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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.
For a full list and additional information about all the bills I’ve introduced and cosponsored, you can click the link here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.