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

Mid-Session Updates

March 14th, 2017

The Legislature has now passed a package of bills which have been signed into law by the Governor. This would include LB45: Military Honor License Plates, LB 56: state auditor experience requirements, LB74: population thresholds for annexation and suburban development, LB80: classification of law clerks under county attorneys or public defenders, LB131: requirements for urban growth districts, LB132: updates to provisions relating to improvement districts and extraterritorial zoning jurisdictions, and LB134: updates to regulation of Nebraska’s egg industry. In addition, a number of “revisor” bills which clean up expired statutes were also signed by the Governor.

This list adds to the deficit bill for the fiscal year ending in June, LB22, which was signed into law in February. It also adds to LB119, which delays the certification date for state aid to schools to assist with the budget shortfall.

Since late February, the Appropriations Committee has been conducting public hearings on state agencies’ budget requests, as well as bills brought to the Committee.  Public hearings for the Committee are nearing completion, which should be finished by March 17th.

The Committee then moves to the next stage in the process in late March when it reviews all agency budget requests and begins drafting the budget bills to be advanced to the floor. During this time, adjustments to the Governor’s recommended levels of funding for state agencies will be made and by April 24th it moves to the legislative floor for debate by the body as a whole.

The budget will appear on the floor as a package of bills. These can include the mainline budget, constitutional officers’ salary (i.e. other elected officials and judges), legislators’ salary, cash fund transfers, capital construction projects, and deficit bills for the next biennium. The next biennium will be for the fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The bills which I introduced continue to advance through the process. LB99 has now moved to the second round of debate- Select File. It is a bill that would require business entities to give notice to their lenders when they convert their form of incorporation. LB100 and 101 still sit on the first stage of the process- General File, where most deliberation occurs. LB100 would streamline the standards of proof used by mental health boards when determining the ability of petitioners to buy or possess firearms and LB101 makes the bidding process for the State’s main administrative arm, the Department of Administrative Services, more competitive by putting limitations on contract renewals and extensions.

A few of my other bills have been advanced from their respective committees to General File, including LB151, 222, and 496. LB151 would add oversight measures to state agencies during the auditing process by empowering the State Auditor to conduct post-audit reviews. An amendment was added to the bill by the Government, Veterans and Affairs Committee which would amend numerous other bills into it relating to the State Auditor.

LB222 would implement oversight measures into Nebraska’s Tourism Commission following its recent mismanagement issues last year. LB222 would restructure the Commission’s board, require the adoption of formal rules, regulations, and would clarify its innovative grant program. Senator Clements has officially “prioritized” my bill, which moves it up in the Speaker’s agenda.

LB496 would address workforce shortages in rural Nebraska by incentivizing housing developments to attract workers to those areas. This would apply to all cities in Nebraska with the exception of Lincoln, Omaha, and municipalities with a population smaller than 800 people. Senator Williams has prioritized this bill.

There are still a number of my bills being held in committee which include LB221, 540, and 611. Additionally there are a couple of “shell” bills being held. Shell bills are placeholders which can be used to make adjustments to the budget later on this session. LB221 is a budget bill which would make adjustments to the Water Sustainability Fund for FY2017-18 and 2018-19. LB540 would address Nebraska’s budget deficit by temporarily reducing the “needs based” component of the TEEOSA formula. Lastly LB611 would require state agencies to provide additional information on the Federal funds they receive during the budgeting process. This has been prioritized by my committee.

There are still many challenges that lie ahead before the end of session. The state faces a growing budget shortfall of over $1 billion through the end of fiscal year 2020-21. The Legislature reduced this number by $134 million through the 2016-17 deficit bill, but those cuts were offset by another $153 million reduction in the State’s tax revenues reported at the end of February. Our fiscal situation will force the Appropriations Committee and the Legislature to make a lot of tough decisions to balance its budget. I have prioritized LB233, a bill by Senator Smith that was requested by the Department of Revenue.

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. 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 last few weeks have been very productive for me and the Appropriations Committee. Since day one, my priority has been the completion of Nebraska’s budget for the remainder of this year and into the next biennium. The current $900 million budget deficit has highlighted the importance of getting this accomplished.

After being elected as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, my first objective was passing LB22, the Governor’s deficit bill (which I call budget A). That objective was accomplished this week when the Governor signed it into law.

The Governor’s deficit recommendation was adjusted by the Committee through AM13. Some of these changes to the Governor’s recommendation included a $4 million adjustment to the Supreme Court for continuation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, $3.5 million to developmental disability providers to cover a shortfall in Federal funding, and $5.3 million in reappropriations to the University of Nebraska for completed projects. The ultimate version of the deficit bill passed on a 42-3 vote on Final Reading.

As the Committee moves forward, we will have to develop a budget for the next biennium. Despite starting a week and a half behind schedule on the biennium budget, we have now finished work on the preliminary step. Next week we will start public hearings on each agency’s budget. This will be a great opportunity to have your voice heard in the budgeting process. Please do not hesitate to contact my office on how this can be done. My contact information is on the right side of this page.

In addition to my work on the biennium budget I have introduced a number of bills, three of which have been advanced from committee and now sit on General File, where they await the first round of debate.

LB99, 100, and 101 have “made it to the floor” where they await action by the Legislature as a whole. LB99 is a bill that would require business entities to give notice to their lenders when they convert their form of incorporation. LB100 is a bill which would streamline the standards of proof used by mental health boards when determining the ability of petitioners to buy or possess firearms. LB101 is a bill which would foster a competitive bidding process for the State’s main administrative arm, the Department of Administrative Services. This would be accomplished by putting limitations on contract renewals and extensions.

I introduced a number of other bills this session which have been referenced to my committee. Three of these bills are budget “shell bills.” Shell bills are placeholders which can be used to make adjustments to the budget later on this session. Since there are still unknowns such as future tax revenues in the following months, the Legislature may have to make some adjustments as we move forward.

In addition to the three shell bills, I have also introduced LB611, which is intended to facilitate transparency in the budgeting process. Under LB611 state agencies would be required to provide additional information during their budget requests. This would include information on the Federal funds they receive, the “strings” that are attached to those funds, and an operating plan in the event that fluctuations in Federal funds trigger liabilities to the State.

I have a number of other bills which are awaiting advancement from their respective committees. LB151 is a bill that would add oversight measures to state agencies during the auditing process. Under the bill, the State Auditor would be empowered to conduct a post-audit review to evaluate which corrective actions have been taken by governmental agencies.

LB222 was a major priority I brought this year which would implement oversight measures into Nebraska’s Tourism Commission. Last year, the Commission faced a public controversy in which its Director was fired after a scathing audit revealed lack of oversight and misuse of state funds. The bill I have brought would restructure the Commission’s board, require the adoption of formal rules, regulations, and would clarify its innovative grant program.

I still have two bills which have been introduced but yet to be heard in committee. LB496 is a bill which has been referenced to the Urban Affairs Committee. Under this bill, cities would be able to address workforce shortages in some areas by incentivizing housing developments to attract workers to those areas.

LB540 is a bill which would address Nebraska’s budget deficit by temporarily reducing the “needs based” component of the TEEOSA formula. The TEEOSA formula is the calculation that is used in determining how much funding goes to the various K-12 school districts across the state. This approach is one of the fairest ways to address Nebraska’s budget shortfall.

Lastly, I introduced LR32 last week recognizing the Dry Bean Commission’s 30th anniversary on February 7th. The Dry Bean Commission was created to facilitate and promote the industry in the state. Nebraska is the third largest producer of dry edible beans in the country, the largest domestic producer of great northern beans, and the second largest producer of pinto beans and light red kidney beans. This industry is vital to the district, and vital to the state.

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. 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.

It’s been a long few weeks of debate. The Legislature’s focus has remained with the rules governing it and the State’s budget deficit. After a long debate over the last couple weeks on LB22, also known as the deficit bill, and the Appropriation Committee’s adjustments to that bill under AM13, the Legislature has advanced the bill to Final Reading, which is the last round of debate before advancing to the Governor for passage into law.

LB22 is part of the Governor’s recommendations to close the State’s nearly $900 million budget deficit, which was brought to the Appropriations Committee of which I was elected Chair earlier this year. There was a lot of debate and passion contributing to the discussion, with many Senators analyzing line item by line item to raise their concerns over the Governor’s recommendations. The Governor’s recommendations included a net decrease of $151 million in deficit appropriations, or cuts. The Committee adjusted this number to a net decrease of $137 million in cuts, which the Legislature advanced by a vote of 45-4.

Only thirty percent of state agencies will be affected by these cuts.

Since the budgeting process is very thorough, I’d like to explain the process so that citizens of District 48 may be informed in their decision making.

You will often hear the Legislature refer to the “fiscal year,” or “FY” for short. In governmental accounting, the ledger does not correspond neatly with the calendar year of which most of us are familiar. The fiscal year for Nebraska will look something like this: “FY2016-17,” which runs from July 1st of each year to June 30th. While it may seem cumbersome, the State’s accounting method corresponds with the legislative session, where decisions on the state budget are made. This accounting method ensures that the Legislature has ample time to balance the budget.

The budget is enacted in two-year “bienniums” and looks something like this: “FY2017-18 and FY2018-19.” The next biennium begins on July 1st, 2017 and ends on June 30th, 2019. The mainline budget, which deals with operations and state aid, is enacted in odd-numbered years. While the deficit bill has produced much discussion, the mainline budget is likely to be the main focus this session.

In most years we would start with the mainline budget and other accompanying budget bills. But this is not a normal year. Since we are facing a significant budget shortfall, the deficit bill is the first step in the process towards balancing our budget. It should be noted, however, that not all deficit appropriations are decreases in spending.

To ensure the continuance of some of Nebraska’s most critical services, the Governor proposed $20 million in deficit appropriation increases, which was adjusted to $23 million by the Appropriations Committee. Some of these increases included $8.5 million to fulfill some of the State’s obligations to Medicare, $7.8 million to sustain the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare program, and $4.6 million to Developmental Disability aid.

The Appropriations Committee is now working to complete what is called the “preliminary report,” which will be used during the next stage of the budgeting process. A lot of work goes into the development of this report. The Committee reviews each agency’s budget request, line item by line item.

Starting next week, the Committee begins public hearings on agencies’ budget requests, which will occur through mid-March. Also included during these hearings will be appropriations bills, or “A bills.” Any substantive bill introduced to the legislature which has a direct fiscal impact on the state budget must be accompanied by an A bill. Each A bill is treated separately. It will receive a public hearing by the Appropriations Committee and require the legislative body’s approval, just like any other bill.

After public hearings have been heard, the Committee will again review the requests based on the information obtained during public hearing. The Committee will consult with the Legislative Fiscal Office to determine how the State’s budget will be formulated and will finalize its recommendation before advancing to the legislative body for debate.

The Appropriations Committee has until the 70th day of session to advance its budget bills to General File, which will fall on April 24th of this year. If the Committee does not make this deadline then the Governor’s recommendations must be considered. This two-part process is a safeguard designed to ensure that the body upholds its constitutional duty to balance and pass the budget.

The budget can be divided into numerous bills including the mainline budget, deficit, constitutional officers’ (i.e. other elected officials and judges) salary, legislators’ salary, capital construction projects, and fund transfers bills. Other types of budget bills may be offered as needed. By May the Legislature should finish debate and be ready to pass Nebraska’s comprehensive budget.

I hope the description provided here informs you as a citizen of District 48 and of all Nebraska on the budgeting process. As the representative of District 48 and Chair of the Appropriations Committee, it is my honor to serve the State to the best of my abilities. I hope this information proves useful as you carry out your civic duties.

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. 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 Legislature has convened this year and is off to a running start. With lots of items on the docket, including a high budget deficit, the Legislature has a long road ahead. A lot has happened already, so I’d like to keep constituents of District 48 fully appraised of the situation.

The first day of session I was elected as the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, which deals with the state’s budget and manages the appropriations process. All other fiscal matters facing Nebraska’s state agencies, boards, and commissions goes through the Appropriations Committee. I am thankful that the members of the Legislature placed their trust in my abilities by electing me as chair by unanimous vote. I am humbled to receive their support in this challenging time.

But more importantly, I would like to thank the people of District 48 for placing their faith in me to represent Scotts Bluff County. During my tenure as a State Legislator, I have met with various constituencies and processed much of their feedback. I am grateful for the continued involvement from the people of District 48. Without you, I would not be where I am today and I would not be able to serve in your best interests. I look forward to the coming months and will report the latest developments as they occur.

This session we will have to contend with an approximately $900 million dollar revenue shortfall. The Governor has already released his deficit proposal to deal with the current year’s budget shortfall. This plan includes transfers from selected unencumbered cash funds, lapses in accumulated unencumbered reappropriations, 4% across-the-board cuts to agency operations, and one-time strategic cuts to certain  aid programs. Additionally, the Governor’s proposal includes a transfer from the Cash Reserve Fund, also known as the “rainy day” cash fund.

The Appropriations Committee is already in the process of doing our due diligence with hearings scheduled this week. The objective is to resolve a $267 million dollar shortfall in the current biennium before we proceed to the next biennium. It should be noted that 70% of state agencies were excluded from any budget cuts. Most of the agencies that were excluded from cuts were those in education and social services. Some of these would include state schools, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Corrections.

The Governor presented his budget for the next biennium during his “State of the State Address” last week. His budget proposal provided details as to how the State of Nebraska gets to a balanced budget. We all know when income is short it is imperative that we prioritize what is necessary. Corrections is one priority that is a necessary area to address. Ensuring the safety of Nebraskan’s remains a top priority for the Governor, state agencies, and members of the Legislature. Other top priorities for the Legislature include comprehensive tax reform, property tax relief, and K-12 funding.

In addition to my responsibilities as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, I plan to introduce a few of my own bills this year. Some of those bills include LB99, LB100, LB101, and LB151. LB99 is a bill that would require corporate entities, such as domestic partnerships and LLCs, to send a notification to their bank after converting from one corporate structure to another. This bill will mitigate the risks to secured parties when entities change their structure.

LB100 is a bill that will clarify the process for removing disqualifications placed on individuals that are considered mentally incapable of possessing firearms. This bill would clarify the standards of proof for mental health boards to ensure they are using clear and convincing evidence in their determination if the individual is a danger to society. Individuals who have completed drug therapy, for instance, and have been rehabilitated may reapply for their handgun permits.

LB101 is a bill that will incentivize state agencies to continually seek low-cost solutions to the services required by those agencies. The bill would limit state agencies’ ability to renew contracts, thereby requiring that those agencies open up new bids for those services. This adds an element of competitiveness to the contract bidding process, which is an essential component of finding the most efficient and cost-effective solutions. This bill will bring the state into industry best practices, which is often a part of doing business.

Finally, LB151 is a bill that will add oversight measures to state agencies during the budget hearing process. During the hearing, the State Auditor’s office will submit any outstanding auditor reports on the agency being examined and require it to be entered into the record. Binding the audit reports to the budget hearing process will keep state agencies accountable to the auditing and budgeting process to ensure responsible stewardship of state tax dollars.

I am looking forward to a busy session, and feel that I am ready for the challenge of continuing the tradition of a fiscally responsible state. I am humbled by the support that has been shown to me firstly from my constituents in District 48, my fellow Senators, and all those who have put their trust in me. I am confident that with some creative problem-solving the budget shortfall in Nebraska will be mitigated through a responsible and efficient budgeting process.

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.

 

Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 48th 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.

Sincerely,
Sen. John Stinner

Fall has been in full swing for a month now. The weather has started to turn and some areas in Western Nebraska even seemed to briefly skip towards winter with their first snowfall. With the snow and cold weather comes the holiday season, and just around the corner- next year’s legislative session. Things have already been getting busier at the Capitol over the past few weeks. Legislative hearings, meetings, and discussions on legislative policy are taking place on a weekly basis, with many finishing the “final mile” of interim.

Before session starts, I have been using the last few months of interim as an opportunity to go on tours throughout the district. During that time, I have had the opportunity to connect with constituents and stakeholders. Last month I had the pleasure of touring the Panhandle Health Group’s facility in Scottsbluff to learn about the healthcare services they provide. Panhandle Health Group is a behavioral and mental health provider which delivers a variety of services including primary care, community support, outpatient mental health, outpatient substance abuse treatment, intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment, and medication management services. I was pleased to see all the great things they do for the community and am proud to represent them as a State Senator of District 48.

I also had the chance to tour Integrated Life Choices’ (ILC) facility in Scottsbluff. ILC, headquartered in Lincoln, provides a number of vocational and residential behavioral health services at its Scottsbluff location. Vocational services can include job placement, career guidance & counseling, and skills’ assessment. Residential services include social and pre-vocational skills, personal communication, and household management skills. ILC does fantastic work providing behavioral health services for individuals in Scotts Bluff County and I am more than happy to look for ways of improving behavioral health and vocational outcomes for the district.

This month, I attended the Panhandle Partnership for Health and Human Services’ annual meeting in Gering, where they discussed a range of issues including mental & behavioral health, education, medical healthcare issues, and youth healthcare issues. The Panhandle Partnership is a membership-based organization which acts as the liaison between healthcare providers to communities in the Panhandle. Counties serviced include Scotts Bluff, Morrill, Banner, Sioux, Box Butte, Kimball, Dawes, Cheyenne, Sheridan, Garden, and Deuel.

One of the many benefits the Panhandle Partnership provides is its use as a resource database of healthcare providers available in the area. The resources available can be searched by keyword, service category, area, and age group. The Panhandle Partnership makes it easy to contact service providers who can be of assistance based on search results. Using the resource database is free for anyone to use and comes at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

At the Panhandle Partnership’s annual meeting, I had the chance to weigh in on some of the biggest issues facing Nebraska and constituents of District 48. One of the most important issues that will face the Legislature next session include the looming budget crunch, which will affect virtually all areas of state government. As of right now, the state is currently facing a $113.7 million budget shortfall. Coming from a background as a Certified Public Accountant, I understand the importance of handling Nebraska’s financial affairs in a responsible manner so that critical services are maintained.

Just as the state is facing financial constraints, so too are the families and individuals in Western Nebraska. I’ve had many constituents ask me when the Legislature will finally achieve some form of sustainable tax relief. As an entrepreneur, I understand the concerns many have when it comes to personal taxes, regulations on small businesses, and the costs that affect the everyday lives of Nebraskans. Lower taxes lift the burden off individuals who struggle to make ends meet and it drives more capital investment to our state. Ultimately, this results in more and better paying jobs. I am looking forward to working with the Legislature this coming session to make our state friendlier to the taxpayer and businesses alike.

One of the key issues I have championed is the importance entrepreneurs play in a healthy and vital economy. The companies they start create jobs and provide a stable income to Nebraska families. Without them, our economy is left stagnant and opportunities remain few for individuals to improve their lives. As part of my advocacy for creating a more vibrant economy in Nebraska, I have been working on economic and workforce development issues through the Venture Development & Innovation Task Force at the Legislature. I am excited to present some of the Task Force’s findings to the public as the year comes to an end.

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.

 

State Senator John P. Stinner is cancelling the town hall meetings in the District scheduled for Monday, October 3, in Morrill, Gering, and Minatare; and Wednesday, October 5, in Mitchell and Lyman because of a family emergency.

Senator Stinner will be holding two town hall meetings on Tuesday, October 25, at 8 a.m. at the Morrill American Legion, 117 Center Avenue, in Morrill, and 6 p.m. at the Gering Civic Center, 1050 M Street, in Gering.

If you have any questions regarding these meetings, please call 402-471-2802.

This summer I had the opportunity to attend the National Conference of State Legislature’s Early Learning Fellows program, which is a multi-day conference of state legislators from around the country gathered to learn about the benefits of early childhood education. There were many issues we examined, all of which tie into early childhood education: crime, environmental factors such as poverty, family support, and professional development for early childhood educators. After learning about these issues, I remain a strong believer in early childhood education.

Early childhood education programs are activities designed for pre-kindergarten aged children, typically up to 5 years old. These programs teach children the “soft skills” that will be necessary later on in life such as social skills, self-esteem, and an aptitude for learning. In addition to teaching directly to children, early childhood education programs foster family support by developing in-home activities and showing parents how to be engaged in their children’s learning. Research has shown that when children attend early childhood education programs, they are more likely to succeed later on.

We are fortunate to enjoy quality educational systems in Scotts Bluff County. Although many of our communities in the Panhandle have faced their fair share of challenges, education has remained a top priority. For instance, while population statistics show that Scotts Bluff County’s population has remained steady over the last few years, we have seen school enrollment numbers in Scottsbluff grow. This means our young families are staying to raise their children here, making education ever more important.

To ensure our young families experience a quality educational system, I was part of an effort earlier this year to improve early childhood education in Nebraska through school readiness of pre-kindergarten children. LB889 (2016) passed with large bipartisan support of both the Governor and the Legislature. This bill lends support to our early childhood educational system and the professionals who work hard every day to prepare our young children for school. I am confident this innovative law will continue to increase the quality of our early childhood education programs.

In order to ensure that our efforts remain successful, Nebraska must also pay attention to the effects that poverty and crime have on early learning. The first five years include some of the most formative years of a child’s life. When children living in poverty go hungry every day, even the world’s best educational system can do little to help them. These environmental stressors stave off the development that is crucial to mental and behavioral functioning.

Data from the Nebraska Department of Education shows that nearly 56% of Scotts Bluff County’s K-12 aged population are eligible for free or reduced school lunches, meaning that many families live in or close to poverty. By dedicating efforts to early childhood education, we can also lessen the burden on our correctional system.  A longitudinal study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Child Development showed a noticeable difference by age 24 on violent crime and incarceration by those children who attended early childhood education programs.

Commitment to early childhood education will build into elementary and high school years, which help our children succeed past the formative years. Helping our future business leaders and entrepreneurs follow their dreams and passions through programs such as Nebraska Extension’s Entrepreneurship Investigation (ESI) summer camp are one of the ways our young minds are being fostered. I have been a big advocate of Nebraska Extension’s summer camp program, and am looking forward to visiting some of next year’s summer camp programs.

I look forward to working in my capacity as a legislator to improve the quality of education for the children in my district and all of Nebraska. The Legislature will have many tough decisions to make, especially with a looming budget shortfall, but early childhood education will remain a priority. I look forward to hearing from constituents on other ideas for fostering a quality educational system in Nebraska.

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.

Senator John Stinner will hold town hall meetings in the District beginning Monday, October 3. At the meetings, Senator Stinner plans to talk about the 2016 legislative session, anticipated issues and general discussion for the 2017 legislative session, as well as topics of interest to the citizens of District 48. Senator Stinner welcomes any citizens who would like to offer comments or questions.

Below are the dates, locations, and times for each town hall meeting:

Monday, October 3, 2016
Morrill American Legion, 117 Center Avenue
8 a.m.

Monday, October 3, 2016
Gering Council Chambers, 1025 P Street
12 p.m.

Monday, October 3, 2016
Minatare City Library, 309 Main Street
2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Mitchell City Hall Council Chambers, 1280 Center Avenue
7:30 a.m.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Lyman Village Office, 414 Jeffers Avenue
1 p.m.

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.

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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