Senator Brasch Invites High School Students to Apply for Youth Legislative Experience


High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 11-14.  At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, and debate legislation. Senator Brasch says, “This is a great opportunity for Nebraska high school students to learn about their state capitol building and experience the legislative process of the nation’s only Unicameral Legislature.”

 

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking.  Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

 

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission.  Applicants must submit a short essay.  Other $100 scholarships are also available. The deadline for registration is May 15.

 

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature.  The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

 

To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788.

 

Nebraska Legislature Clerk’s Office Accepting Applications for Page Positions


The application process for selecting pages for the 2017 Legislative Session is now underway in the Clerk’s Office at the Nebraska Legislature.

“Working as a page provides a unique opportunity to assist legislators throughout the session,” said Senator Brasch. She continued, “Pages are privileged to work on the Floor of the Legislature during debate and interact with senators. The experience acquired will equip students for a variety of career fields. In my six years as senator, several college students from District 16 have worked as pages.”

Legislative pages are local college students employed by the Legislature to respond to senators’ requests for assistance on the Legislative Floor, answer incoming calls to the Legislative Chamber, and possibly assist in committee hearings. The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, October 3, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. A letter of recommendation from your state senator is encouraged. College students from District 16 requesting a letter of recommendation from Senator Brasch should contact our office at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Applications are available at the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street. For further information on the application process, please contact the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271 or Kitty Kearns at (402) 471-0617, or email Kitty at kkearns@leg.ne.gov.

A Prosperous Nebraska


By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

Recently, President Obama made his first official visit to Nebraska as president. At the Baxter Arena at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the president highlighted our state’s healthy economy, saying Nebraska’s current unemployment rate is below 3 percent.

 

In addition to Nebraska’s low unemployment rate, our state is a leader in job creation. Nebraska businesses and local communities are the driving force behind creating new jobs, with 40,000 of those new jobs in the Omaha metro area alone.

 

This is real economic growth and Nebraskans should be proud. While I am pleased to see the president tout Nebraska’s successes, these achievements are not the result of his policies. Rather, they are due to the hard work of our citizens and the fiscally-conservative policies we enact.

 

Hard work and personal responsibility are core values that are ingrained in our daily lives. Our economic strength is also derived from wise decisions made at the state level. Many of these sound policies were put in place when I served in the Nebraska Legislature. Each year, reckless federal spending has grown our national debt to nearly $19 trillion. But in Nebraska, our legislators are forced to spend responsibly and balance the budget. This is not by accident. Balancing Nebraska’s budget is mandated by our state’s constitution, and, unlike other states, our constitution does not allow extensive borrowing and debt.

 

Although smart policies are a large part of Nebraska’s success, our agriculture industry give us a unique economic advantage. In Nebraska, one in four jobs are tied to agriculture. Our farmers, livestock producers, and business owners are the best in world. They are known for utilizing their knowledge and skills to grow the economy and ensure our state’s number one industry continues to help Nebraska’s economy thrive. In 2013, Nebraska’s $6.6 billion in agricultural exports provided $8.1 billion in additional economic activity.

 

Nebraska is a prime example of how wise policies can enable unique industries in states across the country to flourish. In the U.S. Senate, I am working to bring this Nebraska common sense to the federal level.

 

Our citizens and agriculture producers rely on America’s roads, highways, bridges, and railroads to bring their products to market. Strong infrastructure is an essential component for a flourishing economy. That is why I was pleased to work on the multi-year highway bill that was signed into law last month. This important legislation will bring $1.5 billion to Nebraska over the next five years, enabling critical infrastructure projects to move forward. This influx of resources will make our roads safer and more efficient, and it will lead to stronger communities and new jobs in our state.

 

In addition to strengthening existing industries in Nebraska, our healthy business environment is encouraging many innovative companies to develop in our state. CNBC ranked Nebraska seventh in its “America’s Top States for Business 2015” scorecard. I have visited many of these Nebraska businesses, which ensure that technological advancements are benefiting consumers and industries across the country and around the globe.

 

To help these businesses keep pace with the innovations that are changing the world, I have been working hard in the Senate to see that federal regulations are appropriate for today’s world. On that front, two bills I introduced, the E-Label Act and E-Warranty Act, have been signed into law. These important measures ease regulatory requirements on manufacturers by allowing them to post their warranty and labeling information online. This common-sense change provides businesses with more options and lower overhead costs, which results in lower prices for consumers.

 

The Nebraska way works. It’s now time to apply these principles on a national scale. As your Senator, I will continue to reach across the aisle to work with my colleagues on policies that sustain a prosperous Nebraska and a stronger America.

 

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

 

Motorcycle Helmet Law Highly Debated


By Senator Lydia Brasch

The 104th, First Session of the Nebraska Legislature is officially halfway done with its 90-day session with Friday marking the close of Day 49. Up to now, we have spent our first half of the day in floor debate and the other half in committee hearings. With only occasional exception moving forward, we will no longer hold public afternoon hearings since all 663 bills introduced have been heard. As of Monday, Day 50, we began all day floor debate and stop only when the Speaker adjourns us. Our legislative day must not end later than 11:59 p.m. as midnight would begin the next official legislative day. Thank you to everyone who came to testify on legislation, as well as those contacting our office through e-mail, phone calls, or personal visits. The next notable day for our legislative process is Day 70 when the Appropriations Committee must introduce a budget proposal to the body of the Legislature.

 

As you may know, my priority bill, LB350, which provides a reduction in the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land from 75 to 65 percent, did not originally have enough support to be voted out of the Revenue Committee. Nevertheless, I have continued to work diligently in an effort to gather the five committee votes necessary to advance this bill for floor debate. My staff and I spent a good deal of the week compiling further statistical information on the impact of LB350 as well as talking individually to senators from the Revenue Committee to gather more support. My hope is the voice of Nebraskans from across the state will not go unheard. Continue doing your part to urge the Legislature to address this issue.

 

This week’s floor debate was mostly on LB31. Introduced and prioritized by Senator Bloomfield, LB31 repeals the motorcycle helmet law and provides the operator the choice to wear a helmet or not. Much debate revolved around individual liberties versus government regulation of public health and safety, as well as the positive economic impact LB31 would bring from enthusiasts nationwide. In the past, I supported this bill when amended to prohibit young children as passengers. While I certainly support the operators individual liberty to decide whether to wear a helmet or not, this year’s original bill as introduced did not provide important safety provisions of last session with regard to child passengers and inexperienced operators. For this reason, I have not been able to offer my full support.

 

A special thanks to this week’s visitors: former-Senator Matt Connealy and his wife, Judith (Decatur); Bob Jones and Rod Giese (Beemer); and LeRoy and Anita Bray (Rosalie). Finally, while we have had a number of pastors from the District serve as Chaplain of the Day, we would like to encourage those pastors who have not served to consider this great opportunity to provide God’s blessing and grace over the Legislature.

 

Please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

 

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

Winner-Take-All System discussed by Nebraska Legislature


 

Monday, March 2, was Day 36 of our 90-day session. The Legislature’s workload continues increasing and discussions remain, as always, interesting. Returning to the final hours of first round debate on LB10, the Legislature discussed reinstating the winner-take-all system for electoral votes. Our state used this method until 1991. After 1991, this bill was introduced nine times before 2008 and passed twice by the Legislature, but vetoed twice by then-Governor Ben Nelson. LB10 received thirty-one votes in favor of advancing to second round of debate.

 

Debate on LR10CA resumed which allows the voters to decide whether or not to remove the prohibition on legislative authority over games of chance. The Nebraska Constitution only permits the Legislature to authorize a small number of games of chance. The Legislature indefinitely postponed the resolution by a vote of twenty-seven ayes and sixteen nays.

 

Testifiers waited during many lengthy public hearings. LB623, introduced in our Transportation Committee, clarifies lawful status for eligibility for a motor vehicle operator’s license or state identification card. Currently, to receive a license or ID you must demonstrate lawful status by submitting certain federal or state documents. It is a difficult and emotional situation for children brought here years ago by parents who are, or were, illegal immigrants. Many of these children are now young adults painfully caught in the middle of wanting to do the right thing yet knowing their legal status inhibits them. Some are now college graduates with some form of legal documentation, but not the long-awaited citizenship. Some legal means of residency and citizenship can take nearly twenty-five years. Many rural employers expressed the value and appreciation of their hard work in helping fill longtime vacancies in jobs important to agriculture. For example, the Nebraska Cattlemen testified in support. District employers have contacted us and our federal delegation requesting assistance resolving the complex and stagnant immigration process on behalf of this work force. In 2012, then-Governor Heineman stated these young adults, known as deferred action childhood arrivals (DACA), would not be given operator’s licenses. I respect, understand, and supported this 2012 position. However, Nebraska remains the only state not granting this privilege. As a daughter of legal Ukrainian immigrants and a 1st generation American, this bill is extremely difficult. While we must not undermine legal means of immigration and the consequences for entering illegally, this bill provides compassion and opportunity for youth who came here by no choice of their own but made Nebraska their home. Constituents have weighed in heavily: many support and many oppose.

 

LB268 replaces the death penalty with a sentence of life without possibility of parole. It is also one of Senator Chamber’s bills passionately re-introduced. As I left the Capitol after 6 p.m. on Friday, the LB643 hearing was still underway. This is the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act supported by many testifying parents of children suffering from seizures. Notably, the Nebraska Medical Association was in opposition.

 

In our Revenue Committee, a few notable bills were heard: LB398 (eliminate tangible personal property from property tax), LB610 (raise gas tax to provide additional revenues for roads and bridges), and LB542 (provide sales tax exemption for agricultural society purchases).

 

Please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

 

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

 

Happy Meal Tax Cut Bad for Nebraska


Lyons, NE – Today the Center for Rural Affairs released a new report, titled – Crumbs for the Middle Class: Tax Benefits for LB 1097 Flow to High Earners, Little for Lower Earners – that examines how the tax proposal would affect Nebraska and it’s citizens.“LB 1097 – the major tax proposal in the 2014 Nebraska Legislature – is costly, would lead to massive budget deficits, and endangers the state’s cash reserve. Tax cut benefits to the highest level of earners are significant. But tax cut benefits to middle- and low-income taxpayers are nearly nonexistent and LB 1097 endangers services and public investments vital to these Nebraskans,” said Jon Bailey, Rural Public Policy Director at the Center for Rural Affairs and author of the report.

LB 1097 proposes to undertake the following:

— Replace the four current personal income tax brackets with three brackets starting at $0, $36,000 and $72,000 for married couples
— Indexes brackets for inflation starting in 2018
— Lowers personal income tax rates for all brackets
— Lowers corporate income tax rates

The Fiscal Note for LB 1097 estimated a loss in General Fund revenue to the state ranging from $140.7 million in fiscal year 2014-2015 to $645.3 million when fully implemented in fiscal year 2018-2019.

“Perhaps the most important question to ask is, who benefits from LB 1097?” Bailey asked. “The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that about 61 percent of LB 1097’s tax cuts would go to the top 20 percent of income earners – those who earn over $92,000. Only seven percent would go to the bottom 40 percent of taxpayers – those who earn less than $37,000.”

Bailey’s report references data from the OpenSky Policy Institute and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy showing the following:

— About 31 percent of tax cut benefits of LB 1097 will go to the top 5 percent of Nebraska earners (those who earn more than $168,000 annually).
— About 16 percent of the tax cut benefits of LB 1097 go to the state’s top 1 percent of earners (those who earn more than $388,000 annually).
— The average taxpayer in the top 1 percent of earners would receive an annual tax cut of about $6,600, about $550 per month.
— Middle-income taxpayers (between $37,000 and $60,000 annually) would receive average tax cuts of about $239 annually, or about $20 per month.
— Lower income taxpayers would receive even less. The lowest 20 percent income group (below $21,000 annually) would receive a tax cut of $25 annually, or about $2 per month; the second lowest income group ($21,000 to $37,000 annually) would receive a tax cut of $122 annually, or about $10 per month.

“Twenty dollars per month for middle-income taxpayers is equivalent to about one Happy Meal at McDonalds each week,” explained Bailey. “Lower income earners wouldn’t even be able to buy the Happy Meal.”

“In addition to the regressive nature of the tax cuts, meaning those at the bottom of the income scale will receive fewer tax cut benefits, LB 1097 has significant long-term consequences,” Bailey added.

According to Bailey’s report, those long-term consequences would include the following:

— LB 1097 would wipe out the current state budget surplus and create a large state budget deficit. LB 1097 would wipe out the projected $109 million surplus and leave the state with an estimated $929 million shortfall as the tax cuts grow through fiscal year 2018.

— State investments in items like education, health care, job training, roads and safe communities would become hostage to the budget deficit caused by LB 1097.

— The state budget could make up for the loss of revenue from LB 1097 by tapping the state’s cash reserve fund. This has been proposed by supporters of LB 1097 and tax cuts in general.

“However, the current balance of the cash reserve fund is $679 million – squarely within recommended amounts,” said Bailey. “In our view it is fiscal malpractice to use a one time, major withdrawal from the state’s reserves for permanent changes in the state’s tax system. That leaves the state potentially unprotected from another economic downturn that needs the cash reserve fund to mitigate damage to necessary state investments.”

“In the long-term LB 1097 will not provide any benefits to middle class or lower income taxpayers,” concluded Bailey. “LB 1097 also has the potential to endanger vital state investments that are in the best interests of middle class and lower income Nebraskans, the state as a whole and Nebraska’s economy.”

A full copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.cfra.org/www.cfra.org/Crumbs-for-the-Middle-Class

Put People Above Politics


By Jon Bailey, jonb@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs
 
Debate over LB 887, the Wellness in Nebraska Act, promises to be a major issue facing the Nebraska Legislature. LB 887 would expand Medicaid to an estimated 54,000 people through a combination of private health insurance and wellness incentives.

Despite providing needed private health benefits to a population that is in the coverage gap – uninsured, ineligible for insurance marketplace tax credits because their incomes are too low, and without employer-sponsored insurance – some still object to LB 887.

Their arguments have boiled down to two concerns; anything else is pure partisan politics:

What does LB 887 cost? The truly independent Legislative Fiscal Office states that LB 887 will cost the state $64 million over six years, less than $11 million per year, or about 0.02 percent of total state revenue for the next budget period. An amendment to the bill may reduce costs to less than $20 million over six years, meaning, at most, it will cost each Nebraskan about 2 cents per day.

An analysis paid for by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS) says the state costs will be about double the Legislative Fiscal Office estimate, over $128 million. However, that’s based on an enrollment assumption that is deeply flawed and has never occurred in the history of programs such as LB 887. The NDHHS analysis also neglects estimated savings of about $60 million per year from state programs no longer needed if LB 887 were adopted.

What if the federal government reneges on its commitment? Currently, the federal government will pay all the expense of LB 887 for the next two years and gradually reduce its share to 90 percent in 2020 and thereafter. Some claim this legal promise is not sustainable despite a declining federal budget deficit. However, LB 887 must be reconsidered and re-approved by the Legislature if the federal share of the Medicaid expansion ever falls below 90 percent. This should take care of that concern.

In changing his vote to support LB 887, Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island said LB 887 would make dramatic improvements in the health care system in Nebraska. Isn’t two cents per day worth it to improve our health care delivery system, provide needed health care coverage for our friends and neighbors, and save lives? It is truly time to put people before politics.

Court Overturns LB1161


Nebraska Farmers Union Says Court Decision to Overturn LB1161
is an Enormous Victory for Landowner Rights and Due Process
 
Lincoln, NE – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) is extremely pleased with today’s court decision ruling LB 1161 unconstitutional, and is proud of our landowners, members, and the legal team.  This court decision affirms our initial suspicions that we clearly voiced at every step of the process with the Nebraska Legislature about the constitutionality of circumventing the siting and routing process that had already been approved in the 2011 Special Session LB1.  We said this was special use legislation, that it was unconstitutional, and lacked the appropriate safeguards and process for the use of eminent domain.
 
This is an enormous victory for our landowners, for the protection of private property rights relative to the proper use of eminent domain, for due process, and for the legal system.  Landowner attorney David Domina and his legal team did an outstanding job, as did our landowners Susan Straka, Susan Dunavan, and Randy Thompson.
 
TransCanada’s arrogance once again appropriately bit them.  The President cannot approve a pipeline that does not have an approved route through the State of Nebraska.
 
The entire TransCanada process in Nebraska has been a process of unending shortcuts.  TransCanada took a shortcut over the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer which was problematic.  They then took a shortcut in due process in the Nebraska Legislature.  And in both cases these shortcuts led to a dead end.  This ruling is a perfect example of what happens when you take procedural shortcuts and violate our constitution.
 
Nebraska Farmers Union is a general farm organization with more than 6,000 farm and ranch family members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities.  Since 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union has helped organize over 445 cooperatives.
 
 
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Graham P. Christensen
Public Affairs Director
Nebraska Farmers Union
402-476-8815 (Office)
402-217-5217 (Cell)
facebook: Nebraska Farmers Union
@grahamchristen

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