NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. John Stinner

Sen. John Stinner

District 48

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at jstinner@leg.ne.gov

School is back. The hustle & bustle of getting kids in and out of the door, the nonstop errands, the football games and homework assignments; all of these activities mark the beginning of a brand new school year. While my kids are no longer living at home, the end of summer marks the beginning of a new season for me as well. I have been busy examining the effects of the state’s new assessment exams, continuing education and improvements on economic development in Nebraska, and involvement with national efforts where Nebraska plays a part.

As many of you continue to adjust to the new school year, you may notice a change in the way that high school juniors are receiving assessment exams. Because of adjustments to the state’s testing procedure implemented by LB930 (2016) this year, juniors in high school will only be required to take the ACT or similar college prep test, such as the SAT. This will move many school districts away from the Nebraska State Accountability test, or NeSA, toward college entrance exams.

The Governor and I recently hosted a town hall at WNCC’s Harms Technology Center in Scottsbluff, discussing property taxes and hearing from constituents. Additionally, both the Governor and I have been part of a larger effort to realize Nebraska’s economic strengths and overcome its challenges since we took office last year. This year, I joined the Legislature’s Venture Development & Innovation Task Force, created by LB1083 (2016). Part of our work includes developing policy recommendations to spur economic development in Nebraska and hearing from the community on how Nebraska can improve.

There are some very strong segments in Nebraska that will be part of this growth. Take for instance Blue Prairie Brands, which has operations in Gering. Blue Prairie Brands has become a burgeoning part of the chicory industry by patenting and producing these plants, which are used in a number of food, coffee, and medicine products. I expect that in the future the biosciences & agriculture industries will experience some growth in the Panhandle, as other companies like Blue Prairie Brands find the Panhandle’s climate perfect for chicory and other operations.

Nebraska has a unique number of sectors where it is strong: agriculture, food processing, biosciences, trucking & logistics, and a flourishing “silicon prairie” or tech sector. In order to develop these industry sectors, it is essential that the Nebraska Legislature examine the effectiveness of its economic development initiatives. As a sitting member of the Appropriations Committee, I was part of a joint committee hearing between the Revenue and Appropriations Committees to examine the effectiveness of the Department of Economic Development’s tax credits and incentives. One such example of these economic development incentives is the Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit, which provides a refundable tax credit to small businesses for increased investment in their communities.

But there are certainly challenges that face Nebraska, as many of you have experienced already. Commodity prices have fluctuated, putting strain on our agricultural producers and the general economy forces rural Nebraskans to make tough decisions. The old adage goes something like this: “necessity is the mother of invention.” Because of the economic situation we find ourselves in, we must look at ways that Nebraska can adapt to these conditions. That was the theme of the Federal Reserve’s most recent visit to Gering. According to the Fed, we are seeing a “divergence” in our economy which is upending traditional models such as manufacturing and replacing it with other sectors like information technology. That is why it is important for the State to encourage development in our strong suits.

As the summer is nearing an end, I reflect on the numerous conferences I have attended and see all the great things that other states are doing- and what Nebraska can do to improve. One of the critical topics that has come up during my conference trips is the priority the Heartland Expressway has taken in national transportation and infrastructure. This Federally designated corridor runs from Rapid City in South Dakota, down through the Nebraska Panhandle running through Scottsbluff and to Brush, Colorado, with offshoots running to Torrington in Wyoming and lastly to Denver. It is encouraging for me to see all of the organizations that have become involved in this project, ranging from city and county governments, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, nonprofits, and other individuals.

Although there are many challenges to overcome, there are also many exciting changes coming to Nebraska. I am confident in the resilience of my constituents, which I have seen firsthand every day in my experience as a community banker. Nebraska is uniquely positioned with its high-quality workforce, great education system, a good business environment, and a great quality of life. With some improvements, Nebraska is poised to grow exponentially.

Celebrating Oregon Trail Days this year had me thinking: Scotts Bluff County is a great place to live. Every interaction I have with people in the district reminds me of the great, hard-working people that live here and was a huge motivator for me to serve as their representative in the Capitol.

Since the Legislature convened in April, I have been hard at work familiarizing myself with the many issues that will come up in next year’s legislative session. Some of the areas I have been focusing on lately include issues with the Department of Health & Human Services and the improvements that have been made. Some of these improvements include a marked decrease in call center hold times and the fulfillment of all 6 Federal standards for child and family services. The Federal standards determine whether or not Nebraska DHHS receives Federal funding.

Governor Ricketts acknowledged these improvements in a recent trip to Gering with DHHS’ CEO Courtney Phillips. During a press conference, they both laid out DHHS’ new business plan, which outlines a series of 25 different areas identified for improvement. I am pleased to see that CEO Phillips has led the Department to some much needed improvements. In my role as a State Senator, member of the Special Investigative Committee on ACCESSNebraska, and member of the Appropriations Committee, my focus is very often on streamlining DHHS’ processes to make it a more efficient use of Nebraska taxpayers’ money.

I have also done some work with the Legislature’s Planning Committee, which is tasked with studying the emerging trends across the nation that will affect Nebraska. Among them is the growth of the entrepreneurial class. Small business plays an especially important role in rural Nebraska in driving economic growth. Being an entrepreneur myself, I see the importance of nurturing these activities for our state.

Some of the recommendations from the Planning Committee’s report last year included partnerships between small business leaders and local school districts in providing mentorships and teaching opportunities, encouraging development of real estate and other capital investments, and the general encouragement of small business ownership.

Although lessening the tax burden is one way to encourage small business ownership, this is only one piece of the puzzle. There are a number of other measures that can be taken to encourage economic growth. In its June 2016 release of “Removing Barriers in Nebraska,” the Platte Institute studied four key areas of Nebraska’s economic climate: growth of gross domestic product, per capita personal income growth, employment growth, and population growth.

Two of those indicators for Nebraska received high marks. GDP growth and personal income growth in Nebraska were ranked 6th and 10th in the nation, respectively. For the other two indicators, employment and population growth, Nebraska received somewhat lower rankings of 25th and 27th, respectively. While resilient Nebraskans “weather the storm” quite well in tough times, there is a lot more our state can do to encourage economic growth. Addressing the property tax burden, taxes on small and growing businesses, and the regulatory framework in Nebraska are all ways this can be achieved.

Another one of my primary focuses has been on studying Nebraska’s tax profile to determine where adjustments can be made, so we may provide lasting tax relief to Nebraska families. As I study Nebraska’s tax policy, I am reminded of the importance not just in cutting taxes but making sure they are put to good use. This is something that I have tried to live by as a State Senator.

One of the most recent debates on the efficient use of taxpayer dollars was the passage of LB960 this year, the Transportation Innovation Act. The Act ensures that tax dollars used for infrastructure upgrades are invested wisely in our transportation infrastructure and expressways. The initial funds are seeded in part from Nebraska’s Cash Reserve Fund, or “rainy day fund” and partly from gas tax proceeds. These proceeds are then used to provide a number of capital investment packages to various counties across Nebraska. These capital investment activities are essential to the long-term growth of District 48 and Nebraska as a whole.

One of the federally designated high-priority corridors that will be positively impacted by the Transportation Innovation Act is the Heartland Expressway. This expressway connects Nebraska to other transportation networks, such as the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway in Montana, North & South Dakota and the Ports to Plains Corridor running from Denver, Colorado down to Monterrey in Mexico. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Heartland Expressway Association’s annual meeting, which outlined the work that has been done in connecting the Heartland Expressway to these surrounding networks. All of these efforts are a vital part of economic development for rural Nebraska, connecting our entrepreneurs and small business owners to interstate and international commerce.

As always, I remain open to your feedback on how I may address the issues that mean most to you. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions you may have over the interim. Thank you to those who have taken the time to express their views on various issues. My contact information is located on the right hand side of this webpage.

The past few months have proven to be quite busy already. With legislative tasks forces, interim studies, and legislative resolutions kicking into full gear, there are lots of things to be done in preparation for next year’s session.

Before I talk about the work I have been doing since the Legislature convened earlier this year, I’d like to acknowledge a very special occasion taking place in 2017: Nebraska’s 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial. Over 150 years ago, Nebraska was established as a territory after passage of the Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854. 13 years later, in 1867, it was admitted into the Union. This marked the beginning of a rich tradition of hard work and thriftiness. In preparation for the sesquicentennial, the Capitol Commission is expected to finish construction of the courtyard fountains later this year as part of the original blueprint designs.

The Governor encourages communities to host their own celebrations of Nebraska’s sesquicentennial next year. To help with costs of putting on these events, interested parties may apply for grants through the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission. The application process shall be open beginning on June 15th. More information on the grant program may be found on the Commission’s website. (Click here to follow link.)

As with the sesquicentennial celebrations, a lot of preparations are required to get ready for next year’s legislative session. I have been hard at work already, making frequent trips to the Capitol as part of my responsibilities with numerous special committee assignments, in addition to my responsibilities with the Appropriations Committee. These assignments include the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee, Election Technology Committee, and the Venture Development and Innovation Task Force.

As part of my responsibilities on the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee, we recently met with various stakeholders regarding improvements to ACCESSNebraska, a department underneath the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services. The CEO of Nebraska’s DHHS, Courtney Phillips, discussed the current state of ACCESSNebraska, improvements in its services to Nebraskans, and future goals moving forward. I am proud of the work that CEO Phillips has done in cutting costs for taxpayers, increasing efficiencies, and improving services for Nebraskans. For more information on these improvements, you may read about it in the Lincoln Journal Star. (Click here to follow link.)

One of my other special committee assignments is the Election Technology Committee, tasked with developing a plan to modernize the technology used in Nebraska’s federal, state, and local elections. Much of this discussion centers around the uses Election Commissioners and County Clerks apply in the ballot counting process. Modernizing election technology is a great way for Nebraska to save state taxpayer dollars and eliminate voter fraud.

I am most excited to be a part of the Venture Development and Innovation Task Force, which was created this year after the passage of LB1083: the Next Generation Business Growth Act. As part of this task force, I am part of an ongoing effort to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in Nebraska by developing a statewide strategic plan. Part of this effort includes developing an inventory of capital investiture programs available to small and growing businesses, the economic impact these businesses bring to Nebraska, comparing Nebraska to our neighboring states, and the policy options available to the Legislature.

As I travel back and forth between home and the Capitol, I am reminded of the rising water tables in Western Nebraska after a long spring of storms and melting snowcaps. I even had the pleasure of touring the Pathfinder Reservoir in Wyoming with the Board of Directors from both the Pathfinder Irrigation District and Farmers Irrigation District of Nebraska. As some of you may know, the Pathfinder Reservoir spilled over for the fourth time in 30 years. This is an extremely rare occurrence, caused by a large increase in snowmelt coming down from the mountains and is still expected to continue for a time.

As always, I remain open to your feedback on how I may address the issues that mean most to you. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions you may have over the interim. Thank you to those who have taken the time to express their views on various issues. My contact information is located on the right hand side of this webpage.

Nebraska college students interested in becoming a page for the Nebraska Legislature for the 2017 Legislative session are encouraged to apply. Details from the Clerk of the Legislature’s office are below.

Description: Legislative pages are selected in the fall each year to work for the upcoming legislative session, beginning the following January. Pages respond to Senator’s request lights on the legislative floor. They run errands, deliver messages, photocopy materials, get food and drink for the Senators, assist the presiding officer, set up and staff committee hearings and perform other duties as assigned.

Requirements: Pages must be high school graduates who are currently enrolled in a Nebraska college or trade school with a minimum grade point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. They must be able to work 20 hours a week during session. It is preferred that they work the same four-hour shift each day. The legislative session will begin January 4, 2017, and go through May 2017. This is a paid position and you may also be able to receive credit hours through your college. First year pages will earn approximately $10.37 per hour, and second year pages approximately $10.78 per hour.

Parking: Parking is limited. There are no reserved parking facilities available. Most street parking around the Capitol is two-hour parking. The city will ticket if you park longer. We suggest that you may want to park on the side streets or carpool with other pages.

To Apply: Applications are available through the Clerk of the Legislature’s office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street, or through your state Senator’s office. A page applicant is also encouraged to contact his or her home district state senator for a letter of recommendation. If you do not know who your senator is, please contact the Clerk of the Legislature’s office for assistance. When you have completed the application, please return it to the Clerk of the Legislature’s office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street, Lincoln NE 68509.

Deadline: The page application deadline for the 2017 legislative session will be Monday, October 3, 2016. The page selection committee will meet October 13, 2016, to interview and select individuals to fill those positions to start January 4, 2017.

Contact: For further information, please contact the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at 402-471-2271, or Kitty Kearns at 402-471-0617, email: kkearns@leg.ne.gov.

Sen. John Stinner

District 48
Room #1004
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2802
Email: jstinner@leg.ne.gov
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