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Governor Ricketts Announces Burt County as a Livestock Friendly County


Governor Pete Ricketts announced that Burt County had become the newest county in the state to be designated as a Livestock Friendly County (LFC) through a program administered by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA).

 

“Burt County has a rich history in agriculture, and the livestock industry generates millions of dollars in income for the county’s farm and ranch families,” said Gov. Ricketts.  “By seeking the Livestock Friendly County designation, the county is sending the message that they want to continue to grow both their county and the state through livestock development.”

 

Created in 2003 by the Nebraska Legislature, the LFC program is designed to recognize counties in the state that support the expansion of the livestock industry.  In 2014, livestock receipts in the state comprised over half of the almost $25 billion of Nebraska’s total on-farm receipts.  The LFC designation gives counties an extra promotional tool to encourage expansion of current livestock operations and attract new businesses that spur local economies.

 

“Adding new or expanding existing livestock operations can offer opportunities for family members in Burt County to return back to the family operation,” said NDA Director Greg Ibach.  “Livestock development will also increase local demand for the large stocks of corn, soybeans and grain sorghum produced by Burt County farmers.”

 

With the addition of Burt County, there are now 37 counties designated as Livestock Friendly through the state program.

 

Counties wishing to apply for the LFC designation must hold a public hearing and the county board must pass a resolution to apply for the designation.  Then a completed application must be submitted to NDA.  Local producers or groups can encourage county officials to apply.

 

Additional information about the Livestock Friendly County program is available on the NDA website at www.nda.nebraska.gov or by calling 800-422-6692.

Governor Pete Ricketts attended the Burt County Fair designating Burt County Livestock Friendly. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Governor Pete Ricketts attended the Burt County Fair designating Burt County Livestock Friendly. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Dave Schold of the Burt County Board of Supervisors spoke on behalf of Burt County being Livestock Friendly.

Dave Schold of the Burt County Board of Supervisors spoke on behalf of Burt County being Livestock Friendly.

Nebraska Senator Lydia Brasch attended the event honoring Burt County's Livestock Friendly appointment. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Nebraska Senator Lydia Brasch attended the event honoring Burt County’s Livestock Friendly appointment. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

David Pearson of the Burt County Fair Board shared in the enthusiasm of Burt County joining other counties in Nebraska as Livestock Friendly. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

David Pearson of the Burt County Fair Board shared in the enthusiasm of Burt County joining other counties in Nebraska as Livestock Friendly. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

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Many Notable Bills Debated by Legislature


By Senator Lydia Brasch

Our tenth week of session – days 38-41 – adjourned Thursday.

Monday was day 38, moving us into the final third of this biennium. Our calendar days continue to fly by, yet on the floor it’s as though time stands still when a single bill takes hours or even days to debate; that may be good news or bad news, depending on what your position is on a bill. It is good news for those believing there are too many laws, unfunded mandates, fee or tax increases, or other burdens created by legislation. It is bad news when there is legislation you consider good public policy and offers relief, be it tax relief or removes regulations imposed by current laws. Without regard to anyone’s beliefs on policy, the rules were written to provide for full debate, and slowing the process down is oftentimes a good idea.

Adjourned Thursday — Day 41 — we fully realized there were now less than 20 session days remaining of the 104th Legislative session. My goal of property tax relief remains steadfast. The Revenue Committee, I am a member of, is working to make meaningful progress in property tax relief. Not perfection yet, but progress. In a short session and with little time remaining, we realize perfect property tax relief has become unrealistic and even some progress is a step in the right direction.

Coming weeks hold a bittersweet undercurrent. The final group of senators who have been here longer than I, will complete their final session. These statesmen are masterfully rich in knowledge and experience, many of whom were often allies, will bid their farewells as they leave due to term limits. Five of us will become the “Senior Class”.  Yes, sometimes we agree to disagree. However, at the end of the day we realize our now ever-changing body of 49 were elected by the second house. We live much alike, a day at a time, wanting only the best for those we serve.

Because I wanted to share my thoughts, below are only highlights of notable bills debated this week:

  • LB683 Change provisions relating to homestead exemptions for surviving spouses — passed to second round of debate; I supported
  • LB344 Provide natural resources districts with the power to issue general obligation bonds — defeated during debate; I opposed
  • LB817 Adopt the Direct Primary Care Agreement Act — passed to second round; I supported
  • LB1109 Change public records provisions and provide for an enhanced public scrutiny process for certain University appointees — passed to second; I was present not voting
  • LB 467 Change provisions relating to State Patrol retirement — Advanced to second round; I was in Executive Session, and unable to vote
  • LB745 Change Game and Parks Commission fee and permit provisions — Currently being debated on first round

We were honored to have Pastor Brian High of First Baptist Church in Tekamah lead the Legislature in prayer last Tuesday. We welcomed the Nebraska Christian Homeschool Association students.  Other visitors over the past few weeks also include Michaela Ott of Blair, who recently achieved her Girl Scout Gold Award, the Hrbek family who were in Lincoln for the GACC Girls State Basketball Tournament, and a delegation of Ukrainian officials learning about our Unicameral and public health.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol. You can follow the Legislature online at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Lydia Brasch

Lydia Brasch

 

Join Senator Lydia Brasch and Governor Pete Ricketts for a Town Hall in West Point


Senator Lydia Brasch and Governor Pete Ricketts will be hosting a town hall together in West Point on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, and the public is invited to attend.

 

This is a great opportunity for the constituents of District 16 to voice their concerns directly to their Senator as well as to the Governor.

 

The details for the town hall are as follows:

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Nielsen Community Center, 200 Anna Stalp Ave.

 

Questions about event details can be directed to Brett at 402-471-2728.

Reviewing the Legislative Session, tax relief and agriculture


By Senator Lydia Brasch

With the legislative session completed for over a week now, the Capitol is a much quieter place mostly populated by visitors from near and far on hourly tours of this magnificent institution and structure. The hallways are no longer filled with the voices of student visitors from across the State with exception of Boys and Girls State and Unicam Youth Legislature students. Lobbyists are not watching the legislative chambers attentively from the rotunda or walking the hallways in search of a senator to discuss their interests on specific legislation. Most Senators living a distance from Lincoln are working remotely with out-of-session business. Trips to Lincoln for us include scheduled meetings, office needs, or interim hearings. Our District 16 office staff continues to keep busy with constituent services and research for next year’s legislative proposals.

 

This first interim update provides a brief overview of some key legislation debated during session worth repeating or received little or no coverage during session. Other updates will follow leading into what issues we may expect to see in 2016.

 

As this year was the beginning of the biennium (two-year period), the Legislature’s priority was the constitutional duty to pass a budget. The budget passed with an average 3.3 percent increase in annual spending over the next two years which is the fifth lowest increase over the last thirty years. Most of the spending goes toward education, Medicaid, university/college system, health and human services, corrections, and special education. The budget also leaves a projected $718 million in the cash reserve or “rainy day fund.”

 

Regarding tax relief, the Legislature granted two forms of tax relief, added an additional tax burden, and left unaddressed a number of other areas. The Legislature provided relief by increasing the property tax credit relief fund. As well, businesses and farmers will receive a partial property tax break on machinery, computers, and other personal property. However, the gas tax will increase 6 cents a gallon over the next four years. Unfortunately, the Legislature did not address the property tax burden shouldered by our farmers and ranchers which I attempted to address with LB350.

 

As for agriculture, the Legislature ended the session by addressing the issue whether to allow meatpacker ownership of hogs (LB176). The bill had significant opposition from some rural senators arguing this would be a death blow to small, independent hog producers and eventually lead to loss of independent cattle producers. The bill did not survive a second-round filibuster as it fell two votes short of cloture.

 

Next week’s column will continue covering legislation from criminal justice, the death penalty, education, health and human services.

 

As always, 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

Kats’ Korner: Opinion on Abolishing of Death Penalty


As a taxpayer, the death penalty being abolished concerns me on many levels.

In my opinion, the citizens of Nebraska should have voted on this issue. It affects the state and everyone residing within it. Our voices should be heard on an issue of this magnitude.

If I had been given the privilege to exercise my voting rights, I would have voted in favor of the death penalty.

I have many reasons to support my decision. My concern lies with the murder victims. Those that commit such a horrendous crime don’t care about the victims, or their rights. They die an awful death without any say in the matter.

Their families suffer for the rest of their lives because of the condemnable acts of another person.

Now, the murderer knows he or she won’t die because he killed someone. Once convicted of the crime, if convicted, the individual goes to prison, having three meals a day, exercising, watching television and has the opportunity to obtain a college education, all at taxpayers expense.

Not to mention the endless appeals of their case, also at taxpayers expense.

I will say, once a murderer was placed on death row, it took entirely too long to enact the law. I believe the process should have moved forward much faster. Not relevant now since the death penalty no longer exists.

I know Senator Lydia Brasch, our local Senator, voted in favor of keeping the death penalty. I commend her efforts in trying to keep the law in place, along with Governor Ricketts and all of the other legislators that did so.

I sincerely hope and pray this decision is reversed before more victims suffer at the hands of those with no respect for the lives of others.

 

 

Senator Brasch Votes Against Repeal of Death Penalty


By Senator Lydia Brasch

This week at the Legislature marked Days 62 through 65 of our 90-day session. Two key items are worth mentioning from this week’s business.

 

First, and with great disappointment, it has become clear the Revenue Committee has no interest in supporting my priority bill (LB350) to reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land from 75% to 65% for the purposes of property taxation. Currently, LB350 is one vote short of advancing out of committee. The objection of some rural Senators is the lack of benefit LB350 would provide their districts. Despite efforts to add an amendment providing state aid funding for their rural school districts which do not receive any state aid, there continues to be a lack of support by these rural Senators. Notably, the Department of Revenue just released its Property Assessment Report for 2014-2015 indicating a nearly 20% average statewide increase in property tax valuations for agricultural land.

 

Second, this week largely focused on prison reform and the death penalty. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Legislature debated LB605, LB598, and LB173. These bills are considered the prison reform bills and respond to the prison overcrowding issue which is a major concern.

 

As amended, LB605 would restore a state law requiring the minimum sentence for a serious felony be no longer than one-third the length of the maximum sentence. In addition, LB173 would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for several felonies and restrict the use of enhanced penalties for habitual criminals to a limited list of violent crimes.

 

Overall, these bills are concerning. While we unquestionably face a serious problem with prison overcrowding, LB605 and LB173 are not the solution. Rather than be soft on crime, we need to remain tough on violent crimes and habitual criminals. We should address other solutions, such as assisting non-violent criminal’s rehabilitation and their re-entry into society.

 

LB268 was somberly addressed on Thursday morning. Introduced and prioritized by Senator Chambers, LB268 seeks to repeal the death penalty for first-degree murder and replace it with life imprisonment without parole. LB268 opponents, of which I am a part, insist on the necessity of capital punishment for the most heinous crimes to ensure strict justice is served. In addition, capital punishment provides an effective deterrent to other crimes. As well, our Attorney General offered data refuting the claim prosecution of capital punishment is a cost-burden and financial hardship to the State. Also, in response to affirmations about our God-given human dignity, opponents affirm the State has a unique God-given authority to ensure society is protected from violent criminals, even to the extent of using deadly force.

 

LB268 advanced to second round with 30 votes. While this is sufficient support to become law and override a Governor’s veto, LB268 needs 33 votes to override a filibuster. I voted against the repeal of the death penalty—the need for capital punishment is a rare but necessary tool for our civil society.

As always, 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

 

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

 

Senator Brasch Introduces LB 351


Despite weather conditions which led me to sadly leave home early and return to Lincoln on Saturday afternoon, we began business as usual on Monday. I arrived early to prepare for the big day of introducing LB 351 to the Education Committee. As mentioned last week, LB 351 increases income tax directed to local school districts from the current 2% to 20%. This helps schools receive important sources of local revenue and provides equitable distribution of the tax burden for education financing. During the hearing, questions were raised by three senators representing Lincoln and Omaha districts. These senators were concerned LB 351 would reduce funding urban schools and result in a mere tax shift. In response, I explained LB 351 returns more local dollars to schools and not less, especially to schools not receiving equalization aid from the state. Currently, property taxes are the main source of local revenues for our schools and, especially in our rural communities, the property tax is a disproportionate and burdensome mechanism for funding education. LB 351 is the sister bill of LB 350 which reduces agricultural and horticultural land valuations from 75% to 65%. LB 350 will have a public hearing on February 19.

 

Other bills I introduced have public hearings soon. LB 590 expands the authority of cities, villages, and counties to expand the use golf carts within their local jurisdiction and will be heard on February 10. LB 568 addresses a potential federal non-compliance issue regarding the administrative license revocation procedures of commercial driver’s license operators who have been arrested for driving while intoxicated and will be heard on February 17. LB 571 provides authority to the Tourism Commission to establish and promote tourism signage and will be heard on February 26. LB 340 would establish a definition for ‘conspicuous signage’ in regards to a person, entity, or employer in control of property prohibiting a concealed carry handgun permitholder from carrying in or on the place or premises and will be heard on March 20. One other bill, LB 569, is yet to receive a hearing date. Please know that you are invited to testify on bills of interest to help the Legislature in determining what is good for the State.

 

Finally, a special thank you to all those who visited our office this week. I met with Tom Black on behalf of retired teachers of the Nebraska State Education Association, members of the AFL/CIO, as well as members of the Burt County Extension’s Leading Locally Program, and James Moseman and his parents. We are proud of James as he received his district’s Voice of Democracy award.

 

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or by e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov. If you would like to follow the Legislature online visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government or watch live broadcasting on NET2.

 

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

Pastors Hale and High Offer Prayer at Legislature


By Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

The first full week of our 90 Day session began on January 12th. This marked Day 4 of the 10 days allowed for bill introduction according to the “Rules of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.” The rule does allow for exceptions, such as appropriation bills or bills introduced at the request of the governor. Overall, our Rules book consists of 10 rules with multiple sections and sub-sections. While the rules can seem extensive at times, they help preserve the order of the Legislature.

 

As of Friday, January 16, there were 430 bills and 27 legislative resolutions introduced. Wednesday, January 21, will mark Day 10 of the session meaning no further bills can be introduced. Committees will begin holding public hearings on Tuesday, January 20th.

 

So far, I have introduced five bills, with more to come next week. LB 179 requires apprentice electricians to complete continuing education hours. This bill would help apprentice electricians understand the National Electrical Code Book which is the adopted standard for electricians in our region and assist them in passing their exam to become licensed electricians.

 

LB 338 provides for a docket fee for custody, parenting time, visitation, and other parental access disputes. Currently, when a married couple with children seeks to divorce, the court may require mediation to help the couple address key issues such as custody and parenting time. They are assessed a $50 fee which goes to a fund that supplements the costs of mediation. However, non-married couples addressing the same issues of custody and parenting time are not required to pay the $50 fee. The number of unmarried parents with these child-centered issues are far outpacing the number of marital dissolutions (nearly 6,000 to 3,769). This bill would help our state’s court and mediative services finance a service provided to those using the system.

 

LB 350 seeks to provide property tax relief for agricultural and horticultural land by decreasing the valuation from 75% to 65%. I have introduced this in the past and was previously introduced by then Senators Fischer and Heidemann. It is a change long overdue. Currently, agricultural taxpayers consists of only 3% of our population but pay 26% to 29% of the tax burden for education. Related to LB 350, I also introduced LB 351. This bill will not increase income tax, but will direct 20% of income taxes collected to state aid for education. Between these two bills, we can provide a fiscally responsible way of paying taxes that is more proportionate.

 

We especially want to thank the following volunteer pastors from District 16 who served as Chaplain of the Day and offered prayer at the Legislature this week: Pastor Hale from Bancroft and Pastor High from Tekamah.

 

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.  If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government.  Live broadcasting is available on NET2 as well.

 

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,
Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

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