Welcome

January 7th, 2015

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 16th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Lydia Brasch

Weekly Session Update – May 24, 2015

May 22nd, 2015

Thursday, May 21, marked the completion of Day 85. While it seems we just began the session, some days often feel like an eternity. With 5 days remaining, eyes are fixed on what is left undone. Once again, controversial issues, receiving their second and third rounds of debate, were addressed.

On Wednesday, the Legislature debated Senator Ernie Chamber’s LB286 to repeal the death penalty. As a supporter of the death penalty, I firmly fought against repealing the death penalty. During every round of debate, I insisted on the need for society to ensure punishments that fit the crime. There are instances where the criminal’s actions are so heinous the death penalty is necessary for the security and safety of civil society. With the violence in Tecumseh prison and multiple violent deaths in Omaha, the need for the death penalty remains evident. This is not only my position, but the majority position of Nebraskans in District 16 and across the State.

Ultimately, LB286 was advanced by the Legislature with 32 votes in favor, 15 votes in opposition, and 2 abstaining votes. I voted in opposition of repealing the death penalty. LB286 was presented to Governor Ricketts who strongly supports the death penalty and will certainly veto the Legislature’s decision. Upon veto, the bill will return for a veto override debate. This will be a historic debate for the State, as no conservative state has repealed the death penalty in 40 years. In addition, LB286 has gained national media attention. I intend to fight hard to retain the death penalty.

Additionally, on Wednesday, the Governor returned the state budget to the Legislature with his signature and without any line-item veto actions. This means the Legislature’s only constitutional duty is completed. While we could technically adjourn the session, we remain to work on other legislation.

In light of the tragic news of fallen Omaha police officer, Kerrie Orozco, I wanted to offer my sincere, heartfelt condolences to her family and all those who grieve, especially her fellow law enforcement officers. Her community service is a shining example for us all. I pray for her family, especially her newborn baby girl, Olivia, who will never fully experience her mother’s physical presence though her legacy will certainly live on. A special thank you to all law enforcement for your endless sacrifices and to all those who support our men and women in blue.

As well, Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to remember the sacrifice of another group of valiant warriors for our liberty and freedom. A prayer of thanksgiving for all those who died honorably in military service to our country. Memorial Day provides the stark reminder that freedom is not without cost, but is a gift given to us by those who sacrifice their very lives.

Finally, a special thank you to Pastor Rebecca Hjelle, First United Methodist Church, of Blair, who served as Chaplain of the Day for the Legislature on May 18. We were blessed by her beautiful prayer and offering God’s blessing over our work and for the people of our great State.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – May 18, 2015

May 18th, 2015

Days 78 through 81 of our legislative session were full of controversial and difficult issues, making for long hours, heated debate, and input from many constituents. Among other bills, the following issues were discussed: the budget, gas tax increase, criminal justice and prison reform, death penalty, drivers licenses for DACA youth brought into the country illegally, anti-discrimination regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and medical marijuana.

As required, the Legislature advanced a budget on Day 80. Overall, the budget increases spending by 3.1%, totaling approximately $4.3 billion. This represents the third-lowest spending growth in the last 15 biennial budgets. Governor Ricketts will now review the Legislature’s proposal. The Governor can line-item veto the budget, meaning he can strike certain spending provisions while keeping others. After the budget returns to the Legislature, we vote to uphold or override the specific line-item vetoes.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Legislature engaged in an 8-hour first-round debate on LB643 which would legalize medical marijuana. The bill presents a number of problems. The biggest problem is the following: while there is certainly anecdotal and personal evidence that medical marijuana has helped a number of individuals with specific medical issues, medical marijuana lacks rigorous, objective scientific research. This is also the concern of major medical associations and providers. There is a lack of data regarding its potency, efficacy, and safety which should cause caution on this issue. Not only could it be harmful to adults, but could be more harmful for children who already suffer tremendously. Ultimately, LB643 was advanced to second round of debate by a 27-12 vote.

On Thursday, we debated the Governor’s veto of LB610 regarding the gas tax increase. The Legislature decided to override the veto with the necessary 30 votes. I did not support the veto override. This increases the total tax to 31.6 cents per gallon over the next four years leading to the 16th highest tax in the nation.

We also debated the always controversial issue of prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender orientation (LB586). I also opposed this bill because of its numerous problems. First, the legislation lacks proven case evidence. For instance, the city of Omaha has a similar policy in place. While approximately ten claims were filed last year, no actual violations of discrimination were found. Additionally, private business owners are capable of implementing a similar policy. Furthermore, the bill offered no robust religious exemption despite claims to the contrary. LB586 is a serious and direct threat to our first liberty, religious liberty. Ultimately, the bill failed to gain support, but will likely be taken up again next year.

On Friday, the repeal of the death penalty (LB268) advanced a second time.  Debate on this bill occurred in light of recent news items: the tragic deaths of a Hispanic mother and her 5-year old son in Omaha, the brutal deaths of two inmates at the Tecumseh prison, and the State’s purchase of the necessary drugs to carry out the death penalty. Staunchly opposed to the repeal of the death penalty, I spoke about the purpose to carry out the highest degree of punishment as fitting justice for murderous criminals who commit the most heinous of crimes. Ultimately, LB268 survived a 4-hour filibuster and advanced by a 30-16 vote. The bill must still pass a third round of debate and a certain veto by the Governor.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

 

Weekly Session Update – May 11, 2015

May 15th, 2015

Another week has flown by at the Legislature with the completion of Day 77 on May 7. There are only 13 session days left, with many major issues remaining on the agenda such as the budget, prison and corrections reform, and property tax relief.

The budget advanced through second round of debate on Wednesday. While much of the debate on the budget may occur during final reading and after line-item vetoes by the Governor, some concerns have been raised. For instance, there was extended discussion regarding an $8 million appropriation to Creighton University for the construction of a dental clinic. The debate focused on whether public tax dollars should be solely disbursed for this private institution. The appropriation was amended to provide eligibility for funding to the University of Nebraska’s dental college as well.

A recent announcement by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board was good news. It was anticipated the Forecasting Board would announce a shortfall in projected tax revenues requiring budget cuts, but instead the Board announced a $12 million increase. Thankfully, the additional revenues were allotted for further property tax relief within the budget.

While the decision to provide increased property tax relief was a prudent move, I remain disappointed by the passage of LB610. LB610 hikes the motor vehicle gas tax by six cents over the next four years. LB610 was advanced to the Governor who immediately vetoed the bill. LB610 needs thirty votes to override the Governor’s veto.

Recently, a few bills I introduced made progress through the legislative process. LB570 expands the authority of cities, villages, and counties to permit the usage of golf car vehicles within their jurisdictions, subject to specific safety requirements.

Additionally, LB569 and LB571 were amended into LB449. LB569 modifies certain provisions of the Business Innovation Act and gives the Department of Economic Development greater flexibility to fund several programs supporting development of Nebraska-based technology and innovation in both rural and urban communities. LB571 provides the Tourism Commission with the discretionary authority to establish highway tourism signage for significant tourism attractions at the request and funding of local, private or public entities. LB449 recently passed final reading and has been presented to the Governor for his signature to become law.

Our office continues monitoring developments in the recent, abrupt decision by Deseret Health Group to close the Logan Valley Manor in Lyons. We are working closely with Senator Al Davis (District 43), whose district has another of Deseret’s nursing homes, Governor Ricketts, Director Phillips of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and other private groups and individuals. On May 8, I stopped by the home in Lyons to speak with staff concerning needs of both residents and staff. Currently only 7 residents await placement to a different facility. All residents continue being well cared for. Residents, family, community and the state are grateful to the wonderful, caring staff who are yet to be paid during the past month. Actions are underway by the Attorney General’s Office to secure funds for wages due to the staff.

Finally, a special thanks to Pastor Coral Parmenter and Reverend Les Parmenter from the Wisner-West Point area who served as Chaplains of the Day, offering beautiful and eloquent prayers over the Legislature and our great State.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Press Release: Deseret Health Group Announces Closing of Logan Valley Manor

May 7th, 2015

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                           

For More Information:

Tom Venzor, Legislative Aide

Office of Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

(402) 471-2728

tvenzor@leg.ne.gov

Senators Lydia Brasch and Senator Al Davis Request State Action,

Oversight in Nebraska Nursing Home Closings

On Monday, May 4, Senator Brasch and Senator Al Davis (District 43) along with Governor Pete Ricketts, representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL), and private representatives of the nursing home care community met to ensure proper oversight and due diligence are undertaken to protect the residents and employees of various nursing home facilities.

Deseret Health Group announced last week on April 25 it would close its facility, Logan Valley Manor, in Lyons. This announcement coincided with a notice to also close another facility, Ainsworth Care Center, in Ainsworth. Deseret Health Group has now withdrawn care of all four of its facilities in Nebraska.

Currently, DHHS is working to provide receivership status for the Lyons and Ainsworth facilities. Receivership provides the state the ability to work with a private entity to take custody, manage, and protect the people, property, and assets involved. Receivership provides a temporary, legal remedy while a more permanent, long-term solution is determined.

Initially, Deseret Health Group gave a 30-day notice to the Lyons and Ainsworth facilities. However, federal law requires a 60-day notice be given with regard to the closing of a nursing home facility that accepts Medicaid and/or Medicare payments. Deseret has complied with the 60-day notice, but could not be reached for comment.

DHHS, under the new leadership of Courtney Phillips, has been actively involved at both facilities in Lyons and Ainsworth. DHHS made on-site visits to ensure adequate care was being offered and continues to monitor each facility on a shift-by-shift basis.

DOL has been working diligently to try to ensure the payment of wages for employees. Employees of the nursing home facilities were scheduled to be paid on April 30. However, Deseret Health Group is yet to provide payment of wages as of May 6. The DOL also sent a Rapid Response Team to both the Lyons and Ainsworth location to speak with employees. The Rapid Response Team provides services regarding filing wage complaints, new employment opportunities, and the requirements for filing for unemployment benefits.

Senator Lydia Brasch, representative of District 16, voiced concern for the recent announcement stating: “I am truly concerned for the residents and employees of Logan Valley Manor as they undergo this difficult transition in light of Deseret Health Group’s recent and abrupt actions. Yet, I remain hopeful as I believe the residents, family of residents, employees, citizens, businesses, and government agencies will step up and provide needed care and support for those affected.” Senator Brasch additionally indicated her desire for local groups, charitable organizations, businesses, and church communities to step in where necessary and offered gratitude for all those who have already sacrificed to ensure the health and welfare of the residents and employees of Logan Valley Manor.

Any questions or concerns for DHHS may be addressed by contacting them at 402.471.3324 (between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.), 402.499.4417 (after hours, weekends, or holidays), or by e-mail to eve.lewis@nebraska.gov. To file a wage complaint with the DOL, call 402.471.2239.

###

Weekly Session Update – May 4, 2015

May 5th, 2015

A most beautiful “May Day” graced the completion of Day 72 of 90. While the Legislative Calendar moves on a downward trend in terms of days remaining, we experience an upward trend of hours spent each day at the Capitol as many bills are to be debated.

Two significant events occurred this week. First, as required, the budget was officially introduced to General File on Day 70. The budget is set for a biennial (two-year) period. For example, this year’s budget applies to 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

Typically, several bills comprise the Appropriations Committee’s budget recommendation and goes through a similar legislative process as other bills. The budget appropriates most state funds for operations and state aid. Upon placement on General File, a daily financial status report is provided by the legislative fiscal office. This report reflects probable spending limits based on certain assumptions regarding tax rates, revenue forecasts, and the committee’s budget recommendation.

By rule, we must advance appropriations bills by Day 80 to Final Reading. The Governor must sign or veto within the next 5 days. Interestingly, the budget is the only bill the Governor has the power of line-item veto which means he can strike specific provisions of the budget while approving the remaining provisions. The Legislature then has the ability to accept or override the Governor’s specific line-item vetoes.

This year’s proposed budget increases government spending by 3.1%, totaling $4.3 billion. The proposed increase virtually matches Governor Ricketts’ recommendation and marks the third lowest total growth in the last 15 biennial budgets. In addition, $750 million is predicted for the cash reserve fund which assists with certain one-time spending items and provides “rainy day” funds to assist the State during economic recessions.

A few big-spending items are worth mentioning. First, the budget increases the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund by $60 million for each year of the biennium, in addition to the $140 million per year already allotted. This results in $400 million of property tax relief over the next two years and translates into a credit equal to $93.33 per $100,000 of valuation. This proposal provides a good foundation for needed general property tax relief. However, my priority bill reducing agricultural land valuation from 75% to 65% remains stalled in the Revenue Committee until one more vote is found to advance it to the floor for full debate.

Second, the budget proposes approximately $980 million in state aid funding to education through our State’s education funding mechanism. Unfortunately, District 16 only receives around $5 million in state aid funding. This amounts to one-half of one percent of the total state aid, although our student population accounts for two percent of the total statewide student population. This reflects the undue burden District 16 carries with regard to the local funding of education.

Third, the budget suggests $1.3 billion in aid to individuals. This category of spending includes Medicaid which accounts for $818 million. It also includes other services, such as child welfare and public assistance to those with developmental disabilities. Aid to individuals amounts to the highest categorical percentage increase in spending at 6.1%.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Press Release: Unicameral Youth Legislature

May 5th, 2015

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                               

For More Information:

Tom Venzor, Legislative Aide

Office of Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

(402) 471-2728

tvenzor@leg.ne.gov

Senator Lydia Brasch Invites Students to Youth Legislature

High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 7-10. At the State Capitol, 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.

Senator Brasch is “excited to extend such an opportunity to the young people of District 16.” She continued: “The youth legislature provides students with great insight and valuable educational experiences about the Unicameral in a 3 day mock-reality setting in the Capitol. It is my hope this experience inspires our youth to see a leadership role, be it as a future State Senator or community leader working to benefit and protect others.”

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Speaker Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available.

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402)471-0764. The deadline for registration is May 15.

###

Press Release: CSG & NCSL Committee Appointments

May 5th, 2015

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                          

For More Information:

Tom Venzor, Legislative Aide

Office of Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

(402) 471-2728

tvenzor@leg.ne.gov

Senator Brasch Appointed to Multiple Committees

for the Council of State Governments and National Conference of State Legislatures

State Senator Lydia Brasch of District 16 was recently appointed to a number of committees for the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Senator Carl Marcellino of New York, the 2015 CSG National Chair, congratulated Senator Brasch stating he was “pleased” and “delighted” to have Senator Brasch appointed to three committees by Speaker Galen Hadley of Kearney. Senator Debbie Smith of Nevada, NCSL President, noted she was “pleased to welcome” Senator Brasch in undertaking the “critical work” of the NCSL.

Upon her selection, Senator Brasch responded: “I am truly humbled to have been selected for these committees and look forward to collaborating with senators from other states, as well as policy experts, to better serve District 16 and the State of Nebraska.”

For the CSG, Senator Brasch was appointed to the Interbranch Affairs Committee, Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, and Transportation & Infrastructure Public Policy Committee. For the NCSL, Senator Brasch was appointed to the Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Communications, Financial Services & Interstate Commerce Committee, and the Natural Resources & Infrastructure Committee.

The CSG is “a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy.” The NCSL seeks to “improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures” and “ensure state legislatures a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system.”

The Interbranch Affairs Committee is dedicated to reviewing and monitoring major interbranch issues between the judicial, executive, and legislative branches and seeks to foster collaboration and understanding between these branches. The Intergovernmental Affairs Branch Committee focuses on issues of federalism which concern the relationship between the federal and state government and helps to set an agenda on these issues. The Transportation & Infrastructure Public Policy Committee provides a forum to address emerging challenges and issues arising from dynamic transportation and infrastructure policy conditions in states with a focus on emerging trends and innovative and effective solutions.

The Law, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee addresses issues relating to constitutional law, civil rights, liability issues, within the criminal justice system with a focus on protecting against state sovereignty. The Communications, Financial Services & Interstate Commerce Committee is responsible for protecting states’ interests in federal decisions regarding electronic commerce, banking, insurance, taxation, and other issues. The Natural Resources & Infrastructure Committee discusses issues related to energy, environment, agriculture and transportation programs.

###

Weekly Session Update – April 27, 2015

May 5th, 2015

The Legislature adjourned for the week on Thursday, April 23, leaving only 21 working days this session. Bills not heard but advanced out of committee will return to the floor in January 2016 creating a heavier workload in the short 60-day session. As we return for Day 70, the budget is required by statute to be placed on General File and passed no later than Day 80 (May 14). The constitutional duty to pass the budget is a great responsibility as we seek to be good stewards of the tax dollars of our fellow hard-working Nebraskans. With much work to accomplish, we will begin “late night or long day sessions” beginning April 28.

Several bills are worth noting this week. First, LB423 advanced to second round of debate. LB423 provides state-level production tax credits for renewable energy facilities. The bill provides a 1-cent tax credit for every kilowatt hour of power produced. The tax credit decreases over the next two years and terminates in ten years. LB423 also requires an annual report allowing the Legislature to analyze its effectiveness.

I supported LB423 for a couple reasons. First, we must support all forms of energy. In our area, we have the nuclear power plant in Fort Calhoun and Olean Energy in Dodge which produces energy from methane derived from hog manure. As sound practice, the state should diversify its energy sources to include renewables. While blessed with cost-effective public power, there is a need to utilize alternative energy. Second, LB423 directly benefits our district as we have two wind farm sites in Burt County. These energy investment opportunities provide rural economic development, create local jobs, and help lower property taxes.

LB294 also advanced to second round. LB294 strengthens criminal and civil statutes regarding human trafficking. Human trafficking is defined as recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining, or exploiting one human being by another through force, fraud, or coercion into some form of exploitation. Two common forms of human trafficking occur in commercial sex and labor exploitation. An estimated 36 million people, mostly women and children, are enslaved by the evil of human trafficking. LB294 is an important step increasing public awareness as well as offering legal means for obstructing and ending this silent evil. I encourage you to become more aware of this injustice happening not only around the world but in our own state.

LB360 which offers revisions to the Commercial Dog and Cat Operator Inspection Act also advanced to second round. Among other things, LB360 clarifies that the Nebraska Department of Agriculture can intervene against significant threats to the health and safety of dogs and cats. LB360 also provides procedures for handling incidents of animal cruelty, such as impounding or forfeiture. While concerns were raised, the bill strikes an important balance between breeders, animal welfare advocates, and the state’s authority to maintain public health.

Also, for our Pastors, there are ten more days available to serve as volunteer Chaplain of the Day for the Legislature. Please let our office know if you would like to lead us in prayer and offer God’s blessing upon the Unicameral.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Weekly Session Update – April 20, 2015

April 20th, 2015

This week at the Legislature marked Days 62 through 65 of our 90-day session. Two key items are worth mentioning from this week’s business.

First, and with great disappointment, it has become clear the Revenue Committee has no interest in supporting my priority bill (LB350) to reduce the valuation of agricultural and horticultural land from 75% to 65% for the purposes of property taxation. Currently, LB350 is one vote short of advancing out of committee. The objection of some rural Senators is the lack of benefit LB350 would provide their districts. Despite efforts to add an amendment providing state aid funding for their rural school districts which do not receive any state aid, there continues to be a lack of support by these rural Senators. Notably, the Department of Revenue just released its Property Assessment Report for 2014-2015 indicating a nearly 20% average statewide increase in property tax valuations for agricultural land.

Second, this week largely focused on prison reform and the death penalty. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Legislature debated LB605, LB598, and LB173. These bills are considered the prison reform bills and respond to the prison overcrowding issue which is a major concern.

As amended, LB605 would restore a state law requiring the minimum sentence for a serious felony be no longer than one-third the length of the maximum sentence. In addition, LB173 would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for several felonies and restrict the use of enhanced penalties for habitual criminals to a limited list of violent crimes.

Overall, these bills are concerning. While we unquestionably face a serious problem with prison overcrowding, LB605 and LB173 are not the solution. Rather than be soft on crime, we need to remain tough on violent crimes and habitual criminals. We should address other solutions, such as assisting non-violent criminal’s rehabilitation and their re-entry into society.

LB268 was somberly addressed on Thursday morning. Introduced and prioritized by Senator Chambers, LB268 seeks to repeal the death penalty for first-degree murder and replace it with life imprisonment without parole. LB268 opponents, of which I am a part, insist on the necessity of capital punishment for the most heinous crimes to ensure strict justice is served. In addition, capital punishment provides an effective deterrent to other crimes. As well, our Attorney General offered data refuting the claim prosecution of capital punishment is a cost-burden and financial hardship to the State. Also, in response to affirmations about our God-given human dignity, opponents affirm the State has a unique God-given authority to ensure society is protected from violent criminals, even to the extent of using deadly force.

LB268 advanced to second round with 30 votes. While this is sufficient support to become law and override a Governor’s veto, LB268 needs 33 votes to override a filibuster. I voted against the repeal of the death penalty—the need for capital punishment is a rare but necessary tool for our civil society.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

 

Weekly Session Update – April 13, 2015

April 13th, 2015

With the end of the week, Friday, April 10, the legislature entered our final thirty days of session. This week also marked the third full week of all-day floor debate and, when not stalled, things are beginning to move in full force. We discussed a number of key concerns in debate this week such as tax relief, foster parenting, economic development, and Medicaid expansion.

The Medicaid Redesign Act (LB472) was debated on Wednesday afternoon. While the intention of LB472 to “increase economic efficiencies and better serve all Nebraskans in the medical assistance program” seems ideal, the floor debate exposed crucial bill flaws. LB472 would have added approximately 54,000 additional Nebraskans to Medicaid at a cost to the state of nearly half a billion dollars beyond the limited Federal funding. While I support the need to provide effective medical services at lower costs, LB472 is simply economically unsustainable. After it was clear LB472 had insufficient support, the bill was bracketed which means the issue can no longer be debated during this session.

LB414 also received significant attention. LB414 exempts fraternal benefit societies from property taxes. Discussion on this bill revolved around two issues. First, LB414 was criticized as special interest legislation to satisfy a fraternal benefit organization from Omaha, Woodmen of the World. Second, there was considerable conversation regarding the Legislature’s priority efforts on property tax relief. Many Senators, including myself, expressed the need to address property tax relief for our farmers and ranchers.

LB449 was also discussed and easily advanced to second round of debate. LB449 changes provisions of the Business Innovation Act and the Nebraska Visitors Development Act. LB449 was prioritized by the Appropriations Committee. It was also amended to include LB569 which is a bill I introduced. LB569 modifies certain provisions of the Business Innovation Act and gives the Department of Economic Development greater flexibility to fund several programs supporting development of Nebraska-based technology and innovation in both rural and urban communities.

Finally, LB623 was considered by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee in an executive session. I serve as vice-chair of the committee. LB623 addresses granting a drivers license to those brought here by illegal immigrant parents as a child. These children are now teenagers and young adults and have been granted deferred action by an executive agency. LB623 would grant them ‘lawful status’ for the purposes of operators licenses and ID cards. Every other state has already extended some form of drivers license or state ID benefit. LB623 received the five votes necessary to advance to the whole legislature. I was present but did not vote because of my strong belief and support of legal immigration. However, due to sincere compassion for those in this situation I withheld strict opposition to the bill. I cannot fully support LB623 because I believe we have an obligation to pass state laws that uphold legal paths of immigration which many others lawfully and patiently follow.

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16