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Sen. Dan Hughes

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44

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Things are moving fast in the Legislature and we’re in the home stretch. With less than 10 days left this session we have a lot to get done. Last week one of the Natural Resource Committee’s priority bills was heard on General File. LB 1008 is a “Christmas tree bill”, which means the committee has rolled multiple bills together into one. LB 1008 contains bills to raise liquidated damages on poachers for certain game violations, raise the per diem for Oil and Gas commissioners, give the Power Review Board authority to assess a fine, extend the state’s scrap tire program, and also resolves a problem for public power. Typically these bills are non-controversial and gives us the chance to address some smaller issues.

On Thursday of last week, LB 1008 was heard on General File, this bill contains an amendment that will allow public power in Nebraska to withhold competitive or proprietary information related to generating costs that would give an advantage to competitors who also produce electricity. There was some opposition to this bill by a small number of senators who have concerns with this portion of the committee amendment to LB 1008. Those who oppose the bill have an axe to grind with public power.

The public power language was amended into LB 1008 in response to a Nebraska Supreme Court case, Aksamit Resource Mgmt v. Nebraska Pub. Power Dist., which was issued on Friday, February 23, 2018. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court, stating that the public power entity did not prove that the release of information would serve no public purpose. The court liberally construed the meaning of “public purpose” and that, absent a statute clarifying how competing policy interests should be balanced, a policy debate on fossil and renewable fuels was serving a public purpose.

There were several maneuvers used by opponents to try to stall the bill. During the three hours of debate on LB 1008, little time was spent discussing the merits of the bill due to procedural rules challenges and motions to split up the bill into separate parts. We will have another three hours of debate on the bill this week before a motion can be made to end the filibuster. If this bill should fail to pass it will have a detrimental effect on all Nebraska ratepayers. I am hopeful it will be advanced to the next stage of debate by the time you read this.

I enjoyed seeing yet another high school this last week, Southwest High School out of Bartley brought over 25 students to come visit and explore the capitol. I look forward to seeing another group of fourth graders on April 9th. Please as always feel free to stop by my office whenever you are in Lincoln. It is always nice to see my constituents and friends.

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.

Day forty-four was last Thursday and with only sixteen working days left in this year’s short session there is still plenty to be discussed. Last week, we started late nights, debated the budget bills, and passed another one of my bills on to select file. I would also like to clear up some confusion with the amendment I added to LB 822.

The budget is an important topic this session. We had three bills related to the budget debated last week. LB 946, LB 945, and LB 944. On Tuesday we discussed these bills until nearly a quarter to midnight. LB 944 dealt with Title X funds, which are given to healthcare clinics. One of the big issues is, in the past some of this money went to fund abortions. With the language included that was voted out of committee by a 9-0 vote, and past the first round of debate, the part of those clinics that are providing abortions must be paid for by separate and distinct funds. Meaning no tax dollars can be used to fund abortions. This change in no way stops funds flowing to our health clinic in McCook.

Late nights started last week in the capitol. During the remainder of this session the Speaker will designate a handful of days that we will work late nights. On these nights the full body will stay and try to work through the agenda and address as many bills as possible. If necessary, we can continue debate until 11:59pm. These nights are necessary, with only sixty working days this session and more than 500 bills introduced this year we need more time to debate these important issues.

My third bill of the session was advanced to select file, LB 760. LB 760 is a common sense bill that helps the county volunteer first responders. In 2016, county volunteers were unintentionally left out of a tax credit. With the passage of this bill they too will be able to receive the credit. There was a little debate on the bill, it passed on a 33-0 vote.

To clear up some confusion with LB 822, the amendment that the committee adopted is the result of a compromise between media representatives and public power. The amendment is important to our utilities who produce power in Nebraska, but more so to Nebraska ratepayers. The amendment will allow public power in Nebraska to withhold competitive or proprietary information about generating costs that would give an advantage to its business competitors who also produce electricity.

I would like to thank both Elwood High School and Bertrand High School for coming to visit me last week. I always enjoy having people from district come to visit. The students were very engaging and interested in the political process. If you are ever in Lincoln please feel free to stop by my office.

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 I would like to update you on the status of LB 98, AM2191, which is an amendment I filed on LB822, and a meeting held in Cambridge regarding updates to Resource Management Plan. Also, a dangerous fire happened in McCook that was caused by high winds and dry conditions.

LB 98 was debated before the legislature last week, it was a bill I mentioned in last week’s article. LB 98 did not garner enough votes to invoke cloture, which means the bill is dead for this year. The bill would have extended the time a natural resources district’s authority can use a special three-cent levy in fiscal year 2025-2026. This levy was only available to NRD’s that are designated fully or overappropriated. The levy helps the NRDs meet their obligations under the state’s groundwater management laws by providing them with a tool to raise matching funds that are usually required for access to state funds.

The Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on AM2191 which is an amendment that would allow public power in Nebraska to withhold competitive or proprietary information that would give an advantage to its business competitors. At the close of the hearing, I asked the public power and the media representatives to immediately come to my office. Once seated, I respectfully directed them to work out their differences, draft compromise language, and not leave my office until it was done. I’m pleased to report that it worked. The language that the committee adopted is something that everyone is comfortable with. The full Legislature will debate the amendment in the near future.

Last week the Bureau of Reclamation held a meeting in Cambridge and over 250 people showed up. Too many people who invested in these cabins were not informed of the upcoming mandate that they would need to move their cabins by 2020. According to one attendee, “It is fairly common that our Federal government creates a mandate that over-reaches the boundaries of good governance. They often times enact regulations that are neither practical nor beneficial for large portions of the population. When this happens, it should be the duty of every good citizen to stand in the way and halt this ill directed course. There are no neutral positions in this – you either allow big government overreach through your inaction, or you do not.”

Last week there was a grass fire on the northwest side of McCook that threatened parts of the city. The fire caused the elementary school to be evacuated and the students were relocated to the high school and YMCA. I would like to thank all of the firefighters, police, first responders, local farmers and volunteers for helping extinguish the fires and staying around to make sure there were no flare ups. We are thankful for all of their hard work in making sure the fires did not affect more people and cause more damage. Nineteen different fire departments responded to the call for mutual aid. In addition, I would like to thank those who provided water and food for all the volunteers. The whole region answered the call to help the McCook community. That’s just how we do things in Nebraska.

The legislature last week kept itself busy and productive. All the bills have had their hearings and early in the week the legislature began full day floor debates on Wednesday. The Natural Resources Committee will hold one more hearing before the end of session. It has been a privilege to chair a committee with such great members. This week I would like to update everyone on status of LB 758, and inform you on LB 98, and the forecasting board’s report.

LB 758 was a bill I introduced this year and one of the Natural Resources Committee priority bills. The bill allows the four NRDs that own the N-CORPE project in Lincoln County to make payments in lieu of taxes. This bill ensures that counties will continue to receive property tax dollars, even if TERC came back and ruled against it. LB 758 was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Ricketts. An emergency clause was attached which makes the bill law immediately after he signed it.

LB 98 will be debated next week. The bill would extend the time a natural resources district’s authority can use a special three-cent levy to fiscal year 2025-2026. The three-cent levy can only be used for groundwater and integrated water management in districts in basins that are fully over appropriated. The levy helps the NRDs meet their obligations under the state’s groundwater management laws by providing them with a tool to raise matching funds that are usually required for access to state funds

Last week the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met and delivered some good news for the state. For the 2017-2018 fiscal year the forecast increased by $25 million, this would go directly into the rainy day fund once collected. For the 2018-2019 fiscal year the forecast was $30 million, this is an increase from the previous year’s forecast. This is important to the state, we are in a budget crisis and need every penny we can get.

Earlier this week a group of fourth graders from the Perkins County public schools came to visit the Capitol. They got a tour of the capitol. I was able to talk with the students about the legislative process and how unique our unicameral is. I always enjoy when people from my district come to visit. If you are ever in Lincoln please feel free to stop by my office.

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 over halfway finished with the 2018 legislative session. Last Tuesday was the last day for senators to pick which bill they want to designate as their priority bill. I made Senator Murante of Gretna’s LB 1009 my priority bill. Last week my bill LB 761 was heard in the Natural Resources committee and early this week LB 759 was heard in Revenue. I would like to update everyone on each of these bills, and go into more depth on my priority bill, LB 1009.

LB 761 is a simple bill that would increase the per diem for the three Oil and Gas Commissioners to $300 per day. The per diem has not been increased since 1979. The per diem would be paid out of the Oil and Gas Commission cash fund. The Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s operation cost is paid primarily by the conservation tax proceeds collected by the Nebraska Department of Revenue from a tax assessed on the value of all oil and gas produced in the state.

LB 759 would reinstate a sales tax on the sale of memberships, admissions, and the purchases of any national accredited zoo or aquarium that is operated by a public agency or nonprofit corporation primarily for educational, scientific, or tourism purposes. This was the last sales tax exemption that the legislature granted, it only makes it fair that it is the first to be reinstated. We are in a budget shortfall and every penny counts.

LB 1009 would add language that would classify a super-two rural highway which currently isn’t in statute, this is important to district 44 since the first super-two highway in the state will run from McCook to North Platte. This bill also gives the authority to the Department of Transportation to increase the speed limit by five miles per hour on some state highways if they deem it appropriate. It would also allow the Department of Transportation to raise the maximum speed on segments of I-80 from 75 mph to 80 mph, after engineering and traffic investigations. This bill would put our roads and highways in compliance with federal recommended standards. I am confident that this bill will make it out of committee and will be heard by the full body of the legislature.

I would like to give an early reminder to any high school students that would be interested in participating in the Unicameral Youth Legislature program that is held every summer. This is a wonderful opportunity for young students to get to see the behind the scenes of how the nations only unicameral works. They participate in all the activities of a state senator and discuss issues important to the state. To learn more visit: nebraskalegislature.gov/education/unicamyouth.php

Last week the legislature moved two of my bills onto final reading. Both LB 758 and 275 were moved to the final stages of the process. If these bills receive twenty-five yes votes from my colleagues they will be sent to Governor Ricketts for his signature. Last week, the Executive Committee which I am a member of, held a hearing on a hot topic, LR 277. I would like to give an explanation of the resolution, as well as, an update on LB 1008, a bill heard in the Natural Resources Committee.

LR 277 is a resolution introduced by Senator Schumacher of Columbus, the resolution would allow the current legislature to review past legislature’s calls to Congress for a constitutional convention under Article V of the United State Constitution. This is simply a housekeeping measure. Previous legislatures have called on Congress on more than ten different occasions, including four separate calls to require U.S. Senators to be elected by a direct vote of the people, which the 17th amendment addresses and was ratified in 1913. In 1911 there was a call to prohibit polygamy and polygamous cohabitation. In 1949 a call to limit the power of congress to levy an income tax and establish revenue sharing agreements between the states and federal government. In 1965 there was a call to require fair division of electoral votes cast for all candidates (proportional Electoral College). In 1965 a call to prohibit limitations on how states apportion legislative districts. 1978 they called to adopt a human life amendment and include unborn in the definition of a person. In 1979 a call to require a balanced budget amendment. Finally, in 2010 a call to reaffirm the previously passed resolution that called for a balanced budget amendment. Over time new priorities come up, something popular one hundred years ago may not be popular today. It is important for the current legislature to clean the slate.

LB 1008 introduced by Senator Bostelman of Brainard, would increase amounts of damages for certain violations of Game Law. To any person who sells, purchases, takes, or possesses wildlife, contrary to the Game Law shall be liable to the State of Nebraska for damages caused. A few examples; the penalty for a mountain sheep raises from $15,000 to $25,000, for mountain lions, lynx, bobcats, river otters would raise from $500 to $5,000. These fines are used as a deterrent to the illegal behavior and the fines go to the school districts.

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 past week N-CORPE was in the spotlight again. Senator Groene of North Platte introduced two bills that were heard in the Natural Resources Committee. LB 1123 and 1124 both deal with the N-CORPE project in Lincoln County but could also affect the Rock Creek Project in Dundy County. During the hearing Senator Groene asked the committee to not take any action on LB 1124 because provisions in LB 758 address the concerns that led to LB 1124. However, LB 1123 drew a lot of interest and we had several testifiers expressing their thoughts both in favor of and in opposition to the bill.

LB 1123 would allow the sale of the N-CORPE land to private owners. Currently the land is owned by the N-CORPE group, which is a government entity made up of four natural resources districts. Landowners for a Common Purpose, a Lincoln County group, would like the land to be held by private citizens. One testifier in the neutral position, Professor Anthony Schutz, a law professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law, explained to the committee some of the legal issues with the bill that could cause problems with Nebraska’s compliance with the Republican River Compact. Senator Groene, in his opening, offered an amendment that would completely replace the original drafted language of the bill, but the language in the amendment still did not fix the concerns of those opposed to the bill.

LB 758 is scheduled for its second round of debate before the full Legislature as I am writing this article. Hopefully by the time you are reading this, it will have been passed from Select File on to Final Reading.

I would like to share that the rules and procedures for the letters for the records have changed. If you were planning to testify on a bill and are unable to attend but wish to have a written position letter included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, the letter must be delivered to the office of the committee chair (or emailed to the committee clerk) of the committee conducting the hearing on the bill by 5:00 p.m. on the last work day prior to the public hearing. Additionally, the letter must state a position of for, against, or neutral on the bill in question and include a request for the letter to be included as part of the public hearing record.

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 week in the Legislature, the Natural Resources Committee and myself had another busy schedule. We were successful in getting the committee priority bill, LB 758, advanced to Select File. After the full six hours of debate, the bill was advanced by a 47-0 vote. I am pleased with the outcome and thankful for my committee’s hard work on this bill. In today’s article I would like to touch base on LB 1080 and LR 266. Both of these will have hearings next week, so I would like to update everyone on them ahead of time.

LB 1080 is a bill that would allow the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to design three new license plates to be known as Wildlife Conservation Plates.  These plates would reflect support for the conservation of Nebraska wildlife, including sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, and rainbow trout. A bill similar to this was passed in 2016, which created the mountain lion plate that has helped raise approximately $225,000 in funds for the Wildlife Education Fund. The commission uses this money to provide youth education programs related to wildlife conservation practices. Game and Parks receives $30 for every message plate and $5 for every alphanumeric plate. LB 1080 would follow the same guidelines allowing three new beautifully designed wildlife license plates.

LR 266 is a resolution urging the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and the Nebraska congressional delegation to work together. We need to a find a solution that allows the people occupying lots around Hugh Butler Lake, Harry Strunk Lake and Swanson Reservoir to freely transfer their permits and to leave non-permanent structures currently in place on existing lots. It also urges the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to consider taking such action as may be helpful to bring about a solution that allows for the transfer of permits and for non-permanent structures to remain on the lots surrounding these lakes. Currently, the Bureau of Reclamation is mandating that trailer home owners vacate the lakes no later than April 30, 2020. This would make for a total of 232 cabins and trailers to be removed.

The Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last Thursday afternoon for LB 1054, introduced by Senator Brewer of Gordon. LB 1054 would change provisions relating to pre-construction hearings before the Nebraska Power Review Board and for electricity generation using wind as its fuel source. There were a lot of people who came out to testify in front of the committee, both as proponents and opponents to the legislation. There was plenty of discussion and information given to the committee. This bill has been designated as Senator Brewer’s priority bill. The committee will take some time to digest the testimony that was given, before making a decision on whether to advance it to the full Legislature for debate or hold it in committee.

Last week was another busy week in the legislature. The Natural Resources Committee had its first priority bill debated on the floor, LB 758. I had another bill on General File this week as well, LB 275, and there was some debate on other issues that are important to the citizens of southwestern Nebraska. I have been advocating for the rural communities in Nebraska this past week and will continue this effort as the session progresses.

LB 758 was heard on General File early last week, we had three hours’ worth of debate. As of Tuesday at 9am LB 758 will be up for debate again. By the time you read this there may be more information on this bill, but in order to get this article to the publications in time the most recent update is, there will be more debate. It is an important bill to southwest Nebraska to have this issue between the NRDs and the counties cleared up. Especially for the local school districts, counties, and other property tax funded agencies this legislation directly affects.

LB 275 is a bill that would allow private property owners to have abandoned vehicles towed from their property. A vehicle is considered abandoned after being left for 7 days. On January 22 we discussed this bill on the floor and it was advanced to Select File. This bill is important to owners of any private parking areas and for you on your own personal property.

This week another big item of debate on the floor was Senator Chambers’ bill, LB 449. This bill would repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. The Management Act can be adopted by a county and allows them to remove or control the spread of the prairie dogs from one property to another. Currently under the Management Act if a colony spreads from a neighbors land onto your own, you could contact the county and have them help assist you in addressing the problem. Only Sheridan County has made use of this law, but it important to allow other counties to do the same. Prairie dogs are destructive to property, cause damage to crops, as well as, put livestock in danger. I opposed to this bill and in the end it failed to garner enough votes to advance.

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 Thursday was the final day to introduce bills for this legislative session. There were still plenty of bills being brought to the legislature up until the last day. We ended up with an additional 469 new bills being introduced, making the total 1136 for the 105th legislative session. Some new bills that were introduced could have a negative impact on southwestern Nebraska. I have already received some calls and emails regarding a couple of these new bills. LB 1021 and LB 1022, are both bills that I will oppose. I would like to give a short explanation of each bill and my opinion on them.

LB 1021 would remove the tax exemption on agricultural machinery and chemicals, as well as, water for irrigation and manufacturing and other agricultural resources. This bill would take away multiple tax exemptions used by farmers each year. One of the main exemptions is water for irrigation and manufacturing. Taking away this exemption would have a direct negative impact on farmers in southwestern Nebraska.

LB 1022 this bill would add a tax to water used for irrigation. Any well used for irrigation that is capable of producing at least five thousand gallons of water per day, would be taxed at one cent for every ten gallons of water pumped. Irrigated land will be valued the same as dry land under this bill. LB 1022 would also create a school aid fund. This fund would consist of irrigation tax revenue credited to the fund and would be administered by the state board of education. The funds shall be used to provide payments to school districts that did not receive equalization aid, under Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA). This is an enormous tax increase on farmers, one cent for ten gallons will add up quickly.

LB 762 is a bill I introduced, it would push back the sunset date to apply for grants under the Department of Environmental Quality Scrap Tire Management Program. This has been a very popular program, especially rural areas. Through 2013-2016 there were 22,883.09 tons of tires collected through the scrap tire project.  I want to make sure these projects continue. The funds for this comes from a $1 fee collected on the sale of a new tires.

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.

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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