After two months in the Nebraska State Legislature, District 30 Senator Myron Dorn reflected on his experience so far, as well as his future plans.
Dorn said that since he started working at the Capitol, he has learned a lot about the process and details of bills getting finalized.
“That institutional knowledge that the new senators do not have,” Dorn said. “The first day, I relied on other senators and their advice as much as anything.”
Dorn admitted he has had his share on freshman moments. For example, the first few times he was called "senator" Dorn had to look around to see who they were talking about.
During a meeting with Leadership Beatrice, Dorn explained that what drives him is that he cares to get things done.
“That’s what drives me,” Dorn said. “I don’t need credit for when something gets done right. I see the successes, and I see the things happening that make Beatrice a better community, the county a better community. Things that weren’t getting done that needed to get done. And yet, to get there takes a lot of work and effort.”
Dorn recognized Leadership Beatrice, the Beatrice City Council, previous mayor Dennis Schuster and current mayor Stan Wirth for their impact on the city as well as Gage County.
“If you don’t have people that care, you will slowly regress,” Dorn said. “You need to have people that care. You need to have people that step up and do things.”
Dorn’s priority bill this session is LB472, also known as the Qualified Judgment Payment Act, would grant county boards the ability to levy a half-percent sales tax to raise revenue to pay federal judgments.
LB472 was introduced as a way to help Gage County pay a $28.1 million judgmnt to six people wrongfully convicted for a 1985 rape and murder in Beatrice.
Thirty years ago, Joseph White, Ada JoAnn Taylor, James Dean, Thomas Winslow, Kathy Gonzalez and Debra Shelden for the rape and murder of 68-year-old Helen Wilson in her Beatrice apartment.
All suspects except White, who maintained his innocence, took plea deals.
In 2007, White was granted the right to have DNA evidence from the crime scene tested by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which exonerated all six suspects from having any involvement in Wilson’s murder.
After spending a combined 75 years in prison, the six sued Gage County in 2009. The county board refused to settle out of court, and in 2016 a federal jury awarded the six a multimillion verdict.
Dorn said the bill could help Gage County pay the $28.1 million federal jury award, $2 million in attorneys' fees and $1 million in interest earlier than if the county had to rely upon property taxes alone.
Dorn said LB472 was first discussed when he was a chairman for the Gage County Board of Supervisors.
“I knew I had good support from the board, that the board was in agreement that that was a route that we should proceed with,” Dorn said. “So when I got up here, I talked to my staff and we had the bill drafters start drafting the concept. Since then, we’ve changed that some before we introduced the final version that we introduced, and we’ve had discussions with other groups of people that maybe had some problems with that bill.”
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Last week Dorn introduced amendment 959 to LB472 that would require counties imposing the Qualified Judgement sales tax to also set property taxes “at the maximum levy authorized in section 77-3442 for each year that the county is imposing such sales and use tax.”
AM959 was passed and adopted yesterday during legislative session.
“I’ve learned don’t sit there and think that it’s going to fly through or that it’s going to have three hours of debate,” Dorn said. “We don’t know. It just depends on certain people or certain groups. There’s something in it that somebody might not like, and then they start discussion then off it goes.”
Dorn said the bill is on schedule to be discussed soon, but is contingent on how long the other bills are discussed.
During a Beatrice city council meeting, City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said the municipality is interested in Beatrice's thoughts on LB472, as it directly affects them.
Council member Richard Kerr noted a half cent sales tax increase would make Gage County have the highest sales tax in Nebraska.
"I’ve had people come to me, and they’re not quite happy about it," Kerr said. "The board just gets to impose a tax without this going to the voters. When we put our fire hall up, we put it up to the voters. When the courthouse got done, it was put on by the voters. I just don’t think it’s proper that a government entity puts a tax on without it going to the voters."
The City Council agreed to discuss LB472 during its next meeting.
"Keep in mind, Lincoln does have an occupation tax in areas around south point," Tempelmeyer said. "They don’t call it a sales tax, they call it an occupation tax. They do charge a little higher in those areas."
Dorn also plans to work on LB106, which would change provisions relating to disclosure of DNA records under the DNA Identification Information Act.
Dorn explained that the state patrol brought the bill to his attention.
“They do DNA tests, and they supply that to a national database,” Dorn said. “Anybody in the state can access the state patrol’s database here, and they supply that DNA onto a national database. What the state patrol can’t do, though, is they can’t go into that national database and say, ‘did that DNA match up anywhere else?’ And that’s what they’re asking to do.”
Dorn said LB106 will likely not go through legislative sessions until next year.
Dorn said after sessions wrap up for the summer he plans to be in his office once or twice a week for meetings, and traveling to visit with with Nebraskans.
But for the time being, Dorn stressed the amount of time legislative sessions take.
“I get up here every morning at 6:30 or 7 o’clock,” Dorn said. “If I get home at 7 p.m. I’m doing good. Last night, I got home at almost nine. It takes a lot of time. I’m not complaining, it’s just that the time it takes is kind of amazing.”