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Disabled veterans would receive lifetime park permits if bill passes

 

February 20, 2020



One of the bills that I introduced this session was LB 770. It authorizes a free lifetime park permit for disabled veterans. This past week, LB 770 was advanced from the Natural Resources Committee on an 8-0 vote. I designated it as my priority bill and the Legislature gave it first-round approval on a 38-0 vote.

Under LB 770, a veteran would be eligible for the free permit if they are a Nebraska resident, honorably discharged, and rated 50% or more service-connected disabled or 100% disabled, non-service connected, and receiving a pension from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

From my experience in the military, the disabled veteran is the most worthy of receiving this benefit.

I worked with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on this legislation. I suggested an increase in nonresident park permits as a way to compensate for the free park permits to disabled veterans, considering that the vast majority of visitors to Lake McConaughy are from Colorado, where the cost of a park permit is $80.

The commission calculated the projected cost and suggested an increase in the maximum amount they can charge for an annual nonresident park permit, raising the cap to $65, and increasing the cap on the daily permit for nonresidents from $8 to $12.

In researching the park permit fees in other states, I found that of the 40 states that have park permits, 19 offered free permits to disabled veterans. Another eight states offered free or reduced-price park permits to the military, of which five states offered benefits to both disabled veterans and the military.

LB 974, the Revenue Committee’s proposal for property tax relief, was advanced from the Revenue Committee this past week on a 6-2 vote. It proposes to lower the valuation of property and add a foundation aid factor to the school funding formula. I look forward to debate on this issue, as I think it is the most important topic before the Legislature this year.

Senator Steve Erdman of Bayard introduced LR 300, which is a constitutional amendment that would ban all forms of taxation, including sales, income and property taxes, and replace them with a consumption tax. If passed by the Legislature, the proposed constitutional amendment would be on the November 2020 General Election ballot.

The consumption tax would apply to all new goods and services. The sponsor of the resolution envisions a pre-bate to compensate for taxes paid for necessities up to the poverty level. A pre-bate is similar to a rebate, but given prior to expenditures.

The public hearing on LR 300 CA was held this past week before the Revenue Committee. There are many questions surrounding this resolution, which can be expected as it would radically change our tax system. I signed on as a co-sponsor to LR 300 CA, as I believe that we must explore all options in our quest to provide significant property tax relief to Nebraskans.

With the recent announcement that the final bridge on the state system was reopened as a result of the damage sustained from the March 2019 flood, there have been some questions about the replacement of the bridge across the Niobrara River between Boyd and Holt counties. This statement referred to bridges on state highways, whereas the Stuart/Naper bridge is on a county road. I have been in contact with the Holt County supervisor chairman, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and the engineering company that is working on the project. Bids could be let early this summer. However, the final plan reviews cannot take place until the environmental documents are complete. The Department of Transportation assured me that this project is at the top of their priority list. Funding for the project will come from federal aid and county sources.

The legislative session is more than one-third complete. As the Legislature continues to debate issues before them, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions. I have heard from quite a number of constituents expressing their opposition to LB 58, the “red flag” bill. It is good to know their stance on this legislation pertaining to the temporary removal of guns from a person who may present a danger to themselves or others. Should LB 58 be debated by the full Legislature, I am planning to oppose it. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is tgragert@leg.ne.gov and my telephone number is 402-471-2801.

 

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