Photo by George Lauby
Sen. Tom Hansen
On the first day every two years after an election, new and re-elected state legislators are sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. We also elect, by secret ballot, a new Speaker and new committee chairpersons. I was elected Chairperson of the Building Maintenance Committee by the Legislature's Executive Board. It's a special committee that I have been a member of since 2009 and one in which I have a strong interest in. This committee exercises oversight of the deferred and preventive maintenance activities of state-owned buildings.
The Committee on Committees is a select committee that decides what senators are placed on each standing committee. This year I was assigned to the Revenue Committee, the Agriculture Committee and the Business and Labor Committee.
We are currently in the 10-day process of introducing bills. Friday was Day 7 and so far, there have been 401 bills and resolutions introduced.
Gov. Dave Heineman gave his State of the State address, and in his proposed budget he has recommended:
• The university and state colleges freeze tuition for two years;
• A 5% annual increase for State Aid to Education and Special Education for the next two years;
• Continued funding of the Governor's Property Tax Credit Program.
• Tax reforms that include: no individual income tax for working Nebraskans; no taxing of small business income; no taxation of Social Security income; no taxation of military retirement income; no taxation of any retirement income; and no corporate income tax.
Additionally, he will have legislation that will reduce some of the state's business sales tax exemptions.
Once again, I see a challenging session ahead.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Mike Heavican gave his State of the Judiciary also this week.
In Heavican's address, he spoke about LB 985, which passed last year and created three pilot projects that would enhance the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project. In the three pilot projects established in Omaha, North Platte, and Scottsbluff, approximately 600 youth have been served since July 1.
Eighty percent of these young people were able to remain in their family home rather than being institutionalized.
Heavican also talked about the Specialized Substance Abuse Supervision Program in effect since 2006 and designed for adult felony offenders with chronic drug problems. Nearly 90 percent of SSAS alumni were not re-arrested within the first year of program completion.
Last year interpreter services were provided in 39 spoken languages and American Sign Language for over 20,000 court hearings and probation appointments.
And finally, this past year was a banner year for the use of video conferencing in our trial courts. Sixty county courts and 10 district courts used the technology in a variety of court proceedings to save travel time.
Public hearings on new bills begin next week right after the holiday break. I am looking forward to my new committee assignments.
Please contact me with your concerns regarding legislation or other state matters. You may also contact my office by telephone (402-471-2729); by email at email@example.com or by U.S. Mail at Sen. Tom Hansen, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509.
You can also get a lot of information on the legislature's website at: http://nebraskalegislature.gov.
My office hasn't changed - I am still in Room 1012. So, if you are in Lincoln, stop by and say hello and meet my new Administrative Assistant, Pat Martin. Barb Lococo, my Legislative Aide, has been working for me since I've been elected, and is there too.
Lincoln County rancher and state senator Tom Hansen reports every two weeks while the Legislature is in session.