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Straight Talk from Steve…
This week at the Capitol was filled with passion, excitement and controversy.
Speaking of controversy, or the lack of it, Speaker Sheer’s bill, LB 62, passed on to Select File by a vote of 36-1. This bill reverses an old law from 1919 prohibiting public school teachers from wearing religious garb. Back in 1919 the Klu Klux Klan had put pressure on legislators to create a law in order to prevent Catholic nuns from teaching in our public schools.
Once LB 62 becomes law, however, public school teachers will be free to wear their religious garb freely in our public schools. The lone hold-out on the vote for this bill was Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha. LB 62 has two more rounds of voting before it goes to the Governor’s desk.
The most controversial bill of the week was Sen. Morfeld’s bill, LB 173. This bill would prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill was heard in the Judiciary Committee with an abundance of testimony lasting until 8:30 p.m. If this bill makes it out of committee, I will oppose it on the floor.
Public hearings were held on three of my bills this week in the Revenue Committee. The first bill was LB 236, which would permit combining undeveloped vacant lots into a single parcel for taxation purposes, provided that there are no taxes due on the land. Only one person showed up to oppose the bill.
My second bill heard by the Revenue Committee this week was LB 238. When certifying taxable values, LB 238 would permit county assessors to notify taxing entities either electronically or by mail. The primary point of controversy with this bill came in how to describe an e-mail in legal terminology.
Finally, my signature bill, LB 602, was heard on Friday in the Revenue Committee. LB 602 will fundamentally change the way agricultural land is valuated in our state. My bill will change agricultural land valuations from a market based system to a productivity based system.
Once this bill becomes law, agricultural land will be valued on the basis of its productive capability, instead of its projected market value. Currently, 99% of agricultural land in each county is valued by the 1% of real-estate sales in that County, and this is wrong. Because so many of you have complained to me about the way your agricultural land is being valued by the government, I knew I had to act immediately. Therefore, once this bill makes it out of committee, I will make it my priority bill for the year.