Greetings to all in Legislative District 16 and the surrounding area. On August 13th we officially adjourned the 2020 legislative session and though it was only my second session as your senator, it was a session unlike any other. When we first convened in January of this year no one could have predicted a worldwide pandemic would change our lives so much in such a short amount of time. After breaking in March we reconvened mid-July to finish the final days of this 60-day session with a very different feel than when we started.
The legislative floor, relatively untouched since the completion of the building in 1932, was outfitted with plexiglass panels between rows of senators and legislative staff was not allowed on the floor except in only a few circumstances. Lobbyists who typically stand in the rotunda were nowhere to be found and some senators were quarantined to the balcony at times due to exposure to others who had tested positive for COVID. Tempers ran high for much of the second half of the session and too much taxpayer time was taken up discussing emotions and hurt feelings. The legislature is a place to come to work for the people, and in that role, there is little space to take things personally when another senator disagrees with you. Our priority is to represent our constituents and I’m grateful to be your senator.
Though the session was marked with temper flares and extensive safety requirements, we were able to accomplish a few things. Through LB 1107, which was passed on a 41-4 vote, Nebraskans were given some measure of property tax relief and the message was sent to businesses around the country that we want them here. Though LB 1107 does return a portion of your property taxes paid for schools by way of a refundable income tax credit, I remain convinced that our school funding formula needs an overhaul and that comprehensive tax reform of our entire tax code is the only way to accomplish this. This is a step in the right direction, but there is much more work to do.
I introduced six different bills in 2020, of which three were incorporated into other bills, passed, and signed into law. Over the past two years I served on the Agriculture, Business and Labor, and Health and Human Services Committees and enjoyed these committees as they fit my skills and experience. I’ve not decided if I will look to serve on different committees over the next two years or continue in my current roles.
Another major accomplishment this session was the passing of LB 814, a bill introduced by Senator Geist of Lincoln that will prohibit the practice of dismemberment abortions in Nebraska. I spoke often in favor of the bill and against the inhumane practice of dismemberment abortions. Our office received more phone calls, emails, and other contacts about this bill than any other during the session. As a cosigner of the bill, I was very pleased to see it across the finish line.
As I have traveled around the district and talked to many constituents about what is important to them, two topics have consistently been mentioned that I am glad to see get some attention this session: the over-taxing of military retirement benefits and rural broadband development. During this session, we passed LB153, a bill that would exempt 50% of military retirement benefits from the state income tax. I was a proud Co-Sponsor of this bill and happy to be fighting for tax relief not just for our military, but for all Nebraskans. Another bill, LB 996, is a bill designed to improve broadband access to rural and other underserved areas in Nebraska passed as well. Getting proper internet access to underserved rural areas in Nebraska is paramount in improving not just the lives and financial stability of Nebraskans, but improving economic growth as well.
Over the short interim, I’ll continue to work on priorities for the next session and would love to hear from you about what you think we should accomplish in the Legislature. I may also write columns from time to time as issues arise. As always you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl, or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you another year.