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Sen. Dan Hughes

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44

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As I write this, we’ve been in full-day debate for one week, and the tone of the legislature last week was not well. There is a lack of trust within the body, and certain members have already begun engaging in time-consuming behaviors. If this continues, late night floor debate may begin sooner than in previous years and could continue for the remainder of session. However, we were moving through bills rather quickly before full-day floor debate started, so we are not behind. Last week actually gave everyone some time to study bills and become prepared for the coming weeks.

We are merely days away from beginning the budget process. The budget will be based on the February 2019 revenue forecast by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board (NEFAB) for the upcoming 2019-2021 biennium, and the forecast will be revised again in April. In general, the revenue forecast showed a decline in the rate of growth. According to the Nebraska Legislative Fiscal office, the 37-year average general fund revenue growth is 4.8%, adjusted for tax rate and base changes. The projected revenue growth for the current year is 4.3%. For FY2019-2020 NEFAB projected growth is 4.2%, and for FY2020-2021 NEFAB projected growth is 3.0%. Projected revenue growth for both of these years is lower than the current year and the historical average.

In addition, our state has immediate flooding expenses to factor in. I anticipate this budgeting process will be difficult because of all these factors. However, I am committed to pushing for property tax reform.

On a property tax note, LB483, Senator Erdman’s priority bill to change the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land. It was read on general file on March 20th, and Senator Erdman added an amendment to it to clarify language. Unfortunately this is a very complicated bill and most of the non-farmers in the body do not understand it. I am still not convinced the effort of changing from sales to income based valuations will be a benefit in the long run.

Another bill regarding property tax relief was Senator Linehan’s bill, LB512, which was read on the floor last Friday. This bill would have changed provisions related to property taxes. For example, if a person loses their house to a fire on January 3rd, it is currently taxed at 100% of the valuation for the remainder of the year. This bill would change that and give those who experience such losses relief from taxes since they would no longer be able to utilize their property. Even though this bill was filibustered by Senator Chambers, it should eventually pass as there is broad support for it.

All day floor debate began this week. Session is more than halfway finished, and I anticipate the pace and focus of the legislature will increase. Tuesday, April 2nd, was the 51st day of session. That is important because we will change focus from bills, to passing the budget on the 70th day, and we have to have a budget passed by the 80th day of session. That may seem like a long way off, but it will arrive very quickly.

My personal priority bill, LB268, regarding telecommunications and broadband service is on the agenda and hopefully by the time you are reading this it will have passed the first round of debate. This bill would make it easier for some rural citizens to obtain high speed internet from a different company other than their current telephone provider. It will not help a large number of rural people get high speed internet right away, but it will allow a few more to get it, and more importantly it should apply additional pressure on telephone companies to build out faster.

LB227, my bill expanding nuisance protections under the Right to Farm Act is also scheduled on the current agenda. It was given a priority by the Agriculture Committee. The actual date of debate will vary depending upon how quickly or slowly we discuss other bills ahead of it on the agenda. There is some talk of extended debate on this bill by a couple of Omaha senators.

LB227 provides the current levels of protections now given to Ag and public grain warehouses may continue after a change in the operation. Some examples, could be a change in ownership, the building of additional pens or barns in a livestock feeding operation, or just changing the crops being raised on a farm. All county zoning, setbacks and capacities, must still be adhered to and dust, flies, and odor abatement measures must be taken. Aside from having meetings in my office and discussing the bill’s intent with other Senators on the floor, I have gotten practice discussing this concept with the University of Nebraska Beef Scholars class of 2020 and Collegiate Farm Bureau. I have had great support from the agricultural groups who brought this bill to me, Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Farm Bureau. I am confident we have put together a strong case for expanding the current law.

If you would like to speak directly to me about legislative issues, join the Great Plains conference call Tuesday at 8 AM CST and McCook Chamber Conference call Thursday at 8 AM CST. 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.

Session is now more than halfway finished, and there is much work yet to be done. I think we will see the pace start to really pick up now that most of the committee hearings are finished and priority bills have been designated. We will begin all day debate on April 2nd.

As I had hoped, the agriculture committee designated LB227, my bill which makes changes to the Nebraska Right to Farm Act, as their committee priority bill. This means that LB227 is guaranteed to be debated on the floor during general file. Because the committee selected that as their priority, I selected LB268 as my priority bill. LB268’s intent is to make it easier for a customer of a telecommunications company to switch to a different company that offers better service in an adjoining exchange in Nebraska. I support this because I believe competition makes businesses more efficient and benefits consumers. With high speed broadband access and availability of other telecommunications such a hot button issue, this bill will help ensure our rural communities continue to grow and have access to the best possible service.

The Natural Resources committee selected LB177 and LB700 as our priority bills. LB177 changes the bonding sunset date for the Papio NRD for flood control projects and LB700 is related to decommissioning and reclaiming land used in wind energy production. Both of these bills are very timely due to the recent flooding in eastern Nebraska and the continued push to build more wind turbines our state.

Game and Parks are planning to hold meetings for Southwestern Nebraska landowners regarding property damage caused by wildlife. If you have experienced damage to crops, stored feed, or stored grain due to deer and other game species, this is a meeting you need to attend. I have had discussions with G&P about this issue and the current G&P administration does not believe this is a problem. I hope everyone who has been frustrated with the damage caused by deer and other game species will attend one of these meetings and voice their concerns. I understand G&P has held meetings in the past and nothing has changed, but this time G&P knows there are several senators who think G&P should be paying for the damages caused by the game they are managing. G&P makes millions of dollars from marketing our game species to hunters, but is unwilling to help pay to raise them. The landowners of the state need to be reimbursed for feeding all of those animals. Show up and let your voice be heard.

All of the meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. The schedule is:

April 2 – Wauneta, Wauneta Senior Center, 231 N. Tecumseh St.

April 3 – McCook, Red Willow County Fairgrounds 4-H building, 1412 W. 5th St.

April 4 – Oxford, Fire Hall, 310 Odell St.

Two of my bills, LB302 and LB127, passed on final reading on Friday the fifteenth. All Transportation and Telecommunications and Natural Resources committee hearings are finished. I will be using my afternoons for the next two weeks to study the bills coming up on the floor, and looking at all of the priority bills.

Other committees are still holding hearings on their remaining bills. Those committees have until March 28th to complete hearings. In total, more than 700 bills were introduced this year and all of them have had or will have a public hearing where anyone can come and testify. After March 28th, we will start full day debates. Those nights can get long, but I am looking forward to them because we will see many bills start moving.

Our Senator priority bills were named this week as well as the Committee priority bills. Giving a bill a priority designation means that bill gets to jump to the head of the line for full floor debate. Giving a bill a priority designation does not help a bill get out of committee, it just guarantees that the bill will be heard by the full body during General File debate. As I am writing this article I have not chosen my personal priority yet

Also, please share the following opportunity with any high school students you know. The time has come to apply for Unicameral Youth Legislature, which is a four day long simulation of the legislative process. High school students are invited to come experience the process of creating rules and bills at the Unicameral with Senators and staff June 9-12, 2019. To learn more about the program, visit www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl and for a complete list of Nebraska’s free civic resources for Nebraskans of all ages, visit nebraskalegislature.gov/students.

If you would like to speak directly to me about legislative issues, join the Great Plains conference call Tuesday at 8 AM CST and McCook Chamber Conference call Thursday at 8 AM CST. 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.

We are now to the point in session where all my bills have been heard in committee, and many have been scheduled for general file. There are still some being decided upon by committees, which we are monitoring closely. I will select my priority bill by the nineteenth of March. Selecting a bill as a priority ensures that it will be heard and debated on the floor, as long as it has been advanced by the committee of jurisdiction. There are many considerations for designating a priority bill. First, I want to select a bill that I feel strongly about. I also want to select a bill that has a strong chance to be successful on the floor during debate.

On the committee side, the Natural Resources committee hearings are wrapping up. LB367 was heard by the committee without much discussion last Thursday, as anticipated. That bill made small changes to the Nebraska Litter Reduction and Recycling Act. It extends the deadline of the act to September 2025, and eliminates a sentence in statute which allowed transfers from this self-generated fund to the general fund.

The bills coming up in Natural Resources this week are LB606, LB285, and LB509. LB606 is a bill introduced by Senator Groene giving Natural Resources districts the authority to develop water augmentation projects for improving the flow of water. LB285 is a McCollister bill related to appropriations, and intends to provide state funds for a study of the Nebraska Power Review Board and to create public policy related to it. That bill also specifies that it will create an emergency, so that the funds are appropriated and the study actually happens. Lastly LB509, another McCollister bill, changes a definition in statute related to customer-generated power, net-metering, and what a qualified facility is. It’s a technical bill. I believe the overall goal is to allow power utilities freedom in rate-making as more and more customer-generators pop up and enter the power market.

Finally, we will welcome 100, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders from the district to the Capitol this week. Perkins County Schools is bringing down their fourth graders and Medicine Valley Schools is bringing their fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. Preparations for this and other visits began many weeks ago, and we are ready!

If you would like to speak directly to me about legislative issues, join the Great Plains conference call Tuesday at 8 AM CST and McCook Chamber Conference call Thursday at 8 AM CST. 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 week has been a busy one, with the highlight being meeting with the McCook Senior Leadership class. Interacting with them gives me hope, knowing that those intelligent, respectful young men and women will be our future community leaders.

I introduced LB144 to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, February 27th and LB632 to the Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, February 28th. LB144 is a bill to make county elections nonpartisan on the primary ballot in counties with less than 15,000 residents. There are only 19 counties which have greater than 15,000 residents. LB632 is the Natural Resources Committees shell bill which I introduce in case of emergencies or if unexpected issues come up that need to be addressed before the end of the session.

Many of have been following LB155, Senator Brewer’s eminent domain bill. That bill did not pass general file, it was a few votes short. LB227, my Right to Farm bill, is still in committee and we’re currently considering adding an amendment to it. I am considering making this bill my priority bill, but have other important bills I am considering which are of great importance as well.

Moving ahead to this week, I started Monday in Grant at the Perkins County Government Day luncheon. It’s always a joy and an honor to speak with people from the district about the importance of our government and the need to be engaged.

Tuesday, I introduced LB228 to committee – this is known as the Living Donor Protection Act. An example of a living donor is someone who donates a kidney to another person. Specifically, it would make it unlawful to: decline or limit coverage for life, disability or long-term care insurance; preclude a person from donating all or part of an organ as a condition of receiving life, disability or long-term care insurance; and consider the status of a person as a living organ donor in determining rates for coverage and otherwise discriminate against a person under any life, disability, or long-term care insurance policy due to the status of such person as a living organ donor. In short, this bill protects Nebraskans who have the heart and ability to do save another’s life, from unfair treatment as a result of doing so.

I am introducing LB367, my final bill, on Thursday to the Natural Resources committee. The bill makes small changes to the Nebraska Litter Reduction and Recycling Act. It extends the deadline of the act to September 2025, and eliminates a sentence in statute which allowed transfers from this fund to the general fund.

As I am sure you have heard by now the State Forecasting Board has lowered its projected revenue amounts for the current fiscal year ending June, 30, and has also lowered the projected revenue for each of the next two fiscal years. This means the state will have less money to work with than we thought. However, our economy is still growing, and the state will collect more money than it did last year. Our budget will be larger than last year, just not as large as predicted last October.

Last week in the Natural Resources Committee, I introduced LB368, a bill to
eliminate the over-appropriated designation on certain Natural Resource Districts. The hearing served as a means of educating the committee on how and why we manage water the way we do and the relationship between ground and surface water. Currently just the upper Platte river basins are designated as over-appropriated.

I also did a short interview recapping my bill LB227 with Nebraska Farm Bureau on Thursday. That is the bill about nuisance lawsuits and changes to ag operations. I am hoping by the time you are reading this LB 227 will have been advanced out of committee and on to the floor. You can watch the interview on Farm Bureaus Facebook page or by visiting: https://www.facebook.com/NEFarmBureau/videos/1008806282641500/

This week, I’m most excited to have students from the district begin visiting the Legislature. I always enjoy speaking with the students, whether they’re fourth graders, high school seniors, or beyond. The students usually join me for pizza over lunch, and we’ll talk about the legislative process as well as their interests and views.

I have two more of my bills to introduce this week. The first is LB144 which will be introduced to the Government committee, and the second is LB632 to be heard in the Natural Resources committee. LB144 changes election law to allow county officers in primary elections to be nonpartisan. This addition only applies in counties with 15,000 residents or less and requires county boards to pass a resolution or residents of that county file a petition for the nonpartisan election to take place. Then, the top two county candidates for each office, regardless of political party, would be on the general ballot. LB632 is what we call a “shell bill”. It is just a bill introduced during the first ten days that really has no content. This “placeholder bill” allows the committee to deal with emergency situations or other issues of importance that may pop up during the session that need the Legislature’s immediate attention.

If you would like to speak directly to me about legislative issues, join the Great Plains conference call Tuesday at 8 AM CST and McCook Chamber Conference call Thursday at 8 AM CST. 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.

Last Tuesday, the twelfth of February, I brought LB227 to the agricultural committee. This bill would extend protections against nuisance laws for some farm operations should they wish to expand their business. The committee has not made a decision on the bill. The same day, I also presented LB719 to the Transportation and Telecommunications committee. This bill would eliminate duplicative reporting requirements for scrap recyclers and junk and salvage yards. Notably, the bill to change helmet laws, LB 378, introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen, was also heard in committee last Tuesday.

Last Wednesday, LB127 was debated on the floor. This bill expands who can qualify under the landowner designation, to hunt on their own land. I introduced an amendment narrowing the bill to landowners and their spouses, and their children and stepchildren and their spouses. The body advanced the bill to the next stage of debate, Select File, and will be debated again in the coming weeks.

Last Friday was a recess day and Monday we celebrated President’s Day, which means we resumed with a full schedule on Tuesday. LB 302, a bill I introduced at the request of the Governor to merge the State Energy Office with the Department of Environmental Quality and renaming it the Department of Environment and Energy, is on the Select File agenda on Tuesday. Hopefully we will get to this bill sometime this week. It just depends on my colleagues and their interest is discussing at length the bills scheduled ahead of LB 302.

This week in the Natural Resources Committee, I will introduce LB368, a bill to
eliminate overappropriated river basins, subbasins, and reaches. This will provide an opportunity to educate the committee on why we currently manage water the way we do. A very significant piece of water legislation, LB 962, passed in 2004, created the Groundwater Management and Protection Act. On Thursday, February 21st, we will hear Senator Chamber’s LB46, a bill to eliminate mountain lion hunting, a bill he has introduced every year since the mountain lion hunting season was put into law.

Some bills of interest to be heard in the Revenue Committee this week include a day devoted to income taxes, their rates and deductions, etc. on Wednesday. Then on Thursday the Revenue Committee will hear LB 530 and LB 483 among others, that change the valuation of agricultural land and horticultural land.

If you would like to speak directly to me about legislative issues, join the Great Plains conference call Tuesday at 8 AM CST and McCook Chamber Conference call Thursday at 8 AM CST. 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 week passed by without much controversy. LB319 and LB155 were presented to the Natural Resources committee. Senator Moser introduced LB319 to make minor changes to statute governing the Department of Natural Resources’ policy of notices, rules, and regulations. Senator Brewer’s LB155, which I highlighted in last week’s article, strikes one sentence from law which currently enables private renewable energy companies to use the governmental power of eminent domain to connect to the electricity power grid.

Other more controversial topics that were heard last week were LBs 167 and 168. Both of these bills deal with conversion therapy. The Judiciary Committee heard testimony well into the night last Thursday. LB 168 will be withdrawn. I have had several emails asking me where I stand on these two bills and my answer is I am opposed.

This week I am introducing two bills to committee. The first and most notable is LB227. In the office, we refer to this bill as the Right to Farm. This bill will be introduced to the Agriculture Committee on February 12. A farm or grain warehouse which makes changes that are not significant will continue to have the right to operate. This addition to current statute allows farms and grain warehouses who manage nuisances reasonably to change hands, adopt new technology, and make changes to stay competitive in the agricultural market.

My second bill, LB719, will also be introduced on February 12th in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. Currently, scrap recyclers and junk and salvage yards are required to surrender titles for junked motor vehicles to the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles. In addition to this reporting, scrap recyclers and junk and salvage yards are required by federal law to report their full inventory of all junk or salvage motor vehicles obtained in whole or in part to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).
LB719 would make Nebraska the first state to allow scrap recyclers and junk and salvage yards to streamline both reports to the DMV who will then report on to NMVTIS. This will eliminate duplicative reporting requirements for scrap recyclers and junk and salvage yards.

If you would like to speak directly to me about legislative issues, join the Great Plains conference call Tuesday at 8 AM CST and McCook Chamber Conference call Thursday at 8 AM CST. 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.

The third week of session is coming to a close. The new Natural Resources committee members are quickly picking up on the subject material and are engaged with our committee’s bills. This week, LB302 and LB307 were introduced to the committee.

I introduced LB302 at the request of Governor Ricketts. It combines the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Nebraska Energy Office (NEO) into one state agency. Multiple other states organize agencies in a variety of ways, and several have agencies which combine the functions of DEQ and NEO. The bill had many proponents, including but not limited to representatives from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the former director of the Nebraska Energy Office, and Nebraska Public Power District. The committee has already voted LB 302 out, and it is now being scheduled to the floor for debate sometime soon.

LB126 and LB127, my deer bills, are still in committee. There have been some additional meetings with Game and Parks and some of the Natural Resource Committee members about these bills. I am still hopeful we can come to some sort of agreement on how to move forward. I have received numerous emails about both of these bills, mostly from deer hunters who are wanting to make sure their hobby is not affected in any way. There seems to be little regard for the damage caused to landowners by the state’s deer population and by deer hunters themselves.

We will hear LB319 and LB155 in Natural Resources the week of February fourth through the eighth. Senator Brewer introduced LB155 to prevent private persons, intending to privately develop renewable energy facilities, from using the eminent domain power of government against their neighbors to engage in this private activity.

Most of the other committees are holding hearings on the bills assigned to them. An interesting bill was passed out of the Revenue Committee last Friday. It is Senator Briese’s bill, LB183, that would only allow 30% of ag land valuation to be included when paying for a school bond issue. The original bill exempted all of ag land valuation from being taxed for school bonds, but the committee thought 30% was a more acceptable number. I think this bill is a good first step and will make those who vote to approve all those bond issues more accountable, like those who will actually have to pay for them.

If you would like to speak directly to me about legislative issues, join the Great Plains conference call Tuesday at 8 AM CST and McCook Chamber Conference call Thursday at 8 AM CST.

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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