional voter ID requirement on the 2018 ballot for voter approval. I supported this resolution, but it failed to advance because it didn’t have enough votes to overcome a filibuster. Once again, the “cloture” rule of 33 votes stopped a good piece of legislation. The vote was 26 yes, 17 no and 3 present – not voting. That tells me 20 senators did not like the idea of letting the people of Nebraska decide whether or not someone should need an ID to vote.

I am very upset this legislature did not address property taxes reform this session. It is the #1 issue State-wide. Everything we have tried to do to address this serious problem this session has failed. The reason property taxes are out of control in Nebraska is because how we fund K-12 schools in Nebraska is seriously broken. We are 49th in the nation in terms of State funding for schools, the vast majority of funding comes from property taxes. In the Western part of the State, most of the schools are 100% funded by property taxes. We are 5th highest in the nation in terms of property taxes, and getting worse. This issue is crushing our agriculture economy and hurting families and small business all over the State. Far too many of my colleagues are simply unwilling to address this issue. As we approach our adjournment without a single thing being done about this reminds me time is running out for a growing number of people who are no longer able to pay a tax that is levied on people with no regard for their ability to pay it. We need a solution that’s as big as the problem. I am sick of the excuses. I am going to lead on this issue from here on out and provide a real solution if it’s the last thing I do.

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

05/05/17 Weekly Update

May 10th, 2017

 

We had another short, but very busy week. Monday was a recess day. We did three late night sessions debating the budget this week. In spite of the $1 billion deficit, the budget we have still increases spending 1.5%. Many of us feel this is unacceptable, so the budget as written faces a lot of push-back. I think some of my colleagues are using some pretty rosy predictions about future revenue growth that I don’t think will actually be there. If we don’t cut more spending in this budget, I think there is a good chance the Governor will end up calling a special session later in the year where we will have to come back and do across-the-board spending cuts. We shall see how this all unfolds in the days ahead. I hope the legislature can muster the courage to make some carefully considered cuts now instead of waiting for a Special Session and using an ax to do it.

 

LB 461 is a bill from Sen. Smith (Papillion) on income and property taxes. It was debated again this week. I introduced an amendment (AM 1104) to this bill, but it was so far down in the queue it was never was debated / voted on before the time was up. When the time for debate the speaker has allocated has passed, a motion called “cloture” is made. What this does is end debate on every other motion or amendment pending so a vote can be taken on just the underlying bill. It takes 2/3 of the legislature (33) votes to “invoke cloture” and end debate. The cloture motion on LB 461 failed on a vote of 27 “for” with mine included in that number. 9 voted “against” the motion. Since the motion failed, this means debate would continue. Since the time allotted by the speaker was all used up, no further debate was allowed and LB 461 was effectively killed for this session.

 

It is important to pay close attention to cloture votes because they are often more important than voting on the bill itself. 13 senators were “present but not voting” on this cloture motion. Such a vote is often just as good as a “no” vote, but it is a lot easier to explain to a constituent. I really don’t like “present but not voting” on cloture motions which is why I made a motion and tried to change the rules early in the session.

 

LB 461 was far from perfect, but failing the cloture vote prevented voting to advance the bill to select file where we would have another chance to amend it. I fear LB 461 may have been the last chance to do something about property taxes in Nebraska this session and that really upsets me. Property taxes are out-of-control in Nebraska. We have the 5th highest property taxes in the country and it is getting worse. They are crushing AG producers which is the biggest driver of the Nebraska economy. They drive people and business out of the State. They are out of control because the way Nebraska funds K-12 schools. The current system is terribly unfair to rural school districts. That system is completely broken and in urgent need of reform. Nebraska is 49th in the country in terms of State aid to schools. It is the #1 concern of the constituents in the 43rd District and despite everything my colleagues and I have done, we simply can’t get the bills we need passed because there are too many senators in the legislature who love taxing and spending.

 

There might be another bill I could offer my property tax amendment to coming up, but like everything else this year, finding 33 votes to invoke cloture so we can actually take a vote on the bill is very difficult.

 

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

04/28/17 Weekly Update

May 4th, 2017

We had a short, but very busy week. Friday was Arbor Day and the legislature was not in session. We got a lot of bills passed final reading and sent to the governor. We debated some controversial bills, got started on the budget, and did our first (of many) late night sessions.

My priority bill, LB 340, was signed in law by the governor this week. LB 340 takes the control of Nebraska’s Veteran Homes out of the Department of Health and Human Services and puts it under the control of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is a very good thing for a host of reasons. LB 340 is also the first piece of legislation I have ever had signed into law as a new Senator. I want to thank the many folks who have congratulated me on this. More is coming!

Sen. Groene’s (North Platte) LB 595 was heard this week. I think it is a good bill. It would protect teachers and school administrators from violent students. It was a hotly debated bill. The opposition filibustered it and filed a large number of amendments and motions against it. Like everything else this session, Sen. Groene will have to round up 33 votes to invoke cloture (stop debate and vote on the bill) in order for this measure to advance. We’ll see how this works out.

Sen. Linehan (Omaha) made a fairly rare motion to “pull” one of her bills out of committee to General File. LB 651 would adopt strict standards for school reading proficiency and would cause children to be held back in school if they fail to meet the standard. I support this bill but I seriously doubt it will go anywhere this session. I hope I’m wrong.

Sen. Smith (Papillion) introduced LB 461 last week. In my opinion, this is probably one of the most important bills we will debate this session. It makes significant changes to property and income tax laws in Nebraska. Along with many others, I have introduced an amendment to this bill. AM 1104 makes a few very important changes and additions to the bill. I think LB 461 will come up for a second round of debate sometime in the first week in May. I will have a very hard time supporting LB 461 if the changes and additions I have proposed in my amendment are not included in the final bill.

Debate began on the budget this week. Nebraska is over $1 billion in the red. The legislature must make some serious spending reductions to balance the budget. Wednesday we received another “Revenue Forecast” which predicted another $55 million LESS in revenue, making the requirement to come up with a balanced budget even more difficult. The arguments on the floor are along two lines of thought. Those who want “more revenue” (raise taxes) so State spending on their favorite programs can continue without interference, and those of us who believe money is best left in the hands of the people who worked for and earned it, and we should cut State spending instead.

I think the people of Nebraska are the best judge of what to do with their money. Just because the forty-nine of us Senators got elected to public office doesn’t suddenly make all of us a bunch of masterminds who know best how to spend someone else’s money. We need to focus on making sure the essential, constitutional functions of State Government have adequate resources (law enforcement / public safety, courts, correctional facilities, infrastructure and schools) but beyond that, I think a spending idea must demonstrate it serves an urgent public necessity and not just some special interest. We will spend most of what remains of the legislative session arguing about the budget, so I will be commenting further about it in the weeks ahead. I am finding out that Ronald Reagan was right; there is nothing quite so permanent as a government program.

Let me close with a word on the White Clay situation. I have received quite a number of calls and emails both for and against closing the liquor stores there. To start with, please remember that a State Senator has no more influence over those decisions than an ordinary citizen does. Secondly, I have always said and I will continue to say that I want to see the law followed. Whether or not beer is sold in White Clay has to be a decision reached after the law has been followed. Nebraska’s motto is “Equality before the law” and I want to see that motto lived up to in this and every case. Clearly, that process is well underway. At some point soon, I believe the Courts, the Attorney General and the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission will sort out this situation and reach a decision. Until then, speculation doesn’t make anything any better, so I urge folks, regardless of which side of this issue you are on, please let the legal system work through this issue. Regardless of the final decision, I will continue to lead the effort to make things better in White Clay. I will not spend my term as your State Senator turning a blind eye to this lawless place and simply kick the can down the road as my predecessors have done. Beer or no beer, whats going on in White Clay is wrong and it needs to change.

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

04/21/17 Weekly Update

April 26th, 2017

We had a hot week in the Legislature. They haven’t turned on the air-conditioning yet, and they have apparently already solved all the easy problems in Nebraska because the calendar is full of bills that are tough issues.

LB 640 was heard on the floor this week. I also co-sponsored this bill. It would dramatically change the formula used to provide much more State-aid to schools, and bring much-needed property tax relief. I really like this bill, and Sen. Groene (North Platt) did a great job with it, but like a lot of other good bills this session, there simply isn’t thirty-three votes to end the filibuster (end the opposition debate with a “cloture” motion) and get to a vote on the bill where we only need twenty-five votes to pass it. It’s a fact of life with anything that is the least bit controversial this year. A lot of really good bills will simply sit and be carried over to next year because they do not have thirty-three votes to end the filibuster. The legislature’s failure early in the session to reform the “cloture” rule is something we get to the see the results of everyday.

Debate began on LB 461 this week. This is the Governor’s bill brought by Sen. Smith (Papillion). The bill would completely change how AG ground property taxes are assessed and bring income tax relief as well. I introduced an amendment to this bill, AM 1104. It makes changes to some technical language, but most importantly it also addresses residential and commercial property taxes as well. It drives down valuations on all three classes of real property at the same time. I think this approach is vital. Ag ground property taxes are not just too high. When farmers and ranchers have to take out second mortgages, when they can’t sell a crop of grain or cattle that even covers the tax bill for the ground, when folks on a fixed income have to start taking money out of a retirement account to pay the property taxes on their house – that’s not just taxes being “too high” – that is taxation that has become immoral. Every Nebraska property owner is being crushed by out-of-control property taxes. This isn’t just and “urban vs. rural” issue. I really hope there is time left for my amendment to be debated on the floor and it becomes part of this bill. Property Taxes are the #1 issue in the 43rd district. We shall see how debate continues next week.

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.

04/14/17 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.

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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