Revenue streams, property tax relief top of mind for Nebraska senators

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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) -- The legislative session is set to start Wednesday, and on the top of many senators minds is property taxes and bringing in revenue to the state.

Each senator has dozens of bills they’re likely to introduce this legislative session.

For Omaha Senator Justin Wayne, one of his top priorities is getting slavery removed from the constitution.

“It’s our state constitution. It’s something we believe are morals and values to reflect. I don’t think slavery has a place in our constitution,” Sen. Wayne said.

When Nebraska entered the union, it came as a free state. However, the constitution is written in a manner that would allow people to be enslaved if convicted of a crime.

Sen. Wayne said he also plans to focus on affordable housing to prevent incidents like what happened at the Yale Park apartments. He wants to make sure properties are safe and secure for residents in the future.

Sen. Wayne also plans to focus on public transportation and a witness tampering bill to make the punishment for witness tampering more severe.

Bellevue Senator Sue Crawford will bring to the table bills that help families balance work and familial responsibilities. She also plans to focus on ways to bring more people into the state through a paid medical leave bill.

Though each senator has different topics they want to focus on, what they both agree on is the need to find a way to bring revenue into the state so less gets taken away from education in the state.

“I think part of the discussion this session is going to be about tax balancing as well and looking at ways we may need to bring in revenue to help pay for more education financing in new ways that then will alleviate pressure on property taxes,” Sen. Crawford said.

Sen. Crawford said some ways to bring in revenue would be to reduce sales tax exemptions or even increase the state’s cigarette tax.

Sen. Wayne believes that to get education fully funded is to bring in new revenue streams to the state. For that, he looks toward the agricultural community.

“One of my priority bills will be hemp this year. I think it’s important to allow our farmers to grow a different crop, a market that’s going to grow to a trillion dollars in the next five years,” Sen. Wayne said. “Nebraska needs to be a part of that market, and our farmers need to be able to bring in some income to make sure they can take care of their families.”

The hemp plant is a derivative of marijuana, but it has little to no THC that gives the high euphoric feeling associated with marijuana. What Sen. Wayne said needs to happen is the approval to grow hemp in the state, the decriminalization of CBD oil and the approval of medical marijuana usage in the state.

“I think we’re crafting a bill to make sure that it’s done in a safe manner, that those who need it and need the benefits of medical marijuana can receive it. I think that’s important not only for Nebraskans for the health of Nebraska but also our economy,” Sen. Wayne said.

The medical marijuana issue has come up in sessions past, which have all resulted in the death of the bill on the floor. However, Sen. Wayne said enough hard data has been presented to lawmakers to show the benefits of medical marijuana, which is why he believes it’ll likely see more success this time around.

“It would be a tough climb in the legislature, but it’s very popular with people and something constituents of mine have convinced me that it’s important to them and they want to see happen in the state,” Sen. Crawford said.

Another key issue to be discussed is the prison system and its reform.