The Legislature began full-day sessions this past week, debating and advancing numerous bills. Among them was LB 137, which would adopt the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act. The act requires life insurance companies to compare its insureds with the Death Master File of the U.S. Social Security Administration to identify possible matches and determine whether benefits are due. The insurance companies would be required to try to locate the beneficiary and provide them with instructions on how to make a claim.
People usually purchase a life insurance policy as a means to provide money to family members when they die. However, the family members aren’t always aware of the existence of the policy. Sometimes companies can’t locate the beneficiaries but this isn’t always the case. Insurance officials estimate at least $1 billion in life insurance benefits are unclaimed nationally. More than twenty states have enacted similar legislation to LB 137. I believe it is time that Nebraska joined the ranks, so I signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. LB 137 received first-round approval on a 31-0 vote.
LB 487 was given initial approval by the Legislature on a 35-4 vote. It proposes to change penalties for persons experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose if they request emergency medical assistance for themselves or another person. For the exemption from charges for possession of a controlled substance to apply, the person must be the first to request assistance, must remain on the scene until help arrives and must cooperate with emergency personnel. LB 487 is similar to legislation passed a couple of years ago that protected minors who called for help for friends experiencing alcohol poisoning.
A bill that was amended into LB 487 through the Judiciary Committee amendments was LB 167. This bill proposes to reschedule cannabidiol in a drug product approved by the FDA into Schedule V of the Nebraska Controlled Substances Act. Currently, cannabidiol (known as CBD) in any form is a Schedule I Controlled Substance with a high potential for abuse and no approved medical use. CBD can be referred to as the “medical part” of the marijuana plant, which is different from THC, the “recreational part” of the plant that gets a person high.
Later this year, CBD in a pharmaceutical formulation will be submitted to the FDA for approval. The drug, called Epidiolex, is an investigational product being studied as a potential anti-convulsive treatment for children with certain types of epilepsy. LB 167 allows Nebraska to proactively reschedule CBD in an FDA approved product, ensuring it will be available to patients in Nebraska as soon as rescheduling by the DEA on the federal level is complete.
The Revenue Committee is continuing to work on a package for tax relief that will be sent to the full Legislature for debate. It appears that it may include an income tax relief provision, which would commit future revenue for this purpose. Therefore, senators who believe that property tax relief needs to be the priority may not be able to support the package. I am disappointed in the direction this legislation is going.
Again, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions on legislation that is being discussed by senators. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509. My telephone number is (402) 471-2733 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday, January 6, state senators convened for the short session of the Nebraska Legislature. Legislative sessions in even-numbered years last for only 60 days because it is the second year of the biennium and deals with budget adjustments. In the odd-numbered years, the Legislature meets for 90 days and sets the budget for the two-year period.
This year, however, the budget adjustments will take more time, as the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board in late October lowered revenue projections, creating a $110 million deficit. This deficit may grow depending on the final certification of state aid to schools and adjustments in the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Due to the resignation of Senator Jeremy Nordquist, senators welcomed recently appointed Nicole Fox to the Legislature, representing District #7 in Omaha. Since Senator Nordquist was the chair of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee, Seward Senator Mark Kolterman was elected as the new chair.
Senators began introducing legislation on the first day of session and by the third day almost 200 bills were introduced. The last day for bill introduction is January 20. I have introduced six bills so far, as well as one from the Performance Audit Committee, of which I chair. Among the bills that I have introduced, is LB 733. It requests additional funding for employees of the Department of Corrections. With the recent riot at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, it reiterated the staff recruitment and retention problem that the state faces in some correctional facilities.
I also introduced legislation (LB 755) that seeks capital construction funds for projects at our state colleges, including the Theatre and Community Center at Peru State College. The renovation project will address needed facility improvements, in an effort to maintain PSC’s role of providing quality academic, cultural, and civic opportunities to its students and our region.
The Governor has announced one of his priorities for this year – the creation of a transportation infrastructure bank. The proposal would be funded through a cash reserve transfer and would be used to accelerate roads construction, provide matching funding to counties to expedite bridge repair, and to fund transportation projects that support industry expansion as well as attract businesses to Nebraska.
At a recent meeting with Governor Ricketts, he informed me that his number one priority is property taxes. Several senators and I have been working on legislation pertaining to the school finance system and property tax reduction. I will provide more details after the bill has been introduced.
If you are not aware of the Legislature’s website, I encourage you to check it out at NebraskaLegislature.gov. It has recently been revamped, to make it more user-friendly. It contains a wealth of information. Viewers can read the text of bills introduced, search state statutes, e-mail state senators, see the agenda for the day, read the online version of the Unicameral Update, and watch the Legislature live.
With session starting, I will be at the State Capitol daily. If you are in the Capitol, please feel free to stop by my office. My office number is Room 2000, which is located on the second floor, north side. If calling my office, I am happy to visit with you if I’m available. If I am in a meeting, my staff will be able to assist you. Tim Freburg is my administrative assistant. He answers the telephone, greets visitors, and handles my calendar. Kim Davis is my legislative aide, who works on constituent issues and legislation.
In order to effectively represent my legislative district, I welcome your input. My email address is email@example.com. My address is Senator Dan Watermeier, District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 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.