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Happy New Year and welcome to 2018! The second session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature will commence on January 3. So, this week I want to offer an update on some of the bills I have been working on and will introduce this year.
The first bill I will introduce will be the property tax relief bill I promised to introduce in a press conference I held last May after the closing of the first session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature. My Property Tax Relief Act will give Nebraska taxpayers a 30% reduction in their property taxes. According to The Hightower Report, Nebraska now ranks as the fourth highest state in the union for property taxes, and we are second only to Illinois when it comes to combined taxes. Therefore, the best action the Nebraska Legislature can bring to the State this year is some much needed property tax relief. To ensure that this measure appears on your ballot in November we will begin collecting signatures for a citizen led initiative starting this year.
The second bill I will introduce is another agricultural land valuation reform bill. Last year I introduced LB 602, which stalled in the Revenue Committee. However, I have improved upon that bill. So, this year I will introduce an even better bill for agricultural land valuation reform. The way agricultural land currently gets valuated for property tax purposes is very unfair. My bill will change agricultural land valuations from the current market based system to a new and improved productivity method.
The third bill I will introduce is a destroyed property tax bill. The late spring tornadoes of 2017 inspired me to write this bill. When a property owner’s house or buildings gets destroyed by a natural disaster, it does not seem right that the property owner should have to pay property taxes for as long as the house or buildings remain unlivable. Therefore, my bill will adjust the property taxes of a destroyed property to cover only those dates during the year that the property is functional or livable.
As you know, I serve on the Health and Human Services Committee. This year the HHS Committee will continue to make improvements in the services offered by the three managed care organizations which comprise Heritage Health. In addition, the HHS Committee will also be looking into recent sexual abuse allegations with children who are wards of the State and who are in our foster care system.
I also serve on the Education Committee. The State Education Board recently lowered standardized test scores for our public teachers. By lowering the standards for public school teachers, are we also lowering the quality of education for our students?