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

10/27/17 Weekly Update

November 16th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
10/27/17

This week I attended a “Public Comment Period” meeting in Thedford put on by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. After two previous meetings had been canceled under questionable circumstances, the public finally got a chance to voice their concerns about Nebraska Public Power District’s “R Line” project. This is a 225-mile long, 345kv high-voltage power line. The line is routed right through the heart of the most environmentally sensitive part of our State from the Gerald Gentleman Power Station near Sutherland to a new substation planned for Holt County. Providing connection to wind energy projects is listed as one of the reasons for this project in NPPD documents on their website. I am strongly opposed to wind energy in the Sandhills for a host of reasons.

More than one hundred people attended this meeting which lasted over three hours. Once again I saw the gut-wrenching passion people have for their land, many the fourth or fifth generation of the same family. Once again, I heard a government agency basically tell people “we hear you” but we can’t do anything. To be fair, USFW is east of the rock and west of the hard place on this. All things considered they ran a good meeting, but “hear” people and be neutral on this project is really all they can do. The simple fact is, if NPPD checks all the blocks and legally satisfies all of the USFW requirements, that agency is then obligated to issue NPPD an incidental “take permit” for the threatened species that is jeopardized by the R Project. In this case, the species that needs a “take permit” is the North American Burying Beetle.

At the moment, the only thing holding up the construction of the R Line is not the hundreds of citizens begging a sub-division of State government to reconsider their plans. It’s not a State Senator asking for other routes for the line be given a second look. The only thing holding up the R Line is the federal government giving NPPD permission to accidently kill an endangered bug.

Concerned citizens have until November 7th to submit information to the US Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the R Project, and I strongly encourage them to do so. After that date, further public comment on this issue cannot be considered. I am very concerned about this. If NPPD were to submit plans or documents related to the project AFTER the USFW public comment period has ended, will citizens have an opportunity to review that information and submit comment that rebuts or questions the voracity of the information? Will USFW extend and re-open the public comment period (as they have in the past) in that event? I’m waiting on an answer to this.

There are 11 members of the NPPD board of directors. Mr. Thomas Hoff is the NPPD Board Member that represents Subdivision 5, the area most of the R Line is routed through. I have requested a meeting with him. The only check and balance on the vast power and authority given to public utilities in Nebraska is the fact their board of directors are popularly elected. Concerned citizens, State Senators, the Governor, even the US Fish and Wildlife Service can do nothing to stop or change a public utility project like the R Line – only the board of directors can. I urge people concerned with the R Line to contact Mr. Hoff. 308-872-3352 or email him: tjhoff@nppd.com. Mr. Hoff is 1/11th of the reason why the R Line is where it is. I therefore hope he takes an opportunity to speak to local media, address the many issues being raised and help inform citizens on the project he voted for.

I learned this week Nebraska State Law allows a public utility like NPPD to use it’s power of eminent domain to build feeder lines that connect private wind energy facilities to the power grid. The wind company can build these lines itself but if they face a land owner who refuses to grant them an easement, the wind power company can have NPPD build the feeder line and use it’s power of eminent domain to do it. The idea a private company can use a Nebraska Public Utility to forcibly take land from its neighbor’s shocks me. I’m stunned thug tactics like this are actually legal in Nebraska. I’m drafting legislation that will stop this.

Speaking of travesty in the law, currently Nebraska law does not prohibit an elected official from personally benefiting from something they vote on. If a county official is also personally invested in a Wind Energy company, for example, he can vote on a zoning ordinance that will result in his own financial benefit so long as he publically discloses this fact before the vote. Again, I was astonished our laws allow this. The law should require elected officials to recuse themselves from such votes. I’m drafting legislation that would stop this nonsense as well.

All of this stuff is far from over. I’m going to engage the NPPD board of directors. They have the power to change the route of the R Line. I’m going to find out why a “take permit” for an endangered bug was needed, yet one for the Whooping Crane wasn’t included in the Environmental Impact Study. The R Line goes right through their fly-way. I’m drafting legislation to correct some serious problems with Nebraska law. I’m engaging more and more Senators everyday who share my concerns with these issues. I’m watching the deadline for the USFW Public Comment Period very closely. If NPPD delivers documents to USFW after that date, I will ask USFW to re-open the public comment period so the public can evaluate them. Even though I’m convinced they solved all the easy problems long before I got here, I still count my blessings. I am so grateful for the kind of people I have in my district. They make being their Senator such an honor and privilege. They are well informed. They give of themselves so much. They care. I’m so lucky to represent such incredible people. They truly are the best in Nebraska. They remind me of Ulysses S. Grant. When President Lincoln was asked why he had hired General Grant he replied;

He fights.

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

10/20/17 Weekly Update

October 25th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
10/20/17

I’m a member of the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee. This committee came about as a result of Legislative Resolution 127 which was passed last session. The mission of this committee is to study the many serious problems facing our Department of Corrections. This is the third legislative committee to do this and it continues the work of the LR 424 Committee (2014) and the LR 34 Committee (2015).

During the course of the summer we toured all ten correctional facilities across Nebraska. We spoke to staff and prisoners alike. Problems common across the board include over-crowding, understaffing, and high staff turn-over. Mandatory overtime because of the understaffing causes moral problems. The parole situation is a vicious circle problem. Prisoners otherwise eligible for parole aren’t qualified and can’t be released on parole because they lack the training required to be considered for parole. The pre-parole programs the prisoners need to complete can’t be staffed and operated because of the understaffing problem. Lack of a competitive pay and compensation program makes fixing the staffing problem more difficult.

Since January 2015, the Department of Corrections has reduced the prison population by 25% and the number of prisoners released on parole has increased 136%. During this same time however, the population in our county jails has increased by 46%. I see this as an unfunded mandate on the counties. Nebraska’s prison problem is also now a county problem. Our county jails shouldn’t be used to help reduce the State’s prison population. This isn’t funded and it’s not what the jails are designed for.

LB 605 was passed in the 104th legislature. It forces Nebraska to reduce the prison population to the designed capacity of the facilities. Presently we’re at about 160% of designed capacity and forecasted to get worse. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a civil rights lawsuit against Nebraska in August of 2017 due to the overcrowding and lack of adequate healthcare for inmates. By 2020, the law mandates reductions in our prison population which I think could result in a public safety problem if we were ever reach that point. Obviously, this is something the Legislature has to work on in the next session. The same could be said for a number of other very serious problems.

We heard testimony from Director Frakes today. I think it is important to point out the Department of Corrections requested funding for ninety-six fulltime positions in the last budget, and the Legislature only funded twenty-nine of those. As a result efforts to run the needed programs the inmates require so the population could be reduced through parole have been limited.

I’ve heard other ideas like “exporting” prisoners to other States with excess prison capacity or hiring a private company and contracting out our correctional services. I don’t like these ideas. These are Nebraska problems that need a Nebraska solution. I support additional funding for the Department of Corrections. Public safety is the very first and most important function of government. I also believe it is not necessary to raise tax revenue to do this. Spending on other State functions can be prioritized and that money reallocated.

Out-of-control property taxes, the prison problem, and a budget shortfall, which will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will be that subjects that dominate the next session.

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

10/13/17 Weekly Update

October 19th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer

43rd District

10/13/17

 

This week we joined Governor Pete Ricketts and Courtney Dentlinger, Director of Economic Development in visiting the Perrin Manufacturing facility in Alliance, NE. Perrin Manufacturing specializes in making auxiliary power units and heating and cooling units for many industrial applications such as what is used in the trucking industry. It is great to see a local business like Perrin grow and thrive.

 

My staff attended the Community Leader breakfast in Lincoln on Mental Illness Awareness and Suicide Awareness. These are important issues, most especially to veterans and many of the rural communities in the 43rd District who are under-served when it comes to mental health resources.

 

I attended the McPherson County Farm Bureau meeting in Tryon. I met with a number of citizens from Dawes, Sioux and Sheridan Counties who were all concerned about Property Taxes. This is an all too common event for me and it serves to illustrate the point that this issue continues to be the most important thing in the district, and for the all Nebraskans.  It is one of the top items on my to do list. Citizen-lead efforts to do a ballot initiative to put a property tax measure on the ballot in the next election are on-going, and so are efforts to address this problem in the legislature in the next session. My property tax bill remains stuck in the Revenue Committee (LB 576).

 

I held a Townhall meeting in Gordon at the American Legion. I’m a big supporter of the Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I’m grateful for their continued support. Senator Erdman from the 47th District joined me.  Again, we discussed the on-going misery of property taxes, along with the harm being done by Wind Energy in the Sandhills, and the continuing serious issues concerning the “R Line” powerline project. We also discussed the Whiteclay situation since the beer stores have closed. There has been a lot of positive developments and progress made, there is a lot that remains to be done, and there are genuine concerns going forward that I am addressing in working with the Department of Road, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the Attorney General such as traffic safety along the highways. I’ll keep you updated as we move forward.

 

My Legislative Aide and I, as well as my daughter attended the Annual Pine Ridge Wild Turkey Hunt in Chadron. Deb Cottier with the Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation, along with the many sponsors and organizers of this event did an incredible job.  The many landowners who guided the hunters were the very best ambassadors Western Nebraska could ever ask for.   Senator Justin Wayne from Omaha, Senator Suzanne Geist from Lincoln and Senator Lou Ann Linehan from Elkhorn joined us and we were able to share the incredible beauty of the Sandhills and the Pine Ridge area with them for the first time. My Eastern Nebraska colleagues had never seen this part of Nebraska, and had never participated in a Turkey Hunt before. (One had never used a shotgun.) This was the first time I attended this outstanding event, and I will do my best to have as many Senators as possible, (including the Governor), in joining me next year in showcasing our part of Nebraska to them.

 

I toured the new Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance. I was very impressed by the dedicated and professional staff, and so happy to see such a state-of-the-art healthcare facility in Western Nebraska. Like many other healthcare providers in Nebraska, they face serious challenges, namely they have a very hard time getting paid. Recent changes in how the State performs MEDICAID reimbursement and the multiple layers of bureaucracy and the confusing labyrinth of procedures and rules often results in claims going unpaid altogether or only partially paid. I’m very glad the CEO Lori Mazanec and her staff took the time to show me their exceptional facility. I appreciated hearing their concerns and I will be talking with the Department of Health and Human Services about this to learn more of the details of this complicated problem and helping to find a solution.

 

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

 

10/06/17 Weekly Update

October 12th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
10/06/17

This week I visited Valentine and Mullen and learned about all of the incredible developments going on with the internet in the district as part of the Nebraska Telecommunications Association’s tour. High-speed internet is now and will continue to become more and more available in the district, even to our many small towns and distant ranch and rural locations. A combination of companies developing fiber optic cable infrastructure and others delivering internet wirelessly via the cellular telephone network are rapidly expanding their service footprint. We had a great lunch stop in Mullen where I got to visit with quite a few folks from the district. This event was well attended by the public and the local schools. The exciting possibilities that come from high-speed internet access are incredible and I am very glad to see this capability finally coming to Western Nebraska.

I was able to attend the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War at the Hay Springs Community Hall. It was a themed USO show with Miss Nebraska, Allison Tietien as part of the cast. It was very well attended by many in the district. It is good to show our Vietnam Vets that they are not forgotten.

The Logan County Farm Bureau had their annual meeting in Stapleton which I attended and gave a Legislative update. They are a great organization. They are very invested in property tax relief/reform and understandably so. We continue to work on efforts with Senator Erdman to get a bill passed that will lower property taxes for Nebraskans and change how we assess the value of agricultural ground.

As part of the Whiteclay Task Force, we met in Whiteclay this past weekend to continue to build upon the progress that has been made. Continued economic development was discussed. The University of Nebraska Medical Center demonstrated the new “Tele-health” technology which makes delivering primary healthcare to rural Nebraska. I toured the new Family Dollar Store. My office is working with the Sheriff and the Nebraska State Patrol to ensure highway 87 is sufficiently patrolled.

This week I met with a veterans group on LB 121 which I introduced last session and is still stuck in the Revenue Committee. It would exempt some military retired pay from Nebraska income tax. This exemption is a good idea because every state we share a border with does a way better job of this than Nebraska does. We are losing thousands of outstanding, highly educated and qualified people (military retirees) who settle in other states to avoid Nebraska’s confiscatory income tax laws. This same group also supports ending Nebraska’s income tax on Social Security. We are one of only six States who tax Social Security. It’s a dumb idea taxing military retired pay. It’s a dollar chasing a dime. Taxing Social Security is just immoral. The money was already subjected to income tax when the person earned it and had it taken out of their pay check. Taxing it again is just wrong.

A lot of folks have expressed concern to me about the tragedy in Las Vegas. Like everyone else, I am shocked and heartbroken by this senseless crime, but a “crime” is exactly what it is. The shooter broke the law. Murder is already illegal. A “gun control” law would not have prevented it, nor would it stop it from happening again. Laws only govern the behavior of the law-abiding. What really bothers me are those who employ the tired old straw man fallacy which promotes the idea that being against a gun control law somehow means I don’t care about the victims. This is as dishonest as it is false. Someone’s outrage and demand for additional limits on our constitutional rights doesn’t make them the morally superior side of this argument. The number of people slaughtered in Chicago amounts to a Las Vegas tragedy every month, yet that city has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Where’s the outrage for that? We need “common sense criminal control.” The 2nd amendment is already the only constitutional right you have to ask permission to use. Further infringement on something that the constitution says “shall not be infringed” won’t stop criminals from ignoring the law because that is what criminals 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.

09-29-2017 Weekly Update

October 3rd, 2017

 

There is a term used a lot in the Nebraska Capitol. “Nebraska Nice.” Wind energy is not Nebraska Nice. Wind energy is a scam that hurts people and animals, wastes billions in tax dollars, and isn’t “green” energy by any definition of the term. Industrial wind energy projects also make terrible neighbors and will utterly destroy the most environmentally sensitive part of our State.

Last week the Natural Resources Committee held an interim study hearing on Public Power. A portion of that hearing was devoted to “renewable” energy (wind energy). The chairman of the committee, Sen. Dan Hughes, supports wind energy, but to his credit, he ran an excellent hearing and was exceptionally fair to all who participated. Sen. John McCollister of Omaha is on the committee. He posted an Op Ed in the Omaha paper this week about how wonderful wind energy is. This probably explains why he left the hearing early and didn’t hear the many citizens who testified against it. I hope he shows more courtesy to his constituents than he did the people who took time away from work and family and drove hundreds of miles from all over the State to be at that hearing.

We are just beginning to understand the health effects on people and animals of the low frequency noise made by industrial wind turbines known as “infrasound.” The aerodynamic reflection from the blade when in alignment with the tower causes a “thump, thump, thump” that cannot be ignored. The sound, which is most disturbing at night, invades the quiet of our bedrooms and disturbs Nebraskans who are trying to sleep. The “shadow flicker” from the blades passing in front of the sun casts disorienting shadows in homes more than a mile from the turbine and causes vertigo and nausea and has been linked to migraine headaches.

Many industries in the US receive some kind of government subsidy, but the Wind Energy Industry is 100% reliant on federal subsidy known as the “Production Tax Credit.” Wind projects don’t farm the wind, they farm tax avoidance credits as confirmed by Warren Buffet who admitted, “That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” Under the current policy, the industry is forecasted to reap $24 billion in subsidies between 2016 and 2020 or electricity production subsidies – nearly double the subsidies planned for any other renewable option. None of these figures include the significant benefits granted the industry in the form of state production tax credits, lower local taxes, and ratepayer-funded transmission. Our country is over $20 trillion in debt. Why are we paying this kind of money for an intermittent source of electricity that only makes power about 30% of the time?

Since wind power is intermittent, no amount of wind turbines installed in the US will result in an existing “dirty” power plant ever being decommissioned nor will it negate the need to build reliable generation. Americans are being asked to pay for two energy systems, one that produces wind energy and the second that delivers reliable electricity.  Obviously, this excess generation capacity costs money to build and operate and that cost gets added to the rate-payers bill. My Legislative Aide and I just spent ten days in Germany. The Germans are finding out the hard way how disruptive and costly reliance on wind power is. Catastrophic, cascading failure of the national power grid is now a daily struggle to prevent in Germany. Plans to decommission their last remaining nuclear power stations have been put on hold because of how unstable their power infrastructure has become.

Connecting a wind farm to the grid often requires new power-lines and the use of eminent domain to forcibly take land from people to build a power line across their ground for no other reason than to cater to the wind developer. Despite NPPD denials, reports from their own meetings clearly state the “R Line” has been, “…proposed chiefly to provide access for wind energy developments in Cherry Co…” This project will tear through the heart of the most sensitive part of Nebraska’s Sandhills.

Wind energy development in the Sandhills of Nebraska will cause damage to the ground (blowouts) that can never be mitigated or repaired. Wagon ruts from pioneers from over a century ago are still visible in the Sandhills. How can 20 semi-loads (just to put up the construction crane) cross the Sandhills without permanent damage? Countless more concrete trucks and loads of blades and tower sections will put a lasting scar on a place that has no equal in the world. Untold numbers of birds and bats are killed, including threatened and endangered species. The government even issues 30-year permits for the “taking” (killing) of bald and golden eagles. Siting hundreds of turbines in the Sand Hills with blades spinning at 200 mph at the tip presents a danger to flying creatures like nothing else.

The lost property value a neighbor to a wind turbine suffers is not compensated. Who would buy a house next to an industrial wind energy facility? The lost use of that portion of a neighbors ground inside the minimum safe distance from a wind turbine is not compensated. Wind Energy companies fight for the smallest set-back they can get to maximize the number of wind turbines they can build in an area with no regard for their neighbor’s property rights. Wind turbines run-off wildlife and spoil hunting in rural areas. They spoil pristine views and tourism. The promised boon in property tax revenue for local governments is over-rated and often doesn’t materialize as promised. Unless the local resident has the proper licensees and training certifications, the so-called “jobs” that are created by a wind energy development are taken by here-today-gone-tomorrow workers from out of State. One in four wind companies go bankrupt before their projects are even finished and are often bought by foreign investors.

To add insult to injury, most of the wind energy generated in Nebraska won’t even be consumed in Nebraska.

In the mad land rush to build turbines before the production tax credit runs out, local county governments are under a lot of pressure to approve the zoning and never think to require a surety bond be in place to fund the decommissioning costs for a wind turbine. As the turbine is retired and taken off line, many will stand there forever as monuments to greed and the short-sighted public policy that so often enables it.

Electricity should be above all reliable and as economical as we can make it. Wind energy delivers neither. Wind energy is very harmful to the environment it is supposedly built to save. The only “green” in wind energy is the color of the money their powerful lobbyists loot from the tax payers. We shouldn’t build industrial wind energy projects anywhere near where people live. We should think really hard about throwing billions of tax dollars at another scheme that can never stand on its own, and only benefits a few lucky people at the expense of everyone else. We should think very hard about something that will permanently destroy an environmentally fragile and very unique place like the Sandhills. At least Kansas was smart enough to protect about 11,000 square miles of their environmentally sensitive “Flint Hills” from the destruction wrought by industrial wind energy construction. We should do the same. Wind energy is a scam that hurts people. It’s not Nebraska Nice. Urge your State Senator to pass LB 504, my bill to protect the Sandhills.

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

 

9/22/2017 Weekly Update

September 26th, 2017

On Friday, September 8th the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission fined me $500 for not disclosing campaign costs associated with my campaign for the Legislature during the summer of 2016.

An Alliance man, Richard Schommer, alleged in a complaint that I didn’t disclose the amount I paid for horse feed, food, lodging and fuel. It was for this infraction I was fined. His complaint also alleged my use of my Army surplus HUMWV (hum-vee) wasn’t properly reported. Lastly, his complaint said the gift of Henry Rifles I made to my friends who accompanied me on the ride also wasn’t properly reported. The Henry rifles were my personal gift to my veteran friends that endured the 500 mile ride. I paid for these out of my own pocket. The HUMWV was simply rented for a parade. The commission did not find these complaints sufficient to merit any fines.

As many of you know, I did what I called “The Freedom Ride” during the campaign. Along with a number of friends (veterans) who I served with in my thirty-six years in uniform, we rode mules 500 miles around all thirteen counties of the 43rd Legislative District. My opponent, former Sen. Al Davis, out-spent me during the campaign more than four to one. My campaign was ran on a shoe string. We didn’t have the money to saturate the newspapers, radio and TV stations, pay for multiple weekly mailings of attack ads or buy thousands of signs. We had to do something else to generate some publicity for the campaign.

The idea for the ride was actually something one of my veteran friends came up with. Stick a “Brewer for Legislature” sign on a mule, and ride the animal around the entire district. It was a novel idea. A 92-year lady in Brewster told me the last time she saw a politician campaign on horseback was when she was a little girl. The original plan was to bring together a group of old friends, all of us Army veterans, some I served with in Afghanistan, and do something together so we could catch up on old friendships. It was a “Veteran Ride” as much as it was a political campaign event. Scattered across several states, many of us hadn’t seen each other in decades. My friend Tony (my Legislative Aide) flew home from working in Afghanistan to do this. Win or lose the campaign, it gave me memories I will cherish for the rest of my life, one last ride for some old soldiers. In spite of some complaints from my back, I don’t regret a minute of it.

Ignorance of the law is no defense. It’s true. I didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of expenses on the ride. In particular, I didn’t do a thing called “in-kind” donations very well. A typical day of this 23-day ride we would stop and camp in a little town along the route. Folks would often greet us and sometimes bring a picnic supper. I didn’t record the “value” of a tub of potato salad, or a bale of hay a rancher may have given the mules, or a tank of fuel I bought out of my own pocket for my own pickup, or a package of hamburger one of my friends may have bought and grilled burgers for supper. I didn’t try and “estimate and report” the value of the grass the mules ate along the Cowboy Trail or the State-owned right-of-way along the roads and highways we rode. I didn’t keep track of the occasional hotel room my friends bought so they had a bed and a hot shower for a change, instead of a cot in a tent.

Everything on that ride I paid for was out of my own pocket, or something one of my friends bought on their own. I didn’t spend a dime of what little I had raised in campaign contributions to pay for any of it.

Regardless, all of those sorts of things should have been reported. Anything of value that is used by a campaign has to be reported. That’s the law. I’ve paid my fine and I’ll take my licks for this. The Accountability and Disclosure Commission told me I could pay my fine with campaign funds. I paid for it out of my pocket because people didn’t donate money to my campaign to pay for my mistakes. Obviously I know better now and it won’t happen again. I guess I’ll just have to find an accountant who knows how to ride a mule the next time I do this.

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

09/15/17 Weekly Update

September 19th, 2017

I’ll make a prediction in this week’s column. Much like how we began the last session with the budget being over $1 billion in the hole, we’ll start the next session in another budget hole. The budget we passed was built on the assumption of 5% revenue growth, which would come from an economy growing at a similarly robust pace. It’s not. I’m not banking on the “Eclipse” tourism to save us.

Back in July, the Lincoln paper reported “the Federal Commerce Bureau says Nebraska logged the worst economic performance in the U.S. in the beginning of 2017.” Net tax revenue receipts for July were $268 million, which was 2.8% below the certified forecast of $276 million. I predict this trend will continue. Assuming we’re not called back into special session to do more budget cuts because of these revenue shortfalls, then we’ll start the 2nd session of the 105th legislature with more budget cutting. Maybe in the hundreds of millions.

This will be a “short” session (60 days). People should not get their heart set on some special piece of legislation passing because I think it is very likely we’ll spend most of the next session arguing over more budget cuts. Unlike last time when a lot of the cuts were really just reductions in future increases and other accounting devices, THIS time we’ll be cutting “bone” because all the budget fat and meat is already gone.

So where does the Legislature cut?

First, we need to know where the money is spent. According to the Department of Revenue about 37% of the budget is spent by one State Agency: The Department of Health and Human Services. About 29% of the budget is spent on just sixty-nine of Nebraska’s two-hundred forty-four K-12 School Districts (175 of them get NO State Aid). We spend 11% of the budget on Public Safety and about 17% of the budget goes to higher education.

Second, I think we need to know what the Nebraska Constitution says we have to pay for. During my Army career, I became familiar with quite a number of Army regulations. When reading them, you had to pay close attention to words like “shall” and “must.” Words like “should” and “may” were worth noting, but screwing up a “should” or a “may” regulation wouldn’t get you court-martialed. I figured I’d start to answer this question by looking up everything in the supreme law of the land in Nebraska.

I wanted to know how many “shall spend money for something” is in the Constitution, so I searched for the phrase “shall provide.” That appears 21 times.

Twenty of twenty-one times the use of this phrase requires the legislature to “provide” laws to govern something.

However, Article VII-1 provides clear instruction that the legislature spend money on something:

“The Legislature shall provide for the free instruction in the common schools of this state of all persons between the ages of five and twenty-one years. The Legislature may provide for the education of other persons in educational institutions owned and controlled by the state or a political subdivision thereof.”
Why then do we spend 29% of our State Budget (about $1.22B) on just sixty-nine of the State’s two hundred forty-four K-12 school districts? “Shall provide” should mean something more than zero for the 175 school districts who receive no State Aid.

You then have to ask, why do we spend about 17% (about $723M) of the State Budget on “higher education” like the University when 72% of our K-12 schools get absolutely no funding from the State?

Shouldn’t we fully fund the “shall provide” our Constitution says our K-12 schools are supposed to get, before we decide to spend money on a “may provide?”

As it is, all the legislature has “provided” are laws that create out-of-control property taxes to fund most schools and allows it to duck it’s constitutional responsibility for “providing” for all K-12 schools. In addition to the cuts I see looming in the future, I think we need to re-think who gets what.

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

 

09/08/17 Weekly Update

September 12th, 2017

Senator Tom Brewer
43rd District
09/08/17 Update:

I read the other day that Governor Kenneth Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed an emergency order that allows the territorial government to seize private guns and ammunition and any other private property the National Guard may deem necessary to respond to Hurricane Irma.

I read where the City Council of Lincoln, Nebraska has proposed an “anti-hate” resolution. It says that the City of Lincoln recognizes “values” and will proactively work to promote diversity and inclusion within our community.

Really? What values? Does the City Council have a right to tell individual citizens what to feel? What to say? How to think? What if a pastor preaches against homosexuality in a Sunday Sermon from a pulpit in a Lincoln Church? Will the City work to “promote diversity and inclusion” to respect everyone’s convictions and beliefs, or will the pastor be branded as “intolerant” by the city? Will the City Council condemn the vulgar attacks against UNL Sophomore Kaitlyn Mullen last week when she tried to recruit for a conservative student organization on campus? Is she worthy of inclusion?

Does the City Council realize there is NO SUCH THING as “hate speech” in America, that promoting such a falsehood is nothing more than an attack on our 1st Amendment rights? No one has a right to not be offended. If you don’t like what someone says or how they think, move on. Ignore them. Don’t try and silence the bigots, let them speak. Let their bogus ideas be laid bare for all to see. Let their beliefs compete in the arena of public opinion and be cast upon the ash heap of failed ideas after full and fair debate.

I saw where Oregon Gov. Kate Brown approved gun control legislation that would force people to surrender their firearms.

This law allows the police, or a member of a subject’s family or household, to file a petition with the local court which could then issue an order prohibiting someone from firearms possession if the court believed they posed an imminent risk to themselves or others. The person then has 30 days to request a hearing to get back the firearms confiscated from them, assuming a judge agrees. Otherwise they lose them for a year.

A person does not have to commit a crime and be arrested to lose their 2nd Amendment rights in Oregon. A judge simply has to “think” they shouldn’t be allowed to have them. No arrest. No charge. No trial. No jury. No due-process, just one person’s opinion who has no idea who this person being deprived of their rights really is. Demanding that one’s fellow citizens be degraded and stripped of their most basic constitutional rights is tyranny, plain and simple. I hope the US Supreme Court swiftly reverses this oppression.

Why is the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution the only amendment to the constitution the people need to get permission from the government to exercise? Did you need to get permission to read this newspaper, or did the 1st Amendment protect your right to do so?

What do these three stories have in common? A total lack of respect for constitutional republicanism.

We are a Constitutional Republic. We have inalienable, individual rights in that republic. We are Americans. Our country is built upon the sovereignty of the individual, and upon the rule of law that form the basis for a civil society. Each day, examples like these show me the relentless march of progressive elitism leading a counter-revolution to wreck our country. Every day is another example of our country drifting farther away from it’s founding principles, unmoored from our Constitution, slipping closer to the tyranny of rule by a privileged few masterminds. The examples of mob rule we’ve seen in the news lately and the never-ending drumbeat of political correctness to silence free speech sickens me.

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

09/01/2017 Weekly Update

September 5th, 2017

This week I had a special honor. It was special because it honored me as a Father and as a soldier, albeit an old retired soldier. My daughter, Second Lieutenant Kalee (Brewer) Bolton, graduated from her officer basic course in Fort Lee, Virginia. This is a special moment in the career of every young Army officer. I am so proud of her. I was really glad I got to be there.

Today the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced it had extended the Public Comment Period for NPPD’s R-Line project which runs 225 miles from the Gerald Gentleman Power plant near Sutherland to Holt County, much of it through the heart of the Sandhills.

The comment period originally ended July 11th but will now be extended through November 7th.

About 125 miles of the East/West portion of the project, from Thedford to the Neligh/Hoskins area, goes through previously undisturbed grassland. Over 93 miles of this portion of the line has no road access, in some places the nearest road in more than 3 miles away. I am very concerned about this, but concerned is all I can be because very little can be done about it. The only thing really holding up construction now is an endangered beetle.

NPPD approved the route of the R-Line in January 2015. The current planned route of the R Line will be built no matter how many extensions to the public comment period there are. Unlike other States who have agencies citizens can address grievances to, public utilities in Nebraska have very little oversight besides the Power Review Board. The law gives this organization very narrow jurisdiction over public utility projects such that it simply has no authority to address many citizen concerns.

It’s worth noting my predecessor supported the R Line project.

Speaking of power, there is going to be a hearing of the Natural Resources Committee here in the Capitol, Room 1525 at 1:30pm, Friday the 22nd of September. The committee will discuss an Interim Study (Legislative Resolution 125). The purpose of the study is to study public power in Nebraska. One of the topics is “the role of public power and of renewable energy in economic development in the state, including strengths and areas in need of improvement.”

Quite a few folks in the district have expressed an interest in attending this hearing and testifying on the topic of “renewable energy” (aka; wind energy). The author of the book, “Paradise Destroyed – The Destruction of Rural Living by the Wind Energy Scam” Mr. Gregg Hubner will join us and testify.

I want to thank all of the folks who contacted me about last week’s column concerning Civil War statues. I was humbled by such an out-pouring of support for that subject. I think protecting our nation’s history and fighting mob rule are important topics and I am so pleased so many of you feel the same way.

Speaking of freedom of speech, I was appalled by what I saw happen to a student on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus this week. A young lady, a sophomore, was berated and intimidated by people (including a university professor) just because she was trying to recruit students for a conservative group. I watched a video of this vulgar and unprofessional behavior by people that are paid with our tax dollars. I saw a university employee tell her that she could only hand out her “propaganda” in an area he called a “free speech zone.”

I’m going to ask the University for a map of these so-called “free speech zones” because the last time I checked, the first amendment to our constitution applied to the entire country. Maybe the nearly $1 billion in funding the legislature appropriates each year to the university can be pro-rated to only fund the free-speech areas and let them find another way to pay for the parts of the campus where constitutional rights don’t apply. If a special session is needed to make additional cuts to the budget, this will be on my mind.

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

08/25/2017 Weekly Update

August 30th, 2017

Normally I devote this column to all the latest updates on the issues that are important to me and my district. Out of control property taxes, the wind energy scam, the maddening story of a power line, constitutional rights, our troubled prison system, ranching, farming, rural life in general.

Today I’m taking a break from that stuff. I want to talk about something that’s been bothering me: Tearing down monuments of Confederate Civil War figures.

First of all, I hate mob rule. That is not what this country is supposed to be. When a statue in a park is built or removed, a school or street is named or renamed, I think it should be a thoughtful, deliberate choice made by the community, not a political kneejerk brought on by a mob. I think the mob is winning and that bothers me. The American history surrounding these monuments is important. It is as profound as it is inescapable. Our republic has a dark past marked with genocide and slavery and the bloodiest war in our country’s history fought to end it. These are indisputable facts, and no matter how many statues are torn down it will not erase them.

The United States is also the greatest country on Earth with a long history of incredible societal growth and enlightenment; one of constant change for the better. Our history follows a path towards MORE justice, not less, one of “a more perfect union” as our constitution says. Our system is based on the rule of law, not the mob. Tearing down a monument commemorating past U.S. history no matter how dark it is removes a mile-marker in our growth as a nation. How can we measure all the progress that has unfolded since the era in which the statue was built if it’s gone?

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger B. Taney was the author of the terrible Dred Scott decision that rejected citizenship for African Americans. There was a statue of him on the grounds of the Statehouse of Maryland. Also on the grounds was a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court. In the mob frenzy that has followed since the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia a few weeks ago, the Statue of Justice Taney was recently removed. I think this DIMINISHES the achievement of not only Justice Marshall, but that of the country as a whole.

The other day President Trump asked “where does it stop?” and he is right. Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington includes statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a number of other Confederates. Will they be removed? Will the Jefferson Memorial be taken down and a new face found for the nickel coin? Do we blast the faces off Mount Rushmore like the Taliban did to the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan?

What strikes me is at the other end of the reflecting pool opposite the Capitol is the Lincoln Memorial which commemorates the man who defeated the Confederacy, who restored the union, who ended slavery, and advanced the country into a new era. Without the context of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln is just another long-dead President and not the man the Capitol of Nebraska is named after.

In the years after the Civil War there was a good deal of statue building, the height of it around 1910. Most were done by children of Confederate veterans trying to memorialize the war their fathers had fought. The reconstruction era in the South during the postwar years was racked with extreme poverty, with many families missing sons and fathers lost to the war. There were other, more sinister motives to build these statues too, during the Civil Rights struggle in 50’s and 60’s. I find it ironic that the chief opposition to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was the political left in this country. It certainly wasn’t a conservative governor standing in front of a school denying entry to a black student.

Regardless of the motive, a great many of these statues were part of a larger effort to heal the Nation with “malice towards none” as Lincoln said. During those years after the war, Jefferson Davis was never charged with treason and was released from prison after serving only a couple years. The funeral of Robert E. Lee in 1870 was attended by senior politicians from the North. His eulogy read like he was an American hero.

If you “revise” all the history based on someone being “offended” then we won’t have any history left because someone, somewhere will always take offense at something. Instead of tearing down an “offensive” statue from the Civil War, how about building a new one commemorating another American, someone who represents how far the country has come since then? How about we celebrate the triumph of the American idea instead of shrinking in fear from the tyranny of the political-correctness mob?
If you don’t know where you’ve been, how will you ever know how far you’ve come?
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.

Sen. Tom Brewer

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