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 email@example.com
Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th 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.
Sen. Steve Erdman
Nebraska’s K-12 public schools operate on an academic calendar that is unfriendly to families. Over the summer months I have been considering introducing legislation next year which would standardize the academic school calendars for all of Nebraska’s K-12 public schools, making them more family friendly. So, today I would like to make the case for why this change needs to be made.
Currently, Nebraska’s K-12 public schools begin sometime in mid-August and usually end before Memorial Day. For example, in the Bayard Public School District, which is where I live, school starts on August 12 and ends on May 18. That’s 11 days before Memorial Day! This kind of calendar takes half the month of August away from families who need that time to take their summer vacations.
The families I have spoken with would prefer a K-12 academic calendar which begins in September near Labor Day and ends before Memorial Day. This is how they do it in the state of Wisconsin. For instance, the school calendar for the Alma School District in Wisconsin begins September 1, 2021 and ends May 27, 2022.
It is much easier for parents to plan around summer vacation than around a single day off in the middle of the week. Examine any public school’s calendar in Nebraska, and you will see that they have scheduled days off for students and teachers midweek which do not correspond to any federal or state holidays nor are these days reserved for in-service training. In order to accommodate for these shorter academic weeks, student learning now has to begin in mid-August.
Students need to attend school five days per week, not four. Schools are supposed to prepare students for life in the real world. When students attend school only four days per week, it gives them a false sense of how life in the real world operates.
Nebraska’s public school calendars are not family friendly. Whenever students and teachers take a midweek day off it puts an undue strain on families to have to care for their children. Working parents seldom ever have the luxury of being able to take a day off from work midweek or work from home in order to care for their children when they really ought to be working for their employer. Consequently, giving teachers the luxury of a midweek day off constitutes an undue burden for working families to have to bear.
Teacher in-service days do not need to be scheduled during the academic calendar year. Instead, teacher in-service days should be scheduled during the summer months when children are out of school. Under my plan public schools would have three full months for holding in-service days without disrupting the academic calendar or the normal five day school week. So, instead of starting student learning on August 12, let the teachers begin working on August 12.
Some may wish to argue that the current academic calendar yields better test results for learning than the old academic calendar, but this is false. The most objective metric for student learning is the ACT. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national composite score for the ACT back in 1995, before most states changed their academic calendars, was 20.8. However, the national composite score for last year was only 20.6. Nebraska’s composite score for last year was only 19.9. So, the argument cannot be made that changing to the new academic calendar has somehow improved academic performance.
The academic situation in Nebraska is deteriorating fast. The latest test scores show that only 41 percent of high school juniors in Nebraska are proficient in reading. Reading scores have been declining for several years. For instance, the average reading score for Nebraska’s 8th grade students in 2019 was 264, but in in 2017 it was 269, and in 2002 it was 270. Could this be the result of reducing time for summer reading?
So, the time has come for school administrators and school boards to reconsider the needs of students and families when it comes to planning the academic calendar. Students and families would be much better served by an academic calendar which begins after Labor Day and ends before Memorial Day. Hopefully, this kind of legislation won’t ever be necessary.
The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. This popular definition of insanity describes what it is like to work with the Nebraska Department of Education. No matter how many times the people of Nebraska testify against the newly proposed education standards and demand that the old curriculum be reinstated, the Nebraska Department of Education continues to press forward with its own agenda.
Despite the thousands of emails and letters the Nebraska Department of Education has received in opposition to these newly proposed standards, the Nebraska State Board of Education continues to press forward with its second draft. Despite the fact that 73 people testified in opposition to the new standards compared to the two people who testified in favor of the newly proposed standards at a recent hearing in Kearney, the Nebraska State Board of Education refuses to end their campaign of reforming Nebraska’s educational standards. Despite the call from the Governor and several resolutions passed by school boards calling for them to rescind these new educational standards, the Nebraska State Board of Education continues to ignore these calls and do their own thing.
The Nebraska Department of Education has a serious credibility problem. But don’t just take this from me. Last week I received a letter from the Education Commissioner, Matthew Blomstedt, which said that he and the State Board of Education are currently experiencing “a crisis of confidence” due to the controversy which has arisen over these new education standards. “A crisis of confidence” are his words, not mine!
There are good reasons why the State Board of Education is experiencing a crisis of confidence. To put it simply, they do not shoot straight with the people of Nebraska and they leave parents in a position of having to guess about what may be coming down the pike for their children.
Matthew Blomstedt, the Education Commissioner, continues to mislead the public. In the same letter that I received last week from the Education Commissioner, he made the following statement, “I, like most of you, were not familiar with Critical Race Theory (CRT)…” Really? If that really was the case, then why did he say in his “Points of Clarification” letter dated May 7, 2021 that “Critical Race Theory was not used to develop the proposed draft of the Nebraska Health Education Standards”? Why would he make such a bold claim without knowing what CRT actually is? CRT is clearly embedded in the first draft of the newly proposed education standards. So, did he not read the first draft?
Even if we take him at his word, the commissioner has admitted that he is unfamiliar with the latest trends in educational theory. Nebraska needs a commissioner who is competent and who is familiar with the latest trends in educational theory. The only way we can effectively steer Nebraska’s public educational system into the future is by having a competent person at the helm, who is familiar with these latest trends in educational theory and who can carefully and critically evaluate them.
The State Board of Education is now backpedaling and trying to dupe the public by using double-speak. I believe the State Board of Education intends to move forward with a second draft which will contain a milder form of its ideology. Here’s why. The letter I received last week stated that the second draft would remove some of the more “explicit examples” but said nothing about altering the overall message or content of the standards. The letter also said that the State Board of Education intends to “reframe sensitive topics” instead of deleting them altogether.
The people of Nebraska have spoken loud and clear. The vast majority of the people of Nebraska do not want such things as sexual orientation, gender identity, and Critical Race Theory “reframed” and taught to their children; instead, they want these things deleted from the educational standards altogether. Until the State Board of Education bends its ear and its agenda to the will of the people, I believe this crisis of confidence will continue to grow. To be sure, if all we get is a milder form of the first draft without complete deletions of the controversial material, it will be time to call for the resignations of every member of the State Board of Education including that of the Education Commissioner.
There is a necessary connection between economics and a republican form of government which gives rise to individual liberty. Whenever you alter either a constitutional republic or an economic system, the result is the loss of liberty. Milton Friedman understood this correlation very well when he said, “…a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom.”
Capitalism is an economic system designed for a free people. Capitalism puts an individual in the driver’s seat of his or her own prosperity. This is true economic freedom. Consequently, personal wealth is earned through hard work, competency, and ingenuity. To the contrary, Communism and Socialism remove the incentives to work hard, to better oneself, and to innovate, leaving the individual dependent upon the government for a paycheck.
A constitutional republic is also specially designed for a free people. When properly framed the constitution restrains the actions of the government and protects the individual liberties of the people. This is true political freedom. The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution guarantees those liberties which rightfully belong to the American people. To the contrary, Communism and Socialism are governed by a utopian ideology such as the Communist Manifesto which removes individual liberties and unleashes the powers of the State.
The United States of America has been slowly drifting towards Socialism. The great lie that is being fed to the American people today is that liberty is a governmental problem that is unrelated to economics. For instance, Democratic Socialism holds that economic policies can be changed without interfering with individual liberties. But, this is false.
The greatest shackles of liberty are taxes. Taxation is the government’s way of enslaving its citizens. The amount of money withheld from your paycheck, the amount of money you pay in property taxes, and the amount of money you pay sales taxes at the store comprise your level of enslavement to the State. Communism and Socialism have ways of tricking you into paying even more in taxes than you realize. Let me explain.
The Biden administration has stimulated the economy by dolling out large amounts of money through its paycheck protection program, its infrastructure spending program, and its child tax credit program. These Socialist programs have infused enormous amounts of cash into the American economy with adverse effects on the economy. In many cases, the handouts have been large enough to remove people’s incentives to work. The result is that many business owners cannot find the help they need to run their businesses today.
Printing money is bad for the economy. When the Federal Reserve prints money to pay for these Socialist programs, it causes inflation to go up, the dollar to go down, and the result is that the purchasing power of every American tanks. But, this is not the end of the story.
In order to stay afloat, the cycle must repeat itself. In order for the federal government to continue paying its bills, it has to somehow generate more money. But governments cannot generate revenue! So, how do they get more money? The federal government creates another stimulus program, then the Federal Reserve prints the money to fund the new stimulus program, then they dump more money back into the economy, which widens the tax base such that the IRS can collect more revenue in taxes, which are then used to pay the government’s bills. Rinse, lather, repeat – That’s how they do it!
Every time the government repeats this trick, it requires the taxpayers to pay more in taxes. But remember, the more you pay in taxes, the more enslaved you are to the federal government. Communism and Socialism have never worked, because it always results in widespread poverty.
Last week the National Education Association, which is commonly referred to as the teacher’s union, adopted a measure to combat attacks on Critical Race Theory. The National Education Association is an extremist Left-wing organization with a long history of endorsing programs which undermine the foundations of our traditional Western educational system.
Critical Race Theory is important to all Nebraskans because it is part of the new education standards being proposed to the Nebraska Department of Education. Should these new standards be adopted, Critical Race Theory would become part of the standardized curriculum taught in all of our public schools. There is much that is wrong with Critical Race Theory, so today I would like to share why I believe it is a dangerous program for the education of our children.
By definition, Critical Race Theory (CRT) denies that race is a natural, biological or physical attribute of human beings and teaches instead that race is a socially constructed or invented category used to exploit people of color. Consequently, CRT holds that every American social institution is inherently racist and that all white people are automatically born into a position of privilege.
There is no question that racism is wrong and that it has played a significant role in American history, but how we correct that problem going forward is where CRT goes completely off the rails. The primary problem with CRT is that it seeks to completely overthrow our traditional American culture. For instance, Derrick A. Bell, who is considered to be the father of CRT, wrote these words about CRT in a 1995 article entitled Whose Afraid of Critical Race Theory?: “As I see it, critical race theory recognizes that revolutionizing a culture begins with the radical assessment of it,” and the Cornell Law School’s own entry for Critical Legal Studies (CLS), from which CRT is derived, states that “Many in the CLS movement want to overturn the hierarchical structures of modern society.”
Because many of those who aggressively promote CRT want to overthrow American society altogether, their program trashes our American heritage and has no end game other than the collapse of every American institution. To the contrary, I love our American heritage and I want to preserve it for future generations. Moreover, I believe our students should be taught the reasons why our American values have stood the test of time.
This CRT notion of tearing down societal norms applies on the individual level as well. Consequently, anyone who engages in the CRT program will find themselves locked in a maze with no way of escape. For example, there simply is no way for a white person to ever end their white privilege. Instead, CRT seeks to keep all white people locked in a constant state of guilt over their whiteness, and this is why so many critics of CRT believe it is an intolerant, divisive, and racist program unfit for teaching in our K-12 schools.
Instead of teaching CRT, a better program would be the one promote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., especially when he declared in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. I believe that our K-12 education curriculum should teach respect for our American heritage as well as respect for our American values, respect for other cultures, and respect for every human being regardless of the color of their skin.
245 years ago our founding fathers declared their freedom from Great Britain and began a war for independence against the world’s number one superpower. In the end, they earned their freedom. But, what about us? Will Americans continue to be free? America is a free country today, and our children continue to inherit that freedom, but American freedom from British tyranny came with a very expensive price tag. That freedom will someday be lost unless we raise up future generations who understand the true meaning of American freedom, who value it, and who are willing to pay the ultimate price to secure it.
When Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech at St. John’s Chapel in Virginia on March 23, 1775, he codified into American history one of our most sacred American values. Liberty is something which must be fought for and won. As Albert Einstein said, “Freedom, in any case, is only possible by constantly struggling for it.” He was right.
Because we live in days when educators are using Critical Race Theory and revisionist history to challenge our understanding of American history and to rewrite the heritage left to us by our founding fathers, many of the traditional values passed down to future generations by our founding fathers are now getting lost in the political debate and the good old stories from our past are being cancelled or removed from our children’s textbooks. Therefore, today I would like to remind you about an old story about how that principle of freedom became a core American value in the life of one unforgettable American patriot. The name of that great American patriot was John Stark.
Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, John Stark mustered together a loose band of minutemen and organized them into what became the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. Stark took the rank of Colonel and led his men down to Boston, where the first test of these newfound patriots was to engage the British at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
John Stark had to whip his men into shape fast. His loose band of minutemen were undisciplined and unenthusiastic about getting shot at. Fortunately for Stark, he had officers serving beneath him, who were valiant fighting men. One such officer was William Scott.
William Scott was a lieutenant serving under Col. Stark at the Battle of Bunker Hill. During the battle his knee was blown out by shrapnel from a British canon. Instead of fleeing, he stayed with his troops and prepared bullets. As the Red Coats encroached upon him, he was shot four times in the back, collapsed, and was captured. Scott eventually healed from his wounds, escaped from prison, and rejoined the army. Officers such as William Scott helped Stark raise the standard of commitment and valor in the 1st New Hampshire Regiment.
John Stark understood for himself that the cause of freedom demanded his total commitment. So, at the Battle of Bennington, he strategically deployed his troops and then declared, “We’ll beat them before night or Molly Stark’s a widow.” In 1809 a group of veterans gathered to commemorate the Battle of Bennington, but John Stark was 81 years-old and unable to make the journey. Instead, he sent a letter which ended with these words, “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” The expression “Live free or die” would later be adopted as the motto for the State of New Hampshire.
I fear for our country should we ever lose our grip on the fight for freedom. “Live free or die” is the standard we live by as Americans. The freedoms we enjoy today were purchased by the blood of patriots. My hope and prayer is that future generations of Americans will never have to be made ready, like John Stark’s minutemen, to pay that ultimate price for freedom ever again.
Allow me to introduce you to a new organization called, the Consumption Tax Institute, Inc. The Consumption Tax Institute, Inc. is a new 501-C4 organization, which is putting together a strategy to put an initiative for the consumption tax on the ballot for November 2022. At some point in the future they hope to announce the start of a new petition drive, but that announcement will have to wait for another day.
The reason that I am introducing you to the Consumption Tax Institute, Inc. today has to do with their website. I want to encourage all of my readers to visit the website of the Consumption Tax Institute, Inc. by going to www.epictax.org. This website will tell you everything you need to know about the consumption tax.
There is a new feature on the website that we are especially proud of and excited about. This week the folks at the Consumption Tax Institute, Inc. have posted a consumption tax calculator onto their website. The consumption tax calculator is a spreadsheet, which will compare your tax burden under the current tax code with your tax burden under the consumption tax. All you have to do is put in your own data and let the spreadsheet do the work for you.
A link to the consumption tax calculator can be found in the green ribbon at the top of the website. Click on the link in the green ribbon, then scroll down until you come to the header which reads, “Download the Calculator Here.” In order to use the calculator, you will need to download it onto your desktop. The calculator is completely private; no one will ever see your personal information.
After you download the calculator to your desktop, you will need to enter your family’s income and expense information. Even if you have to guess at some of the categories, the calculator will show you how much better life would be for you and your family under the consumption tax as opposed to the current tax code. So far, our experience has shown us that whenever someone uses the consumption tax calculator they are pleasantly surprised by the results.
If you have been a skeptic of the consumption tax in the past, then let the consumption tax calculator convert you into a newfound believer. We believe that when people begin to see how much lighter their tax burden would be under the consumption tax than under the current tax code, support for the consumption tax will begin to grow exponentially across our state. We want everyone to use the consumption tax calculator and to see for themselves why the consumption tax is so sorely needed and why it is the solution to all of Nebraska’s tax problems.
It is time for the State Board of Education to reject the newly proposed comprehensive sex education standards. These proposed standards are politically driven, have no legitimate basis in science, and undermine the traditional family values held by the vast majority of Nebraskans.
The State Board of Education has received more than 2,000 emails and at least 4,000 survey responses in opposition to these newly proposed sex education standards. In addition, public testimony by citizens has been overwhelmingly against these new standards. For instance, when a public hearing was held recently in Kearney approximately 450 opponents came out to testify against the new standards while only a handful testified in favor of them. After viewing the size of the crowd, the board limited testimony to the first 75 citizens, yet opponents still outnumbered proponents by 95 percent.
The reason that so many people oppose these new standards should come as no surprise. These new sex education standards are age-inappropriate and propose to teach Kindergarteners about cohabitation and same-sex relationships without any mention whatsoever of traditional nuclear family units. In addition, the new proposed standards seek to educate first graders about “gender identity and gender role stereotypes.” These kinds of topics are inappropriate for all children in public schools and remain the responsibility of parents, not educators.
Parents are the primary educators of children, not the State. Consequently, the most important people that the State Board of Education ought to be listening to are the parents, not the so called “experts.” Despite their denials to the contrary, these newly propose sex education standards mirror those of the National Sex Education Standards, which have already been rejected by several states, including Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
Contrary to what Education Commissioner, Matthew Blomstedt, told the public on May 7, some of those who have contributed to the writing of these newly proposed sex education standards are activists, who do not reflect the traditional values held by most Nebraskans. For instance, some who provided feedback on Draft #1 include Liam Heeten-Rodriguez who has made donations to Planned Parenthood and an activist organization known as Sex Education for Social Change, Lisa Shultze who works for the Women’s Fund of Omaha, and Abbi Swatsworth who works for Out Nebraska, an LGBTQ+ activist organization, whose motto is “Advocating, celebrating and educating to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people.” Strangely missing from the writing team are parents, private school educators, clergy, or anyone else with a conservative Judeo-Christian worldview.
The fact of the matter is that sex education is a religious matter which shapes a child’s worldview. Those who come from a Judeo-Christian background tend to believe that sex is biologically binary, meaning that individuals are born as either male or female. But, those who come from a secular humanist background or a secular ethicist background, which have both been recognized as religions by the U.S. Supreme Court ever since the 1961 case of Torcasso v. Watkins, tend to hold to the more progressive belief that gender is fluid and is a matter of social constructs. So, whenever sex education gets taught in the public schools, it boils down to a matter of whose religion will get taught.
The State Board of Education has not been honest with Nebraskans about these newly proposed sex education standards. For instance, on May 7 Education Commissioner, Matthew Blomstedt, denied that the State Board of Education was updating the sex education standards by stating: “The State Board of Education is not approving a sexual education curriculum, textbooks, or instructional materials,” even though that is exactly what they are doing. The State Board of Education has denied that the newly proposed sex education standards were derived from standards set by the organization known as Sex Education for Social Change and the National Sex Education Standards, and they have changed the date from June to sometime this fall concerning when Draft #2 would be made available to the public. As a result, their credibility has dwindled down to nothing and the public trust is gone. I believe their intention is to impose these new sex education standards upon Nebraskans against their will, and when they do, the only recourse will be to recall them.
The first session of the 107th Legislature has come to an end…well, almost. There remains one matter yet to be resolved by the Unicameral Legislature this year. It is the matter of redistricting. Once every ten years legislative district lines get redrawn in order to better comply with the changing demographics of our state.
Legislative district lines are determined by population. Ten years ago, LB 703 determined that the ideal size of Nebraska’s legislative districts would be 37,272 people. So, the legislative district lines were drawn ten years ago in such a way as to reflect as closely as possible populations of this size. Because the U.S. Census has yet to be released and is projected to come out later this summer, the Unicameral Legislature will reconvene in mid-September for a special session to redraw these district lines.
It is no secret that Nebraska’s rural population has been declining while Nebraska’s urban centers have been growing in population. Nine counties are projected to see growth above five percent when the U.S. Census gets released later this summer and most of these counties represent Nebraska’s urban centers. Meanwhile, Western Nebraska is projected to decline the most in population. Eight counties in Western Nebraska are projected to see population declines in excess of more than five percent, while two counties will see population declines in excess of two and a half percent. Only Banner County is projected to see an increase in population this year in Western Nebraska.
These rural population declines are bad news for folks living in Western Nebraska. While new legislative districts will likely be added to Douglas County and to Lancaster County, legislative district lines in rural Nebraska will likely have to encompass more real estate in order to meet the new population requirement. This means that folks living in Western Nebraska will have even less representation in Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature.
Nebraska needs to rethink the structure of its state government. This population shift from rural Nebraska to urban Nebraska has been taking place ever since the 1980’s, and the problem has only grown worse over time. Furthermore, the problem is perpetuated by our Unicameral system of government, which is designed only to represent the population and not the individual counties of Nebraska.
When our founding fathers created our federal system of government they split Congress into two houses in order to safeguard America’s smaller, agricultural states from being railroaded by those states with higher populations. The U.S. House of Representatives was created to represent the people, while the U.S. Senate was created to represent the individual states. Consequently, what might be considered good legislation by the people had to be checked by the individual states. James Madison understood this dilemma well and wrote about it in Federalist Paper Number 62 concerning the creation of the Senate saying, “A government founded on principles more consonant to the wishes of the larger states, is not likely to be obtained from the smaller States.”
Nebraska’s Unicameral system of government was enacted in 1937 on the advice of Sen. George Norris of McCook. At that time, the Unicameral system was attractive as a way to save the State money and to make the legislative process more efficient. However, as the rural vs. urban divide continues to grow in our state, returning to the old Bicameral system of government should become increasingly more and more attractive to folks living in rural Nebraska.
The Warner Chamber
Last week the Legislature voted to override Gov. Rickett’s vetoes on three bills: LB 108, LB 147 and LB 306. LB 108 and LB 306 expand Nebraska’s welfare benefits, while LB 147 requires the State to take over management of the Omaha Public School’s teacher pension plan. So, today I would like to explain why the Legislature was wrong to override the Governor’s vetoes on these three bills.
LB 108 is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The bill raises the gross income limit for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from 130 percent of the federal poverty rate to 165 percent of the federal poverty rate, but it does not change the net income limit. Whenever a family applies for SNAP, the family’s gross income is considered first. If the family’s gross income falls within the new rate of 165 percent of the federal poverty rate, then the family’s net income will be considered next. When calculating the family’s net income, deductions are made for such things as housing and daycare. The family’s net income must fall at or below the federal poverty rate in order to qualify for SNAP, which is no different than how the old system worked.
LB108 is a highly deceptive bill. Many families will be greatly disappointed to find out that their family’s net income still does not qualify them for SNAP benefits. Raising the gross income limit without also raising the net income limit constitutes a slight of hand maneuver by the State Legislature. This bill makes State Senators look good, but does practically nothing to actually help our most economically challenged citizens.
A similar bill is LB 306 which raises the income eligibility level for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) from 130 percent of the federal poverty rate to 160 percent of the federal poverty rate. But, there is a dirty little secret about this bill. Permanently expanding these utility benefits up to those with incomes at 160 percent of the federal poverty rate will result in reduced benefits for those living at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. In other words, LB 306 will rob from the poor in order to help those who are less poor.
LB 306 merely puts a temporary bandage on the problem of paying utility bills. LB 306 is estimated to add an additional 8,313 households to the LIHEAP program. This will increase administrative costs and result in reduced benefits for those already enrolled in the program. Here’s why. After the American Rescue Plan dollars run out in two years, this LIHEAP expansion program will get billed to the State with a price tag of $20 million. So, unless State revenues miraculously increase somehow, benefits will get reduced for everyone enrolled in the program.
LB 147 requires the State to take over management of the Omaha Public School (OPS) System’s teacher retirement pension program. The OPS teacher pension program has been underfunded by $848 million. Although the bill supposedly holds Omaha Public Schools responsible for funding their own outstanding liabilities, there is nothing in the language of the bill which prevents OPS from asking the State for additional funding to meet its obligations. Consequently, LB 147 blurs the lines of distinctions between the State’s teacher retirement plan and the OPS teacher retirement pension plan. The intention of OPS administrators has been to merge these two plans for quite some time.
LB 147 constitutes a real and present danger to property tax relief. This year the Legislature appropriated an estimated $790 million in property tax relief. Should the State decide to absorb the $848 million in outstanding liabilities created by mismanaging the OPS teacher retirement pension plan, the decision would wipe our efforts to reduce your property taxes this year.
For these reasons, and more, I voted against overriding the governor’s vetoes on these three bills. While I believe it was wrong for the Legislature to override the governor’s three vetoes, my votes on each of these three bills still counts as only one vote per bill.
The first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature is quickly coming to an end. The Legislature will sine die on May 27, 2021. Although my constitutional resolution for a consumption tax failed by two votes, some good things happened in the State Legislature this year. So, today I would like to highlight some of the good bills that passed this year.
One good bill is by Sen. Tom Brewer. LB 387 exempts military retirement pay from the State Income Tax. Hopefully, this bill will attract retired military personnel to retire in Nebraska, instead of moving to more tax friendly states.
A somewhat similar bill is LB 64 by Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha. This bill gradually exempts Social Security income from the State Income Tax. Hopefully, this bill will attract more retired persons to stay in Nebraska instead of moving to more tax friendly states.
LB 388 by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson is a bill which creates the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act within the Public Service Commission. The bill provides $20 million in grant money to increase high speed broadband Internet service across the state. The bill prioritizes areas with no high speed broadband service and in areas that are underserved.
LB 92 by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood is a bill which grants residency status to home-school students wishing to attend college in Nebraska. Currently, Nebraska State law treats home-school students as non-residents. This bill fixes that problem so that home-school students will be treated the same as public school and private school students when applying to a college or university in Nebraska.
LB 40 by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte creates the Nebraska Rural Projects Act which provides state matching grants up to $10 million for the development of industrial rail access business parks in communities with less than 100,000 residents. Because Nebraska’s rural communities have been declining in population, this bill will incentivize growth in some of our rural areas.
LB 487 prohibits medical insurance companies from charging higher rates for using telehealth or tele-monitoring systems for accessing mental healthcare. The bill requires medical insurance companies to charge the same rate as comparable treatment in person. Because many rural Nebraskans lack easy access to mental healthcare services, telehealth and tele-monitoring services provide rural folks with a convenient way to access these kinds of services, and price gouging should not be allowed.
On Wednesday the Legislature will hear a motion to suspend Rule 3 of Section 20(d) of the Legislature’s Rules in order to remove LR 14 from being indefinitely postponed. LR 14 is a resolution by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings to call for a Convention of the States. If successful, the motion will send LR 14 back to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee, where it will be laid over until next year. This would also give the option to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee to advance the bill out of committee and onto General File sometime next year.
Finally, I would like to encourage high school students who are interested in government, politics, debate, public speaking, or law to apply for the Unicameral Youth Legislature, which will be held June 13-16 at the State Capitol in Lincoln. Students learn about the inner workings of the Unicameral Legislature from Senators and staffers and participate in a mock Legislature. For more information and to apply, please visit the website at: https://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/education/unicamyouth.php. Scholarships are available. The deadline to apply is May 28, 2021.