Welcome!

January 7th, 2015

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

Nordquist Proposes Drivers’ Licenses for Immigrant Youth

January 21st, 2015

Expresses willingness to work with administration

LINCOLN—Today, state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist introduced legislation aimed to help deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) recipients obtain drivers’ licenses in Nebraska.

“The issue in Nebraska today is we have young, talented people with DACA temporary relief who are allowed to stay here and obtain work permits, but our state is refusing to allow them to get a driver’s license,” Nordquist said. “In Nebraska, it can be hard or nearly impossible to get to work without a car. Why would we want to limit their abilities to work and contribute to our economy?”

DACA is a policy that was established in June of 2012, which allows individuals who demonstrate that they meet certain guidelines to be exempt from deportation for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and they also may be eligible for employment authorization.

The guidelines include that the individuals: were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday; have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time; were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS; are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In August 2012, Dave Heineman, who served as Nebraska’s governor at that time, announced his decision to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients.

“We hope to work with the current administration to reverse this policy decision and bring Nebraska in line with all 49 other states,” Nordquist said. “As Nebraska taxpayers, we have invested thousands of dollars in K-12 and higher education for each of the nearly 2,300 DACA recipients. Without action on driver’s licenses, these promising individuals will take their education that we have invested in to one of the 49 other states with less barriers to their success.”

Dayana Lopez, of Omaha, is one of the 2,300 DACA recipients in Nebraska who is being denied a driver’s license.

“For the majority of my life I have called Nebraska home, and it’s a state that has provided my family and myself with a lot of opportunities,” Lopez said. “But for me personally, I don’t understand why Nebraska continues to be the only state that does not provide drivers’ licenses for DACA recipients.”

Lopez said that Nebraska’s policy not only limits her ability to drive, but that it has also held her back from other opportunities that would have helped her to grow professionally.

“As a student and a worker, like so many other DACA recipients, it is difficult to depend on others for a ride,” Lopez said. “This bill will not only allow me and the more than 2,300 DACA recipients to drive, but will help us achieve our dreams to work, study and live in Nebraska.”

Norqduist and Pansing Brooks Introduce Economic Security Legislation

January 20th, 2015


Bills would provide sick and safe leave, increase EITC and tipped wage

LINCOLN—Today, state Sens. Nordquist and Pansing Brooks introduced a package of bills aimed to help Nebraska workers, including bills that would increase the tipped minimum wage and earned income tax credit (EITC) and also would require employers to provide paid sick and safe leave.

“Nebraskans are working harder than ever but are continuing to fall further and further behind,” said Nordquist. “It’s clear from the petition effort to raise the minimum wage that a vast majority of Nebraskans want their policymakers to stand up and fight for families struggling to make ends meet.”

LB 494 would increase the state’s tipped minimum wage from its current $2.13 per hour to 50 percent of the minimum wage by 2017—or $4.50 per hour.

“The restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the national economy, currently accounting for nearly one in 12 private-sector workers,” Nordquist said. “At $2.13 per hour, restaurant workers’ wages are lower than other occupational categories and 90 percent of restaurant workers nationwide do not receive paid sick days, paid vacation or health insurance through their employer.”

Nordquist also introduced LB 493—the Healthy and Safe Families Workplaces Act—which would allow employees to accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year.

“Not only do paid sick days provide workers with the economic stability they need to care for themselves and their families, but it also results in reduced government spending on public assistance and promotes savings for employers,” Nordquist said. “There is a direct link between job quality and the long-term success and stability of a business. Poor job quality increases employee turnover costs and diminish service quality which can impact the success and profitability of a business.”

Recent poling shows that 61 percent of Nebraskans support requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees.

Pansing Brooks introduced LB 495 to gradually increase the EITC from its current 10 percent of the allowable federal credit to 15 percent by Jan. 2017.

“Research shows that the EITC provides work, income, educational and health benefits, not only to the recipients, but also their children as they do better in school, are likelier to attend college and earn more as adults,” Pansing Brooks said. “This is a modest increase that will pay off tremendously in the future by creating an incentive to work and breaking the poverty cycle.”

Nordquist Introduces Legislation to Grow Nebraska’s Bioscience Industry

January 15th, 2015

Bill would provide tax incentives, create block grants

LINCOLN—Today, state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, along with co-sponsors Sens. Davis, Mello, Schilz and Williams, introduced the Bioscience Impact Opportunity Act—LB 331—to encourage high-wage bioscience job opportunities in Nebraska through tax incentives and a newly created grant program.

“We want to encourage job creation in the bioscience sector because the average wages to those workers are well above those earned by their counterparts in the private sector and in other major industries,” Nordquist said. “While Nebraska has a sizable and diversified academic bioscience base, it has not kept pace with the growth at the national level.”

Nebraska growth in the major bioscience field totaled 9.2 percent from 2004-2008, while the national average during that same time period was 22.3 percent.

Neighboring states of Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota are recruiting life science companies to locate there by providing affordable lab space and establishing incentive programs that are not currently offered in Nebraska.

“As a relatively young industry, the bioscience community has delivered high wages and significant job growth for Nebraska,” said Phil Kozera, the executive director for Bio Nebraska Life Sciences Association. “The support provided in the Bioscience Impact Opportunity Act is advantageous to growing high-wage opportunities for Nebraskans throughout the state by supporting the expansion, retention, and recruitment of biotech companies and entrepreneurs.”

Nordquist’s bill would provide a transferable tax credit, which would include: a 10 percent investment credit; a six percent wage credit for wages that are paid at 150 percent of the average Nebraska wage; a sales tax refund for capital purchases; and a personal property tax exemption.

The bill also would create a bioscience block grant for expansion or start-up companies with ten or fewer employees, designed to foster employment, encourage research and development, investment in real property and improvement and investment in equipment and supplies. The grants would be governed by an 11 member board comprised of individuals who are experts in life sciences and are familiar with current research trends.

“The goal is to make Nebraska a national leader in biosciences, including agriculture, energy, animal and human health care and medical devices,” Nordquist said. “By promoting research and development in these areas, we can grow our economy and improve the quality of life for the citizens of our state.”

Nordquist Introduces Women’s Preventive Health Package

January 8th, 2015

Estimated $28.5 million potential savings in Medicaid program

LINCOLN—Today, as a part of the Women’s Get Covered Week of Action, Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist announced he is introducing legislation that would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to submit a state plan amendment to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide medical assistance for family planning services for persons whose family earned income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

“States who have obtained family planning waivers have saved millions of dollars in their own Medicaid programs,” Nordquist said. “A focus on prevention in women’s health will create healthier families and communities and will reduce health care costs, as well as social and economic costs in the long run.”

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates that this legislation would save $4.17 for every dollar spent, totaling $28.5 million.

Reports show that half of all pregnancies in the United States each year—more than three million—are unintended; by the age 45, more than half of all American women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy, while three in 10 will have had an abortion.

“We can improve the health of families in Nebraska by offering preventive health care services and empowering people to make healthier choices for themselves and their families,” Nordquist said.

Currently 29 states, including neighboring states of Iowa and Missouri, have obtained federal approval to extend Medicaid eligibility for family planning services to individuals who would otherwise not be eligible. Sixteen states operate their programs under a waiver from the federal government; 13 states operate their programs through a state plan amendment.

The bill also would appropriate $500,000 in fiscal year 2015-16 and FY16-17 to fund education and outreach as well as services for medically underserved women including: mammograms; breast examinations; pap smears; colposcopy; associated laboratory costs; and preventive health and family planning services.

“Good health comes from investing in prevention,” Nordquist said.

To sign up for health care coverage beginning in 2015 visit healthcare.gov.

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.