NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Dan Hughes

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44

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Priority bills selected
March 17th, 2021

Last week and early this week, things continued to be busy around here.  Committees were busy meeting in executive session, trying to advance bills so that senators could decide on what bill they would like to prioritize for the session.  Each senator can prioritize one bill and each committee can prioritize up to two bills.  Usually a senator does not like to prioritize a specific bill until they know it has the votes to get out of committee because if it does not and there aren’t enough votes to pull the bill out of committee then they have wasted their priority bill for the year.  Having priority bill status means that those bills will be heard on the Legislative floor for debate before other bills that do not have priority bill status.

I chose LB 650, introduced by Mike Flood from Norfolk, as my personal priority bill for this session.  This bill would create the Nebraska Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide Act.  I have gone into more detail about this bill in a previous article but basically this bill would give statutory authority to establish intent to facilitate carbon capture in Nebraska.

There are other ways for non-controversial bills to jump the line in front of non-prioritized bills.  You can ask for a speaker priority, the Speaker of the Legislature usually chooses 25 bills to group together, these are bills that will not take a lot of time on floor debate and that do not need substantive amendments to them.  I asked for LB 336 to be considered to be a speaker priority.  The Speaker received a number of requests so I will let you know if it gets chosen as one of them.

The Natural Resources Committee chose LB 507 as one of their committee priority bills.  This is a bill that I have written about in a past article.  In the bill they amended two of my bills, LB 190 and LB 191.  The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee chose my bill, LB 215, as one of their committee priority bills.  This bill would allow Douglas County to raise the surcharge on landlines and also on wireless users to help with costs associated with their 911 system, this bill does not affect any other county.

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. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. 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 the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

There is some good news on the horizon for Nebraska.  The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met on February 26, 2021 and raised revenue projections for the state.  Their projections are what the legislature uses to create our bi-annual budget.  The current projections were raised by $204 million to $5.49 billion.  This is due to anticipated increases of $65 million in sales and use tax receipts, $40 million in corporate tax receipts, $4 million miscellaneous taxes and $95 million individual income tax receipts.  The total projected revenue receipts for FY 2021-2022 were raised to $5.08 billion, which is an increase of $165 million.  The following year FY 2022-2023 was increased by $93 million.

Some bills that may be of interest to the 44th legislative district are LB 254 and LB 324. LB 254 was introduced by Matt Williams of Gothenburg, it would extend the sunset date on the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act.  This act was originally enacted into law on August 28, 1999.  We include sunset dates on many acts like this so it makes future legislatures look into an act and determine if it is still accomplishing the original goals, if not they can let the act end or they can make necessary adjustments.  The Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act helps out new farmers or ranchers who plan on farming full time.  The costs to get started in farming or ranching is quite substantive and can be a roadblock.  The number of farmers have decreased dramatically in the past few decades and this is one tool to help those who would like to live the good life achieve their dream.

LB 324 was introduced by Senator Tom Brandt of Plymouth.   This bill would allow meat producers and consumers an easier way to buy packages of meat directly from the processor or producer.  It would create the Independent Processor Assistance Program which would increase local processing capacity and expand market access for small producers. Under this bill consumers can enter into agreements with livestock producers and have partial ownership in the animal or herd which would allow them to use the custom exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

The legislative committees were in high gear this week kicking bills out of committee.  One reason why they were so busy is because the deadline to name senator priority bills and committee priority bills was this week.  In my next article I will write more about this process and what were some of the more newsworthy bills designated as priorities.

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. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. 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 the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Status of my bills and more
March 4th, 2021

We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for committees to wrap up their hearings.  Starting next week we will have morning debate and the afternoons are reserved for the Judiciary Committee to finish up their hearings and for other committees to have executive sessions.  Committees are not only busy wrapping up hearings, but also advancing bills to the legislative floor.   Currently, I have 3 bills that are on General File, the first round of debate.  LB 616 which would give towers a little help when they get stuck with abandoned vehicles.  The other two bills, LB 190, which would change provisions relating to the use of the Water Sustainability Fund and LB 191, which would redefine elector for the Irrigation District Act.  Both were adopted by the Natural Resources Committee into one amendment and that was placed on LB 507.  In the past I have talked about this procedure of including provisions of multiple bills into one bill, it is called a Christmas tree bill.  Only committees can create this.

LB 507 amends the Ethanol Development Act. It would prohibit the use of treated seed corn for ethanol production, because certain pesticides that are used to treat seed corn create a byproduct waste when used for creating ethanol.  This byproduct cannot be used for application on ag land or used for livestock consumption.

Another bill that was rolled into LB 507 is LB 395 introduced by Tim Gragert of Creighton.  Currently, the Game and Parks Commission can designate special depredation seasons and issue permits for the taking of deer when there is evidence that crops or other property was damaged.  This bill would allow for the taking of elk and antelope using the same guidelines as deer.  The revenue from the permit fees would go to the landowners to be used for abatement of damage caused by the wildlife.

Each year a few introduced bills receive more attention than others.  This year, one of those is a bill introduced by Senator Steve Halloran of Hastings, LB 188, a bill otherwise known as the Adopt the Second Amendment Preservation Act.  This bill would prohibit any agency, political subdivision, or their employees, of Nebraska to knowingly and willingly participate in enforcing any federal act, law, order, rule, or regulation regarding a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition if the act, law, order, rule or regulation does not exist under the laws of the state of Nebraska.  I have always supported our second amendment rights and will continue to do so.

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. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. 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 the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for committees to wrap up their hearings.  Starting next week we will have morning debate and the afternoons are reserved for the Judiciary Committee to finish up their hearings and for other committees to have executive sessions.  Committees are not only busy wrapping up hearings, but also advancing bills to the legislative floor.   Currently, I have 3 bills that are on General File, the first round of debate.  LB 616 which would give towers a little help when they get stuck with abandoned vehicles.  The other two bills, LB 190, which would change provisions relating to the use of the Water Sustainability Fund and LB 191, which would redefine elector for the Irrigation District Act.  Both were adopted by the Natural Resources Committee into one amendment and that was placed on LB 507.  In the past I have talked about this procedure of including provisions of multiple bills into one bill, it is called a Christmas tree bill.  Only committees can create this. 

LB 507 amends the Ethanol Development Act, it would prohibit the use of treated seed corn for ethanol production. Because certain pesticides that are used to treat seed corn create a byproduct waste when used for creating ethanol.  This byproduct cannot be used for application on ag land or used for livestock consumption.  

Another bill that was rolled into LB 507 is LB 395 introduced by Tim Gragert of Creighton.  Currently, the Game and Parks Commission can designate special depredation seasons and issue permits for the taking of deer when there is evidence that crops or other property was damaged.  This bill would allow for the taking of elk and antelope using the same guidelines as deer.  The revenue from the permit fees would go to the landowners to be used for abatement of damage caused by the wildlife.

Each year a few introduced bills receive more attention than others.  This year, one of those is a bill introduced by Senator Steve Halloran of Hastings, LB 188, a bill otherwise known as the Adopt the Second Amendment Preservation Act.  This bill would prohibit any agency, political subdivision, or their employees, of Nebraska to knowingly and willingly participate in enforcing any federal act, law, order, rule, or regulation regarding a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition if the act, law, order, rule or regulation does not exist under the laws of the state of Nebraska.  I have always supported second amendment rights and will continue to do so.

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. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. 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 the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Last Friday was day 30 of the 90 day session, which means we have made it a third of the way through this session.  Even though we still have a few weeks left of bill hearings, the committees have been busy advancing bills to general file so once morning debates commence there will be bills on the agenda to discuss.  A few weeks ago I wrote about the redistricting process we must go through every 10 years and I mentioned at that time that the data we need from the federal government may be delayed.  We received notice last week that they do not believe that we will get that information before the end of September so that leaves a lot of questions in the air.  As I learn new information about what the process will be I will keep you updated.  It is important to finish redistricting as soon as possible because 2022 is an election year and people need to know which district they will be in because it may affect their decision whether they will run.  On a side note, I encourage you to get involved and run for a local office, the best way to effect change is to get involved.

As most of you know I spent the last 4 years as Chair of the Natural Resources Committee.  One of the areas that the committee covers is electricity. One of the things I enjoy about being a senator is getting to learn more about things that are of interest to me.  I personally think the power industry is truly fascinating, the way it works and the mix of power generating sources. We are very fortunate in the country to have cheap and reliable electricity, most of the time.

I realize that before last week many of you had probably never heard of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the group that manages the electric grid and wholesale power market for the central United States.  Due to the recent cold snap, the weaknesses in SPP’s system have been brought to light.  In response to this, Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainard introduced LR 48.  The intent of this resolution is to have the Natural Resources Committee provide a report of its findings as to the reasons for and circumstances surrounding the power outages experienced by Nebraskans.  These outages could have been more than an inconvenience, for some they could have had dire consequences.  The extreme cold temperatures created a very dangerous situation.  Even though I am no longer chair of the Natural Resources Committee I am still a member, and I look forward to having conversations with the public power providers and also members of the SPP to hear what happened and what their plans are for the future to ensure this will not happen again.

Reliability and affordability are the two most important factors when it comes to electricity. Thank you to everyone involved in providing electricity to us and a special thank you to our line people.

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. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. 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 the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

We had a morning of floor debate on Tuesday this week, but we will not engage regularly in debate until Tuesday, March 2.  We are doing our best to get through as many bills in committee as possible.  The second week of March we will have morning floor debate followed by afternoon committee hearings and executive sessions as needed. The plan is to finish all committee hearings, other than Judiciary, by March 4th.  Due to the number of bills referred to the Judiciary Committee, they will not finish up until March 12th.

As I was trying to think of bills that may be of interest to the 44th legislative district, I came across one introduced by Senator Mike Flood of Norfolk, LB 650. This bill would allow Nebraska to facilitate further studies of carbon capture and sequestration projects in Nebraska.  Currently, the regulatory authority of these projects is the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.  This bill would give statutory authority to establish intent to facilitate carbon capture in Nebraska, designate property rights and create a cash fund for the regulatory operations.  Carbon capture and sequestration is when carbon dioxide is created by a company during its manufacturing process and is then captured and moved to a storage site, thus keeping it from entering the atmosphere. In Nebraska we have deep underground formations that would be appropriate geological stratums to store the CO2. The same protocols that are used in the oil and gas industry to protect groundwater would be followed. CO2 injection is currently being done at several sites around the globe today. I have not made up my mind about this legislation, I just thought it was interesting and I look forward to learning more about it.

Last week the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard several bills about the challenges of building out broadband to rural areas.  If anything has come out of 2020 it is the need for all areas of our state to have fast internet speeds that we can rely on.  Our society is moving towards more and more things being done on the internet, not only business meetings, but also telemedicine, educational classes and even farming.  It can be very costly to get broadband out to rural areas, but it must be a priority.  Telecommunications companies and public power must work together to find a solution that works best for Nebraskans.  If you would like to read more on the legislation that has been proposed I would encourage you to look at LB’s 388 and 456 regarding broadband grant programs.  There are 2 more bills that deal with broadband if you’re interested you can look at LB 455, pole attachments and LB 520, big cell tower.  

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. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. 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 the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

We have had 2 five day weeks of all day hearings. There have been some hiccups in the new schedule and also with the new testimony submission options. The days are busy for senators and staff alike. However, for the most part, it is going pretty smoothly. Some committees have a bigger load than others, and therefore their days are packed and make for long days.

During our all day committee hearings we do not only hear bills, but we also meet with potential gubernatorial appointments to different commissions and boards. Since I sit on the Natural Resources Committee and also the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee we hear from a number of different people up for appointment.

A few bills were heard last week in their respective committees that might be of interest to my constituency in District 44. One of those bills was heard in the Natural Resources Committee on February 3rd. It would prohibit the use of treated seed corn in the production of agricultural ethyl alcohol if its use results in the generation of a byproduct that is deemed unsafe for livestock consumption or land application. LB 507 was introduced by Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainard who said an ethanol plant near Mead has been using treated seed corn as a fuel stock and is storing the byproduct onsite. The byproduct contains unsafe levels of insecticide, leading to concerns about groundwater contamination and other environmental problems. This bill had no opposition testimony at the hearing.

On February 1st the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee heard a bill introduced by Senator Steve Erdman of Bayard, LB 164. Currently, only cities with at least 40,000 residents can lower the speed limits on highways within their corporate limits if they feel a hazardous condition exists. This bill would allow cities as small as 500 or more residents to lower the speed limit without having the Department of Transportation approve it first.

LB 41, introduced by Senator Myron Dorn of Adams was heard in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee last week. The same bill was introduced last year, but because of the pandemic, it did not get debated on the floor.  He reintroduced it this year, as LB 41.  This bill would allow county treasurers to distribute tax revenue to townships by automatic deposit.  This is already done for counties, cities, schools, fire districts, etc. There are twenty-two counties in Nebraska have townships and currently, they have to come into the courthouse and present a paper warrant in person. This would eliminate that need.

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. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. 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 the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

It has been an interesting first few weeks here at the capitol.  Lincoln received the second highest snowfall which brought most of the city to a stop but the legislature kept on track.  We also had complications this past week of some staff and senators having to quarantine due to exposure to Covid.  We are doing all we can to keep everyone as safe as possible in the building. Testing is still ongoing on a weekly basis for those staff and senators who choose to get tested. 

This session is different from normal sessions for yet another reason, redistricting.  This is a process the legislature must go through every 10 years.  It ensures that all Nebraskans are represented equally by redrawing election boundary lines, based on population, for political, governmental, and other public bodies.  Every 10 years, all 50 states must redraw the district  boundaries for the US House of Representatives and state legislatures.  In Nebraska, we will also draw new district boundaries for the State Board of Education, the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, the Public Service Commission and the Nebraska Supreme Court. It is a very difficult process and one that must proceed with substantive guidelines.

There are statutory and constitutional requirements on both the federal and state level relating to equality and discrimination and there are also individual state rules for drawing plans.  Redistricting plans across the country are often challenged in court and the courts will look at multiple factors when deciding on whether to reject or uphold the plans.

The Nebraska Legislature is very fortunate to have experienced people in our Legislative Research office to help guide the senators through this process.  These people have spent the past year doing research on redistricting and they will help to create plans that are something the legislature can be proud of.

The Executive Board met last week and selected senators to be on the 2021 Redistricting Committee.  Thirty-two senators submitted their name for consideration.  The rules dictate that the Executive Board had to select 3 senators from each of the 3 congressional districts. No more than 5 senators can be of the same political party. The following senators will be on the committee, Senators; Carol Blood-Bellevue, Tom Briese-Albion, Tom Brewer-Gordon, Suzanne Geist-Lincoln, Steve Lathrop-Omaha, LouAnn Linehan-Elkhorn, John Lowe-Kearney, Adam Morfeld-Lincoln, and Justin Wayne-Omaha.  This is truly one of the thankless jobs here in the legislature and I appreciate each one of them stepping up.  Due to the outbreak of Covid during the 2020 census taking, receiving the data we must use may be delayed.  If so, the Nebraska Legislature may have to come back for a special session this fall so you may hear a lot about this over the upcoming year.

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 week was the final week to introduce new legislation.  A total of 684 bills were introduced.  I have introduced a total of 9 bills this year.  LB’s 190, 191, 215, 336, 393, 616, 617, 618, and 668.  Three of those bills are what I have referred to in the past as shell bills.  Those shell bills are LB’s 393, 617, and 618.  

LB 616 proposes that if an abandoned vehicle, as defined in Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-1901, does not have license plates or valid in transit stickers affixed to it and it’s wholesale value is less than $500.00 the title shall immediately be granted to the local authority or state agency having jurisdiction thereof.  Secondly, this bill would make law enforcement comply with the same 15 day notice to any lienholder appearing on the certificate of title of the vehicle and the owner of the towing vehicle, that a tower has to comply with.  

LB 668 would require that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission move their headquarters to a county with a population of ten thousand or fewer inhabitants.  The new headquarters shall be located at least two hundred miles or more from any city of the metropolitan class or city of the primary class.  The commission shall also consider the value of the economic development incentives provided by a qualifying city or village.

As I mentioned in a prior article, the procedures for hearings will look a little different as will the options for people to submit written comments.  The legislature is constantly looking at different ways to safeguard the public and our staff but still remaining open as the people’s house and letting their voices be heard. You can find more specific information about these changes on the Nebraska Legislature’s website, www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

Last week we debated 3 of the rule changes that were advanced by the Rules Committee, they were:  

  1. From Senator Matt Hansen that all caucus members vote for Executive Board positions. Adopted
  2. From Speaker Mike Hilgers that the introducer of motion controls the order of the roll call vote.  Adopted
  3. From Senator Joni Albrecht that the pledge of allegiance will be said every day after the opening prayer.  Adopted

We also debated amendments to our rules.  

One of the duties of the Executive Board is to place members on special committees. Special committees are established for a specific purpose that focuses on providing legislative oversight to a policy area.  We also have interstate compacts meant for mutual public policy objectives. The committee met late last week to make those assignments based on the senators that nominated themselves and the amount of positions available on each committee.  A few of those higher profile committees are:  Building and Maintenance, Committee on Justice Reinvestment Oversight, Education Commission of the States, Homeland Security Policy Group, Legislative Performance Audit Committee, Legislature’s Planning Committee, Rural Broadband Task Force, and State-Tribal Relations.

Bills I have introduced so far
January 19th, 2021

It has been a very busy week here at the Legislature.  My office holds many responsibilities that require my attention and input on. One of the issues on the forefront is the continuing presence of Covid and the fact that many things need to be tweaked this year to try and accommodate safety concerns and social distancing.

Some of these safeguards will involve how we conduct hearings.  As always, every bill that was introduced will have a public hearing, but to be more accommodating we will be holding all day committee hearings, the morning sessions will begin at 9:30 and afternoon sessions begin at 1:30.  The hearings are scheduled to begin on January 25th.  

I introduced a couple of bills last week.  LB 215 would create consistency across the counties for 911 surcharge.  Right now every county, except Douglas, can charge up to a $1.00 surcharge on landlines and $.70 on wireless users.  Douglas county was capped at $.50 for both, this bill allows the county the freedom to increase this if they need to.

LB 336 would allow for a limited permit granting access to all permit areas except Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area and Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area for nonresidents of Nebraska.  For a regular nonresident annual permit (access to all the Game and Parks areas including Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala) the fee would be up to $80.00 and the temporary regular permit for a nonresident motor vehicle will be up to $15.00.  No less than 95% of the additional funds from the nonresident permits will be designated to help defray operational, maintenance, and improvement costs at Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala.

LB 393 is what is referred to as a “shell bill”.  As Chair of the Executive Board there may be an issue that comes up after the 10 days of bill introduction that needs to be resolved and the shell bill is a vehicle to get an important issue addressed.

As some of you may have read, I introduced a rule change to close off the executive session of committee meetings to members of the media.  Thes executive sessions are already closed to the general public.  The reason I feel this is important is because people tend to talk more freely and we can discuss how to make changes to a bill before it hits the floor without fear of being quoted in the paper.  Making law is like making sausage; you may not want to see how it all happens.  We used to have a “gentlemen’s agreement” that the media would ask your permission before they quoted something you said during an executive session but that has gone by the wayside.  I would much rather talk freely to members of my committee when we’re all together than all the sidebar conversations we have individually, I think when we are able to collaborate we can create better legislation.

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44
Room 2108
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2805
Email: dhughes@leg.ne.gov
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