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Good morning, Nebraska!
This week was our first round of debate on the budget. As you may know, passing a budget, and making sure that the budget is balanced, is the only constitutionally required duty of the legislature. For that reason, it takes center stage once the Appropriations Committee votes out the bills that comprise the different sections of the budget, out onto the floor for debate in front of the entire body. This year, the budget is made up of seven separate bills.
LB379 appropriated money for the ongoing Capitol construction projects. The bill deals with projects that either cost more or cost less than the original dollars that were projected when the construction was approved. Additionally, LB365 was folded into this bill as a committee amendment. That bill appropriates and funds the new Nebraska Gaming Commission. The bill did not create a new program, but instead funds a program that was actually first approved by a ballot measure last November by Nebraska voters.
LB380 is a heavy lift. The bill allocates money for the various agencies that make up the state government. Among the very important tasks this bill takes on is to appropriate funds for the Nebraska Department of Education for Early Childhood Education programs, carry out a cost analysis for improvement and structural changes at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, and appropriate funds to the Department of Economic Development for their Business Innovation grants act.
LB381 is the bill that appropriates money for State Senators’ yearly salaries. To be clear, our salaries are already set at $12,000 a year (which comes out to about $5.27 an hour) in the Nebraska Constitution. This bill simply appropriates that money in the Biennial Budget.
LB382 is similar to LB381 however instead of funding the salaries of State Senators, it appropriates the money to pay the salaries of the state’s constitutional officers. In other words, this bill pays people like the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, the attorney general, the tax commissioner, and a few others.
LB383 is similar to LB379, though this deals with new construction projects that were approved more recently. While LB379 also deals with projects that cost more or less than they were expected to, this bill deals with construction projects that were known by the body would be paid over a period of time.
LB384 is a bill that’s sole purpose is to transfer money from one fund to another. One example is transferring funds from the Legislature’s General Fund to the Hall of Fame Trust Fund. There are also other instances in the bill where money is transferred from one fund, back into the general fund.
LB385 deals with money transfers that have to do with the Legislature’s Cash Reserve Fund. Most notably, this is also the bill that provides for a $50 million fund transfer to the United States Space Command Headquarters Assistance Fund. I’ve laid out many times why it is incredibly important for Offutt to be named the new home of Space Command. The good thing about the way we’ve written this bill is that if that doesn’t end up being the final landing spot for the headquarters, then the money will not be spent.
Finally, LB386 sets the salaries for the justices on the Nebraska Supreme Court.
For a full list and additional information about all the bills I’ve introduced and cosponsored, you can click the link here.
Be Aware Of Vaccination Scams
If you’ve recently gotten your COVID-19 vaccination and then got an e-mail or text asking you to take a survey afterward, beware, it could be a scam.
The Omaha branch of the FBI is reporting scammers that are posing as the big drug companies, and sending out surveys to people who have had their vaccinations asking for follow-up information.
The FBI went on to say that the easiest way to tell if something might be up, is if you hover over the sender’s name, even if it says Modern or Pfizer, the email address might pop up with something like Hotmail or Gmail. Those companies are not sending emails using those kinds of addresses.
The FBI has said it’s seen an increase in similar survey scams. It’s important to note that Drug companies will never send out a survey after you’ve gotten your vaccination.
Further, if you do realize you’ve gotten a scam email, you should report it. The FBI says you should fill out the information at their internet crime complaint center.
The Sarpy County Veterans Service Office, as well as several other county offices have a new home. On April 5, the veterans’ office moved into the County’s new 1102 Building, located at 1102 E. 1st Street in Papillion.
The Treasurer, Assessor, and Vehicle Inspection services will also move into the 1102 Building on April 12.
The 1102 Building is southwest of 72nd Street and Cornhusker Road. The county purchased the building to accommodate the construction of the new Sarpy County Correctional Center on the Sarpy County Courthouse Campus. Make a note so you aren’t going to the wrong place when you need to talk to someone at veterans’ services or any of the other county offices.
Nebraska Promise Still Alive And Well
Last year, the University of Nebraska took the rather impressive step of recognizing the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic on students and families of students who wanted to attend college. In response to the hardships people in the state were seeing, the University launched the Nebraska Promise program. That program is still going strong and will be available for those who want to attend UNL this fall.
The program offers totally free tuition with a couple of qualifications. Tuition is covered for students who meet academic qualifications and have a family income of $60,000 or less (Adjusted Gross Income/AGI) or are Pell Grant-eligible.
This program is also only available for Nebraska residents, but it is not limited to recent high school graduates. Transfers, with a 2.5 GPA can qualify as well. I’d encourage you to check out the program at this link and see if it might be for you, or someone close to you.
COVID-19 Vaccines Update
The Sarpy/Cass County Health Department recently issued an update on the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
The department is now officially vaccinating anyone who is 16 or older. You can click on this link in order to see what clinics the health department is offering and try and register for an appointment.
While the department’s clinics are still somewhat limited and filling up fast, area pharmacies are also offering the ability to sign up for vaccination appointments. Baker’s, Hyvee, and Walmart pharmacies are all now offering the ability to try and get vaccinated for anyone 16 and over.
You can look for area Hy-vee, Walmart and Baker’s vaccination appointments using their websites.
I want to take a minute to say that I have been able to get vaccinated and I would encourage everyone who can, to do so as well. Vaccination is a big step towards beating this pandemic, but the more people who get it done, the closer we get to “herd immunity” and squashing the coronavirus for good.
I’m also relieved that the vaccination program is well ahead of the schedule President Biden laid out in January. There was a time when 16 and up individuals weren’t expected to get vaccinated until the end of next month. All of this makes it that much more likely that life can truly get back to normal soon, as long as everyone is still careful until the disease is indeed beat down.
Business and Labor-Vice Chair
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs