NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Dan Hughes

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44

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 dhughes@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 6th, 2021

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 44th 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. Dan Hughes

The Executive Board Committee held a hearing on LR 107 last Thursday.  The intent of the resolution, introduced by North Platte senator, Mike Groene, is to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Nebraska against foreign and domestic acts of aggression and abuse of power.  The committee received approximately 40 letters in support and 6 opponent letters.  We had about an even number of people come in and testify both for and against the bill.  The committee heard from 11 proponent testifiers and 7 opponent testifiers, there was no one testifying in a neutral capacity.  A resolution like this must have a hearing and if it is advanced from committee, it will have one round of debate on the floor of the legislature.  

Over my last seven years here I have enjoyed talking to many different school groups from my district that come to the capitol for a visit.  If I know they are coming, I try to make it a point to get together with them and speak to the group.  This year, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to a few different classes from District 44.  From 4th graders, to middle school kids, and even some juniors and seniors in a Government class, I enjoy meeting them and talking to them about my work here representing them all.  They get to hear me ramble a little about my background, the legislative process, the importance of civic awareness and engagement, among other things.  They give me hope for the future and I hope that I make even the slightest bit of impression on them.

Just like I try to emphasize to all the school kids I speak to, we must be involved in what is going on around us and be aware of what our state and federal representatives are doing.  One way for our high school students to learn about how to get involved is by attending the 2021 Unicameral Youth Legislature that will be held June 13-16.  If you know a high school student who is interested in government they should look into this opportunity.  The students will work with staff and senators to introduce bills, have committee hearings, debate legislation and get a real feel for what it is like to be a Nebraska state senator.  Housing and recreational activities are coordinated by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office.  Registration forms and more information can be found on the Legislature’s Unicameral Youth Legislature page.  Registration deadline is May 28th.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Last week was deemed ‘Revenue’ week here at the capitol. More long days and nights of passionate and sometimes angry debates ensued as we tackled taxation issues among other things. With an unclear picture at the beginning of last week as to the state’s financial wiggle room, it was important to carefully weigh any bills with significant financial price tags.

After the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met last Thursday, we received more answers. The revenue projections were raised to $90 million for the current fiscal year and lowered by $5 million for the second year of the biennium. That means there is about $40 million more available for tax relief or spending in addition to the already $211 million already obtained. Of that original $211 million, only $34 million remains if all bills that have already advanced past General File were to become law. That being said, there are still some funds available when deciding what the priorities are for tax relief or where it should be spent.   

A long 8 hours of debate last week was spent discussing LB 364, a bill that would create a tax credit scholarship program to help more low-income students attend private and parochial schools. As introduced, the bill would have provided tax credits to people or businesses that donate to a designated private or parochial school scholarship fund. The original bill would have allowed the Department of Revenue to grant $10 million in credits in 2022, then if at least 90 percent of the credits in any given year are claimed, the annual limit would increase by 25 percent. A Revenue committee amendment was pending to limit the total amount of credits available each year to $5 million.  Elkhorn senator, LouAnn Linehan, who introduced this bill and other similar bills in the past, argued that this legislation gives educational choices and opportunities for every child in the state. Another supporter, Senator Justin Wayne, said that the achievement gap for black students had grown and that parents are asking for school choice limited by option enrollment.  Those that opposedLong and late debates on revenue issues  the bill argued that; it did not address the underlying factors that cause the achievement gap in the first place, that it would primarily benefit only wealthy donors, and it is a tax loophole that wouldn’t benefit contributors to other charitable organizations. The bill stalled on General File after it faced a filibuster and a failed cloture motion vote. 

A resolution, introduced last week by North Platte senator, Mike Groene, was written to protect Nebraskans against government overreach at the federal level. LR 107 objects to intrusions of the federal government into such issues as religious freedom and Second Amendment rights to vaccinations, land usage and elections.  There are over 30 senators who signed onto this resolution, including myself. It is scheduled for a hearing this week before the Executive Board of the Legislature. With passage of this resolution, the Legislature will send a message to both the state and federal delegation saying we wish to preserve the integrity of both Nebraska’s State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. 

I hope after having had a long weekend, we can come back this week refreshed and ready to conquer all the tough issues and decisions ahead.

We have come to the point in the Legislative calendar where our scheduled late night debates have begun. Speaker Hilgers announced that it is possible the Legislature will stay in session until at least 7:00 pm on certain nights, but we could go later if warranted, up until possibly 11:59 pm. These late nights are scheduled to help us get through all of the Speaker, committee, and Senator priority bills before the end of session.

Much of last week was focused on property tax issues. Senator Tom Briese introduced LB 2 which reduces the ag-land valuation used when it comes to paying for school bond issues.   Under current law, agricultural land is valued at 75 percent of its actual value for purposes of property taxation. As introduced, LB 2 would have changed ag-land to be valued at 30 percent of its value for purposes of school district taxes levied to pay the principal and interest on bonds. A Revenue Committee amendment that was adopted changed that to be valued at 50 percent for that same purpose. This bill, as amended, advanced to Select File.  

Another bill debated extensively late last week was LB 408, also introduced by Senator Tom Briese. LB 408, provides that a political subdivision’s property tax request, the amount of property taxes requested to be raised through its levy, could not exceed the prior year’s request by more than 3 percent, excluding the amount needed to pay the principal and interest on approved bonds. Voters for the political subdivision would be able to override the limit with a majority vote at an election.  Senator Briese explained that property tax requests have increased on average 4.5 percent over the last 10 years which is two to three times faster than inflation and wage growth.  The bill was an attempt to put a reasonable restriction on that growth.  A pending Revenue Committee amendment on the bill would give political subdivisions a second mechanism to exceed the 3 percent limit. At one point in the long debate there were more than 20 amendments filed on the bill. The urban/rural divide was apparent in this debate and in the end, cloture (a procedure to end debate and vote on the bill) did not garner enough votes.  A cloture motion needs 33 votes. It failed with a vote of 29-8. The failed cloture motion means that the debate on that bill ceases for the day, and it will likely not be placed on the agenda again this session.

This week we will continue debate on more legislation dealing with revenue and taxation.

 

Last week we began debate on the budget bills.  Our only constitutional responsibility as a legislature is to pass a biennial budget.  It’s been awhile but we actually have more money than was projected which makes it easier and also a bit harder to create a budget.  When we are low on money it is easier to just say no to anything that requires extra money.  When we have extra money it can be difficult to decide what should take priority.  Just because we have more this year, doesn’t mean that during the next budget cycle we will be in the same situation and then we would have to cut a program that was just created.  Although, any money that can go towards property tax relief in a sensible manner is something that has been a priority of mine and I will continue to support it.

Some of the highlights from the Appropriations Committee proposed FY 2021-22/FY2022-23 biennial budget are: Property tax relief, the committee included an increase in the Property Tax Credit of $63 million over the next two years;  money for legislation pending this year of $211 million;  also, money to help replenish the cash reserve fund (the legislature’s savings account), which would increase from $412 million to $763 million.  The proposed budget can be found on the Nebraska Legislature’s website: www.nebraskalegislature.gov

Last Thursday we passed a $9.7 billion budget, but it still has to pass two more rounds of debate so there could be further changes made.  On Friday, we debated LB 383, a bill introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers that was at the request of the governor.  The bill is to appropriate funds for capital construction. There was an amendment offered by Senator John Stinner of Gering that created a lot of debate, the amendment, AM 911, appropriates money to address prison overcrowding.  Senator Stinner’s amendment allocates almost $15 million for selecting a site and creates the design for a new 1,500 bed prison.  It also requires a study of the current Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln to determine how much longer it should be utilized.  There is also $18 million added so Lincoln can add three units for geriatric, mentally ill and other special-needs prisoners.  

After our legislative budget is determined, we will begin discussing spending and taxation.  According to Speaker Mike Hilgers, that will be the focus for the two weeks following the finalization of the budget.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

These past few weeks we’ve covered a wide array of topics at the legislature.  One example is that we will start a day with debate about telehealth and then just like that we will talk about ready-to-drink cocktails.  Some of the topics you think would create more of a stir don’t and then you spend hours talking about what you thought would pass easily.

There were a lot of fireworks on the floor of the legislature while discussing LB 152, a bill introduced by Julie Slama of Peru.  The bill would adopt the federal standard of consumer fireworks.  Senator Slama’s district borders Missouri, a state that already uses the federal definition, so she has a number of constituents who cross the border to purchase fireworks there instead of here.  If you look at the fireworks stands in Nebraska they are run by non-profits or they are mom and pop stands run by your neighbors, so it would be nice to keep some of the money here in Nebraska and help out our friends.  Additionally, this bill authorizes the State Fire Marshal to test commercial fireworks and declare them unsafe if necessary.  LB 152 has advanced to Select File.

Broadband came back up last week when LB 338 was discussed on the floor.  One of the issues we discussed is that the Governor has put $20 million in his budget for the next two years.  It also sounds like there will be significant money coming from the federal government for broadband build out from the federal Rescue Act. The challenge we have today is the standard in Nebraska is 25/3 that means 25 megabits per second (Mgps) download and 3 Mgps upload, that 3 is very slow if you need to upload files or have multiple people trying to zoom at once.  In Nebraska we’re changing our standard to 100/100 Mgps.  If we’re going to build out in unserved and underserved areas we have to build it out right.  We need to do this, it is important we have the capabilities for people to work remotely or kids to do their schoolwork from home if they need to.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Last week we passed the half-way mark for this year’s session.  We were supposed to receive the proposed budget from the Appropriations Committee last week but there were a few minor changes they wanted to make before releasing it.  We should get it sometime this week.

Two of my bills, LB 190 and LB 191 which are rolled into LB 507, were heard on the floor last week.  The amendment that they were put into was adopted to LB507 and the bill advanced to Select File.  Other bills that may be of interest to the 44th legislative district are:

LB 83, this bill was introduced by Senator Mike Flood of Norfolk.  During declared emergencies, county boards, mayors and village boards could virtually hold meetings.  Political subdivisions would be allowed to conduct half of their annual meetings virtually.  There would still have to be at least one physical site for public participation and advanced notice would have to be given.  This is different from what they can currently do, right now they can use virtual meetings in circumstances regarding the existing emergency only.  This would allow them to discuss regular business virtually.  

Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil introduced a bill, LB 390, at the request of the governor and he then selected it as his personal priority bill.  The bill would amend Nebraska’s Uniform Credentialing Act which would allow certain people credentialed in other states to apply for expedited credential in Nebraska.  Those eligible  include dentists, optometrists, nurses, podiatrists, psychologists and others.  Hopefully this would help with shortages that we see throughout the state.  This bill is now on select file.

The Daylight Saving Time bill, or LB 283, introduced by Senator Tom Briese again this year, has been chosen as a speaker priority bill.  Almost every state has introduced legislation to make this change but only 15 states have enacted legislation or passed a resolution to allow for year-round daylight savings time.  This could only happen if Congress were to allow this change.  I have heard from a number of constituents on this issue both for and against but the one thing that most people agree on is that we need to either be in year-round daylight saving time or get rid of it.  No one likes switching their clocks twice a year.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Last week a total of 89 bills were named either a senator or a committee priority bill.  If priority bills are advanced out of committee they will have a better chance of being heard on the legislative floor this year.  The speaker also named 25 bills as speaker priority bills.  This may sound like a lot of bills and although some of these bills are controversial, most are not.

Another route to get a bill on the floor for debate is to ask the Speaker for a bill to be put on the consent calendar.  Consent calendar bills have to be non controversial, must not make many changes to statutes, must be advanced out of committee without any dissenting votes, and the bill must not have a general fund impact.  Consent calendar bills are an avenue to get bills on the floor that are primarily cleanup legislation or bills that aren’t controversial.  

The Appropriations Committee has been working hard to get their budget recommendation to the entire legislative body as soon as possible.  On Thursday, March 25th they will release the recommendations to the body.  Next week, we anticipate taking the budget up on the floor for debate.

I realized that I haven’t taken the time this year to introduce you to my current staff.  As Chair of the Executive Board, my staff consists of an Administrative Assistant who also acts as the Committee’s Clerk (AA/CC), a Legislative Aide (LA) and a Committee Legal Counsel (LC).  Mandy Mizerski is my AA/CC, and she has been with me for over 4 years now.  She came on board when I became Chair of the Natural Resources office and I’m very pleased that she chose to follow along to the Executive Board office.  Mandy and her husband, Rob, are Lincoln natives and they’re busy raising their two vivacious boys.  Jeni Bohlmeyer has been with me since I started in the legislature.  Jeni and Todd, her husband, live on a farm in Gage County and they raise American Aberdeen to keep themselves busy since becoming empty nesters.  Janice Satra is the LC and we just started working together this January, her and her husband Steve, just became grandparents to a second handsome baby boy.  I don’t know how mad Janice will be if I told you how long she’s been here but put it this way, Jeni’s 20 sessions is nothing compared to the years of knowledge that she brings. Between all three of them they have been through over 66 regular sessions. I am fortunate to have the three of them working with me.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Priority bills selected
March 17th, 2021

Last week and early this week, things continued to be busy around here.  Committees were busy meeting in executive session, trying to advance bills so that senators could decide on what bill they would like to prioritize for the session.  Each senator can prioritize one bill and each committee can prioritize up to two bills.  Usually a senator does not like to prioritize a specific bill until they know it has the votes to get out of committee because if it does not and there aren’t enough votes to pull the bill out of committee then they have wasted their priority bill for the year.  Having priority bill status means that those bills will be heard on the Legislative floor for debate before other bills that do not have priority bill status.

I chose LB 650, introduced by Mike Flood from Norfolk, as my personal priority bill for this session.  This bill would create the Nebraska Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide Act.  I have gone into more detail about this bill in a previous article but basically this bill would give statutory authority to establish intent to facilitate carbon capture in Nebraska.

There are other ways for non-controversial bills to jump the line in front of non-prioritized bills.  You can ask for a speaker priority, the Speaker of the Legislature usually chooses 25 bills to group together, these are bills that will not take a lot of time on floor debate and that do not need substantive amendments to them.  I asked for LB 336 to be considered to be a speaker priority.  The Speaker received a number of requests so I will let you know if it gets chosen as one of them.

The Natural Resources Committee chose LB 507 as one of their committee priority bills.  This is a bill that I have written about in a past article.  In the bill they amended two of my bills, LB 190 and LB 191.  The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee chose my bill, LB 215, as one of their committee priority bills.  This bill would allow Douglas County to raise the surcharge on landlines and also on wireless users to help with costs associated with their 911 system, this bill does not affect any other county.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

There is some good news on the horizon for Nebraska.  The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met on February 26, 2021 and raised revenue projections for the state.  Their projections are what the legislature uses to create our bi-annual budget.  The current projections were raised by $204 million to $5.49 billion.  This is due to anticipated increases of $65 million in sales and use tax receipts, $40 million in corporate tax receipts, $4 million miscellaneous taxes and $95 million individual income tax receipts.  The total projected revenue receipts for FY 2021-2022 were raised to $5.08 billion, which is an increase of $165 million.  The following year FY 2022-2023 was increased by $93 million.

Some bills that may be of interest to the 44th legislative district are LB 254 and LB 324. LB 254 was introduced by Matt Williams of Gothenburg, it would extend the sunset date on the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act.  This act was originally enacted into law on August 28, 1999.  We include sunset dates on many acts like this so it makes future legislatures look into an act and determine if it is still accomplishing the original goals, if not they can let the act end or they can make necessary adjustments.  The Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act helps out new farmers or ranchers who plan on farming full time.  The costs to get started in farming or ranching is quite substantive and can be a roadblock.  The number of farmers have decreased dramatically in the past few decades and this is one tool to help those who would like to live the good life achieve their dream.

LB 324 was introduced by Senator Tom Brandt of Plymouth.   This bill would allow meat producers and consumers an easier way to buy packages of meat directly from the processor or producer.  It would create the Independent Processor Assistance Program which would increase local processing capacity and expand market access for small producers. Under this bill consumers can enter into agreements with livestock producers and have partial ownership in the animal or herd which would allow them to use the custom exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

The legislative committees were in high gear this week kicking bills out of committee.  One reason why they were so busy is because the deadline to name senator priority bills and committee priority bills was this week.  In my next article I will write more about this process and what were some of the more newsworthy bills designated as priorities.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Status of my bills and more
March 4th, 2021

We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for committees to wrap up their hearings.  Starting next week we will have morning debate and the afternoons are reserved for the Judiciary Committee to finish up their hearings and for other committees to have executive sessions.  Committees are not only busy wrapping up hearings, but also advancing bills to the legislative floor.   Currently, I have 3 bills that are on General File, the first round of debate.  LB 616 which would give towers a little help when they get stuck with abandoned vehicles.  The other two bills, LB 190, which would change provisions relating to the use of the Water Sustainability Fund and LB 191, which would redefine elector for the Irrigation District Act.  Both were adopted by the Natural Resources Committee into one amendment and that was placed on LB 507.  In the past I have talked about this procedure of including provisions of multiple bills into one bill, it is called a Christmas tree bill.  Only committees can create this.

LB 507 amends the Ethanol Development Act. It would prohibit the use of treated seed corn for ethanol production, because certain pesticides that are used to treat seed corn create a byproduct waste when used for creating ethanol.  This byproduct cannot be used for application on ag land or used for livestock consumption.

Another bill that was rolled into LB 507 is LB 395 introduced by Tim Gragert of Creighton.  Currently, the Game and Parks Commission can designate special depredation seasons and issue permits for the taking of deer when there is evidence that crops or other property was damaged.  This bill would allow for the taking of elk and antelope using the same guidelines as deer.  The revenue from the permit fees would go to the landowners to be used for abatement of damage caused by the wildlife.

Each year a few introduced bills receive more attention than others.  This year, one of those is a bill introduced by Senator Steve Halloran of Hastings, LB 188, a bill otherwise known as the Adopt the Second Amendment Preservation Act.  This bill would prohibit any agency, political subdivision, or their employees, of Nebraska to knowingly and willingly participate in enforcing any federal act, law, order, rule, or regulation regarding a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition if the act, law, order, rule or regulation does not exist under the laws of the state of Nebraska.  I have always supported our second amendment rights and will continue to do so.

Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805. My office is in room 2108 at the Capitol if you are in the Lincoln area. You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch the session, hearings, and other Capitol events.

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44
Room 2108
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2805
Email: dhughes@leg.ne.gov
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