NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

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

Last Wednesday, January 9th was the first day of the 106th Nebraska Legislature’s first session. We voted to elect a chairperson for each 14 of the standing committees. I was re-elected to serve as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. I am happy to retain the role as chairman and am thankful that the body of the legislature believes in my ability to serve in such capacity.

Along with electing the chair people of each committee we also assign members to the various committees. Every senator, except the Speaker, serve on committees. Each senator must sit on a committee Monday through Friday. Different committees meet on certain days and schedule hearings for all the bills assigned to them. I will chair Natural Resources every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Monday and Tuesday, I am on the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. I am also a member of the Executive Board and the Referencing Committee. The Executive Board meets as needed throughout the session, while the Referencing Committee, which refers introduced bills, resolutions and gubernatorial appointments to the standing committees according to subject jurisdiction, meets for the first 10 days of the session.

The first day of session was full of activity, the new and re-elected senators were sworn in and the legislative body voted on chairmanships. On the second day, senators began submitting bills for this session. On the first day of bill introduction, there were 135 bills introduced. I imagine we could see as many as 700 bills this session. Senators have until the 10th working day, January 23rd to introduce new legislation.

The capitol building is chaotic the first few days because of the shuffling of offices. Every two years there is an office “lottery” for the new senators and current ones that are interested in changing offices. It can be a hectic few days for everyone moving offices and for the freshman senators setting up their new offices. Of course, there is a whole host of new staff personnel trying to become acquainted with all of the senators and veteran staffers. Currently, the southwest quadrant is closed for construction which means there are 18 senators located in the tower of the building. With 13 new senators and new chair people, there has been a lot of movement as everyone tries to settle into their new offices. Since I am staying as chairman for Natural Resources my office is still located in room 1210, which is in the southeast corner of the first floor.

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 new year is officially upon us and the 2019 legislative session is underway. This year is a long session which includes 90 working days and will tentatively run until June 6th. The reason that every other year is a longer session is due to the fact that we have to come up with a budget plan for the next two years. I would like to update everyone a little on my plans for this session and take a look at our current budget status.

The revenue picture is not great, revenue projections are still not meeting expectations. We are short of revenue meeting our current biennium budget which ends June 30, 2019. Hopefully, we will see some additional revenue coming in from the full implementation of sales tax on internet purchases. All internet retailers are supposed to be collecting sales taxes beginning on January 1st, whether or not that is the case will not immediately be clear. The legislature will need to do some things to make sure that the taxes are implemented correctly. We will need to define a minimum number of sales before you have to remit taxes and/or a minimum dollar amount that must be met before sales taxes are collected and remitted.

I will be introducing several bills dealing with Game and Parks that should come before the Natural Resources Committee. One is a deer hunting bill that would allow qualifying landowners to have early access to hunting on their land. Another is a bill at the request of G&P to allow the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to design three additional license plates to be known as Wildlife Conservation Plates. The plates reflect support for the conservation of Nebraska wildlife, including, sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, and cutthroat trout.

Another bill I will be introducing would make throwing or dropping objects at a motor vehicle illegal. Objects in the path of or striking a vehicle traveling at a high speed or even slow speeds can not only cause damage to the vehicle but potentially its driver and passengers.

I am also considering introducing a bill again that allows county boards in counties with 15,000 residents or less to adopt a resolution or allow residents to file a petition, requesting the submission of the question to voters regarding the nomination of all county officers elected on the primary election to be listed without a political party designation. The top two candidates from the primary regardless of party affiliation would then be advanced to the general election.

I am working with other senators on property tax reduction possibilities. The challenge is how do you pay for that and most of those discussions revolve around removing exemptions from the current tax code. I think we need to take a look at updating our tax code as we have evolved from a production economy to a more services-based economy. Our revenue streams are out of balance and some adjustments need to be made.

I hope everyone is enjoying this Christmas Season and is well on their way to completing all their holiday preparations. As we get closer to the start of the 2019 session we are starting to hear more again about changing the way we value agricultural real estate for taxation purposes. Some people have begun touting switching from a “recent sales” valuation based system to an “income potential” valuation based system. The main reason it is being promoted is the belief that it will deliver property tax relief to the owners of farm and ranch land. I disagree.

Changing how we determine the value will not reduce the number of tax dollars owed, especially if you live in an unequalized school district. Property tax relief, to me, is reducing the amount of property tax dollars being paid. In my recent travels across the 44th District and talking to citizens, I am hearing that land values are beginning to come down from the highs of a couple of years ago. Low commodity prices and increases in interest rates are both significant factors in this trend. While this trend will eventually reduce the tax burden on agriculture real estate it will not be providing relief quickly enough for some of our producers. If we are going to provide property tax relief it must be for everyone.

Residential, commercial, and agricultural taxpayers need to see substantial reductions in their tax bills. If we are going to achieve this we are going to have to raise revenue from other sources. I think we should be looking at removing some sales tax exemptions. Some people are not a fan of raising one tax to pay for another, but we are already doing that with the Property Tax Relief Fund. Those dollars are sales and income tax dollars collected by the state and distributed back to the counties to reduce property taxes.

Our current system of funding our schools is out of whack and needs to be addressed. If the value of everyone’s home had quadrupled and the subsequent explosion in property taxes being collected under our current law would have taken place, we would not be having this discussion because it would already have been taken care of. The sentiment of, if you don’t like paying the taxes, you can always sell it, takes on a little different hue under that scenario.

In my mind, our government should not be picking winners and losers. We should be trying to level the playing field so one group doesn’t have an unfair advantage or suffer a significant disadvantage compared to another. There are lots of ideas being discussed among my colleagues and myself about how to deliver property tax relief, but more importantly how to pay for it. There will be a big change in the membership of the Revenue Committee in the Legislature this coming January and I am hopeful the new members of that committee will heed the call from everyone across Nebraska that WE NEED PROPERTY TAX RELIEF NOW!

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving weekend spent with family and friends. Now that it is December, things in Lincoln are beginning to gear up quickly. I have spent the last week meeting with people about future legislative work and finishing some interim hearings for the committees I serve. I would like to give a short update on some things I will be finishing up before the 2019 session starts on January 9th.

Last Friday, November 30th the Natural Resources Committee held its second interim hearing. It was held in Omaha and dealt with public power in the state. LR 464, introduced by Senator Wayne of Omaha, wanted to discuss many aspects of public power. Net metering was the only topic of interest from the lone citizen testifier. Currently, Nebraska’s net metering law allows someone who has a private electrical generation to contribute as much as 25KW toward their own power consumption without paying any fee to be connected to the grid. All wind and solar generation are inconsistent and therefore unreliable, so anyone with wind or solar must have access to the power grid to have power available at all times. Some people in the state want to raise that cap to 100KW without paying the connection fee. That ultimately means those not using private electrical generation will be forced to pay more to maintain the lines, transformers, and personnel costs.

On Monday, December 17th, I will be in hearings for the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. We will be having two separate hearings, in the morning we will be hearing from the Nebraska Department of Transportation on their annual needs. Then in the afternoon, we will be talking about LR 424. Legislative Resolution 424 was introduced by Senator Friesen of Henderson. The resolution was created to study a comprehensive list of issues related to autonomous vehicles. Some of the issues to be looked at include, vehicle classifications, testing, safety standards, and cybersecurity.

As the final weeks of 2018 come to close, I am looking forward to the year ahead. As you begin to travel for the holidays I urge you all to stay safe and updated on weather conditions. Winters in Nebraska are never predictable, make sure to use caution as you prepare to travel.

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.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all staying warm while preparing for this upcoming holiday season and that these next few weeks are filled with joy and family. I would like to give a little update on my legislative work as the year comes to a close. I will be spending more time in Lincoln as I prepare to start my second term serving the people of the 44th District. I would like to thank you all for trusting me and voting for me to serve you once again.

I have been spending some time getting to know the newly elected class of senators this month. They have been around the capitol for orientation and to learn how the legislative process works in our state. It has been a great opportunity getting to know some of the new minds that will be joining me and my colleagues this year. I hope to continue to build professional relationships with all of the new senators leading up to this year’s session.

January 9, 2019, is when the 106th Nebraska Legislature will convene its first session. I will continue to work on some important legislation for the state and especially for my constituents in District 44. I have been drafting legislation over the past few months and am looking forward to getting things done this year.

Next week on November 30th, the Natural Resources Committee will be holding another interim study hearing. This hearing was requested by Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha and will be held in Omaha. The hearing will discuss LR464 which was introduced to review public power.

Last week I announced to my colleagues my intention to run for reelection as Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. Since joining the legislature in 2015 I have been a member of this committee and served the last two years as chairman. I hope to continue to serve as chair of this important committee.

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.

With only two months left until 2019, I am beginning to prepare for another legislative session. I need to build strong relationships with the newly elected senators and also continue to reinforce the relationships I have with my returning colleagues. Committees and senators are researching legislative ideas and beginning to draft bills. My time spent in Lincoln from now until January 9th will increase so that once the session begins I can hit the ground running working on the important issues facing Nebraska, and especially those of the 44th District.

Last legislative session I was selected to sit on the committee that was created by LR 437. The purpose of this committee is to study the current standing committee structure of the legislature and explore ways to make our system more efficient.

Committees are the first step in the legislative process for each introduced bill. Currently, the legislature has 14 standing committees. Each committee meets every week, and most meet either two or three days a week. Every bill introduced is assigned to a committee which handles that bill’s subject matter. The committee then schedules a hearing for every bill referred to them.  These hearings allow experts as well as the public to come speak as a proponent, opponent, or in a neutral capacity on each bill. Under the current format, some committees have a higher number of bills referred to them than others. For example in 2018, the Judiciary Committee had 101 bills referred to it, while the General Affairs Committee only had nine. The goal of this special committee is to help balance out some of that workload.

We are looking at a few different options on how to streamline the procedures in the legislative process. One way would be to consolidate the committees. Consolidating would seem to make the committee structure more efficient by spreading the workload more evenly across committees and senators. Another option would be looking more closely at the subject matter of certain bills and trying to find a way to divide the workload so one committee is not hearing 60 to 70 bills while some others may only be hearing five.

It is important to look at the structure of the legislature from time to time. When the legislature is running efficiently, that means we are doing the best we can for our state. With a fewer number of committees, chairpersons and committee members can become more knowledgeable in the subject of their committee. Chairpersons will also be able to dedicate more time to their committee as well. With a more streamlined legislature everyone benefits; senators, staff, and all Nebraskans.

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.

November 6, 2018, is Election Day this year. You are still able to vote early at your local election commissioner’s office. With less than two weeks until the election, I would like to remind and update you on an important issue appearing on this year’s ballot. Initiative Measure 427 was placed on the ballot after receiving enough petition signatures over the summer. The measure would expand Medicaid across the entire state of Nebraska. This week I would like to explain why I am in opposition to this measure.

The Medicaid expansion measure does not relate to everyday hardworking people of Nebraska. This is obvious when looking at the fundraising gathered to put this measure on the ballot. According to Ballotpedia.com, as of October 22nd about $1,292,000 which is over 75% of the total money raised in support of this initiative came for Washington D.C. based groups. The majority of this money was given from outside of our state and does not represent Nebraskans.

This year I urge residents of Nebraska to oppose Initiative 427. The risk of expanding Medicaid in the state will, in fact, have a negative impact on those it was created to help. The federal government requires that states provide 13 mandatory services. States may offer an additional 19 optional services. Nebraska is one of few states that provides all the optional services to those on Medicaid. If Initiative 427 were to pass there is a good chance those optional services will be eliminated. The most vulnerable Nebraskans would be impacted. People with disabilities, children, and pregnant women would have their services taken away, while the working-age adults with no disabilities or children would be the new focus.

Another disastrous impact the initiative could have would be to the state’s budget. Nebraska is unique in which we must have a balanced budget every year. According to Nebraska’s Legislative Fiscal Office and Department of Health and Human Services, if the initiative were to pass the estimated cost for the taxpayers would be $33 million in 2019-20 and up to $768 million over the next decade. Most states that have passed Medicaid expansion have seen higher costs than expected. For example, Ohio projected 365,000 new enrollees would sign up in the first year that projection was exceeded in the first seven months. Ohio’s 2016-2017 budget had Medicaid consuming more than half of their general operating funds. I ask if it didn’t work in other states, what makes Nebraska different?

Next session property tax relief is at the top of my list. If Initiative 427 passes, the state will find itself searching for the funds. This could mean a rise in property taxes or taking money away from other important services, such as education and current Medicaid. Nebraska, according to the Tax Foundation, has the 12th highest property taxes per capita in the United States. The citizens of Nebraska deserve a decrease in property taxes, not an increase. If Initiative 427 passes that decrease may not come any time soon.

Over the interim months, the Legislature continues to hold several hearings on Legislative Resolutions which are used to study issues that may lead to bills in the next legislative session and impact our state. Sometimes special committees are formed to study current issues facing the state. I sit on a special committee that was created via LR127, which was introduced last year. It created the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee looking at not only the justice system but also a review of the role of state agencies and their involvement in the justice system. This week I would like to tell you about interim hearings and LR 127.

Committees hold hearings in the off months just like they would while in session. All legislative resolutions are assigned to a standing committee and that committee decides if they will hold a public hearing or simply study the topic. Most hearings are broadcast through the legislative website. You can find the link through which to access the hearings at the end of this article. At these hearings, there is often invited testimony, as well as, opportunities for the public to make comments. The main purpose of these hearings is to gather information on a subject. Senators are able to ask questions and learn more about the issues facing Nebraska. As I mentioned, the information gathered through these hearings can help produce legislation for the upcoming session.

LR 127 created the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee. The committee will be meeting again on October 19th for a hearing. The hearing will cover adult justice system programs and policies implemented by the Department of Correctional Services, Office of Parole Administration, Board of Parole, Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, and the Office of Probations administration. These hearings are great opportunities for senators to learn and gather information from the professionals working every day in that field. One of the main reasons I chose to be on this special committee is because we have had some significant challenges within our prison system and I need accurate information in order to make the right decisions. The Work Ethic Camp in McCook is part of our Corrections System and I want to make sure we are doing the best job possible with the resources allocated and to ensure the public’s safety.

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 2018 election is upon us. You can submit a request to your County Clerk for a mail-in ballot. Beginning on October 9th, and until Election Day, you can stop by your courthouse and vote. Elections are exciting to me. I have not missed many opportunities to vote in my lifetime. I am not sure if it is the competition or if it is finding out the results after the weeks of speculation about the outcomes. It has never been hard for me to be motivated to exercise my right and, in my mind, my duty to vote.

With all of the ugliness in Washington D.C. these days and the gotcha politics going on in some of our statewide races, I can see why some people may be discouraged about voting. I believe most everyone wonders from time to time if their vote really matters. Having been elected several times for different offices from my local school board to now a state senator I can say without a doubt, yes, your vote matters. The votes matter not only to those on the ballot, regardless of the office, but also to the ballot initiatives that are included on the ballot as well. I believe it deserves the minimal amount of effort it takes from all of us to go and vote.

Whether or not you want the ballot initiatives to pass, and even if there is only one person to vote for in the race, we as Americans must take this responsibility very seriously. We cannot let those who have made politics a dirty word keep us from voting. We cannot let those who sling mud and spread half-truths in a race keep us from voting. If we choose to not vote, they win. We must vote and we must make informed votes. Just because something or someone has a catchy commercial or newspaper ad does not mean it should automatically gain our vote. In order for our form of government to work it requires an informed electorate.

We as citizens must educate ourselves about the candidates and the issues and vote accordingly. We must have the understanding that you are not going to agree with anyone on every single issue. We need to take the time to learn the facts and award our vote to the person who most closely aligns with our values. The only thing worse than not voting is making an uninformed vote. Consult your local newspaper, do a Google search on your computer, or take the time to reach out to the candidate and learn about them and their views. You might be surprised to find out just how down to earth most candidates are, and the vast majority of them are volunteering to do a job, for little or no pay, that is vital to our democracy. See you at the polls!

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 interim months are slowing down and session will soon be upon us. Over the last months, there has been plenty to update on as we accomplished things over the summer break. This week I would like to update everyone on a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the State of Nebraska that will help set Nebraska apart. A Memorandum of Understanding is a nonbinding agreement between two entities that outlines each entity’s responsibilities. This memorandum took many months to work out the details, it took collaboration between the Nebraska Department of Transportation, as well as, the Legislature. Being chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, it took some cooperation between my Committee and Senator Friesen, the chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

On Wednesday, September 5th a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Governor Ricketts stated that this will allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to assume certain Nebraska Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) responsibilities.

The memorandum authorizes the NDOT to assume FHWA’s environmental review responsibilities for federally-funded transportation projects that are classified as Categorical Exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. Categorical Exclusions are the most common level of review under NEPA for infrastructure projects in Nebraska. This memorandum will take away the federal involvement up front on a project and give the State of Nebraska those environmental responsibilities. But it still allows for Federal review of the project, once completed, if concerns are raised.

Approximately 95 percent of the state’s transportation projects will now be able to be reviewed directly by the state. This will help cut the time and expenses of a project. With the environmental reviews being considered by the State of Nebraska we will continue to keep our state clean and in compliance, and the federal burden on our state will be greatly reduced.

I know there have been some concerns with the recent escapes from the McCook Work Ethic Camp (WEC). I have been in contact with the Department of Corrections Director, Scott Frakes and WEC Warden, Pam Morello. I would like to clarify that WEC is a minimum security facility and all of the inmates housed there are classified as minimum security risks. In response to the recent escapes, they will be installing razor wire around the entire perimeter, as well as, installing more surveillance cameras to help provide additional coverage to the facility at all times.

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
Search Senator Page For:
Topics
Archives
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
Find Your Senator
>