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The 2020 Legislative session is over and the interim has officially begun. I fully expect to be back in January to serve alongside a new class of State Senators and I want to wish everyone who saw their terms come to an end this week well and good luck in whatever they choose to do moving forward.
This week saw quite a bit of movement on several bills I introduced and supported. LB751 was officially signed by the governor and will become law. That bill will add mental health to the list of illnesses recognized when a collaborative plan is created between the school district and parents to help a child improve their school absences. I think this is vitally important to get passed this year, as the situation for school-aged children, whether they are attending in person, or remote learning is going to be different and more stressful than any other school year. This will give parents, students, and school administrators another tool in their toolbox to help deal with a difficult time.
Another of my bills,LB755 passed on final reading and is now heading towards the governor’s desk. This was originally a bill that would allow those who cannot get to a barbershop or hair salon to be able to have a barber come to them. While it still contains that provision, I encouraged the Health and Human Services Committee to add important bills from their committee to my bill as a way to show bi-partisan support for all involved. The bill will accomplish many positive things for Nebraskans.
The bill removes many restrictions that are currently placed on Physician Assistants and it will make it easier for them to help their patients while still obviously adhering to rules, regulations, and laws of the medical profession and Nebraska. It will also allow PAs to work with podiatrists for the first time.
LB755, as amended, will also add spinal muscular atrophy to the list of diseases that will be screened for in infants, and it will make sure that pharmacists include specific information regarding patients with Parkinson’s Disease in their semi-annual report with the Department of Health and Human Services.
The bill also allows architecture candidates to begin taking their examination in conjunction with completing their education and experience requirements. It will allow engineers to take one of their two examinations prior to completing their four years of post-accredited degree experience and includes other beneficial changes to how architects are handled in this state.
Finally, I added amended one of my bills to this package. That bill, LB752 started out as the Veterans’ Bill of Rights but after many discussions with stakeholders, including the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs we paired it down. This meant we were able to accomplish the “Ask the Question” part of the BOR. It allows for service providers in various state agencies to potentially have a profound impact on service members, veterans, and their families by connecting them to services and care through asking the simple question: “Have you or a family member ever served in the military?” The question should be included in intake forms and interviews where appropriate, including, but not limited to, hospitals, mental health care centers, senior centers, employment offices, courts, and schools and in encounters with law enforcement. This simple bill was one of the yearly requests made from the DoD Military Community and Family Policy Office. District 3 works closely with this organization to help keep Nebraska a great place to live for our military families and our veterans.
In its final week of the year, the legislature also passed a very important piece of legislation that I believe will go a long way towards helping Nebraskans in a variety of ways. LB1107 was introduced as a Speaker’s Major Proposal that touched on various economic factors. That included property tax relief for those in rural and urban parts of this state.
This is the kind of bipartisan legislation that the Unicameral is known for being able to produce. It is not a perfect statute but it will allow for some relief for property taxes while also helping the state to try and climb out of the economic hardships imposed on it by the coronavirus pandemic. There are also several incentives for the business community. The hope is that this will further entice companies to come to Nebraska and set up shop, further boosting an economy I think could turn around quickly thanks to this bill.
The Governor spoke about the bill during his Sine Die address and pointed out 1107 will be teamed with the existing $275 million a year tax credit program for a total of $650 million in state funds that will help defray the cost of property taxes in the state. That’s a four-fold increase in property tax relief since he took office.
I was also happy to see several bills I co-sponsored pass this session. This week, that included Senator Cavanaugh’s LB1060. This bill expands the definition of race for the purposes of employment discrimination to include traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and styles (braids, locks, etc). It was sent to the governor on Tuesday.
I also co-sponsored LB534, which requires public post-secondary educational institutions to perform a biannual sexual assault climate survey to its students. It also requires them to develop a program for training certain staff relating to procedures dealing with sexual assault or sexual misconduct.
LB607 was another piece of legislation I was proud to cosponsor. This provides some tweaks and creates a new definition of “nail technology” which includes Natural Nail care, as well as defines “pedicuring,” and allows for licensure of nail technology apprentice salons. It also Creates a license for Temporary Body Art Facility and Body Art Guest Artist licenses and updates the definition for cosmetic tattooing.
Speaking of bills that will help Nebraska during what is going to have to be a kind of economic rebuild, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, I also co-sponsored a bill that allows for cities, villages, and municipalities to invest in land banks. Previously, only municipalities in Douglas or Sarpy County were authorized to create a land bank but the rest of the state may do so as well now, as long as the governor signs LB424 into law.
I was also proud to help get LB153 passed as a co-sponsor this week. This bill will take quite a bit of a tax burden off our state’s veterans and could serve to bring more veterans to settle here after they’ve finished their tours. The bill repeals the current, one-time election for retired military to exempt a portion of their military retirement benefit income from tax. It replaces it with a 50% exemption for military retirement benefit income, to the extent it was included in federal adjusted gross income.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is taking on a special project to honor and celebrate veterans and military service members by creating a Veterans’ Tribute on Memorial Mall, near the Pershing Military and Naval Science Building. The design will feature glass panels, shown below, depicting moments in a veteran or service member’s life, including training, deployment, family life, and humanitarian missions. When this is complete, it should serve as one of the more moving and striking memorials for this purpose in the country.
The project has hit an important juncture, where the design team is able to start collecting stories from veterans. These stories and quotes will be put on the glass sculptures. If you have a story you’d like to tell, you can visit the memorial’s official website and submit it electronically, or find out how to mail the story in.
Stand Up And Be Counted
The United States government has been counting for the census over the last few months and we’re getting closer to a very important date. The government will start sending census takers door to door in order to get information from homes that haven’t yet submitted their information.
If you received a census form and haven’t sent it back in yet, make sure to do so soon! You can also fill out the information online at the official census bureau website. It will only take a few minutes to do this and it’s vitally important to our country. In order to make sure you and you’re community are being accurately represented, everyone needs to do their part and fill it out. The Census Bureau announced they are going to officially stop counting September 30, so please make sure you are getting this done as soon as possible.