NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Dan Hughes

Sen. Dan Hughes

District 44

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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.

We’re 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 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.

Last Friday was day 30 of the 90 day session, which means we have made it a third of the way through this session.  Even though we still have a few weeks left of bill hearings, the committees have been busy advancing bills to general file so once morning debates commence there will be bills on the agenda to discuss.  A few weeks ago I wrote about the redistricting process we must go through every 10 years and I mentioned at that time that the data we need from the federal government may be delayed.  We received notice last week that they do not believe that we will get that information before the end of September so that leaves a lot of questions in the air.  As I learn new information about what the process will be I will keep you updated.  It is important to finish redistricting as soon as possible because 2022 is an election year and people need to know which district they will be in because it may affect their decision whether they will run.  On a side note, I encourage you to get involved and run for a local office, the best way to effect change is to get involved.

As most of you know I spent the last 4 years as Chair of the Natural Resources Committee.  One of the areas that the committee covers is electricity. One of the things I enjoy about being a senator is getting to learn more about things that are of interest to me.  I personally think the power industry is truly fascinating, the way it works and the mix of power generating sources. We are very fortunate in the country to have cheap and reliable electricity, most of the time.

I realize that before last week many of you had probably never heard of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the group that manages the electric grid and wholesale power market for the central United States.  Due to the recent cold snap, the weaknesses in SPP’s system have been brought to light.  In response to this, Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainard introduced LR 48.  The intent of this resolution is to have the Natural Resources Committee provide a report of its findings as to the reasons for and circumstances surrounding the power outages experienced by Nebraskans.  These outages could have been more than an inconvenience, for some they could have had dire consequences.  The extreme cold temperatures created a very dangerous situation.  Even though I am no longer chair of the Natural Resources Committee I am still a member, and I look forward to having conversations with the public power providers and also members of the SPP to hear what happened and what their plans are for the future to ensure this will not happen again.

Reliability and affordability are the two most important factors when it comes to electricity. Thank you to everyone involved in providing electricity to us and a special thank you to our line people.

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.

We had a morning of floor debate on Tuesday this week, but we will not engage regularly in debate until Tuesday, March 2.  We are doing our best to get through as many bills in committee as possible.  The second week of March we will have morning floor debate followed by afternoon committee hearings and executive sessions as needed. The plan is to finish all committee hearings, other than Judiciary, by March 4th.  Due to the number of bills referred to the Judiciary Committee, they will not finish up until March 12th.

As I was trying to think of bills that may be of interest to the 44th legislative district, I came across one introduced by Senator Mike Flood of Norfolk, LB 650. This bill would allow Nebraska to facilitate further studies of carbon capture and sequestration projects in Nebraska.  Currently, the regulatory authority of these projects is the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.  This bill would give statutory authority to establish intent to facilitate carbon capture in Nebraska, designate property rights and create a cash fund for the regulatory operations.  Carbon capture and sequestration is when carbon dioxide is created by a company during its manufacturing process and is then captured and moved to a storage site, thus keeping it from entering the atmosphere. In Nebraska we have deep underground formations that would be appropriate geological stratums to store the CO2. The same protocols that are used in the oil and gas industry to protect groundwater would be followed. CO2 injection is currently being done at several sites around the globe today. I have not made up my mind about this legislation, I just thought it was interesting and I look forward to learning more about it.

Last week the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard several bills about the challenges of building out broadband to rural areas.  If anything has come out of 2020 it is the need for all areas of our state to have fast internet speeds that we can rely on.  Our society is moving towards more and more things being done on the internet, not only business meetings, but also telemedicine, educational classes and even farming.  It can be very costly to get broadband out to rural areas, but it must be a priority.  Telecommunications companies and public power must work together to find a solution that works best for Nebraskans.  If you would like to read more on the legislation that has been proposed I would encourage you to look at LB’s 388 and 456 regarding broadband grant programs.  There are 2 more bills that deal with broadband if you’re interested you can look at LB 455, pole attachments and LB 520, big cell tower.  

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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