The 2024 Legislative session has begun. Because the Unicameral Legislature operates in a two-year cycle, this will be the second session of the 108th Legislature. The session began on January 3 and will end on April 18. Since this is only a 60-day session, there will be less time for State Senators to get the business of the State done this year. Today I will share my priorities and goals for making this year’s legislative session a productive one.
I am the chair of the Legislature’s Rules Committee. Because of the chaos of last year’s session, some necessary rule changes need to be made at the beginning of this year’s session. I intend to leave the Legislature better off than the way I found it seven years ago. Because the Legislature’s Rule Book is not very user-friendly, first-year Senators often have a difficult time learning the rules. Therefore, one of the rule changes I have proposed constitutes a complete re-write and re-organization of the Rule Book; otherwise, I have proposed 11 other rules changes which are needed. Altogether State Senators have proposed a total of 34 rule changes.
While rule changes will have to represent my most immediate priority in the Legislature, my highest concern will continue to be for tax relief. The EPIC Option Consumption Tax bill that I introduced last year will carryover for 2024 and will continue to offer the best solution for our State’s broken tax system.
The time has come for Nebraska’s politicians to admit that we need the EPIC Option Consumption Tax. Last week Gov. Jim Pillen contradicted himself when he criticized the EPIC Option Consumption Tax, claiming that it would somehow hurt low-income families. Soon thereafter he announced his desire to raise the state sales tax by two percent, matching the EPIC Option Consumption Tax Rate of 7.5 percent. So, Gov. Pillen’s tax plan would retain the state income tax, the property tax, and the inheritance tax, whereas my plan would eliminate those taxes. Furthermore, Gov. Pillen’s plan would continue to tax used goods, which are important to low-income families, whereas the EPIC Option Consumption Tax would not. So, the EPIC Option Consumption Tax is far more friendly to low-income families than the Governor’s tax plan.
This year I will introduce several new bills. The first one is a detasseling bill. Nebraska is now the only state remaining which utilizes local teenagers for doing rogueing and detasseling work. Those jobs are being threatened by companies that only hire migrant workers. Because these jobs are important for introducing the youth of our state to agriculture, my bill will create transparency for holding seed companies accountable, who are already required by law to hire local workers first.
Another bill that I will introduce is a new school choice bill. This bill is an update to the My Student, My Choice Act that I introduced last year. This bill offers real school choice. The bill would fully fund public school students while providing about $8,000 for each student enrolled in a private school.
I may also introduce a bill to end CO2 sequestration in our state. I was the only Senator who voted against LB 650 in 2021. Since that bill passed two years ago, State Senators have been learning about the dangers of pumping carbon dioxide through pipelines and storing it underground. It appears that CO2 travels most efficiently through pipelines with pressure set at 2,600 pounds per square inch (psi), but the pipelines which are designed for natural gas pump it with pressures that never exceed 1,200 psi. Pumping CO2 through these pipelines could be very dangerous. Therefore, the Legislature needs to repeal the Nebraska Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide Act.
Finally, I plan to Introduce a bill to make the Nebraska State Historical Society a state agency. This is necessary due to the conflicts of interests that some of the board members have who oversee the organization as well as their need to be able to account for the state monies they receive.
State Senators have until January 17 to introduce new bills. Many of the concerns I have for our state are being addressed by other State Senators, so there is no need to duplicate their efforts. Issues such as election integrity, preventing the sale of Nebraska’s lands to foreign enemies, and enabling capital punishment are all issues that will get addressed this year. Overall, it is my sincere hope, plan, and desire to make this year’s session a very productive one.