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One bill that is advancing in the State Legislature this year that affects folks living in Western Nebraska is LB 1055. LB 1055 is a bill that pertains to voting by mail. Many people living in Western Nebraska have found it convenient to vote by mail, rather than in person. So far, Garden County and Morrill County are the only two counties in Nebraska that have used this method of voting. The State of Oregon uses it state-wide.
LB 1055 requires small counties which use the mail for collecting ballots in one or more precincts to also maintain at least one in-person polling location and a drop box at the office of the county clerk. The bill also allows these counties to make use of additional in-person polling locations and drop boxes as they have need.
Voting by mail makes sense for farmers and ranchers who live far away from their county seat or their regular polling place. Voting through the mail allows voters to take their time and to make careful decisions about who or what they are voting on.
LB 1055 is a good bill for folks living in Western Nebraska. Allowing counties to have in-person polling places and drop boxes adds an additional of layer of security and privacy to the voting system. More importantly, though, after Garden County and Morrill County implemented mail-in-ballots, both counties saw an increase in voter turnout.
Because voting by mail increases voter turnout, I believe it is a good idea for Nebraska, especially those living in rural counties with sparse populations. So, last week I voted in favor of advancing LB 1055 on to Select File.
Besides fighting for property tax relief in the Nebraska State Legislature, I believe it is important to give proper recognition to those living in Western Nebraska who have made a significant contribution to our history, culture and heritage. So, last week the Executive Board of the Nebraska State Legislature held a public hearing on a resolution I introduced to declare the Tin Roof Sundae as the official sundae of Nebraska. The Tin Roof Sundae is a Nebraska original creation, and so deserves to be recognized as our state’s official ice cream sundae.
Back in the early 1930’s Harold Dean Thayer, the son of a pharmacist, James Earl Thayer, began working as a soda jerk at the Potter Sundry in the village of Potter in Cheyenne County. Back in those days Harold was affectionately known as “Pinky” due to his bright red, wavy hair and vibrant personality.
Pinky Thayer enjoyed concocting spectacular ice cream sundaes and creating new recipes. According to his brother James, Pinky would create a new sundae every other day. Besides the Tin Roof Sundae, Pinky also created the Blitzer and the Zombie. But, at the young age of 14, Pinky created the first ever Tin Roof Sundae. This was the sundae that would stick. The Tin Roof Sundae won the hearts and the pallets of the sundry’s ice cream connoisseurs.
So, what is it like? The Tin Roof Sundae is an original ice cream sundae which was designed to be served in a soda glass. The recipe calls for heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a generous amount of chocolate syrup, then scoops of chocolate ice cream covered with marshmallow sauce, and topped with whole roasted, skin-on, Spanish peanuts.
So, how did it get its name? This has been a source of controversy. Most people believe that Pinky named the sundae after the tin roof of the Potter Sundry; however, his brother James once told a different story. According to Dr. James E. Thayer, Pinky’s younger brother, the Tin Roof Sundae was named after the tin roof of a livery stable located across the street from the Potter Sundry; however, James also confessed that Pinky liked to pull the leg of his little brother.
Pinky Thayer’s creation soon became a national sensation. As the saying goes, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Several ice cream brands have replicated the flavors of the Tin Roof Sundae. Among them are Baskin-Robbins, Blue Bell, Blue Bunny, Blue Ribbon, Breyers, Deans, Hiland-Roberts, Island Farms, Jerseymaid, Kemps, Lucerne, State Bros., Turkey Hill, and Umqua. Besides replicating the flavor in ice cream brands, the Tin Roof Sundae has also inspired the creation of new desserts, such as pies and bars.
The Tin Roof Sundae has received national recognition for being a distinctly Nebraska tradition. In December 1998 Gordon Tustin, writing for the Sidney Telegraph, suggested that the Potter Sundry along with the Tin Roof Sundae may have ascended to the ranks of being a Nebraska institution, but in 2018 it was the Food Network that formally recognized the Tin Roof Sundae as an iconic Nebraska dessert. Besides including the Tin Roof Sundae in their list of the best desserts in the country, the Food Network declared that the “…Potter Sundry is the actual drugstore-soda fountain where the tin roof sundae was created.”
The Potter Sundry continues to make the original Tin Roof Sundae. The sundry is located at 324 Chestnut Street in Potter, Nebraska. If you have never tried the original Tin Roof Sundae, then I must ask you the following question: “What are you waiting for?” As the Nebraska Legislature moves to declare the Tin Roof Sundae as Nebraska’s official sundae with LR 282, now is great time to make your way to the village of Potter to try Nebraska’s soon-to-be official State sundae.
Last Thursday the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature held a hearing on one of the most important bills introduced this year. Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln authored LB814, a bill to prohibit dismemberment abortions on live, unborn children.
In a procedure known within the abortion industry as intact dilation and extraction, the body of an unborn baby is dismembered during the phase of its extraction from the mother’s uterus. The procedure is performed during the second or third trimesters of pregnancy. In 2003 the procedure was outlawed by the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban on infants with a heartbeat, and the ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case known as Gonzales v. Carhart.
Despite the high court’s ruling, though, intact dilation and extraction abortions can still be performed whenever a medical emergency exists. In such a case, the baby may or may not be alive during the procedure. So, the procedure has not been completely banned on live babies. Most disturbing is when the procedure is performed on a live baby exhibiting brain waves or a heartbeat. For this reason, LB814 is a very relevant bill for protecting the unborn in Nebraska.
Intact dilation and extraction is a very brutal and barbaric procedure. Before the baby can be extracted it must first be killed. In order to kill the baby, the physician injects potassium chloride into the baby to stop the heart from beating. The procedure for killing the baby is similar to the way we administer the death penalty in our prison system. The mere fact that the baby must first be killed shows that it is a living and viable human being.
The baby is extracted from the uterus in the breech position. If the baby is not in the breech position, it is turned with forceps. The body of the baby is then cut into smaller pieces for extraction. The largest part of the body is the skull. The skull may be crushed using forceps in order to extract it through the cervical canal.
After the extraction, the baby’s body is reconstructed on a table. The purpose of the reconstruction is to make sure that all of the body parts are accounted for. The procedure is not considered complete until all of the baby’s body parts are accounted for.
Dismemberment abortions are so brutal and barbaric that no one would ever think of allowing a veterinarian to perform this kind of procure on their own pet. In fact, a veterinarian who performed a dismemberment abortion on a dog or a cat, could be sued for thousands of dollars. Herein lies the inversion of our values as a society. For dismemberment abortion to continue in our state would imply that we, as a society, value the lives of puppies and kittens more than human babies.
When LB814 makes its way up to the floor on General File, I will support the bill. I am pro-life. The thought of a live baby enduring a dismemberment abortion is both repulsive and repugnant. Far be it that such a procedure should ever be performed in Nebraska!
Last week the Legislature held a public hearing on LR 300 CA. This is the constitutional amendment I introduced that would eliminate property taxes, income taxes, and inheritance taxes completely. The revenue currently collected by these taxes would be replaced by a single-rate consumption tax placed on all services and new goods.
So, what’s the difference between a sales tax and a consumption tax? A sales tax is collected on retail goods at the point of sale. A sales tax is collected every time something sells. A consumption tax, on the other hand, is collected one time on the sale of services and new goods. The consumption tax would be collected on all services and new goods, without any exemptions, including food.
To make sure that lower income people would be held harmless, the consumption tax would come with a pre-bate to offset the consumption taxes paid on basic necessities, such as food. Think of the pre-bate as extra money in your pocket each month. Each month the Nebraska Department of Revenue would deposit a pre-bate into the bank accounts of every Nebraskan. The pre-bate would cover every Nebraskan’s consumption taxes up to the poverty level for each kind of status: Single, married, or family. So, after the pre-bate a family of four that spent $64,000 per year would have an annual consumption tax rate of only 5.32 percent.
There was great support for the resolution in the hearing. There were folks who drove as far as 300 miles away to testify for five minutes. There were more than 20 testifiers in favor of the resolution and 50 letters written to the committee in support. It was a very diverse group of supporters ranging from agricultural people, residential folks, and business owners. They were from rural Nebraska and urban Nebraska. The heavy tax burden placed on Nebraskans is not an urban vs. rural divide; instead, it is an equal opportunity offender.
One glaring observation from the public hearing was the obvious lack of support for the resolution by agricultural organizations, except the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON). ICON has been very supportive of property tax relief, but I cannot say this about the other agricultural organizations. One has to wonder if these agricultural organizations really want property tax relief or if they just like talking about it.
If you are a member of one of these agricultural organizations you may want to question their leadership and ask them why they are not supporting the greatest opportunity ever introduced in our state to relieve and solve our burdensome property tax, income tax, and inheritance tax problems.
I went to the Legislature with the idea of offering solutions to problems. And I believe that is exactly what I have done for the past three years. The folks in my district have shared with me that the tax burden is more than they can bear. So in 2017 we started a ballot initiative for Constitutional Amendment for a 30 percent reduction in your property taxes.
The folks that were spearheading that petition drive withdrew that effort in May 2018 against my will. So, in 2019 I introduced another Legislative resolution to refund or credit property taxpayers 35 percent of their property taxes paid. The accompanying petition drive to put that Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot is still alive and well.
One question that often comes up when visiting with folks about the 35 Percent Solution is: How are you going to pay for it? LR 300 CA answers the question, “how are you going to pay it?” The petition drive is the hammer that is forcing the current discussion on property tax relief. So, we will need to continue signing and collecting signatures in order to force the legislature to make a decision. The Legislature is more scared of the schools and the Chamber of Commerce and those who collect and spend the taxes than the voters who pay the taxes.
I have some very good news to report today concerning the Gering-Fort Laramie Canal. The federal government has appropriated $2.3 million for repairs to the tunnel. This is good news for the many farmers and ranchers who depend upon the water supplied by the canal. We remain hopeful that the federal government will continue funding the reconstruction project until all of the work is done.
I am sad to report that red flag laws have come back again. LB 58 is a carry-over bill from last year which was advanced out of the Judiciary Committee last week. This bill, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, would result in what is commonly called a red flag law. LB 58 asks the Legislature to adopt The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act.
The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act undermines our basic, God-given, human right to own firearms. The 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution specifically states that “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” But, infringing upon this basic right of the people is exactly what LB 58 does.
LB 58 would allow the courts to order police to confiscate the firearms of a citizen of the United States whenever it is believed by family members of the person in question that he or she poses a danger to himself or herself or to others.
There are several problems with this kind of legislation and today I would like to point out three valid objections to the philosophy behind this bill. First, LB 58 violates the intent of the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution. When our Founding Fathers wrote that amendment, they intended it to be a universal right, meaning that it should apply to all persons.
Second, can family members really be trusted to judge the mental stability of gun owners? LB 58 reduces the God-given right to keep and bear arms down to the subjective whims of family members. Who among us trusts every relative or family member to decide whether or not they are mentally stable enough to own a firearm? Because family arguments happen, family members would use LB 58 as a means to retaliate against family members with whom they disagree.
Third, these kinds of gun control laws simply do not work. No amount of legislation has ever kept a gun out of the hands of a criminal, especially a murderer. Gun control laws, including LB 58, merely keep firearms out of the hands of law abiding citizens, not criminals. Moreover, as Jack Wilson so aptly demonstrated last December at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, it is much safer to have armed citizens in the room than none at all. Wilson took out that shooter in only six seconds.
Former President, Calvin Coolidge, once remarked to his father that, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” And, that is exactly what we are going to do to this very bad bill.
I would like to report on the status of my bill, LB 1067. This bill allows all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) to cross controlled access highways with more than two marked traffic lanes for agricultural purposes. The public hearing on this bill was held on February 4, and it went very well.
The Transportation Committee has voted to advance this bill by rolling it into their committee’s priority bill. This is good news because it greatly increases the chances of LB 1067 becoming law this year. When I went to Lincoln to serve the people as a State Senator, I went to offer solutions to real life problems, and I believe LB 1067 serves as a good example of that.
Finally, I will be holding a Town Hall meeting in Bridgeport, NE on February 15 at 2:00 p.m. at the Community Center to discuss LR 300 CA, my constitutional amendment to change the State over to the consumption tax, along with other bills. Special thanks go out to the Morrill County Farm Bureau for sponsoring this event.
We have now completed 16 days of the 60 day legislative session. What that means is that we have completed the first quarter of the session.
A lot of interest has been generated around LR 300 CA, my Constitutional Amendment to eliminate property taxes, State Income taxes, and inheritance taxes in their entirety. So the question that I would like to ask you is this: Would you like to live in a state that imposes no property, income, or inheritance taxes? If your answer to that question is Yes, and I can’t believe someone would answer No, then let’s begin working together to make the consumption tax a reality in our State.
I am encouraging my colleagues in the State Legislature to help me advance this resolution, and I am already getting some bi-partisan support. What an amazing opportunity we have to solve our tax dilemma once and for all!
Last week a hearing was held on LB 830, a bill I introduced to allow cities, towns and villages to be able to set their own speed limit on state highways when hazardous conditions exist. This idea was brought to me by the good folks living in Garden County in the City of Oshkosh. That community has been trying for several years to lower the speed limit on state highway 26, which runs through Oshkosh.
If passed into law, this bill would benefit all cities, towns and villages with a population of 500 people or more. The bill would allow the city council or the village board to determine when hazardous conditions exist and to set an appropriate speed limit.
This bill would not be necessary if the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) took into consideration the opinion of the local residents. Instead, they value more the opinion of city engineers from Lincoln and Omaha. It was amazing to me to see four registered engineers from Lincoln and Omaha testify against this bill when their cities already possess the legal authority to do what this bill says. At the public hearing NDOT testified that the current 45 mile per hour speed limit in Oshkosh is somehow safer than a lower speed limit of 40 mph.
A resolution approved by the city council of Oshkosh and accompanied by a petition with over 100 local signatures asking NDOT to lower the speed limit was not enough to convince these engineers that hazardous conditions exist on that roadway. When the City Council presented their case to NDOT, they got little or no response.
When I questioned the engineers at the hearing about their traffic study and asked if they took into consideration the concerns of the local residents, their answers were not very convincing. Instead, they insisted that their engineering studies were reliable and that the speed limit should remain at 45 mph in Oshkosh.
I finished my remarks at the hearing with the following comment: I now realize that the Department of Transportation is the State of Nebraska and that all of us who live here and pay the taxes are just aliens.
I am very concerned that someone may get seriously injured or killed on this roadway because of the lack of responsiveness by NDOT to the numerous safety issues that exist in Oshkosh. I want to thank the citizens of Oshkosh for their hard work on this issue and I want them to know that I have not given up on trying to bring a common sense solution to their safety problem.
Last week I introduced what may prove to be the most important piece of legislation of my tenure as a Nebraska State Senator. Last Thursday I introduced LR 300CA, a Constitutional Amendment for a single-rate consumption tax. LR 300CA will fundamentally change the way we collect taxes in Nebraska, so, today I would like to tell you how this resolution will benefit our state.
First, this Constitutional Amendment would eliminate all other State taxes. Say Good-bye to property taxes, State income taxes, and State sales taxes. The only tax the State would be able to collect would be the single-rate consumption tax. Consequently, taxpayers will finally know how much they pay in taxes, because all of the other hidden taxes would finally go away.
Second, the consumption tax would never tax low income residents. Currently, those living below the federal poverty line pay sales taxes, but under my plan the State would pay it for them. The consumption tax comes with a monthly pre-bate which would protect low income folks from paying the State consumption tax. Each month the State would issue a pre-bate to every man, woman and child living in Nebraska equivalent to the amount of consumption taxes paid up to the federal poverty line.
Here’s how it works. The federal poverty rate for a single adult in 2020 is $12,490. So, a single adult making $12,490 per year would receive a monthly pre-bate in the amount of $110 to cover his or her monthly consumption tax burden. Similarly, a couple, regardless of their annual income, would receive a monthly pre-bate in the amount of $214.50. Moreover, a family of four spending $64,000 per year would have a consumption tax rate of only 5.30 percent after the prebate. So, the State would only keep the amount of consumption taxes paid by consumers above the federal poverty line.
Third, the consumption tax would only tax new goods and services, such as drycleaners, dog groomers, and garbage collectors. However, the situation would be much different for purchasing material or tangible goods.
When it comes to the sale of material or tangible goods, the consumption tax would only apply to the purchase of new goods. Used items would never be taxed. Consequently, consumers would never pay the consumption tax at garage sales and thrift stores, and this would provide even further benefits to low income individuals and families.
Fourth, the consumption tax would result in significant savings to the State. Several State agencies would be eliminated, such as the Property Assessment Division, the Tax Equalization & Review Commission, and the income tax arm of the Department of Revenue. Moreover, there would be no more need for the State’s several business tax incentive programs, such as the Nebraska Advantage Act, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act and Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Last year, for instance, these tax incentive programs cost the State $200 million in lost revenues.
By eliminating all of these taxes, Nebraska would become the most tax friendly state for both individuals and businesses. Nebraska would become the most sought after state to live in. Retired folks will want to live here and young people will want to stay here. Moreover, the single-rate consumption tax constitutes the ultimate incentive plan for enticing businesses to move to Nebraska. So many people and businesses will want to move to Nebraska that we will have to build a wall around our state and have Colorado pay for it!
A very important bill was introduced this week which deals with property tax relief. LB 974 was introduced by Senator Linnehan, who is chair of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee. Sen. Linnehan worked on this bill all year long in conjunction with the Governor.
LB 974 is a very complicated bill that is hard to explain in a brief article such as this. So, I will attempt to give you the Cliff Notes version of what this bill would do, or should I say, not do, for you, the taxpayer.
The bill is intended to reduce property taxes by 140 million dollars this year and then the following year it would reduce property taxes again by another 140 million dollars. Hopefully, after three years property tax relief would exceed 500 million dollars.
LB 974 is intended to take projected increases in revenue that the state receives every year and apply those revenues to property tax relief. However, bear in mind that last year property taxes across our State increased by an extra 200 million dollars. So if we give you back 140 million dollars but property taxes increase by 200 million dollars, how is that property tax relief?
That is a very peculiar way of giving property tax relief! So, if your property taxes increase by a certain amount, but we give a fraction of that amount back to you, how is that property tax relief?
The only way to reduce taxes overall is to cut spending. We have a Legislature which does not do a very good job of cutting spending. Let me say it another way: We don’t do it at all!
I appreciate the fact that the Revenue Committee worked hard all summer and fall to put together something that they think would help solve the property tax dilemma. But, as you can see by my comments, giving back a fraction of the tax dollars that the State has already taken from you in the form of a rebate is a very peculiar way of doing property tax relief.
LB 974 gets even worse. It appears that if the revenues did not increase for any given year, property owners would not get any property tax relief at all for that year.
So what is the solution? The solution as I see it is that we need to begin to do things differently than how we’ve done them in the past. We continue to think inside the box. We continue to think that we have to make all of our reductions fit in the inside of what we currently do. And when you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results; well, that is the very definition of insanity.
The first week of the 2020 Legislative Session is already in the books. Senators have only the first ten days of the session to introduce new bills. Some very important bills have already been introduced by others Senators. So, today I would like to tell you about a carry-over bill from last year that I will continue to support, two bills from the first week that I have already co-signed, and three bills I plan to oppose.
On Monday January 13 the Legislature will debate LB 153 on the floor of the Legislature. LB 153 is a carry-over bill from last year that would exempt fifty percent of retired military pay from the Nebraska State Income Tax. Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon introduced this bill on behalf of Governor Ricketts, and the bill already has bi-partisan support. I will support this bill because I believe we need to take care of our retired military personnel.
The most important new bill introduced by another Senator last week was LB 814 by Suzanne Geist of Lincoln. This bill prohibits the dismemberment of a baby during an abortion by using clamps, forceps, tongs, scissors or other similar instruments. It does not, however, prohibit the use of suction to dismember a fetus. Because I am a pro-life Senator, I co-signed this bill and stood with Sen. Geist at her press conference last Wednesday when she introduced this bill. Gov. Ricketts has also issued a proclamation to declare January 22 as a day to pray to end abortion in our state.
Another bill that I have already co-signed is LB 770 by Sen. Tim Gragert of Creighton. This bill provides free access to our state parks by our disabled veterans. Those veterans who have been honorably or generally discharged and who have suffered a fifty percent or more disability during their time of service would qualify for this special permit. This is something we can do to honor and support our disabled veterans.
Now, the first bill I will oppose is LB 754 by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue. This bill allows individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate. I am against these kinds of bills which advance the sexual orientation and gender identity movement. Already, we have seen how sexual orientation and gender identity is destroying women’s sports by allowing boys to compete as girls. Legislators in three states, Georgia, Tennessee, and Washington, are introducing bills this year to use the sex on a person’s birth certificate to determine their participation in high school sports. Blood’s bill would effectively eliminate this kind of practice from ever being used by high schools in Nebraska.
The second bill that I will oppose from the first week of the Legislative session is LB 873 by Sen. Hunt of Omaha. This bill is somewhat similar to LB 812; however, this bill allows individuals to choose a new category called “Non” as their sexual identification on their birth certificate, driver’s license, or state identification card. By loading up the docket with these kinds of extremist pieces of legislation, these social activist Senators hope they will be able to sneak one through the Legislature someday.
The third bill that I will oppose is LB 816 by Sen. McCollister of Omaha. This bill adds semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to the list of those firearms heavily regulated by the state. The bill would limit the transfer of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns for a valid public purpose only. If this bill were ever to become law in Nebraska, you would be able kiss all recreational shooting, hunting, and competitive shooting with these kinds of weapons good-bye.
More bills will be introduced next week, including some that I will introduce. However, I hope this short summary gives you some perspective on what kind of Legislative session this year is turning out to be.
Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Steve Erdman