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We have just a few more weeks in the legislative session and we are busy. We’ve had multiple nights where we’ve been in debate from 9 in the morning until 10 at night. The state’s business must be done though and while I don’t agree with everything that has passed, everyone is working hard in their own way to make sure they are representing their constituents. When you look at the partisan gridlock that is going on in Washington, we clearly don’t have those kinds of problems going on here. Now we just need to get on the same page on many of they things we should be supporting.
It was an active week for all and an active week for my bills, including my priority bill, LB 685, which passed Final Reading. Considering the bill has never received “no” vote at any stage, it appears it’s headed for passage once the Governor signs it. LB685 provides a funding priority for special-needs military dependents under the Developmental Disabilities Services Act. This would specifically add dependents of active duty military members who are severely developmentally disabled to the list of treatment priorities kept by the DHHS. In essence, this would allow prioritized treatment for those who need it most but are not covered by Tricare. We were very careful to make sure this isn’t coming at the detriment of others who also need services.
One of my other bills, LB735 , is part of the Urban Affair’s Committee priority bill, LB873. My part of the bill would provide for interlocal agreements regarding nuisances. Currently, municipalities have the authority to regulate and enforce nuisances within their borders. This would build on this legislative authority by allowing municipalities to enter interlocal agreements with a county to provide for cooperative action to remove or prevent nuisances. Interlocal agreements have always been a great way to save manpower and funds here in Sarpy County. We had a good debate on LB873 and it appears that my little section of that bill is something that is acceptable to the body as a whole. Because LB873 has so many moving parts, there will be another day of debate next week before it moves onto the next round.
Another of my bills, the Physical Therapists Compact bill, was attached to LB731 – which is one of the Health and Human Services Committee’s priority bills. My part of that bill was LB 681. This is very similar to my nursing compact from a year ago. It allows physical therapists from compact states to come into Nebraska and practice here without applying for an entirely new license. Should it pass, this will be another tool for helping military spouses who are therapists and want to get to work as soon possible. The bill passed the first round of debate and is now headed for Select File.
LB692 was a bill I brought forward that requires the Department of Corrections to start doing a regular staffing analysis. LB 692 was amended into a broader Judiciary Committee package folded into LB841. The bills requires the Department to complete a comprehensive analysis of its system-wide staffing needs and provide a report of such analysis to the Legislature by September 15, 2020, and asks for a revised analysis at least every 6 years thereafter. It advanced to Select File on Thursday morning. In order to identify future budget items, such as staffing, it is important that the department “measure what they treasure,” and have a keen understanding of current and future employee needs. Ultimately, this will help with the safety and security of both staff and inmates as well as set a firm foundation of information for future budgets.
Another bill that is very important to me is LB 682. This bill was placed on our “consent calendar” because it is so common sense and non-controversial. It has gone through the first round of debate and I fully expect it to eventually become law. LB682 provides consumer protection and civil relief for service members and provides a duty for active duty military and the National Guard: This bill would make it so that an active duty member of the military or National Guard that receives order to move out of Nebraska may do so without having to worry about paying early termination fees on contracts for services like cable, phone or gym memberships. It’s only fair that if a service member has no choice in their deployment, he or she should not be held accountable for the decisions of their superiors.
Off the legislature floor, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Thursday, March 29th is Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day. This country wouldn’t be the same without them and I applaud their service and their sacrifice. I would also like to personally say, “welcome home.”
As President Nixon once said, “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now.”
My first session in the Nebraska Legislature was both productive and educational. As promised, I hit the ground running with a group of bills that were especially important to the residents I serve in District 3. I’ve listened to your concerns and questions.
I took that information, pushed up my sleeves and got to work. Four of my bills are now law and many others will hopefully be debated on the floor next session. I am thrilled to be your Senator and will continue to work hard on your behalf.
LB 80 will make it easier for county attorneys’ and public defenders’ offices to recruit and retain law students and law clerks in order to eventually promote these employees to full-time lawyers within the office. This is a relatively simple law that has removed red tape and takes away an unnecessary hurdle. Governor Ricketts challenged Legislature in his State of the State address to work toward eliminating hurdles to employment by removing unnecessary red tape that prevents our residents from gaining employment here in Nebraska. I accepted that challenge and worked toward that goal.
LB 88 was introduced as a bill that allowed military souses the ability to obtain temporary licensure in Nebraska in over 30 professions under the Uniform Credential Act. As a body, we were able to make this an even more powerful bill that included additional provisions.
Additional language authorized Nebraska to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact; updated provisions for licensure and practice requirements within the current Nurse Practitioner Practice Act; allows licensed practical nurses to provide intravenous therapy and eliminates the Licensed Practical Nurse-Certified Practice Act; and amends portions of the state’s Nurse Practice Act to allow Nebraska to join the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact that will take effect when 26 states have joined or on December 31, 2018.
Additionally, it removed a requirement that nurses educated in a foreign country pass a specific examination or hold a certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. Now, an applicant is required to pass a board-approved examination and provide a satisfactory evaluation from a board-approved foreign credentials evaluation service. LB 88 also removes a requirement that a licensed audiologist obtain a second, specialist license in order to sell hearing aids.
For so many of our military spouses the routine is to move, certify and repeat. This has created career obstacles for many of the military spouses relocating to Nebraska. This is an especially concerning topic for many of our District 3 families.
When PCS orders arrive, spouses must uproot their careers and attempt to find jobs in their new state. If a spouse chooses to stay in their current position, it can mean being separated from their family.
Offutt Air Force Base has a powerful economic impact on eastern Nebraska. We must work hard to honor our military and their families by creating policy that not only embraces their needs, but also helps our state when there is another round of BRAC-Base Realignment and Closures.
Over 15,689 base jobs and another 7,796 local jobs depend on the Legislature to make smart policy that supports our goal to prevent Offutt from a potential base closure.
LB 85 is a bill that prohibits any person that has outstanding civil penalties issued by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission from filing for election to public office.
If a candidate disputes that they have outstanding civil penalties and has an appeal pending, they will still be allowed to file for office if they file a surety bond in favor of the state while the appeal is pending.
When we continue to address issues, such as nonpayment of NADC fines, we foster an ethical, moral culture that also expresses certain behaviors have consequences. This bill provides statute
LB 86 eliminates the requirement relating to bids for county bridge contracts. No change was requested in reference to changing any transparency for the public on this issue.
This bill allows the bids to be opened outside of a board meeting and does not force the contractors or other interested parties to sit through other discussions.
The issue is about expediency and not making contractors or the public sit through discussion of issues not pertaining to the bids. The county board will still deal with the bids but they simply will not need to be present at the opening of these bids.
The awards are always going to be made at an open public county board meeting and the bids will be readily accessible and viewable by the public.
This is a simple bill that helps to uncomplicated the process and not waste time that can be spent on more important agenda issues that serve the public.
We have worked all summer on a vast array of topics and crafted multiple bills that we hope to bring forward in January.
One of our more important efforts is our military families initiative. Working closely with the Department of Defense, our office continues to strive to remove hurdles for our military families when it comes to employment and to offer needed policy that allows better access to services here in Nebraska.
This initiative includes a proposed Medicaid Waiver for military families that have complex medical conditions not covered by TRICARE. It will help to protect the families from having to wait longer than may be necessary and provide service to their children with disabilities.
The military initiative also includes state enhancement to the service member’s civil relief act (SRA). Although service members are protected as consumers through the federal SCRA; the federal law does not protect service members concerning obligations that occur while on active duty. This bill will provide additional consumer protections that can mirror and expand the federal SCRA.
Also included are three interstate compact bills that include Physical Therapists, Psychologists and APRNs. Interstate compacts make it easier to get licensed in multiple states and empower those interested to reach more patients in rural and underserved communities. It also removes additional hurdles for potential employment for military spouses.
Yet another aspect of our Military Families initiative is our Realtor’s Licensing Bill. This bill allows for an exemption for military spouses from licensing fees if transferred to Nebraska and already holding a license from another state.
We are also working with the Nebraska State Court Administrator’s office to potentially waive the fee for military spouses who are practicing attorneys that transfer to Nebraska with their spouse.
We hope to craft several additional bills this session as part of our initiative, but feel we are off to a great start.
We have three bills that pertain to Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a new concept to many people, but one that has become a popular peer-to-peer exchange platform. Our office enthusiastically supports many of the wonderful aspects of blockchain technology as it has created the backbone of a new type of Internet. Originally created for the digital currency, Bitcoin, there is a long list of potential uses for this tech.
However, with new technology, there are often stumbling blocks that need to be addressed to protect the public. It is important to have state statute updated to keep up with any changes that may affect Nebraska residents.
We have several bills that will have hearings this week. LB 81 (Handgun Permit Fees Bill) will be heard in the Judiciary Committee on February 2nd, LB 84 (DWI Bill) will be heard in the Judiciary Committee on February 3rd and LB 365 (Public Records Bill) will be heard on February 2nd. We encourage you to review these bills and if you would like to send letters to support or oppose the topic or would like to testify in person, please contact our office immediately so we can make sure your voice is heard at the hearing(s).
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