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Senator Hughes seeking constituent input on two bills PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 02 April 2015 02:44

By Russ Pankonin

The Wauneta Breeze

Senator Dan Hughes wants to hear from constituents on a couple of bills up for discussion in the Legislature.

On Monday, senators voted to advance LR7CA to Select File. The resolution would again ask voters to decide whether to change term limits of state senators.

Presently, senators are limited to two four-year terms. The resolution would expand the term limit to three four-year terms.

Senators are also discussing LB610, which would raise the gas tax in Nebraska by six cents over four years.

Of the six cents, two cents would go to the state with the other four cents being returned to counties and cities for road infrastructure work.

Hughes addressed the two issues in his letter to constituents this week. During his weekly tele-conference Tuesday, Hughes said he wants to hear from people on how they feel about these two issues.

Presently, he said he’s in favor of both measures.

On term limits, he sees the Legislature losing too much institutional knowledge when half the body turns over every four years.

Initially, he liked the proposal that allowed two six-year terms. However, some senators felt the six-year terms made state senators less accountable to the voters. Hughes said he’s come to adopt that same view.

While it would reduce the amount of campaign spending, having to run in just two elections, he felt the voters are better served by more accountability.

When it comes to the gas tax, Hughes said the state has fallen behind on maintaining its road, bridge and highway infrastructure.

While he said he does not like more taxes, this is a user tax, paid by those using the roads.

With the addition of returning four cents to counties and cities, Hughes said that represents property tax relief because road dollars won’t come out of local property taxes.

He noted the gas tax in the state hasn’t been adjusted since the 1990s.

One of the participants on Tuesday’s call told Hughes the state road department and road construction companies need more oversight and accountability.

One instance cited was the several-year-old concrete paving between Ogallala and Paxton on I-80.

The stretch is already under repair and part of it has already been re-surfaced.

Hughes said such lack of accountability is being noticed by the Legislature. He said work has already begun behind the scenes to address the issue.


Statewide livestock zoning

Hughes said senators are tackling the issue of statewide livestock zoning proposed in LB106.

Hughes said the bill has support from the Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska Cattlemen.

Hughes said he’s been getting push back on the bill from both individuals and county zoning committees. They feel the bill is an end-run around local zoning control.

“I’m not excited about the bill,” Hughes said.

If counties are not forced to adopt the state regulations, that may make a difference, he noted.

Senators discussed the bill during floor debate Tuesday.


Chamber’s comments

Sen. Ernie Chamber’s comments during a committee hearing has drawn the ire of his colleagues in the body.

During a committee hearing on gun legislation last week, Sen. Chambers said “my ISIS is the police’’ because officers are licensed to kill and pose a threat to his neighborhood.

He said he isn’t a man of violence, but if he carried a gun, he would use it as protection against police and would want to shoot first and ask questions later.

Chambers, a black independent, has long criticized law enforcement for what he considers harassment and racism shown toward those who live in his largely black, north Omaha district.

His comments last week came after another senator argued that residents should be allowed to carry concealed weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol because people are afraid of ISIS and the Taliban.

One senator called for Chamber’s resignation. Others cried for an apology. Others defended his right to free speech.

Hughes said the issue carried over to Monday when Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha went after Chambers every time he got the floor for five minutes.

Hughes said a senator can speak up to five minutes three times on any motion. So whenever he was recognized, McCoy used that time to criticize Chambers.

Hughes said McCoy’s actions cost the body a lot of precious work time on important issues.

Personally, Hughes felt Chamber’s comments crossed the line but he said it was time to move on and concentrate on the work of the people.

He also felt it hurt Chambers’ credibility within the body as well.

Sen. Hughes holds a weekly tele-conference with constituents each Tuesday morning during the session. Locations for the tele-conferences include the Imperial city council chambers, Southwest Public Power in Palisade and Midwest Electric in Grant. The phone-in tele-conferences start at 7 a.m. MT each Tuesday and are open to the public.