WAYNE – With the 107th Nebraska Legislature, Second Regular Session underway, District 17 Senator Joni Albrecht provided her weekly update.
According to a release from the office of Senator Albrecht, a total of 175 bills were introduced in the first week. Senator Albrecht believes if passed, this Legislation could truly be a historical year for Nebraska. This past week, the Unicameral was looking over three significant bills that each address important issues being the Convention of States, Inheritance Tax and Scholarship Tax Credits.
LR14-Convention of States being prioritized by Senator Steve Halloran of Hastings would serve as Nebraska’s application for a convention of states under the authority of Article V of the United States Constitution for proposing constitutional amendments. The convention would be limited to amendment proposals from the following subjects: limiting the size and scope of the federal government; considering fiscal restraints and considering term limits. Amendment proposals approved by the convention would be submitted to the states for ratification following the process found in Article V of the United States Constitution.
LB310– Change Inheritance Tax Rates and Exemptions was prioritized by Senator Rob Clements of Elmwood. Nebraska is one of only five states that levies an inheritance tax and one of only two states that tax children and grandchildren who receive inheritances from their parents or grandparents. Because the tax was created in 1901, many of its provisions need modernization, including the relatively low amount of property value that is subject to tax. Nebraska’s top 18% inheritance tax rate on non-relatives and distant relatives is also the country’s highest tax rate.
Last Session, Senator Clements introduced LB310 which would phase out inheritance taxes in the state.
Senator Albrecht said, “he is prioritizing the bill this Session and I am introducing AM635 that brings it to completion in the next five years. We really need to be strategic in this state to build an environment where our citizens both young and old can thrive. Where their money could go as far as it would if they lived in another state. Where one generation can afford to keep the land their ancestors worked so hard to establish. Nebraska’s high inheritance taxes are part of what is driving our people away. A tax at death on wealth earned by hard work and sacrifice is the worst tax I can imagine. Families should be able to pass their accumulated assets to the next generation without fear that it will force a sale to pay the taxes that come at a time of grieving and loss.”
LB364-Opportunity Scholarships Act was prioritized by Senator LouAnn Linehan of Elkhorn and this would create the Opportunity Scholarships Act. Under the Act, individual and corporate taxpayers would qualify for a non-refundable tax credit equal to the amount the taxpayer contributed to a scholarship-granting organization. No taxpayer may receive tax credits in an amount exceeding 50% of their state income tax liability. Each nonprofit, scholarship-granting organization certified by the Nebraska Department of Revenue shall provide education scholarships to assist eligible students to attend a qualified, nonprofit, private elementary or secondary school.
The Act defines an eligible student as a dependent member of a household that qualified for free or reduced lunch during the year prior to the granting of the scholarship. The credits are available for tax years beginning or deemed to begin on or after January 1, 2022 and are capped annually at $10 million. Credits are awarded in the order in which they are received. If the cap is reached during the year, the credits will be allocated.
Bills that Senator Albrecht introduced during the first week were LB768 (State Board of Education Bill) and LB720 (DMV NE State Patrol).
The ‘State Board of Education’ bill would remove the word “comprehensive” from the health education program definition and states that the ‘State Board of Education shall not develop, approve, distribute, adopt, or promulgate any academic content standards in a new content area that is not already in state statute.’
From Senator Albrecht:
- All tax-payer funded systems require transparency and oversight. This bill provides a long overdue check of the Nebraska Department of Education and its over 500 employees who direct education in Nebraska.
- The debacle of the Health Standards is an example of what the future holds if such a check is not put in place.
- Trust is broken, and that’s when the Legislature needs to step in.
- Parents are the primary educators of their children. There is no more pure form of local control than a parent/guardian directing their child’s education.
- To keep it short and simple, the State Board of Education should focus on improving the standards they have been authorized to formulate; everything else is for local control.
- I would like to see the State Board of Education focus on improving the test scores in the areas they have already been authorized to adopt: Reading, Writing, Math, English, Science, and Social Studies and leave everything else to local control and leadership within the school district.
Senator Albrecht also introduced LB720 this week on behalf of the Nebraska State Patrol to harmonize Nebraska Statute with federal regulations to avoid incompatibility. The bill represents the annual Legislative update which adopts the Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Hazardous Material Regulations current as of January 1, 2022. The adoption of these regulations is required on an annual basis to incorporate new or revised federal regulations into State Statute. State Statute must remain current with the federal regulations to avoid incompatibility and jeopardizing Nebraska’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), which is funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Earlier this month, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference in the State Capitol Rotunda with the members of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee, which Senator Albrecht is honored to serve on. The Governor and Revenue Committee Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan both called on the Unicameral to prioritize tax relief during its 60-day short session. The Governor credited the ability to control spending for helping the State of Nebraska achieve the strong financial position it currently enjoys.
Governor Ricketts called for surplus revenues to be returned to Nebraskans through additional tax relief saying, “when we have money in excess of what we need to fund State operations, we need to give it back to the people of Nebraska. This money doesn’t belong to the state government or the Legislature, it belongs to the hardworking people of our state.”
The Governor paid a nice compliment to the Revenue Committee for helping deliver historic tax relief to Nebraskans through legislation passed in 2020 and 2021. Ricketts also emphasized the need to limit the increase of local property tax asking so that Nebraskans fully benefit from the tax relief provided by the State.
Nebraska also continues to stand out nationally for their pandemic recovery and rapid job growth. Earlier this month, ‘Politico’ named Nebraska as the top state in the nation for their pandemic response. Nebraska currently has the lowest unemployment rate of any state in history at 1.8% after having a historic Legislative session in 2021, which will deliver more than $2 billion of tax relief to Nebraskans over the next two years.
If you have any comments or concerns, contact Senator Albrecht at 402-471-2716 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.