107th Legislature, 1st Session – Day 17
PROGRESS IN SPITE OF A STORM
I make my way back to Lincoln every Sunday night so I can be well prepared for the Legislature the next day. This particular week, it was a good thing I made the trip early. The tremendous storm that buried Lincoln, made it pretty tough for many Senators to attend the Session. Even though it was tough, enough leaders made it to the Capitol and we were able to begin committee hearings as planned. I appreciate Speaker Hilgers drive to see that we are utilizing every day as effectively as we can to keep Nebraska’s Legislature advancing in the midst of the season’s inclement weather and a pandemic.
BILLS I INTRODUCED THIS WEEK
LB112- I presented the Open Meetings Act to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The change will require that members of the public to be allowed to speak at any public meeting that is subject to the Open Meetings Act. It will increase transparency and accountability by governing bodies, and offer members of the public an opportunity to trust in
LB113- I presented the DMV Bill to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. The bill will change important provisions relating to motor vehicles titling, licensing, registration, and fees and operators’ licenses and permits and authorize a new motor vehicle carrier services system. The current system was custom built in the 1990s by the University of South Dakota for the State of South Dakota. Nebraska purchased the product in the 1990s and its processes mirror paper handling business processes that had developed during the life of the DMV before computerized data management was imagined.
Kent Grisham, President, Nebraska Trucking Association testified as a proponent for LB113. Kent shared some very interesting information about the valuable impact the trucking industry
is making in Nebraska. Kent said, “ For more than 80 years, the Nebraska Trucking Association has been advocating for and promoting the trucking industry in Nebraska. We represent more
than 800 trucking and allied companies from every part of the state. Our nearly 460 motor carrier members from Nebraska and surrounding states range from many single-truck owner-operators, all the way to several of the nation’s largest public and private companies. The trucking industry employs 1 in 12 Nebraskans in the workforce, making it the third largest industry in the state. Truckers transport more than 82-percent of all freight in Nebraska, and about half of the state’s communities get everything they need only by way of a truck. When it comes to paying our way, the trucking industry in Nebraska paid 47-percent of all taxes owed by motorists in the state, even though trucks represent only 9-percent of all vehicle miles traveled here. I would like to express the Nebraska Trucking Association’s strong support for that part of LB113 which will allow and provide for the replacement of the Agency’s existing motor carrier services system for handling the issuance of motor carrier registrations and the assessment of motor carrier fuel tax. The current system has served us well for many, many years, but is seriously antiquated, lacking ongoing technical support, and in need of updating. DMV Director, Rhonda K. Lahm and her team have done a wonderful job in keeping the system viable and have an outstanding plan in place to timely, efficiently, and cost effectively bring an updated system on-line here in Nebraska. We fully support the Department’s upgrade and Director Lahm’s efforts in this regard. In fact the Nebraska Trucking Association recognized The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicle’s Director, Dr. Rhona Lamb the 2020 Woman of Distinction Award.”
LB149- Transportation and Telecommunications Committee also heard the State Patrol Bill, which will harmonize Nebraska Statute with federal regulations to avoid incompatibility and
loss of federal funding. This is something that is important to update annually. LB280 I presented the Insurance Board Residency Bill to the Banking and Insurance Committee. As the law currently stands, any insurance company that provides insurance in the State of Nebraska must have at least one member of their board of directors residing in Nebraska. In other words, any new insurance company who might be considering bringing jobs and business to Nebraska, might find it a deterrent that they would have to either add a Nebraska resident to their board of directors, or move one of their current directors to the state. I believe this is potentially an inhibitor to economic development in our state. I carried this bill because Great West Casualty Company, who specializes in truck insurance products and services, asked me to help them address the antiquated regulation. I am proud to have Great West Casualty Company in District 17. Their company was founded over 60 years ago, and today is the premier provider of insurance products and services for the trucking industry. Several of the Legislative Committee members from other regions in Nebraska expressed their appreciation and admiration for the tremendous contribution that Great West Casualty Company has made in Nebraska.
PROPERTY TAX HEARING
I am including below excerpts from an article that will give you a good overview of the hearing on LR22CA. Property taxes are one of the primary concerns I will always focus on during my time serving as your State Legislator. I believe our homes, our land, our family’s future and heritage is at stake. We simply cannot continue to allow our civic entities to neglect to budget our money without accountability. Several times during this hearing, I challenged those testifiers who sit in positions to see our property taxes lowered. We have got to see this
Excerpts from NE AP by Grant Schulte. Governor Pete Ricketts shared his property tax proposal to a legislative committee on Wednesday. He warned that voters might take the issue into their own hands if lawmakers don’t cap how much local governments can collect.The Republican governor’s measure won support from a prominent farming organization and conservative groups, but faced opposition from cities, counties and school advocates who say it would undermine local control.
The proposed ballot measure would limit the growth of local property tax collections to 3% per year. Voter-approved bond measures would be excluded.
Property taxes in Nebraska have increased by nearly 52% over the last decade, outpacing the state income growth of 48% and 18% inflation, according to the state Department of Revenue.
The issue has repeatedly surfaced in the Legislature, with many farmers and homeowners lobbying lawmakers, although opponents argue that the higher rates are driven by inadequate
state funding. Ricketts pointed to the 1966 constitutional amendment approved by Nebraska voters that stripped the state of its power to levy property taxes. Property taxes are now imposed only by local government, while the state relies primarily on income and sales taxes. In recent years, activists who have failed to pass major bills in the Legislature have turned to ballot campaigns to appeal directly to voters. The strategy has been used successfully by supporters of casino gambling and the death penalty, and a proposal to legalize medical marijuana would have had a good chance of passing if a court ruling hadn’t derailed it. Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue said many of his members appreciate the
steps lawmakers have taken in recent years to try to lower property taxes but want to see more done to reduce what is often one of their largest and fastest-growing expenses. The proposal “says ‘enough is enough,’” McHargue said. “At some point, we’ve got to figure out how to cap this thing.”
Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, the Revenue Committee’s chairwoman, said the status quo is unacceptable because it’s becoming less affordable for homeowners on fixed incomes and farmers who are a major part of Nebraska’s economy. Excerpts from NE AP by Grant Schulte.
SHARE YOUR COMMENTS
I want to make sure you are aware that the public may submit online comments through a new feature on the Legislature’s website, which is available on each individual bill page. Online
written statements will not be included as part of the official legislative record, but are very important. The new options will allow residents with safety concerns related to the pandemic to continue to share their views with the Legislature.“It’s vital to the legislative process for members of the public to have the opportunity to have their voices heard,” he said. “Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature relies heavily on citizen input.” Just go to https://nebraskalegislature.gov , insert the bill number in the “Search Current Bill” box on the homepage, and click on “Submit Written Comment” tab. I always love to see when someone from District 17 becomes involved in the Legislative process!
The number of positive tests reported for the periods January 12, 2021, and January 28, 2021
in District 17 are as follow:
Dakota County +30 (3780)
Thurston County: +32 (1035)
Wayne County: +9 (990)
As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as
your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from
you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at email@example.com.