Neb. senator comes to visit and answer questions in Wayne


Tarik Urvina

Tim Gragert (right) offered answers to the many questions that the students offered.

Halleigh Hawkins, Staff Writer

District 40 State Sen. Tim Gragert travelled to Wayne State College on Friday, March 29 for the 28th Annual Legislative Forum to discuss a range of topics to many students from area high schools in Gardner Auditorium.

After Gragert introduced himself and spoke about his background in the Air Force and the Natural Resource Committee, the floor was opened up for a question and answer session for the audience. WSC business professor Chuck Parker served as the forum’s moderator.

Before Gragert answered some basic questions about what goes on while the senate is in session, he introduced one of his bills that deals with water quality.

“I campaigned on water quality,” Gragert said. “We have an issue of nitrates up in our district and I really want that issue to come to the surface even more than it has throughout my 31 years with the Natural Resource Committee.”

With over 700 bills introduced, there are some major categories to focus on during session, which is also why there are committees to help break up the bills and introduce bills that those committees think have a good chance at passing.

“When I went knocking on the doors during my campaign, if anyone said anything they asked about property taxes, which is a big issue,” Gragert said. “It has been addressed in the Revenue committee. There is a number of bills that have property tax in them and they are working on getting those bills together.”

With a 90 day session, the senators have many bills that need to be discussed and debated over in order to pass them. This makes for long days when the senate is in session. Gragert stated that while in session the days can start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 9 p.m.
The legalization of marijuana was one topic spoken about, which Gragert indicated is a powertime bill.

“This bill will be debated on this session,” Gragert said. “I think right now it is going to be a real debate on whether we even approve [the legalization of marijuana] and it is just my opinion. Whether we approve the use of marijuana or where that may go is on one side and the other side is how good it is. It should be legalized as far as the medical use for it, but where I am at for this bill is I would be all for it as long as it comes through the FDA (Food and Drug Administration.)”

Another big discussion was the recent flooding issues across Nebraska, especially in the area that Gragert represents.

“I have had the opportunity to take a ride, I went with the Governor and the director and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) [to look at the devastation],” said Gragert. “We went up to the Niobrara right away. Spencer Dam went out on the Niobrara River, which really caused a lot of havoc with the ice, big chucks of ice that came down. The ice was 18 to 20 inches thick sometimes even more.”

Gragert went on to state some other specific examples of the devastation to buildings and other areas that were hit. He also spoke about one family in particular that he had the opportunity to go see was by Fisherville and was a farming family.

“He had a pristine farmstead,” Gragert said. “350 head of cattle and 12 bulls. The 12 bulls were killed by the ice that day and his house, everything was demolished. Ice just almost filled his home. Even when I was out there, eight to nine days later, there is still ice chunks in his home, but he is working hard to bring it back.”

Gun law issues were also a hot topic.

“No, we don’t need stricter gun laws,” Gragert said. “We just need to follow the gun laws that [we already have in place]. That is what needs to be done. I spent 40 years in the military. I shot automatic weapons and some of the fully automatic weapons, in my personal view, we don’t need those on the street.”

Kody Wageman, the Student Senate President, was in attendance on Friday to listen to some of Gragert’s opinions.

“I really appreciated Senator Tim Gragert of District 40 coming and spending some time with us on Friday,” Wageman said. “I was interested in going to the forum to hear the opinions of local Nebraska senators, but Senator Joni Albrecht of District 17 couldn’t make it due to a family emergency.

“Regardless, Mr. Gragert did a wonderful job answering questions from the high school students and others. I thought the forum went well. It was very informative. I enjoyed getting to know Senator Gragert and hear some of his opinions.”