Legislative Session Has Busy Final Day

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At the end of the final day of the 108th legislative session, outgoing  senators addressed the body. Listen to the comments of Fred Meyer, Steve Halloran, and John Lowe.

After nearly two hours of debate, the introducer of Legislative Bill 388, State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, opted to skip a vote on the measure after it became apparent it didn’t have support from the 33 senators needed to end an opposing filibuster. Gov. Jim Pillen came up empty-handed Thursday on his quest to reduce property taxes.  Pillen delivered his message just hours after a scaled-back version of his property tax reduction plan failed without an actual vote. LB 388 would have added taxes on a variety of goods and services and used the revenue to help pay for new school property tax credits, replacing another credit program.

 Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to an updated bill that will devote $10 million a year in state funds for scholarships to attend K-12 private or parochial schools. The approval of Legislative Bill 1402 would end Nebraska’s distinction as one of only two states that don’t allow some form of school choice. The law takes place of LB 753, a law allows taxpayers to devote up to half of their state income tax liability to “scholarship granting organizations” that hand out scholarships to private and parochial schools. LB 753 is facing a ballot referendum in November. 

Governor Pillen's release
LINCOLN, NE – Today, Governor Jim Pillen expressed strong disappointment that state senators failed to pass LB388, which contained provisions aimed at providing property tax relief to Nebraskans. The bill failed to reach a final vote. Sen. Lou Ann Linehan asked that LB388 be removed from the agenda during the last round of debate.  

The governor’s statement follows:
“I appreciate the efforts of the Revenue Committee and particularly Chairwoman Linehan who worked hard and thoughtfully to bring a bill that would reduce property tax by 40%. They identified revenue that would support that cut and provide a better balance to our state’s entire tax base. Special interest groups stopped this legislation, preferring to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to halt this bill, rather than prioritizing the needs of the people of this state. This is a failure for all hard-working, commonsense Nebraskans who say at every turn their top priority is property tax relief.”

During his Sine Die Address to the Legislature, Gov. Pillen indicated his intent to call a special session, and other special sessions if necessary, to achieve significant property tax reform. The announcement as to when a special session will happen will come at a later date. 

The address started with a tribute and a moment of silence to fallen Ceresco Police Officer Ross Bartlett. Bartlett was killed last Friday when his cruiser was struck during a traffic stop on Highway 77.

Gov. Pillen noted that the Nebraska Legislature did achieve significant objectives this year, including passage of most of his personal priority bills. Those signed into law so far include:

LB1300 – Ensures necessary preparations and protections are undertaken in case a Pacific conflict were to arise that would involve the United States or its allies.
LB1301 – Updates statutes and provides additional restrictions on land ownership by foreign individuals and foreign-owned companies.
LB1377 – (Passed via 1329) – Gives more flexibility to school districts when it comes to required trainings. .
LB1385 – (Passed via 1329) – Streamlines the application process for teaching certificate approval and creates reciprocity between states for the issuance of teaching certificates.
LB1393 – Provides institutions in Nebraska with the flexibility to take a more proactive approach and adapt to the frequent changes of the NIL environment.
LB1394 – Incentivizes the recruiting and retention of members of the Nebraska National Guard by providing income tax exemptions.
LB1416 – (Passed via LB164) – Creates grants designed to incentivize the creation of child care programs.

Gov. Pillen Delivers Sine Die Address to Nebraska Legislature
President Kelly, Speaker Arch, and members of the 108th Nebraska Legislature.
Friends and distinguished guests.
Fellow Nebraskans.
It is my great honor to be with you as you conclude the second regular session of this Legislature.
Last Friday evening, we had a devastating reminder of the dangers our men and women in law enforcement face every day.
Ceresco Police Officer Ross Bartlett was killed in the line of duty when his patrol car was hit by another vehicle during a traffic stop.
Ross’s life was defined by service: he also served as an Investigator with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and as a volunteer firefighter.
He leaves behind his wife Tina, daughters Tiffany and Crystal, and seven grandchildren.
Their loss is profound, as is that of his community and our entire state.
We mourn with them and we will never forget his service and sacrifice.
Will you join me in a moment of silence honoring Officer Ross Bartlett.
Thank you.
Let us also give a round of applause to celebrate not only the life of Officer Bartlett, but to acknowledge the service of all our men and women in blue in
communities across Nebraska.
This Legislature has much to be proud of.
You made unprecedented investments in our schools, honored second amendment rights, protected kids and the unborn, created the tools to finish connecting our roads and broadband infrastructure, delivered on long-overdue income tax cuts, and finally made Nebraska a state where kids in need can go to a school that is the best fit for them.
You passed two fiscally conservative budget measures and held the line on government growth with mid-biennium adjustments providing virtually NO new non-education spending.
You swept nearly a quarter billion dollars in idle government pillowcase money to jumpstart additional tax relief, based on the commonsense principle that government should not horde public funds.
You made the overdue decision to provide Nebraska its fair share of federal funds to support our seniors, build our roads, and deliver over a billion federal dollars for our hospitals.
These funds will not only improve hospital performance but attract new recipients of nursing scholarships, and take a step toward solving our statewide mental health funding crisis.
Even in this short session, your hard work and long hours yielded tremendous results for Nebraska.
You passed important protections for religious liberty.
You created new incentives for service in our Nebraska National Guard.
You gave our businesses the tools they need to attract new Nebraskans to outstanding careers, enhanced their childcare options, and invested in career housing.
You gave schools the power to make local decisions to protect their kids by training good guys with guns to stop bad guys with guns. And you took a momentous step in ensuring that the stewardship of Nebraska’s history will be governed with accountability to its people.
You made once-in-a-generation investments in the promise of Nebraska’s bioeconomy, which will harness federal resources to support transforming our agricultural backbone into a powerhouse that feeds and fuels the world at unprecedented levels, while ensuring our farmers are rewarded for the true value of their products.
You invested in Nebraska’s water resources and quality, funding nitrate sensors and education, as well as support for using technology to solve our nitrate challenges.
You strengthened our homeland security, too. We have long known that America is not entirely shielded by oceans from foreign interference.
Today, an enemy may only be a few keystrokes away from disrupting water, electrical, communications, and other critical systems.
Against that modern threat, even a triple-landlocked state must shoulder the responsibilities of national security.
With that in mind, you passed legislation that will enhance Nebraska’s infrastructure security and mitigate the threats we face from global adversaries.
This is just part of this Legislature’s achievements, and I congratulate you on your work.
The conclusion of a legislature is bittersweet, as it brings with it the departure of several of the leaders in this body: Senator Albrecht, Senator Blood, Senator Bostelman, Senator Brewer, Senator Erdman, Senator Halloran, Senator Linehan, Senator Lowe, Senator McDonnell, Senator Meyer, Senator Slama, Senator Vargas, Senator Walz, Senator Wayne, and Senator Wishart.
Everyone came here with different life experiences, different perspectives, different paths, and different policy priorities—but with the same fundamental goal: to make Nebraska a better place for our kids.
I thank everyone for your sacrifices, as well as your families, for the good of our state.
Speaking of our departing Senators—the people of Nebraska require just a bit more of your public service before you leave.
Because of this Legislature’s inaction this morning, Nebraskans will see NO property tax relief out of this session.
That is unacceptable!
As I have heard from Nebraskans across our state, our property tax crisis MUST be solved—because property taxes are so out of whack, you don’t even need to own property to feel their harm.
Every Nebraskan sees the spiraling growth in property taxes, yet this Legislature failed to act.
$5.3 billion dollars in property taxes were levied in 2023, compared to $3.4 billion in 2013.
In your first year of this biennium, property taxes increased by nearly 300 million dollars.
Every Nebraskan sees that out-of-control local government spending is the main property tax driver, yet this Legislature failed to pass limits on that spending.
Every Nebraskan sees that existing property tax credit relief programs are not fixing the crisis.
A recent report uncovered that more than $420 million dollars in property tax credits have been left on the table unclaimed.
The share of taxpayers NOT claiming their credits in big school districts is jaw-dropping, including half of the taxpayers in Millard, Westside, and Lincoln; nearly 60 percent in Papillion-LaVista; and 67 percent in Omaha.
Yet this Legislature failed to adopt a commonsense measure to front-load these credits to make sure taxpayers see them on their statements instead of having to do more work months later to claim them on their tax returns.
Every Nebraskan agrees that we must broaden our sales tax base and close the loopholes, carveouts, and favored treatment defended by lobbyists and special interests…yet this Legislature failed to take even a modest step to correct this imbalance.
As I have promised to hardworking Nebraskans across the state, and as most of you have promised your constituents, together we will fix it this year.
Fortunately, we still have a chance to do that.
We will make sure this body acts on the truth about property taxes, not the misstatements pressed by special interests.
With this Legislature’s failure to enact meaningful property tax relief, we’re behind at the end of the first half, but we still have a second half to go.
I will call as many special sessions as it takes to finish the long-overdue work of solving our property tax crisis.
My heart goes out to the seniors and hardworking people of our state who face losing their homes because they cannot afford their property taxes, but see tax loopholes for candy, pop, CBD, and Big Tech behemoths remain in law.
The lobbyists and out-of-state special interests will keep fighting for their carveouts and favored treatment – but YOU know, and I know what Nebraskans demand and expect.
The lobby might imagine they have won this half, but the people of Nebraska will win in the end.
We will finish this work, and we will finish it THIS YEAR.
Property tax relief may not be this Legislature’s only unfinished work.
I will not hesitate to call a special session to complete other unfinished business, including winner-take-all, when I receive a strong signal from the leaders of this body that there is support to return to do the people’s work this year.
It is the privilege of a lifetime to do the work of the people of Nebraska.
On behalf of our team, my partner President Joe Kelly and me -- thank you and your teams for your public service.
Enjoy halftime, and we’ll see you again here soon.
God bless you and God bless the people of the great State of Nebraska.

Legislative Final Comments Meyer Halloran Lowe 4/18/24