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

04-13-2018 Weekly Update

April 13th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
04-13-2018

This week I sent a letter to the Secretary of State asking for the legislature to be called into Special Session. The reason I did this is because once again, the legislature failed to pass a bill that reduces property taxes. This is unacceptable. In the letter I specified property tax reduction as the purpose for the special session. Special sessions can only be about a specific purpose.

Ordinarily, the Constitution allows the Governor to call a special session. However, there is a provision in our legislative rules and the Nebraska law that allow the legislature to do this. The Legislature has never done this in the history of Nebraska.

In order to do this a senator requests a special session in a letter to the Secretary of State. The letter must contain the signatures of at least ten senators. My letter had the signatures of 13 senators whose districts represent over 75% of the land area of Nebraska. The Secretary of State then notifies the remaining senators in writing that this request has been made. Other Senators who also wish to have a special session have ten days to reply in writing to the Secretary of State. The Speaker announced today that the 10th and final day for senators to add their name to the list is 5:00 p.m., Monday the 23rd of April. If 20 more senators sign, for a total of 33, the Governor must call a special session within 5 days. By my reckoning, the earliest that could happen would be Monday the 30th of April.

This special session idea has made everyone running for re-election concerned. It conflicts with their re-election campaigns for the primary election coming up in May. While I understand their concerns, I also understand the need to finally resolve the most serious issue facing our State.

Year after year nothing happens. Senators leave the session and declare the other side is to blame. They encourage their constituents to keep voting for them so they can “keep up the fight.” The reason we never “win” the fight is because we fail to compromise. Since I’ve been here, we’ve had multiple good bills that address this issue die on the floor. Many good bills also remain trapped in committee. There is not another issue that has been more thoroughly studied. We’ve been over this problem ad nauseam. Senators being called into Special Session with an election looming and a campaign to get back to, will be empowered by a sense of urgency that I think has been missing. During my Army career, I was always amazed by what could be accomplished by a group of highly motivated people. The property tax solution could come from the shortest Special Session in history.

I encourage Nebraskans to contact every Senator in the legislature and urge them to sign the letter for the special session before Monday the 23rd of April. This link contains the information you need to contact them: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/senators/senator_list.php

The other reason I took this approach is because I cannot tell my constituents that I’ve “tried everything” to solve the property tax problem until I actually have tried everything. This really is the last legislative tool in the tool box. We can’t wait for the next legislature. The people didn’t send us here to “keep up the fight” for property tax reform year after year. They sent us here to finally win the fight and get something done. This problem must be solved NOW. If this doesn’t work, the people must pass the Property Tax Ballot Initiative in November.

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.

04-06-2018 Weekly Update

April 6th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
04-06-2018

The Governor’s Budget Bill, LB 947 had its three hours of General File debate this week. It is now in “Bill Purgatory” (a status known as “Speaker Hold”). This happens to a lot of bills. They end up in Speaker Hold because the bill doesn’t have 33 votes to end a filibuster.

Sen. Groene’s bill (LB 640), Sen. Friesen’s bill (LB 1103) and Sen. Briese’s bill (LB 1084) all address property tax relief through changes in school funding. These bills died the same death. A number of other bills that address property tax relief (including mine, LB 576) were never even voted out of the Revenue Committee and remain stuck there.

Following Sen. Friesen’s bill dying on the floor, the Speaker (Sen. Jim Sheer) addressed the body. Once again he urged members to work together to come up with a compromise. He stressed how incredibly important property tax relief is. He all but demanded action happen this session. Five senators who have property tax bills voted out of committee have been invited to meet in the Speaker’s to hammer out a compromise. As I’ve said before, property tax relief is not just a “problem” it has reached the point of being immoral. I applaud the Speaker Sheer’s leadership. This is the most important thing that has happened since I’ve been in the legislature.

The bottom line is we have until Monday. Once again I am reminded that no form of government will reform itself. It must be forced to. I have not given yet.

The longer I’m a Nebraska State Senator, the more I become convinced the Unicameral (one-house) “experiment” we have in Nebraska has reached the end of its usefulness. I’m becoming convinced the only hope for rural Nebraska is to go back to a two-house State government. In 1936, the last year of the Nebraska bi-cameral legislature, there were 100 representatives in the house, and 33 senators in the Senate. In the land area of the 13 counties of the 43rd district as it’s currently drawn, there would be at least 2 representatives in addition to the 1 senator. Two more voices in the legislature speaking for the Sandhills makes me happy. Of course everything would be apportioned on population, so the urban areas would also grow proportionately in representation as well.

One of the main reasons I believe we need a two-house system is because of its inherent checks and balances on government. George Norris (Father of the Unicameral system) argued the people would be “the 2nd House.” They would provide the “check” on government that we lost by going to our one-house legislature. In theory, our Unicameral would be “extra” transparent so the people could provide this check on government power. This has not occurred in my view. We’ve had a Unicameral for 81 years. We’ve had a property tax crisis for roughly 50 of those years. Year after year, a majority of senators in the Unicameral Legislature have ignored the problem. Since we’ve been a Unicameral, the people, through the ballot initiative and referendum process, have attempted to amend the Nebraska constitution and/or pass laws through the ballot process 57 times. Many of these efforts addressed lowering property taxes.
This only counts the measures that actually collected enough signatures and were put on the ballot. Before the Unicameral started in 1937, the people only used the ballot initiative and referendum process 18 times.

I’m forced to wonder, if the people really were successful in performing the “check” on State government that George Norris envisioned, then why did they have to resort to doing scores of ballot initiatives since we became a Unicameral? Why must the people now resort to using the ballot initiative process to try (again) to lower out of control property taxes? Why must the Speaker resort to weekend meetings to try and pass something the people have been screaming about for generations?

For the “2nd House” (the people) to be an effective check and balance on the 1st House (the Unicameral) the will of the people has to respected and not ignored.

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.

03-29-2018 Weekly Update

March 29th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
03-29-2018

The “cloture vote” I’ve talked about several times finally happened on the budget this week. On the third attempt to pass it, the vote was 43 yes, and 4 no. The budget advanced to “final reading” which is the last stage of debate before it is sent to the Governor for his signature.

Speaker Sheer showed leadership this week bringing Senators from both sides of the issue together to negotiate a compromise. They put language in an amendment to “clarify” the part of the budget that deals with the Title X Federal funding that Nebraska receives. This allowed us to finally invoke cloture and advance the budget.

The whole argument over the budget boiled down to abortion. Federal Law says Title X funding is supposed to be used to run healthcare clinics for poor people. The federal law also says if any of the money ends up being used for abortion, the State can lose it’s $1.9 million in federal funding. On two different inspections, the State Auditor found that our Title X funding was being co-mingled between healthcare for poor people and with abortion and related activities. We needed language in the budget that put safeguards in place to be sure and separate the funding.

The senators who support abortion all howled in protest saying this was all about closing down abortion clinics. One of the teaching assistants from the University even dropped off a flyer to my office depicting a crime scene photo of a woman who died from a botched motel room abortion in the 1960s. She implied my vote for the budget means I somehow support women dying from this practice. Her ghoulish reasoning reminds me once again of the problems we have with that institution.

I think abortion is murder and we should close abortion clinics, but that’s not the law of the land right now. Regardless, this was never the issue in the first place. This is about stopping the mistake of spending federal money on something federal law prohibits. In so doing, this is about protecting the money the federal government gives us to help provide healthcare to poor people.

In other news, I voted for Sen. Brasch’s “pull motion” to bring LB 1069 to the floor today. This motion “forces” a bill out of a committee. It is rarely used and often fails. It was successful today with 27 yes votes. The bill is about teaching Americanism in our schools. It is updating a 1947 law. What absolutely astonished me was debate that ensued and the vote. Why wasn’t this 49-0? What could possibly be wrong with making sure our school children are taught how exceptional and unique the United States is? We’re all Americans. This isn’t a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative issue. One of the Senators opposed to the bill said the idea we should teach the evils of Nazism and Communism to our school children was like the McCarthyism of the 1950’s and was “indoctrinating” our children. This bill will continue to be hotly debated as it moves through the process.

LB 947, the Governor’s property tax bill, will be debated on Tuesday, the 3rd of April. This would be a very interesting debate to watch. You can see it on-line here:
http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand

Sen. Smith who sponsored the bill says it has a “very narrow path” to success. This bill will likely need 33 votes to break the filibuster (cloture). It is a very modest proposal that doesn’t do near enough in the way of property tax relief, but I will vote for it. I would rather have part of something than all of nothing.

The voice of the people who live in the rural areas of our State is shrinking. After the next census in 2020, and the re-districting that will follow, it will be silenced even more. I believe the “experiment” with our one-house Unicameral has out-lived its usefulness. It was never intended to disenfranchise those who live in the sparsely populated parts of our State, but that is exactly what has happened. Next week I’ll go into more detail about how our legislature is broken.

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.

03-09-2018 Weekly Update

March 23rd, 2018

This past Thursday the balcony was full of fourth grade students visiting the Unicameral. As he often does during debate, Senator Ernie Chambers made disparaging remarks about the bible, Christianity, and made disgusting references to female anatomy. In response, the chaperons for the school children took them out of the balcony. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened.

 

This behavior rightfully outrages my constituents and I agree with them. The bottom line is there is a rule that is supposed to prohibit such things, but it effectively can’t be used. Let me explain what the problem is.

 

Our State Constitution says the Legislature will make its own “rules.” The rules say a senator “…shall confine his or her remarks to the question before the Legislature.” This rule is broken every day by any number of different Senators. Rule 2, Section 8, “Transgression of Rules, Call Member to Order” is the rule that is supposed to enforce order in the body. The rule is so vague it can’t be enforced. The rule requires the legislature to answer two questions. (1) Whether or not a senator is out of order is a simple majority vote without debate. (2) The question of the consequences for breaking the rule IS DEBATABLE. For example, the consequence could be a senator not allowed to speak for the rest of the legislative day. This debate would be endless because there isn’t 33 votes to end a filibuster over the question of consequences. Each Senator would argue to maintain their freedom to say to whatever they want in debate on the floor.

 

In researching this I have found the wording of this rule has been this way over 40 years. Our rules are based on “Mason’s Rules of Order” as many State legislatures are, but Nebraska is unique. Since 1937, the traditions governing debate have evolved in our Unicameral system in a way that encouraged the most “full and fair” debate possible. Compared to every other State, Senators in Nebraska have MUCH greater freedom to express themselves on the floor. No one I know of has ever heard of a successful use of Rule 2, Section 8. I think we need to change it so it can be used, but we need to be careful what we wish for. That said, I think the right balance can be found.

 

Rules are reviewed and adopted for each new legislature, so we will have a chance to debate/revise them in January 2019 at the beginning of the 106th legislature. Any change to Rule 2, Section 8 to make it enforceable will be seen as an effort to chill political speech. They will say it threatens full and fair debate. I would argue the change is needed as we now live in a different age. Political discourse has turned ugly and course. The restraints that modesty and manners once had on the etiquette of public speech are un-done today. Changing this rule is larger than just one senator and really addresses the Legislature as an institution. I think the change we need reflects how our society has changed.

 

I believe we can enforce civility and decorum in our legislature. We also can protect our unique tradition of giving Senators the most latitude of any State legislature in the country. It’s darn sure worth trying. We shouldn’t have to be worried about what grade school kids might hear when they come to watch the legislature in session.

 

The “Rules of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature” I made reference to can be found here:

https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Rules/RuleBook.pdf

 

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.

 

02-15-2018 Weekly Update

February 21st, 2018

This week, 17 people were murdered by a bloodthirsty lunatic in a high school in Florida. Others were gravely injured and the body-count may yet increase. A suspect was arrested. It appears the authorities were even aware he was a potentially dangerous person. As is the case with all of these tragedies, the “gun control” politicians can’t wait to get in front of a microphone to promote more infringement on our second amendment rights. Aside from the obvious objection I have to people who attack our constitutional rights, I want a solution that actually addresses the problem. More gun control laws most definitely do not.

Every time this sort of thing happens, I urge people to resist the temptation to recommend the typical knee-jerk, Nanny State Solution to ban guns. It is very easy to assume that more gun control will result in less crime, but this is false. The truth is counter-intuitive. This is not easy for some people because the emotional, gut reaction they think of as “common sense” is wrong.

Gun control laws only “control” people inclined to obey the law in the first place – the law-abiding. Murder is ALREADY illegal. More gun laws don’t stop gun violence. There is no logic – or evidence – to support how restrictions on law-abiding gun owners is going to make a bit of difference. See the 2003 and 2004 studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Academy of Science concerning the efficacy of gun control laws on stopping gun-related crime. It will open your eyes.

Research these studies and you’ll find the numbers of firearm related crimes and accidents have steadily dropped in relationship to the total number of guns, and all the while gun sales have dramatically increased and more states have liberalized laws dealing with the carrying of guns in public, but there is no corresponding spike in gun violence. Guns are used 5 times more often to stop crime than to commit crime – and that doesn’t count police use or the deterrent factor of criminals knowing their intended victims might be armed. Guns are used by private citizens to stop criminal activity some 2.5 million times each year and rarely do they even fire a shot doing it. Recreational shooters fire billions of rounds each year, but firearms injury accident numbers keep going down as a percentage of all the guns in circulation and are at record lows.

Chicago has the toughest gun control laws in the country. Last year nearly 3000 people were shot, and 625 of them were killed. That works out to be someone getting shot about once every 4 hours. This city has one of the highest murder rates per-capita of any city in the country. Statistically, you’d be much safer in Kabul, Afghanistan. There is a “Florida High School” in Chicago about every six days.

There is nothing wrong with being anti-gun, everyone is entitled to their opinion and no one is forcing anyone to own a gun, but I wish people would at least be against failed government policy with the same enthusiasm. I don’t need to be an Afghanistan combat veteran to tell you that one armed citizen could have made a huge difference in that high school in Florida. That’s just common sense.
Reasonable people can disagree, but before we can really sit down and have a “meaningful discussion” about gun crimes, both sides need to agree that “gun free zones” are just target-rich environments filled with helpless people waiting to become victims.

I am going to take a long, hard look at our Nebraska laws as they relate to the subject of voluntarily arming faculty and staff in our schools. I’m going to gather stake-holders together this summer and try to find a way to write a bill that permits this. We protect all kinds of things in our society with armed security. I cannot think of something more precious to all of us than a school full of innocent children. They deserve armed security more than anything I can think of. There has to be a way to do this on a voluntary basis that doesn’t cost the taxpayers of the Nebraska anything.

There is always going to be evil in this world. If someone wants to do harm to someone else, they will always find a way. All we can do is be prepared for it. Putting up a “Gun Free Zone” sign and hoping for the best doesn’t work. When it comes to the safety of our children, “hope” is an unacceptable course of action.

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.

02-09-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
02-09-2018

This week I introduced LB 752. This bill repeals a section of the law I believe is immoral.

Nebraska Statute 70-1014.02 (5) says:

“Only a consumer-owned electric supplier operating in the State of Nebraska may exercise eminent domain authority to acquire the land rights necessary for the construction of transmission lines and related facilities. The exercise of eminent domain to provide needed transmission lines and related facilities for a privately developed renewable energy generation facility is a public use.”

Read that last sentence and let that soak in. How can something that is defined in the law as a “private” thing be called a “public” thing in the same sentence? Wind energy projects are PRIVATE business ventures. They are not being built by or for any agency of government. They are not for the public use. They are not serving a “public necessity.” We have a surplus of electrical generation in Nebraska. They are not built because we need the electricity. They are built for a handful of investors and landowners to make money. Period. Although I suppose they are pretty good for generating campaign donations.

Imagine your neighbor invites a wind energy developer on to his property. They build a massive industrial wind energy project with scores of huge towers right next door. To get the power they manage to generate only 40% of the time out to the electrical grid, they need to build an “inter-connect” or “feeder” line. If you refuse to grant them a voluntary easement to build a power line across your ground, they simply go to the law I just quoted and forcibly TAKE YOUR LAND for this private business.

I understand why a division of State government, like the Department of Roads for example, needs to have the power of eminent domain. A private business interest should not have this same power.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha is a member of the Judiciary Committee which heard this bill this week. Unfortunately, he is opposed to my bill and he spoke against it during the hearing. I don’t understand his opposition. This issue is so crystal clear to me. I urge readers so inclined to contact Sen. Krist and the other members of the Judiciary Committee and politely suggest they support LB 752.

The Cherry County Board met this week and voted 2-1 to reject the wind energy ordinance. The volunteers of the 9-member planning and zoning board worked on this for over a year. This ordinance set good parameters for wind energy development in the county. Tanya Storer was the only vote to keep the ordinance. She did a good job of chairing the meeting and listening to passionate testimony from nearly fifty citizens. That process is “local control.” This is a huge part of how we do government in Nebraska. I’m sad Cherry County is back to square-one with this issue. It may take another election to get it done, but I am confident the citizens of the county will eventually get a solution to this important issue.

LB 1054, which gives people effected by wind energy projects a voice in the process, is stuck in the Natural Resources Committee. Four senators are for it, and four senators are against it. I need five “yes” votes to advance this bill out of Committee to General File. I am working on an amendment to try and get the bill out of committee. If this doesn’t swing the one vote I need, there are other options to get this bill to the floor. It’s my priority bill. I will use every tool in the toolbox to move it forward.

Back in the 1930s when George Norris was arguing in favor of changing Nebraska’s government to the unicameral we have now, he said the people would serve as Nebraska’s “second house” of government. He said there were protections in the new system where the people would serve as a check and balance upon the possible abuse of power. With each passing day, I have trouble seeing these protections. A private business interest who enjoys un-checked political power to the point they can steam-roll the citizens no matter what they do is not what George Norris had in mind. I think it’s time we ask whether our unicameral system is serving ALL Nebraskans.

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.

02-02-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
02-02-2018

This week I introduced my priority bill, LB 1054. It’s a bill that addresses wind energy in Nebraska. It’s been a long, hard road coming to this place. In the past 13 months, since I was sworn-in a Nebraska State Senator, I have been fighting to get a bill passed that addresses this issue. Second only to high property taxes, there is nothing more important to the people of the 43rd Legislative District than wind energy. Speaking of, the people of the district have answered the call and endured the drive to Lincoln. On three separate occasions – some of them driving over 8 hours one way – they have come to fill the hearing room and testify before the Natural Resources Committee. Patiently waiting their turn, they have sat for hours on end. They have passionately and often emotionally recounted the long list of harm brought about by industrial wind energy. Those who couldn’t make the trip have written dozens of letters in support. I am humbled by the people of the district. I cannot put into words my profound respect for them. It is an honor it is to represent such an exceptional group of Nebraskans.

The committee now has to meet in executive session to vote my bill out to general file.

This story starts two years ago when LB 824 passed in 2016. This bill was sponsored by some Senators who are still in the legislature. Former Senator Ken Schilz was the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee in 2016. He made LB 824 a committee priority bill and led the effort that got this bill passed. He is now a lobbyist for wind energy. This bill took away the people’s voice in wind energy projects. They oppose my bill and will definitely lead a filibuster against it because my bill reverses what LB 824 did for big wind. The battle for LB 1054 is really just beginning. I welcome the chance to debate LB 1054 on the floor, but make no mistake. We will need 33 votes to break the filibuster. The hundreds of millions of dollars they make off the backs of tax-payers is why wind energy companies trample the rights of their neighbors in the first place, and they will fight hard to protect their special status. The spectacularly wealthy big wind lobbyists will fill the rotunda that day, and their patron Senators in the legislature will vigorously argue against my bill. In the weeks to come, I’ll use this weekly update to call for your support, and I’ll need it.

I welcome the chance to debate LB 1054 on the floor because this bill is about fairness. This bill is about giving citizens that are affected by industrial wind energy projects a voice that was taken away from them two years ago. The pro-wind energy bill that passed two years ago exempted wind energy from much of the Power Review Board (PRB) process. The PRB is a sub-division of Nebraska state government that regulates and has oversight over power generation, transmission and distribution in Nebraska. One of the steps in the PRB process is a public hearing on proposed projects. Members of the public “with standing” (lawyer-speak for; people who can legally prove they are affected by a project) have an opportunity to be HEARD before the board and have what they say MATTER to the board such that it must be considered when the board issues it’s ruling to approve or reject a proposed project.

Nebraska is the only State that is 100% “public power.” Public utilities in our State are subject to numerous layers of oversight and regulation that gives members of the public multiple opportunities to be heard. Add to this the fact the board members in charge of our public utilities are elected.

PRIVATE generators of electricity on the other hand, such as wind energy, managed to get themselves exempted from this sort of oversight two years ago when LB 824 passed. They are not elected. They took away the people’s right to be heard. My bill LB 1054 simply restores this right. It puts wind energy back into the only process Nebraska has; the Power Review Board. When they testified in opposition yesterday to this “burdensome, unnecessary regulation” I was forced to wonder; “How did they manage to build all the wind energy in Nebraska before 2016 when they had to go through the PRB process?”

Don’t be fooled. You’ll hear supporters of big wind say “local control” provides the people a voice. Ask yourself how that is possible when the wind energy business model is to first come into a county and sign-up as many elected officials as they can as investors / paid land-owners. How can a county board or a planning and zoning commission member be objective and unbiased and look out for the best interests of everyone if they have a conflict of interest? This exact set of circumstances is playing-out in counties all over Nebraska.

The people need to get their voice back. If an industrial wind energy project really is the good neighbor they claim to be, they should have no problem listening to the people around their project testify in a public hearing. What are they afraid of?

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.

01-26-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-26-2018

Sen. Erdman introduced his property tax bill (LB 829) this week. There was a big turn-out of supporters and opponents. The hearing lasted until 6:00pm in the evening. Sen. Erdman’s bill is very similar to the ballot initiative I expect the people to bring this fall. I think pigs will fly before this is voted out of the Revenue Committee and the legislature will pass LB 829, so I sure hope the people will get behind the ballot initiative.

I want to talk about an issue that affects property taxes: Natural Resource Districts.

Nebraska has 23 different Natural Resources Districts. Unlike most States that perform these functions along county lines, the boundaries of Nebraska’s NRD’s are built around river basins, which is a very smart way to do this. Our NRDs are organized under the Platte, Republican, Loup, Niobrara, Elkhorn, Nemaha, Blue and Missouri river basins. The law charges the NRDs with a lot of responsibility. They do erosion and flood prevention and control. Drainage improvement. Forestry and range management. Development of fish and wildlife habitat. Pollution control and solid waste disposal, management of recreational and park facilities, and soil conservation. Our NRDs do a good job at something very important to Nebraska.

The one mission of the NRDs I want to focus on today is their responsibility for the development, management, utilization, and conservation of groundwater and surface water in Nebraska.

State geologists determine how much ground water can be used / pumped in a given NRD’s area. Using 100% of this amount of water is called being “fully appropriated.” Exceeding this water use is called “over appropriated.” 10 of Nebraska’s 23 NRDs have a water problem. They are either fully or over-appropriated.

NRD’s can levy 4.5 cents of property tax (per $100 dollars of value). With a super-majority vote of the board (3/5) they can increase their levy by 1 cent to 5.5 cents. To help alleviate the water problem in the 10 NRDs, the legislature authorized those NRDs an additional 3 cents of levy authority. This happened back in 2004 and it has been re-authorized three more times. The 3 cent levy authority “sunsets” again this year. LB 98 was introduced last session to re-authorize the 3 cent levy again. In layman’s terms, this means if I vote against LB 98, the 3 cent levy will sunset (end) and the 10 effected NRDs will no longer have this additional taxing authority. Voting for LB 98 may increase your property taxes.

This bill will come up this session. Before I vote on it, I want to hear from you. Should we re-authorize this additional 3 cents in taxing authority for NRDs, or should it sunset?

As it turns out, the 2004 law doesn’t require the money collected from the additional 3 cent levy to be accounted for separately. All the tax revenue collected by an NRD goes into the same pot. 7 of the 10 districts with water problems actually used part of the extra 3 cents, and only two of those NRDs were already at their 5.5 cent maximum levy. Its hard to tell if they needed the extra money to implement projects. Should an NRD already be at it’s 5.5 cent maximum levy before they use the extra 3 cents?

In the last ten years, the total property valuations in the NRDs taxing jurisdiction have increased from $2.37 billion to $6.8 billion. That means the “value” the NRDs can apply their maximum levy authority of 5.5 cents to has increased 186%.

Like I said to start with, the NRDs have a big, important job to do, especially the full and over-appropriated districts. I realize this job costs money. I was elected to lower property taxes. Re-authorizing this 3 cents may result in increased property taxes.

On another issue, why does the NRD N-CORPE need to own 30 square miles of land just to pump water? This land should be sold. This is why I support Sen. Groene’s LB 1123. This bill would protect the water rights the NRDs that need to comply with Nebraska’s stream augmentation project. This would allow the land to return to private ownership and restore over $700,000 in property taxes being paid on that land to schools, counties and NRDs.

Once again, before I vote on LB 98 for the extra 3 cent levy for the NRDs, I need to hear from 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.

01-19-2018 Weekly Update

February 14th, 2018

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
01-19-2018

It’s not often I get a chance to talk about something the government is doing right, so I was very excited to learn about the State Patrol’s on-line concealed carry renewal process.

If you go to this website: https://www.nebraska.gov/apps-nsp-chp/ you can renew your concealed carry permit on-line. The old process for renewing or replacing permits could be a time-intensive task which required permit holders to show up in person at one of the six Nebraska State Patrol branch offices around the State to renew their permit. This new online portal will be helpful to Nebraskans, especially those in the 43rd District who would have to travel long distances. No waiting in line and no appointments needed. Well done Nebraska State Patrol!

The 2nd Session of the 105th Legislature is moving right along. Being a “short-session” (60 legislative days) things are very compressed compared to last year. The 18th of January was the last day to drop new bills in the 105th legislature. All told, 1136 bills were introduced, 667 last session and 469 this session. Now I understand with much sharper clarity what Mark Twain meant when he said, “”No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” You look at a number like that and you have to wonder if we really need that many new laws. I think of this when I hear someone say, “There ought to be a law!”

What I’ve found is very few of those 1136 bills are actually new laws. There are 90 “chapters” of Nebraska laws (statutes). As it turns out, almost everything someone can think of is already in one of those chapters. The vast majority of the 1136 bills is changing something in a law that already exists, fixing language that doesn’t work, or updating old laws to keep up with technology. The creation of the internet causes a lot of bills, for example. In the end, very few bills actually create brand new laws that there wasn’t a statute for already. One thing is for sure; all of the easy bills were passed long before I got here. It is very difficult to get a bill turned into a law, and I am glad it is. Only a fraction of these 1136 bills will ever make it to the Governor’s desk.

LB 1054 is a bill I introduced this session that deals with Wind Energy. It is my priority bill. It will restore the practice of requiring wind energy companies to make application to the Power Review Board before wind energy projects can move forward. If it passes, this will be the first time people directly affected by a wind energy project will have a voice in the Power Review Board process. It will also make that voice matter in the boards’ decision-making. The hearing will be in the Natural Resource Committee in early February. I hope we can fill the hearing room with interested parties. More to follow.

I really like Sen. Erdman’s Property Tax Bill, LB 829. I co-sponsored this bill and worked very closely with him on this bill all summer. The hearing will be in the Revenue Committee this coming Thursday on the 25th of January. I strongly encourage folks to follow it because it is very similar to the people’s ballot initiative. It will lower property taxes in Nebraska by about 30%. People who wish to send a letter to the committee to be included in the record for the hearing must do so by 5:00pm the day before the hearing. If you can make it to the hearing that day, we would really appreciate the support.

I have heard from a great many of you about the incident last August at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. This is where a young student was accosted by a faculty member while she was promoting a conservative organization. I was involved with this issue from the beginning, and have worked closely with my friend Sen. Halloran from Hastings. He has introduced LB 718 which addresses the conduct of university faculty and staff. I have also co-sponsored this bill. It will be heard in the Education Committee on the 30th of January. As with Sen. Erdman’s bill, I am certain he would also appreciate your support.

You can find more information on all of the bills on the legislature’s website: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/. You can sign up for the “Unicameral Update” to be mailed free of charge by calling 402-471-2788 or email at: uio@leg.ne.gov.

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.

01-12-2018 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.

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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