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Greetings and happy New Year! My name is Jerry Johnson and I am the state senator representing Legislative District 23. This district comprises Saunders, Butler and all but the northwest quarter of Colfax counties. I write a weekly column and commentary on legislative issues and happenings. If you are reading this article, chances are you live in the district. Also, if you are reading this article, it is through the courtesy of your local newspapers in the area who are kind enough to allow me precious space in their publications for my ramblings on any number of issues. I want to thank them.

It has been a busy period in the interim since we adjourned last June and it feels good to get going again. I traveled over 8,000 miles and attended well over 100 meetings or events over the summer and into the fall. Most of the miles and meetings were in District 23 and the time was spent dealing with state issues and issues that affect you in the Legislature and state in general.

As we move forward this year, it is a “short” session consisting of 60 working days and this is how I see it playing out. We will be in hearings every afternoon for about 30 days. This, in turn, gives us close to 30 days for full debate of bills on the floor of the Legislature. We know our state budget will take some time to adjust. The forecasting board has projected a shortfall of over $114 million. This group meets again in February to adjust projections, but as you can see from this point, we are facing enough of a fiscal gap that will demand that we be even better stewards of state dollars. Property tax reform is a priority again and the governor has promised bills to begin addressing this, but as I write this column, he has not presented his offering to the Revenue Committee. We will talk about school funding, Medicaid expansion, prison overcrowding, medicinal marijuana, possibly the death penalty and any other number of measures depending on time available, which probably won't be much.

As I write this column we have been through the first six days of the session. The first 10 days are allowed for bill introduction and up until this time we have had 289 bills introduced. I have introduced five bills and we will talk about these as the session goes forward. I remain the chairman of the Agriculture Committee and as of this time we have five bills pending before this group, but that number will grow a little.

As I have said before, I do like to hear from you, the constituents of the district. When you call my office (402-471-2719) you will likely hear the voice of Christina Estrada, a new addition to my staff. My email remains the same, jjohnson@leg.ne.gov.

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