The legislature convened on Wednesday, January 8. This first week and a half were devoted mostly to bill introduction, and debate on carryover bills that didn’t get heard last year because they did not have a priority designation. Committee hearings began this week, with mornings devoted to floor debate and the hearings in the afternoons.

Work continues on a package that couples property tax reform and business incentives. As you may recall, the two issues were joined late last session in a compromise effort to get both across the finish line. Toward that effort, the Revenue Committee introduced the property tax component, LB 974, with a press conference in the rotunda lastweek.Five of my fellow Revenue Committee members and I are co-sponsors of the bill. LB 974 was heard by our committee on Wednesday, January 23. In a nutshell, this bill would lower ag, residential, and commercial property valuations, and would dedicate roughly $500 million over the next three years to additional school funding through foundation aid on a per student basis. This foundation aid would then grow annually. Components would be included in the bill to help ensure the additional state aid yields property tax relief. Although LB974 may not be everything that everyone wants, it is the result of an enormous amount of discussion and compromise, and I maintain that it is good for taxpayers and good for education.

Finishing touches are being put on LB 720, the business incentive component of the package. I will describe it further in a later column. It should be scheduled for hearing sometime next week. The intent is to get both of these items on the floor as soon as possible. The speaker has indicated that one will not go forward without the other, and that is my intention also.

This is a short (60 working days) session. Although we’re currently debating carryover, non-priority bills, once priority designations are made, those priority bills will jump to the front of the line. As a result, bills without a priority designation will most likely not make it to the floor in this short session. Each senator can designate one priority bill, each committee can designate two, and the speaker can name an additional 25 priority bills.

I will announce the General Affairs Committee priority bills after consultation with the committee members. As for my personal priority bill, I intend to wait and see how the property tax reform/business incentive package progresses before making that decision. Property tax reform remains a priority for me. For now, it appears that LB 974 is the main vehicle to set us on the path to achieving that goal. But rest assured that I will always be looking at avenues to reduce the property tax burden on Nebraskans.

As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me or my office on issues relating to state government, bills in the legislature, or public policy in general. And be sure to mention where you’re from: responding to constituents is my top priority at the start of every workday. I can be reached at tbriese@leg.ne.gov, and you can call my office during regular business hours at (402) 471-2631.

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