Property taxes and prison reform are just two of the major proposals that state senators are expecting to discuss during the 60-day session, which began last week at the Nebraska Legislature.
Nebraska state senators returned to the Capitol in Lincoln Jan. 8 and introduced more than 100 new bills on the first day of the new session.
Senators said they are expecting to hear proposals on reducing property taxes, prison reform and healthcare.
Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth said he expecting to hear lively debate on several topics early in the session. He said he will be paying close attention to the property tax discussion, particularly to how Nebraska values agricultural land.
“We are the only state that takes a market approach of ag land as opposed to productivity,” he said. “That’s what has helped aggravate this crisis out here in the rural schools.”
Brandt said a bill addressing those issues will likely be proposed early in the session.
“But whether that has enough votes to pass remains to be seen,” he said.
Brandt said he expects to hear a lot of discussion in the Judiciary Committee about the Nebraska prison systems. He also expects to see several bills introduced that address broadband in rural communities across the state.
“For Nebraska to have a robust economy, we are going to have to have robust broadband,” he said.
Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward said property tax relief has been the No. 1 priority incentive bill for the five years he has been a senator. He expects to see another session where tax relief dominates much of the discussion.
Kolterman said additional issues he expects to see during this session include prison reform/stabilization and Medicaid expansion.
In his experience as a senator, Kolterman said the biggest challenge continues to be bringing people together. He said people in urban areas do not always understand the challenges rural people face and vice versa.
“The biggest thing we can do is create relationships so we can teach each other,” he said. “We have to understand each others’ problems before we can solve them.”
Kolterman said it is important for people to understand that challenges exist in both urban and rural communities.
Senators introduced 207 new measures over the first three days of the session.
Senators will introduce new bills for the first 10 legislative days or until Jan. 23. Consideration of bills carried over from last year will begin Jan. 13.
Gov. Pete Ricketts is scheduled to give his annual address on Jan. 15, and Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican will give his address on Jan. 22.
Committee hearings begin on Jan. 21. The session is scheduled to adjourn April 23.