I would consider the recently completed legislative session successful for Nebraska taxpayers. Among other items, we passed, and the governor signed into law, bills to provide a sales tax exemption on municipal water, tax relief for military retirement recipients, tax relief for social security recipients, and income tax relief for corporate taxpayers. On the property tax front, we provided a valuation reduction for agland in the context of school bond repayment, we added additional dollars to the Property Tax Credit Fund, and as I’ve mentioned before, the LB 1107 refundable income tax credit is growing at a robust pace. But clearly, there is more work to be done on these and a multitude of other issues. I want to comment on a few of the many issues that we will be facing going forward.
As required by the Nebraska Constitution, the legislature will set out this year on its once-every-ten-year obligation to draw new boundaries for several political contests. This redrawing is made necessary by the interplay of the Equal Protection clause’s requirement of one person/one vote and population shifts. Because of a perceived population shift from rural to urban Nebraska, the redrawing of legislative boundaries will take on particular significance. The redistricting committee will be meeting in late August and into September to develop and negotiate boundaries for the various districts, and to present plans to the full legislature during a special session in September. I serve on the nine-member committee, and look forward to working with my fellow committee members to develop boundaries that are fair to rural Nebraska interests.
Another item that has been receiving much attention, and understandably so, is the Department of Education’s newly proposed Health Education Standards. I’ve reviewed those standards, particularly those addressing sex education in our puiblic schools. From my perspective, many of the newly proposed sex education standards appear to be completely inappropriate for the age of children they are directed to. That is why several months ago, I co-signed a letter with many of my fellow senators objecting to the standards. It also appears the State Board and Department of Education is receiving a barrage of criticism from the public for these proposed standards. Hopefully, this push back will be sufficient to stop adoption of the objectionable portions. But if not, my staff and I are researching legislation for next session designed to reverse what the Board and Department are trying to do in this arena.
Another issue receiving considerable attention is President Biden’s 30 x 30 proposal. His executive order required the Department of Interior to develop a preliminary report on this proposal to place 30 percent of our nation’s land resources into some type of conservation concept by 2030. The report appears to envision a federal program that would require recognition and preservation of private property rights, and rely on incentivized and voluntary participation by landowners. However, there are numerous red flags in that report, and in the concept itself, that I am concerned about. As a state senator, I will do what I can to minimize the negative impact to Nebraskans if this proposal gains traction. I intend to research and draft legislation towards that end.