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Income Tax Relief Advances to Third and Final Round of Debate
On Tuesday, the Legislature advanced LB 987 to Final Reading. As I mentioned last week, LB 987 indexes individual income tax brackets for inflation and exempts social security income from income tax for Nebraskans who earn less than $58,000 for married couples filing jointly and $43,000 for individuals filing any other return. LB 987 marks the first time that Nebraska will exempt social security at a greater amount than is allowed federally.
Under LB 987, Nebraskans will see up to $122 million in income tax relief by 2017. LB 987 includes a modest tax credit for new military retirees beginning in 2015. In my time in the Legislature, I have introduced two bills on this topic (LB 238 and 902) and worked hard over the interim to ensure that military retiree tax relief was part of the Tax Modernization Committee’s work on tax reform.
While I appreciate that some new military retirees will see tax relief under the bill, I am disappointed that LB 987 does not provide tax relief for those military retirees who have already chosen to live and work in Nebraska and therefore does not help us retain the military retirees who have already made a commitment to our state and our communities. This is very important work that remains to be done.
Juvenile Justice Reform Advances
Tuesday morning the Legislature debated and advanced LB 464 which makes several changes to our juvenile justice system. Under the bill, cases where youth commit lower level crimes will begin in juvenile, rather than adult, court. More serious offenses and traffic offenses will still originate in adult court. Part of the discussion included a review of current policies in our 12 judicial districts. The district attorneys in Sarpy County were recognized by many during the floor debate as a model for treating kids like kids and only filing against youth in adult court for more serious crimes. LB 464 allows these attorneys in Sarpy County to continue their important work while ensuring that kids in other counties have better access to juvenile court.
Another part of the final bill clarified language following the passage of LB 561 last year which moved more services for juvenile offenders to the county-level. Fred Uhe and Sarpy County Commissioners worked hard to ensure that the final product was one that worked well on the ground for Sarpy County and other counties across the state. I appreciate their thoughtfulness and hard work on this important issue.
Wellness in Nebraska
After two days of lengthy debate, LB 887, Wellness in Nebraska, narrowly failed to invoke cloture and end debate on the bill. In Nebraska, while it takes 30 votes to override a Governor’s veto, it takes 33 votes to end a filibuster on a bill. I supported LB 887 because it created a Nebraskan plan and vision for the future of health care, not just for the 54,000 Nebraskans who would have had access to health care under LB 887. While we may have lost the vote on LB 887, the fight for a health care system that works for all Nebraskans continues.
Grow Big Red
A few weeks ago, I mentioned Sen. Pat Foote’s “Keep Nebraska Beautiful” initiative which she started as state senator in the 1950s. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of this campaign and to celebrate, citizens and businesses across the state are encouraged to plant red flowers. Other ways to get involved in the 50th anniversary celebration include organizing community planting events through church groups, 4-H, or Scouts or working with your neighborhood association to plant red flowers in your neighborhood. For more information, contact www.knb.org.
Visitors This Week
One of my favorite parts of my job is welcoming visitors to the Capitol, especially those who travel to Lincoln to share their concerns and engage in the legislative process.
This week, social work students from Creighton and other Nebraska colleges and universities visited the Capitol for their legislative day. These future social workers will be on the front lines in making government programs work to help families move out of poverty.
Creighton social work students and Social Work professor Dr. Grandbois
I also visited with No Limits student advocates from Bellevue West and Mission Middle School who traveled to Lincoln to discuss their efforts to fight tobacco use. These students work hard to encourage their peers to adopt healthy lifestyles and avoid tobacco use. I appreciate their hard work and dedication on this important issue.