On Friday, Oct. 4, my staff attended a legislative summit hosted by the Omaha-based Platte Institute. The theme of this event was “Imagine the Possibilities.” The Platte Institute supports free markets, lower taxes, and lower government spending, and they do a good job of advocating for these values. Since those are values I share, I am always glad to see Platte Institute folks walking the hallways at the Capitol.
There were a couple of major themes discussed at the Platte event, but they all centered around getting big government out of the way in Nebraska. Two Nebraskans received the “Connie Brown Freedom Award.” Dawn Hatcher of Columbus and Karen Hough of Arnold played a key role in legalizing equine massage, something that Sen. Mike Groene got done in 2018. These two business owners found something they were good at and that their neighbors wanted. Unfortunately, government was in the way. I join the Platte Institute in cheering on these efforts to make Nebraska better — not just for horses, but for small-business owners who know all too well just how much red tape there is in between a good idea and a paycheck.
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Cutting government red tape was also the topic of discussion for a panel that included my friend Sen. John Lowe from Kearney. Sen. Lowe talked about the mountains of bureaucratic regulations on the books here in Nebraska. We have two interim studies from Sen. Lowe scheduled for hearings in the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee for Friday, Oct. 25. One will focus on rolling back harmful over-regulation. The other will discuss some ideas for making state agencies stretch every public dollar.
My committee legal counsel, Dick Clark, was a speaker on another panel, which discussed a good law passed in 2018 that requires the Legislature to review, reform, or even eliminate occupational licenses and other regulations that make it harder for people to work. Dick did hundreds of hours of research needed to get this new law operational. With Nebraska requiring state licenses for over 150 jobs, reviewing these licenses — some over 120 years old — is long overdue. If there is a bad law keeping people from doing productive work, my fellow senators need to know about it.
The single most important discussion of the day was on property taxes. Sen. Mike Groene and Sen. Lou Anne Linehan were the two lawmakers who participated in that conversation. The Platte Institute passed out information on sales and property taxes. Their property tax handout said more or less what I have been saying since the end of session, that the Legislature’s mission in 2020 has to be to “develop a 33-vote consensus on major property tax reform or face a possible constitutional amendment ballot initiative…” Senators who ignore that warning are going to be faced with some unpleasant choices after next November. I continue to hope that we can get them to do the work to make property tax relief more than a campaign slogan. If we cannot, voters will take matters into their own hands.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.