LINCOLN – Property taxes will be the No. 1 focus for State Sen. Bruce Bostleman and the entire Unicameral when the first session of the 106th Nebraska Legislature begins Jan. 9.
“The big thing is property tax relief,” said Bostleman last week.
Bostleman was elected to the Legislature in 2016 to represent District 23, which includes Saunders and Butler counties and most of Colfax County. He is from Brainard.
Property tax relief is a subject that has been on the agenda for state senators for a long time.
“The Nebraska Legislature has been talking about this for quite a number of years,” Bostleman said.
Bostleman has been working with other state senators and stakeholders over the summer to discuss ways to reduce property taxes for Nebraskans, particularly in the area of agriculture.
Equalization of ag land and property taxes, especially in the school tax formula, is necessary but the issue has always been a challenge according to Bostleman.
“I think here’s enough interest within the body that understands we have a problem and we need a way to correct it,” he said.
This session the Legislature will also work on the budget as it is the start of the two-year budget cycle. Revenue will be the big issue this year, according to Bostleman.
Revenue projections are expected this week, as the senators prepare to return to work.
“We haven’t seen the revenue coming in yet,” Bostleman said.
Committee memberships are a key part of a state senator’s duties. Bostleman is on the Committee on Committees, which selects members of the Legislature’s standing committees.
In previous years, he has been on the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, and is expecting to be appointed to both of those standing committees again in 2019.
“There are issues in both of those I’d like to continue working on,” he said.
That includes work on expanding broadband internet to smaller communities in the state.
Broadband is offered in Nebraska’s larger cities, including Wahoo and Ashland, Bostleman said. But beyond that, there is a lack of availability in the rest of the state.
“I’m on a broadband task force looking at changes we can make to facilitate broadband expansion or connectivity statewide to be on a comparable level with cities,” he said.
On the Natural Resources Committee, Bostleman has focused on water issues in the state. He traveled to Australia in late November/early December with members of Natural Resources District boards in the state to see how the Australians have dealt with surface water irrigation issues.
“That’s something of interest to me,” he said.
Areas of Australia have been suffering through drought conditions for the last several years. Many parts of the country predominantly use surface irrigation, Bostleman said, and as a result of the drought have had to restructure their irrigation system.
“The new technologies that work there are very interesting to see,” he said.
The Australians have focused on eliminating water loss in their irrigation systems to save water and use water more efficiently.
“They use almost all of the water now that they can,” Bostleman said.
These new technologies could be put to use in areas of Nebraska, Bostleman added.
“This specifically relates to the Republican River basin,” he said.
Over the summer Bostleman has continued to work on LR 395, a resolution he introduced in 2018 regarding emergency medical services (EMS) volunteers.
The resolution calls for an interim study to examine issues relating to EMS workers. These include education and testing requirements, reporting requirements, the demographics of communities that rely on volunteer EMS workers, the number of EMS workers operating in the state and the current vacancies, the number of departments that have closed down due to lack of EMS volunteers and possible improvements to EMS instruction and training.
Bostleman is hoping that the ideas brought forth in the resolution can be incorporated by the Department of Health and Human Services through their regulatory process. If not, the resolution would proceed to becoming a legislative bill that would have to be passed by the Unicameral.
The senator is still working on bills to be introduced during the upcoming session. He is working on a bill to eliminate fees for veterans’ license plates.
He has also done research on a possible bill to make it easier for Nebraskans to temporarily license a vehicle previously owned by a deceased family member. Currently the process of determining if an unlicensed vehicle is working properly is cumbersome, he said.
“We’re working with the Department of Motor Vehicles to make it a smoother process for the mechanic and the families,” he said.
Bostleman attends numerous events and activities throughout District 23 during the summer. There he speaks to constituents and hears ideas for bills and resolutions. He also gets suggestions from business owners, lobbyists and state officials.
The senator said takes all recommendations into consideration.
“Some things we can do, some things we can’t do,” he said.
The senator encourages all of his constituents to reach out to him at any time by calling his office at 402-471-2719 or emailing him at email@example.com.
“I’ll be glad to talk to them,” he said.