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This has been yet another busy week in the legislature. The mornings had us dealing with important issues on the legislature floor and in the afternoon, my schedule was chock full of my bill hearings. This was a personal high for me, as I had five different bill hearings this week. On Monday I had my hearing on LB683, this bill provides a license fee exemption for service members and their spouses under the Nebraska Real Estate License Act: Like the compacts, this would allow a service member or their spouse, who are licensed realtors in another state, be able to be licensed in Nebraska and waive the licensing fee, expediting the process and helping to eliminate the burden of licensure.
This is just one of the bills I’ve brought forward in support of our military families when they are stationed in Nebraska. These families are a valuable part of our community and we need to remember that they also serve and often have little to say as to where they are assigned. We want them to feel welcome here and maybe even retire in our community when their military service is over.
On Wednesday, we presented LB689 in front of the Judiciary committee. This is a bill that codifies language in the state statutes that needs to be changed. When Nebraska changed its sex offender laws years ago, it accidentally made a loophole regarding juvenile sex offenders who were convicted of a minor crime outside the state. After moving into the state, these juveniles were mistakenly placed on the adult sex offender registry while juveniles convicted inside Nebraska were not put on the registry. This is not treating people equally under the law. A Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in August of 2017 said that Nebraska could no longer continue this discrepancy. My bill simply makes sure that the state is not violating the court. We are not giving any more rights to these juveniles than they are entitled to and we are not changing the adult sex offender laws, nor would I ever intend to.
On Thursday, I had two different bill hearings in two different committees. In front of the HHS Committee was LB685, which is the military Medicaid waiver bill. 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.
In front of the Judiciary Committee, I heard LB688, which is my school sunblock bill. This would allow for kids to bring sunscreen to school and allow teachers or school workers to help apply that sunscreen if needed, as long as there is a permission note from the parents, should the child be a person with a disability or need assistance. Further, it would protect the teachers or school employees from liability, unless there is criminal intent. This bill is more about making sure there is a standard and uniform policy across all school districts in the state than anything else. Melanoma is on the rise in Nebraska and we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect our children.
Finally, on Friday, we had the Beginning Veteran Farmer Tax Credit bill. LB684 would create an incentive for property owners to rent land or assets to beginning veteran farmers. The proposal would make asset owners eligible for an additional one percent tax credit for land or assets leased to a qualified beginning veteran farmer. This bill is especially important as we have a large percent of Veterans with PTSD in our rural communities. Research has shown that farming and agricultural-related opportunities have proven to be beneficial environments for those suffering from this sometimes crippling disability.
I believe that all of this week’s hearings went well and we can help Nebraska in a variety of ways should these bills pass.
Next week won’t be as busy for my personal bills, although Wednesday does bring the hearing for the Physical Therapists Compact bill. LB681 is going to be heard in front of the HHS committee on Wednesday, January 31. This is very similar to my nursing compact, LB88, from a year ago. It allows for 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 a beneficial tool for helping military spouses who are therapists get to work as soon possible, and others in this field who would like to expand their ability to work in our state or others participating in the compact.
Friday was the 16th day of the Legislative session. That means there are just 44 days left! This short session is underway and now moving rather quickly.
The third week of this short legislative session was a busy one for my office and the hard work has just begun. We had hearings on two of my bills this past week and I think both went well. The first bill was discussed in front of the Judiciary Committee and had to do with requiring the Nebraska Department of Corrections to do a comprehensive staffing analysis with an additional focus on mental health services staff.
LB692 follows through on recommendations made by the Legislature’s LR127 committee in their comprehensive report on the NDCS. I should point out that the Department has been asked to do a comprehensive staffing analysis several times but so far they have never completed it. Now the department believes it could cost up to $150,000 because they would need to hire an outside consultant. I don’t believe this kind of thing needs to be done by an outside entity, I believe the department can and should do it themselves. Ongoing staffing analysis is one of the keys to any organization’s future success and it is standard that they are done in-house. They are done in house because who knows the workforce and their needs better than those who work in that environment every day? I’ll continue to fight to get this bill out of the Judiciary committee. This is about the safety of everyone, from the guards and staff at correctional facilities to the inmates to the general public. This is a decades old issue that needs to be corrected with common sense policy.
On Thursday, my APRN compact bill, LB687 went in front of the HHS committee. This, too, is going to be a bit of a fight, mainly because the opponents of the bill have managed to sew a great deal of confusion surrounding the language. To be clear, LB687 would make it so that an APRN from one compact state could practice in another compact state quickly and easily. They would still have to follow the laws of the state in which they are treating patients. This is about mobility and not about expanding what an APRN is allowed to do, which opponents have claimed. I am confident that as we continue to work to show members of the legislature what’s at the heart of this bill, we will be able to move it forward. It’s important to get this, and my other two compact bills passed this year. Interstate Compacts such as this APRN compact and others make it easier for military spouses who transfer to our state to hit the ground running and find employment in a more efficient manner in their field of expertise.
Speaking of military spouses and their families, next week is going to be another busy week. In total, we will have five bills going in front of committees. This includes LB683, the Military Spouse Realtor’s License bill on Monday, my Military Medicaid Waiver bill (LB685) on Thursday and my Military Veteran Beginning Farmer Tax Credit bill (LB684) next Friday. I will also be discussing LB688 in front of the Judiciary committee. This bill allows children to bring sunblock to school and allows teachers or employees to help children put the sunblock on. Currently, most schools don’t allow kids to bring sunblock to school unless they have a note from their doctor. Considering the scourge that is skin cancer these days, this is a bill that is relatively simple but can make a big change and possibly save lives.
On top of all of this, we are still debating bills that were left over from the previous session on the legislature floor in the mornings. As state senators, we pack a ton of work into what is a relatively small window of time on these short (60 day) sessions.
Friday was the 11th day of this Legislative session. That means there are only 49 left to go. If you have any questions about my bills, or any legislation in front of the legislature, don’t hesitate to email or call my office.
Did you know that there is a long list of items available for free to the public relating to the Nebraska Legislature? Here is a list of only a few that you might find interesting. If you are receiving this email digitally, you should be able to link to the information from your newsletter.
For hard copies of these documents, please call my office at 402-471-2627 and we will be happy to place one in the mail to your home address.
We are in our second week of the 105th Legislative session and have hit the ground running. We have started to address the bills that made it to General File in the last session to get them off our plates before we move on to new legislation presented over the first ten days. I have two more bills that were voted out of committee last year sitting in General File and waiting for debate on the floor. It’s possible we’ll get to debate at least one of them next week.
The beginning of the legislature is also when Governor Ricketts gives his State of the State address. This year he focused heavily on making sure that Nebraska is open and welcoming to new business ventures. I believe I have brought several bills this year that underline exactly what he was talking about. I have three virtual currency bills that are aimed at making sure we are on the cutting edge when it comes to intersecting the technological and business worlds.
The Governor also talked about continuing the state’s push for removing red tape and allowing for people who want to work to get to work faster. I brought several of these types of bills last year and I’ve brought more this year as well. The Governor and I are in full agreement that if someone is truly qualified to work in their field of choice, the state shouldn’t be standing in the way.
Listed below are the new bills I have introduced in 2018 and links to the text. Please be sure to call my office at 402-471-2627 and speak with me or Oliver should you have any questions about the legislation:
LB 681-Adopt the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact: 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 a good tool for helping military spouses who are therapists who want to get to work as soon possible.
LB 682-Provide consumer protection and civil relief for service members and provide 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.
LB 683-Provide a license fee exemption for service members and their spouses under the Nebraska Real Estate License Act: Like the compacts, this would allow a service member or their spouse, who are licensed realtors in another state, to be able to be licensed in Nebraska right away without paying the licensing fee. We already have our hearing date for this bill, and it will be on January 22nd.
LB 684-Change the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act: This would create
an incentive for property owners to rent land or assets to beginning veteran farmers. The
proposal would make asset owners eligible for a one percent tax credit for land or assets leased
to a qualified beginning veteran farmer.
LB 685-Provide 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.
LB 686-Adopt the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact. This is much like my nurses compact in LB88 last year, though it applies to psychologists. This bill will also go the extra mile in moving Nebraska forward when it comes to telemedicine.
LB 687-Adopt the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact. Also like LB88, but with a different group of nurse licenses.
LB 688-Provide for the possession, use, and application of sunscreen for children and students and provide immunity. This would allow for kids to bring sunscreen to school and would allow teachers or school workers to help apply that sunscreen if needed, as long as there is a note from the parents and protect them from liability unless there is criminal intent.
LB 689-This is a bill that fixes some language in state statute that the courts have been having to work around. It would make it so that juveniles who are convicted for sexual offenses outside the state that then move into Nebraska are treated the same as those who are convicted inside the state. This is simply a fairness of law situation.
LB 690-Adopt the Counterfeit Airbag Prevention Act is a bill that will make it a felony for repair shops to knowingly install counterfeit airbags into cars. This is a bigger problem than people realize around the country and we need to make sure the practice is stopped cold in Nebraska so we don’t have the sad case of having to name a future bill after a loved one who has been killed as a result of this practice.
LB 691-Adopt the Nebraska Virtual Currency Money Laundering Act and define and redefine terms under the Nebraska Money Transmitters Act. Virtual currency and the technology that comes along with it is the wave of the present and the future. We need to make sure we have both our hands around it. This is one of three blockchain technology bills I’m bringing forward. This one lays out what happens when someone is committing illegal acts such as human trafficking and money laundering with virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
LB 692-Provide for a staffing analysis of the Department of Correctional Services. This would require the department to carry out a workforce analysis on the entire organization with a focus on mental health staffing services by the end of this year, and then every two years after.
LB 693-Regulate and create criminal offenses regarding the use of unmanned aircraft systems. This is the drone bill you might have read about in numerous articles over the past couple of months. We’re looking to make sure that people are not using drones for criminal activity. This is a public safety bill and I would encourage you to read the document in its entirety. It’s another one that is technologically advanced and complicated, though those who have read it fully have come away understanding the need for it.
LB 694-Prohibit cities and villages and counties from taxing or regulating distributed ledger technology. This is my second of three blockchain technology bills and makes sure that Nebraska will be an attractive landing spot for entrepreneurs. We need to be sure that these business people are not running into a maze of different regulations put in place by cities and counties. Blockchain is going to revolutionize how we do business because they are precise, save money, save time, are autonomous, transparent, versatile and are very safe since they are encrypted on a shared ledger.
LB 695-Authorize and define smart contracts and authorize the use of distributed ledger technology as prescribed. The third and final blockchain technology bill deals with smart contracts. Smart contracts use code and math to decide if contract conditions are met. The funds are then transferred automatically. With the dawn of self-driving delivery vehicles, governments looking to streamline efficiency and save costs, banks looking for safer ways to do business and industries like healthcare and insurance, smart contracts are a fast moving reality in both business and government.
LB 735-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.
Did you know that there is a long list of items available for free to the public relating to the Nebraska Legislature? Here is a list of only a few that you might find interesting. If you are receiving this email digitally, you should be able to link to the information from your newsletter.
For hard copies of these documents, please call my office at 402-471-2627 and we will be happy to place one in the mail to your home address.
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.
While we are still in recess, it comes as no surprise that I’ve been almost as busy as when the legislature is in session. I’ve never been someone who wants to wait until the last minute, so in between conferences where I’ve learned a great deal about what other states are doing, I’ve been working on legislation that I plan to bring forward in the next session. July was an especially busy month and August looks like the action isn’t going to be slowing down.
Conference and more conferences
I started the month of July by attending the National Foundation for Women Legislators conference. As the name lays out, this is a conference that specifically highlights our women legislators from all over the country. This was a fantastic way to meet with peers who are working hard to serve the public and their constituents.
Later in the month, I attended my first CSG conference in neighboring Des Moines, Iowa. There were some great panels and exchanging of ideas with public officials from all over the United States and even Canada! I presented an early draft of my cryptocurrency bill as part of a round table discussion that I facilitated at the CSG event and received valuable feedback from participants. This also helped bring the issue of virtual currency and its use in various criminal enterprises to the forefront at the conference.
While we have other pieces of legislation in the works, bills that we’ve made significant progress on for next year deal with virtual currency, unmanned drones, and several military families bills. The virtual currency bill will be setting up safeguards when it comes people who want to use it in illegal acts such as human trafficking. While the bill is largely aimed at the illegal acts virtual currency can be used for, we also want to make sure we have this bill in place, to show blockchain and virtual currency companies that we understand the technology and welcome firms who want to come to Nebraska and utilize cryptocurrency for legitimate business ventures.
The unmanned drone bill will address issues that pertain to using drones to commit crimes. As this technology becomes more popular in the state of Nebraska, it’s important to note who can use it and how, as well as where. We want to make sure drones are being used safely and that no one is intentionally or inadvertently having their privacy infringed upon. The goal is not to over-regulate, but to provide statute that addresses public safety issues and drones such as voyeuism, flying over prison yards and harassing livestock or wild life.
Our military families bills will continue to remove hurdles for employment, much like my previous bill LB 88, as well as address other issues that are important to the well-being of service members and their families. I am working closely with USA 4 Military Families, which is an initiative of the Department of Defense State Liaison’s Office.
Making new friends
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend an evening networking and having interesting discussions with several public officials. A dinner party was thrown at Dr. Linda Ford’s house in order to welcome United Kingdom member of Parliament Suella Fernandes to the state. Fernandes is visiting Nebraska as part of the British American Parliamentary Group (BAPG).
Along with the MP, I had a great conversation with Offutt’s new 55th wing commander Colonel Michael H. Manion and his wife Shannon. I also discussed issues important to Nebraska with United States congressman Jeff Fortenberry. Fruitful discussions were had and I hope to keep in contact with all the attendees in order to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help the people of District 3 and Nebraska.
I was also honored to be invited to a ribbon cutting at a Bellevue area Hy-Vee. The event was used to unveil a new upscale restaurant and bar that is right inside the grocery store. Hy-Vee is really becoming a one-stop place to shop and spend the day. I was impressed with how nice it looked and how excited those who work there were to show it off to the public. This was a real labor of love.
It was a treat to meet with a panel of Japanese officials who were visiting the Omaha-metro area and Offutt AFB to learn more about how the community interactions with the military in the US is generally a positive experience. It appears there are some tensions between civilians and troops at one particular military base in Japan and they are interested in problem-solving the issue through learning from other communities. These men were all very polite and really wanted to learn the minute details of how we coexist with our military neighbors. It was an interesting exchange of ideas.
People helping people
I also recently met and talked with the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska. This is a large group of non-profits who are looking to make sure this state is on firm footing when it comes to legislation that pertains to the various member organizations. These groups tend to be the ones who pick up the slack when no one else can and they simply aren’t recognized enough for their hard work on a daily basis.
I also attended and spoke at the Nebraska Victim Assistance Academy (NEVAA) graduation ceremony. This is a group of people who go through an intensive, week long training session at Creighton University in order to learn how to be better advocates for the victims who come to them for help. These people come from all over the state in order to go through this course and it does a great service for victims and survivors in Nebraska.
Finally, I closed out the month of July by hosting my “Can Nebraska go Green?” symposium. We had six experts come speak to a large audience about the kinds of things that need to happen in order to truly become an environmentally healthy state. I have thoroughly enjoyed both of the symposiums we’ve hosted at Bellevue University this year and believe they have opened some eyes, educated area residents on important issues and helped point us in the right direction for future legislation and other action.
Did you know that the following publications are available at no charge and can be ordered via the Unicameral Information Office?
Inside Our Nation’s Only Unicameral: The Nebraska Legislature
22 X 28″ Color Poster: Featuring Contact Information & Photos of Each Senator
Unicam Kids: Illustrated book for gradeschoolers
Membership & Committees Cards: Reference card listing Senator contact information and membership of the Legislative Committees.
Public Hearing Testimony: A brochure about the committee hearing process
Lines of Government: A booklet depicting boundaries for Nebraska’s Legislative, Supreme Court & Congressional Districts, as well as districts for other lines of Nebraska Government.
Unicameral Update: Online news source produced by the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office. Weekly print or email subscriptions available.
The session has officially come to an end but that doesn’t mean my work is done. My staff and I will be spending the interim working on and researching legislation for the 2018 session. We also plan to be out and about in the district finding out what we can do to help those who need it most. As always don’t hesitate to contact myself or my office by calling 402-471-2627 or through email at email@example.com with your comments, questions, and concerns. Because the session is over, the need for weekly updates isn’t nearly as prevalent. Over the interim, I’m anticipating only needing to put out the newsletter on a monthly basis.
Sine Die Festivities
As part of the events marking the end of the legislative session Governor Ricketts came and spoke to the Senators highlighting our progress as a body. In particular, he talked about bills he supported that were presented this year that worked to remove red tape from a variety professions. Among the group, he talked about was my LB88 which will help military spouses be able to do the jobs they love faster after they transfer here. They will now be able to get a temporary license while they wait for their permanent license to be approved after moving to the state of Nebraska.
After Governor Ricketts spoke, Speaker Scheer gave a nice speech recognizing the work we have done as a body. He also took the time to recognize all the people who work behind the scenes in order to make the legislature run smoothly, such as the Clerk’s office, the bill drafter’s office, and the transcriber’s office. The transcribers work to make sure all of our hearings and debates on the floor are recorded and then a transcript is created for permanent record.
Business is done for the year
With the legislature officially adjourned until next January, the final tallies are out as far as what we, as a body accomplished. In total, 170 bills were passed by the Legislature this year. While I didn’t agree with, or support every piece of legislation that became law this year, it’s clear that when it came time to buckle down and do the business of the people, we did so as a unified body. There are still 143 bills sitting on General File and nine on Select File and those are just some of the subjects we’ll be taking up when we’re back in session in 2018.
One thing we are going to be working on over the interim is a resolution I brought forward in January. LR4 is a request for an interim study to explore if the development of a more comprehensive water quality study is needed. The catch is that unlike bills that are brought during the session, Interim Resolutions are not guaranteed to get a hearing. At this point, we’ll have to see if the Natural Resources Committee, the committee this LR was assigned to, believes this is a topic that deserves a hearing. The hearing, should it be set, can be scheduled at any point between now and January, so for now, we wait.
The session is almost at an end. We have just one more day before we officially adjourn Sine Die which means the legislature will be out of session until next January. That doesn’t mean my work is done though. My staff and I will be spending the interim working on and researching legislation for the 2018 session. We also plan to be out and about in the district finding out what we can do to help those who need it most. As always don’t hesitate to contact myself or my office by calling 402-471-2627 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments, questions, and complaints.
Bridge Bill Signed
The final bill of mine this session to be passed has officially become law. LB86 went through final reading last week and was then signed by the governor. LB86 eliminates the requirement for
county clerks to open all bids for the letting of contracts that pertain to highways and bridge
repairs in the presence of the county board. This is largely a procedural issue but it will still benefit counties when they are going through the process saving them time and effort.
May is Mental Health Month
As you may know, May is Mental Health Month and here at the capital, there are a number of displays drawing attention to this important topic. NABHO (Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations) has put together an extensive display complete with statistics and graphs that show the impact of problems like deep depression and suicide can have on people and families.
For anyone who is in Lincoln in the next few days, I’d invite you to stop by the Capital and check out this display. You can also go to NABHO’s website and read up about what the organizations do and find out more information about what Mental Health Month is all about.
On Wednesday night I was honored to be recognized by the Nebraska Brewing Company. They were celebrating our fight to make LB632 a better bill that would still protect Craft Brewers and better regulate (and hopefully stomp out) Bottle Clubs. The original version of the bill would have put undue pressures on the craft brewing industry. I brought an amendment that removed that pressure while leaving the great parts of the bill intact. The Nebraska Brewing Company even honored me by naming a new beer after me! The Blood Orange Infinite Wit is quite tasty. Obviously, LB632 helps more than just Nebraska Brewing Company. It helps all the craft brewers in the state who are making a go in this important business. When we talk about local success stories and entrepreneurs, we can look directly at the burgeoning craft brewery industry in Nebraska.
Department of Roads New Project
The Department of Roads is beginning a new resurfacing project in the spring of 2018, and this project is set to be completed by the summer of 2019. The construction is starting near the Schramm State Park entrance at mile marker 5.37, and extending north to MM 11.50, the south junction of N-31 and U.S. Highway 6. While it’s never a ton of fun to try and get around these construction projects, this stretch of road badly needs some work and repairs. Thanks to the early announcement, we all have some time to get ready plan accordingly for next spring. To read the entire announcement and more about their plans for this part of the roadway, check out their release here.
National Foundation for Women Student Scholarships
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the NFWL/NRA Student Scholarship Program and I’d love to see Sarpy county area teens get involved and apply for this program. The contest is open to high school junior and senior girls (Class of 2017 and 2018) from around the country. Applicants are required to write a 400-600 word essay on one of these three topics, allowing applicants to address a wide array of pertinent constitutional issues regarding women. In addition to the essay, applicants must complete the application form and obtain two letters of recommendation, one of which must be from an elected woman in their state so if you know someone who would be interested in doing this, please don’t hesitate to contact my office by calling 402-471-2627 or emailing email@example.com
The contest’s six winners will each receive a $3,000 college scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip to NFWL’s Annual Conference November 14-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota where they will network with, be mentored by, and speak to hundreds of women lawmakers from across the United States.
The deadline for entering this contest is July 10 by 5pm EST and all application materials will be due via the online application portal which you can find here. On September 15, 2017, the winners will be announced and informed. I truly hope area students will take advantage of this opportunity.
Military Spouses Luncheon
Last Friday, Senator Crawford and I joined various public servants as they served and celebrated area military spouses. The event, held at Bellevue University, included lunch, entertainment, and words of thanks to the spouses from the public servants in attendance.
These military spouses have little say over where and when they move but 77 percent of them say they want to or feel they need to find work. This is the reason I brought LB88 this year. I wanted to make sure those military spouses who wanted to work, would be able to do so, without having to go through a lengthy waiting period while they got their professional licenses approved.
Now that LB88 is law, it should aid military spouses but also come to the aid of the surrounding community. A recent study by the Military times showed the underemployment and unemployment of Military spouses ends up costing the US economy anywhere between $710 and $1 billion a year. With Offutt in our backyard, we feel the effects more directly than other communities in the state.
Yet another busy week in the books as we move even closer to the end of the session. The legislature took care of some rather important legislation. First of all, my bill, LB86 was passed on final reading and is now headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature. LB86 is a simple yet important bill that eliminates the requirement for county clerks to open all bids on contracts that pertain to highways and bridge repairs in the presence of the county board.
Budget Bills are done
This week we also finished up the state’s budget. As you may or may not know, there are few things that Nebraska’s Legislature must do once it is in session, making sure the state has a balanced budget is something Nebraska’s constitution requires of us. During the debate, various senators were definitely at odds, but in the end, we worked together, found common ground and were able to get the job done. They say true compromise is achieved when no one leaves the table 100 percent happy. There are some items in this budget I’m not happy about but our current fiscal situation forced us to make decisions that might not have been made in healthier financial times.
On Wednesday, LB632 came to the floor for debate. While there are several aspects of the bill I fully support, such as the regulation of so-called “Bottle Clubs” there was one piece of the legislation that I felt put too big a burden on the state’s growing Craft Brewery business. The bill, as it was written with the committee amendment would have forced these small businesses to spend far too much money on transportation of their products. I introduced an amendment which fixed this issue on the floor and it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
The battle over this bill isn’t quite over. This was just the first round of debate, but I promise that I will always fight for the small business owners in this state and do whatever I can to make sure they have a firm footing as they help drive Nebraska’s economy forward.
The Buddy Check
One particular movement that might be a bit under the radar but shouldn’t be are the Buddy Check meetings. These get-togethers are set to be held on the 22nd of every month and are in remembrance of the 22 veterans who are reported to take their own lives each month. If you are a veteran I encourage you to attend one of these meetings if you aren’t already. If you know a veteran, please encourage them to attend. Many of these men and women are suffering in silence and they desperately need the help of their brothers and sisters to get through difficult times. They cannot and will not be ignored.
Honoring our fallen
In the middle of the first floor on the capital this week, there is a memorial honoring our fallen from another difficult profession. Our police and state patrol officers are willing to go out and do the dangerous job of protecting us on a daily basis. Sadly, from time to time, an officer loses their life in the line of duty. The memorial display set up in our capital shares information on officers from the State Patrol that have made the ultimate sacrifice serving the people of this state. If you happen to be heading to Lincoln in the near future, I’d encourage you to stop at the Capital and give a look at the photos and the memorial before it’s gone.
ALS In the Heartland
The other display that is currently in the middle of the building is one designed to shed light on the debilitating and deadly disease ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) This disease first renders the sufferers unable to walk, then barely move, then speak, leaving them a prisoner in their own bodies. The display was put together by the ALS in the Heartland in order to educate people more about this disease but also to help recruit volunteers in a wide range of areas.
They need volunteers who are willing to work directly with patients who need respite care, household chores, rides to appointments or just some good old companionship. They also need equipment room volunteers, volunteers for research and advocacy efforts, office assistance and people to show up at any of their events including their annual walk or golf tournament. If you have an interest in helping this non-profit organization do their important work, please contact Tammy Stalzer at 402-592-2374 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Final Stretch
Monday will mark the 82nd day of the legislative session. This year the Speaker has decided we will be adjourning for the session on the 86th day rather than the 90th. That means we have just five more legislative days before Sine Die. Those last days are sure to be plenty busy!
And the beat goes on…
We’ve come to the end of yet another busy week with some contentious but productive debate over the budget. We as a body continue to look closely at what is in these pieces of legislation and I am working hard to make sure the Legislature is doing what is in the best interest of the people of Nebraska. The bills specifically devoted to the budget are LB328, LB329, LB330, LB149, LB327, LB331 and LB332.
Welcome to the Czech Republic
The Nebraska Legislature welcomed the Consulate General of the Czech Republic Borek Lizec, Ph.D. and other representatives on the morning of May 4th. I was proud to be able to greet them in their native language with a dobry’ den and jak se mas (good day & how are you?) as I welcomed our esteemed visitors to our chamber not only as a Nebraska State Senator, but one with Czech heritage.
Going Green in Bellevue
On Sunday, I joined Senator Sue Crawford, LD 45, in helping to congratulate supporters of Green Bellevue and its mission to make Sarpy County a greener, healthier place to live. Green Bellevue held an amazing Earth Day Celebration at the Lied Activity Center in Bellevue. There were demonstrations, hands-on activities, and educational opportunities. As always, it was well-attended and well-received.
The Blue Books Are Ready
I am pleased to announce that the 2016-17 Nebraska Blue Book are now available.
This is the 53rd edition of the Nebraska Blue Book since it was first published in 1899. It is a biennial publication that details the structure of federal, state and local government in Nebraska and includes biographies of elected officials and judges. The book also includes constitutional, historical and statistical information about Nebraska, as well as information about the state’s geography, economy, people and culture.
Additional books may be purchased by contacting the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271. The price for each additional book is $15.00 plus any applicable taxes and postage.
A free, downloadable version of the Blue Book will be available at: nebraskalegislature.gov/about/blue-book.php
USDA Rural Development Business Programs Director Speaking at May Event
The USDA Rural Development Business Programs Director Joan Scheel will be a speaker at the Brownfields Resources Workshop at the Arbor Bank, 911 Central Avenue in Nebraska City, Nebraska on May 18, 2017. Please reach out to Scheel at the workshop to answer questions on your rural communities’ needs.
Local and regional government, economic development staff, not-for-profit economic and community development organizations, bankers, realtors, developers and others interested in financial resources for local redevelopment should plan to attend.
Learn what a brownfield is and develop skills in identifying them in your community. Also to be discussed is cleanup and other funding available to communities and how to access them. Participate in one-on-one discussions with representatives from funding programs. Hear about communities who have successfully applied for and utilized various types of funding.
The workshop is free and will begin at 8:45 a.m. and conclude at 3:00 p.m. The cost is free and lunch will be provided, but registration is required. You can register at https://ksutab.org/education/workshops. Contact Sheree Walsh at email@example.com or 785-532-6519 if you need assistance in registering.
Down the home stretch
Friday marked the the 77th day of this legislative session. As of now, we have had 84 bills signed by the governor and made into law. We have another 15 bills that have passed through final reason and will now go to the Governor’s desk for his approval. We have over 50 bills currently on final ready and another dozen on Select File. It has been a productive first session but we still have much to do.
This past week was a busy one and the pace is only going to become more hectic as we head towards the end of the session. On a very positive note, my priority bill, LB88 officially became law on Tuesday afternoon. My bill was part of a signing ceremony focused on a Veteran’s Legislative Package shared with the media by Governor Ricketts. I was proud to be part of the ceremony.
Once threatened with extinction, peregrine falcons are now flourishing throughout the Midwest. Nebraska Game and Parks has a popular falcon cam that provides live streaming video from a nest box on the 18th floor of the Nebraska State Capitol. At last look, there were four new eggs waiting to hatch. It’s quite exciting! You can follow the progress of our little bird family at http://outdoornebraska.gov/falconcam/
or follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/376667965721280/
This week we began discussion on the budget bills and there were certainly some contentious moments as there are always going to be when talking about these very important issues. I came into the legislature knowing full well we were in dire circumstances with a massive budget shortfall. That shortfall got even bigger this week, as the state’s forecasting board met on Wednesday and determined we are yet another $50 million under projections. That means the Legislature is dealing with a total revenue shortfall of just over $1 billion. Drastic measures need to be taken but those measures must also make sure we aren’t just kicking the can down the road and adding to our budget problems even more in the future.
Another important piece of legislation that moved to Final Reading this week is Senator Crawford’s LB253. The bill will allow Sarpy County to use the levy authority it has per the County Industrial Sewer Construction Act to secure bonds for a regional wastewater system. This new sewer system is one that is badly needed in the Sarpy County area for economic development and I was thrilled to see the bill advance with little opposition.
The legislature continues to do the business of the people, as there is now a grand total of 47 bills which have been passed by the legislature and another 38 which have been signed into law. We have another 15 pieces of legislation on Final Reading and 57 sitting on select file.
The Legislature is adjourned Friday and Monday and will get back to work on Tuesday, which will be the 73rd day of the session. We are coming down to the finish line and there is still quite a bit of work to do.