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Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

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On Monday, September 13, Senators Stinner, Williams and I introduced LB 12, a bill to change the number of members of the Legislature to fifty.  According to Article 3, Section 6 of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, the Legislature shall not consist of more than fifty members.  As we begin the process of redistricting, I believe we should discuss every option available to us, including expanding the membership of the Legislature to 50 members.  If enacted, LB 12 would ensure current rural legislative boundaries would remain relatively static, with the major changes occurring in rapidly growing areas where the majority of the changes should be.

The Legislature has debated whether to expand membership to 50 Senators over the last few decades, such as when Senator Kate Sullivan introduced LB 195 in 2011.  LB 195 was referenced to the Redistricting Committee which took no action on the legislation.  I look forward to discussing this legislation with the Redistricting Committee and the rest of the members of the Legislature during this current special session.

On Wednesday, September 8, the Redistricting Committee of the Legislature released two different proposals for the new legislative maps.  One proposal, which I will refer to as “Map A” is a non-starter for me.  According to Map A, Legislative District 24, which comprises Seward, Polk, and York counties, will be dissolved as it is currently situated and the district would be relocated to Sarpy County.

While I am always willing to consider what is best for the State of Nebraska, I believe moving LD 24 goes against the guidelines established under Legislative Resolution 134, which was adopted as the guidelines on how redistricting is to proceed.  Under LR 134, district boundaries shall follow county lines whenever practicable.  The district in which Seward County would be located clearly fails this test as it would contain Butler County, relatively half of Saunders County and Schuyler, which is in Colfax County.  LR 134 also allows for the preservation of the cores of prior districts. By splitting up LD 24, as it is currently established, the proposed Map A clearly does not preserve the core of the district.

Map A also does not preserve communities of interest.  For example, a majority of the population who attends Centennial School District resides in Seward and York Counties, with the remaining population living in Polk and Butler County.  Under the proposed Map A, the population base would be split between LD 23 which would consist of Butler, Seward, part of Saunders and part of Colfax County and LD 34 which would consist of Hamilton, Merrick, Polk and York County.

Another community of interest is the Four Corners Health Department.  As we all have learned over the past year and a half, our local public health departments provide an important task.  Currently, LD 24 resides completely within the Four Corners Health Department.  Under the proposed Map A, LD 23 would be served by three different public health districts and LD 34 would be served by two different health districts.

While this list of concerns are not exhaustive, I look forward to working with the Redistricting Committee and the rest of my colleagues to address the issues I have raised.  With that said, I am adamantly opposed to moving LD 24 to Sarpy County and I will do everything within my power to prevent this from happening.

Weekly Column – January 22nd
January 22nd, 2021

The 107th Nebraska Legislature convened on January 6 in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. As elected representatives, we believe that it is important that the state’s elected legislators are on the field during this time to represent our constituents. I support the speaker in wanting to find ways to engage the public while still keeping us safe from the continued threat of the pandemic.

Families, businesses, and other governmental entities have had to change and adapt to the challenges posed by the coronavirus. The Legislature is no different. On January 25, the Legislature will convene public committee hearings. Public committee hearings are one of the most important parts of our legislative process–a critical time in which the “second house” can be heard. To ensure that the committee hearings are safe and we are appropriately responding to the challenges caused by COVID-19, the Legislature has modified its traditional hearing process.

Here are four ways that the process is changing this year:

  1. Morning and afternoon hearings. In order to minimize the chances of having to suspend our session, the Legislature will have both morning and afternoon committee hearings rather than floor debate during January and February.
  1. Expanded options to voice your opinion without testifying in person. The Legislature has developed a process for “written submitted testimony.” During the 2021 Session an individual may hand deliver the morning of the hearing their testimony which will be provided to the committee members during the public hearing. This will allow someone who has health concerns to limit their exposure to others by not having to sit in the hearing room for an extended period of time. The option of submitting a position letter for the hearing record via email is still available. In addition, the Legislature has implemented a new feature allowing the online submission of comments on a bill at any stage of debate. The comments will be accessible by all Senators and staff to read. You can learn more about how to take advantage of these public input options at
  1. Limited physical space. To accommodate social distancing, seating in the hearing room is limited. And because of the restricted physical space caused by the ongoing HVAC renovation of the State Capitol, there will be no overflow rooms available.
  1. Modified hearing protocols. Hearings will look and feel different. These include a number of procedures, including extra sanitization efforts, masks, and social distancing.

This is a unique year with unique challenges. We look forward to doing you work in the Legislature and appreciate your understanding of these modified procedures.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – March 13th
March 13th, 2020

In this week’s column, I would like to share important information regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  This is a major public health issue that is affecting every corner of the globe.

As you may know, COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes from someone who is afflicted by the disease.  While it may be possible to become infected by touching a surface or object contaminated with the virus, this is not the primary source of transmission.  Therefore, it is imperative that if you are feeling ill, stay home.

As of March 10, there were more than 700 confirmed cases in the United States and in just two days, that number almost doubled to 1,323 confirmed cases, with 10 confirmed cases in Nebraska.  COVID-19 has symptoms of a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing that will show 2 to 14 days after exposure. It is all but certain the number of confirmed cases will spike at an alarming rate, given that people who have been exposed may not be showing any symptoms yet.  According to Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an untold amount of people in the United States will be exposed to the virus in the coming months.

At least 80% of the cases globally have been mild, but if the death rate continues to hover around two percent, that could lead to tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States alone.  It is important that everybody reading this column take proactive steps for slowing the spread of the disease. Measures being adopted today such as the closing of schools, the cancelling of mass gatherings, self-quarantining, and avoiding crowds is designed to help alleviate this concern.  People will continue to get sick, but at a slower rate as to not overwhelm our medical system.

The two most vulnerable populations at risk for COVID-19 are those who are over age 60 and/or those with chronic medical conditions.  Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to remain diligent and to follow social distancing measures to avoid spreading the disease to others.   While most healthy individuals who become infected will only have mild symptoms, they can spread it to those at risk who can become very sick, very easily.

Thanks to coordination with our excellent professionals at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who specialize in infectious diseases, Nebraska is one of the most prepared states for this outbreak.  Our state government is working closely with experts and are listening to their guidance, but that can only do so much. Your help is needed as well. My call to action is for you to take the appropriate steps to help mitigate this outbreak – wash your hands frequently, sneeze into your elbow, consider avoiding events with large crowds, and stay home if you’re feeling ill.  Things will continue to get worse before they get better, but we all can make sure this outbreak doesn’t get as bad as it could.

If you would like more information on COVID-19, more information can be found at and or call Four Corners Health Department at 402-362-2621 or the United Way Resource Hotline at 211 or 402-444-6666.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – March 6th
March 6th, 2020

In this weeks column, I would like to discuss a couple of bills that are advancing through the legislative process which will make positive changes for Nebraskansthat I am proud to support: LB 43 – Adopt the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights Act, introduced by Senator Bolz and LB 997 – Adopt the Out-of-Network Emergency Medical Care Act which was introduced by Senator Morfeld.

LB 43 provides for victims of sexual assault certain rights related to physical examinations, interviews, and/or depositions arising out of the assault.  Those who are victims of sexual assault would have the right to have an advocate of their choosing during a physical examination and have the right to a free forensic medical examination regardless of whether or not charges are pressed.  For those victims between three years of age and eighteen years of age, they would have a right to a forensic interview at established child advocacy centers by professionals who are specifically trained to handle these cases.

If a victim arrives at a hospital and reports they have been sexually assaulted, the health care provider will notify the most appropriate law enforcement agency of the assault and shall submit the related evidence of the assault to law enforcement Law enforcement shall then retain the evidence for a time longer than the statute of limitations.  The victim would then have access to any reports regarding the sexual assault, including results of analysis of the evidence and whether or not the evidence matches anybody in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System.

LB 43 advanced from General File on March 5 on a vote of 41 to 0, with 8 not voting.

LB 997 allows for consumers to avoid “surprise billing” in emergency situations by out-of-network providers or facilities.  During a vast majority of emergency medical situations, an individual does not have the ability to check whether or not all of the medical professionals that will be treating them are in-network.  The Kaiser Foundation published a report in December, 2019, that heart-attack victims have a 50% risk of higher out-of-network charges than other diagnoses.  This is because while the facility or the initial emergency room doctor is in network, the cardiologist on duty may not be in-network.  When more medical professionals are added to the treatment of the condition, the risk for out-of-network charges increases.

LB 997 seeks to remedy this issue by providing that if a covered person receives emergency services at any health care facility, the facility or provider shall not bill the individual at a rate in excess of any deductible, copayment, or coinsurance amount applicable to the in-network services pursuant to the individual’s health plan.  During an emergency, the only thing a person cares about should be getting timely treatment, not if a provider is in-network or out-of-network.  Therefore, I was proud to support LB 997 on all stages of debate.  LB 997 advanced from Select File to Final Reading on March 6.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

by Fred Knapp, NET News, February 26, 2020 – 6:17pm

It could be easier for first responders to get help with post-traumatic stress disorder. And it could be harder for livestock diseases to spread in Nebraska, under bills advanced by the Legislature Wednesday.

The first responders’ post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD bill aims to help police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and frontline workers in prisons and social services who deal with horrific events.

Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, who served as an EMT for that community and Utica, talked about some things he’s seen.

“Until you’ve had the opportunity to go on a fire call or rescue call and watch a colleague or a friend burn up in a fire, or do triage on a family of six and lose five of the six and place kids in a closet because they’re not going to survive during the triage, you can’t understand what these firemen and parameds (paramedics) and people go through,” Kolterman said.

Currently, it’s up to a first responder to show their mental injury comes from something extraordinary that happened on the job. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Brewer, would change that to presume for purposes of workers compensation coverage the injury comes from the job, if certain conditions are met. Brewer said mental injuries can be hard to detect.

Using himself, an Army veteran wounded multiple times in Afghanistan, as an example, Brewer said he didn’t come to terms with his injuries until he was literally forced to see a speech therapist and psychologist.

“They were able to kind of slow walk me through issues, challenges, problems and reveal what the true issues were, and that you had to come to deal with these problems or else they would haunt you the rest of your life,” Brewer said.

To qualify for the presumption, instead of having to prove the cause of their injuries, first responders would have to show their mental condition didn’t show up when they were screened for employment. They would have to have evidence from a mental health professional. And they would have to have participated in something called “resilience training,” to teach them how to deal with trauma.

Sen. Mike McDonnell, formerly a firefighter and Omaha fire chief, said that training is crucial.

“On an annual basis, you’re going to go through this training. And we’re going to make sure your injury, that mental injury — as important as any other injury — we’re going to try to prevent it. If it happens, we’re going to treat it and we’re going to help you deal with it. So you don’t deal with it yourself in other ways, and you can continue to serve and do the job that you love,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell said taking the training would be voluntary, but the expected cost of it was the major initial cost of the bill, estimated at $442,000 a year. Senators voted 42-0 first round approval of the bill.

While it was being debated, Sen. Kate Bolz took time to pay tribute to someone in the kind of situation it could cover. She talked about Santino Akot, a prison caseworker who, the Lincoln Journal Star reported, was attacked Saturday by a state penitentiary inmate and is in critical condition. Bolz referred to Akot’s background as a young man driven from his home in Africa by civil war in the 1980s.

“Not only is he a Department of Correctional Services officer, he is also an immigrant from Sudan and was one of the ‘Lost Boys,’” Bolz said. “He is a caregiver for his family and is a breadwinner for his family. And he is someone who I appreciate fully and want to commend for his hard work and his service at the Department of Correctional Services.”

Bolz added that lawmakers are still trying to address dangerous conditions in Nebraska’s prisons.

“We continue as this legislative body to look for solutions to staffing and overcrowding issues. And we do keep Mr. Acot in our thoughts and prayers,” she said.


On another subject, senators gave first-round approval to updating laws designed to protect the health of livestock in Nebraska.

Sen. Steve Halloran, chairman of the Agriculture Committee, said the bill, LB344, and an amendment are important to prevent the kind of economic damage that’s happened elsewhere in the world.

“One quarter of the world’s pigs died in one year in China due to the African swine fever. We need to avoid the weaknesses demonstrated by China in that country’s lack of animal disease prevention and control. LB344 as amended with AM2486 will help Nebraska avoid an economic hit, as was experienced by China,” Halloran said.

The proposal would, among other things, augment existing criminal laws by giving the state Department of Agriculture power to levy administrative fines on producers for bringing livestock into the state, if the state veterinarian has declared an embargo on them. It got first-round approval on a vote of 30-0.

Weekly Column – February 28th
February 28th, 2020

As most of you know, one of the unique characteristics of the Nebraska Legislature is that every bill introduced by a senator receives a public hearing. On Thursday, February 27th, we concluded committee hearings for the 482 legislative bills and 16 legislative resolutions introduced this year. The legislature began full day debate on bills on Tuesday, March 3rd. With 27 days remaining in this short legislative session, we still have a lot of important legislation to tackle, including rebalancing the two-year biennial budget.

We have also reached the deadline for designating priority bills. As many of you know, the Rules of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature allow each senator to designate one bill each year as their priority bill. Senators may prioritize a bill they introduced or legislation introduced by another Member or Committee. In addition to individual Senator priority bills, each standing Committee may prioritize two bills that it advances. The Speaker of the Legislature is permitted to prioritize 25 bills.

Prioritized bills that have been advanced out of a committee will be heard by the Legislature before the bills that have not been prioritized. During this short 60-day session, it is unlikely that a bill advanced out of a committee will make it to floor debate without being prioritized. With 49 Senator priority bills, 31 Committee priority bills, and 25 Speaker Priority Bills, we are looking at the possibility of 105 total prioritized bills. Since we have already debated a handful of prioritized bills, the remaining bills will be debated over the course of the next 27 legislative days.

One of the bills that has received a speaker priority is a bill I introduced, LB 760 which would require health carriers to provide coverage for asynchronous review by a dermatologist by way of telehealth.   LB 760 ensures that Nebraskans, regardless of where they live, have the ability to access quality healthcare via telemedicine by a dermatologist, if the service is provided by asynchronous review, otherwise known as store-and-forward.

For example, if you were a patient in Gothenburg, and you visit your family physician who notices a suspicious area of skin on your forehead, that physician can take a photo and submit it to a dermatologist whose specialized knowledge allows them to assess, diagnose and treat the suspicious area. What was found, however, is that if the photo is sent to a dermatologist who is not participating in the live conversation, that service is not being covered by all insurers.

LB 760 advanced from the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee on February 11 on a vote of 7 ayes and 1 nay.  While there was one dissenting voice in advancing the bill from Committee, as technology expands access to quality care, it is vital that payment systems keep up in a changing world. With a growing trend in skin cancer occurrences in this state, it is imperative that we ensure Nebraskans, no matter where they live, the ability to access quality healthcare via telemedicine, even if the consulting dermatologist is not able to attend the live visit.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – February 21st
February 21st, 2020

This week, the Legislature began debate on LB 974, the Revenue Committee’s Property Tax Relief Proposal.  LB 974 was crafted to reduce the property tax bills of all Nebraskans by reducing the reliance on property taxes to fund public education.  If LB 974 is successful, the state would reduce the taxable valuation used by school districts to generate property tax dollars.

For residential and commercial / industrial properties, we would take gradual steps to reduce the taxable valuations from 100% as of today, to 87% of the actual value in 2022.  For agricultural and horticultural properties, we would take the same steps to reduce the taxable valuations from 75% as of today, to 55% of the actual value in 2022.  Until the school fiscal year 2022-23, the maximum tax rate will remain $1.05 per $100 of taxable valuation.  In order to match school spending increases to what is happening in the economy, the basic allowable growth rate for school districts will be equal to the growth in inflation.In order for school districts to remain whole, LB 974 has been crafted to increase state funding for schools through the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act, otherwise known as TEEOSA.  We are creating a new component of TEEOSA called “Foundation Aid.”  Foundation Aid would replace the allocated income tax portion of the formula. For 2020-21, foundation aid would be based on a school district’s fall membership count and 5% of the net income tax collections, net corporate tax collections and the net state sales use tax collections for calendar year 2018 divided by the statewide fall membership count.  Over three years, the percent would grow from 5% to 15%.  But if the calculation of foundation aid is not equal to or greater than 15% of the basic funding calculated for the school district, the foundation aid will be increased to equal 15% of the basic funding.

We are also adding an additional component to the formula called “Transition Aid.”  Transition Aid will be provided to school districts that have a combined general fund and special building fund levies of $1.05 or greater and has a percent change in school revenue that is greater than 0% for 2020-21, 1% for 2021-22, and 2.5% for 2022-23.  For 2020-21, the transition aid will equal 100% of the change in school district revenue and by 2022-23, the transition aid will equal 50% of the difference of the change in school district revenue minus 2.5% of the school district revenue for school fiscal year 2021-22.

I stand in support of LB 974.  The Revenue Committee, of which I am a member on, has worked diligently over the summer to address concerns we have heard from Nebraskans that property taxes are too high, and that property taxes specifically levied by schools are too high.  With Nebraska consistently ranking low among the nation in terms of State dollars for K-12 education, we are lowering taxable valuation for the TEEOSA formula while increasing the State’s share of the cost of educating our youth.

Like with any other bill, there is always room for improvement.  After debating the bill for three hours earlier this week, the bill has been removed from the agenda.  This allows us the opportunity to work together with individuals who have concern about the bill to come to a greater consensus on how to proceed.  That being said, I am hopeful my colleagues and other stakeholders will continue to work with the Revenue Committee to come to create good state policy to address high property taxes in Nebraska.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – February 14th
February 14th, 2020

Last year, when I introduced, prioritized, and carried LB 720 to Select File, I did so because I firmly believe in the importance of growing our state.  Whether your top issue is to reduce high property taxes for farmers and ranchers or to reform school funding, we must recognize that a thriving business sector is a critical part of the solution.  Our businesses are listening and I hope this message is that we value their commitment to Nebraska, and we value the jobs that they bring to our communities, border to border.

After LB 720 was held on Select File, I used the interim to make a good bill even better.   In order to meet the competitive needs of Nebraska’s businesses and communities, we’ve made changes to specifically address business activities in areas of opportunity for our state and we’ve made other competitive enhancements as well.  We’ve worked to address concerns that we heard in the bill hearing with this committee last year, throughout the session, and into the interim: primarily that LB 720 didn’t go far enough in addressing the pressing needs of rural Nebraska.

Based upon concerns we heard from our rural senators and rural manufactures across the state, we have added two new tiers to the mainline program.  Last Thursday, I presented these changes to the Revenue Committee.

We have added a new rural manufacturing tier.  For counties with populations less than 100,000 thousand people, if a company hires 5 new FTE’s and invests $1,000,000 dollars, the company would qualify for a wage credit of 6% and an investment tax credit of either 4% or 7% if the investment is greater than $10 million dollars.  Manufacturing is a growth industry for Nebraska and often starts employees out at entry level wages because of the large training investment these companies put in to their employees. These companies also often bolster these wage levels with strong benefit packages too.  One of the concerns we heard last year were the wages were too high for rural areas so the proposal is to set the wage compensation at $31,387 annually, must offer an ACA compliant health insurance plan and a sufficient benefit package.

We have also added a new Manufacturing Growth and Expansion Tier.  If a manufacturing company if a company hires 10 new FTE’s and invests $1,000,000 dollars, the company would qualify for a wage credit of 4% and an investment tax credit of either 4% or 7% if the investment is greater than $10 million dollars.  To qualify under this category, a company must pay a new employee $33,618 annually, offer an ACA compliant health insurance plan, and a sufficient benefit package on top of that base wage.

Even by making these wage threshold adjustments, we are still increasing wages under this program from where we are today with Nebraska Advantage.

We are also creating a new program called the Key Employer and Jobs Retention Act. This will allow the state to be proactive when it comes to keeping key employers in the state and retaining our well-paid employees when there is a change in ownership and control of the key employer and the new owners are considering moving some or all of the jobs to another state.

We are trying to create a new program that is nimble and responsive to the conditions of a quickly changing economy. In an economy that will continue to see more acquisitions, mergers, and relocations, this Act is a step in the right direction.

In order to qualify for this new act, a key employer must employ over 1000 FTE’s.  They must keep at least 90% of the base year employment at a wage threshold of 100% of the statewide average.  There is a yearly cap of $4 million dollars and a 10 year cap of $40 million dollars.  If the company fails to retain the required level of employment of the entire performance period, all or a portion of the retention credits will be recaptured or disallowed.

If this program had been in place a few years ago, our state would have been more competitively positioned to help retain Cabela’s in Sidney. We simply cannot afford to continue to be reactive to this reality of today’s economy. With an ever-evolving tech economy and fast-growing companies developing across our state, we need to look forward and contemplate what tools will be necessary in order to retain growing companies who are prime for buyouts by out-of-state corporations.

I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure a timely passage of LB 720 this session because if we do not, the State of Nebraska will be at an extreme disadvantage at attracting new opportunities for our employees in an ever changing global economy.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

​As the state prepares for Americans fleeing an outbreak of a deadly disease in China, the University of Nebraska Medical Center pitched state lawmakers Thursday on an audacious plan to make Nebraska the national destination for all-hazard responses.

The proposed Nebraska Transformational Project, or NExT, would stand up a new teaching hospital and research and education tower on UNMC’s campus in Omaha in partnership with state and federal agencies to respond to crises like natural disasters to infectious diseases.

At an estimated price tag of $2.6 billion, the NExT project would also potentially be the largest economic development project in Nebraska’s history to date.

Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, who introduced a bill (LB1084) triggering a state investment of $300 million if funding conditions by the federal government and private donors are met, called the project “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to transform the state.

“This idea, this bill, this appropriation, this incentive is bigger than any of us in this room,” Kolterman told the Legislature’s Revenue Committee on Thursday.

The project stems from a call for increased surge capability and capacity of the National Disaster Medical System included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act — an expansion of the U.S.’s capability to treat patients affected by disease outbreaks or injured in biological, chemical or nuclear disasters.

The five-year program, managed by the U.S. Department of Defense, requires a report be submitted to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives within 180 days detailing “no fewer than five major aeromedical transport hub regions” that could serve as a demonstration site.

A spokesman with the Department of Defense said there have been no decisions made on where to locate the program. It wasn’t clear what other sites, if any, are also in consideration.

Kolterman and UNMC Chancellor Jeff Gold said Nebraska has a track record of success in combating infectious diseases, as when it successfully treated several patients infected with the Ebola virus in 2014-15, and has effectively managed public-private partnerships in the past like the $323 million Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, which opened in 2017.

Since taking on a global leadership role in combating Ebola, UNMC has trained thousands of health care professionals around the world in best practices for treating patients carrying contagious diseases and has secured millions more in federal funding for research and to set up a national quarantine center.

If the Department of Defense chooses UNMC to be one of the five sites and awards at least $1 billion in federal funding to start construction, Kolterman’s bill requires a kick-in of at least $300 million from private investment before the state would be required to contribute funding.

The UNMC chancellor told the Revenue Committee, where the bill was heard because it establishes an incentive rather than directing an appropriation, a demonstration of urgency by the Legislature could help push Nebraska to the front of the line.

“Your support as a state government is essential to the success of these partnerships,” he said.

That could be key to creating nearly 42,000 jobs in all, including 8,700 permanent jobs at the medical center, generating $211 million in new state tax revenue and adding $1.3 billion to Nebraska’s economy over the next decade.

Lawmakers on the committee, who are also shaping legislation creating new tax incentives for businesses and overhauling Nebraska’s property tax statutes, focused on the scope of the project.

“How critical is the state match to obtaining this facility?” Sen. Tom Briese of Albion asked.

Gold said the NDAA specifies a preference for public-private partnerships in how it will select the site, and that the project was scaled down to “the most conservative numbers” UNMC felt comfortable bringing to the Legislature and asking the private sector to commit to.

“Once determination of eligibility is made, we would like to say we have commitments from the state and private sector,” he said.

Gold was also bullish on the prospects of private philanthropy being drawn to the project: “Frankly, they know a winner when they see one, and they like to invest in success.”

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte questioned Gold about who would own and operate the building, as well as if the project would benefit Nebraskans outside the Omaha area.

Once completed, the center would be owned by NU and make Omaha a health care destination in the U.S. and international communities, Gold responded, while NExT would also create opportunities for Nebraskans studying at UNMC, many of whom later work in health clinics and hospitals across the state.

The Nebraska, Omaha and Lincoln chambers of commerce also back the NExT project, which they see as a vehicle for job creation and attracting and retaining top talent in the state.

Leslie Anderson, the CEO of the Bank of Bennington who spoke on behalf of the Omaha and Lincoln chambers, said NExT was exactly the type of economic development project to spur growth in H3 jobs — high-skill, high-demand, and high-wage professions.

And Bryan Slone, president of the Nebraska State Chamber, said in addition to serving a global, local and strategic defense need, the NExT project would result in “game-changing” growth in a major economic sector in Nebraska.

On Thursday, no one testified against Kolterman’s bill, which has more than 30 co-signers from across the political spectrum.

Bob Grothe, manager of the Iron Workers Local 21, testified in a neutral capacity, saying while the union representing construction workers in 73 counties in Nebraska was in favor of the project, it also wanted to ensure the estimated 33,000 construction jobs stayed local.

“This really worries me,” he told the committee. “Not only the dollars, but, as a construction worker, you take a lot of pride in everything we’ve done. I want to see language ensuring Nebraskans will build the project.”​​

After the hearing, Gold said the last major project at UNMC — the Buffett Cancer Center — was designed and built by local firms, adding the university prioritizes companies that can keep the work local.

The Revenue Committee did not take any action on the proposal on Thursday. Gold said a decision from the Department of Defense could come this spring.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24
Room 1101
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2756
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