This past week, LB 753 received the necessary votes to invoke cloture after eight hours of debate and then received 31 votes to move the bill to Select File.
LB 753 creates the Opportunity Scholarships Act and allows individual and corporate taxpayers to qualify for a non-refundable tax credit equal to the amount the taxpayer contributed to a scholarship-granting organization (i.e., private school scholarships).
I voted to advance the bill with the understanding that there would be some amendments on Select File (second round.) I have been working with a small group of conservative senators to make some adjustments to increase accountability, limit the overall growth of the state costs, and make adjustments to the amount of the tax credits. I believe that these amendments will make the bill more equitable while fulfilling the intent of the bill.
I have received more emails on LB 753 than any bill since entering the Legislature. In the end, I want to make it clear that public schools will not lose funding with this bill. In fact, public schools in District 42 will all receive significantly more funding once the final school funding package is approved.
The final package will include LB 753 and should easily pass when combined as one bill.
I have also had questions regarding the reorganization of the Nebraska Board of Education. I believe that with the new faces that have been elected to the board this year, the Legislature needs to stand down and wait for the process to work.
The voters voted for change, so we need to let that change work. I do not believe that the Legislature should be directly overseeing our public-school systems and needs to be mindful of any mandates that they impose on Nebraska’s taxing authorities without providing the necessary funding to offset the costs.
Even minor requirements can be very costly to the smallest of our rural school districts.
This week is a big one because individual senator and committee priorities must be designated on March 14. The Speaker will announce his priority bills on March 15.
I submitted two bills for consideration as Speaker priority bills and have identified four bills as finalists for my individual priority: LB 31 (two-person crew), LB 281 (State 4-H Camp funding), LB 32 (Medigap), and LB 148 (timing for new racetrack licenses).
All four bills are currently still in committee but could be voted on early this week. I am also exploring other opportunities to get priority designation for my bills, including committee priorities or as an amendment to a priority bill.
The General Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on LB 148 on Monday, March 13. LB 148 would exempt racetrack applications for locations west of the 100th Meridian from the study requirements that were implemented last session.
Currently, the Nebraska State Racing and Gaming Commission must complete a study prior to Jan. 1, 2025, regarding the horseracing and casino industry in Nebraska and the socioeconomic impact of racing/gaming facilities.
I introduced LB 148 after hearing that not only had the commission not begun the study process, but there were some in the Legislature who wanted to extend the study deadline by several years.
Nebraskans voted overwhelmingly to pass the ballot initiatives to legalize gambling during the 2020 election. Whether you support gambling or not, the industry clearly provides substantial economic development and tax revenue. I don’t think it’s fair to leave western Nebraska out.
Access to the I-80 corridor, visitors from Wyoming and Colorado, and the rich agricultural and livestock histories of our area make western Nebraska a prime spot for a racetrack and casino development. I am grateful to have many members from the North Platte community coming in to testify in support of LB 148 and look forward to a productive hearing.
March 24 will be the last day for committee hearings and we will start all-day debate on March 28. It’s likely we will start late-night sessions soon after we go into all-day debate, to try to make up lost time.
Once all-day sessions begin, I am hopeful that the filibusters will be limited to truly controversial issues. Going all day can be very taxing and going all day and into the night is a grueling pace. We are anxious to start getting things done and I believe that will begin to happen.
I look forward to hearing from constituents about issues impacting you. Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729, or join the weekly call with the North Platte Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation.
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