Wednesday, January 3rd marked the beginning of the second half of the biennium of the 105th Legislature and the first day of my final legislative session as State Senator for District 16. Looking back, it has been incredible and a tremendous privilege to serve the people of District 16 the past seven years. I look forward to representing you in this final session and working for our district until my successor takes office the first Wednesday in January 2019.
On day two of the session and on behalf of the State Treasurer, I introduced legislation to bring state tax law into line with the new federal law. The proposed changes to the Nebraska educational savings plan will encourage Nebraskans to save for education and prioritize the future. These changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. I also introduced a bill that would make a clarification in the notice requirements under the fence law before a landowner may file a fence dispute claim and a bill that will insert a requirement for the Director of Agriculture to prepare an annual report of revenues and expenditures for the potato promotion program.
Week two of the session begins with floor debate on proposed changes to the Legislature’s rules followed by debate on carryover bills from the first session of the biennium. LB105, which advanced from committee last session, will likely be one of the first bills the Legislature will take up during the first week of floor debate. This bill increases certain bankruptcy exemptions that have not been updated since 1997.
On Wednesday, January 10th, Governor Ricketts will present the annual state-of-the-state address where he will present his budget proposals and lay out his legislative priorities for the year. The Governor’s budget is the blueprint the Legislature will use to address a nearly $200 million gap between current budget commitments and anticipated revenues. In October, the Economic Forecasting Board lowered its projected tax receipts for the two-year budget cycle by another $100 million.
It is anticipated that the Governor will also use the state-of-the-state address to introduce new proposals for property tax relief and income tax reform. LB461, which contained a version of a bill I introduced to adopt an income approach to valuing agricultural land for tax purposes, stalled during floor debate last session. Critics of the bill felt it did not offer enough in terms of direct property tax relief. In addition to the Governor’s proposals for tax relief, the Legislature will consider a competing proposal to allow taxpayers to claim a refundable credit against state income tax equal to 50 percent of property taxes assessed for schools.
Additionally, the Office of the Attorney General will launch an awareness campaign to fight sex trafficking called Demand An End on January 11th at the Capitol.
This session is a “short session”, lasting 60 working days and concluding on April 18th. New bills may be introduced during the first 10 days of the session. 667 bills were introduced during the 2017 session. During the shorter session, Senators typically introduce 400-450 new bills and at the end of the third day, 207 bills had been introduced. Each new bill will be assigned to the appropriate committee for a public hearing. Hearings will begin January 16th and will conclude at the end of February. You are welcome to attend the hearings, provide testimony via mail or email, or testify yourself. You can follow along with all of the legislative activity at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/.
Please contact me; my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; or my legislative aide, Jacob Campbell, with questions or concerns or stop by Room 1022 in the Capitol.