Thank you to all who have contacted my office this week. We have gotten a lot of communication about several bills coming up for public hearings. Remember the new guidelines, which allow you to submit testimony if you are not able, or prefer not to, attend in person. You can find those at: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/committees/public-input.php Then click on the this tab: Written Testimony In Lieu of In-Person Testimony for Public Hearings during the 2021 Session.
We also had many contacts regarding the vaccine hotlines in both Gage and Lancaster counties, and subsequent overloading of the system. We appreciated hearing about your experiences. Please know that while I want to learn about any situations you encounter, a state senator is not able to help with your spot on the waiting list or help secure an appointment for the vaccine. That responsibility lies with the public health system, and rightly so.
I do get frequent updates from both Public Health Solutions (PHS) which serves Gage county as well as Fillmore, Jefferson, Saline and Thayer counties; and the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD). The main problem is the demand for the vaccine far surpasses the supply. Distribution of the vaccine in Nebraska is based on population. For example, PHS, serving Gage county, had been given 700 doses of vaccine per week, and those must be shared among the five counties. Gage county, with the most residents, received 200 of those. PHS did get 900 doses for the first time last week, and we anticipate that number to slowly increase in coming weeks.
Our public health directors have been extremely diligent in making sure every dose is used each week and not wasted, and that the supply is stretched as far as possible. Until the supply of the vaccine can be drastically increased however, distribution will continue to be an issue. As the PHS health director has stated, the only limit to vaccine distribution is the number of doses available, as there are enough providers able to administer the vaccine. Unlike larger population areas like Lincoln and Omaha, not enough doses are available yet in Gage County to warrant a mass vaccination site like those used in our two biggest cities.
In the meantime, our health departments urge all of us to continue the measures to protect ourselves and others until everyone who wants the vaccine has one. So please, continue to wear a mask, sanitize your hands, keep your distance from others, and stay home with any symptoms of illness.
As I visit with people in our district, I can count on hearing about a couple of topics - taxes and daylight saving time. Both issues have been addressed in committee this past week. A couple of innovative approaches to taxation were heard by the Revenue Committee. Senator Briese proposed expanding sales tax to more services, but dropping the overall sales tax rate, to be revenue neutral. He points out that since sales tax was first enacted, we have moved to a much more service oriented economy. His LB 422 would lower the state sales tax from 5.5% to 5% and apply the sales tax to more services. LB 133, a bill by Senator Erdman, would change the entire tax system in Nebraska to a consumption tax, eliminate sales, income and property taxes; and would require a change in the state’s constitution as well. All consumption tax revenue would flow into the state and be redistributed to counties and local governments. Overall, it would not be an increase in taxes, like LB 422, it would be revenue neutral. A good way to compare tax revenue is to look at the “fiscal note” on a bill. Go to the legislature’s website: nebraskalegislature.gov, type in the bill number on the top right hand corner, then click on “fiscal note” to see the analysis.
LB 283 would keep daylight saving time year round. This bill has been introduced previously, and could only go into effect if the federal government allows it, and at least two bordering states also adopt it. We will see if it gets enough votes to get to the floor this year, it will require a lot of work at both the state and federal level; and even if passed, it will have to wait to go into effect for an undetermined amount of time.
My own bill, LB 41, was heard in committee this past week. I introduced this a year ago, but due to the pandemic, it didn’t get debated on the floor because we ran out of time. This bill would allow county treasurers to distribute tax revenue to townships by automatic deposit, the same as is already done for counties, cities, schools, fire districts, etc. Twenty-two counties in Nebraska have townships and currently they have to come into the courthouse and present a paper warrant in person. This would eliminate that need and is a very straightforward bill.
You can contact my office at any time through email or voice mail. email@example.com 402-471-2620. Stay safe and well!