Hughes' views: What to expect this session
The new year is officially upon us and the 2019 legislative session is underway. This year is a long session which includes 90 working days and will tentatively run until June 6. The reason that every other year is a longer session is due to the fact that we have to come up with a budget plan for the next two years. I would like to update everyone a little on my plans for this session and take a look at our current budget status.
The revenue picture is not great, revenue projections are still not meeting expectations. We are short of revenue meeting our current biennium budget which ends June 30, 2019. Hopefully, we will see some additional revenue coming in from the full implementation of sales tax on internet purchases.
All internet retailers are supposed to be collecting sales taxes beginning on Jan. 1, whether or not that is the case will not immediately be clear.
The legislature will need to do some things to make sure the taxes are implemented correctly. We will need to define a minimum number of sales before you have to remit taxes and/or a minimum dollar amount that must be met before sales taxes are collected and remitted.
I will be introducing several bills dealing with Game and Parks that should come before the Natural Resources Committee. One is a deer hunting bill that would allow qualifying landowners to have early access to hunting on their land. Another is a bill at the request of G&P to allow the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to design three additional license plates to be known as Wildlife Conservation Plates. The plates reflect support for the conservation of Nebraska wildlife, including, sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, and cutthroat trout.
Another bill I will be introducing would make throwing or dropping objects at a motor vehicle illegal. Objects in the path of or striking a vehicle traveling at a high speed or even slow speeds can not only cause damage to the vehicle but potentially its driver and passengers.
I am also considering introducing a bill again that allows county boards in counties with 15,000 residents or less to adopt a resolution or allow residents to file a petition, requesting the submission of the question to voters regarding the nomination of all county officers elected on the primary election to be listed without a political party designation. The top two candidates from the primary regardless of party affiliation would then be advanced to the general election.
I am working with other senators on property tax reduction possibilities. The challenge is how do you pay for that and most of those discussions revolve around removing exemptions from the current tax code. I think we need to take a look at updating our tax code as we have evolved from a production economy to a more services-based economy. Our revenue streams are out of balance and some adjustments need to be made.