We recently completed bill introduction for the short session of the 103rd legislature that will conclude in mid-April. Hundreds of bills were introduced but very few of them will actually become law due to the pressing need to pass certain legislation and the controversy that will surround some of those bills.
I introduced 14 bills and two legislative resolutions, which dealt with issues such as wind transmission, aerial fire suppression, taxation, brand inspection, education, country-of-origin labeling and a bill to allow independent voters to request a ballot of either the Democratic or Republican party at a spring primary election.
Most of my constituents are concerned about taxes, and I would like to tell you about a few of my own ideas about tax modernization.
I attended four of the five public hearings that dealt with taxes and were held across Nebraska during the 2013 summer interim.
Ninety percent of the individuals who spoke at these meetings said property tax was the most onerous tax they pay. I introduced two bills dealing with property taxes.
The first appropriates an additional $25 million to the property tax credit to benefit every property owner in Nebraska. Although this figure is rather modest, it represents a 20-percent increase in funds allocated to that credit by the state. Other senators introduced amounts which were much higher.
I doubt if the Appropriations Committee will take the larger proposals seriously, but my request has a fair chance of passage.
The other property tax bill I introduced directs the state tax commissioner to place any revenue brought in through the federal “Marketplace Fairness Act” act to go towards property tax relief.
The “Marketplace Fairness Act” is a federal law which imposes collection requirements on Internet retailers who sell goods outside Nebraska. The bill was passed in the U.S. Senate last year but has not cleared the House of Representatives in Washington.
Although Nebraska law already requires the consumer to pay sales taxes for online purchases, there is no current ability to enforce that law and it is widely ignored by consumers. If the Marketplace Fairness Act does become law in the next year and if my bill were adopted, the property tax relief would exceed another $100 million which would be a tremendous shot-in-the-arm for overburdened homeowners and farmers.
In response to the governor's call for income tax relief, I also introduced a bill to lower the rates for middle income individuals.
My bill differs from those put forward by other senators since I added an additional rate for high-earners to make up for the revenue lost by reducing the rates for middle-income taxpayers.
In my opinion, it is irresponsible for any senator to propose radical reductions in tax rates without finding replacement revenue or recommending dramatic cuts in services.
The dramatic run-up in propane prices is causing anxiety across the nation. Nebraska is probably hit much harder than other states due to the large number of rural households and small towns without access to pipelines.
There is really very little I can do as your state senator to help drive down costs except ask questions, which I have been doing.
One important asset that is available to some is access to heat assistance through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. If you have an HHS office in your county I would encourage you to contact the office to inquire about help they might be able to provide.
You can also apply online for this assistance by searching for “heat assistance program” on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website. Our office will also try and send you to the appropriate location if you would like to call us here.
Above all else, we don't want our elderly neighbors to go without heat. If you have had some good fortune, you might ask your local propane dealer who needs assistance and help out your neighbor. We all need to stick together in times of adversity.
As always, I value your input, and welcome phone calls, emails and personal visits from you. Contact me at: Senator Al Davis, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or (402) 471-2628 or firstname.lastname@example.org