NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Dan Hughes

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44

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 dhughes@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 9th, 2019

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 44th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Dan Hughes

November 2019 Interim Article
November 14th, 2019

I am contemplating introducing a constitutional amendment during this incoming 2020 legislative session that would put a lifetime limit on serving in the Legislature. No one would be allowed to serve in the Legislature after being elected to three 4-year terms. It would give Nebraskans an opportunity to vote on making a change to our existing term limits that are set for the Legislature. 

I feel that a three-term maximum would allow senators to best represent their constituents without creating lifetime politicians. Current term limits are two consecutive 4-year terms. Returning senators can run for the Legislature again after 4 years have passed from the initial two-term limit. Currently, Nebraska has the shortest term limits in the country. Six states have lifetime bans on length of service and it ranges from 12-24 years. We also have a one-house system in our state. In other states, officials tend to serve in the house and then run for the Senate or vice versa.  In comparison, 14 other states that have term limits are authorized to serve 6-16 years in the house and potentially 8-16 years in the senate if they decide to run for that elected position. Six states enacted term limits in the early 1990s and all were nullified by the early 2000s.  

The first 4 years as a senator are dedicated to absorbing a plethora of challenging issues while building strong relationships with colleagues and members of various organizations. The next 4 years are devoted to passing substantial legislation for voters. When introducing legislation there is always a need to work through the pros and cons that translate to well thought out and effective legislation. Passing legislation is not as simple as introducing it one year and having it enacted by the end of that session. By adding another 4-year term it gives the senator the best opportunity for crafting legislation and using their experience and knowledge to best serve the citizens of Nebraska.  

Nebraskan voters wanted term limits and voted to have them enacted in 2000. Although term limits result in the loss of institutional knowledge, I do feel this constitutional amendment would be a better solution for both the institution and the citizens of the state.  

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.

 

The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met this past Thursday where there was discussion of an increase in the previously projected revenue forecasts for FY2019-20 and FY2020-21. The current fiscal year began on July 1. This board provides an advisory forecast of general fund receipts used by the Legislature to craft the state’s budget. The board meets three times a year and determines whether they have a necessity to raise or lower revenue projections. They use these estimates to determine how much tax money the Legislature has to shape the state’s budget. They are projecting an overall increase of $160.9 million in revenue for FY2019-20.  Within the first three months of FY2019-20 revenue projections were $76 million above what was forecasted at the time. We even had a 5% increase in tax collections in the month of August that the state Department of Revenue announced in September. There is an additional $265.9 projected increase that is to be expected for FY2020-21. By law, these additional projected funds must be added to the state’s rainy day fund which would bring our Cash Reserve to $616 million.

During our last session, the Legislature adopted a budget that increased Medicaid provider rates, fully funded K-12 school aid, and also put $51 million into the state’s property tax credit fund, bringing it to a total of $275 million. This reduces the amount owed on property tax bills and the tax load upon Nebraskans.

The governor said the new forecast will allow property tax relief to move full steam ahead during the upcoming legislative session and I hope that is true.  There are still ongoing discussions on how to provide tax relief and I am hopeful the legislature will find a way to make meaningful changes. There will also be other demands for this additional revenue. I am sure most of you have been following the staffing challenges within our prison system which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Plus we have made several reductions in spending growth over the past three years and the agencies affected will be looking to recover some of those dollars as well.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.

In this week’s article, I want to talk about the interim hearing that the Natural Resources Committee held last month in Scottsbluff and McCook. LR 142 was introduced to take an in-depth look at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, especially how they are handling big game wildlife management. Part of the discussion during the interim hearings also included the management of the state’s recreational areas, in particular, Lake McConaughy and Hugh Butler Lake north of McCook. 

In Scottsbluff, we heard testimony from several landowners who are having major problems with either deer, elk, antelope, or mountain lions on their properties. One landowner had documented the damage caused to one of his pivots of corn last year and it amounted to over $100,000.00. He provided a yield map from last year’s harvest along with facts and figures of the cost to condition his cow herd ahead of pasturing that pivot because of all of the corn knocked down by the elk so as not to lose any of his cattle to acidosis. Interestingly, just within the last couple of weeks, the commission has issued 50 elk kill permits for this landowner’s property due to a drone video of the same herd in his cornfield causing tremendous amounts of damage again this year.  Unfortunately, it took interim hearings for the commission to respond to the ongoing mass destruction to help alleviate future damage. I have heard from landowners over the past five years and up until now, the commission has not responded as fully as they should have. Several of the commissioners were in attendance in both Scottsbluff and McCook and I am hopeful their first-hand experience of the frustration of landowners with the commission’s management of big game will help the commission change its management of the situation. When I hear comments from a state agency that part of the problem was that landowners were planting a lot more corn than they have in the past, it concerns me that there is little regard for the landowners who need to make a profit to stay in business.

The fact that the landowners who are paying the feed bill for the state’s wildlife without any compensation whatsoever is wrong. And that same attitude is held by many within the hunting community as well. Some may think that because farmers receive subsidies from the federal government that they have the right to hunt anywhere they want on the farmer’s land. The federal farm subsidies that we all help pay for are not for access, and certainly, do not authorize hunters to trespass.  They do entitle the people of the United States to one of the safest food supplies in the world, one of the most abundant food supplies in the world, and one of the cheapest food supplies in the world. The commission needs to keep in mind that they have tremendous responsibilities not only to the hunters but to those who are trying to make a living. It is time for some changes in how the commission manages its responsibilities. I believe we have made a clear statement that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission needs to be more responsive to the complaints of landowners who have large herds of big game destroying their crops and pastures.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made the effort to attend one of the interim study hearings the Natural Resources Committee held this past month in Scottsbluff and McCook. I appreciate everyone who testified and brought information to the attention of the committee members. 

Despite Senator Groene trying to make a case in the Legislature for selling the land owned by NCORPE, the Natural Resources Committee has done a very good job of sifting through the innuendo we have heard about the project and its management.  As state senators, it is our job to become informed on the issues, learn the facts, weigh the risks versus the benefits, and make the best decision for all of the affected parties. Passing legislation to placate one small group of individuals does not justify making a change in water law that could have far-reaching consequences for decades to come. It is important to remember that the NCORPE land was for sale to anyone before the NRDs purchased it. I, for one, am grateful the  NRDs had the vision and guts to step in to solve a State of Nebraska issue and save a majority of the irrigated economy within their jurisdictions. It is a fact that up to 60% of the irrigated land in the Upper, Lower, and Middle Republican NRDs would have been shut down if NCORPE were not in place. In the area within Lincoln County that is covered by the Twin Platte NRD, a similar amount of irrigated land would have had to be idled to make sure a sufficient amount of water was flowing down the Platte River to meet Endangered Species Act requirements. 

The locally elected NRD boards control the situation, as it should be.  They understand that a decision to dispose of the property cannot be made in a vacuum.  There are multiple factors to consider, including the legal risks of new legislation that has not been tried in the courts.  The future of the project must be considered, in relation to managing the local aquifer and the project’s infrastructure. New easements would have to be obtained if the property were sold. If it became necessary to expand the project, there are significant expenses that could arise that do not exist now.  Any benefits of owning the land would be lost, including revenue from leases, and access for the public to hunt. The NCORPE board must also consider the value of grassland that is not fully established. Although most of the NCORPE is well on its way to becoming productive range land, the native grasses need to establish and that takes time.  There would also be nuisance factors to deal with, since there would be neighbors overlapping the project’s operations, by not owning property on which the project operates. I also applaud the NCORPE board for working to consolidate its holding into a solid block to reduce its impact upon neighbors. Selling distant parcels and replacing those acres with others closer to the main block is good management of the project.

Now that we are past Labor Day the legislature’s interim hearings start to gear up.  Most interim hearings occur here in Lincoln at the state capitol, but as Chairperson of the Natural Resources Committee, it is important to me to occasionally have interim hearings outside of Lincoln.  In the coming weeks, the Natural Resources Committee will be traveling to western Nebraska for their first hearing to discuss LR 142. It is an interim study to examine any matter concerning the Game and Parks Commission.  It will be held on Wednesday, September 18, at 9:00 am (MT) at the Western Nebraska Community College, Harms Advanced Technology Center located at 2026 College Park in Scottsbluff.

The following day on Thursday, September 19, in McCook at the Mid-Plains Community College in McMillen Hall, Room 213 located at 1205 E. 3rd St. in McCook.  We will have two hearings; the first will be LR 114, beginning at 9:00 am (CT). It is a legislative resolution to examine the conditions under which the board of directors of the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Enhancement Project (NCORPE) and the Rock Creek augmentation project may dispose of real property each owns related to the projects.

Then at 11:00 am (CT), we will have a second hearing on LR 142 to examine any matter concerning the Game and Parks Commission. During my years of serving as your Senator, the second most brought up issue after property taxes is Game and Parks management of deer. I continue to have calls every week about the deer damage caused by the large number of deer in our area. Landowners, this will be your chance to come and tell me and my fellow Senators of the challenges you face and hopefully your thoughts on how to handle this problem. Game and Park’s leadership will be there and listening as well. I hope you will come and give us and them your thoughts. I have tried working with G&P on solutions for 5 years and have made very little headway. I am hoping with a good turnout and lots of input we will be able to come up with solutions that will make up for some of the damage the states wildlife population is causing to landowners.  

The public is welcome to attend and testify at any of these hearings.  You can view the calendar for all upcoming hearings on the legislature’s website, www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

I want to remind everyone that if you know of any college students who may be interested in getting involved in the legislature I would encourage them to apply to work as a page for the 2020 legislative session.  Legislative pages do a variety of jobs in the legislature such as: assisting the presiding officer, assisting committee staff, running errands for the senators, etc.  The deadline for submitting applications and letters of recommendation will be Friday, October 4, 2019, at 5:00 pm (CT), do not wait until the last minute because a letter of recommendation from my office will also need to be included in the application.  Please contact my office if you have any questions, 402-471-2805.  

Last session I was appointed to the LR 87 committee.  The committee is tasked with continuing the work of the select interim committee created the year before, the LR 437 committee, the intention is to fully and comprehensively analyze possible improvements and changes to the standing committee system.  Currently, there are 14 standing committees in the legislature. In Nebraska each bill introduced is assigned to a standing committee based on the subject matter of the bill and then it will be heard before that committee, at the hearing members of the public are welcome to come and testify on the bill.  Every senator except for the Speaker of the Legislature are assigned to committees and based on the number of days that committee meets a senator may be on one to three committees. Every so often we must examine our current committee structure to find the most effective way to evenly distribute the bills introduced each session.

Over the interim I will continue to update you on upcoming interim studies that may be of interest to our district.  Both of the LR’s outlined below will be heard by the Appropriations Committee on Friday, September 20, 2019 at 9:00 am in room 1003 in the State Capitol Building. 

LR 116 introduced by Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha is a study to examine the long-term fiscal sustainability of the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund.  The NHCCF provides funds to over 20 government programs and it is slowly losing money. For long-term sustainability we have to set priorities for what the money will be spent on.

LR 184 introduced by Senator Dan Quick of Grand Island.  It is a study to examine how to provide a sustainable and adequate stream of state funds to local public health departments to ensure they are able to meet their core responsibilities.

If you know of any college students who may be interested in getting involved in the legislature I would encourage them to apply to work as a page for the 2020 legislative session.  Legislative pages do a variety of jobs in the legislature such as: assisting the presiding officer, assisting committee staff, running errands for the senators, etc. The deadline for submitting applications and letters of recommendation will be Friday, October 4, 2019 at 5:00 pm, do not wait until the last minute because a letter of recommendation from my office will also need to be included in the application.  Please contact my office if you have any questions.  

I always enjoy hearing from the Nebraskans I represent. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.

During this interim, the time between when a session ends and the next session begins, I’m visiting with different county boards throughout the 44th legislative district. It is a great way for me to find out how things are going in their counties and answer any questions they may have about what went on during this past years session. Many of the laws the Legislature passes affect counties, pertaining to issues such as county operations, taxes, roads, jails and courts, and elections. It’s important to touch base to discuss the effects of new laws.

Towards the end of the summer Legislative Committees will start holding interim study resolution hearings on a variety of topics. A few of the interim studies have been scheduled and they’re listed on the unicameral’s website www.nebraskalegislature.govCurrently, the Appropriations Committee and the Judiciary Committee have hearings scheduled in September and October.

A few of the hearings that may be of interest to residents of our area:

LR 181 introduced by Senator Myron Dorn of Adams, NE. It is a study to examine new funding streams for financial stability of the simulation-in-motion Nebraska (SIM-NE) program. The program uses 44 foot trucks which house two simulation spaces: an emergency room and an ambulance module. Each truck is staffed by licensed, experience healthcare professions and they provide a realistic scenarios for emergency medical services and Critical Access Hospital staff so they can get a hands on experience.

LR 210 introduced by Senator John Stinner of Scottsbluff. The intent is to analyze programs and agencies that are active in addressing workforce and talent shortages, and identify options to assist in filling vacant high-wage, high-demand, and high-skills jobs. Both of these hearings are scheduled for Friday, September 27th.

LR 212 also introduced by Senator Stinner is a study to assess the financial position of the Nebraska Brand Committee and to identify core operational needs and opportunities for efficiency improvement. This hearing is scheduled for Friday, October 4th.

I always enjoy hearing from the Nebraskans I represent. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.

This year’s legislative session came to an end on day 84 of the possible 90 day session. Of the more than 700 bills which were introduced and heard in committee hearings this year, more than 200 bills will become law. Some might say the legislature failed to solve the most pressing issues facing the state of Nebraska, and in my opinion they would be correct. Property tax relief, business incentives, and the way in which we fund K-12 education are all topics which need to be addressed sooner rather than later. But we should not only focus on the negative. It’s also time to take inventory of the accomplishments that we did have as a legislative body.

A couple notable accomplishments include appropriating additional dollars to nursing homes for Medicaid recipients, in the budget and setting aside funding for the Governor’s Emergency fund which was most recently used for flood disaster relief. We did provide some property tax relief by adding an additional $51 million to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund. Bringing the total to $275 million per year for each of the next two years. Another personal goal was to raise Game and Parks’ awareness of wildlife depredation in our district. That goal was successful, and I will be introducing legislation next year to further that endeavor. I also passed the following bills into law:

LB127: This bill expanded the definition of immediate family for purposes of limited deer permits.

LB128 was amended into LB356: This bill allowed the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to design additional license plates to be known as Wildlife Conservation Plates.

LB227: This bill updated and enhanced the protections in the Right to Farm Act originally passed in 1982.

LB302: This bill was introduced at the request of the Governor and merged the State Energy Office and the Department of Environmental Quality. The combined agencies are renamed the Department of Environment and Energy effective July 1, 2019.

LB719: This bill streamlined the process for scrap recyclers and junk and salvage yard to send mandatory reports to the DMV who will then report to NMVTIS. This will eliminate duplicative reporting requirements for scrap recyclers and junk and salvage yards.

Most importantly, I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and serve you all. This session was a mixed bag; I remain hopeful that the bigger picture issues can be addressed when session reconvenes next year. Until then, my Lincoln office will still be open. Article updates will come out on a monthly basis. Reach out to my staff or myself with questions or concerns. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805.You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

Last week we had multiple late nights, staying past 11:30 PM on Wednesday, May 22nd. These late nights were not as productive as they could have been. We did not accomplish my main priority, property tax relief, this session. I am disappointed that disagreements on the strategy for accomplishing both business incentives in LB720 and property tax relief in LB183, distracted and divided the body.

Thursday and Friday were spent mostly on Final Reading. If a veto occurs, the bills passed on Thursday and Friday may be brought back for a veto override. Those passed beyond that point – for instance, this coming Thursday – do not have an opportunity for a veto override due to the rules of timeline of the legislature. We expect most of them to be signed into law.

I also want to take a moment and recognize that Monday was not just a holiday. It is a day to remember those who have gone before us, especially our veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. Tuesday and Wednesday were recess days. We will reconvene to tie up loose ends on Thursday and Friday. Friday will be Sine Die, the final adjournment for this half of the session.

Tensions ran high at the end of session, hindering our ability to get big picture things done. I am hopeful that everyone will regroup and rebuild trust during the interim so that these issues can be addressed. My personal goal for next year is the same as this year: meaningful and sustainable property tax relief for the benefit of all Nebraskans.

As of last week, the weekly Great Plains conference call and McCook Chamber Conference call have wrapped up for the year. However, I always enjoy hearing from the Nebraskans I represent, so I’ll be attending many events in District 44 during the interim. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805.You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.

This past week, we’ve been working on the budget which is very contentious as I expected it to be. Normally budgets pass with a simple majority and do not generate as much discussion as the one this year. Specifically, there were concerns with one provision of the mainline budget bill. The length of debate and discussion about that provision caused us to take a cloture vote, which failed. When the bill was brought back up again, the controversial provision was voted on and was allowed to remain in the bill. LB294 then passed the second round of debate and did appear on the agenda for Final Reading on Tuesday, May 21st.

Another significant topic is LB720, commonly referred to as the ImagiNE Act. Briefly, the ImagiNE Act is an incentive program to attract out of state businesses to Nebraska and retain businesses in our state. If you’d like more technical information, search LB720 on https://nebraskalegislature.gov/ or contact my office. The idea of incentives is not new – those who support it believe it makes us competitive with other states in attracting businesses to Nebraska. The current incentive package is called the Nebraska Advantage Act, which is set to expire next year, which replaced another previous incentive bill commonly known as LB775.

This year, there has been extensive debate on LB720. Being a proponent of free markets and a conservative, I support creating an environment where businesses can thrive. That means lowering property tax rates so businesses can keep and invest more of their income to grow and hire more employees.

We discussed the medical marijauna bill for three hours last week. The introducers lacked votes to break the filibuster, so the bill will not come back this session. I believe that is what they wanted; the introducers of LB 110 want to get medical marijuna on the ballot in 2020. The fact that the Legislature did not pass the bill will help their campaign. As a word of caution to all, there are going to be several petitions circulated throughout the next two summers to put issues on the 2020 ballot. Please make sure you know what you are signing. Most petition circulators are typically paid for your signature – make them explain the petition to you in detail and do not give up your signature without an explanation.

Lastly, this past weekend Josie and I had the pleasure of attending the Nebraska State Track Meet in Omaha. We enjoyed seeing athletes from each school district in Legislative District 44. There are truly so many exceptional young people in southwestern Nebraska, we should all be proud of them. Also, I want to congratulate all of the seniors who graduated from high school this year. The diversity of our young people is amazing, and it is fun to hear their future plans and dreams. I am inspired by the quality of our young men and women and am confident that the future of our state and nation is in good hands.

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44
Room #1210
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2805
Email: dhughes@leg.ne.gov
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