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The 10-day bill introductory period is complete, resulting in the introduction of 663 bills and 4 constitutional amendments. Last week, I summarized most of the bills that I had introduced to date.
This past week, I introduced several more, including LB 490, which would adopt the Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Act. A POLST is a medical order, completed and signed by a medical provider, resulting from a detailed conversation between the patient and physician or other health care provider. A POLST is intended towards individuals with advanced illness or frailty. The purpose of a POLST is to improve end-of-life care by converting a patient’s treatment preferences into medical orders that are transferable amongst home and health care settings. The use of a POLST form is not mandatory. It is voluntary, meaning that it is used only if a patient chooses to complete one. It can be reviewed and revised as needed. It is limited to one page, is printed on bright colored paper, and is commonly kept on the refrigerator for easy recognition by paramedics.
POLST legislation has been approved in 19 states. Additional states are in the process of developing programs. Several communities in Nebraska are already using a POLST form. A primary goal of LB 490 is to have a standard form, for use throughout the state, in order to avoid confusion among health care providers in emergency situations.
Newly elected Governor Pete Ricketts delivered his first State of the State Address this past week. The Governor outlined the following objectives: controlling spending to keep it under the growth in revenue; property tax relief; cultural change and operational excellence in state agencies (through the creation of two new positions in the Governor’s cabinet – a chief operating officer and a human resources director); comprehensive reform in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health and Human Services; regulatory process review; building on a military friendly culture; and improving educational outcomes, by creating a public-private partnership to create a career and vocational training program.
The Governor’s budget proposal would limit the two-year average growth in general fund spending to 3.1%, which is significantly less than the approximate 6.5% per year budget growth during the last biennium. He also stressed that he would not support any tax increases. To deal with what he termed as the #1 priority, he would add an additional $60 million per year to the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund. This is the concept that is contained in LB 364, a bill that I introduced last week. The Governor also indicated his support for reducing the value of agricultural land from 75% to 65% of actual value, along with an additional $9.5 million to the state aid formula, to make up for the loss in property tax revenue for school districts. I have introduced legislation similar to this concept, in 2013 and again this year, with LB 178.
The cash reserve fund was not touched by the Governor’s plan. However, he hinted that he believes the balance is too high and a portion should be returned to taxpayers. Although the Governor has indicated that he is supportive of income tax reductions, his proposal focused on property tax relief and only contained income tax relief for retired military veterans.
The public hearing process has started with committees meeting every afternoon. In the mornings, senators have begun debating legislation that has been advanced from the various committees.
If you would like to voice your opinion on legislation that has been introduced, I encourage you to contact me. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is email@example.com and my telephone number is (402) 471-2733.
The One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session, is up and running and at a whirlwind pace. Although this past week has been a lot of pomp and circumstance with the swearing in of the newly elected senators, the inauguration ceremonies for the constitutional officers and the Governor’s inaugural address, senators have also been busy moving into their new offices and selecting what committees they will serve on for the next two years.
In his first speech to the Legislature, Governor Pete Ricketts revealed his top goals for the state. As part of his pro-growth agenda, he emphasized bolstering the economy by creating more and better paying jobs, cutting property taxes, reducing unnecessary state and federal regulations, and strengthening the state’s education system.
On the first day of session, senators elected committee chairpersons. I ran for and was elected as the vice chair of the Executive Board. Senator Bob Krist of Omaha was elected as chair. The Executive Board manages the Legislative Council, which consists of the offices of the Clerk of the Legislature, Accounting and Budgeting, Fiscal Analyst, Research, Ombudsman, Performance Audit, and Revisor of Statutes. The Executive Board makes the final decision as to what committee every bill is referenced to, makes appointments to various task forces and commissions, and holds hearings on bills referenced to the committee.
I was also selected to serve on the Appropriations Committee. This committee is responsible for reviewing budget requests and presenting a budget recommendation to be considered by the full Legislature. The primary constitutional duty of the Legislature is to pass the state budget. Due to the workload of the committee, it meets every afternoon of the week. I hope that my experience and talent gained from the business world will prove useful as we begin our work on the budget process.
Senators will continue with bill introduction for the first ten days of the legislative session. Public hearings, held on every bill introduced, will be held during the afternoons, beginning later this month. Senators will meet in session during the mornings. After every bill has a public hearing, then the Legislature will begin meeting in full-day session.
I want to make you aware of the Legislature’s website, which contains a wealth of information for viewers. You can read biographies on the new senators, review the bills that have been introduced and even watch the Legislature live. The website is nebraskalegislature.gov.
Although I will be in Lincoln for long hours during this 90-day legislative session, which is scheduled to adjourn on June 5, I will still try to attend as many events in the district as I can. If you are ever in the Capitol, make sure to stop by my office. I have moved to Room 2000, which is located on the second floor, north side.
If you have any questions about state government or would like to voice your opinion on a legislative bill, I urge you to contact me. Only with your input, can I truly represent the constituents of District #1. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my telephone number is (402) 471-2733. If I am unavailable, my staff will be able to assist you. Tim Freburg is my administrative assistant, who answers the telephone and handles my calendar. Kim Davis is my legislative aide who works on constituent issues and legislation.
Four hundred and sixty bills and six constitutional amendments were introduced during the 10-day introduction period for this legislative session. I introduced seven bills, some on behalf of constituents and some at the request of various organizations.
I introduced LB 711 at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services. When meth labs are discovered by law enforcement, the owner of the property cannot permit someone to live there until rehabilitation has been completed. An owner that violates this prohibition may be subject to a civil penalty up to $1,000. Legal advice suggested the need for due process prior to assessing the fine. LB 711 would allow an owner to request an administrative hearing to dispute a mistake in ownership or errors in the determination that the property was the site of a meth lab or that the property needs rehabilitation. The public hearing was held on LB 711 this past week. Dr. Joe Acierno, the Chief Medical Officer for DHHS, and Kay Oestmann, the director at Southeast District Health Department, testified in support of the bill.
LB 810 would prohibit local ordinances that interfere with the rights of lenders with respect to real estate loans and servicing rights. Such laws could still be imposed by the state or federal government.
Under LB 850, persons with developmental disabilities would be eligible for a homestead exemption, if they meet specified income limits and homestead value requirements. Currently, only persons over age 65, disabled veterans and their widow(er), and persons with certain permanent physical disabilities qualify for the property tax relief program.
LB 881 would amend our current pursuit law, which was enacted to protect an innocent bystander who gets hurt as a result of a police pursuit. Nebraska is the only state that imposes liability on the law enforcement agency regardless of whether the law enforcement agency was negligent in its pursuit and even when the driver being pursued causes the injury to the “innocent third party”. Although attempts to repeal this strict liability law have not been successful, the Legislature has never defined “innocent third party”, which would help limit liability in certain situations. Following a recent Nebraska Supreme Court case which found a passenger in a fleeing vehicle, who was violating the open container law and was found with meth on him, to be an “innocent third party”, one of the justices issued a separate opinion containing suggestions for the Legislature. Under LB 881, a passenger in a fleeing vehicle would not be considered an “innocent third party” for such things as entering the vehicle knowing that the driver is under the influence, if they are sought to be apprehended by law enforcement or if they are engaged in any illegal activity which would itself result in arrest.
LB 930 deals with the One-Call Notification System Act. It would require a representative of the operator to be present whenever an excavation is performed within 25 feet of an underground natural gas transmission line or other critical facility, unless otherwise agreed upon by both the operator and the excavator.
The Game and Parks Commission currently has a significant backlog of deferred maintenance projects and consequently decided to temporarily close some facilities in order to reassign staff to work on projects. Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City was on the list for temporary closure. In order to prevent this from happening again in future years, the Friends of Arbor Lodge Foundation, along with the City of Nebraska City, Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce, the Arbor Day Foundation and the Nebraska State Historical Society have worked on a plan to transfer operating responsibility from the state to the community partnership. In order to make the transfer feasible, $2.1 million of deferred maintenance projects at Arbor Lodge need to be completed first. I introduced LB 1033 to appropriate the money necessary for the maintenance projects at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park.
I introduced LB 1104 to allow a facility with a Y liquor license, which is granted to farm wineries, to also attain a retail liquor license. The development of farm wineries in the state have been important for economic development and the promotion of Nebraska products.
If you have any comments on the bills that I introduced or were introduced by other senators, I welcome your input. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is email@example.com and my telephone number is (402) 471-2733.