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Let the Legislating begin! The new biennial session of the Nebraska State Legislature began on Wednesday, January 9. That day began with some pomp and circumstance as 13 new senators were sworn into office. Then, the honeymoon ended abruptly as we turned our focus to committee chairs. This year experience and expertise played a more significant role when voting on committee chairs. Consequently, neither of the two major political parties dominates the other when it comes to these committee chairs.
Thursday, January 10, marked the first day to introduce bills. Senators will have until January 23 to introduce new bills. Nevertheless, 138 bills were introduced on that first day. Some of the more controversial bills that were introduced that day include one to legalize medical marijuana and one to give judges the authority to seize guns from those deemed to be mentally incompetent to own a firearm.
The first piece of legislation that I introduced on that day was a resolution for a constitutional amendment for property tax relief. This resolution has the same wording as the citizen-led ballot initiative which is now circulating around the state. This constitutional amendment will allow all Nebraska property owners to claim 35 percent of their property tax bill as a credit or a refund on their Nebraska State income tax return. Because high property taxes are the number one issue dogging all Nebraskans, especially those living in Western Nebraska, I was proud to introduce this resolution as my first piece of legislation going into the 2019-2020 biennial session.
Besides my resolution for a constitutional amendment for property tax relief, I also introduced one other bill that first day. The other bill that I introduced was a bill to put the National Motto on display in every public school in Nebraska. The time has come for us to put God back into our schools. This bill simply states that schools need to put a poster with the national motto, “In God We Trust,” in every classroom or in another place, such as the school cafeteria, where all students will be able to read it on a daily basis. The bill should cost the State no money, because private individuals and businesses will be allowed to pay for the posters, thus, defraying any costs to the schools. Moreover, any school needing a poster can simply print one online or get a copy from my office. That bill also states that the Nebraska Attorney General will defend any school who gets sued by a group seeking to remove the posters from our schools.
On Friday, January 11, I introduced a bill to eliminate the Learning Community and I held a news conference in the rotunda of the Capitol following that day’s session to explain why I introduced the bill. The Learning Community is a State funded and State mandated program to help poor and disadvantaged children in the Omaha metropolitan area succeed academically. At least, that is what it started out to be more than ten years ago. The Learning Community has abandoned its original purpose and has expanded into areas well beyond its original scope and purpose. In short, it has devolved into an organization in search of a mission. Meanwhile, they waste millions of dollars on programs with no proven track record for success, and last year they started a foundation with no defined purpose, no regular members, and no elected members. The foundation’s programs and expenditures require no approval from the Learning Community’s board, nor are there any mechanism set in place to guarantee transparency to the public. Their meetings are not open to the public, nor do they require a public notice, nor do they even require an agenda. The foundation does not adhere to public records laws, nor have they disclosed how they intend to spend their money. It is wrong for Nebraskans to be funding a secretive foundation with no public accountability whatsoever; therefore, I believe the time has come to put an end to this revenue-wasting monstrosity.