NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Mike Jacobson

Sen. Mike Jacobson

District 42

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 mjacobson@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 3rd, 2024

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 42nd 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. Mike Jacobson

In addition to serving as vice-chair of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee these past two years, I also served on the Natural Resources Committee. This committee heard many power-related bills that could impact District 42. We are fortunate to be home to the Gerald Gentleman power plant. Gerald Gentleman Station is Nebraska’s largest electric generation facility and is consistently ranked as one of the lowest production-cost electric generating plants in the nation. It is capable of producing 1,365 megawatts of power and employs over 200 employees. 

One of my priorities in the Nebraska Legislature is to help protect this vital asset and the economic benefit it provides throughout this region. Although this plant has all the latest technology to produce power while leaving a minimal carbon footprint, the Biden administration continues to raise the standards for clean energy without any real solutions to replace “baseload” energy produced by plants that operate using fossil fuels or water. Wind and solar energy are simply not a substitute for plants that can produce power on demand. Additionally, wind and solar cannot compete from a cost standpoint when all costs are considered. Yet, public power continues to be pressured to replace more “baseload” plants with green alternatives, rather than continuing to use renewables to diversify – but not replace – their existing infrastructure. 

I worked with committee chair Bruce Bostelman on his priority bill, LB1370. In its final form, LB1370 requires public power districts and other public power entities to provide written notice to the Nebraska Power Review Board prior to a final decision on whether a dispatchable energy-generating facility with a capacity of more than 100 megawatts should be retired. After receiving notice of the proposed decommissioning, the board may hold a hearing which will be closed to the public. Regardless of whether a hearing is held, the board must provide written recommendations on whether the closure is in the entity and its customers’ best interests.

LB1370 also had several other bills amended into it, including my LB1260 which I brought on behalf of our local public power and irrigation districts. The bill allows a director of a public power and irrigation district to vote and take part in discussions of agreements that affect the district and may affect their personal interests as a byproduct of the broad scope. It would, however, still not allow them to participate in discussions on their own “individual” agreement, which should be rare. This bill was important so that directors who live on one of the lakes controlled by the power and irrigation district could be involved in representing the residents who reside next to those lakes. Under current rules, the residents represented by these directors are denied any input when these agreements are developed and adopted. It also would now allow for directors who operate irrigated land within the district to be involved in developing and passing the master agreements for irrigation agreements as well. Without these changes, the groups these directors represent would have no representation. 

I expect more bills to be introduced in 2025 dealing with electrical power, growing demand, and continued pressure to restrict how power is produced. In addition, I am concerned about some of the new power users and whether those uses make sense given the growing challenges with reliable supply. My primary concern is with digital asset (e.g., Bitcoin) data mining facilities that are turning up all over the state. Digital asset mining facilities use tremendous amounts of power. The facility on the east edge of Kearney, for example, uses more power than the entire city of Kearney. Meanwhile, smaller facilities (housed in portable storage containers) are now located in several rural areas. They use huge amounts of power yet produce virtually no jobs, pay limited personal property taxes on the GPUs operating at the sites, and maybe no income taxes since they are paid in Bitcoin. I will be holding meetings this summer to get input from all parties and plan to bring a bill next session based on these discussions. 

Your input is invaluable to me. I look forward to hearing from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I am committed to making a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

When I agreed to run for the Legislature, I did so with the intent to support and advance legislation that would positively impact District 42 and rural Nebraska. For far too long, rural Nebraska has been underrepresented in the Nebraska Legislature, and as a result, we have not gotten our “fair share” of funding and have been left out of many economic development programs.

The TEEOSA funding for public schools is an example of how school funding has disproportionately favored urban areas. Additionally, most of the economic development programs have focused on Lincoln and Omaha at the expense of rural Nebraska. I have long believed that rural Nebraska has much to offer and can grow if we make growth a priority and take the steps to work collaboratively at all levels of government to accomplish this goal.

Over the past several years, we have watched Grand Island exceed the 50,000-population threshold to officially make it a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Kearney has exceeded 35,000 population and growing as well. Thanks to many forward-thinking County Commissioners, City Council members, and business leaders, North Platte and Lincoln County are on a strong growth trajectory as well. With growth comes more retail opportunities, higher paying jobs, and even better health care options that include more specialists who can treat more health care problems, more housing options, better recreational opportunities, and even better schools.

Over the next several weeks, I plan to update you on bills of interest that were passed during this past legislative session and will impact District 42.

One bill I want to focus on this week is LB1108, which I co-sponsored with Senator Myron Dorn. LB1108 transfers $1.27 million from the Game and Parks Commission to fund the Nebraska Emergency Medical System Operations Fund each year beginning in June 2025. (The annual funding comes from sales/use tax proceeds on ATVs/UTVs.) The fund will provide financial support for the statewide patient care reporting system and trauma registry and for emergency care providers’ recruitment, retention, and training.

Senator Dorn is an EMT and has witnessed firsthand the difficulty in attracting EMTs and EMS volunteers. I became aware of the problem after visiting with individuals in the Thedford area who shared with me the challenges they have in trying to cover a very large geographic area with a shrinking number of volunteers. It is hard enough to find the volunteers, but when you add the cost and time to get them trained, you are fighting a losing battle. I appreciate all of Senator Dorn’s efforts and want to thank those who helped educate me on the problems they face to provide much-needed emergency services. Hopefully, this will be a good first step in fixing the problem.

Another issue facing our region is the lack of sufficient childcare facilities to help more young parents return to the workforce and offset the worker shortage. Several bills were offered during this past legislative session, and I was a co-sponsor of several of those bills.

The first bill was LB856, offered by Senator John Fredrickson. LB856 allows a childcare program to receive subsidy reimbursement for children under the direct care of their own parents who are employed by the program if a reasonable accommodation cannot be made. This is particularly common in smaller programs with limited staff when employees cannot reasonably be kept from their own children. It also allows those who meet the eligibility requirements to enroll their own children in other programs besides their own. All programs, however, must be licensed. This program will be operational on July 1, 2025.

Another bill, LB1178, introduced by Senator Anna Wishart, creates the Intergenerational Care Facility Incentive program to provide one-time startup grants for childcare programs in nursing and assisted living facilities that are certified for Medicare or Medicaid. The program will be funded through a one-time $300,000 appropriation from the Medicaid Managed Care Excess Profit Fund. Certified facilities are eligible for a grant of up to $100,000 for structural updates, outside campus space, and equipment and supplies. The bill also requires DHHS to collaborate with a statewide association representing long-term care facilities and other stakeholders prior to October 1, 2024, to develop the program and identify barrios that may impede the development of intergenerational care facilities.

I will follow up next week with updates on other bills of interest. Meanwhile, I remain open to meeting with groups who want to meet in person to discuss pertinent issues.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

It was great spending the week back in North Platte this past week. I returned to town on Saturday night, and after attending church on Sunday morning, Julie and I had the opportunity to attend the musical “Something Rotten” at the Fox Theatre. It was another great performance by many of our very talented local performers. It was just what the doctor ordered after a long 60-day session. 

I also had the opportunity to drive up to Thedford on Wednesday afternoon to speak to Gretchen Anderson’s 4th-grade class. I was met at the elementary school office by two young ladies who escorted me to the classroom. Following the discussion, two young gentlemen escorted me back to the office. I truly enjoyed the visit and was very impressed with all the students. They were polite, respectful, and full of questions. It was a great testament to the quality of our rural schools and the education they are receiving. 

We were back in Lincoln on Saturday to attend the annual Husker Spring game, where we were joined by several of my colleagues in the Nebraska Legislature. Unfortunately, several Omaha Senators could not attend because they were volunteering to assist their constituents who were impacted by the devastating tornadoes that hit several areas in the Omaha area. My heart goes out to those who lost their homes and property. Fortunately, there was no loss of life, but the destruction left behind was overwhelming. How fortunate we were in District 42 to receive much-needed rainfall without the destructive winds and hail that impacted the eastern part of the state.

Over the next few weeks, I intend to visit a few more schools and get to various gatherings to answer questions from constituents and better understand the current concerns of District 42 residents. I also intend to meet with the leaders of our political subdivisions to coordinate with them and ensure we do all we can in Lincoln to help them better accomplish their goals. This will serve as a starting point as I draft legislation for the next legislative session. The legislative rules we passed this past session will limit senators in the future to introduce no more than 20 bills in any one legislative session. Although I have tried to limit my personal bill introduction to no more than 10 or 12 bills, I will need to carefully plan my constituent needs prior to carrying bills that do not specifically impact District 42. 

Although I am very pleased with the bills I was able to influence this session, I do believe that in addition to helping the Governor get his property tax plan over the finish line, more work needs to be done to improve the homestead exemptions to bring more relief for partially disabled Veterans and those retirees living on a fixed income who have lost their homestead exemption due to property value increases. We also need to do more to improve EMS and volunteer fire services, especially in the more rural areas of the district where keeping enough trained volunteers remains challenging. 

There will be several legislative meetings this summer that will involve gathering information on various issues raised in this last session through legislative resolutions. One resolution I introduced was to study the impact that Bitcoin mining is having on our “base load” power supply and what steps need to be taken to better protect our power supply from users who are consuming large power supplies for non-productive uses that do not have a positive impact on our local and state economy. 

Additionally, I will be working with the Governor to help find common ground to move forward a property tax plan that 33 Senators will support. If that can happen, a special session later this summer is a real possibility.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

At 6:35 p.m. last Thursday, the 108th Legislature adjourned Sine Die, bringing the session to an end. The last day of this 60-day session was anything but normal. We considered eight bills on Final Reading along with the appropriation bills (“A” bills) associated with the funding for those bills if required. Three of the eight bills were filibustered. Comparatively, most legislative sessions end with consideration of any gubernatorial vetoes, outgoing speeches from outgoing Senators, and a few ceremonial activities. 

We did not have any vetoes to consider on Thursday, but the Governor will likely veto at least one of the bills passed on Day 60. Because we have no more regular session days, the Legislature will not have any ability to consider overriding the veto.

Two of the more controversial bills were heard on Day 60: LB1402 and LB388.

LB1402 repealed the Opportunity Scholarship Act passed last year and replaced it with a bill to fund Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO) through the State Treasurer’s Office. The SGOs provide scholarships for low-income students to attend private K-12 schools. Although the original bill proposed $25 million in annual funding with increases for future years, the ultimate proposal was reduced to a flat $10 million per year without any increases in future years. As a result, the bill brought a General Fund savings of $15 million per year during the next biennium. 

Like last year, I received many emails on this bill. In the end, my decision to support the bill was based on providing opportunities for all students, regardless of their parent’s ability to pay, to have access to a school that can best serve their needs. We have been doing this for several years now in the public school system by allowing “option enrollment.” With option enrollment, students can choose to attend the public school of their choice subject to acceptance by the receiving school. The state, in turn, pays the receiving public school approximately $12,000 for every “net” student transferring to the school at a cost of about $120 million annually to the State. In comparison, the $10 million in tax credits to fund scholarships for low-income kids seems very reasonable. 

Although many wanted to make this bill about public school performance, that was never the case in my mind. All the public schools in District 42 are quality schools that are graduating students who are well-prepared for the future. In the end, providing greater opportunities for all children has always been my goal. 

In addition, we debated LB388, the bill intended to reduce property taxes. This bill went through many changes along the way, but in the end failed to have sufficient votes to overcome the filibuster on Final Reading. The bill originally proposed to raise the state sales tax by 1%, raise the taxes on cigarettes, vaping products, hemp products, and games of skill, remove exemptions for taxes on small veterinary services, repair and cleaning of clothing, and “candy” and soda, and added a tax for digital advertisers who generate over $1 billion in annual advertising revenues. The final bill eliminated the 1% rate increase but retained the other sources of revenue. 

The use of the additional revenue also changed over the course of the bill’s consideration. Originally, the dollars were to be distributed through the public schools in order to reduce their property tax asking. Later, the proposal was to use the dollars to increase funding for income tax rebates authorized by LB1107 in 2020 to directly pay these funds to the counties to provide a direct property tax credit on your property tax statement. Given that a fairly large percentage of property taxpayers still do not claim this credit on their income tax returns, this credit would bring property tax savings to many more taxpayers. The bill also would have placed growth caps on the rate at which certain political subdivisions could increase their budgets without voter approval. 

As we have discussed in the past, property taxes are only assessed at the local level. The state does not assess a property tax. In 2023, the state collected approximately $2.3 billion in sales taxes and just over $4 billion in income taxes. Meanwhile, total property tax collections throughout the state exceeded $5.3 billion. Most importantly, however, the $5.3 billion is up from about $3.4 billion in 2013. 

In the end, it is imperative that any property tax relief be sustainable, which means annual growth caps and controlling spending at all levels of government. We also need to continue searching for ways to grow our taxpayer base by recruiting and retaining employers and increasing opportunities to draw out-of-state visitors through tourism. 

A balance between income, sales, and property taxes is the best way to ensure that no one group will sustain an unreasonable tax burden. However, I do not support removing local control over our property tax assessments. If all taxes are collected at the state level, it will be the state Legislature that determines how many dollars return to rural Nebraska. Since two-thirds of the State Senators represent the eastern third of the state, I don’t really like our odds. 

The Governor has strongly suggested calling a special session (or two) to address the property tax issue. If the special session is to be successful, it will be important to have at least 33 Senators willing to vote for a plan. So, there is a lot of work to be done between now and then.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

The Legislature will be in session three days this week, beginning on Tuesday, April 9, and running through Thursday, April 12. We will then be in recess until Thursday, April 18, which will be Day 60. The gap between day 59 and day 60 is to allow the Governor time to consider any vetoes. Day 60 is generally used to consider any veto overrides. However, given the number of bills still on Select File and Final Reading, it is anticipated that we will likely be voting on several bills still on Final Reading on Day 60. This is risky since the Legislature would have no opportunity to override a veto of any bills passed on Day 60.

I have received many emails regarding LB764, the “winner take all” election bill. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that award electoral votes for Presidential elections based on the popular vote for President in each Congressional District. Each state has two U.S. Senators, so the statewide vote for President determines the electoral votes for the two U.S. Senators. Then, the winner of each congressional district earns the electoral vote for that district. In the last Presidential election, President Biden won the second congressional district (Omaha), and President Trump won the other two districts and the statewide vote. As a result, the Nebraska electoral votes were split by allocating four electoral votes to Trump and one to Biden.

On January 18, 2023, during the ten days of bill introduction last year, Senator Lippencott introduced LB764, which was referenced to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee chaired by Senator Brewer. The bill subsequently had a public hearing on March 15, 2023. The committee did not take action last year to advance the bill, and it automatically carried over to this legislative session. The bill was also not advanced out of committee this year, and neither the committee nor Senator Lippencott prioritized the bill.

Last Thursday, on Day 54, this bill suddenly got the attention of the national media and we abruptly began receiving emails and phone calls to pass this bill. As a result, Senator Slama introduced AM3339 to amend LB764 into LB1300, a bill introduced by Senator Bostar that included several other bills, including LB869, a bill I helped introduce to allow for counties to allow Veterans Service Funds to be used for those who served in the National Guard and Veterans who served at a time when the U.S. was not in a conflict. AM3339 was ruled not to be germane to LB1300. The motion by Senator Slama to overrule the President’s germaneness ruling was defeated.

It is important the public understand the dynamics at play before criticizing Senators for the votes on AM3339. First, Senator Bostar introduced LB1300 on behalf of the Governor, and both the underlying bill and the bills amended into LB1300 are important priorities of the state. Second, Senator Bostar opposed adding LB764 to LB1300 – in part because it could sink the whole package – and threatened to pull the bill in the event LB764 was added. LB1300 and other bills amended onto it went through the full legislative process, and it would have been unfair to jeopardize their passage to add a bill at the last second that had not even been voted out of committee.

Unfortunately, it looks like “winner take all” will probably have to wait for next year. Even if the Committee met immediately to vote the bill out of committee, it does not have a priority designation, and there are several other priority bills still waiting for General File debate. Additionally, the bill would surely be filibustered if it got scheduled. Given the time needed to get all the bills already on Select File and Final Reading passed this year with our four remaining working days, it would be impossible to move LB764 this year. The only avenue to move it prior to this fall would be to hold a special session of the Legislature, but unless there are 33 Senators prepared to vote for this bill, it would be a waste of time to call a special session.

I have continually asked why the supporters of this bill waited for over a year to bring attention to it and then became obsessed with its passage when it was all but impossible to succeed. I would fully support a special session and would commit to voting for the bill, but we need to do it the right way.

It has been a grueling session, and the remaining days will be full of drama, but we will get there one way or another. I am looking forward to getting back home.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

The Legislature will be in session three days this week, beginning on Tuesday, April 9, and running through Thursday, April 12. We will then be in recess until Thursday, April 18, which will be Day 60. The gap between day 59 and day 60 is to allow the Governor time to consider any vetoes. Day 60 is generally used to consider any veto overrides. However, given the number of bills still on Select File and Final Reading, it is anticipated that we will likely be voting on several bills still on Final Reading on Day 60. This is risky since the Legislature would have no opportunity to override a veto of any bills passed on Day 60.

I have received many emails regarding LB764, the “winner take all” election bill. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that award electoral votes for Presidential elections based on the popular vote for President in each Congressional District. Each state has two U.S. Senators, so the statewide vote for President determines the electoral votes for the two U.S. Senators. Then, the winner of each congressional district earns the electoral vote for that district. In the last Presidential election, President Biden won the second congressional district (Omaha), and President Trump won the other two districts and the statewide vote. As a result, the Nebraska electoral votes were split by allocating four electoral votes to Trump and one to Biden.

On January 18, 2023, during the ten days of bill introduction last year, Senator Lippencott introduced LB764, which was referenced to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee chaired by Senator Brewer. The bill subsequently had a public hearing on March 15, 2023. The committee did not take action last year to advance the bill, and it automatically carried over to this legislative session. The bill was also not advanced out of committee this year, and neither the committee nor Senator Lippencott prioritized the bill.

Last Thursday, on Day 54, this bill suddenly got the attention of the national media and we abruptly began receiving emails and phone calls to pass this bill. As a result, Senator Slama introduced AM3339 to amend LB764 into LB1300, a bill introduced by Senator Bostar that included several other bills, including LB869, a bill I helped introduce to allow for counties to allow Veterans Service Funds to be used for those who served in the National Guard and Veterans who served at a time when the U.S. was not in a conflict. AM3339 was ruled not to be germane to LB1300. The motion by Senator Slama to overrule the President’s germaneness ruling was defeated.

It is important the public understand the dynamics at play before criticizing Senators for the votes on AM3339. First, Senator Bostar introduced LB1300 on behalf of the Governor, and both the underlying bill and the bills amended into LB1300 are important priorities of the state. Second, Senator Bostar opposed adding LB764 to LB1300 – in part because it could sink the whole package – and threatened to pull the bill in the event LB764 was added. LB1300 and other bills amended onto it went through the full legislative process, and it would have been unfair to jeopardize their passage to add a bill at the last second that had not even been voted out of committee.

Unfortunately, it looks like “winner take all” will probably have to wait for next year. Even if the Committee met immediately to vote the bill out of committee, it does not have a priority designation, and there are several other priority bills still waiting for General File debate. Additionally, the bill would surely be filibustered if it got scheduled. Given the time needed to get all the bills already on Select File and Final Reading passed this year with our four remaining working days, it would be impossible to move LB764 this year. The only avenue to move it prior to this fall would be to hold a special session of the Legislature, but unless there are 33 Senators prepared to vote for this bill, it would be a waste of time to call a special session.

I have continually asked why the supporters of this bill waited for over a year to bring attention to it and then became obsessed with its passage when it was all but impossible to succeed. I would fully support a special session and would commit to voting for the bill, but we need to do it the right way.

It has been a grueling session, and the remaining days will be full of drama, but we will get there one way or another. I am looking forward to getting back home.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

I want to begin my article by reflecting on this past week. Not in the Legislature, but Holy Week. Holy Week is a time for us all to reflect on what is important in life and a true testament of sacrifice. It is a great reminder for all of us as we begin the final stretch in this legislative session.

I am happy to report that LB1087 was officially signed by the Governor on Wednesday with the ceremonial signing taking place in Fremont on Friday morning. I was happy to introduce the legislation on behalf of the Nebraska Hospital Association, but I want to acknowledge that any legislation that passes the Nebraska Legislature takes at least 24 other Senators to support the bill. I want to again thank Senator Armendariz for making LB1087 her personal priority bill and for the 44 State Senators who voted with me to pass this valuable legislation.

LB1087 will bring over $1 billion in additional federal Medicaid funding to Nebraska to be used by hospitals throughout the state based on the percentage of Medicaid patients they treat. At this point, Nebraska will be the 45th state to adopt this program. In addition to providing a much-needed lifeline to rural hospitals, several of the larger hospitals in the state will provide $50 million in nursing scholarships to help encourage more students to enter the profession and reduce the chronic nursing shortage. It is fitting that the beam signing ceremony was held on Monday for the new Health and Science Building at the UNK campus to bring medical training closer to the western end of the state. It is also important to note that our own Mid-Plains Community College has a great nursing program that is right in our back yard.

With the budget adjustments approved and signed by the Governor, we are now going to continue to debate how to provide true property tax relief. LB388 (as amended by AM3203) was discussed last week, and LB1331 (as amended by AM3264) was voted out of the Education Committee shortly before we adjourned. These two bills are intended to move together this week to be the outline to increase foundation aid to all schools and reduce the number of schools ultimately receiving TEEOSA funding.

LB388 includes an increase in the cigarette tax to $1.00/pack (currently 64 cents), raises the state sales tax rate from 5.5% to 6.5%, and removes certain sales tax exemptions to fund the additional tax relief. The proposal would also eliminate the current state sales tax on electricity and gas used for residential purposes as a way to further reduce the tax burden on low-income residents. Keep in mind that these bills are the introduced versions and will likely have several amendments prior to any passage. Like most legislation, it is far from perfect, but we need to always remember not to let perfection get in the way of success. I will support a final bill that achieves property tax reductions for rural Nebraska. This is a clear priority of my constituents and will continue to be my goal.

With eight legislative days left in the session, we have much to do in the remaining days. We will be having some late nights as we move closer to Day 60. It will be important for everyone to keep me apprised of any issues you may see in the remaining days since bills will be amended along the way, which could change the initial intent of the legislation. I will be doing lots of reading in the next couple of weeks.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

I want to begin my article this week by thanking the Lincoln County Farm Bureau for sponsoring a Town Hall Meeting a week ago Saturday to allow me to meet directly with interested constituents in an informal setting. I cannot begin to tell you how important it is for me to understand the issues that are important to you and to have the opportunity to share on a firsthand basis what is happening “behind the scenes” for many of the issues in the Nebraska Legislature. I hope to have the opportunity to hold more of these meetings throughout District 42 once the session ends.

Last week, the Appropriations Committee continued to move the budget bills forward. One of the items in LB1413 was a proposed cash transfer of $25 million to the “Rural Workforce Housing” fund. However, Senator Vargas from Omaha (who serves on the Appropriations Committee) worked with the committee to move $5 million of those funds to the “Middle Income Housing Fund.” The two funds are essentially the same, but the Middle-Income program is limited to the metro areas around Lincoln and Omaha, while the Rural Workforce program is available to all other areas of the state. However, Senator McKinney brought an amendment to equally split the funds between the two programs, which, in effect, reduced the Rural Workforce Fund by an additional $7.5 million. I pushed back hard on the amendment, but in the end, the vote was 24 in favor of the split and 23 opposed. The vote was a classic rural-urban divide. As I have warned in the past, when it comes to distributing funding, the urban areas have a voting advantage. That will only get stronger in the future if we cannot stop the outmigration of rural residents to urban areas.

I have continued to review LB126, which was introduced by Senator Jen Day. As introduced, The bill would provide a homestead exemption to Veterans and surviving spouses who are honorably discharged and disabled to receive a property tax credit based on their percentage of disability. Although I brought my own bill that provides for a more aggressive exemption (LB853) I did add my name to LB126 to help ensure that we get something done on this issue during this legislative session. Since Senator Day prioritized LB126, the Revenue Committee used her bill to carry the changes they are proposing to the Homestead exemption. Unfortunately, the Committee took portions of four bills that ended up making major changes to the entire Homestead Exemption Act and I believe that the changes proposed (outside of those proposed for Veterans) are taking us backwards. I am pushing to pass LB126 in its original form and do an interim study to fix the rest of the program. We will see where this goes.

The Revenue Committee moved their committee priority bill LB388 to General File last Thursday, just prior to adjournment for the long weekend. It will be formally introduced on Monday and debate will begin on Tuesday. I will be in North Platte on Monday for bank annual meetings but will return to the Legislature on Tuesday to be involved in the debate.

Although the details of the bill will not be fully available until the bill read across on Monday, I did get a private briefing from Senator Linehan. The proposal to remove the tax exemption for ag repair parts is not part of the bill, but the Committee did include sales tax on advertising for companies with annual gross advertising revenue greater than $1 billion (originally LB1354). Senator Albrecht has stated that the bill will target companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. I have many concerns with this provision from a constitutional standpoint based on the ongoing litigation to Maryland’s law, and I also believe that it would impact smaller businesses and advertising companies who advertise with or resell advertising through larger companies.

LB388 bill also would increase the cigarette tax to $1/pack and increase the state sales tax rate by 1%. These changes are estimated to raise $650 million to be used to offset property taxes. This plan, as I understand it, would increase foundation aid to schools to $3,000/student and increase the TEEOSA formula aid to larger school districts. It would also put “hard” caps on any property tax increases for schools, cities, and counties. It goes without saying that this bill will see a lot of debate, and could have some major changes prior to passage, so don’t read too much into the initial bill as introduced.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your Senator and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

As of Monday, March 18, we have 15 days remaining in the 2024 60-day legislative session. This past week primarily dealt with the budget and changes to the state Cash Reserve fund. Although these bills were filibustered, the filibusters were intended to spur good debate on the changes offered by the Appropriations Committee.

LB1412 is the budget bill that outlines the changes recommended by the Appropriations Committee after hearing testimony from all the state agencies and bills offered by Senators that contain spending measures. After hearing all the testimony, the committee is tasked with making changes to the budget while staying within the dollars available to the Legislature to spend as projected by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board. LB1412 results in $570,014,033 million remaining in the General Fund (state’s checking account) at the end of the fiscal year 2024-25. However, the budget also projects that the General Fund ending balance will drop to $63,711,376 by the end of the 2026-27 fiscal year. The decline is primarily due to the final phase, the end of the income tax reductions passed in 2022, which takes the top state income tax rate to 3.99%.

I am happy to report that my LB850 was included in LB1412. LB850 includes a program that will provide North Platte with $1 million in funding to help improve dilapidated lots that can be used for workforce housing.

LB1413 dealt with changes to the Cash Reserve Fund and the transfer of funds from agency cash funds. One change proposed by the Appropriations Committee was a recommendation to transfer $5 million from the Nebraska Tourism Fund to the Department of Economic Development. I introduced a floor amendment to stop the transfer, which was ultimately successful. These funds are very important to attract more in-state and out-of-state travelers to visit attractions throughout Nebraska. Many of these attractions are located in District 42: NEBRASKAland Days, the Highway 2 Scenic Byway, and the Nebraska Passport Program, to name a few.

It should be kept in mind that state revenue is expected to grow at a rate of 3.6% moving forward, which will cause the General Fund balance to grow as long as state spending grows at a slower pace. I also want to point out that the Cash Reserve Fund (state’s savings account) or rainy-day fund currently has a fund balance of $914,567,475. That balance is projected to be $804,053,413 at the end of the 2026-27 fiscal year. The balance declines are due to one-time transfers approved by the Legislature.

Remember, any excesses in the General Fund at the end of each fiscal year are automatically transferred to the Cash Reserve Fund. Additionally, the Cash Reserve Fund is once again at or near its statutory maximum. In the end, the State is in excellent fiscal shape.

This coming week, we will likely focus on the Revenue Committee bills, which deal with tax changes. To the extent the bills offered by the Revenue Committee involve “revenue reductions,” they will also impact the funds available to be spent before the next budget cycle. Spending will need to be limited to the $63,711,376 projected to remain in the General Fund. Any spending beyond that would impact the Cash Reserve Fund and likely attract a veto from the Governor. Although the Cash Reserve has sufficient funds to support some drawdowns, the state needs to prepare for reduced revenues due to changes in the national economy over the next few years.

I will be working this week to make improvements to LB126, the bill the Revenue Committee chose to use as the vehicle to carry the Homestead Exemption changes. This bill was introduced in 2023 by Senator Day. I introduced LB853 this year to make more comprehensive Homestead Exemption changes that help both Veterans and those over age 65 who are on lower fixed incomes. I have been working with Lincoln County Assessor Julie Stenger and Todd Von Kampen with the North Platte Telegraph to develop an amendment to LB126. This will likely be a very heavy lift, but these changes are important.

I also want to make certain that everyone knows that the LB894, introduced by Senator Ibach, requires a candidate running for County Sheriff to be a certified law enforcement officer when they file to run for office. Unfortunately, Senator Wayne offered an amendment to allow DACA residents to also qualify to be a County Sheriff. Although this amendment got added to the bill, it did not take long for several constituents, including David Huebner, to reach out to let me know that DACA residents (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are able to be in this country because of an executive order issued by President Obama to allow deferred action from deportation and become eligible for employment in the U.S. if they have no felonies or serious misdemeanors on their records. It, however, does not provide for a path to citizenship. They also are not allowed to own or carry a firearm. As a result, this bill will not be moving forward unless or until this amendment is removed from the base bill during Select File. Thank you, David, for your input and to everyone who took the time to reach out to my office. This is how the process should work.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator, and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

What a difference a week makes! Last week we were dealing with fire damage caused by dry conditions, and now we are dealing with a record snowfall. But if I have learned anything over the years, it is to never complain about moisture when we need it, no matter what the form.

Julie and I stayed in Kearney last Thursday night to be there Friday morning to do a presentation at the Nebraska Planning Conference. Although we intended to be in North Platte that evening for the Town Hall sponsored by the Farm Bureau, we instead found ourselves driving back to Lincoln since the interstate was closed. Fortunately, the organizers of the Town Hall were able to reschedule it for Saturday, March 16, at the McKinley Education Center. If you can attend, I would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have in person.

At this point in the legislative session, I have had two bills passed into law: LB628, which makes technical changes to the Professional Limited Liability Company and Professional Corporation statutes, and LB854, which makes technical changes to requirements for persons wanting to sit for the CPA exam. LB854 streamlines the process and helps get new CPAs into the workforce sooner while cutting red tape. This bill was passed this past week and sent on to the Governor’s desk for signature.

I was also able to get LB1087 (Hospital Quality Assurance and Access Assessment Act) moved to Final Reading. This bill, once passed, will bring nearly $1.5 billion in new federal funding to the Nebraska Medicaid Fund to help fund more of the Medicaid costs borne by Nebraska hospitals that care for Medicaid patients. Additional funding will also eliminate the need for the state to increase current Medicaid costs. This bill could be a real game changer for rural hospitals while holding the state’s costs at current levels.

The timing of these funds could not come at a better time. Many rural hospitals are losing money, and several are at risk of closure. There is a companion program for nursing homes that may also get passed this session. I cannot begin to stress how important rural health care is to attract and retain residents in rural Nebraska.

Each Senator also received a copy of the proposed budget on Thursday. Since we had a four-day weekend ahead, the Speaker wanted us to review the budget books over the weekend so that we could begin debating the budget bills this week.

At this point, the Speaker has scheduled two of my bills for debate on Tuesday morning. LB851 is on Select File and, if passed, would increase the size of companies in Nebraska eligible to participate in the Intern Nebraska Program. LB852 restricts certain unethical acts by some durable medical supply companies and is combined with my LB32 which requires Nebraska health insurance providers to include persons with disabilities under the age of 65 to have access to Medicare Supplement plans. If things go well, both will be heard before moving on to the budget bills debate. I expect the budget bill to dominate much of the floor time next week.

It should get interesting this week as there are many controversial bills to be debated that will shape the final budget and provide funding for the Governor’s property tax reduction goals. I should have much to discuss at the Town Hall meeting on Saturday.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you regarding issues that are important to you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Senator and I will continue to give my full effort to make a positive difference for the District and the State. You can reach me at mjacobson@leg.ne.gov or by calling my legislative office at 402-471-2729.

Sen. Mike Jacobson

District 42
Room 1523
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2729
Email: mjacobson@leg.ne.gov
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