Ben Hansen

Ben Hansen

The first full week of this year’s short legislative session brought with it the start of full days of debate and many more introduced bills. Unlike a long session where there is little to debate until newly introduced bills are able to go through the committee process and receive a public hearing, short sessions start quickly with debate on bills that were carried over from the previous year. By doing so, we’re able to get much more work done in the first few days of the session.

We began quickly with debate on LB 147, introduced by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, a bill allowing teachers the ability to use physical force for the purpose of protecting their classrooms and students. The bill was supported generally by teachers across the state, but after three hours of debate it failed to advance to Select File. Groene must now show he has enough votes to advance the bill for it to receive another round of debate.

LB 153, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon and prioritized by Sen. John Lowe of Kearney, would exempt 50 percent of military retirement pay from the Nebraska state income tax. I cosigned the bill last year to support veterans and allow them to keep more of their own money. In fact, I’d like everyone in the state to keep more of their own money and will continue to work towards that goal during my time in the Legislature. This bill, though, had the support of other senators who are typically uninterested in income tax reform and moved forward on a 46-0 vote.

Gov. Pete Ricketts delivered his State of the State address Wednesday morning, outlining his budget priorities and areas of importance for this session. The governor thanked the many Nebraskans who stepped up with courage and bravery during the March flood and in the months afterward. His recommendations for this session include roughly $500 million in property tax relief over the next three years and $59.2 million towards disaster relief projects.

One of my carryover bills from the last session, LB 381, came up for debate Thursday and advanced 40-0. The bill would allow the state to move to a “per-diem” expense reimbursement method, effectively saving hundreds of hours a year that we currently spend on processing reimbursement requests. These hundreds of hours could then be redirected towards more valuable work responsibilities, helping to make our state agencies more efficient and cost-effective.

Committee hearings will begin today and senators have until Thursday to introduce bills for this session. My staff and I have been working on the final drafts of a few bills I’ll be introducing next week.

As always you can contact me at bhansen@leg.ne.gov or contact the office to speak with my Administrative Assistant Ellie Stangl or my Legislative Aide Jacob Campbell.  To read all introduced legislation, please visit nebraskalegislature.gov. You may watch the live stream of the session when available at netnebraska.org.

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