NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene

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 mgroene@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 6th, 2021

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 Groene

Column 2-25-2021
February 26th, 2021

This past election cycle, we have had doubt cast on the trust that citizens have in America’s election system. Conspiracy theories range from altered foreign owned voter machines, ballot box stuffing, to outright rejection of legitimate ballots. Is there truth in any of the claims? I do know there is never smoke without fire, and that fire will spread unless you take away the source of the fuel.


Without a detailed long term federal investigation, the country will continue to smolder. I do find it curious that investigations have already been instigated into the January 6th Capitol protests that resulted in five deaths and vandalism. It is my opinion that a traditional American protest turned into a mob scene that escalated into violence. If the enemies of liberty can somehow turn an over-passionate mob scene into an organized conspiracy to overthrow the government, then as a nation we are closer than I want to believe to losing our freedoms. Meanwhile, any attempts to investigate allegations of voter fraud are shouted down by the national press and supported by elected officials who put their politics first. One would think that our federal courts and elected officials would want to assure the people that they can trust our election results.

Early voting is one area where I do believe we have allowed the election process to be distorted, perhaps not fraudulently but unethically. I introduced LB590 to reduce the number of days for early mail in voting from 35 days to 20 and to reduce in person voting at the county clerk’s office from 30 days to 15. The bill had its hearing in the Government Committee on February 18th.

Information on candidate positions can be exposed right up to Election Day, health issues can be exposed, candidates have died or withdrawn from races right up to Election Day. Meanwhile some citizens may have voted a month earlier.


There is a valid reason why our forefathers created voting booths at our local precinct. Voting is an individual right that should be a private decision. No one should be looking over our shoulder or coaching us as we fill out our ballot on our kitchen table. I have no qualms with organizations encouraging voter registration; for example, I have always admired the work of the League of Women’s Voters for having that as their main mission. What early voting has encouraged is the creation of organizations with rabid political philosophies-ACORN was one you may have heard of in past elections-who harvest votes as their mission. They go out in communities to register voters, then encourage them to request mail in ballots and return later to help the voter fill out their ballot. Is it fraud? Legally NO. Is it unethical? YES.


We have always made allowances for those who cannot get to a voting precinct on Election Day. The ability to vote by absentee ballot and voting a few days early at the county clerk’s office are both legitimate extensions of the right to vote, but with freedom comes personal responsibility and one should be expected to make an effort to vote on Election Day. By allowing long pre-election voting periods we have extended the harvest season for unethical political groups to influence election results.
As time goes on, this issue will continue to degrade our election process. Political parties and special interest groups will have no choice but to join the door to door pre-election harvest of votes.

Column 1-28-21
February 1st, 2021

Column 1-28-21: Assault on Political Free Speech


On my office wall I have the Mark Twain quote “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” It is there to remind me that many times, legislation that is intended to offer security to one often restricts the freedom of another, which also reminds me of the oft repeated Ben Franklin quote “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Thomas Jefferson paraphrased the same thought by saying “any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”


The national political conversation has swung towards the pursuit of restrictive security policies at the cost of liberty. Even though the COVID-19 vaccine has arrived and we are quickly reaching natural herd immunity they continue to push for restrictive facemask policies, ignoring the fact that virus infections have spread at an exponential growth rate despite present mandates. Presently many are pushing for vaccination mandates, even for those who have acquired natural immunity, restricting personal health choices, parental rights, religious freedom, the right to associate with whomever we choose, and place restrictions on where we wish to gather. As a local example, LB447 was introduced in the legislature this session. The bill removes a parent’s right to exempt their children from vaccine requirements when enrolling them in a childcare facility. By the discretion of the Health and Human Services Department, the COVID-19 vaccination could easily be required in the future. 


Censorship of political speech is being administered by mega-worldwide internet venues. Publishing companies are creating a blacklist containing the names of former Trump administration officials, agreeing not to publish their works. Our new president is being advised to have groups who disagree with his administration’s agenda be investigated by federal agencies. This legislative session, LB637 Has been introduced to give more power to regional health department bureaucrats , thus taking away the ability of local elected officials to balance individual freedom and public safety, a trend that mirrors the socialist model of the European Union where faceless bureaucrats embedded in government agencies manage the lives of Europe’s citizens.


During the presidential inauguration week there was a State Patrol SWAT team of 20 or so officers stationed at the Capitol. The National Democratic Party hired four private security contractors to roam the halls during the week. Why? Because of political fear mongering and of a rumor that the property damage done at the U.S Capitol two weeks prior by protesters, could happen at state Capitols across the country. Of course the Capitol was peaceful, with a few demonstrators on the streets outside, which is not uncommon for a society that embraces free speech. So why did a few state senators push for such drastic security measures? The simple answer is the old political axiom, perception becomes reality. The press reports the presence of SWAT teams and the perception to the public is that a threat was averted, when no such threat ever existed. By creating the perception that certain political views are a danger to society, those who wish to oppress your freedom can pursue restricting your liberty through measures they claim will secure your safety.


The assault on the political free speech of your elected officials is not only happening in Washington. This session, a rule change was proposed by a senator to silence free speech on the floor of the legislature. It effectively employed the old political ploy of throwing mud (accusations) at a political opponent and when put in a position to defend themselves, some of the mud may stick; again perception becomes reality. The proposal failed, but the fact it existed had a chilling effect on free speech in the legislative chamber.


We live in troubled times, where attacks on liberty are driving the prevailing political winds. Since I have been a senator, I have had two credible death threats, have had disgusting packages delivered to my home containing candy formed in the shape of male genitals, middle fingers, etc. I have received hate mail and slanderous distorted emails have been sent to other senators attacking my free speech rights. I have had thoughts of quitting, but I always come back to John Adams’ “liberty, once lost, is gone forever.”

Contact: mgroene@leg.ne.gov 402-471-2729

Column 1-21-21
January 27th, 2021


Thursday the legislature will be debating proposed changes to the rules that they operate under. The rules Committee chaired by Senator Clements is bringing three proposed changes to the floor. Two are minor changes, the other is to require that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited as part of the opening of each legislative day. Presently it is an afterthought done before the legislature starts its day. There will be floor amendments introduced, debated on, and a recorded vote taken. A floor amendment will be brought to require a recorded vote for Chairmanship of committees. Presently in the proceedings of the Unicameral, this attack on open-government is the only dark moment when the lights of transparency and accountability are shut off and the people are denied the right to know how their state senator voted. This unethical practice began in the 1970s– prior to then, chairmanship votes were public and recorded.

That this is even an issue has always amazed me. How can any elected official be against transparency? Nebraska citizens agree-I have never received so many personally written emails pleading for support on an issue. They demand to know how their senator votes, they demand that the legislature uphold the edicts of our state Constitution. Article III sec. 11 clearly states “all votes shall be viva voce” (meaning voice vote not written). In the same section the Constitution does allow for secrecy in the proceedings of the legislature, allowing for debate on a matter not be entered in the journal or the doors of the legislative chamber may be closed if the business at hand “shall be such as ought to be kept secret,” but never does it allow for secret written votes as is done for the election of committee chairs, even if the debate on a matter is deemed to require secrecy, the vote on it is not, as the Constitution states “…and the yeas and nays of the members on any question shall at the desire of any one of them be entered on the journal”. The Constitution is clear, there is no way around the requirement that all votes shall be voice votes and able to be recorded by the request of a member.


So why in the past when this matter has come to a vote, has a majority of senators continued to support an obviously unconstitutional practice that blocks the people’s will for transparent and accountable government? The answer lies in the dark side of human nature, a secret vote allows one to accomplish personal vendettas, it allows a senator to trade votes that differ from the wishes of their constituents, and it allows liars to profit from their lies. Human nature does not change with elected office, if anybody needs the guidance of transparency, it is a politician.
As a sidebar, in my election for Education chair, the first round vote was 24-24 with one casting a blank ballot. I had believed I had the 25 votes needed, of course due to secret ballots one individual was able to lie and hide behind the senators who kept their word. In the second round of voting, the old unicameral inside joke that “the only day of session when there are not 49 senators but instead 50” came to fruition. 50 ballots were cast, my opponent received 25, I received 23 and there were 2 blank ballots cast. Ironically mirroring what is happening on the national level, and again proving why the legislature should have the integrity to return to a voice vote for chairmanships. Transparency deters bad behavior.

As the 2022 elections loom around the corner for Nebraska’s governor and other state and local offices, the vote to change the rule on chairmanship votes will tell voters a lot about the character of state senators who may be seeking other offices or reelection. If a senator does not support public votes on chairmanships, a voter should have legitimate concerns on what other issues will that candidate rationalize that for their own good, it is best to keep citizens uninformed.

I will vote for transparency; secret government actions breed suspicion, not trust.
Contact; mgroene@leg.ne.gov 402-471-2729

Column 1-14-21
January 20th, 2021

As you may have heard, I am no longer the Chairman of the Education Committee. The political winds that have changed Washington have also altered the direction of the Nebraska Legislature and the loss by conservatives in two very close legislative races this past November laid the groundwork for my loss. There are always those in the political world who have no core values and they drift between political alignments that will benefit their lust for political victories and to satisfy their simple greed. Due to secret chairmanship votes, two senators who told me they would vote for me, did not. I have always opposed secret votes in government, mainly because I hate to see the distrust it builds among colleagues and it allows liars to profit from their lies. 

For four years I successfully plugged the hole in the dam that held back the secular humanist assault on the few parental rights and religious freedoms that remained in our government funded and controlled public schools. Prepare now to see legislation pass in the next two years that will inject psychologist, mental health therapist and social workers as authoritative figures between parents and their children in public schools. Prepare to see programs put in place that will give credence to already existing policies that teach children to identify themselves not as a fellow human being with the same God given rights but instead by their physical or psychological identity: race, biological sex or a perceived sexual preference. Last, but not least, prepare to pay higher taxes to fund the influx of all the new authoritative figures it will take to further divide your religious and moral influence from your children. Personally I am glad I’m on a new path, like a good soldier I did my duty, but the personal attacks I received and having to listen to the lobbyist of the Education establishment as they spoke of your children as if they were government chattel to be managed and formed into the image that is acceptable to government overseers, wore on my ability to be civil.

After what I have experienced and learned about the Education establishment’s agenda for our children, I have advice to anyone who believes family should be the ones to guide the way their children should go. Unless you know the beliefs of your child’s teachers or the character of the school board members, get your children out of public schools. Tuition at a private school or hiring a tutor will provide greater returns in your children than saving for a family vacation to Disneyland. I plan to return to my populist conservative roots and be the voice and eyes of the average Nebraska citizen. Around the legislature there is a collegial movement meant to control the free speech of senators and to control the message that the public hears coming out of Lincoln. I believe my first responsibility is to you the citizen. Collegiality to me is fulfilling my duty to inform you of any cronyism, vote trading or incestuous committee deals that I see happening in the legislature. Practices that are intended to advance legislation that does not represent the will of the majority of Nebraskans or may harm the rights of the minority.

I am again free to be an advocate of truth and honesty and focus on being a protector of your liberty. I must say, I find my new situation, to be an exhilarating feeling of freedom.

Contact Senator Groene at mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729

Column 12/17/2020
December 17th, 2020

Column 12-17-20: Policy vs. Politics in the Legislature

Sometimes one wonders if elected office is worth the time and stress. I have a passion for truth and honesty, I also advocate for open, transparent and accountable government, traits and beliefs that often do not mesh with political expediency.

Having been on the Education Committee for the past six years, the past four as the chairman, I thought I would look back at some of the highlights that may have warranted the time and headaches.

2015-16 biennium-session: Senator Sullivan was the Committee Chair; she, a registered Democrat and I a Republican, became allies on most issues. Committee Priority LB959 came out of committee with the minimum 5 votes needed.  Besides other improvements to the school funding formula, we eliminated a provision that required schools to maintain a minimal tax levy in order to receive their income tax allotment, justifiably rewarding school boards who control their spending.

2017-18: My first term as Education Committee Chairman. Committee Priority LB512 was passed, it included a provision to limit early retirement bonuses given to school employees to $35,000; previously, bonuses over $100,000 were being seen. The Committee amended into the bill legislation introduced by progressive Senators Pansing Brooks, Wayne, Walz, and Morfeld, disproving any claims that as chairman I do not work with senators who may have different political philosophies. The Committee also advanced Pansing Brooks’ LB645 and 1052 to include dyslexia as a consideration for special education help.

In 2017 we helped Senator Linehan pull LB651 out of a locked 4-4 Committee to the legislative floor; it required schools to assess student reading skills annually through the third grade and, if found deficient, work with parents to create an individual reading improvement program. In 2018 the legislation was then amended into Committee Priority LB1081 by a 33-0 vote.

When Appropriations Committee Chairman Stinner requested the Education Committee cut state aid to schools to match the Appropriation Committee’s budget, we, unlike in the past, made sure all schools were treated equally with the enactment of LB409.

2019-20 biennium session: 35 bills came out of committee; 27 were advanced to General File, 7 were amended into other bills and one was brought out by pull motion. 19 of those were introduced by senators with progressive leanings and 16 by senators who would be considered conservatives. I fail to see any political bias in those numbers, and am proud of my work to try to keep the committee non-partisan.

Passing good legislation takes time, an example is Senator Slama’s LB399–the civics education legislation. The bill began in 2016 as an effort by then Senator Krist to require the civics portion of the United States naturalization test be a prerequisite to graduation. Over the next 3 years it evolved into a comprehensive redo of state statutes requiring that certain history, civics and social studies standards be taught and assessed in our public schools. In 2019 the Committee was finally able to get it over the finish line with the Governor’s signature on it.

With the support of associations representing school boards, school administrators and teachers we introduced LB147 as an effort to create comprehensive school employee training for behavioral awareness, de-escalation and intervention.  A funding source was proposed through state lottery fund resources.  We defined what is expected of school personnel when students or others are threatened with harm by an aggressor. We clarified legal and employment protections they had when it was necessary for them to do the right thing in their role as custodial caretakers of our children. Due to a locked 4-4 committee, the legislative body pulled the bill from committee, and this past year we fell one vote short of the necessary 33 votes to overcome a filibuster. The refined legislation will be back next year; as I said, good legislation takes time and sometimes extraordinary effort.

Presently, hardcore politics is ruling the day, and I may or may not be Chairman of the Education Committee next year. I prefer to be Chairman but in two years, when done with my stint in public service, my family, friends and foes will know I left with my principles and integrity intact.

Contact Senator Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov; 402-471-2729

Column 11/25/2020
November 25th, 2020

The Facts on the Dustup Over my COVID Infection

Friday Oct. 23 I attended a special HHS committee meeting in Lincoln and returned the next Tuesday for an Education Committee hearing, staying the entire week to work on legislation. I was informed on Friday the 30th by the Director of HHS that two of the testifiers on the 23rd tested positive for COVID. That same day one of my staff texted me they were in quarantine because a close contact of theirs had tested positive. The following Monday I tested for the virus, Thursday I received a positive test result. I have recovered fully from minor flu-like symptoms. My HHS contact tracer agreed that with the timeline of my illness the most likely source was from my staff on the following Wednesday or Thursday after the Education hearing.  Monday Nov. 9th the Chairman of the Executive Board informed me that rumors were rampant that I had COVID and was planning to come to the Legislative Summit that week.

To correct the rumors, I sent an email to my fellow senators explaining as best I could without involving others the details on my contracting the virus and to say I would not be attending the conference even though my quarantine was over.

The attacks on me originated from one statement I made, “I finally got my wish and contacted [sic] COVID…. As I suspected it would happen.” I based my preference to be done with COVID on CDC information. It became an issue when a senator who is antagonistic towards me Tweeted out my email to his followers and friends in the Lincoln press, making false accusations that I was irresponsible and knew I was infected when I attended the Education Committee hearing, I neither knew nor was I infected at that time. Hate emails from his followers ensued along with biased news articles.

I have based my response to COVID on CDC studies and statements.

–CDC stated from the beginning the need to slow down the infections in order to match hospital capacities and to allow time for new treatments to be developed.  Social distancing was advised as the best precaution but when in close quarters a mask could give additional protection. I have emphasized social distancing. New treatments, including the recently released Bamlanivimab, have drastically reduced hospitalizations in proportion to infections.  Evidence shows that infections have skyrocketed as more and more people have let their guards down when relying on unreliable masks.

–CDC’s and Fauci’s eventual goal is to reach herd immunity through natural infections in combination with the event of a vaccine. From historical virus outbreaks, I knew I would eventually come in contact with the virus and I was not at high risk for serious illness due to my strong immune system and having no serious underlying conditions. I did not pursue the virus; it found me and no other cases have been traced to me. By definition, all who have contracted the virus are now part of herd immunity.

–CDC Director Redfield repeatedly has referred to a 10 state study showing actual COVID cases are at least tenfold over the number of positive tests.  Today that would be over 123 million, nearly 40% of the population, making the death rate .21% (not tenfold). Anecdotally from what I have heard from constituents I would agree with the CDC estimate.

–The vaccine will go first to healthcare workers, those who have comorbidities and older citizens–individuals who have an increased chance of serious illness when combined with COVID. Remaining citizens will have to rely on natural immunity or isolate until the vaccine is universally available later in 2021.

What I went through was a shaming; I was told I was selfish, irresponsible, and ignorant besides many other colorful terms. Why haven’t we heard from the millions who have successfully endured COVID and why have they avoided getting tested for COVID?  My experience may explain it: they were either asymptomatic or out of fear of personal attacks and shaming from an ignorant mob who are told by Twitter, the internet and a biased press what to think in lieu of how to think. America is troubled!!!!

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729

Column 10/30/2020
October 30th, 2020

Examining the impact of COVID-19 on the education of Nebraska’s children

The Education Committee held a hearing on LR402 to examine the effect COVID-19 is having on families due to the disruption it is having on PK-12 Education and what approaches parents were using to keep their children’s education on track.

Consistently we have heard from the education establishment of their efforts to provide educational opportunities to students in an uncertain environment where local, state and federal government entities were recommending limiting personal contact between students and school employees. They have done all they could with the uncertainty of liability and unknown health effects hanging over their heads.

Yes, schools have had to adapt quickly to COVID-19, but as a shift has happened from classroom to in-home learning, it has been parents and children who have had to make the bigger adjustments. It’s great that technology has allowed for remote learning, but expecting a child to sit in front of a computer screen for six hours is expecting a lot. This makes it a necessity for a parent to be present at all times to fill in for the teacher and keep their child on task. Before COVID-19, a family had a routine of work and family life. Even when classroom learning resumes it can quickly be altered by quarantine requirements if a child has contact with a person that has tested positive for COVID or a school decides to have alternating schedules. Many parents who disagree with a school’s mask mandate have had no choice but to find an alternative education path for their children.

Parents who testified gave compelling reasons why we must return to in-classroom education and allow children to settle back into a routine. They implied that the non-personal, two-dimensional world of a computer screen can cause depression due to the isolated learning environment. Some parents have been faced with becoming single-income families as one parent stays home to homeschool their children or to supervise the distance learning available from the public school.

We learned there are options for parents. Nebraska allows parents to choose alternative educational paths for their kids. Some choose a homeschool option that is one-on-one with a parent; others choose a co-op or a learning pod where a few families get together and one parent does the teaching, they rotate the responsibility, or they pool their resources and hire an individual to teach the kids. More formally, some families approved to homeschool their kids enroll them in a more formalized alternative school like one of the four Acton Academies in Nebraska, where each child works to create and develop their own learning path.

Homeschooling comes at a cost, too. We heard from a mom that couldn’t afford formal curriculum and is grateful that her kids are young enough to learn from free resources available online. Parents with kids in middle or high school, though, need textbooks and supplies for science classes. Many of these parents need help.

Of course, there are many parents in the state that have typically chosen private or parochial schools for their families. We heard at the hearing that, unfortunately, those numbers are declining due to the pandemic, too. Scholarship fundraising is down and some families impacted by COVID-19 have had to tighten their belts forgoing tuition payments. Enrollment has dropped more than 10% overall in parochial schools with low income student enrollment being hit the hardest.  North Platte’s St. Patrick’s school is down 16 students this year, but perhaps even more troubling is the kindergarten lost over 20% of its enrollment.

The impact on kindergarten enrollment is a pandemic phenomenon that is happening nationwide, and certainly across the state. Because kindergarten is not compulsory, some parents are keeping their young children in child care or at home another year to avoid their first experiences with school to be done under these circumstances. They can either enroll them in first grade or kindergarten next year.

We learned that in order to maximize education opportunity the legislature may need to look at ways to help parents financially and increase access by removing regulatory roadblocks. It is the responsibility of parents to educate their children, government’s mission is to facilitate it.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

Column 10/15/2020
October 15th, 2020

Senator Groene’s opinions on the 2020 Constitutional Amendments and Initiative Measures

I have been asked for my opinion on the 6 ballot amendments and initiatives.

Amendment No.1; Striking from Article 1 Section 2 of the State Constitution the phrase “otherwise than for punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” It appears after the phrase “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state”.

Our State Constitution actually mirrors the wording of the 13th Amendment to our US Constitution. Which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  It was one of the last documents signed by President Lincoln before his assassination in 1865.

The noun “slavery” is the state of being under the control of someone where a person is forced to work for another. It does not always coincide with being a slave where one is the property of another.

Today when a judge gives a sentence of community service, making a young vandal clean up his graffiti, or when a convict is required to attend rehabilitation classes as a condition of release from confinement, both could be considered involuntary servitude or a form of slavery. If Amendment 1 passes, taxpayers may be forced to pay convicts a minimum wage to make their bed.

I now regret voting for Legislative Resolution 1CA. I got caught up in our present national atonement mood over an evil scar on the American conscience. Our State Constitution should not conflict with the US Constitution and this issue is not about the ownership of slaves but instead concerns the rehabilitation and punishment of individuals who have committed crimes against society.

Amendment No 2: Article VIII section 12 of the State Constitution, Tax Increment Financing. Include a new designation of extremely blighted and allow for a 20 year payback period in an extremely blighted area in lieu of the present 15 years limit for a standard TIF project.  You may remember Senator Wayne and I had a knock down fight on the floor on this issue where he ended up putting filibuster motions on all of my bills as retribution. Undaunted, I continued to fight this vague expansion of TIF, but when Senator Wayne agreed to accept my amendment 1255,  adding a definition of extremely blighted; “due to a high rate of unemployment combined with a high poverty rate as determined by law” I agreed to no longer fight the legislation.  At the end of the day, Senator Wayne and I share the same passion to see TIF used properly as a tool to upgrade the older infrastructure of communities where many times poverty exists. He later helped enact my Micro-TIF legislation LB1021. Good government is not for the faint of heart, it is done in the fire of debate in the public eye.  Unjust government can only happen in the backroom deals of those who play well together.   I am voting yes on Amendment 2.

Initiative Measure 428: A change to our state statutes to limit payday loan interest to 36% and prohibit payday lenders from evading this rate cap. Presently, absorbent late fees and loan fees are often assessed to many of these loans. You can blame our federal government for this mess. Payday loans became common after the “Dodd/Frank” legislation passed in congress, prohibiting high interest rates on credit card applicants with bad credit ratings; it took credit access away from many. I am voting for the Initiative.  My only fear is by eliminating credit access for some; we may see loan sharks on street corners. When there is demand the market will always fill the need.

Initiative Measure 429 to constitutionally permit casino gambling at racetracks and Measures 430 and 431 to enact it in our statutes: I do not see how they would improve the state’s social character nor do I see a net gain in tax receipts over the social cost to government. Those who have discretionary cash can afford to travel out of state to gamble. When gambling is local, the poor have access, therein lies the social cost.  I am unwilling to be part of it.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729

Column 10/1/2020
October 1st, 2020

The True Purpose of TIF

I have fought the misuse of tax increment financing (TIF) for over 20 years.  We can argue about the definitions of substandard and blighted property all day long, but you will never convince me that an open field outside the city limits fits the purpose of TIF, defined in Article 8-12 of our State Constitution.

When going back and reading the debate points made by proponents of the 1978 TIF ballot initiative, it becomes clear that it was intended to help communities address the presence of individual older properties considered to be blighted and substandard because they are rundown, worn-out and their design no longer fits the expected living standards or business needs of today.

When I had asked local city officials why not use TIF to revitalize smaller individual projects in existing downtown and older residential areas, their reply was always, “to comply with existing state laws the legal and consulting costs were too high for smaller development projects to be practical.” I finally had to admit they were correct; the more the Legislature passed laws to reign in abuses of TIF, the related costs created to comply made compliance only affordable to large economic development projects that needed the open fields on the outskirts of town to build on. The over-regulations created a mini-industry of lawyers and consultants who peddle their costly TIF expertise to city leaders.

In response we came up with LB1021; officially known as an expedited review project, we like to call it Micro-TIF.  In short, it makes TIF available to individuals by incentivizing them to fix up or replace an older home or business by exempting those projects from regulations that caused high legal, consulting and bond-financing cost, plus it removes the need to play any local political games.

LB1021 will become law on November 14. Local communities must first elect by resolution to allow expedited reviews.  Second the city must create blighted and substandard areas encompassing the older parts of their communities, larger communities are limited to 35% of their area. Smaller towns can designate up to 100%. As a side note, cities the size of North Platte who is presently at 24.6%, wishing to utilize the benefits of LB1021 must now think twice before they annex and designate large tracts of bare land as blighted and substandard.

In preparation of LB1021 becoming law, we are now working with the State’s Economic Development and Revenue departments to create the required standardized, easy to understand individual application and county assessor forms.  We are also creating a template for a promissory note for communities to use when incurring the necessary indebtedness required to access the increment property taxes needed to pay to the property owner for fulfilling their promise to improve the property.

If you are a present property owner or a building contractor and you wish to improve or replace a present building that is at least 60 years old, and the new value after improvements will be no more than $250,000 for a home, one million for a business property or $10 million for a building on the National Registry of Historic Places (the Pawnee Hotel for example) you can qualify for Micro-TIF.

Another benefit if you are looking for a new home, instead of considering a new TIF’d home where the property taxes you pay go to the developer, you might consider using Micro-TIF to remodel or build a replacement home in an older part of town where you will receive the direct property tax benefits. Unlike standard TIF projects where the tax increments are paid to the holder of the bond debt, Micro-TIF stays with the property owner.

The benefits of Micro-TIF as envisioned are many; it could be a boon for small businesses involved in construction or those who sell construction supplies.  It is one answer to creating truly affordable workforce housing.  It may also make owning a future Habitat for Humanity home or Lincoln County Community Development Corporation home affordable and it could help revitalize the business community in the old downtown areas.

How much MICRO-TIF is allowed to improve the outlook of a community will all depend on a community embracing the true purpose of TIF.

Contact Sen. Mike Groene: mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729.

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42
Room 1302
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2729
Email: mgroene@leg.ne.gov
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