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Sen. Tanya Cook

Sen. Tanya Cook

District 13

Work and Family

October 21st, 2016

Dear Constituents,

October is National Work and Family Month. It is a time to give thought to the many challenges working families face every day. Those challenges are even greater for low-income parents. They work in jobs with wages that do not meet basic needs; have few, if any, benefits; often have inconsistent or unpredictable schedules; and lack flexibility. It is these hard-working families who have motivated me to prioritize legislation that supports their efforts to create financial security for themselves and their children.

An absolute need for working parents is child care which is one of the greatest challenges for all families; for the low-income it can be even more troublesome. Fortunately, Nebraska has a child care subsidy program. However, program requirements resulted in the ‘cliff effect,’ making it impossible for a family to move out of poverty to self-sufficiency. Parents had to turn down raises because the increased earnings resulted in the loss of subsidies, but the raises weren’t sufficient to cover the significant cost of care. I am pleased that I was able to reduce this ‘cliff effect’ by successfully promoting changes to the child care subsidy program with LB359 in 2014 and LB81 in 2015.

Complicating the efforts of low-income families to become financially independent can be unreliable transportation, the lack of education, and the absence of opportunities to increase knowledge and build skills. This past session, coming to fruition was my work on legislation to provide tax credits for employers who hire women transitioning off public assistance and pay for their transportation to and from work, and the cost of education, including GEDs and postsecondary education. The incentives reward an employer for giving a woman a chance and provide an avenue for her to improve her family’s life. (LB510 amended into LB774)

Low-income working families face a myriad of challenges. I am proud of the policies I have been able to enact during my tenure that recognize the reality of their lives. However, our country and our state need to do more to enable low-income working parents to balance work and family responsibilities; provide a decent standard of living for themselves and their children; to be fairly compensated for their hard work; and create more effective paths for families to move to financial independence.

2016 Session Wrap-Up

May 13th, 2016

Dear Constituents:

The 104th session of the Nebraska Legislature adjourned for the year on April 20th. In the intervening weeks, I have taken some time to reflect on the successes and challenges of my final term as your representative for District 13.

Your Legislature took action to improve our state in many ways. I had several bills passed and signed into law by Governor Ricketts: LB 83 improves wage equality protections for Nebraska workers; LB 510 offers an incentive for employers to provide transformative investments in struggling families; LB 852 provides greater support to the vital work of our state’s community colleges; and LB 1004 will help ensure that low-income students are not missing out on healthy meals at school. I am extremely proud to have worked on these laws, which I believe will improve the quality of life for all Nebraskans.

In addition to the bills I introduced, I offered my support to several key reforms. Nebraska now has the strictest limits on civil forfeiture in the country, providing protection to those innocent who are inadvertently swept up in the system. The state will soon have a comprehensive opioid database in place to help doctors monitor and control the use of addictive painkillers. Over the Governor’s veto, we will allow immigrants legally residing in the state to apply for professional licensure in their areas of expertise and training. And finally, my colleagues and I passed a balanced budget, which Governor Ricketts signed in its entirety. The budget was focused on responsible growth, and protected the state’s investments in education and workforce development programs.

Though they were not passed into law this session, I also helped bring several other important issues to the Legislature’s and the public’s attention. My LB 965 highlighted the problems facing victims of mistaken identity, whose futures are complicated by arrest records made entirely in error. My LB 411 would have allowed more worthy families to achieve food security through the SNAP program. And I supported the responsible expansion of Medicaid through LB 1032, which would have helped thousands of Nebraskans access much-needed basic medical care. Though it is disappointing to not see these policies enacted during my time in the Legislature, I am hopeful that they will be thoughtfully considered in the future.

As with any enterprise, the 2016 Legislative session included both progress and obstacles. Overall, however, I believe the 2016 legislative session was a success. I hope I have lived up to your expectations as your Senator; as always, I am honored to represent you all.

Very truly yours,

Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Dear constituents:

I would like to share some information about the Unicameral Youth Legislature, which will be held at the State Capitol in Lincoln June 5-8. Student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

Students who will be entering grades 9-12 in the 2016-2017 school year are eligible to participate. I believe it is vital for young people to be knowledgeable about, and engaged in, the process of government. The Unicameral Youth Legislature is a unique opportunity for high school students to hone their advocacy skills and learn how state government can impact their lives.

The full cost to participate is $350, which covers all meals, housing and programs for the duration of the event. Students are encouraged to apply for the Speaker Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants for the Greg Adams scholarship must submit a short essay by May 1st. Other $100 scholarships are also available to help defray the registration cost. The final deadline for registration is May 15.

If you know any students who are eligible and interested in participating, I encourage you to visit or call (402) 471-2788 for more information. Application materials and details on the scholarship essay are available at that site.

Very Truly Yours,

Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

Spring Legislative Update

March 17th, 2016

Dear constituents:

I hope you are all enjoying the warmer weather and longer days. Spring is always an exciting season, when new growth and new opportunities arise. Your Nebraska Unicameral is working hard this spring, and I would like to share an update on several of my policy proposals.

My 2016 priority bill, LB83, was approved in the first round of debate with bi-partisan support. The bill has changed since I introduced it last year; working with my legislative colleagues and the business community, a compromise was reached that protects women’s right to an equal wage and ensures businesses will not be burdened with undue regulations. LB83 is a good bill, which gives women in this state the ability to protect themselves when wage discrimination is suspected. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it passed into law.

I am also proud to report that the Appropriations Committee included several of my bills in the proposed 2016 budget, which was approved in first round debate on a near-unanimous vote. Those bills include funding for our community colleges to continue their crucial workforce development programs; support for substance abuse rehabilitation facilities working in our communities; and changes to the Nebraska Arts Council to help them maintain the state’s public artworks. I am confident that the budget will pass the Legislature’s next two rounds of consideration, and that the Governor will see the good sense in these proposals.

2016 is a short session, and there are only sixteen legislative days remaining before we adjourn for the year. Those sixteen days, however, will give the Legislature an opportunity to make our state stronger and more just. I will work hard to ensure that happens.

Very Truly Yours,

Senator Tanya D. Cook
Legislative District 13

A Message to Constituents

February 16th, 2016

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.

Workforce Development

LB359 (2013) & LB81 (2014) are measures to alleviate the “cliff-effect” for Nebraska families working to get off of public assistance. Working Nebraskans were having to turn down raises because the additional income would make them ineligible for the Childcare Subsidy Program. These new laws help working families grow professionally while reducing the worry about whether they will be able to afford high-quality childcare each month.

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 will achieve this end while reducing property tax burdens on homeowners.

Accountability in Education

LB262 (2013) gives 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 LB262, for the first time we have accurate, reliable, and complete information about the success of our students and effectiveness of our school districts.  

LB 958 (2014) addresses state funding of poverty initiatives in public schools. My LB958 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.

LB382 (2015) created a grant program to support non-profit organizations that provide GED training in our communities. Community colleges are currently supported by state funds for the GED training they provide. Non-profit organizations, especially those that combat illiteracy, are meeting a need that is currently outside of Nebraska’s investments in upward mobility.  
LB511 (2015) requires all Nebraska approved or accredited public, private, denominational, or parochial schools to establish a return to learn protocol for students returning to the classroom following treatment for pediatric cancer.  

LB509 (2015) proposed amendments to an existing state law that unduly punished school districts for slight miscalculations in projected spending on poverty related efforts. This bill spurred a compromise among school districts across the state to ensure state law holds districts accountable without creating unnecessary confusion and caution when addressing poverty in their schools.

Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care

LB157 (2013) & LB82 (2015) – Nebraska has a very strong public health infrastructure. This strong infrastructure shows even greater potential. LB157 made sure Nebraskans have access to dental care services by equipping Nebraska’s seven Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) with dental professionals. LB82 provided further funding for those dental services, including at Charles Drew Health Center and OneWorld Community Health Center in Omaha. These bills will help the FQHCs to hire more dentists to address unmet dental health needs and increase overall health and quality of life of Nebraskans across the state.  

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

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

Common-Sense Reforms

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 adopted the most current national building standards that will save home and building owners up to 30% on their energy costs. LB329 gives Nebraskan owners and renters the highest standards of energy efficiency.

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

Sen. Tanya Cook

District 13
Room #2011
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2727
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