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The first session of the 106th Legislature has now come to an end. Just like students who receive their report cards at the end of the school year, so also should the Nebraska State Legislature be graded. So, what kind of grade should be given to the Nebraska State Legislature this year? In my assessment, the Legislature has earned a grade of D along with the comment, “Needs Much Improvement.”
So, why do I give the Nebraska State Legislature such a poor grade? I have given the Legislature a low grade because of what they failed to do this year. Most importantly, the Legislature failed to pass legislation for significant property tax relief, including LR3CA, my Resolution to put a measure on the 2020 ballot for a Constitutional Amendment for property tax relief. Moreover, LB 289 also failed in the Legislature. This bill would have given Nebraska property owners significant property tax relief for 2018 but made up for the loss in revenue by eliminating numerous sales tax exemptions, such as pet grooming services, tattoo services, and wedding planning services.
The second reason why the Nebraska State Legislature deserves such a poor grade is because they failed to reform the way we value agricultural land for property tax purposes. Nebraska needs to switch to an income based approach to valuing agricultural land, instead of using the current market approach. Although my priority bill, LB 483, advanced out of the Revenue Committee this year, it failed to advance beyond General File. Instead, the Legislature passed my other bill, LB 372, which forces the Property Assessment Division to use appropriate indexes when valuing agricultural land for property tax purposes in the current market based system. While this bill will slightly improve the current market based system, it won’t solve the major problems associated with using this method.
The third reason why the Nebraska State Legislature deserves such a poor grade is because they failed to cut spending. Contrary to the opinion of the Governor as wells as certain other Senators who serve on the Appropriations Committee, a smaller increase in spending does not constitute a cut in spending. The Legislature increased overall spending this year by 2.9 percent. If you managed your budget the same way that the State does theirs, you would soon go bankrupt, and that is what is slowly happening to the State.
What saves me from rating the Nebraska State Legislature with a failing grade is the fact that a few good bills actually did pass this year. One such bill was LB 244. LB 244 was my bill to make an allowance for massage therapists to make use of mobile units in the practice of their business. Because LB 244 passed along with an emergency clause and was signed by the Governor, the bill now becomes the law. So, massage therapists can now begin taking their services out to where their clients live, work, study, and play.
Thank you for reading my articles throughout the first session of the 106th Legislature. It has been an honor for me to serve the constituents of Legislative District 47. I hope to see many of you at our parades, festivals, and fairs this summer. May God bless Nebraska!
Nebraska’s First Capitol Building, Douglas County, 1855