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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 3rd legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Carol Blood
Sen. Blood’s Bill Hearing This Week
LR284 is being heard in the Agriculture Committee Feb 15th. Sen. Blood brings forward this resolution because agriculture is the #1 industry in Nebraska and cattle production is the largest segment of this industry. Ag drives our economy and with that comes over 6.5 billion in cattle sales each year. This industry clearly impacts all Nebraskans whether they are meat eaters or not. We all know that Nebraska has more cattle than we do people. Policymakers in Nebraska we need to support measures that will protect our beloved beef industry as participants in a global market.
The intent of LR284 is to encourage the Nebraska Legislature to support an objective review of the “Product of U.S.A.” label by the USDA and support any future actions to restrict the scope of use in a way that is beneficial for cattle producers and consumers and is trade compliant. American consumers rely on food labeling for truthful, meaningful information about retail food purchases. If a label says “Product of the USA” they assume that the meat they are placing in their grocery cart was actually raised here in the United States, and not another country as has been happening. The legislature should support initiatives to prevent misleading and deceptive practices that negatively affect United States Cattle producers and drive down prices for the cattle producers while increasing the profits for the meatpacking industry. LR284 is in support of these efforts.
We’re targeting the USDA to review the “Product of U.S.A.” label because they are responsible for the safety, labeling, and packaging of the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products. They currently allow the use of the label on foreign imported beef or beef food products by the packing and grocery industry which we need to take a closer look at.
Multiple government entities agree that the USDA must provide a deeper review of the use of the label. President Biden issued an executive order on July 9, 2021, that directed the USDA to consider new rules defining the conditions under which meat products can bear “Product of U.S.A.” and other similar labels so that consumers have accurate, transparent labels that enable them to choose products originating in the United States.
In July 2021, the Federal Trade Commission finalized a new rule cracking down on marketers who make false, unqualified claims that their products are “Made in the U.S.A.” and specifically requires “Made in the U.S.A.” claims on labels be used only for products that are “all or virtually all” made or sourced in the United States. The review needs to reflect and support these new rules.
Nebraska has the top three beef cow counties in the U.S., including the nation’s No. 1 cow county – Cherry County, with nearly 166,000 cows. Custer County is No. 2 (100,000) and Holt County is No. 3 (99,000). It is an important part of our culture and economy, so we need to support initiatives that will prioritize better, more honest practices in the beef industry.
Updates to the Situation in Mead
“Friends, I want to begin by saying that today’s rally is first and foremost about supporting Nebraska Ag and our precious Ethanol Industry — our corn, soybean, and wheat growers. The AltEn disaster is the responsibility of one bad actor and, while this catastrophe is a stain on our state, by no means should Nebraska’s agriculture and ethanol industries be painted with the same brush. We’re holding AltEn accountable for being bad stewards of Nebraska’s environment and its water while dismissing Nebraska citizens as if they are collateral damage.
As I reflect on this environmental crisis, I want you to know that Nebraska Farmers and Ranchers and our rural residents are the victims of this crisis, as well may be their children and grandchildren if we don’t receive better answers to our long-standing questions as to how did this happen? Why was it allowed to happen? And could Nebraska have been more responsive in its actions to prevent this unprecedented crisis?
Now as we have observed the proposed clean-up, it’s clear that if we want to protect our precious soil, our life-giving water and the air that we breathe, it is time for public discourse so we can amplify our voices here today. We want to know in clear terms that if Nebraska is going to clean up these piles of polluted wet cake,why are they trying to cover them over with a seal made of fiber, cement and clay while using drainage ditches to collect chemical runoff? Why are they covering it up?
On May 18th, 2021, LR159 requested that the Legislature’s Executive Board appoint an AltEn Ethanol Plant Investigative and Oversight Committee. At that time, we were told that it would have to wait until the 2022 session. So far, there has been no hearing on this legislative resolution and the environmental clock is ticking. It’s time for voices to be heard…it’s time for public discourse.
Friends, Nebraska can do so much better. We believe the optics are very bad and the state’s reactions have appeared to be dilatory and we were saddened to see that in 2012 it was the state who gave approval for this plant to use chemically treated seed to make ethanol without the benefit of public input and this is what ultimately gave this crisis the momentum it needed to move forward.
In response, we rally together on valentine’s day to show some love to our fellow Nebraskans affected by this crisis, we share our love for a safer and healthier state and we pray that we can make movement forward in time to protect our future generations.”
On January 5, your Nebraska Legislature convened for the 2022 Legislative Session. We are excited to advocate on behalf of District 3 and all Nebraskans.
Listed below are the bills I have introduced for this short session.
LB 689 Elimination of LLC Fees: This bill is meant to stimulate potential new business owners and eliminate additional financial hurdles for small and minority-owned businesses by eliminating the initial and annual filing fees associated with becoming an LLC.
LB 690 Teacher Qualifications Change: Minority groups are underrepresented in the teaching community but are in high demand for employment. This bill would provide more flexibility in the certification of qualified educators for Nebraska schools. It allows the Nebraska Department of Education to determine an appropriate line of coursework as sufficient means to fulfill the basic skills competency requirement currently needed to become a certified teacher. This bill would not eliminate the PRAXIS examination but would instead add another choice to fulfill the requirement.
LB 691 Address Confidentiality Program: LB 691 would add survivors of kidnapping to the eligibility requirements for the Address Confidentiality Program to create an extra layer of protection for those victims.
LB 694 Delayed Impact: Amid growing environmental concerns, we must protect those who are exposed to toxic chemicals from industrial facilities such as those recently under fire in Mead, NE. This bill changes how Nebraska defines disabled veterans mirroring the federal definition. Changing the definition of disabled veteran will result in updated tax exemptions for both motor vehicle and homestead taxes in Nebraska. The exemptions will be based on the level of Veteran disability.
LB 695 Delinquent Taxes and TIF: Cities should not reward those who do not pay their property taxes. This bill would prohibit the granting of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to anyone delinquent in the payment of real property taxes.
LB 696 Teacher Retention Bonus: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all professions, but most especially our child educators and school support staff. This bill would appropriate funds to aid in the retention of teachers and school support staff such as bus drivers, food service handlers, and librarians. Each teacher and school support staff member, excluding school administrators, would receive a bonus.
Mead Research Group Funding (no bill number yet): This bill would allocate funds to the Mead Research Group to assess and evaluate the environmental and human health effects of the toxic chemicals contained in the dry residue (“wetcake”) and wastewater produced and stored at the AltEn ethanol-production plant in Mead, NE.
Beef Resolution (no bill number yet): Nebraska is a national leader in cattle and beef production, and the legislature should support initiatives that encourage beef packers and American citizens to buy beef that is produced in the United States. This bill is a resolution to support United States Senate Bill 949 that will restore the competitiveness of the fed cattle spot market by requiring beef packers to purchase at least 50% of their cattle needs in the competitive spot market. It also would support passage of the American Beef Labeling Act of 2021 (S.2716).
LR263CA Unfunded Mandates: One pressing reason property taxes remain high is because of underfunded mandates enacted by the Nebraska Legislature. LR263CA is a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Legislature from imposing any financial responsibility for new programs or increased levels of service under existing programs on any political subdivision such as a county, city, or state department after the year 2022.
LB687 Circuit Breaker: This bill would put a process in place that protects taxpayers based on a particular activity. For example, if an individual’s income goes down, this bill would make it so there is automatically a process and answer, such as receiving a tax break.
LB 688 Property Tax Reduction Act: This session, Sen. Blood has several bills to address this ongoing issue. LR 688 would provide property tax relief in the form of a property tax credit.
LB 692 Stealthing: Sexual assault should be prohibited in all forms, including a growing issue called stealthing. This bill would prohibit any unwanted sexual contact when a condom has been removed without the consent of all parties involved, otherwise called stealthing. A victim of stealthing would be able to bring forth a civil action and be entitled to collect on actual damages, preliminary and declaratory relief, including attorney and court fees.
LB 693 Expanding Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans: Supporting our veterans continues to be a priority for Sen. Blood. This bill would change the way Nebraska defines disabled veterans to match the federal definition. By doing this we are also changing tax exemptions for motor vehicle and homestead taxation in the state, so that the more “disabled” a veteran is, the more exemptions they receive. This eases the burden of changing the definition on the state
For a full list and additional information about all the bills I’ve introduced and cosponsored, you can click the link here.
New Guidelines for Public Testimony
Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature relies heavily on the “second house” – the citizens of the State of Nebraska. Ensuring that members of the public have the opportunity to have their voices heard is vital to the legislative process.
• The Legislature will no longer accept written testimony submitted prior to a committee hearing. To have your name and comments appear on the hearing transcript, you must physically appear before a committee and be available to answer questions from committee members.
• If you are unable to appear in person at a public hearing on a bill or resolution but would like to have your opinion included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, you will find an option to “Include Comment in Public Hearing” when you search the Legislative website and select the bill or resolution you wish to have your position known. The comment option becomes available once a bill has been scheduled for public hearing and remains available until the conclusion of that bill. PLEASE NOTE: To have your original comments included in the official hearing record they must be submitted prior to 12:00 p.m. CST, on the last workday prior to the public hearing. You will have the opportunity to leave additional comments for the duration of the time that bill is being considered by the committee or the body of the Legislature.
• If unable to appear in person, or not interested in having your opinion become a part of the official record, but still want Senators to know how you feel, there is a feature available on the Nebraska Legislature’s website. Once a hearing has been scheduled, you may submit comments at any stage of the process. (To access this feature, search for the bill you wish to submit a statement on and click the corresponding button “Submit Comments Online For LB___” near the top of the bill page.) For more information follow this link to the Nebraska Legislature’s website.
My office is looking for people to testify on our new bills. If you are interested in giving testimony or have questions, call our office at (402) 471 – 2627, or email Bri at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bri is a long-time community advocate in Omaha who believes in a holistic and inclusive approach to the health of a community. She graduated in 2020 with an undergraduate degree in public health and is currently in the second year of a master’s program in public administration at UNO.
As a politics and policy nerd, Bri has a passion for empowering community members to engage with their local forms of government to influence what goes on in their neighborhoods. She hopes to aid in the development of policy that will create lasting change to keep Nebraska communities healthy and thriving.
We are thrilled to welcome Bri to Team Blood!
The session is now officially over, and the final week certainly had some fireworks. Most noteworthy was the veto override of three bills, two that help the working poor.
The first bill of the day that overcame the governor’s veto was LB108. This is a bill that expanded the qualifications of families that are eligible for the food stamp program, otherwise known as SNAP to 165 percent of the federal poverty level. Previously, families with a gross income of 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level were eligible.
It’s important to note a few things about this bill. The first is that this expansion of the program will expire in 2023. The intent of LB108 was always to make sure that families that are still struggling because of the pandemic are able to feed their children. Secondly, SNAP benefits are fully funded by federal dollars and the money for this expansion will come from funds set aside by the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Third, there were quite a few inaccurate arguments made on the floor about this program. Several senators seemed to be confused about SNAP, claiming that people were lying on their couches all day rather than going to work. The truth is that SNAP has work requirements in order to qualify. That means those who are getting the benefit of SNAP are indeed, the “working poor.” These are people who have one or more jobs, but are still below the federal poverty level. These are people who are working hard to feed their families, and because of recent circumstances are unable to do so.
LB108 originally passed 33-11, meaning it already had widespread bipartisan support. The vote to override the governor was still very bipartisan, with a 30-19 vote.
The second bill that saw an override of the governor’s veto was LB306. This bill expanded the program that assists low-income homeowners in Nebraska. The bill increases the eligibility threshold for the low-income home energy assistance program from 130 percent of the federal poverty level to 150 percent. The bill also requires the state Department of Health and Human Services to allocate at least 10 percent of program funds to weatherization assistance.
This was another piece of legislation that was popular throughout the body, originally passing on a 38-6 vote. We overrode the veto on a 32-15 vote. As is the case with all veto overrides, thirty votes were needed.
Our third and final override vote came on LB147. This bill authorizes a takeover of the Omaha Public Schools pension plan. While there had been some talk of OPS getting special treatment with this bill, the fact is that OPS was the only public school retirement plan that wasn’t already being handled by the state. When the governor vetoed the bill, he did so while stating concerns that the state would be held liable if something catastrophic happened to the money in the fund. The fact of the matter is that the plain language of the bill makes it very clear that the state of Nebraska is not in any danger of being held accountable in such a situation.
In short, there is no downside to the takeover of this particular plan. As some on the floor of the legislature said during the debate, LB147 will take the management of the retirement plan off the hands of teachers in Omaha and allow them to solely focus on educating our youth. Just like the other two bills we took up yesterday, LB147 was incredibly popular in the body, originally passing 38-3.
Very soon, I will provide you with an update of the bills passed that are most likely to affect district 3. For this week, the Legislature was all about tying up loose ends and getting ready to shut things down. Unlike most years, we won’t be gone all that long.
While the session would usually be over until January of 2022, this fall, we’ll need to return for a special session in order to hash out the state’s redistricting plans. While a date for the session hasn’t been set yet, it’s expected to take place in mid-September.
I’ll also be sending out a year-end newsletter that will go into greater detail on everything we’ve accomplished this session.
For a full list and additional information about all the bills I’ve introduced and cosponsored, you can click the link here.
Governor Ricketts’ Sine Die Address
As part of the process of ending the legislative session, Governor Ricketts came to the chamber to give his Sine Die Address. In the short speech, he touched on many important accomplishments we made this year including the massive amount of tax relief.
With this year’s budget, the refundable income tax credit will provide more than $430 million in property tax relief each year. But that’s just the start. With the property tax relief fund and other exemptions, the biennial budget will provide nearly $1.7 billion in property tax relief over the course of the next two years. When you factor other tax exemptions, such as sales tax and personal property relief, the legislature is going to be saving the people of Nebraska, over $1.8 billion over the next two years.
Governor Ricketts pointed out that this body has provided more tax relief than perhaps any other legislature in Nebraska’s history. That’s an accomplishment we can all be proud of, though as the governor pointed out, there’s still much work to be done, and I’ll be working on finding solutions throughout the rest of this year.
Period Poverty Drive a Massive Success
“Period Poverty” is an issue that is very important to me. That’s why I talked about it on the floor last week and it’s why I took part in a “Period Poverty Drive” this week. I’m happy to say that I had so many people contribute to this that the area I set aside for donations is positively overflowing.
These supplies will go to organizations that women in need who may not otherwise have the means to get them. I will add that there are a few more days left in this drive and if you should feel so inclined, you can go to my Amazon Wishlist page and purchase something. Please know that whatever is donated is going to a very good cause that simply isn’t talked about enough.
I’d advise everyone to check out this information sheet from the Alliance for Period Supplies for more information on why the Period Poverty Drive is needed.
Taking Time Out For Memorial Day
While we are all out enjoying the three-day weekend, it’s important to remember exactly why Memorial Day matters. Many Americans fought and died since the inception of this country in order to protect our freedoms.
It’s also important to remember that the families also serve. There are countless members of our community who have lost a loved one. If you know of a spouse, or child, or even great-grandchild of a veteran or active duty military member, make sure you thank them for their sacrifices as well, as they have surely made some.
To that end, I wanted to point out that Bellevue and the surrounding area has done a fantastic job making sure to recognize all those who stepped up. Since 1999, the city has lined several roads with American flags. They go up just before Memorial Day, and are up now and will stay up through Veteran’s Day in November.
Now the Sarpy County Chamber Legacy Project is committed to expanding those lines of flags along Highway 370 through Papillion into Gretna. Many of you may know how fitting this particular stretch of land is as it’s known as the Strategic Air Command Memorial Highway.
There are still some final approvals from various jurisdictions that need to go through, but it’s expected those will be approved in the coming days.
As always, I am especially proud of the communities in Sarpy County for how they continue to show support for our military men and women.
Fun In The Sun
Memorial Day weekend is, of course, a period for thoughtful reflection, but it’s also the unofficial start of summer. That means that various swimming pools and splash pads around Sarpy County are, or soon will be open for business.
The two Bellevue splash pads are located at Banner Park (50th & Virginia) and Everett Park (Adjacent to Betz Road). Papillion has one in Eagle Ridge two blocks east of 66th Street and Ashwood Avenue, the Schwer Splash Pad at 800 West Centennial Road, and First Street Plaza, on the corner of First and Washington streets in downtown Papillion.
All of the Splash Pads are free and open to the public from early in the morning until late into the night. Make sure to stop by and cool yourself off while having a little fun.
The session is now officially winding down and we will adjourn Sine Die in a matter of days. It’s been a productive year for the body, even with the allowances we had to make, especially at the beginning of the year, for the coronavirus pandemic. It’s interesting to think back on where we were when this session began in January. Only the most senior among us were able to get the vaccine and most states were still worried about having enough for even those people. Now, just a few months later anybody down to the age of 12 that wants the vaccine, can get it.
After Sine Die – our last day until the expected redistricting special session this fall – I will provide you with an update of the bills passed most likely to affect district 3.
It should come as no surprise that this week saw us take up a number of important topics on final reading. In particular, we passed two bills that will be quite beneficial to the people of Nebraska.
The first was LB387. You’ve seen me mention the importance of this bill before but now it’s on the governor’s desk and will soon become law. This bill is a continuation of our efforts from a year ago when we made 50 percent of all military retirement pay tax-exempt. LB387 finished the job by making all military retirement pay exempt. The bill also included my LB6 as an amendment. LB6 closed a loophole that excluded retired veterans who do not receive 1099’s from the Department of Defense.
These military retirees receive a form 1099 from The Office of Personnel Management. They were being told they’re not eligible under last year’s military retirement bill. Now with LB6 and LB387, they are eligible for the benefits under the recently revised Nebraska Statutes, ensuring all are included.
The other big win for Nebraskans this week came in the form of LB64. On a 41-0 vote on Thursday, we gave final approval to a bill that will incrementally reduce the state income tax on Social Security income.
The bill achieves a 50 percent tax reduction by 2025 with the intention of achieving a 100 percent reduction by 2030, subject to review by a future legislative session. The bill has a built-in “guardrail” that allows a future Legislature to decide whether to continue with the annual 10 percent increase in tax reduction after 2025.
If those reductions are kept in place, we’ll be saving Nebraskans $73.8 million in the fifth year and then the amount will climb to $168 million in the 10th year with the full exemption.
In general, the legislature was able to show its fiscal responsibility throughout the session. That was evidenced by the fact that we had a spending growth of just two percent. Our budget was also able to have a carryover of $25 million. We were also able to put about $80 million back into the legislature’s “rainy day” fund. This fund is in case the state or the country sees another economic downturn. All of these numbers mean that the state’s economy is quite healthy. That’s quite an accomplishment considering we’re still technically in a global pandemic and that when I was elected 4 1/2 years ago we had a serious financial deficit and everyone was in a panic.
For a full list and additional information about all the bills I’ve introduced and cosponsored, you can click the link here.
The AltEn Ethanol Plant In Mead
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been taking a closer look at the AltEn ethanol plant in Mead and specifically at the damage that has been done to the surrounding area by a near-unprecedented level of pollution emanating from some rather shady practices by the plant’s owner.
Unlike most ethanol plants across the country, the Kansas-based company used seed coated with insecticides and fungicides to make ethanol, creating widespread environmental contamination in Saunders County.
Over the last six years, the state conducted dozens of site visits to AltEn’s facility about a mile south of Mead and issued a series of non-compliance letters, violation notices, and administrative orders against the company. Despite those repeated violations, AltEn only shut the plant down after the state ordered it to stop pumping wastewater into its horrendously damaged lagoon system in early February.
The Mead community, which has complained to the state about a stench coming from the plant, as well as health and environmental issues since shortly after AltEn went into operation, has raised questions about why the company was allowed to stay open for so long. As a result of a lack of answers, I introduced LR159 last week. The resolution would set up a special committee to examine several aspects of the situation including how the state can make sure it isn’t on the hook for paying for the cleanup. It’s expected that it will eventually cost tens of millions of dollars to clean up the site and make sure the long-term damage has been mitigated. I was hoping to get a hearing on that resolution before the end of the session, but it turned out the Exec Board didn’t believe it had the time to take it up.
However, I have been assured they will be holding a hearing when the legislature reconvenes next January. In the meantime, I plan on holding several public forums. These forums will feature experts on the subject. Right now, the plan is to have one forum in Omaha, one in Lincoln and one out west. I’d encourage anyone interested in this situation to come. I’ll provide more details about dates, times, and locations after the summer begins.
Period Poverty Drive
“Period Poverty” is an issue that is very important to me. That’s why I talked about it on the floor on Friday and it’s why I’m taking part in a Period Poverty Supply Drive next week.
It is a fact that 1 in 4 women in the United States struggle to purchase period products due to a lack of income. 1 in 5 of those women report that they’ve had to miss school or work because of a lack of supplies.
Of the 411,000 women and girls between the ages of 12 and 44 who live in Nebraska, 1 in 6 lives below the poverty line. 49,300 women between the ages of 19 and 64 rely on Medicaid to help with medical care, but they still struggle to get the materials they need for their period.
That’s why this kind of period supply drive is taking place all across the country and it’s why the issue is near and dear to my heart.
With that in mind, I’ll be accepting period supply donations all next week at my legislative office, Room 1021 in the State Capitol. My office is open from 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. If you are in the Omaha area and are not planning on making the drive to Lincoln, you can leave donations at the door of 16626 Harney St in Omaha.
I believe everyone has the right to feel comfortable and clean. Please show your support
I’d advise everyone to check out this information sheet from the Alliance for Period Supplies for more information on why the Period Poverty drive is needed.
Bellevue Library Innovation Training
The Bellevue Public Library has been fortunate to receive an Innovation Studios grant to make various innovative learning tools available for public use. if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to use the wide variety of tools at your library, you can now register for one of the many training sessions. Once you have been trained on a piece of equipment, make an appointment with library staff to use the equipment to create your own artistic masterpiece.
Current training sessions are listed on the library’s website calendar. This kind of training can be both educational and entertaining and I’d encourage everyone to sign up for a session. You don’t need a library card in order to do this, you can just present proof that you live in the area and still participate.
Papillion’s Urban Garden
The Papillion Urban Garden is officially open for “business” and that business is to try and help reduce food insecurity all over Sarpy County.
Nearly 50 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Located on the south side of the 400 block of East First Street — between the road and the creek — the garden consists of nearly 20 plots on one and a half acres of land. One plot is equal to a decent-sized home garden.
The garden was established using a $20,000 Google Community Impact Grant. This summer will consist of watching, weeding, and growing for the most part. Before the ribbon-cutting, the soil at the garden had been tilled, and some potato seedlings were planted. There are four plastic tanks that hold a total of 1,700 gallons of water, filled by the local fire station, in order to contribute to irrigation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the inability to have enough food for a healthy, active life. This is due to inadequate financial resources for food at the household level. This garden is geared to give back to the community and help those who might suffer from food insecurity.
The session continues to move forward and we officially have only eight legislative days until we adjourn Sine Die.
With so little time left, you can expect that we’ll be quite busy over the final two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, I will provide you with an update of the bills passed most likely to effect district 3.
One issue that needs to be taken care of in preparation for a special session that will likely come this fall is the adoption of the resolution that will help govern how we go about our work in redistricting.
To that end, there will be a hearing on that resolution, LR134 on Tuesday, May 18 at 8:00 AM in room 1524.
I feel LR134 is a fair and flexible way for us to make sure that our redistricting efforts support districts that are roughly the same population while making every citizen’s vote equal and to ensure maximum opportunity for all our voters to have the ability to elect representatives from their own community as has been stated in multiple court decisions. I hope you feel the same as I do and I am hoping for a strong showing of support at this hearing.
This will give us the testimony we need to back us up when it is brought to the floor for debate.
If you feel as I do about how important an issue it is please consider coming in to testify or to witness the hearing. We want it to be about the people, being we don’t split communities, foster dysfunction, or dilute the vote of our citizens. You can help me make this so.
I will continue to update you on the redistricting process as we meet during the interim on this issue.
Nebraska Passport Program Returns
The Nebraska Passport program is back for another year!
The program has officially begun and will run through September 30. It features 70 attractions that are organized into 10 different categories:
You can either hit all of these spots whenever you want and however you want, or you can sign up for the 10 themed tours that include many of the passport locations.
Anyone interested can pick up a passport book from any of the places supporting the program, or you can download the official app and collect the stamps digitally.
For more information and a list of what locations are involved this year, check out the official Nebraska Passport Program site.
C’Rona Comix On Display
If you’re still having difficulties explaining to the little ones the complexities of living through a global pandemic, there’s a new book out that might help. C’Rona Pandemic Comics is a collection of short comics and essays geared towards helping youth understand how to navigate a still-changed world.
Each story focuses on different themes:
The stories and illustrations were created by a varied group of storytellers, artists and experts in their field. Anyone who would like to buy a copy of the book can purchase it through the Nebraska Press site. As an added bonus, there are several storyboards on display in the middle of the first floor of the Capitol Building. Come check out some of the stories and illustrations while they’re here.
I would like to thank Angie Bacon for giving me the opportunity to meet and speak with these great kids. I love having bright young minds to encourage them to run for office in the future. You can’t be it, if you never see it! Thanks for coming to see me, future leaders!
Mental Health Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual observance to shine a spotlight on mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding it so that people feel empowered to seek out help if and when they need it.
The social isolation and loneliness that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to rising rates of anxiety and depressive disorder symptoms, as well as increased risk behaviors among teens and adolescents. And similar to COVID-19 itself, not all communities or populations have been impacted equally:
Good morning, Nebraska!
The session continues to move forward and we officially have only 15 days until we adjourn Sine Die.
One issue that came before the government committee this week was an amendment in preparation for a special legislative session that will likely come this fall. This is the year that the legislature is supposed to take up redistricting.
In a normal year, that would be done during the regular session. However, the pandemic has affected the census and redistricting much the same way it’s affected everything else. The federal government is not going to be getting us the census numbers we need in order to do the redistricting until much later this fall.
Because of that, we took up an amendment, AM1264 to LB285. This amendment would give any governing body of a city or village more time to request an adjustment to their election district boundaries based on the new census data.
The current statute has been deemed to create too much of a time crunch to make sure that these election districts are correct, especially since it’s still not entirely clear when we will be receiving the new data. The federal Census Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office has said they will deliver the information by September 30 but even that will mean a rush to get the data, look at it, hold public hearings and then decide if the state election commissioner needs to expand individual election districts.
These sorts of adjustments are very important to get into place by the time the primary elections roll around in May of next year. The process is a long and complicated one that takes more time than people realize.
AM1133 will give the cities and villages until December 31, 2021, to submit their requests.
In the meantime, the federal government will be sending what is called “legacy data” to states so that they can begin their redistricting work. This data is supposed to arrive by August 16, 2021. Should this amendment pass and the legacy data arrives when it’s expected, the following timeline would be put into place:
Bellevue Spring Cleanup
A reminder that today is the City of Bellevue’s official spring cleanup. Two Street Department areas located at 29th & Hancock, and 8252 Cedar Island Road will be open from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM today for residents to drop off solid waste, including the following items:
There are some items that cannot be accepted:
This week, the city of road crews all across Sarpy have started repainting line markers in the area. If you happen to see these crews at work, please exercise caution and patience. Their vehicles are going to be moving a bit slower than normal traffic, in order to make sure the paint is going where it is supposed to go.
Also, please refrain from driving over freshly painted lane markings. This particular task is important for all of our health and safety and you can make their jobs a little bit easier with a little patience.
The New Beef Passport Program
The beef producers are incredibly important to the state of Nebraska. In fact, beef is the single largest industry in the state. That’s why I supported LB241, a bill that offers more protection against the COVID-19 pandemic to meatpacking plant workers. In this state, they are absolutely essential workers and should be treated that way. That bill advanced through the first round of debate on Thursday.
The importance of beef and meat to Nebraska is also why I’m fully on board with a new program Governor Ricketts announced earlier this week. The “Good Life Great Steaks Nebraska Beef Passport Program” is a way to incentivize people to visit restaurants across the state and order beef off the menu.
41 restaurants, from Gering to Omaha, are participating in the program, which is sponsored by the Nebraska Beef Council.
The program allows anyone who visits a participating restaurant, orders a beef item and gets their passport stamped to enter a contest to win prizes ranging from a beef grilling package to an 80-quart cooler filled with $500 worth of beef.
The governor correctly pointed out during an appearance to announce the Passport Program that the beef industry weathered the height of the pandemic against all odds.
You can order a passport from the Nebraska Beef Council website, nebeef.org, and you have until September 7 to collect stamps. Full details and contest rules are posted online.
UNMC’s Project NExt Hits Big Milestone
Omaha and UNMC have been named as one of five pilot sites in the United States to tackle a federal program that is aimed at bolstering the nation’s disaster response. Being one of the pilot sites is a key step for local plans to develop a multibillion-dollar, all-hazards response facility in Omaha.
The goals of the effort are to improve the National Disaster Medical System, a federal program that provides trained medical personnel to respond to disasters and to bolster the nation’s medical surge capacity. UNMC and Nebraska Medicine already have done a good deal of training through the system and expect to ramp up again soon.
The project has massive ramifications for Nebraska economically. It’s expected to create 8,700 high-paying and permanent jobs. and will have a projected $1.3 billion economic impact.
The session continues to move foward and we officially have only 19 days until we adjourn Sine Die.
Amongst the biggest news of the week was that Governor Ricketts signed the bill package that makes up the two-year state budget without any vetoes. In doing so, the governor correctly pointed out that the work we did included $1.45 billion of direct property tax relief, including $613 million for a long-standing property tax credit program, more than $627 million for new income tax credits to offset a portion of school property taxes and $214 million for the homestead exemption program benefiting low-income elderly and disabled homeowners.
The budget also showed just a 1.7 percent annual spending growth rate. That’s a massive reduction from just four years ago when the annual growth rate was about four times larger.
I’ve said it before, but getting the budget done is the only part of our jobs that is required by the state’s constitution. I believe we did as good a job as we could when you consider the financial hardships that hit the state over the last year due to the pandemic.
Investigating Unemployment Fraud
On Monday, the Business and Labor Committee held a special investigative meeting with the Nebraska Department of Labor’s Commissioner John Albin.
Over the last year, there has been quite a bit of fraud perpetrated on this state by people pretending to be someone else and filing an unemployment claim. Tens of millions of dollars were stolen by crime rings outside of the United States and while we got some answers on Monday, the session also created even more questions.
You can watch a video of the meeting here. I would also encourage you all to familiarize yourself with what went on here and how we’re working to make sure this doesn’t happen again. KETV and WOWT both have very good reports summing up the situation.
CollegeNow Is Free
Metropolitan Community College announced this week that it will be able to make it easier for High School students (including the class of 2021) to take MCC classes this summer.
The school will be using federal Higher Education Emergency Rescue Funds to cover tuition, fees, and textbooks for all CollegeNow courses taken during the summer quarter, which runs June 6 – August 16.
The CollegeNow program allows college-ready high school-aged students to take MCC classes on campus or online. Traditionally, these courses are offered at half-price tuition, but with federal support, MCC can offer them free of charge (fees and books included) to participating students. Most CollegeNow courses are transferrable to other colleges and universities, offering students a tremendous opportunity to get a jumpstart on their college careers.
COVID-19 caused numerous challenges for all of us last year, and many students were not able to take advantage of college-prep opportunities like CollegeNow. This initiative will help students reach their academic and career goals, despite setbacks caused by the pandemic.
You can find more information about CollegeNow at this website or call 531-MCC-2400.
Return of the Youth Legislature
After having to skip last year because of the pandemic, the Unicameral Youth Legislature will officially take place this summer. Participants will learn what it’s like to serve as a state senator. The Unicameral Youth Legislature is a four-day legislative simulation in which high school students take on the role of lawmakers. Student senators sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate, or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators, staff, and lobbyists. Bill topics are based on legislation considered during the most recent legislative session.
The event runs from Sunday, June 13, to Wednesday, June 16. The deadline to register is May 28. Those who are interested should register right away, as there is a limit of 55 attendees. Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available.
For more information, you can contact the Unicameral Information Office for more information at (402) 471-2788 or email@example.com. You can register for the event at this website.
Celebrate Earth Month The Right Way
There are many events taking place in Bellevue and Sarpy for Sarpy County Earth Month Including an electronics and EPS Styrofoam collection event at Bellevue University on May 8th.
Collections will take place from 10 AM to 2 PM in Lot D of BU. For a list of electronics and types of styrofoam that can be dropped off, you can visit Green Bellevue’s official website.
Beautifying Our Area
The Papillion 150 Butterfly & Pollinator Garden at Veterans Park is looking fantastic, even if it is far from finished. The continued work in progress will eventually feature a water feature, sculpture, and, of course, more plants and flowers. While it’s got a ways to go before it’s done, it is exciting to see how far it has come!
I’d encourage everyone to swing by and give it a look as the grass starts to green up and the flowers begin to bloom.
Good morning, Nebraska!
The session continues to motor right along and we officially have less than 30 days until we adjourn Sine Die.
Amongst the biggest news of the week was that we passed the state’s official budget and sent those bills to Governor Ricketts for his signature. The next step will be to see if he decides to take issue with anything we passed in that package and sends back a veto.
I’ve said it before, but getting the budget done is the only part of our jobs that is required by the state’s constitution.
That doesn’t mean that’s all we did this week though. In addition to discussing several important topics, we also went through a wave of Consent Calendar bills. These are pieces of legislation that are extremely non-controversial. In addition to needing to have no opposition testimony during the hearings, they cannot have any official opposition from other senators.
This week, my LB265, which removes some silly red tape accidentally put in place by the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act was both passed on final reading and then signed by the governor this week. Because it had an emergency clause, it went into effect immediately, rather than the usual 90 days after the end of the session.
Investigating Unemployment Fraud
On Monday, April 26, the Business and Labor Committee will hold a hearing on the problems the Nebraska Department of Labor has had in dealing with the surge of unemployment claims made because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In particular, there was quite a bit of fraud perpetrated on this state by people claiming to be someone else and filing an unemployment claim. Earlier this year, I wrote a letter to the department asking for an accounting and explanation of how the fraud occurred. While I did receive a response, it wasn’t adequate, in my view. I asked for and received a special investigative hearing to get more answers in person from Director Albin and a member of the Attorney General’s office. The hearing will start at 8:30 am. You should be able to watch the hearing as we will live stream it on my Facebook page. I encourage all to tune in if you can.
There were tens of millions of tax dollars stolen by crime rings outside of the United States. We need to work hard to prevent this from happening in the future and recoup as much of the funds as possible.
Light Up The Night
Last Friday, several area landmarks showed their support for “Month of the Military Child.” The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, the City of Papillion- Municipal Government Building, The City of Bellevue administration building, the Henry Doorly Zoo aquarium, and other landmarks around the area lit up with purple light in order to commemorate the night.
Anyone who has been paying attention to my time in the legislature knows that I think it’s very important to make sure that we not only honor our active-duty military members and our veterans but also their families. They also serve and deserve this kind of recognition.
The Show Must Go On
In yet another sign that Nebraska is finally starting to put the pandemic behind us, the Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre announced this week that it will be making a return to SumTur Amphitheater stage this summer!
Information on when production and auditions will start will be announced later, as well as when you can see their first summer production since 2019.
Summer Time Fun
Speaking of the return of summer activities in the area, the YMCA of Greater Omaha summer day camps are going to be going strong again this summer. It’s important to keep in mind that these camps, aimed at kids aged 5-12 years old, are going to fill up fast.
The first camp will kick off on May 24 and then run weekly all the way to August 20. The first two weeks will be held at Nebraska locations only and the last two weeks will be held at Iowa locations only, so keep that in mind if/when planning what weeks you want to enroll your children.
You can register for these camps at the Metro YMCA website here. You can enroll your child for just one week, or the entire summer.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Attention friends who have loved ones in assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, child care centers, primary care facilities, and public health facilities.
There has been a DHHS Alert on Norovirus Outbreaks this week. Since March 1, 2021, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Office of Epidemiology has received reports of 14 suspected or confirmed norovirus outbreaks among long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, childcare centers, and schools.
This is a little concerning as the Norovirus peak season is usually from December to March. This virus activity has been quite a bit higher for this time of year than is normal and as always, it’s most dangerous to our very old, and very young populations. As we continue to try to return to normal, it’s important we don’t get lackadaisical.
Bellevue Spring Cleanup
The date for the Bellevue spring cleanup has been set and it’s exactly two weeks from today. From 7 am to 3 pm on May 8, residents of Bellevue will be able to drop off a wide variety of different items to either of two locations.
You can drop off:
At either 29th and Hancock or 8252 Cedar Island Road.
The following items WILL NOT be accepted at the shops:
You can go to the city’s website here for more information.