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Nebraska senators introduced 138 measures Thursday on the first day of bill and resolution introductions, including tax bills, legalization of medical cannabis, and a bill to require public schools to post "In God We Trust" in prominent locations.

Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard proposed a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment (LR3CA) that would provide for a refundable state income tax credit for 35 percent of local property taxes paid. 

That proposal would appear to result in well over $500 million in annual property tax relief.

By comparison, an earlier citizens initiative drive that was subsequently withdrawn proposed a 50 percent credit that would have resulted in an estimated $1 billion of property tax relief.

The new proposal would require the votes of at least 30 senators to be submitted to a vote of the people in 2020. 

Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha proposed income tax reform (LB50) that would adjust some tax brackets while increasing income tax rates for high-income Nebraskans.

The top tax rate would be hiked from 6.84 percent to 7.84 percent for Nebraskans earning more than $100,000 a year and those earning in excess of $1 million would pay an additional 1 percent surtax on that additional income. Nebraskans with income in excess of $2 million would pay a 2 percent surtax on that additional income.

Sen. Tom Briese of Albion sponsored a bill (LB18) that would divert the sales tax revenue collected from online sales to the state's property tax credit cash fund.

New bills will be introduced for 10 days. Other bills introduced on Thursday:

Death penalty repeal

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers introduced legislation to do away with the state’s death penalty. But he also wants that to extend to prairie dogs and mountain lions. The repeal of the death penalty (LB44) would replace the punishment for first-degree murder with life in prison. He also seeks to repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act (LB45) and eliminate the hunting of mountain lions (LB46).

Medical cannabis legalization

Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart has introduced legalization of medical cannabis (LB110), which covers its prescription and production in a bill that would allow the drug to be prescribed for a variety of conditions, including cancer symptoms, glaucoma, seizures, HIV symptoms and other illnesses as determined by a health care practitioner. A dozen other senators signed on to the bill.

Restoration of voting rights

A bill (LB83) introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne would restore voting rights upon completion of felony sentence or probation.

Cutthroat trout?

Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango would add to the mountain lion conservation license plates with sandhill cranes, big horn sheep and cutthroat trout. His bill (LB128) would have the Department of Motor Vehicles come up with the three designs reflecting support for the conservation of Nebraska wildlife.

Texting while driving changes

Texting and other interaction with electronic devices while driving would become a primary offense with a bill (LB40) by Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha. Anyone with a driver’s license, school permit or learner’s permit could be ticketed if spotted texting, instant messaging, sending email or looking up websites while operating a motor vehicle.

Tuition for service members

Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue sponsored a bill (LB6) allowing active duty military stationed in Nebraska, their spouses and dependents, to pay in-state tuition to colleges and universities. Sen. Sue Crawford, also of Bellevue, grouped service members enrolled in vocational rehabilitation programs into those who can pay in-state tuition in a similar bill (LB122).

State contract protests

A bill (LB21) from Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward would require the Department of Administrative Services to create a formal protest procedure “for any contract for services” exceeding $5 million awarded by state agencies.

Community college tax levies

Kolterman also introduced a bill (LB27) that would afford the state’s community colleges more flexibility in how they use their locally assessed property taxes. The measure does not raise the levy cap of 11.25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

"In God We Trust"

Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard wants Nebraska’s public schools to display the national motto “In God We Trust” in each classroom or prominent place in each school building “where each student shall be able to see and read it each day school is in session.” Erdman’s bill (LB73) also requires the Nebraska attorney general to defend school districts in civil litigation related to the motto.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

Reporters Chris Dunker and JoAnne Young also contributed to this story.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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