NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Julie Slama

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at jslama@leg.ne.gov

Week of May 18th
June 1st, 2020

Legislature to Reconvene on July 20

While Nebraska is “crushing the curve” of COVID-19 and beginning to reopen, Speaker Scheer announced that the Legislature will be called back into session on July 20, 2020. There are 17 days left of the 60 day session, with hundreds of bills to consider and the major agenda items of this session still awaiting debate. 

Property tax relief is still at the top of my agenda. While we were back in session for three days to allocate emergency funds for the Governor for COVID-19, the Revenue Committee introduced an amendment to the property tax relief proposal. This amendment doesn’t change the major components of the previous bill, but adds a few minor adjustments. In addition to property tax relief, the Legislature will also need to pass our annual budget adjustment, which contains over $50 million in flood relief funding. 

Many senators’ priority bills are still on the table and up for discussion. There were over 400 bills introduced this session with hundreds of additional Legislative Resolutions. The Legislature has a tall task before it with 17 days remaining in this biennium, and the challenge only becomes greater when considering our state’s current financial situation.

The Tax Commissioner reported that gross General Fund receipts for April were $469 million, which is 41% below the certified forecast of $795 million. Tax refunds for April were $124 million, which is 21.4% below the certified forecast of $158 million. Net receipts for April were $345 million, which is 45.9% below the certified forecast of $637 million. The Net General Fund receipts for the fiscal year 2019-20 were $4.001 billion, which is 0.1% above the certified forecast of $3.997 billion. These numbers don’t spell the end for property tax relief, as much of the dip on income taxes can be attributed to Nebraskans filing ahead of the July 15 extended deadline. Like all budgets, this year’s crunch will be about defining priorities and investing our state’s resources where it matters most. 

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov

Week of May 11th
June 1st, 2020

Planting season is wrapping up and crops are springing above ground across Southeast Nebraska- a welcome reminder of normalcy in these uncertain times. Make no mistake about it, however, COVID-19 has not spared agriculture.

COVID-19 has created a crisis for livestock owners across Nebraska. With pandemic-related shutdowns of corporate meat packing operations, there is a backlog of market-ready animals accumulating on farms and ranches. The temporary closures of processing plants has cut nationwide processing capacity by nearly one-third. To put it into perspective, it was estimated that on May 1, the shortage of pork processing was up to 100,000 hogs per day across the country. Producers will have no choice but to euthanize millions of healthy animals in the coming weeks. 

I have signed on to a letter, along with many fellow Nebraska state senators, urging Congress and USDA to consider cutting red tape to create opportunities for the producer and consumer. With more flexibility in the rules governing custom slaughter and processing exemption of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, out local, family-owned meat processors will be better able to serve consumers and ease pressure on our livestock owners.

One way the federal government can effectively address this crisis is by allowing consumers to source meat locally as corporate processors are strained. The custom processing exemption would allow producers to sell their products directly to the consumer to cut out the middle man and meet the need for processing during these trying times.

There are countless opportunities available to help our livestock owners. Cutting red tape and country of origin labeling are just a few ways the federal government can ease the negative impacts of this crisis.

The Legislature will have a tentative date set to reconvene announced before the end of this month. I’ll begin previewing the biggest issues for our return to session next week.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov

Week of May 4th
June 1st, 2020

Outdoor Activities Abound in District 1

May 4 marked the beginning of eased COVID-19 restrictions in regions of Nebraska less impacted by the pandemic, including District 1. Spring has sprung, Mother’s Day is upon us, and Memorial Day is on the horizon, and this week’s column will focus on just a few of the many options for outdoor activities still available in our region.

Starting May 20, Nebraska Game and Parks will begin opening up overnight camping pads at state parks where social distancing and group-size recommendations may be maintained and confirmed COVID-19 cases have remained low. Tentatively, this plan to reopen includes Indian Cave State Park in Richardson County. State parks and recreation areas remain open for day use. This includes fishing, hiking, boating, biking, wildlife viewing, and other activities that provide adequate room for distancing. Alternative methods of camping, including tenting and cabin rentals, remain closed to the public at Nebraska Game and Parks facilities.

All Nemaha Natural Resource District facilities are currently open. Overnight camping is still allowed, as long as campers abide by social distancing regulations. Park permits are still required at Kirkman’s Cove, Iron Horse Trail Lake, Duck Creek, and Wirth Brothers Lake. 

Other points of interest for potential day trips include the Southeast Nebraska Cancer Memorial Garden, located in Humboldt. This is a beautiful place to go for a walk, reflect, and take in the beauty of nature. Golf courses also remain open throughout District 1, and modified operations are in place at many facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While we are still encouraged to practice social distancing, there are still great opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy spring in District 1.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov 

Week of April 27th
June 1st, 2020

COVID Update

COVID-19 made its first appearance in Nebraska eight weeks ago. As of 6 a.m. on May 4, District 1 (which covers 2,400 square miles) has seven lab-confirmed cases: four in Johnson County, two in Otoe County, and one in Nemaha County.

April 30th was the final day of Governor Ricketts’ “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” program. Beginning May 4, restrictions will be eased in less heavily-impacted areas, including District 1. A new Directed Health Measure outlines which restrictions will be eased, including the following:

  • Restaurant dining rooms are limited to 50 percent of the maximum occupancy rating at a time. There is a limit of six people per table, which must be spaced six feet apart.
  • Beauty and nail salons, barbershops, massage therapy services, and tattoo studios can open while maintaining the ten-person rule with employees and customers wearing masks. 
  • Childcare facilities will be permitted to have up to 15 children per room/space, an increase of five over the previous requirement. 
  • Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other places of worship can resume services, weddings, and funerals. Each household must meet a minimum of six feet of separation. 
  • Elective surgeries may proceed and dental offices, eye care clinics, and veterinary clinics can also reopen. 
  • All other businesses currently ordered to close must remain closed until May 31, or until the orders are amended, including bars (which can still be open for take-out), gentlemen’s clubs, bottle clubs, indoor movie theaters, and indoor theatres. More information can be found on the Department of Health & Human Services’ COVID-19 dashboard or by contacting the DHHS COVID Information Line at 402-552-6645 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

Many of you have contacted my office regarding unemployment claims, frustrated with delays in processing. Please keep in mind that the Department of Labor (DOL) has received three years’ worth of unemployment claims and have paid out two years’ worth of unemployment claims in the past two weeks alone. DOL is currently working seven days per week to efficiently process these claims, while efforts to cut red tape and update software have grown DOL’s daily processing capacity. These claims will be processed, though delays are likely due to the sheer volume of requests.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov 

Week of April 20th
June 1st, 2020

Property Taxes and COVID-19

Nebraska’s ag economy is now rivaling in the 1980s. Our farmers are suffocating under a combination of high property prices, low commodity prices, and a collapse in demand with COVID-19. 

Many farmers are looking at their balance sheets and scratching their heads. Those who have farmed their entire lifetime and put their heart and soul into putting food on the table across the world might not get to farm again at the rate this economy is headed. Farmers are loading their planters while looking at rock-bottom commodity prices and trying to find places for their pigs, many of whom have reached out to me over the last few weeks to openly wonder, “Is it really worth it anymore?”

The burden of Nebraska’s property tax crisis on farmers is substantial and detrimental to the livelihood of those families who rely on the farm as an income. On a larger scale, entire regions of the state, including Southeast Nebraska, relies upon a strong ag economy for economic growth. For decades, politicians have found some reason or another to kick the can down the road on achieving property tax relief. While the hit to Nebraska’s budget from COVID-19 is substantial, much of it will be offset by an influx of aid from the federal government. There are some using the negative financial impact of COVID-19 to shrug their shoulders and say “Oh well, maybe next year”, when it comes to property tax relief. That is unacceptable. 

Perhaps it’s easy for an urban senator to look at the numbers and decide to abandon the core of our economy when they need it most, especially if they expect no one will hold them accountable. Other rural senators and I are uniting to stand against this type of apathy- we can’t let the crisis our farmers are facing be ignored. When the Legislature reconvenes, we will stand tall for our rural economies and demand property tax relief. We will shine a light on the current ag crisis. We will refuse to let rural Nebraska be ignored.

Our farmers, business owners, and all other property taxpayers need relief. When the Nebraska Legislature reconvenes later this year, property tax relief will remain my top priority. Our state is taxing agriculture, the backbone of Nebraska’s economy, out of business. The Legislature can’t put this crisis on the back burner for another year. 

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov

Week of April 13th
June 1st, 2020

Re-Opening Our Economy

As the shutdown of our economy to limit the spread of COVID-19 stretches into weeks, the question in many of our minds is: When will things reopen?

Federal stimulus programs for small businesses have run out of money. The meat supply chain has been interrupted with closures of packing plants, and our livestock producers are hurting. Protests are spreading across states which have implemented stay-at-home orders. Americans want to get back to work and get on with their lives. 

On the other hand, the threat of COVID-19 still exists. Nebraska has not yet reached its peak of COVID-19 cases or deaths, and District 1 is still vulnerable to an outbreak. 

Nebraska, unlike 43 other states in the country, have not shut down with a blanket shelter-in-place order. Restrictions will be eased from the statewide orders on a regional basis, and District 1, which as of this article, has 4 cases in a 2,400 square mile area, is well-positioned to have those restrictions eased when it begins. 

Knee jerk reactions, either in favor or opposed to an easing of restrictions, must be grounded in fact. Many were upset at the Nebraska Crossing Outlet Mall reopening this week. Opponents have claimed that it flies in the face of the Governor’s 21-day recommendation to stay home, stay connected, and stay healthy. However, emotional reactions towards this end fail to take into account that many malls in Nebraska have remained open throughout the update, instead opting to allow their tenants to decide whether to stay open themselves. Therein lies the conflict of re-opening. Re-opening our country seems like a game of who will blink first, as state and national leaders do not want to be blamed for any unnecessary spread of COVID-19, but must also balance the interests of our economy and individual liberties.

Yes, COVID-19 concerns me. The long-term economic impact (especially for our small businesses) and the future consequences of leaning on the federal government’s restriction of individual freedoms by such a broad swath to contain a crisis concerns me, as well. Re-opening our lives and easing restrictions must take an approach that balances each of these interests. 

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov 

Week of April 6th
June 1st, 2020

Good News

Easter is a holiday of new hope, opportunity, and life. During these challenging times, there is likely no holiday better suited to provide a glimmer of light and promise. That same spirit will carry on into this week’s column, as we focus, for once, on the good news that’s all around us.

Headlines in recent months have fixated on death tolls, economic collapse, and despair. In a time where we could all use a little good news, it’s almost impossible to find. By turning off your television and looking around, however, you’ll find a very different, and promising, world surrounding us. District 1 has no shortage of good news.

For example, last week in Nemaha County, something truly wonderful happened. A local elementary school teacher is facing her second battle with cancer. Her friends, knowing they needed to practice safe social distancing, still wanted to find a way to make her smile as her April birthday approached. They decided to throw her a small parade, inviting students and a few of her closest friends to drive by her home and wave hello.

Word spread about the plan, and when the day arrived, it was anything but a “small parade.” Hundreds of cars lined the highway and dirt road leading to the teacher’s house, each decorated with signs of encouragement for their beloved friend. The honoree, thanks to some unseasonably warm weather, sat outside on her patio to view the procession. There were smiles and tears of joy abound, along with an overwhelming sense of community that can only be found in Southeast Nebraska. It was a beautiful moment that was far more impactful to the hundreds of participants than any CNN headline that day.

In a world that seems dominated by bad news, please, look for the good around you. There’s so much of it to be found.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov 

Week of March 30th
June 1st, 2020

The week of Easter is typically packed with activities from start to finish. However, in 2020, church pews will sit empty and parks which host raucous Easter egg hunts will be eerily quiet. A holiday associated with renewal of life now falls in a period where traditional celebrations have been canceled in order to save lives. The entire state of Nebraska is now under a Directed Health Measure (DHM), issued by the Governor last week to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The DHM orders all K-12 schools to keep their buildings closed to students until at least May 31. All scheduled school-sponsored extracurricular activities are also canceled through the end of next month. There will be no track season this year, graduation ceremonies are postponed, and alternatives for prom are being organized. 

The DHM also orders the shutdown of dining areas in restaurants and bars. All food and drink orders must now be fulfilled through delivery, carry-out, or drive-thru. Social gatherings of ten people or more have been banned, impacting weddings, funerals, and Sunday services.

There are some in District 1 who say these measures go too far, while others say the DHM doesn’t go far enough and a statewide shutdown should be implemented. Regardless of your opinion on the measures, I do ask, however, that you take this DHM seriously.

Conducting yourself with a “business as usual” mentality and scoffing at very basic CDC recommendations is an insult to every healthcare worker, first responder, and essential employee putting their life on the line to contain a pandemic. Throwing caution to the wind by refusing to social distance and limit gatherings ensures that restrictions for COVID-19 last longer than they could have, increasing an already overwhelming challenge for our small business owners to keep their doors open after the pandemic passes.

Conservative estimates place the U.S. COVID-19 death toll at 100,000 people. We know the virus has established itself in communities through “super-spreading” events. If one of these “super-spreading” events hit District 1, our healthcare system would be very quickly overwhelmed. This is not fear-mongering, this is a fact.

If you do not believe COVID-19 is in District 1 beyond our handful of lab-confirmed cases, you are fooling yourself. Please, the next time you decide to head out for a non-essential social gathering, ask yourself: Is it really worth it? 

Your own life and the lives of your family, friends, and neighbors are at stake in our challenge to contain COVID-19’s impact. Perhaps that’s still not enough for you to cancel your weekly card game or daily coffee shop conference, so consider this thought- Husker football season is at risk, as well.

Next Easter, church pews will again be filled and kids will return to their practice of making Easter egg hunts a contact sport. This year is going to be a bit different than what we’re used to, but that doesn’t have to dampen the holiday’s celebration completely. Have a safe and blessed Easter, District 1.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of March 23rd
June 1st, 2020

Small Business Resources

While our world enters into uncharted waters to control the COVID-19 outbreak, District 1 has faced a wave of uncertainty. Small business owners who suffered in the 2019 floods are now faced with employee layoffs and limits on gathering sizes. Our small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities. During these trying times, we need to support our small businesses more than ever. There are endless opportunities to help out our local businesses, from ordering takeout to purchasing gift cards. This week, my column is dedicated to our business owners and employees impacted by COVID-19.

Last week, the Federal CARES Act was passed and signed into law. It ensures that every American over the age of 16 will receive a check of $1,200 if their annual income is less than $75,000 per year, and couples whose income is less than $150,000 per year can each receive a $1,200 check. This money will not be subject to income taxes. The CARES Act also provided a $600 per week supplement to state unemployment benefits for each worker impacted by COVID-19. Given that Nebraska’s current cap on unemployment benefits is $440 per week, this is a substantial increase for our impacted workers. The state and federal deadlines to file income tax returns have been pushed to July 15.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has made extensive assistance available to small businesses. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is a low-interest loan. For more information, visit SBA.gov/Disaster. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue due to the Coronavirus. 

SBA Express Bridge Loans allow small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 with less paperwork. This loan can bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SBA have also partnered to provide recommendations for employers to minimize risk to their employees and customers. These recommendations fall in line with other recommendations distributed by the CDC and include recommendations for businesses to implement safe social distancing practices when possible, emphasize the importance of hygiene and proper protocol of covering sneezes and coughs, sterilizing surfaces, and ensure that sick employees are encouraged, if not required, to stay home. 

This is a non-exhaustive list of just a few of the hundreds of resources available to our small business owners and their employees. I’d encourage you to visit SBA.gov or the Nebraska Department of Labor’s website for more information and resources. Times are tough right now, but rest assured, you’re not in this alone.

Next week’s column will be dedicated to our healthcare workers and those on the front lines to contain the outbreak in our state. In the meantime, please, if you’re not already doing so, follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing and limit gatherings to ten people or less. Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings or travel. The health of our region depends on each of us to be responsible and minimize risk.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of March 16th
June 1st, 2020

Letter to the Class of 2020

These past few weeks have been tough. No student would complain much about an extended summer break, but for you, some of your most sacred rites of passage, like graduation and senior prom, are in limbo. You are also old enough to understand the comfort in asking trusted adults, “What happens next?” and receive an answer.

However, we are in a period of time where no one knows what happens next.

This is a pivotal coming-of-age moment for you. Each generation in American history has faced one. My generation had 9/11. Generations before faced the Cold War, Pearl Harbor, the Great Depression, and so on. Each generation in American history has faced a moment, much like you are facing today, when the adults you trust for guidance have no clue about what the coming months will bring.

These are moments, enshrined in history, when generations of young people realize that the world is something greater than themselves.

Class of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak will force you to make some big sacrifices. Athletic and competitive academic careers may end prematurely, prom may not occur, and graduation ceremonies may be postponed. However, in the grand scheme of things, you are the most fortunate generation in American history. Your country is not asking you to go to war- we are simply asking you to stay home.

Make no mistake about it, you will read about this outbreak in history textbooks for generations to come. Class of 2020, it’s in your hands to contribute to this chapter. Some will fail in realizing this is a moment greater than themselves- all one needs to do is see throngs of college students partying in Florida for Spring Break to understand that- and others will thrive.

So, Class of 2020, I’m asking you to set the example. Stay home. Complete your homework on time. Avoid parties and sleepovers. Be kind.

You are likely not going to die in this outbreak, but thousands already have and thousands more will, especially if necessary precautions are not taken.

Class of 2020- I’m so sorry you are missing out on rites of passage those before you have taken for granted. However, you have a chance to leave your mark on history, simply by staying home. It’s your time to shine. The next column will cover resources available to small business owners. 

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2733
Email: jslama@leg.ne.gov
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