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Now that the New Year has finally arrived, it is safe to say that this is the calm before the storm. The new biennium Session is scheduled to begin on January 9, so the political fireworks are about to begin. There will be several hotly contested bills that the State Legislature will have to grapple with this year, including such things as legalizing medical marijuana, so this week I would like to point out what some of the more important issues will be so that you will know what to watch for in the days ahead.
The first item to be settled will be the rules. This is easier said than done. The Legislature will most likely adopt the rules from the previous session in order to conduct business until a new set of rules can be approved. During the last biennium session, the Legislature argued over the rules for the first month, essentially shortening the longer 90 session into a 60 session, making it very difficult to pass non-priority bills and to pass a budget. This year we hope to have a much shorter debate over the rules, so that we can have more time to conduct the business of the State and to get more things done.
Running immediately out of the chute will be those seeking to chair the various committees of the Legislature. This year I will serve again on the Committee on Committees. The Committee on Committees decides who serves on each committee. Chairmanships, however, are determined differently. Any Senator can apply to become the chair of a committee, but they must first garner a majority vote of their peers in the Legislature. The vote is taken by way of a secret ballot on the chamber floor, so nobody knows how each Senator voted. The secret ballot is one of those rules I would like to change. I believe the public has a right to know how their Senator voted on these various chairmanships. Nevertheless, I will seek to maintain my current position as Chair of the Building Maintenance Committee, which is categorized as a Special Committee of the Legislature.
This year we will have 90 days to conduct the State’s business and to pass a budget. However, because the voters approved Medicaid Expansion last November, the Legislature will have to figure out a way to pay for the added expenses. Because the State’s cash reserves have been dangerously depleted, the Legislature will be forced to either raise taxes or to cut spending (or do both). A fight will necessarily ensue over raising taxes, which the Governor has vowed to veto, and also over which programs or departments to cut. I believe the only sensible way to balance the budget is to make appropriate cuts. Raising taxes only gives legislators more of other peoples’ hard-earned money to spend Willy Nilly.
Added to the stress of having to work out a budget will be the public’s need for property tax relief, which I have vowed to set as my number one priority again this year. I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment to give every property owner a 35 percent credit or refund of their property tax bill on their State Income Tax Return. Needless to say, this will surely liven the debate over how the State spends your hard-earned tax dollars. If legislators don’t want to listen to me, then they will be forced to hear from the voters in 2020. If all things go according to our plan, a similar citizen-led initiative will appear on the 2020 ballot, allowing the people to override the lack of support or indecisiveness of the Legislature. Moreover, if Gov. Ricketts really wants property tax relief, as he says he does, then let him begin by supporting our Constitutional Amendment for property tax relief.
Finally, farmers and ranchers desperately need a new way of valuing their agricultural land for tax purposes. Therefore, I will introduce new legislation this year to change the way we value agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity based system. This will be my best attempt yet at making this transition. This year I hope to have the Governor’s support in making this change. With God’s help, I believe we can make this change become a reality this year!
Earlier this month Nebraska State Senators Adam Morfeld and Anna Wishart, both from Lincoln, launched a new petition drive to legalize medical marijuana in our state. Instead of waiting to see the full effects of recreational marijuana use in Colorado, they presume that history will be on their side. But, just like what happened in Colorado, medical marijuana is not the end game in this long political fight.
What we already know about Colorado’s love for weed has not been good for that state. For instance, among teens age 12-17 marijuana use has risen by 39 percent, and traffic fatalities involving users have also dramatically climbed. From 2007-2012 traffic fatalities increased by 100 percent among those testing positive for the drug. Emergency room visits related to marijuana use also increased 57 percent from 2011 to 2013. Therefore, I reject the argument that marijuana usage, whether it be for medical reasons or for recreational reasons, bears no social consequences.
Marijuana remains an illegal drug. The marijuana plant remains on the federal government’s list of controlled substances. Colorado’s Amendment 64 has done nothing to legalize marijuana. Those who grow, manufacture, and dispense the product continue to do so in violation of federal laws. So, purchasing marijuana at a Colorado dispensary and bringing it across the state line into Nebraska remains a crime, and for this reason our jails near the Colorado border remain full of those charged with federal drug trafficking.
Colorado’s drug habit affects Nebraska in some rather debilitating ways. Because Colorado dispensaries located near the border sell to Nebraskans, Western Nebraska ends up paying the price for Colorado’s drug habit. For instance, Nebraskans often end up paying for the incarceration, the rehabilitation, and the welfare benefits of Colorado residents as well as our own residents who purchase the drug in Colorado; meanwhile, Colorado benefits from revenue generated from taxes placed on the sale of the marijuana. For these reasons and more, Nebraska Attorney General, Doug Peterson, has filed a lawsuit against the State of Colorado.
Common sense shows that using marijuana is just a bad choice for anyone to make. Many employers, for example, understand the harmful effects of marijuana’s use on the job, so they have begun testing for the drug during the hiring process and randomly thereafter. Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries mean that there are now fewer qualified job applicants living in Western Nebraska than there were just a few years ago.
When President Trump signed the farm bill last Thursday, he took hemp off the federal government’s list of controlled substances. Marijuana remains on that list of controlled substances. Hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant, and is used to make a variety of products from rope to lotions. Cannabidiol or CBD, which can be derived from either the hemp plant or the marijuana plant, must have hemp-derived THC levels below three percent in order to be legal by federal standards, making it impractical for use as a recreational drug. However, CBD remains prohibited by Nebraska’s laws.
Nebraska’s Attorney General issued a memo on November 16, 2018 reminding state law enforcement agencies that CBD remains illegal in Nebraska. According to the memo CBD continues to be included in Nebraska’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act’s legal definition of “marijuana.” Only two exceptions exist to the state statute. The first exception allows UNMC to study the drug until October 2019. The second exception allows for the sale of CBD oil, which has been approved by the FDA. But, according to Chris Peterson, an investigator with the Lincoln and Lancaster County Narcotics Task Force, CBD oil has never been approved by the FDA. Peterson also told KLKN news in Lincoln that the product is “not as safe as it is being purported.” Therefore, my purpose in writing today is to remind Nebraskans that both marijuana and hemp remain prohibited substances by Nebraska State Statutes.
As I sit by the fire with pen and paper in hand, reflecting on the events of the past year, gratitude and thanksgiving well up within me because of the tremendous opportunity I’ve had to serve the people of Legislative District 47. It truly is an honor and a privilege to represent all ten counties of Legislative District 47 in the Nebraska Legislature. The people of Western Nebraska truly are the salt of the earth.
Although it was a very tough session for passing any kind of legislation, I did manage to get one bill passed into law this year. LB 17 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts on March 21, 2018. LB 17 updates the Nebraska Appraisal Management Company Registration Act for compliance with Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforce Act of 1989. Without this bill Nebraskans would not have been able to sell any real estate this year.
The biggest disappointment of the year, of course, came when Reform for Nebraska’s Future decided to pull the plug on our citizen-led ballot initiative for property tax relief. However, I believe fear of that petition drive caused legislators in Lincoln to act with a higher degree of fiscal restraint than they otherwise would have. Nevertheless, we have since begun a new ballot initiative for property tax relief, and much like the last petition drive with paid petition handlers, our new petition drive, staffed only with an army of volunteers, is practically signing itself. This ballot initiative is identical to the resolution for a Constitutional Amendment that I will introduce in January; it will allow every Nebraska property owner to claim thirty five percent of their property tax bill as a credit or refund on their Nebraska State Income Tax Return.
Although Governor Ricketts and I did not see eye-to-eye on agricultural land valuation reform this past year, I believe that is changing. There is hope for the future. 2019 may become the year that we finally change the way we value agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity based system. I have been collaborating with the Governor’s office, and I have also been working with experts in the field in order to write a better bill. My hope is that we can pass an even better bill into law next year.
As you may recall, instead of voting for property tax relief in November, Nebraskans voted in favor of Medicaid expansion. Consequently, the Appropriations Committee of the Nebraska Legislature will be searching for new ways to fund it next year. I expect the cost to be much higher than the $33 million originally projected by the Legislative Fiscal Office and the Department of Health and Human Services. Coupled with the fact that we have only 27 operational days of revenue left in our savings, State legislators simply won’t be able to pass any bills with hefty fiscal notes again this year. Instead, Senators as well as the heads of State agencies should be looking for ways to cut spending. The day of our fiscal reckoning will come shortly after we all hang our new calendars on the wall. Nebraska must finally get its fiscal house in order, and that process simply cannot happen without some pain and discomfort for some.
Especially as we consider the needs of those most in need of medical services, let us also be reminded of the poor and humble conditions upon which the Christ child was to be born: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,” Luke 2:6-7. Although Christ had a humble beginning, he has the power to bless each one of us today. Therefore, my prayer is that God will richly bless you in the New Year. Until then, Merry Christmas!
Political correctness drives me crazy!
Did you know that Veggie Tales is a very dangerous racist cartoon for children? Veggie Tales is a popular animated Christian video series designed to teach biblical morality to children. In 1993 animators, Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, launched Big Idea Productions in order to produce children’s videos with Christian themes. Veggie Tales, which depicts talking fruits and vegetables on a kitchen countertop, quickly became their best-selling product. However, today we are being told by Dreama Moon, a college professor at Cal State San Marcos, along with one of her undergraduate students that Veggie Tales is a dangerous racist cartoon because the videos always depict the villains as colored fruits and vegetables.
Political correctness has run amok! To be clear, there is nothing racist or dangerous about Veggie Tales. Instead, political correctness has now become one of our nation’s most malignant cultural cancers. Why do I say this? I say this because political correctness seeks to undermine our most sacred American values and institutions.
Among our most sacred American values is our God-given write to speak freely. Political correctness undermines the guarantee of free speech afforded to us by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It undermines our God-given right to freedom of speech and stifles the free expression of ideas by controlling what can and cannot be said both in private as well as in the public square. For instance, anyone who identifies those who have been illegally crossing our southern border as “illegal aliens” is automatically deemed to be a racist and is told to use the terminology of “undocumented immigrants” instead, even though the first term suggests no particular race at all.
Similarly, political correctness seeks to undermine the very foundations of religion as well as our American traditions. For instance, last week Jennifer Sinclair, principle of Manchester Elementary School in Elkhorn, Nebraska, was exposed for trying censure Christmas. In her memo to the school’s staff and teachers, she banned the use of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, “Elf on a Shelf,” Christmas carols, candy canes, reindeer, homemade ornaments, Christmas movies, and all other red and green items associated with Christmas. She did this despite the fact that Christmas has been recognized as a national holiday since 1870. After the Liberty Counsel, a First Amendment watchdog group based in Florida, sent a letter to the school district asserting that the ban showed hostility towards Christians, the school board members finally decided to put the principal on administrative leave.
Political correctness is even ruining women’s sports. For instance, anyone who questions the sex of a transgender person today is automatically counted as a bigoted sexist. So, educators are now being told that they can no longer question the gender of any student, and this has led to transgender athletes dominating in women’s sports.
Biological males competing as females in women’s sports are now winning championships and breaking records at the expense of those who are biologically female. Earlier this year, for example, biological males, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who self-identify as females, dominated Connecticut’s state track championships. Miller finished first in the 100 meter and 200 meter races, while Yearwood finished second in the 100 meter. Connecticut’s Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows these athletes to compete according to their gender identity, instead of their biological sex, and nobody, not even the parents, can question their wisdom.
Political correctness has become a scourge on American society. Therefore, this week I have chosen to use what freedom I have left in the press to expose this scourge, and to hopefully begin the process of removing this malignant tumor from American society. Instead of controlling what others say, I believe we should simply treat each other with respect. Political correctness adds nothing new to the Golden Rule taught by Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Matthew 7:12.
So, at the risk of being politically incorrect, let me be the first one to wish you a merry Christmas!
Sen. Steve Erdman Speaking in Harrison, NE
Last week I put a thousand miles on my truck as Joel Hunt (my Legislative Aide) and I toured together the ten counties of the Panhandle which make up Legislative District 47. Throughout the week I held nine town hall meetings in Bayard, Bridgeport, Chappell, Harrison, Hemingford, Kimball, Ogallala, Oshkosh, and Sidney. I would like to personally thank everyone who came out to attend these town hall meetings.
These town hall meetings are very important to me. These town hall meetings are important because they provide me with the opportunity to meet new people living in the Panhandle, to hear the concerns of the constituency, and to form strategies for the upcoming legislative session. They also give me the opportunity to communicate with the folks living in Western Nebraska.
After speaking to people from all ten counties in my district, I have been firmly reminded that the two most important priorities of mine going into the new legislative session need to be property tax relief and agricultural land valuation reform. These are the two issues which matter most to my constituents, and these have been my top two priorities for my first two years in the Nebraska Legislature. So, I remain eager to fight for these two causes again next year. Therefore, I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment to allow all property owners to claim 35 percent of their property tax bill as a credit or a refund on their State Income Tax return, and I have also been working on a new agricultural land valuation reform bill that will change the way we value agricultural land from the current market based system to a productivity based system.
What came up as a new issue for me to tackle during these town hall meetings was the problem of antelope in the Panhandle. In the Western counties of the Panhandle, especially those bordering Colorado and Wyoming, antelope have been destroying crops and fences. Almost everywhere I went, constituents sought me out to talk about the problem of antelope on their land. During my journey through Sioux County alone we encountered a herd that Joel and I estimated at approximately 1,000 antelope. They were just too numerous to count. So, I understand that this is a big problem effecting many farmers and ranchers, and I intend to address this problem going forward.
The most controversial matter which came up in these town hall meetings was Medicaid Expansion. While the voters in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties alone were enough to guarantee passage of the Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, rural Nebraskans rejected it soundly. In the ten counties which comprise Legislative District 47 voters rejected the initiative by fifty five percent of the vote. Only forty five percent voted for it. In light of the fact that the majority of the voters living in District 47 opposed the Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative, I am leaning towards voting against funding for Medicaid Expansion when it comes up in the Legislature. Funding for Medicaid Expansion could take important benefits away from our state’s poorest citizens, who need them most. I believe those who most need help from the State are children, single mothers, the sick, and the disabled, and funding for Medicaid Expansion may take benefits away from these folks in order to put more people on the Medicaid rolls.
Western Nebraska is beautiful place to live, and the people who live here are truly the salt of the earth. Thank you for allowing me to serve you and to represent you in the Nebraska Legislature. If you were unable to attend a town hall meeting in your neck of the woods, but would still like to voice your concerns, you may send me an e-mail at email@example.com or call my office at (402) 471-2616.
The rock star, Ted Nugent, once quipped about hunting, saying: “Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians – except for the occasional mountain lion steak.” I sure hope by ‘vegetarian’, he meant animals, and not people!
Deer hunting in the fall has become a favorite and longstanding outdoor sport as well as an important family tradition in Western Nebraska. Every hunter loves to retell the story of getting his or her first deer. Deer hunting is also a time to get outside and to enjoy the peace and solitude of God’s Creation. Besides passing on the skill of shooting a rifle, deer hunting is also the time when fathers pass on to their children the values of appreciating nature, practicing gun safety, and never needlessly wounding an animal.
Unfortunately, the peace and solitude usually associated with deer hunting in Western Nebraska has been disturbed in recent years by certain non-residents looking to harvest the deer which graze on our land and bed down in our woods. Many of these outsiders do not share our values. The situation of certain outsiders hunting from trucks, trespassing on our land, shooting and wounding deer on private property without first getting permission from landowners now persists as annual problem. The situation has grown out of control and has become dangerous and risky such that many residents of Western Nebraska refuse to hunt on the opening weekend of gun deer season. And, it shouldn’t be this way!
Shouldn’t landowners have the first opportunity to harvest the deer that eat, sleep and play on their own land? Why should the peace and solitude of a landowner’s hunt be disturbed by those who have little respect for private property? Why should private landowners have to yield to those who have made no contribution whatsoever to the feeding and nurturing of the deer?
I have listened to many constituents throughout Legislative District 47 complain about outsiders flooding our district during the week of gun deer season, so it may be time to make a big change in the way we hunt in Nebraska. One of the best solutions which has been brought to my attention is to create a separate week of gun deer season reserved exclusively for landowners. According to this proposal, the week prior to the regular gun deer season would be reserved exclusively for private landowners to hunt on their own land. This would give those who own the land the first opportunity to harvest the deer on their own land without interference from outsiders.
Let’s face it. Ted Nugent was right. The last people in Western Nebraska who should be eating only fruits and vegetables are the human beings who have made Western Nebraska their home. And, just for the record, I have no mountain lion steaks in my freezer.
Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. Certainly, each person has their own list of things to be thankful for this time of the year. But, speaking as an American, what can we learn from our heritage that we should all be thankful for? In order to help us answer this question, let us turn to the Pilgrims.
First, the Pilgrims were thankful for religious liberty. Long before the Pilgrims ever came to America, they found themselves being oppressed by both the King of England as well as the Church of England. In America today each person is free to worship God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, and that is worth giving thanks for.
Second, the Pilgrims were thankful for the opportunity to rule themselves. The original charter made out by the Plymouth Council of New England had been created for Manhattan or what they called Northern Virginia at the time. But, the Mayflower had been blown off course up to Cape Cod. When they tried to sail around the cape, the currents were so strong that they nearly wrecked the ship. It was at that point that the Pilgrims resolved to come ashore at Cape Cod. Because they chose to settle in a region which was no longer considered to be part of Northern Virginia, the original charter became void. What they needed was a whole new compact.
The Mayflower Compact was written and signed by the remaining 41 men before anyone came ashore. While the Mayflower Compact retained the original mission of colonizing the northern parts of Virginia, they combined themselves together into a new civil body politic for the purpose of their “better Ordering and Preservation…” In short, they entered into a new kind of covenant, characterized by self-government. Because the passengers aboard the Mayflower had consented to the Mayflower Compact, it was deemed to be even more binding than the original charter. Nevertheless, this new idea of self-government became a sacred principle of the Plymouth Plantation, which eventually inspired Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. In America today we are free and we are no longer ruled by a tyrannical king, and that is worth giving thanks for.
Third, the Pilgrims were thankful for God’s providential care and protection in spite of their treacherous journey. Because of the rough weather, the Pilgrim’s three week journey had been turned into a journey lasting sixty-six days. Because of the way the ship got tossed about on the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mayflower traveled at a rate of only two nautical miles per hour. At one point during the journey, the weather became so stormy and the winds so rough that the crew had to lower the sails and allow the wind to take them wherever it wanted. The Pilgrim’s would later explain this phenomenon as God’s providential hand directing their path.
When land was finally sighted on November 9, 1620, William Brewster, a man who had twice eluded arrest by King James, decided to read from the Bible. Brewster read Psalm 100 to the passengers aboard the Mayflower as a prayer of thanksgiving unto God. So, if you are reading this or having it read to you, isn’t that fact alone sufficient evidence of God’s providential care and protection over your life, and isn’t that something worth giving thanks for?
This week we honor and celebrate our veterans. No matter which branch of the military any particular American has served in, he or she deserves our utmost respect. Freedom is not free. In America liberty comes only as devoted individuals willfully serve their country, and if necessary lay down their lives for their fellow countrymen. So, today I would like to personally thank every man and woman who has ever served in our armed forces, including those who are currently serving our country.
It is important to honor our veterans, because there is a growing number of Americans who no longer appreciate the sacrifices made by our military personnel. For instance, Pete Davidson recently mocked Navy Seal veteran, Dan Crenshaw, on Saturday Night Live (SNL). Crenshaw is a retired lieutenant commander with the U.S. Navy, who was deployed overseas five times. However, on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan he lost his right eye because of an IED explosion and he nearly lost his left eye as well. Even though he lost his right eye, he still returned for two more tours of duty overseas. Today, Crenshaw wears a patch over his right eye, which Davidson and his audience thinks is funny. In spite of the mockery he received on SNL for his eyepatch, though, Crenshaw went on to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 6 with 53.4 percent of the vote in Texas’s 2nd Congressional District.
The sacrifices made by our military personnel are real and they can be very costly, and we need to remember that fact. There is never a just reason for flippancy towards our veterans, especially on Veterans Day. Instead, Veterans Day is a day for each American citizen to credit his or her freedom to those who paid for it. Some of our soldiers paid for our liberty with the ultimate payment of life itself.
During the days of the American Civil War William W. Bennett served as an army chaplain under the rebel command of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Bennett took the time to record some of the last words of his dying rebel soldiers. One of those soldiers was T.S. Chandler of the Sixth South Carolina Regiment. Bennett recorded Chandler’s last words, which were intended for his mother:
“Tell my mother that I am lying without hope of recovery…My hope is in Christ, for whose sake I hope to be saved. Tell her that she and my brother cannot see me again on earth, but they can meet me in heaven…I know I am going there.”
As we celebrate our veterans this week let us not forget that all gave some and some gave all.
The Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
I begin this week by tipping my hat to Wolf Auto of Ogallala because of the many ways they have modeled volunteerism and community service this year. Wolf Auto was recently nominated for a Step Forward award by Serve Nebraska because of their excellent example in community service. Wolf Auto raised money for the Ogallala High School, the Relay for Life, the Backpack program, CASA, SCIP, Royal Camp, and the Rotary Club, as well as over 50K for five families who lost everything in the Lake McConaughy fire. They volunteered at the Car Seat Check-ups and at concerts, and they also sponsored drives for diapers, school supplies, clothing, and furniture. They even raised money for the Ogallala community by organizing their own car washes, garage sales, and silent auctions.
I would also like to thank all of the volunteers who make our lives easier and who make our communities better places to live. Among these are all of the volunteer firemen, first responders and others, who both protect and serve our communities. I would also like to thank the many other businesses in Western Nebraska who make significant contributions to our communities and who also deserve recognition for their charity work.
Now that the campaign season is finally over, we enter into a different kind of season, namely the season of giving. For many people November begins the season of charity work. While volunteerism ought to occur all year long, the holidays present us with some very unique opportunities for sharing both our time as well as our treasure. Therefore, before we enter into the holiday season I would like to encourage everyone living in Western Nebraska to seek out some way of giving back to their community this year.
One of the charity organizations I hold in high esteem for their beliefs, values, and integrity as well as for the work they do in the community is the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army was established in London back in 1865, but it has been operating in the USA since 1883. More than 23 million Americans receive assistance from the Salvation Army every year. Their services include food for the hungry, relief for disaster survivors, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and the ill, clothing and shelter for the homeless, and help for underprivileged children.
Please consider volunteering your time to the Salvation Army. Each year 25,000 volunteers across the country ring bells, solicit donations, and tend to thousands of red kettles for the Salvation Army. In Western Nebraska the Salvation Army has bell ringing programs in Alliance, Chadron, Holdrege, McCook, and Scottsbluff. To learn more about the Red Kettle Campaign or to register as a volunteer, please visit www.ringbells.org.
Let us brighten the holiday season this year for as many people as possible by remembering and acting upon the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
People occasionally ask me what I do as a Nebraska State Senator when the Legislature is out of session. Well, there is a lot more to being a Nebraska State Senator than simply debating bills on the floor of the Legislature, holding public hearings, and voting. So, today I would like to introduce you to some of the off season duties of being a Nebraska State Senator.
Bills are always written when the Legislature is out of session. All bills must be introduced during the first ten days of the legislative session, so there is no time for writing bills during the session. I like to begin the bill writing process by first listening to my constituents, not the lobbyists, so that I introduce the kind of legislation folks in the Panhandle care about most. Once I decide on an idea, though, that is when the real grunt work of study and research begins. This year I have devoted a lot of my time to researching agricultural land valuation reform. Once again, my bill will change agricultural land valuations from the current market based system to a productivity system, making the process much more fair and equitable.
As a Nebraska State Senator I represent the district even when the Legislature is not in session. So, I occasionally get called upon to give speeches, present awards, and give interviews. Earlier this month, for example, I delivered a speech at the dedication of the new historical marker commemorating the crossing of the Northern Cheyenne over the South Platte River. While these kinds of activities certainly represent the lighter side of being a Nebraska State Senator, they are not the most rewarding thing I do during the off season.
The most rewarding thing I do during the off season is helping people. For instance, as a Nebraska State Senator, I have had the privilege of helping several Medicaid patients get the services and care they need, which can be a difficult task for someone who is sick or disabled. Speaking of the disabled, because one concerned disabled constituent notified me about the condition of the restrooms at the Bridgeport State Recreation Area, the Game & Parks department will soon be making them compliant with the Americans for Disabilities Act.
I recently had the privilege of helping a trucker get his birth certificate so that he could renew his license. He needed it right way; otherwise, he would not be able to work. Because the State’s Vital Records department had been reduced down to only one employee the process of obtaining birth certificates had slowed to a crawl. Working with DHHS, we were able to get him pushed up to the front of the line, so that he could go back to work.
I have also had the privilege of helping several Nebraskans living in the Panhandle resolve some of their difficult issues with the Department of Transportation. These problems have ranged from placing signage on private property along scenic highways, to providing driveways for residential and truck traffic, and even building an exit ramp to access a gas station when road construction was being done on I-80. Working with the Department of Transportation, we were also able re-open the railroad crossing at Lodgepole after it had been closed for 30 days, and we’ve been able to keep the Duel County Minibus up and running.
These are just some of the different ways I have been able to help the constituents of district 47. However, I know that the constituents of district 47 need property tax relief more than anything else. Therefore, over the summer I met with Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom to inaugurate a new citizen led petition drive to put a property tax relief initiative on the 2020 ballot. This ballot initiative is a constitutional amendment which will allow each property owner to claim a 35% property tax credit or refund on their Nebraska State income tax return. I will also introduce a similar resolution in the Legislature in January.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Senator. I will continue to serve the people of district 47 by looking for even more common sense ways to turn the good life into the great life.
Finally, don’t forget to vote on November 6!
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