Hansen, Ben.jpg

Greetings to all in Legislative District 16 and the surrounding area. The Legislature will reconvene Monday after a break since mid-March due to COVID-19. When it does, the situation will have changed dramatically in some ways, and in some ways stayed the same.  Let’s review a bit where we are at.

Property taxes remain my top priority along with ensuring that we are being responsible with taxpayer money during our COVID response. There’s been plenty of media coverage discussing how any property tax solution this year is tied to a business incentive package.  Our current business incentive program is set to expire at the end of the year, giving the business community plenty of urgency to make sure something gets done when session reconvenes from Monday to Aug. 13.  I agree that a property tax solution and business incentive package are tied together.  Currently, it does not seem like there are enough votes to pass either, but that may change.  At the very least, I think these bills should come to a vote.

Of course, plenty has changed since we last met in the Capitol as a Legislature.  COVID-19 has changed our economy and our way of life more than we ever thought possible.  Protests and riots have taken place throughout the country, and many Nebraskans are unsure about what their future looks like.  Nebraska has led well through the pandemic with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.  Our people have too much grit to be kept down.  Farmers and ranchers still need to put crops in the field and work with their livestock, no pandemic is going to change that. 

The remaining days of the session could go by quickly with little distraction, though that’s unlikely.  It’s more likely that we’ll take up the majority of the session discussing social issues and emotional topics.  Let me be clear, those issues do matter, but if Nebraskans needed tax relief before the pandemic they need it even more now.  The next tax forecast will be officially released during the first week of the session, but it sounds like our state tax revenues have not dropped as much as expected.

The floor of the Legislature has been fitted with plexiglass partitions and the practices have been changed significantly.  No staff members can be on the floor with senators except for specific situations and the balconies will be closed to the public.  Like practices on the floor of the Legislature, the Capitol has changed some of its visitor policies to accommodate social distancing and safety concerns.  If you’re planning a visit to the Capitol, please contact our office so that we can discuss some of those changes with you.

I’ll write weekly columns while we’re back in session to keep you updated.  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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