NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Tanya Cook

Sen. Tanya Cook

District 13

Welcome

January 6th, 2016

A Message to Constituents

Effective governance is solution-based. In my experience, identifying common interests brings positive change. I have advocated extensively for improved workforce development, wider access to quality health care, and the importance of public education. There are several bills of which I am particularly proud, as each one makes an improvement in a critical area of Nebraska’s well-being.

Education

LB366 (2013) – There are more than 40,000 people in the Omaha area without a high-school diploma, severely limiting career advancement. Those in need of GED preparation and certification through Metropolitan Community College and 48 other certification sites in Nebraska deserve support that will help ensure that they are ready for career training. LB366 achieves this end while reducing property tax burdens on homeowners.

LB502 (2011) – Health care careers are high-paying and in demand. This law adds a health care employer to the State Workforce Development Board and adds a duty for that board to develop a plan to reduce the current shortage of health care workers in the state and create these high-paying careers.

LB628 (2011) – This law enables political subdivisions (counties, cities and public utilities) to donate surplus vehicles to Nebraska non-profit organizations. These vehicles will aid in the missions of our non-profits and provide reliable transportation to those in need.

LB500 (2011) – This law ensures no one is burdened with a criminal record for the simple and common act of hanging an air-freshener or a parking permit from their rear-view mirror.

LB329 (2011) – Nebraska’s energy code was outdated. This law adopts the most current national building standards that will save home and building owners up to 30% on their energy costs. LB 329 gives Nebraskan owners and renters the highest standards of energy efficiency.

Accountability in Education

LB262 (2013) – This law gives accurate and innovative tools to policymakers and community organizations interested in closing the achievement gap in public education. Across Nebraska there are thriving and struggling students, thriving and struggling schools. Why, and what are we going to do about it? While Nebraska makes funding education a priority, there were no reliable mechanisms to judge the effectiveness of our investments. With the passage of LB262, for the first time we will have accurate, reliable, and complete information about the success of our students and effectiveness of our school districts.

Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care

LB1063 (2012) – The Children’s Health and Treatment Act seeks to end the tragic and longstanding practice of Medicaid wrongly denying behavioral health treatment to Nebraska’s youth.

LB157 (2013) – Nebraska has a very strong public health infrastructure, but it has the potential to be even better. LB157 makes sure Nebraskans have access to dental care services by equipping public health clinics throughout the state with dental professionals.

LB119 (2013) – When public health clinics are able to meet the specific needs of the community we are a healthier and more productive state. LB119 empowers local public health districts to address real needs in the community like never before by adequately funding targeted prevention efforts. Building on our state’s public health system and providing access to dental care improves overall health, well-being and productivity in our community.

LB543 (2011)LB543 helps the almost one in ten Nebraskan families, elderly, and people with disabilities who struggle with food insecurity. This law enrolls Nebraska in a Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach program operated through a public-private partnership and funded by Nebraska non-profits.

LB543 also removes an existing policy that prevented Nebraskans in need of temporary nutrition assistance from building long-term assets that will help them out of poverty.

LB406 (2011) – One-half of Nebraska counties have a shortage of primary care physicians. This law allows for physicians who may have left the practice of medicine to raise a family or to serve as a medical volunteer to have a means to become re-licensed to practice in the State of Nebraska.

My firm belief that public service is the highest honor has been reaffirmed during my service in the Unicameral, and I look forward to continuing to live out that honor. As I continue my work as your Nebraska State Senator, I hope you will feel free to give me your input and to share your concerns with me.

Very truly yours,

Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear Constitutents, 

Today is the 15th day of the 2016 Legislative Session, and my colleagues and I have been busy introducing and debating bills. I would like to take this opportunity to share the list of bills I am sponsoring in 2016, which includes both newly introduced proposals and a few carried over from the 2015 session. As has been the case during my whole career in the Legislature, my priorities are to promote quality education, public health and wellness, and workforce development. Though this year is a short, 60-day session, I am confident that my colleagues will see the good sense in these proposals. They are:

LB83 – Wage secrecy is one of the major factors that contributes to the pay gap for women: if salaries at a company are forcibly kept secret, how can anyone know if they are receiving fair compensation? Nebraska’s current law contributes to this problem, as employees who freely choose to discuss their own wages with co-workers can be disciplined or fired. LB83 will change the law to protect those who want to voluntarily disclose their wages, without forcing anyone into such a conversation if they do want to take part. With the ability to discuss wages as they choose, employees can have a much better idea whether they are being fairly compensated.

LB381 – Oxford House in Omaha provides housing and support for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction in a low-cost, highly effective manner. LB381 directs the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to provide more financial support to Oxford House and other recovery centers like it, so that Nebraskans struggling with addiction can return to a productive, sober life.

LB411 – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps thousands of Nebraska families make ends meet every month. LB411 will provide greater flexibility to those receiving SNAP benefits by allowing for a family’s eligibility to be determined after deducting expenses for basic needs such as childcare and housing. It will also address the “cliff effect” by raising the upper income limit to 185% of the federal poverty level. This reform will allow families to accept well-earned raises without being penalized by abruptly losing their SNAP benefits.

LB510 – A good job is an important part of any person’s transition from public assistance to economic stability, and businesses should be encouraged to employ and invest in those individuals. LB 510 provides a tax credit to companies that help with work transportation and continuing education costs for employees who receive or have recently graduated from public assistance. The intent of the legislation is to offer an incentive for private enterprise to provide transformative investments in struggling families.

LB788 – This bill updates the regulations governing landscape architects, and will allow them to coordinate more effectively with other professionals on their projects.

LB789 – This bill will help the Nebraska Arts Council be more efficient in the way they administer new public art projects, and allow them to more easily set aside funds for maintenance of the many works already installed across the state.

LB852 – Our state community colleges, including Metro here in Omaha, serve a vital role in educating Nebraskans and preparing them for the workforce. They also serve far more minority and non-traditional students than the University system. LB852 provides additional funding to the community colleges, so that they can continue to provide quality education to a diverse range of students.

LB965 – Though uncommon, it sometimes happens that a person is arrested based on a case of mistaken identity. Under current law, that person can have a hard time getting their arrest record expunged, even though the arrest was made in error. LB965 allows anyone who is arrested based on mistaken identity to have that record completely removed from all law enforcement records, so that the error does not negatively impact the wrongly arrested person later.

LB988 – Charles Drew Health Center in north Omaha is the only Federally Qualified Health Center with specific programs to serve several vulnerable populations. LB988 will provide more funding for Charles Drew to continue their good work.

LB1004 – It has long been established that hungry kids are more likely to struggle in school, and that meals provided during the school day can counteract that problem. Omaha Public Schools has several high-poverty schools where nearly all of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch; LB1004 will make it easier for OPS and other school districts around the state to ensure that students have access to nutritious meals to help them stay focused and ready to learn.

LB1041 – “Price optimization” is a practice by which auto and property insurance companies adjust premium prices based on factors unrelated to the policyholder’s risk profile. Insurance providers can see who is less likely to switch companies due to a premium increase, and then use that information to justify further increases; in other words, not complaining about a policy increase can make you more likely to be singled out for one in the future. This practice unfairly targets those who do not have reliable internet access to shop around, as well as those who may not know how to compare rates across companies. LB1041 will make the practice of price optimization illegal in Nebraska.

If you have questions about my bills or anything else this Legislative session, please do not hesitate to contact my office. I am honored to represent you.

Very Truly Yours,

Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear Constituents:

As the 2016 Legislative Session begins, I want to share some exciting news with you all. Following my friend and colleague Senator Jeremy Nordquist’s departure from the Legislature, I have been appointed to take his position on the Appropriations Committee.

Though the Legislature will not pass a budget in 2016, the Appropriations Committee will nonetheless play an integral role in state policy. The Committee is responsible for approving state agency budgets, debating new bills for state spending, and shaping state fiscal policy for the future.

Serving on the Appropriations Committee will be a new and exciting experience for me. As a member, I look forward to reinforcing the importance of balanced state spending, while ensuring that the everyday concerns of working families are reflected in Nebraska’s state fiscal policy. I will work to maintain the state’s investments in hardworking Nebraskans, and will advocate for additional endowments for programs that offer a hand up to those who need it most.

Though I am no longer a member of the Education or Health and Human Services Committees, I will continue to keep a close eye on policies and developments in Nebraska’s health and educational spheres. My commitment to equal opportunities for all students, access to health care for the neediest Nebraskans, and helping families stay on the path to economic stability will not waver, no matter which committees I serve on.

I wish you all a happy holiday season. As always, I am honored to represent you.

Very truly yours,

Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear Constituents:

The 2015 Legislative session was historic in many ways. Issues as diverse and pressing as the abolition of capital punishment, property tax relief, and public benefits reform were prioritized and addressed. Even if you disagree with the outcomes of issues debated by your Legislature, there is no doubt that democracy in Nebraska is vibrant and remarkably responsive.

After seven years as a State Senator for North Omaha, the fruits of my service are visible. A law I introduced and passed in 2012, the Children’s Health and Treatment Act, is being enforced by Nebraska courts to ensure that vulnerable youth are receiving behavioral health care that helps families heal and thrive in wellness. Witnessing how the work I completed three years ago continues to impact Nebraska families in need helps me appreciate how reforms made today will impact our community for generations.

For example, my 2015 priority legislation, LB81, will help almost 2,000 Nebraska families every year earn their way towards economic stability through the creation of a transitional child care program. Importantly, as these working families are working their way towards economic stability, they are required to pay a cost-share according to a sliding fee schedule – as their income rises, their contribution rises.

Additionally, I continued my work to dramatically increase access to quality, affordable health care in our community. This year, in particular, I led efforts that cement our Federally Qualified Public Health Centers as dental homes for Nebraskans in need of basic, preventative dental care. Investment in our public health infrastructure is the most cost-effective way to increase access to health care and build on previous investments.

These are policies designed to increase the long-term success of our State’s greatest resource: its people. I have always felt supported in my mission by engaged and thoughtful constituents. Thanks to each of you for your input and support.

Very truly yours,

Senator Tanya D Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear Constituents:

Each biennium, your Legislature is responsible for passing a state budget. I am proud to report that the Appropriations Committee has included my bill, LB82, in its initial budget recommendation for this session. LB82 will provide funds for each of Nebraska’s seven Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to hire an additional dentist and expand their ability to provide care to under-served populations.

Nationally, only 26% of private practice dentists will treat Medicaid patients, and those without dental or medical insurance can have a very hard time finding and affording care. Nebraska’s seven FQHCs offer treatment at little or no cost to patients based on a sliding fee scale, serving thousands of Medicaid patients, underinsured, and uninsured Nebraskans every year. FQHCs provide the full spectrum of dental care, from preventative screenings to pain-relieving and quality-of-life treatments such as fillings, root canals, extractions, crowns, and dentures. FQHCs also work to educate parents and families about maintaining proper dental health at home.

In the last few years, your Legislature has made targeted investments in public health. However, the need for basic preventative and acute dental care has outpaced that investment, especially among children. Low-income and minority children are disproportionately affected by the absence of affordable dental care; students who lack a dental home have reduced school attendance rates and lower academic achievement. Their parents are most often the working poor, who live in all parts of the state – both rural and urban. Many of them live right here in Legislative District 13.

The FQHCs do wonderful work to serve our communities. Even so, they are often at peak capacity, and require greater resources to expand their services and meet growing needs. The funds provided under LB82 will allow Charles Drew Health Center, our FQHC in north Omaha, to treat an additional 1,400 patients annually. Across the state, these funds will facilitate treatment for thousands of additional patients each year.

Finding innovative ways to meet Nebraska’s dental needs is critical to increase the quality of life for families and individuals. When residents in our communities have access to basic dental care, there is a positive impact not only on their own health, but on the strength of Nebraska’s workforce as a whole. The funds provided by LB82 within the budget will provide resources to care for some of our most vulnerable populations. Everyone deserves to have their basic dental needs met, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move toward that reality.

Very Truly Yours,

Senator Tanya D Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear Constituents:

As we progress through the 2015 Legislative Session, I would like to take a moment to update you on my personal priority bill for the year, LB81.

One of my goals as a State Senator is to craft policy that helps Nebraskans work their way off of public assistance. The Child Care Subsidy Program is a key tool for families to remain on the path to economic stability. With the support this subsidy provides, parents are able to work or seek the educational and vocational skills they need to find a job.

For the average Nebraska family, the cost of child care amounts to 36% of the family’s budget. When a family is already struggling to pay the bills, paying for the full cost of child care can be a huge hurdle.

LB81, my priority bill, addresses the “cliff effect”: that families often have to turn down small but well-earned raises to avoid losing affordable child care.

LB81 will allow families to accept the rewards of their hard work without suddenly losing access to the Child Care Subsidy Program. Families will be allowed to work towards raises and promotions without that extra income being counted against them for subsidy eligibility. The transitional period in LB81 will allow families to grow their income and maintain stable employment, without having to worry about how to keep their children safe during the day.

LB81 is common-sense reform. Nebraska should support the upward mobility of its hard-working residents, and should reward excellence at work.

Governor Pete Ricketts highlighted the need to support Nebraskans this January, when he noted that “We need a system that cares for the entire person, helps them reach their full potential, and if possible helps them live a life free of public assistance.” LB81 is an investment in working families, their children, and the State’s economy that all Nebraskans can get behind.

I am proud of LB81, and I am honored to represent you. I look forward to continuing to serve as best I can to meet the real needs of Legislative District 13 and the State. Please contact my office if you have any questions about LB81 or any other issues before the Legislature.

Very Truly Yours,
State Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

2015 Legislative Priorities

January 30th, 2015

Dear Constituents: 

As the first session of the 104th Nebraska Legislature gets underway, I would like to familiarize all of you with my legislative priorities. I am committed to help families access affordable child care, promote job creation, and ensure equal pay for all Nebraskans.

Affordable Child Care
Last year I passed LB 359, which created a system in which working parents are not punished for small gains in their income. LB 359 preserved the family’s ability to access affordable, high-quality care while also allowing pay increases that can help them achieve self-sufficiency. This year, in an effort to further bolster families’ smooth transition to economic stability, I have introduced LB 81. LB 81 allows families to access up to 24 months of transitional child care if their incomes increase. State assistance programs should offer a hand up rather than punish personal progress, and this bill continues to work toward that goal.

Job Creation
LB 510 creates a tax incentive for employers to support their employees. This legislation would permit employers to claim a credit of 20% of annual expenditures made to provide eligible services for their employees who receive public assistance pursuant to the program. Child care services, job training toward career advancement and transportation costs are all vital aspects of a working person’s life, and LB 510 will reward business who make that investment in their employees.

Equal Pay
Though we’re well into the 21st Century, women are still being paid less than men – just 77 cents to the dollar. LB 83 would prohibit any Nebraska employer from punishing an employee for voluntarily discussing their own wages. Presently, employers can punish their employees for merely talking about what they make, and my bill would change that. Passage of LB 83 will recognize the importance of the personal freedom of an individual employee for fairly negotiated salaries, help cease wage discrimination in our state, and aid enforcement of existing anti-wage discrimination laws.

These bills, along with the rest of my agenda, continue my commitment to removing institutional barriers to success, increasing access to health care and education, and supporting working families. As always, my office is available to answer any questions you might have, and to take your input on these important bills. As your representative and as an Omaha resident, I firmly believe that these programs will make The Good Life better for all Nebraskans.

Very truly yours,

State Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear Constituents:

I am proud to report that I was selected to be one of 20 state legislators from 14 states to participate in the Early Learning Fellows Program, which is administered by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The fellowship is now in its third year, and exposes policymakers like me to the latest research and state policy ideas. We will work via a yearlong series of seminars and meetings on how best to make sure young children get a positive start in life.

I enjoy the opportunity to work with colleagues from around the country on issues so important to our state’s future. The rich information learned from NCSL and other national experts so far has truly deepened my knowledge of early care issues, and any new insights can be immediately put to use in Nebraska. Quality investment in health and early education changes lives.

The State of Nebraska is poised to become a national leader in early childhood innovation. Higher education, private enterprise, and policymakers are each working to promote and advance early childhood education.

The fellows, myself included, were nominated by state leadership and selected based on our interest and commitment to a wide range of education, health, human services, state budget and other issues as they relate to early learning. In addition to exploring new research and policy ideas at the state level, we are learning and strategizing about federal initiatives.

This year’s efforts will build on the accomplishments made during the last two years by giving fellows the latest informational tools on brain research, economic findings and evidence-based programs. I look forward to using those tools to improve early childhood outcomes here in Nebraska, so that all children have the chance to be ready to learn.

Very truly yours,

State Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Educational Accomplishments

March 21st, 2014

Dear Constituents:

I am writing you with an update about the steps taken to enhance public education’s culture of excellence. One of my core principles in governing is the belief that quality educational opportunities are a key component to full and fulfilled participation in the world.

I am poised to pass legislation addressing state funding of poverty initiatives in public schools. My LB 958 creates a Student Achievement Coordinator position, charged with evaluation and coordination of existing resources for programs targeting achievement, reviewing poverty plans submitted by school districts, and assisting school districts in improving their plans.

Previously, I passed LB 262 to give accurate and innovative tools to policymakers and community organizations interested in closing the achievement gap in public education. While Nebraska makes funding education a priority, there were no reliable mechanisms to judge the effectiveness of our investments. With the passage of LB 262, for the first time we will have accurate, reliable, and complete information about the success of our students and effectiveness of our school districts.

Your Legislature, for its part, is quickly realizing the importance of early learning on the future population of the state. Additionally, the Legislature is advancing proposals to reach children through universal Pre-K throughout our diverse and geographically large state. The Legislature’s Education Committee is also undertaking a process to provide a statewide vision for education in Nebraska.

I am confident that these developments will reinforce the state’s commitment to our public education system, and I will continue to advocate for quality education in every community.

Very truly yours,

State Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear Constituents,

I am making economic development in eastern Omaha my priority this legislative session.

Last week I prioritized LB 800, originally introduced by State Senator Heath Mello (District 5). LB 800 will create Enterprise Zones across Nebraska, including parts of Legislative District 13. The Enterprise Zone will encourage investment and economic growth in our community by giving preference for projects located here under a multitude of state government programs.
Limited state resources for economic development should be targeted to the areas of the state that deserve the most support to combat joblessness and housing concerns, and promote career readiness.

Upon passage of the bill, east Omaha will receive preference for projects seeking incentives and grants from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Business Innovation Act, the Job Training Cash Fund, the Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit Act, and the Site & Building Development Fund.

Under the criteria outlined in the legislation, the Omaha Enterprise Zone will undoubtedly include most of North Omaha, including Florence, Miller Park, and Minne Lusa. The criteria for inclusion in the Enterprise Zone include population decline, high unemployment, and a high poverty rate.

The Legislature’s Business and Labor Committee unanimously voted to advance LB 800. This important economic development legislation is currently awaiting debate by the full legislature; with my decision to prioritize it, the bill is expected to come up for advancement in the coming weeks.

Very truly yours,

State Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Sen. Tanya Cook

District 13
Room #2011
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2727
Email: tcook@leg.ne.gov
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