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Briese: Legislature will tackle property tax relief when we reconvene

 


The Nebraska Legislature remains adjourned until further notice. However, just over a week ago, we reconvened for three days to approve an emergency request from the governor to help fund the state response to COVID-19. The bill appropriates $83 million toward medical needs, protective measures, equipment,and programs related to the virus. It passed unanimously.

That’s a statement I can rarely make, especially in these polarized times. I am proud to say legislators from across the aisle came together, putting aside parochial interests, and made the right decision for the state - and did so swiftly. On March 26, less than a half hour passed from when we convened to when the governor signed the bill. This swift action was needed.

Nebraska may not have yet hit our peak in terms of COVID-19 infections, but models from infectious disease experts show that we will. There is much that we and our neighbors can do to help in this time. I’m sure that by now, we have all heard plenty about flattening the curve: slowing the spread of the disease so that new cases don't overwhelm our hospitals. It’s important to remember that, as COVID-19 cases in Nebraska increase, hospitals will still have cancer patients, car accident victims, heart attack and stroke patients. Here in our part of the country, some might say we’ve been practicing social distancing for years. But that’s no reason to get complacent. Wash your hands, keep a good distance from people and keep gatherings to a minimum.

The virus will reach us eventually. By working to do what’s right for one another, we can and will get through this together.

There are some who have criticized the decision to keep the legislature on pause for an unknown amount of time, until the danger of the virus has abated. Let me say that I agree with the decision to hold off for now. We must remember that the Nebraska Legislature is more than just us 49 senators. Between our office staff, research, accounting, bill drafting, legal and procedural staff, as well as the Page program, there are over a thousand people working for the Legislature when it is in session - not to mention hundreds of lobbyists, business owners and everyday Nebraskans who come to the Capitol every day. All of those people have families they go home to. All told, we’re talking about thousands of people, many from all corners of the state, coming together and then spreading out again. When a disease can be contagious for up to two weeks before a person shows symptoms, keeping the Legislature in session would have been a recipe for spreading COVID-19 from a few hot spots to everywhere across Nebraska very quickly.

Several legislatures in other states, which chose early on to remain in session, saw multiple cases of COVID-19 occur among family members, taxpayers visiting their capitols, employees, and legislators. Some of those folks didn’t survive. Adjourning our session for a few weeks was the responsible thing to do for the people of Nebraska. Rest assured, however, that we will be re-convening again this year, and we will be taking up the important issues that our state needs to move forward - namely, the property tax relief which will be crucial to allow our state economy to thrive once more when the crisis is over.

Lastly, as response measures begin to take their toll on local businesses and families, there are a great many resources available to those who need them. My office has been watching developments at the federal level, but there are also resources from right here in Nebraska, including our hometown banks, the Nebraska Business Development Center and Chambers of commerce. For businesses in need of additional assistance at this time, the small business administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans of up to $2 million to Nebraska small businesses suffering as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.

If you have questions about the state’s response to COVID-19, the Legislature or other issues regarding state government, do not hesitate to reach out. My office remains closed during this time, but my staff and I are all working remotely. We are checking voicemails and reading emails and getting back to you as quickly as we are able. Our office number is 402-471-2631. Please leave a message. My email is [email protected] Again, don’t hesitate to reach out.

 

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