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State senators look ahead to 2020 session

Posted at 9:23 PM, Oct 23, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — While many Nebraska state senators will argue they passed substantial legislation and last session was a productive one, they'll also agree that some of the most important bills were tabled.

They've been meeting all summer and gearing up to start again in a few months. Wednesday, several legislators spoke in Lincoln on what they believe needs to be done in 2020.

Just over two months before the next legislative session, members of the Nebraska legislature say they're ready to tackle the biggest issues facing the state.

Despite a heavy push, senators weren't able to pass any substantial property tax reform this past year because they ran out of time.

One way to solve that, according to State Sen. Anna Wishart, is to begin working on property taxes as soon as they’re back at the capitol in January.

"We need to stop having tax discussions at the end of the session, in the last three weeks,” said Sen. Wishart. “We are exhausted, a lot of us have burned our political capital. And so it's not a great time to do major, major reforms."

One bill that will be a heavy focus in 2020 would give financial incentives to businesses that create jobs in the state.

The Imagine Nebraska Act would take over for the Advantage Nebraska Act, which is set to expire next year. This past session, rural senators walked away from the new bill after not passing property tax reform.

If it did expire, Nebraska would be the only state without a business incentives package.

"So if we don't renew our tax incentive policy, we're sending the wrong message to business innovators that we're not ready for them to come to our state," said State Sen. Kate Bolz.

While those two issues were the hot topics at the Nebraska Chamber breakfast in Lincoln, that wasn't all that was brought up. Reforming the state's troubled prison system was also discussed.

Sen. Bolz is pushing a bill to up the pay of prison staff and Sen. Wishart wants the state to take steps to reduce the prison population.

"We are dealing with a population crisis--why are we warehousing people? We need to start differentiating in our laws, who we're afraid of and who we're mad at," said Sen. Wishart.