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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Steve Erdman
As we enter into the last few days of the 106th Legislature, almost nothing can be said for progress. The Legislature has killed property tax relief, the consumption tax, and even student discipline in our schools. The only hope remaining is LB 814, a bill to outlaw dismemberment abortions. So, today I would like to speak to the reasons why this bill is good for Nebraska.
Let me begin by saying that it is beyond me how anyone can defend a method of abortion which tears a baby apart limb by limb until the baby is dead and the body is extracted from the uterus. That is what dismemberment abortion does: It tears the baby apart limb by limb inside the mother’s womb. Dismemberment abortion is such a brutal, painful and grotesque procedure that society would never allow it to be performed on a dog, yet for purely political reasons, we allow it to be done to human beings.
We usually refer to the anti-abortion movement as the pro-life movement and we refer to the other side of the debate as the pro-choice movement. However, ‘pro-choice’ is nothing more than an overly generous euphemism designed to hide the truth about what an abortion does to a baby, especially dismemberment abortion. Because the baby’s choice is never considered in the decision to have an abortion, ‘pro-choice’ is an inaccurate term to describe an abortion. Consequently, a more accurate term for the movement would be the pro-death movement, because that is what it really is.
Oftentimes the argument is made on the floor of the Legislature by proponents of abortion that pro-life legislation that outlaws abortion constitutes government overreach and that a woman should have the right to decide for herself what to do with her own body. But these kinds of arguments overlook the fact that governments oftentimes tell women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. For instance, governments oftentimes legislate against prostitution, human cloning, and paid surrogate motherhood. Here in Nebraska we have such laws on the books. Because each of these three examples relate specifically to what women can and cannot do with their own bodies, the argument that governments should not pass legislation against abortion because it violates a woman’s right to choose for herself what to do with her own body fails.
I believe in the sanctity of life and I believe that human life begins at conception. I believe that every unborn baby is both a human being as well as a unique creation by God. Therefore, there is no difference between the value of a baby’s life before he or she is born or he or after she is born, before his or her viability in the womb or after his or her viability in the womb, before his or her first heartbeat or after his or her first heartbeat.
Today we know that an unborn baby can feel pain much earlier than previously thought. It used to be thought that pain could not be felt until the 24th week of gestation; however, Stuart W.G. Derbyshire and John C. Bockmann published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics in January of this year suggesting that pain may be felt as early as the 12th week of gestation. Consequently, dismemberment abortion represents the most inhumane way to end a pregnancy known to man.
For these reasons and many more, dismemberment abortion has become a scourge on American society which absolutely must be ended. The sooner we pass LB 814, the better.
The Unicameral has reconvened for the final 17 days of the second session of 106th Legislature. The Legislature recessed back in late March due to concerns about the coronavirus. Readjusting to life in the Legislature in mid-summer is much like returning to college after taking five years off. Nevertheless, the business of the state is finally being attended to.
The spirit in the Unicameral is more combative this summer than ever before. Besides the barrage of personal attacks, recent events concerning the coronavirus, protests in the streets, and the movement to defund our police departments, coupled with the need for property tax relief have led to some very spirited and passionate floor debates.
Early in the week Sen. Geist led a successful pull motion to put her anti-dismembership abortion bill, LB 814, on General File against the wishes of the Judiciary committee. This is a bill which should have been voted out of the Judiciary Committee for the simple reason that it already had 25 total sponsors and 30 Senators voted to pull it.
Last Thursday Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha led a successful movement to suspend the rules of the Legislature in order to allow him to introduce a new bill. The rules of the Legislature limit the introduction of new bills to the first ten days of the legislative session. Wayne’s new bill would require cities to create citizen oversight committees over their police departments, which I do not agree with.
The Revenue Committee’s property tax relief bill, LB 1106, failed to advance. This bill offers some property tax relief, but not as much as my resolution last year for a constitutional amendment for the 35 percent solution or my resolution this year for a constitutional amendment to replace our current tax code with a single-rate consumption tax.
Another bill which failed to advance last week was LB 720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. The ImagiNE Nebraska Act was designed to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act, which is set to sunset later this year. However, these kinds of tax incentive programs have no measurable track record of success. The proponents of this bill were hard pressed to name a single business that moved to Nebraska because of the Nebraska Advantage Act. Instead, these programs provide businesses with millions of dollars in tax credits, which results in loss of revenue for our cities. Moreover, when these businesses get their sales taxes refunded back to them through the program, it is the cities who have to flip the bill. When cities have to pay the bill, property taxes go up. Nebraska does not need these kinds of business welfare programs.
Last Wednesday Speaker Scheer put LB 1106 on the agenda before LB 720. This was intentional because several Senators had voiced that they would not vote for the ImagiNE Nebraska Act unless property tax relief was passed first. Because property tax relief failed to advance, support for the ImagiNE Nebraska Act dwindled and the bill failed to advance.
Passing the ImagiNE Nebraska Act at the same time as property tax relief would have undermined our efforts to get property tax relief altogether and made our situation even worse. For instance, if you receive $60,000 in property tax relief, but your total taxes go up $120,000, you end up with a net loss of $60,000. This is the kind of twisted logic which followed the plan to pass both of these bills.
The battles are far from over. In the remaining days of the legislative session you should expect to see Senators attempt to amend their bad bills into other bills, creating Christmas tree bills. Christmas tree bills are bills that contain other bill amended into it. Moreover, you should expect to see more Senators move to suspend the rules and introduce even more bills. This happened again on Friday when Sen. Vargas of Omaha motioned to suspend the rules again. Hopefully, the personal attacks will cease. In a nutshell, let me just say that the final days of the 106th Legislature are shaping up to look very much like a trip to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.
Squirrel Monkey at the Henry Doorly Zoo
It’s time to reopen Nebraska’s schools. Children need to learn, so it is time for them to go back to school next month. Gov. Ricketts agrees. On Friday he said we can reopen the schools and manage the coronavirus at the same time, and I agree.
Opening up the schools can be done safely. Matthew Blomstead, Nebraska’s Education Commissioner, released a 25 page document last Friday explaining how we can open up our schools safely. The document includes recommendations to school districts for practicing social distancing, limiting class sizes, and using various kinds of barriers.
Besides academic learning, there are many other reasons for reopening our schools. Prolonged social isolation is not good for the mental health of children. We are social creatures, and schools provide children with plenty of opportunities for social interaction with their peers. Opening up the schools also means that our children will get a regular regimen of physical activity, and for some it may mean getting a nutritious meal to eat.
Wearing masks should be voluntary. Gov. Ricketts also said on Friday that he would not mandate the wearing of facial coverings. He also said that he would reject any effort by a local health department to require the wearing of face masks. Ricketts’s decision aligns with policies of governors of several other states. For instance, Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia, has refused to mandate the wearing of masks, calling it “a bridge too far.” That is a good analogy!
Kristi Noem, the Governor of South Dakota, has also refused to mandate mask wearing for the people of her state. For Noem the issue of mask wearing is a matter of respect and trust. Noem’s advice to other governors is to, “Trust your people,” and “Don’t lay down mandates that are going to hinder the ability that they need to really get through this difficult time.” And I agree.
I believe that if we give people the facts, they can make intelligent decisions on their own about wearing a mask in public without being mandated statewide by the big brother of government. According to Nebraska’s own COVID-19 Dashboard there are zero cases of the coronavirus in 26 counties in Nebraska, and another 16 counties have only one reported case of the virus. Mandating folks to wear face masks in counties with little or no cases of the coronavirus is not just intrusive, it is silly.
Have you ever wondered why Taiwan, a nation of 24 million people, has experienced so few deaths from the coronavirus that they could all fit comfortably inside of a minivan (7 deaths)? Taiwan’s population is so large that if the nation ever practiced social distancing, people would have to stand out in the ocean! Or, how about Japan? Japan is a nation of 121 million people, but they have only seen 982 total deaths from the coronavirus. Similarly, South Korea has a population of 50 million, but only 288 coronavirus deaths have occurred there, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard as of July 10.
So, what are these Asian countries doing that we aren’t doing here in the USA? The answer is actually quite simple: Doctors in these nations are treating hospitalized coronavirus patients with inhaled corticosteroids. Here in the USA we know this respiratory therapy primarily as a Budesonide nebulizer. Budesonide is cheap, it has already undergone extensive testing for more than 20 years in the USA, is safe to use on two pound infants in the Natal Intensive Care Unit, and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat various other respiratory ailments. Now we can add the coronavirus to the long list of diseases treated by inhaled Budesonide therapy.
Dr. Richard P. Bartlett is a physician who practices medicine down in Midland, Texas. Dr. Bartlett recently wrote a letter to Texas State Senator, Bob Hall, recommending Budesonide as a pre-hospital community-based treatment for COVID-19. I am in possession of Dr. Bartlett’s letter. Dr. Bartlett began using inhaled Budesonide therapy back in March of this year and he now reports that 100% of the patients he has treated since March have become symptom free. Dr. Bartlett has treated several high risk patients, including one elderly woman with two types of blood cancers, who was immunocompromised, and who was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation at the time of her Budesonide treatment. She recovered from COVID-19 after receiving inhaled Budesonide therapy.
Another inexpensive drug which has proven effective for treating COVID-19 is hydroxycloroquine. Although this drug was severely criticized in the media and was even withdrawn for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration after it was touted by President Trump, a new study has proven its usefulness after all. A team of researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan released the findings of their study to the public on July 2, 2020.
Dr. Marcus Zervos, who is the division head of infectious diseases at the Henry Ford Health System, led the study which followed 2,541 coronavirus patients. 26.4 percent of those who were not given hydroxychloroquine died compared to only 13.5 percent of those who were given the drug. So, hydroxychloroquine represents another effective weapon in the physician’s arsenal against COVID-19.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the drug most highly touted by Dr. Anthony Fauci and distributed by Dr. Debra Birx, namely Remdeslvir. A new case report by Dutch investigators published in Clinical Infectious Diseases this month links Remdeslvir to liver toxicity. So this very expensive “miracle drug” has turned out to be not so miraculous after all.
If those leading the fight against COVID-19 were to seriously consider the usefulness of Budesonide and hydroxychloroquine, instead of Remdeslvir, I believe we could defeat COVID-19. The mortality rate in America from COVID-19 does not need to be nearly as high as it currently is. The USA is leading the world in COVID-19 deaths. On Friday the number of coronavirus deaths rose to 133,847 Americans. Hasn’t the time come for us to start listening to those with a proven treatment over the coronavirus? I think so!
According to the Preamble to the United States Constitution, in order for the people of the United States of America to create a more perfect union, “justice” must be firmly established as well as “domestic tranquility”. In order to accomplish these goals, laws must be passed which promote the “general welfare” and secure “the Blessings of Liberty.” Laws become useless unless they are enforced. The police are our chief law enforcement officials who enforce these laws.
Today our police departments are under attack by lawless radicals, who want to defund them. Autonomous zones, such as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone seek to create communities without any law enforcement whatsoever. So, today I would like to demonstrate why police are necessary.
Anarchy breeds evil. Calls to defund the Minneapolis police department began coming in shortly after George Floyd’s wrongful death on Memorial Day, May 25th. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper, shootings in Minneapolis have more than doubled this year. More importantly, though, nearly half of those shootings occurred after George Floyd’s death when riots opened up in the streets, a police precinct was burned to the ground, and the Minneapolis police were told to stand down. Without the establishment of law and order, crime inevitably rises and evil flourishes in the streets.
Crime goes up when police stand down. After the neck of Freddy Gray was broken by police officers in Baltimore on April 12, 2015, six police officers were suspended and the police department reduced its patrols in minority neighborhoods. The results have been disastrous for that city. In 2019 Baltimore experienced 348 murders or 57 killings per 100,000 people, the worst rate in that city’s history. Moreover, on April 8, 2020 CBS Baltimore reported that the city’s murder rate this year was already trending worse than in 2019. Similar increases in crime can be demonstrated for Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis.
Police brutality is wrong. In no way am I condoning police brutality today. What happened to George Floyd was both tragic and wrong. The video tells a very compelling story. Indeed, there are cases of police brutality which cannot be defended, but police brutality is hardly the norm across this country. Whenever it happens, the offending officers need to be dealt with according to the law. But, an even bigger problem than police brutality has been brewing in the streets of America in recent days.
As long people continue to believe in the false narrative that police departments are inherently racist, our nation will never be able to heal. Civil discussions about racism require an honest pursuit of the truth. When truth is honestly pursued, facts and statistics matter. One of those important statistics shows that more unarmed white men are shot by police officers every year than are unarmed black men. If police departments are inherently racist, then this statistic would not hold year after year as it has for the past several years.
The bottom line is that we have now demoralized our police officers. Recruitment levels are down, early retirements are up, and many police officers are quitting the force because they feel they no longer have the backing of civilized society. Therefore, I want encourage you to not only support your local police department, the Sheriff, and the State Patrol, but thank them for their service the next time you see them.
Why do we celebrate the 4th of July? July 4, 1776 was the day we declared our independence from Great Britain. The document which contained that declaration was the Declaration of Independence, which was approved by Congress on July 4, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence represents our core beliefs as Americans. It is a guidepost for what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America. The concepts contained in the Declaration of Independence unite us as Americans. The Declaration of Independence is just as relevant for us today as it was for the first citizens of our country. Although we live in a time when many are challenging our American heritage as well as our core beliefs as Americans, I believe the concepts contained in the Declaration of Independence will continue to stand the test of time.
The Declaration of Independence has proven itself to be a timeless document. For instance, it was in the Declaration of Independence that Thomas Jefferson first penned those most famous words, “that all men are created equal.” American society has been slowly reconciling itself to the true meaning of what it means to be equal ever since Jefferson wrote those words. You see, those words have become timeless.
The Declaration of Independence established that rights come from God. Thomas Jefferson stated in the Declaration of Independence that it is a self-evident truth that God has endowed human beings with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” While Jefferson referred to God as our “Creator,” he was clearly referring to the Supreme Being responsible for the existence and design of the human race, and few, if any, would have understood that Being to be different than the God of the Bible at the time when Jefferson first penned the document. Consequently, it is imperative that we understand that these rights come from God, and because they come from God, they cannot be tampered with or infringed upon. The only exception is when a person seeks to deny these rights to another human being, especially another American citizen.
The Declaration of Independence carefully justifies the overthrowing of tyrants. Jefferson reserved most of the space in the Declaration of Independence for outlining the despotism of King George III. He wanted the whole world to know what a rotten and tyrannical king the British people had ruling over them. As Americans, we despise tyranny in all of its forms. The United States of America was founded firmly upon the principle of freedom for all. But, again, that freedom cannot be used as a means to deny others of their freedoms. Whenever governments become so oppressive that they deny basic freedoms to the people they are supposed to serve, the people become justified in abolishing their form of government and instituting a new one. But contrary to the flimsy reasons offered for establishing the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ, but now CHOP), such as the unestablished accusation that the Seattle Police department is beyond reform, Jefferson went through great pains to root his reasons for revolution in established facts. Hence, he wrote, “To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world,” and then he went on to list those facts.
American patriotism is an appropriate reaction to reading and understanding these truths contained in the Declaration of Independence. Our knowledge and devotion to these foundational principles ought to incubate in our hearts a love and respect for our country. As Americans we should love our country dearly because we are a truly free people, we should revere our founding documents because of the timeless truths they proclaim, and we should honor the American flag because it represents everything that is distinctly American. This year I hope you will celebrate Independence Day with newfound American pride in your heart, love for your fellow American, and thankfulness to God for the gift that has become the United States of America.
Before we officially enter into the summer months, let’s give Nebraska’s agricultural economy a check-up, so is time to take an honest look at how Nebraska’s agricultural economy is really doing this year.
Last week the Farm Bureau’s chief economist, Jay Remke, released his own assessment of how Nebraska’s agricultural economy is doing. According to Remke, the outlook is not good. Remke warned that Nebraska’s farms and ranches stand in danger of losing 3.7 billion dollars this year. The primary culprit for these losses being the COVID-19 restrictions.
To break it down, Remke estimates that the beef cattle sector of the economy could lose one billion dollars alone. Corn and soybean losses could total 1.2 billion dollars, and ethanol stands to lose another 1.3 billion dollars. Pork stands to lose 166 million dollars, dairy could lose 66 million dollars, and wheat could lose 9 million dollars. So, Remke’s outlook for Nebraska’s agricultural economy is not good for this year.
Creighton University economist, Ernie Goss, also weighed in on Nebraska’s agricultural economy last week. Goss referenced an economic index for a region comprised of 10 Plains and Western states. Accordingly, the economic index for the month of June was said to be 37.9, where any score below 50 points to a struggling or shrinking economy. Only 3 percent of bankers in the studied area reported economic growth. Goss blamed the poor report on low crop prices as well as the coronavirus restrictions.
There is some good news on the horizon. The good news is that the economic index score for May was only 12.5, so the score for June shows that the agricultural economy is at least moving in the right direction.
Some more good news relates to Nebraska’s unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nebraska now has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Nebraska’s unemployment rate currently sits at 5.2 percent. There are 54,879 workers who are unemployed in Nebraska, but this number has fallen from April’s high of 92,638 unemployed workers. While this is certainly good news, we should remember that the last time Nebraska experienced an unemployment rate this high was back in May 1983, which occurred in the middle of the farm crisis of the 1980’s.
So, the big question is this: Will Nebraska’s agricultural economy recover in time for farmers and ranchers to make ends meet? Nebraska ranks as the second worst state in the nation for farm and ranch bankruptcies, so the question remains open about whether or not we will be able to weather the current economic storm.
Because the coronavirus has made this a most unusual year for agricultural businesses in our state, I would like to encourage anyone with a small business, including farmers and ranchers, to apply for a Small Business Stabilization Grant. The State of Nebraska has appropriated some of the Cares Act monies into this program in order to help save our small businesses, farms, and ranches.
Last week I received several calls from farmers and ranchers who had trouble applying for these grants. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development temporarily shut down the program until Monday, June 22 due to concerns that too many applicants were being rejected. So, even if you were denied, please consider reapplying. Apply online at: https://getnebraskagrowing.nebraska.gov/
As you know, the nation has been rocked by violent protests for the past three weeks due to the wrongful death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Last week some of these protestors even took over control of a six block section of Seattle, including a police precinct.
Nebraska has not been immune to these kinds of violent protests. Rioters in Lincoln, for example, destroyed several buildings along the Lincoln Mall near the Capitol Building, including the Blue Cross/Blue Shield building, the headquarters for the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO), and the Universal-Inland Insurance Building, which they completely torched, just to name a few.
The tragic death of George Floyd by an uncaring and reckless police officer does not justify the kind of violence we’ve been seeing in the news for the past three weeks. Two wrongs do not make a right. If it was wrong for Officer Derek Chauvin to kill George Floyd, then it is also wrong for protesters to harm police officers. Even as I write this, it is being reported how another police officer was shot in the head by a gunmen in Paso Robles, California. The violence simply needs to stop!
Law enforcement officers are necessary to establish and to keep the peace. American civil society wholeheartedly depends upon our ability to govern ourselves in a civil manner. For this reason, the Preamble to the United States Constitution includes insuring “domestic Tranquility” as an essential component of forming “a more perfect Union.” That is what police officers do. They insure our domestic tranquility. Consequently, those who demand the elimination of our police departments do not understand this most basic tenet of our constitutional republic.
Conversely, those law enforcement officers who abuse their powers and who use more force than what is necessary to deescalate a situation are guilty of violating a most sacred trust placed upon them by the American people. The badge is not a license to kill or abuse. So, the United States of America is neither a police state nor an anarchy; instead, we are a nation of laws, which must be respected by all, regardless of where one stands in relationship to the thin blue line.
Having said this, I believe the time has come for all Americans to restate their appreciation and support for our law enforcement officers. Over the course of the last three weeks, we have seen several police officers pay the ultimate price for our peace and safety. Unfortunately, their lives will mostly be forgotten, save for their loved ones. Who will march in the streets or lead a protest for them? And who will defend their right to live?
Well, today I can proudly report that there are a few Americans who still care about the safety and security of their law enforcement officers. On Saturday June 13 at 11:00 a.m. a parade ran through the streets of Lincoln, honoring and supporting our law enforcement officials. By the way, that parade honored the Directive Health Measures set in place by the Department of Health and Human Services by keeping participants in cars and by marching six feet apart.
Also occurring in Lincoln on Saturday June 13 was another protest rally sponsored by the Black Lives Matter movement. While I am unable to report about how social distancing went down at that rally, it has become readily apparent that social distancing has never mattered or been respected at these rallies. In fact, it can now be safely said that social distancing matters…that is, unless you are protesting against the police.
This is the time of year when farmers and ranchers are receiving the valuations on their parcels of agricultural and horticultural lands. While most of these valuations have been fair and accurate, some have not been. This week I received numerous phone calls from agricultural landowners all across the state complaining about how their valuations rose astronomically this year. Worse yet, these landowners reported to me how the rise in their valuation was due to LB372, a bill I introduced in 2019. So, today I would like to address the concerns of these landowners and set the record straight.
LB372 was designed to correct the way the Property Assessment Division had been assessing grassland. Prior to LB372 all agricultural land was being assessed by dryland criteria. LB372 required the Property Assessment Division to begin using grassland specific data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as their primary source for assessing grassland.
LB372 corrected an already known and established error in the way the Property Assessment Division had been assessing grassland. I call it a “known error” because twice the Tax Equalization & Review Commission had recognized the Property Assessment Division’s method as an erroneous.
To illustrate this error, consider how the Property Assessment Division had been assessing grassland in the Sandhills. The Sandhills is important because it comprises approximately one quarter of the land mass in Nebraska and about half of all the pasture land in the state. The Property Assessment Division had been assessing all parcels of grassland with dryland cropland criteria, even though those particular soils could not hold crops. Had they used the appropriate data from the NRCS, the soil classifications for those parcels of land would have been based upon forage production instead, making the method much more fair and accurate.
County assessors should welcome this change as it will help to bring their appraisal process into compliance with the law. Applying a dryland farming criteria to grassland is something no reputable appraiser would ever do as it is unacceptable.
This year the Property Assessment Division began implementing the method prescribed in LB372. Although the Property Assessment Division has gone through great lengths to train the assessors in how to use the NRCS data correctly, many discrepancies have already been found.
Before I contacted the Property Assessment Division about these problems, I set out to see for myself if assessments were being done correctly. Consequently, I asked my own expert to reassess a certain parcel of agricultural land where the valuation had gone up $40,000 this year. Sure enough, several discrepancies were found in the way the assessor had valuated the land.
When the Property Assessment Division trained the assessors earlier this year, they explicitly told them not to use Land Capability Groupings (LCG) as the sole basis for changing agricultural land values, yet this is precisely what some assessors have been doing this year. For instance, slide number 14 in the training presentation specifically states: “Agricultural land values should not change based on LCG conversion only,” and “Analysis will be required to avoid raising agricultural values in a declining market.”
As a result of the widespread confusion surrounding this conversion issue, Ruth Sorenson, who heads up the Property Assessment Division, sent out a corrective email to the assessors in all counties. Please know that I would never introduce legislation that would adversely affect agricultural land valuations.
If you believe your land has been adversely assessed, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (402) 471-2616. You will need to file your protest and contact your county assessor before the deadline of June 30.