Congratulations to Nailah Pereya Galdean for winning the Safe Digging Poster Contest!
The One Call Board of Nebraska recently invited elementary age students and youth organization members in our district to travel on a magical and educational journey while teaching them the importance of underground utility services and the dangers of unsafe digging practices.
Utilizing a fun and educational DVD combined with a comprehensive Teacher’s Resource Guide developed by the Common Ground Alliance, educators took the opportunity to explain the necessity of the underground utilities we use every day. The “Call Before You Dig” message was carried throughout the lesson explaining the importance of using safe digging practices along with the associated dangers of damaging an underground utility, such as the loss of key services like 911, electricity, internet and heating/air conditioning.
To conclude the educational segment, students were encouraged to create posters highlighting safe digging and “811” – the National “Call Before You Dig” telephone number. Several of these posters were randomly selected and used in various promotional venues including flyers, websites and billboards across the State of Nebraska. In addition, six individual classes that participated in the Safe Digging Pirate Adventure were randomly selected to receive a complimentary bench, commemorative plaque and a tree for their school, along with a cookie party to celebrate their knowledge of the importance to “Call Before You Dig”.
Nailah Pereya Galdean, a student at Prairie View Elementary School in Ogallala, NE was named as one of the contest winners. To celebrate, there will be a special event at the school on Friday, April 21 at 12:30 p.m. MST the One Call Board of Directors will be presenting the school with their chosen tree, complimentary park bench, and a commemorative plaque. The public is invited to attend this event to recognize the school’s participation in and knowledge of safe digging practices.
Despite the short week a lot happened in the Legislature last week. Two important bills and one resolution came up on the floor of the Legislature for debate last week.
On Monday LR 6 came up for debate on the floor. LR 6 is a Legislative Resolution introduced by Sen. Laura Ebke, which calls for an Article V, Convention of the States. I receive more e-mails from constituents living in district 47 in support of LR 6 than on any other piece of legislation. I expressed strong support for LR 6 during the debate. However, the resolution was filibustered without a vote ever being taken. Consequently, the resolution likely won’t come up again for a vote this year. The resolution will most likely be carried over to next year’s session.
On Tuesday LB 44 advanced to Select File. LB 44 is a bill which would enforce a sales tax on Internet sales. While the state of Nebraska needs the extra income an Internet sales tax would generate, my primary interest is to divert the revenue from an Internet sales tax to the Property Tax Credit/Cash Fund in order to give our citizens some much needed property tax relief. This was why I voted for this bill and this is also why I introduced LB 601. If passed into law, LB 601 would divert these funds to the Property Tax Credit/Cash Fund.
On Wednesday Sen. Mike Hilger’s firearms bill, LB 68, overcame a filibuster attempt to advance to Enrollment and Review for Select File. This bill would prevent counties and other local municipalities from adopting gun laws more strict than our state laws. The purpose of the law is to prevent a patchwork of differing gun laws across the state. Nebraskans need consistency in their gun laws across the state so that law-abiding citizens can remain law-abiding citizens. The bill gives the Nebraska Legislature the exclusive authority to regulate the ownership, possession, transportation, carrying, registration, transfer, and storage of firearms, ammunition, and firearms accessories. The bill allows local authorities to regulate the discharge of firearms, and to provide zoning designations, and to enforce policies relating to the use of firearms by law enforcement agencies and other city employees.
Do you need help with a legal question? Have you no money for a lawyer? Help is available at www.NE.FreeLegalAnswers.org.
NE Free Legal Answers is an online pro bono service offering free legal advice for those who qualify. The American Bar Association has sponsored the project in collaboration with the Nebraska State Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project.
The legal advice is easy to obtain, it’s fast, and most of all it is free to qualified users. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old, you cannot be incarcerated, you must meet low income eligibility requirements, and you must have access to a computer with an Internet connection and an e-mail account. Many public libraries offer free Internet services.
Once you qualify, you may post a civil (non-criminal) legal question for free. You will receive an e-mail when a lawyer answers your question. Then, you log into the Website to read the lawyer’s response.
Last Tuesday my priority bill, LB 432, advanced out of Select File and into Enrollment and Review for Engrossment. What this means is that the bill will be analyzed by Capitol lawyers and finalized for a final vote on the floor. LB 432 takes away the authority of tax asking entities from adding the collection of delinquent taxes into their tax asking ability. Onced passed into law, this bill will offer some much needed property tax relief to property owners in our State.
On Wednesday Gov. Pete Ricketts signed Sen. Dan Watermeier’s bill, LB 46, into law. LB 46 creates a special “Choose Life” license plate, which has yet to be designed for Nebraska’s automobiles. Although the Choose Life license plates will cost an extra $5.00, the extra expense will be donated to charity.
The most controversial bill of the week was Sen. Adam Morfelds’s bill, LB173. This bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. I intended to oppose this bill, but in an unusual twist of events Sen. Morfeld led a filibuster against his own bill. Because no vote was taken on the bill, LB 173 will be held over for a vote in next year’s session.
Another very rare event took place at the Capitol on Friday. A Special Committee of the Executive Board held a special hearing to determine whether or not Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha’s legislative district 11 was eligible to keep his Senate seat. Mr. John Sciara, who ran against Sen. Chambers in last year’s election, challenged the incumbent on the basis that he did not reside within legislative district 11 one year prior to the election. The Special Committee of the Executive Board ruled in favor of Sen. Ernie Chambers. However, the most ironic part of the hearing was that the Sen. Ernie Chambers’ eligibility hearing was held in the Sen. Ernie Chambers Judiciary Hearing Chamber.
Last week President Donald Trump signed an order to allow TransCanada to build the rest of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline is an issue which has created a lot of controversy in our State, so today I would like to address some of the most important questions surrounding the pipeline and clarify why this pipeline will be good for our State.
What will flow through the Keystone XL pipeline? Some people are confused about what will be flowing flow through the KXL pipeline. First, oil flowing through the pipeline will not be 100% Canadian crude oil. Crude oil from Montana will enter the pipeline at Baker, Montana and crude oil from Nebraska will also enter the pipeline at Steele City, Nebraska. This will be good for oil producers in our State.
Second, crude oil, especially the kind from the Canadian tar sands, cannot flow through the pipeline in its raw form. So, the crude oil is mixed with Bitumen in order to form a product known as Dilbit. Bitumen is diluted with one or more petroleum products, usually natural gas, in order to liquefy it for transport through the pipeline. The crude oil of the KXL pipeline will be the same kind of crude oil which currently flows through the Platte pipeline, which runs east and west through Nebraska near the Platte River.
Where will the KXL pipeline go? Crude oil from the KXL pipeline will be transported to refineries in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. At no point will the KXL pipeline run through the water table of the Ogallala Aquifer. Instead, the pipeline will travel over the Ogallala Aquifer. If the pipeline were ever to spring a leak over the Ogallala Aquifer, the viscosity of the Dilbit would cause it to stop seeping into the ground once it reached soil with a ground temperature of 50 degrees F or below. Last year the Canadian government produced a study which showed that diluted Bitumen floats. So, even if the oil ever reached the water table of the Ogallala Aquifer, we now know that it would float on top of the aquifer.
Who owns the Canadian tar sands? Answer: the Canadians. However, Koch Industries is the largest foreign investor in the Canadian tar sands. Koch Industries is an American company run by the Koch Bros., who hold the lease on 2,000,000 acres of Canadian tar sands. Conoco Philips and Shell Oil follow behind the Koch Bros. as the next largest foreign investors. China is considered a small player in the industry because they hold the lease on only 5% of the Canadian tar sands.
TransCanada has agreed to 57 special conditions for building the Keystone XL pipeline. So, what are some of these conditions? A few that I would like to highlight are these six: 1) the pipeline must be able to withstand a 65 ton excavator from breaking through it; 2) the pipeline must have a cover of four feet of topsoil, except in rocky areas, where it must have three feet of topsoil; 3) the pipeline has to be inspected every two weeks; 4) all pressure rated fittings and components (including flanges valves, gaskets, pressure vessels and pumps) must be rated for pressure ratings commensurate with the Maxwell operating pressure of the pipeline; 5) TransCanada must limit mainline pipeline overpressure protection to a maximum of 110% of operating pressure during surges; and 6) Pipeline markers must be installed and maintained for line of sight markings, except in agricultural fields.
How much property tax will be paid after the Keystone XL pipeline depreciates for income tax purposes? The KXL pipeline is said to depreciate in 15 years. Beginning in year 16, property taxes will continue to be assessed on the KXL pipeline according to centrally assessed standards. For example, the Platte pipeline, which was completed in 1953, and runs through Cheyenne County, pays an estimated $42,000 per year in property taxes.
Will lands in Nebraska be seized by eminent domain? TransCanada is not using eminent domain to seize our precious farmland. The KXL pipeline will be just like any other water, sewer or utility line crossing someone’s property. The landowner shall always retain ownership of the property, and once construction is complete, they will continue to possess economic right to the surface. The landowner shall always be able to use the land for agricultural activities. Easements and agreements will only provide for the right to access the pipeline during construction and for maintenance.
Will the KXL pipeline be safe for the environment? The Keystone XL pipeline will be one of the safest pipelines in the United States. The Platte pipeline has been in existence since 1953 and has never had a spill. The Platte pipeline pumps the same product as will the Keystone XL pipeline. The United States Department of Transportation has determined that transporting oil via a pipeline is 451 times safer than transporting it by rail or by truck. So, the KXL pipeline will provide us with the safest way to move all of this oil.
Finally, will the Keystone XL pipeline be good for all Nebraskans? Once constructed the KXL pipeline will free up space in the Platte pipeline so oil in Western Nebraska can be pumped through the Platte pipeline, making our oil production more competitive. It is very expensive to transport oil by rail or by truck. The KXL pipeline will help us reduce these costs. The construction of this pipeline will come at a time when our State needs increased revenue due to a downturn in the economy. The Keystone XL pipeline will give us some relief by paying property taxes to those counties through which it passes.
Sen. Erdman invites students to attend the Unicameral Youth Legislature. High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature June 11-14, 2017. At the Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral legislature.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.
Senator Erdman believes students should familiarize themselves with both the United States Constitution and the Nebraska Constitution. The Unicameral Youth Legislature provides an excellent forum to foster this kind of knowledge in an experiential way.
Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay to compete for the award. In addition, several $100.00 scholarships are available to participants.
The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program. To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 15th.
This week the Nebraska Legislature ended public hearings on bills. Starting on Tuesday the Senators will spend the whole day engaged in floor debates. Due to the shortness of the session, almost all of the bills which will get debated on the floor will be priority bills. Those bills without a priority status and which get voted out of committee will likely become carry-over bills for next year’s legislative session.
One of the last bills to get a public hearing this year was Sen. Friesen’s bill, LB 389. This bill would modernize Nebraska’s telecommunications laws, allowing for greater investments and more improvements by wireless telecommunications providers. The bill would allow newer technologies to move into the State, especially the kind known as small cells, which would expand coverage to the level of fifth generation (5G) wireless capabilities. LB 389 also ensures that local governments would maintain control over the permitting process, giving them authority to approve or deny an application and to be adequately compensated through application fees and other cost-based fees for small wireless facility attachments.
Although LB 389 received a late hearing, the bill stands a good chance of getting voted out of the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee and advancing through floor debate. Because Speaker Scheer has included LB 389 as one of his 25 Speaker priority bills, the bill stands a good chance of becoming a law. I support LB 389 because I believe it will provide better wireless services for our families, it will enable our schools to better educate our students in an age of technology, and it will help our local businesses to better compete in the global marketplace.
Finally, Sen. Brewer’s bill, LB 502, received its public hearing last Thursday, the last day for public hearings. This bill is meant to restore the constitutional rights of Nebraskans to be able to carry a firearm, concealed or open, without being forced to take a State-mandated test and pay a fee. This bill keeps Nebraska’s current concealed carry permit system, thus retaining the option of issuing permits that would allow state residents to carry while traveling to other parts of the country that honor Nebraska’s current concealed carry permit. This bill does not change the law concerning people currently prohibited from carrying a handgun.
The right to bear arms carries with it a great deal of responsibility. Besides the Constitution, the next best protectorate of gun ownership rights is self-discipline. Discipline is a virtue which every gun owner ought to possess in abundance and exhibit often. As President George Washington said in his first State of the Union Address on January 8, 1790, “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined.” May we never forget that lesson our first President taught us.
Good News! My priority bill, LB 432, has made it out of committee and is now in General File. LB 432 is the bill I introduced readers to last week, which will remove budgeting for delinquent taxes. This bill will give property owners some property tax relief.
Last week we also had a public hearing on my bill LB 568. LB 568 is a bill which creates a new temporary substitute teacher certificate. This idea came to me and was supported by 20 superintendents in the Panhandle, including Travis Miller of the Bayard Public School District who traveled all the way to Lincoln to testify in favor of the bill at the Capitol. Bayard Public Schools should be very proud of the commitment of Mr. Miller.
Many of the schools in western Nebraska are hard pressed to find enough substitute teachers to adequately staff their schools throughout the year. As a result, principals and even superintendents sometimes find themselves teaching classes. I was asked by our superintendents to do two things: lower the educational requirements and extend the length of time that a substitute teacher may teach.
After looking at the requirements for substitute teachers in some of our neighboring states, I decided that Wyoming’s certificate provided the best model for my bill. South Dakota has no educational requirements for substitute teachers, while Colorado requires a bachelor’s degree. Wyoming, on the other hand, requires the minimum of a high school diploma. Although my bill lowers the educational requirements for substitute teachers to the minimum of a high school diploma, individual school districts are not obligated to abide by these minimum standards.
LB 568 extends the number of days that a substitute teacher may teach in a school district from 45 days to 90 days. After I introduced LB 568, the Department of Education decided to extend the old certificate out from 45 days of teaching within a school district out to 90 days as well. So, even if LB 568 never becomes a law, our western schools will find some relief next year.
I also included Wyoming’s requirement of passing two constitutional exams. LB 568 requires applicants to take a course and pass an exam on both the United States Constitution and the Nebraska Constitution. I am happy to report that these two requirements were never challenged during the public hearing on the bill.
Additional requirements for my new Temporary Substitute Teacher Certificate include that an applicant must: Be 21 years of age or older, complete 24 hours of in-service training, complete 30 hours of classroom observation, submit to fingerprinting for a background check, complete the application and pay the required fee of $80.00.
Finally, Don Stenberg, the Nebraska State Treasurer, is holding $170 million for 350,000 Nebraskans in unclaimed property. In order to get your unclaimed property you will have to submit a claim. To check to see if your name is on the list, please visit www.treasurer.nebraska.gov and click on the unclaimed property tab, or you may call my office at (402) 471-2616 and my staff will check to see if your name is on the list.
This week I finally declared my priority bill for the year. Before I disclose my priority bill, let me first express my grave regret and sincere disappointment for not prioritizing LB 602, my agricultural land valuation bill. It has been my intention from the beginning of the legislative session to make LB 602 my priority bill. While the verdict is still out on LB 602, I realized that I had to change my strategy. I changed my mind when I had only 30 minutes to spare.
I have declared LB 432 as my priority bill. LB 432 will remove authority from tax asking entities to add delinquent taxes to their tax asking ability. LB 432 will remove that portion of Nebraska’s State Statute 13-508 which provides tax asking entities with the option of adding delinquent taxes to their tax asking ability.
There really is no such thing as a delinquent tax in the State of Nebraska. When we surveyed Nebraska’s counties, we discovered from those that responded to us that none of them could report more than 0.05 percent in delinquent property taxes per year. However, many tax asking entities in our State add an allowance for delinquent taxes into their budgets. I believe this is wrong. Whenever delinquent property taxes do occur, they get sold on the first Monday in March. So, there really is no such thing as a delinquent tax in our State.
Because there really are no delinquent taxes in Nebraska, I introduced LB 432 as a way to save our State some sorely needed revenue in property taxes. Whenever I talk to my constituents across district 47, they almost always ask me for some property tax relief. Consequently, property tax relief, as well as agricultural land valuation reform, have been my two highest priorities as the State Senator of Legislative District 47.
On April 6, 1931 Robert Quillen quipped in The Lincoln Star newspaper that, “Another difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time the legislature meets.“ May this proverb never be uttered again in our State!
Straight Talk from Steve…
Last week we celebrated the sesquicentennial of our great state. On Wednesday afternoon State Senators in Lincoln celebrated our heritage with a ceremony filled with singing, speeches and poetry. Ironically, after 150 years of being a state I believe there is one saying from Crazy Horse which now applies equally to all Nebraskans: “We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone.”
Last week two important resolutions advanced in the Legislature. LR1CA overcame a motion to indefinitely postpone it and had a public hearing this week. This bill was introduced by Sen. John Murante of Gretna, Nebraska. This constitutional amendment would require voters to show valid identification when voting at a polling place. Voter fraud has been documented in our state, and there are currently two cases pending in our courts. In 2014 Kenric Ward of watchdog.org reported almost 7 million people who were registered to vote in more than one state. Even if half of his numbers are wrong, we have a serious problem of voter fraud in America. Far be it that any case of voter fraud should ever cancel out the vote of a single American citizen! I will support LR1CA.
The second important resolution to advance in the Legislature last week was LR6 introduced by Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, Nebraska. LR6 advanced to General File. LR6 calls for an Article V Convention of the States. In the event that a Convention of the States were to convene the only subjects to be considered for Constitutional amendments would be: Limiting the size and scope of the federal government, fiscal restraints, and term limits. Because I have received more e-mails supporting this issue than any other issue, and because I believe an Article V Convention of the States would be good for America, I will vote in favor of LR6.
Finally, on Friday a public hearing was held on a bill which would directly affect all those living in the Panhandle. Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, Nebraska introduced LB 309, which would eliminate Daylight Savings Time. LB 309 would exempt Nebraska from participating in Daylight Savings Time. In effect, we would stay on winter time, and we would not spring forward one hour in the springtime. I would like to hear from my constituents regarding this bill. Please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.