January 8th, 2014

Welcome to the official website of Nebraska’s 7th Legislative District! As your representative in the Nebraska Unicameral, I am committed to being an independent leader that brings your voice to the State Capitol.

I hope this website will allow me, and my staff, to communicate with you about the issues you care about. Please, let me know what’s on your mind by contacting my office, and check back often for important news and information.

Working for you,

Senator Jeremy Nordquist

Sen. Nordquist Addresses State Retirement Actuarial Studies

November 19th, 2014


Positive progress, but work left to do

Lincoln—Actuarial results released Monday show that the Nebraska’s School Employees Retirement Plan requires no additional contribution in fiscal year 2015 and is funded at 83 percent. The funding benchmark for a healthy retirement plan is 80 percent.

Today, we received positive news about that status of our state’s defined benefit pension plans,” said state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, chair of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee. “It’s clear from the new actuarial results that the significant reforms we made to the School Employees Retirement Plan in 2013 under LB 553 have put that plan on a sustainable path forward.”

While some politicians in our state wanted to kick-the-can down the road and not fund our legal pension obligation, the Legislature supported my initiative to increase contribution rates on school employees and employers and reduce benefits for new employees,” said Nordquist. “In Nebraska, we take care of our financial obligations first. These reforms were important and reflect the fiscally responsible budgeting that Nebraskans expect.”

Nebraska’s Judge’s Retirement Plan requires an additional $750,000 for FY 2015 and is funded at 93 percent. Nebraska’s State Patrol Retirement Plan has a $3.9 million actuarial required contribution and is funded at 81 percent.

While all of our defined benefit plans are funded above the benchmark level for healthy plans, we still have work to do,” said Nordquist. “We are seeing a reduction in court fees collected into the Judge’s Retirement Plan. Also, the lack of growth in the State Patrol workforce has significantly contributed to structural problems in the plan that need to be addressed.”

The good news is that the Legislature is not afraid to step up and take fiscally responsible action to make the needed reforms,” said Nordquist.


Nordquist pushes for minimum wage increase

July 24th, 2014

LINCOLN—Today marks the five-year anniversary of the last time Congress raised the federal minimum wage to its current $7.25 per hour. Despite the growing level of worker productivity and cost of living increases, wages have remained stagnant.

“Raising the minimum wage helps working families, creates jobs and boosts communities and the entire economy,” said state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist. “The reward for hard work should be the ability to support your family and live off of your wages. Nebraska families don’t want a handout, they want to work and provide for their family. But the current minimum wage doesn’t allow them to meet their family’s basic needs.”

The minimum wage would be $18.67 per hour—nearly two and a half times the current minimum wage—if it had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968. In Nebraska, there are 32,000 workers who make at or below minimum wage. At $7.25 per hour, a worker working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year makes $15,080 per year, which is below the federal poverty line for families of two or more persons.

Recently released data from the Department of Labor shows that states that have increased their minimum wages added jobs at a faster pace that those that did not.

“With the federal minimum wage having fallen so far behind the pace of inflation and worker productivity, minimum wage workers today are making less than they did in 1968,” Nordquist said. “If Congress won’t raise the minimum wage, then Nebraskans all across the state will continue to take action to support working families in our communities and to grow our economy.”

Nordquist, along with state Sen. Danielle Conrad and other various advocacy groups, recently collected 134,899 citizen signatures that were submitted to the secretary of state in favor of a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska to $9 per hour by 2016. The ballot measure is likely to qualify for the general election ballot, providing registered Nebraska voters the opportunity to vote on a minimum wage increase this November.



Gov. Heineman Urged to Apply for State Paid Leave Analysis Grant

July 16th, 2014

LINCOLN—State legislators and community organizations including AARP Nebraska, The

Center for People in Need, Holland Children’s Movement, Nebraska Appleseed and

Voices for Children in Nebraska, have come together to urge Governor Heineman to

take advantage of an important opportunity to analyze the impact of paid family leave

for Nebraska workers and employers. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently sent

letters to state governors alerting them about an upcoming opportunity to apply for a

State Paid Leave analysis grant from DOL. According to the DOL, only 11 percent of U.S.

workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, while less than 40

percent have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided temporary

disability insurance.

“We cannot afford to ignore this issue any longer. As more women increasingly enter

the workforce and contribute significantly to the economy, the landscape of American

and Nebraska families is changing. Failure of government and business to adapt to these

changes creates significant and unnecessary financial burdens on our entire economy,”

state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist said. “Workers without paid leave often have no choice but

to take unpaid leave or quit their jobs when illness strikes or a child needs care. We

would like to work with Governor Heineman to study this issue that is so critical to

Nebraska’s economy and families.”

A June study by the National Partnership for Women and Families was conducted

ranking state policies that support new parents just before and soon after the arrival of

a new child. The study gave Nebraska an “F”, citing the fact that Nebraska laws do not

expand upon federal rights or protections for new and expecting parents as a key reason

for the rating.

Sen. Annette Dubas introduced a related bill the last legislative session by introducing LB

955—the Paid Family Leave Act—which would have created a family leave program that

provided income replacement to eligible workers for family care giving or bonding with

a new child. LB 955 was not enacted. As a result, state legislators and community groups

would like to take advantage of the opportunity to further study the impact of this issue

specifically on Nebraska families.

“The first few weeks after birth or adoption are so important for families and young

children. We need to ensure that Nebraskans are able to put family first during

significant life events without having to worry about how to pay the bills,” said Carolyn

Rooker, Executive Director at Voices for Children in Nebraska. “This study would be an

important first step in building more family friendly workplaces.”

It is required that the governor’s office submits the application and they only have 30

days to apply. The DOL gave the 30-day timeline as they must spend the $500,000,

available for up to five states, before the end of the fiscal year.

Health insurance enrollment deadline approaching

March 24th, 2014
State senators and stakeholders urge individuals to get covered
LINCOLN — State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, alongside fellow state senators, discussed the importance of getting health care coverage and the upcomingMarch 31 deadline for individuals  to enroll in a plan in the Marketplace for coverage starting in 2014. 
“My personal enrollment on Healthcare.gov was very simple and took me about 20 minutes,” Nordquist said. “The days of long insurance applications asking for your complete medical history are gone. Under the Affordable Care Act, I know that my application cannot be denied for a preexisting condition and, once enrolled, my policy cannot be taken away if I get sick.”
Nordquist said that as of the end of February, over 25,000 Nebraskans had enrolled in the Marketplace; thirty-seven percent were under the age of 35 and 87 percent had received some sort of financial assistance. 
Representatives from community action groups and federally qualified health centers also discussed the enrollment process and how to utilize appropriate resources to get health insurance coverage on the Marketplace.
“With only a week left to enroll, Community Action Agencies all across Nebraska are available to make the process as easy as possible for Nebraskans,” said Community Action of Nebraska Executive Director Amber Hansen. “Our experience has been that most people are pleasantly surprised by the ease and affordability of obtaining health insurance through the new Marketplace.”
The deadline for coverage to take effect in 2014 is Monday, March 31. Individuals who do not enroll by the deadline cannot get private health insurance inside the Marketplace until the next open enrollment period starts.
Individuals who remain uninsured may be subject to pay on their 2015 income taxes a fee of either one percent of their income or $95 per adult ($47.50 per child), whichever is higher. Health plans outside the open enrollment period can be purchased if certain qualifications are met for a special enrollment period.
“Last week alone, there were between 800,000 and 900,000 visits per day to Healthcare.gov,” Nordquist said. “Interest in getting health insurance coverage is peaking, so Nebraskans should enroll soon.” 
To get enrolled in the Marketplace, visit Healthcare.gov. Trained navigators are available to assist individuals, families and small businesses purchasing health insurance coverage through the Marketplace. Local navigators can be found at canhelp.org/map or by calling 402-471-3714. Local help can be found throughout Nebraska by going to HealthCare.gov and clicking on the link “Find Local Help,” then entering a zip code.

Sen. Nordquist and Nebraska Latino American Commission urge officials to help Latinos access health coverage

February 25th, 2014

CMS declares Feb. 24 – 28 Latino Constituency Outreach week

State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist and the Nebraska Latino American Commission are urging government agencies, elected officials and stakeholders to engage Latinos in their communities about the importance of getting health coverage and to help provide appropriate resources.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has declared the week of Feb. 24 – 28 as Latino Constituency Outreach week.

“By engaging our communities, we can expand opportunities for coverage and improve overall health outcomes for Latinos in Nebraska,” said Nordquist.  “Unfortunately, due to inadequate preventive services and the lack of access to quality affordable health insurance coverage, the health outcomes for Latinos are unacceptable.”

Nordquist is holding events at universities, community colleges and with other community groups throughout February and March to engage communities and discuss the importance of getting covered and how Nebraskans can access health coverage.

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 16 million Hispanics are uninsured. The federal Department of Health and Human Services reports that Latinos suffer from certain illnesses at higher levels than non-Hispanic white Americans.  For example: roughly 31.9 percent of Latinos were obese in 2010, compared to 26.1 percent of whites, with the disparity greater among women (33.1 percent compared to 24.5 percent); while Latinos are less likely to have heart disease compared to non-Hispanic whites primarily due to their young median age, they face higher rates of the risk factors that can lead to heart disease such as obesity and diabetes; Latinas have disproportionate rates of cervical cancer, which they contract at 1.6 times the rate of white women; and only 46.5 percent of Latinos received a colorectal cancer screening in 2010, compared with 59.9 percent of non-Hispanics.

The Latino American Commission, through its network of commissioners, has educated the Latino community not only by encouraging uninsured Latinos that qualify to enroll in the marketplace, but also by providing contact information of healthcare navigators that can assist individuals regarding eligibility and coverage alternatives.

“It is ironic that when Latinos come to the United States their health status is better than after being here a few years” said Lazaro Spindola,  the Executive Director of the Commission.

Trained navigators are available to assist individuals, families and small businesses purchasing health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  Navigators are housed within nine Community Action Agencies across the state, which can be found at: www.canhelp.org/map. Click on the county to find the nearest Community Action Agency or contact the local agency to request assistance from a navigator. Those who do not have access to a computer can call 402-471-3714 to be referred to the nearest Community Action Agency.

Official resources containing Spanish materials can be found at http://marketplace.cms.gov/getofficialresources/spanish-materials/spanish-materials.html or you can contact the Nebraska Latino American Commission at 402.471.2791. The deadline to enroll in the Marketplace is March 31.

Tax credit for historic building restoration advances

February 25th, 2014

Senators gave first-round approval Feb. 20 to a bill that would provide a nonrefundable tax credit to people restoring historically significant property.

Under LB191, introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, owners returning a historically significant property to service would qualify for a tax credit equal to 20 percent of eligible expenditures up to $10 million and 10 percent of expenditures over $10 million. Nordquist said cities and towns across the state would benefit from the credit.

“Areas and buildings of historic value can be found in all of our districts,” he said. “Too often these properties can be an eyesore, but they all have the potential to be valuable and fill a need in the community.”

Revenue Committee amendment, adopted 29-0, reduced the eligible expenditures limit from $10 million to $5 million. As amended, the bill would require the Nebraska State Historical Society — in conjunction with the state Department of Revenue — to file a report detailing the number of applications and credits approved or denied under the program.

A Nordquist amendment to the committee amendment, adopted 25-0, would require the report to be filed electronically by Dec. 31, 2017.

Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas supported the bill, saying it would allow communities to turn historic buildings into assets.

“When you travel across the state, we have some very beautiful historic buildings,” she said. “This bill would allow us to look at these buildings as resources rather than liabilities.”

Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz also supported the bill. He said it would unite communities with a common goal.

“This gives people of those communities the opportunity to do something and step up,” he said. “It brings ownership to communities and gives them a reward for doing it.”

In order to be eligible for the credit, an application must be filed with the state historic preservation officer prior to beginning work. Within 12 months of the project’s completion, a final approval request must be made, after which the final credit would be awarded.

If a property restored under the tax credit program is significantly changed within five years of completion — including, but not limited to, work done out of compliance with standards or demolition — the department would employ a sliding scale to recapture credits.

If recapture occurs within:
• one year of project completion, 100 percent of the credit may be recaptured;
• two years of project completion, 80 percent of the credit may be recaptured;
• three years of project completion, 60 percent of the credit may be recaptured;
• four years of project completion, 40 percent of the credit may be recaptured; or
• five years of project completion, 20 percent of the credit may be recaptured.

Taxpayers would be eligible for the credit beginning Jan. 1, 2015, and applications would be accepted until Jan. 1, 2020.

Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher expressed concerns about the state’s potential liability if the bill were passed, saying it does not have enough restrictions in place to protect taxpayers from an influx of credit applications. Nordquist agreed to work with Schumacher to address his concerns in an amendment that lawmakers could consider during the next stage of debate.

“As well meaning as this is, it’s a state-of-the-art Trojan horse in the people’s vault,” he said. “There is no limit to the state’s exposure, no budgetary control whatsoever and no guidance as to what a historically significant district is.”

Senators advanced the bill to select file on a 32-0 vote.

State senator enrolled in health plan through new health insurance exchange, joined with top health official to discuss re-launch of Healthcare.gov

December 9th, 2013

OMAHA – State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist joined Stephene Moore, regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at One World Community Health Centers to discuss and answer questions about recent improvements to the federal health care website. Nordquist also announced that he enrolled in health insurance through the online Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov, which puts affordable health insurance within reach of everyone in Nebraska.

“The process was very simple and took me about 20 minutes,” Nordquist said. “The days of long insurance applications asking for your complete medical history are gone. Under the Affordable Care Act, I know that my application cannot be denied for a preexisting condition and, once enrolled, my policy cannot be taken away if I get sick.”

HealthCare.gov allows consumers to shop for insurance, compare insurance options and find out whether they qualify for discounts that for the first time put high-quality insurance coverage within reach of people with modest incomes. HealthCare.gov can now handle up to 50,000 users at once—more than 29,000 people throughout the nation enrolled through the site in just two days last week.

“I had 43 insurance options to choose from, including several plans that were similar in price to my current coverage,” Nordquist said. “The best part is that most Nebraska families will qualify for premium discounts, making quality health insurance affordable for more Nebraskans.”

A Kaiser study issued in November estimated that more than 120,000 Nebraska residents are eligible for tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. These credits act as a discount on the price of insurance. An entire family of four with an income of $29,400 can get coverage as good as typical employer-based insurance plan for less than $50 per month.

“I encourage all Nebraskans who encountered problems when they tried to sign up for insurance in October to go back to HealthCare.gov,” Nordquist said. “I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the options that are available.”

Trained navigators are available to assist individuals, families and small businesses purchasing health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Local navigators can be found at canhelp.org/map or by calling 402-471-3714. Local help can be found throughout Nebraska by going to HealthCare.gov and clicking on the link “Find Local Help,” then entering a zip code.

ACA and Marketplace Enrollment

October 1st, 2013

As Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace begins today, Senator Nordquist released the following statement:

Today marks a historic day as Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace begins, making private insurance more accessible and affordable for many Americans and Nebraskans alike.

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety is not perfect, it’s a significant step in providing access to health care that is competitive, affordable and meets individual needs.

The ACA gives families the freedom from worrying about losing their insurance, or having it capped unexpectedly if someone is in an accident or becomes sick. It frees Americans from the fear of insurance companies raising premiums by double digits with no recourse or accountability. It frees Americans from discrimination by prohibiting insurance companies from denying women health insurance because they are pregnant, or refusing to provide coverage to children who are born with disabilities. It gives parents the choice of providing health coverage for a child after they finish school. It provides people the freedom to change jobs without worrying about losing one’s health insurance, or even retire a little earlier without having to worry about losing one’s coverage. It provides seniors with the freedom to get the care they need, including free preventive care, lower cost prescription drugs and Medicare that they can count on. And finally, it gives small business owners the power of competing with large employers by providing small business tax credits to make employees’ health coverage more affordable and by increasing their purchasing power through competitive private health insurance exchanges.

Removing barriers to health care is critical to driving down skyrocketing health care costs while producing a healthier workforce. The success of getting everyone covered depends largely on bipartisan efforts and the willingness of communities to work together to ensure people receive timely, helpful and accurate information.

As we work through the enrollment process I’m sure there will be questions, many of which can be answered on healthcare.gov or by contacting your local Navigator. To find the Navigators in your community, go to canhelp.org/map.

I look forward to shopping on the new Marketplace for my personal coverage and to continue working to ensure all Nebraskans have access to the affordable and quality health care we deserve.

Nordquist to Heineman Administration: Reject Tanning Exemption

August 9th, 2013

Sound Tax Policy is Needed, Not “Special Treatment” Tax Policy

Omaha, NE – Today, Nebraska State Senator Jeremy Nordquist called on Governor Heineman and the Department of Revenue to reject proposed regulations that would give favorable tax treatment to tanning salons. Since 1988, tanning salons have been subject to state sales tax.

“It amazes me that just months ago the Heineman administration – including the Revenue Department – proposed putting a sales tax on prescription drugs for seniors and hospital rooms for Nebraskans fighting cancer, and now they want to remove the sales tax from tanning salons,” said Nordquist. “I have had the opportunity to speak to many people about their priorities for tax reform, and the Governor’s tax priorities are clearly out of line with those of most Nebraska families.”

Nordquist also questioned the process for this proposed sales tax exemption. A sales tax exemption for tanning salon (LB 252) was prioritized and debated on the legislative floor in 2011. It failed overwhelmingly due to lack of support, and the bill was gutted and used for another purpose. LB 749 in 2012 did not advance from the Revenue Committee.

“This policy has twice failed to gain any traction in the Legislature, and now the Heineman administration is disregarding the policy-making process to give special treatment to special interests,” said Nordquist. “Tax policy should not be made behind closed-doors, outside of the legislative process, by arbitrarily picking winners and losers.”