NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Lydia Brasch

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information:

Jacob Campbell, Legislative Aide

Office of Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

(402)-471-2728

jcampbell@leg.ne.gov

 

Senator Brasch Cosigns Editorial

 

 

Initiative 427 will appear on your ballot as the latest attempt to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. Medicaid expansion has unsuccessfully come before the Unicameral numerous times, and the pros and cons your Nebraska senators have considered in previous years are relevant to Initiative 427. Like most issues, Medicaid expansion is not black and white. As your representatives in the Nebraska Unicameral, we feel obligated to share our concerns and urge you to consider the consequences Medicaid expansion would have on our state.

 

Expanding Medicaid through Initiative 427 would hurt our most vulnerable Nebraskans by removing the focus of Medicaid benefits from people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women and placing the focus on working-age adults without disabilities or children. The costs of expansion would make property tax relief nearly impossible, leave the state’s reserve funds at a dangerously low level, and put funding at risk for K-12 education, the University of Nebraska, roads, and current Medicaid recipients.

 

Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) requires the federal government to reimburse states for only a portion of Medicaid expansion costs. Initiative 427 would require the state to fund the remaining expansion expenses – a price tag projected to cost Nebraska taxpayers $33 million in 2019-20 and up to $768 million over the next decade according to Nebraska’s Legislative Fiscal Office and Department of Health and Human Services. Actual costs have far exceeded projections in nearly every state that has opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. For example, in the first year Iowa expanded Medicaid, actual costs totaled nearly $150 million more than expected.

 

In a study published this month, Nebraska was ranked number one nationally for financial wellbeing. We have accomplished this by using taxpayer dollars cautiously and keeping unpredictable financial obligations out of our state budget. Unlike Washington, we balance our state budget each year and remain debt free. Medicaid expansion would create an unpredictable financial obligation on Nebraska, as seen in other states, which could throw our balanced budget into jeopardy. If Initiative 427 passes, Nebraskans could be forced to choose between increasing taxes or cutting funds to existing programs, such as K-12 education, roads, or current Medicaid benefits. Tax increases would create an overwhelming financial hardship for most Nebraskans, and cutting funds to existing programs is an equally unappealing option.

 

As Nebraskans, we have always prided ourselves in looking out for our friends and neighbors who are in need. Our current Medicaid program provides health care benefits to people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women. We are one of the few states to offer all federally optional Medicaid services (such as prescription drugs, mental health services, and care for the developmentally disabled) in addition to federally required services. Although the federal government would fund a limited portion of Medicaid expansion, none of these funds can be used to support benefits for current Medicaid recipients. As a result, some states have been forced to cut optional Medicaid services to their most vulnerable citizens – a reality Nebraska would also likely face.

 

Current Nebraska Medicaid recipients are at risk of losing benefits for dental services, prescription drugs, treatment for specific diseases (such as breast and cervical cancer), vision care, mental health, speech, and occupational therapy, and many more. Initiative 427 would put the needs of working-age adults without disabilities over the needs of our friends and neighbors with disabilities, children, and pregnant women who truly cannot afford to lose these essential services Nebraska provides.

 

Medicaid expansion would place a significant burden on Nebraska taxpayers that could hurt Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens. Before you cast your vote on Initiative 427, we urge you to consider the impacts Medicaid expansion would have on your neighbors, your family, your business, and your budget.

 

Senator Joni Albrecht; District 17 – Chair, Business & Labor Committee

 

Senator Lydia Brasch; District 16 – Chair, Agriculture Committee

 

Senator Curt Friesen; District 34 – Chair, Transportation & Telecommunications Committee

 

Senator Dan Hughes; District 44 – Chair, Natural Resources Committee

 

Senator Mark Kolterman; District 24 – Chair, Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee

 

Speaker Jim Scheer; District 19 – Speaker of the Legislature

 

Senator John Stinner; District 48 – Chair, Appropriations Committee

 

Senator Bruce Bostelman; District 23

 

Senator Tom Brewer; District 43

 

Senator Tom Briese; District 41

 

Senator Steve Erdman; District 47

 

Senator Steve Halloran; District 33

 

Senator Lou Ann Linehan; District 39

Week 16 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative day 60.

This week’s column marks the end of the 2018 session and adjournment without any other official legislative days on the schedule for the year.  I may share columns throughout the interim as issues arise or events of interest occur.  As is tradition, on the last day of each session we adjourn “Sine Die”, or “without day” in Latin, to reflect the end of the legislative session.  Before adjournment though, we addressed 25 bills on the schedule for Final Reading.

My fellow departing senators and I were given the opportunity to share some final remarks.  I thanked my staff, family, and constituents for their support, kindness, conversation, and communication throughout my service as Senator for Legislative District 16.

Our office also hosted 4th graders from Lyons-Decatur at the Capitol on our final day of the session.  Unfortunately, I was unable to leave the floor during final reading to personally welcome them. Traditionally, we ask students what ideas they have for future legislation should they become senators. Jacob, in my office took over for me to ask this question. I was surprised and happy these students had an idea to declare every Tuesday as “Taco Tuesday” in Nebraska. So Nebraska, be prepared!

As Agriculture Chairwoman throughout the interim, there will be a few interim studies. LR 371 directs the Agriculture Committee to examine the use of fence dispute filings under the Nebraska fence law and the extent that neighbors have utilized mediation to resolve fencing disputes.  The resolution also directs the committee to examine whether reintroducing a fenceviewer system could be a more successful method for handling fence disputes.  LR 416 directs the Agriculture Committee to study whether advertising a price of motor fuels at an attractive price but only offering the fuel at a limited number of pumps is a deceptive trade practice and if so, whether it should be considered an unlawful act under the Weights and Measure Act.  The Ag Committee considered, and eventually advanced LB 477 which would require that if a station advertised a price for a 10% or less ethanol blend, it was required to offer that fuel at all pumps.  That bill was not debated due to the lack of time.

On Saturday, I enjoyed spending time in Wisner at the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Party: 50 years” with many of our local Vietnam War heroes, their families, and communities. Lt. Governor Foley officially thanked those attending and presented a proclamation signed by Governor Ricketts. The welcome home included a color guard, scouts, folk songs of Vietnam War era were sang and played by a guitarist, a trio sang patriotic songs acapella and more music filled the afternoon into evening.

Our Vietnam War Veterans and their families sacrificed so much for our country, some gave their all and sadly those heroes who returned home with horrific wounds, seen and unseen, did so without a welcome home by celebration, recognition or appreciation rightfully due during that controversial era in our history.  A heartfelt special thank you goes to all who have served past and present and their families to make our mighty nation great. “We do not fight to make war, we fight to keep peace.”

The staff and I will continue to work on matters and requests as they arise until January 9, 2019. Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol or watch as various hearings and interim studies are scheduled and televised throughout the interim at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand.

Week 15 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 57 through 59.

As of adjournment on Wednesday, April 11 only one day remains in the 2018 Legislative Session.  We will convene on Wednesday, April 18 for the official last day of the 2nd biennium of the 105th Legislature to take action on a few bills on Final Reading and for closing ceremonies.  

Monday was the final day for bills still on General File to advance in time to be passed this session.  My priority bill to relating to the committees on Americanism, LB1069, was debated late in the night Monday.  Starting at about 11:00 pm and ending shortly before midnight, we discussed the importance of civic readiness and foundational knowledge of American government.  Although I and many others see this bill as being extremely important to the future of Nebraska’s Social Studies classes, the bill timed out before coming to a vote.  Education Committee Chairman Senator Groene vowed to bring the bill back next year in some form.

A bill allowing the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to be used for workforce development housing in Nebraska advanced on Tuesday.  LB496 introduced by Senator Stinner allows municipalities to include workforce housing in redevelopment plans eligible for TIF funding. Using TIF funding for projects such as these increases the property tax assessment of the surrounding area while allowing the individual or company building and owning the housing development to only pay a baseline amount of property tax for a period of fifteen years.  Passing this bill will result in higher property taxes for some individuals and businesses to the benefit of others paying minimal property taxes.  Allowing TIF funding for private construction contradicts conservative principles of free markets.

Thirteen senators signed a letter presented to the Secretary of State Tuesday requesting a special session of the legislature to reduce property tax. I cannot support a special session for several reasons, especially as Agriculture Chairwoman.  For one, a special session adds significant unbudgeted expenses during this time of economic downturn and revenue deficits. A special session would cost a minimum of $65,000 for seven days. Every penny your government spends is on the dime of taxpayers.  Taxpayers who are need of tax relief instead of increased spending. Consider this, if all 49 senators were unable to come together during this session or at any other point during my eight years of service to District 16 in the legislature, what makes us think we’d be successful during a special session?  My final session resulted in no compromise on property tax relief efforts and, instead, caused intense disagreements.

Responsible property tax relief must come in in the form of a plan that does not raise taxes, none, period.  My concern is that a special session would actually result in higher taxes for some Nebraskans. Decades of efforts by legislatures past and present failed to control or reduce problematic and disproportionate spending across the board.  Efforts must come from every level of government to end spending increases on the backs of property taxpayers. This did not happen overnight and cannot be resolved unless relief mirrors economic growth and the recovery of our ag sector.

A legislative body composed of only 19 rural senators and 30 urban senators has diluted ag interests one step at a time, taking more and more from an already distressed agriculture community. We only need to look at a proposal from Senator Schumacher to tax irrigation water one cent for every ten gallons to see which direction things could head. At the end of the day, odds are not in Agriculture producers’ favor that we will come away from a special session with tax real relief.  The odds are we will end up paying more than we bargained for.

Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Week 14 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 53 through 56.

All of us in the District 16 office at the Capitol hope you enjoyed a wonderful Easter weekend.  We returned to business on Tuesday, April 3 and took the final step of passing the Appropriations Committee’s budget on Final Reading, advancing it to the Governor to sign.  I believe we enacted a relatively simple budget.  It is rare for the Governor not to exercise the line-item veto to delete or reduce individual spending items.  It speaks to the agreement between the Legislature and the Governor on the need for spending restraint that Governor Ricketts signed the budget intact.

Also on Tuesday, LB 947, a property and income tax relief bill brought by Sen. Smith on behalf of the Governor, timed out after three hours of debate and encountering a filibuster by certain senators who oppose the bill.  Property tax relief, specifically addressing the disproportionate rise in ag land taxes, is an issue I have worked on my entire time in service to District 16.  Passing LB 947 is a necessary and responsible step toward bringing tax relief to Nebraskans and creating the conditions needed for growth and financial stability. Without raising taxes, LB 947 calls for an initial 12% tax credit for ag land owners, increasing the credits 2% each year up to 30% by 2031.  Future legislators have the ability to introduce legislation that offers more immediate property tax relief once our economy improves and the cash reserve is rebuilt.

Over the weekend a group of six senators met to discuss their various proposals for property tax relief, attempting to come to an agreement on how to implement a plan.  Those talks fell short of such agreement. The senators had too many differences in how to incorporate revenue generation, school funding changes, or revenue growth into their property tax solution.

We did advance a number of bills including a bill to keep information regarding firearm registration and possession private, a bill to create a definition and provisions for bottle clubs, and a bill to replace the statues representing Nebraska in the United States Capitol.  Statues of William Jennings Bryan and J. Sterling Morton would be replaced with statues of Willa Cather and Chief Standing Bear.

Debate on Wednesday and Thursday centered on only a few bills.  LB 389 would permit wireless providers to utilize public spaces for placement and installation of small cell wireless facilities.  These facilities would provide much needed 5G capabilities to rural areas through cost-effective means.  Small cell wireless facilities can be easily deployed and require minimal infrastructure investment as they utilize existing infrastructure in the cities and villages they are placed in.  The bill failed to move on to the next round of debate.

Also of note were a few bills central to our participation in the democratic process of the United States government.  A constitutional amendment introduced by Senator Murante to require voter identification, a bill to permit the use of electronic poll books, and a bill relating to a potential convention of states were all debated on the floor Thursday.  These bills all relate to a civic process that our nation is less and less familiar with and less and less involved in as the years go by.  I believe that we, the people, will always hold the power and ability to right wrongs we see in our systems of government.  That is why my priority bill to change provisions relating to committees on Americanism and require a civics test in our schools is so very important

In constituent news, I was happy to sit down with a group of FFA students from District 16 for breakfast Friday.  It was great to see and speak with so many students invested in the future of agriculture from our district.

Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Week 13 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 49 through 52.

We began week thirteen of the legislative session with a sense of urgency, setting the tone for the week by taking action on twenty-six bills before adjourning for the day on Monday.  We debated issues such as public power transparency, depositions of alleged child victims of abuse or neglect, school mental health, and others before moving on to a long list of consent calendar bills.  Consent calendar refers to bills considered under rules limiting debate to 15 minutes. To qualify for consent calendar a bill must be non-controversial, not have any significant budget impact, and either not have received any opposition testimony during its public hearing or be amended to remove the opponents’ objections.  

A bill I introduced this session, LB 766, was one of the bills advanced on consent calendar last week.   LB 766 makes a minor but important change to the fence law clarifying that a landowner must give written notice to neighbors prior to beginning work on a fence. The bill also provides more time for neighbors to reach an agreement on how responsibilities and costs for fence work are shared.

One property tax relief bill made it to the floor for debate on Tuesday.  Senator Groene’s priority bill to change the funding of school districts in Nebraska would have placed more of the responsibility of paying for public school education onto the state while limiting the total school district fund revenue resulting from property taxes at 60% of total revenues.  The bill did not advance, timing out after three hours of debate.

On Wednesday we advanced a bill to increase speed limits on some highways in Nebraska, a bill relating to human trafficking convictions, and more than 20 other bills before moving to further debate of the state’s budget.  We reached an agreement to end a filibuster and allow the budget package to move forward in the form of an amendment regarding how Title X funding could be used. Progress had stalled due to objections to including language in the budget bringing the state into compliance with federal Title X regulations.  The amendment allows healthcare providers to only refer clients to abortion providers upon a medical determination that continuing a pregnancy would have serious health implications for the mother. The budget advanced by a vote of 44-4.

Last week I filed a pull motion on my priority bill to bring the bill to the floor for debate. LB1069 modernizes current statute relating to school board committees on Americanism, eliminates a potential misdemeanor charge against school board members, requires a civics test for middle and high school students, and that committees on Americanism receive public testimony.  Pull motions are a last resort and require twenty-five votes to be successful. Though the bill was halted in committee we successfully executed the pull motion on Thursday with twenty-seven votes. Many constituents have contacted our office as proponents and opponents of the bill and I believe it deserves to be fully debated by the entire legislature.

In constituent news at the Capitol, your District 16 office had the pleasure of hosting fifty-two fourth graders from Fort Calhoun on Tuesday.  Thirty-six students from Tekamah-Herman visited on Thursday in addition to Beverly Melchor-Young from Riverside Baptist Church in Tekamah serving as Chaplain of the Day.  

We adjourned for a 4-day Easter weekend just after noon on Thursday with only eight days left in the session.  Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Week 12 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 45 through 48.

We reconvened on Tuesday, March 20th for day forty-five of the short, sixty-day session after recess days on Friday and Monday.  Those recess days were time well spent as I attended the 27th Annual Legislative Forum at Wayne State College on Friday and Monday traveled with the Governor, Agriculture Director Steve Wellman, and Assistant Director Mat Habrock to kick off Ag Week. Both events were excellent opportunities to connect with Nebraskans and listen to their thoughts about the state.

On Wednesday we returned to the budget debate that includes Title X funding.  Title X is a federal grant program to provide individuals with family planning and preventive health services.  According to federal law, Title X funds cannot be used to provide abortions.  The Appropriations Committee advanced a budget with provisions requiring “objective independence” from abortion providers including “legal, physical and financial separation” in order to ensure that Title X funding is not used for abortion services in Nebraska.  However, in an unprecedented measure, members of the Appropriations Committee that developed the state budget and voted it unanimously out of committee did not vote for the budget’s advancement on the floor, effectively halting the passage of Nebraska’s constitutionally mandated balanced budget.  No Title X money would be directed away from organizations that do not provide or refer for abortion services under the budget’s language.  Organizations that do not provide or refer for abortion services would continue to receive their allocation of Title X. A cloture motion to end debate allowing for a vote on the budget fell three votes short.

A bill to adopt Opportunity Scholarships, introduced by Senator Smith and prioritized by Senator Linehan, made it to the floor Thursday night.  LB295 would allow a $0.75 tax credit for every $1.00 of donation to scholarship granting organizations.  These donations are made for the purpose of providing educational scholarships to students to attend a nonprofit or private elementary or secondary school.  In Nebraska, it costs about $12,000 per student per year to educate students in public schools.  One study concluded that LB295 would actually save the state $3 million over the first three years while giving families the opportunity to send their children to a school that best aligns with their religious beliefs or family values.  No vote has yet been taken on the bill.

Before adjournment Friday, we again debated the Appropriations Committee budget bill.  Title X funding language reignited vigorous debate and another cloture motion to end debate on the budget fell two votes short.  The Legislature must recognize the importance of funding the state government and understand the implications to the citizens of Nebraska if the budget is not passed this session.  I will continue to support passage of the Appropriations Budget bill with the present language.

We enjoyed many visitors from the district this week. The 4th-grade classes from Arlington and Oakland-Craig schools visited the Capitol on Thursday along with Leadership Washington County.  Friday was a very busy day for District 16 at the Capitol as I had the pleasure and honor of introducing Sasha Millicut as a 2018 Merit Mother as part of the Nebraska Mothers Association 2018 Recognition Day. Gregg Gahan, Pastor of Craig Alder Grove Parish, served as Chaplain of the Day at the Legislature and I was also able to join Chad, Erv, and Elaine Eisenmenger of West Point Design as they were presented with their award for the 2017 Sustainability Business of the Year.

Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

 

Week 11 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 41 through 44.

When returning to work at the Legislature on Monday, March 12 after “Springing Forward” an hour due to Daylight Saving Time many, including myself, wondered, “Why don’t we just leave one time in place?”  Some constituents contacted our office to suggest that Nebraska introduce something similar to what passed in Florida as the “Sunshine Protection Act”.  The bill, passed by Florida’s Senate but not yet signed by their governor, asks Congress to allow Florida to observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) year-round instead of changing times twice per year.

Last session I introduced LB309 to eliminate DST, keeping Nebraska on standard time year-round that is being held in committee. Currently, Federal law permits states to stay on standard time if they choose, but not to adopt DST year-round.  LB309 had many supporters including some who testified about the difficulties relating to medical and medication needs, interruption of young children’s sleep, livestock owners wanting to maintain feeding schedules year-round, and other reasons for DST elimination. Opposition testimony came from the Professional Golf Association (PGA) who believe that there would be a loss of revenue due to shorter days and fewer summer night leagues able to play golf.  Until Congress changes federal law or if regional states take action together it would be a challenge for Nebraska to act independently in the Midwest on time changes.  Perhaps this is legislation for the next District 16 senator to consider?

Debate on Monday centered on LB998, a bill introduced by Senator Walz that would allow Educational Service Units to hire social workers to be placed in the schools of that service unit.  Though the bill is intended to provide more mental health services for children it also would further burden taxpayers to fund service units with the cost of paying for the social workers after an initial three-year private funding provision expires.

Tuesday was the longest day of session to date, starting at 9:00 am and adjourning after 11:30 pm.  I am certain there will be many more late nights to follow with only 16 session days remaining. Tuesday’s debate moved to the budget and centered around Title X funding.  Title X is a federal grant program dedicated to providing individuals with family planning and preventative health services. Federal law forbids any taxpayer dollars to be used in the funding of abortions. Recent changes in federal law allow states more discretion on how they appropriate funding related to Title X.  The proposed state budget changes would disallow any Title X funding from being appropriated to clinics that provide abortions or refer for abortion services.  The budget proposal would not affect clinics receiving Title X funding that do not provide or refer for abortion services. Higher education funding was not discussed on General File, but a pending amendment seeks to lower the University of Nebraska’s funding and will certainly be heatedly debated on the floor.

Thursday, LB 44, introduced by Senator Watermeier to require collection and remittance of sales tax by online merchants, returned to the floor for Final Reading with an amendment by Senator Watermeier. The amendment does not resolve the issues the bill may create pending potential changes from a US Supreme Court decisions regarding online sales tax.  The bill failed to move forward without enough cloture votes to advance.

The Legislature will return to work on Tuesday, March 20th after recess days on Friday and Monday.

Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Week 10 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 37 through 40.

Tuesday, March 6th, was our first work day back at the legislature after a recess day Monday.  First on the agenda was the return of General File debate on  LB44, a bill introduced by Senator Watermeier in 2017 to collect sales tax from online retailers with no physical presence in Nebraska.  Supporters of the bill believe it provides fairness for Main Street businesses who are required to collect sales tax.  However, concerns include placing burdensome regulations on businesses.  Additionally, the Supreme Court will hear a South Dakota case in April regarding online sales tax regulation that may affect how Nebraska writes legislation in the future.

Also debated was a bill introduced by Senator Groene to exempt equine massage therapy from licensing requirements in Nebraska.  When asked, Sen. Groene joked that, among other constituents, he spoke with a few horses in his district and they were strong supporters of the bill.

On Wednesday, we debated a constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Schumacher.  The amendment gives the Legislature authority to delegate complete or partial sovereignty, for a period of up to 99 years, to an area not to exceed 36 square miles, the size of a township.  This means the Legislature would retain authority to set the initial conditions on which sovereignty is established.  The unique proposal failed to advance to Select File.

LB98 made a return this session after failing to advance last session.  The bill would extend the sunset date of NRDs in fully or over-appropriated river basins to levy up to an additional 3 cents for water conservation and augmentation projects.  The levy authority expires this year but would be extended another eight years under the bill.  Consideration of the bill was renewed this session because it was designated a priority bill but LB 98 again failed to gather 33 votes required for cloture.

Our debate on Thursday revolved primarily around LB1090 and LB808.  Senator Smith introduced LB1090 to harmonize Nebraska’s state income tax with recent changes to the federal income tax code.  The bill preserves Nebraska’s personal exemption tied to a federal provision changed earlier this year.  Without the bill, Nebraskans would see a tax increase of about $200 million.

LB 808 was introduced by Senator Harr and made an Agriculture priority bill this session.  The bill would update the Nebraska Community Gardening Act allowing for a transfer of $100,000 from the Water Sustainability Fund to a new fund providing matching grant assistance to improve community garden access to water. A proposed committee amendment would have eliminated this earmark and instead provided for community garden purposes to be included among the multiple water supply management goals when assessing applications to the Water Sustainability Fund. The Water Sustainability Fund was established by enactment of  LB 1098 in 2014 to provide financial support for programs, projects, and activities to help sustainably balance the use of water for municipal, residential, agricultural, recreational and other purposes with water supply.  10% of the fund is dedicated to helping cities meet federal mandates for sewer separation to minimize potential for contamination of drinking water.  During debate, it was suggested that the Environmental Trust was a more appropriate source of funding for community gardening purposes.  We are reviewing potential amendments to resolve concerns raised.

At the time of adjournment on Friday only 20 days remained in the 2018 Legislative Session.

Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

This week included legislative days 33 through 36, taking us just over the halfway point in this short, 60-day session.  Besides the typical business of hearings that ended Tuesday and moving to full days of debate on the floor, it was a wonderful week. I was able to see and welcome many constituents who came to Lincoln for meetings and celebrate Nebraska’s 151st year as a state! We were very grateful for those from the district who came to pray with and for us.  Pastor Coral Parmenter and Reverend Les Parmenter served as Chaplains of the day Monday and Tuesday while Pastor Allison Siburg served as Chaplain of the day Thursday.

Monday, February 26th was Northeast Nebraska Day at the Capitol. Many constituents from District 16 and other Northeast Nebraska districts attended day-long meetings learning about this session and sharing conversations with their Senators.  On the floor, we debated legislation introduced by Senator Howard prohibiting medical practitioners from prescribing opioid pain relievers to individuals under 19 years of age for periods of more than 7 days at a time.  The bill, which moved on to Select File, addresses the growing opioid crisis around the country.

The General Affairs committee received testimony on LB747, a bill introduced by Senator Thibodeau to regulate bottle clubs.  The bill would add a new definition for bottle clubs, requiring them to obtain the necessary licensing to serve alcoholic liquor and follow state regulations. Currently, establishments that would fall under the new definition of a bottle club allow patrons to bring their own alcohol and are relatively unregulated.  The changes would ensure these establishments operate under similar regulation as Nebraska restaurants and bars in regards to alcohol being served or consumed.  LB747 has eight cosigners including myself.

On Tuesday, February 27th the League of Municipalities hosted a luncheon where I was able to spend the noon hour with our Mayors and representatives from District 16 learning more about legislation they support or oppose.  Occasions such as this are extremely valuable for elected officials, providing us with opportunities to discuss the concerns and needs of our constituents.

We began full days of debate for the rest of the session on Wednesday, February 28th advancing five bills to Select File.  Speaker Scheer announced the potential for late nights as we attempt to address the many Senator, Speaker, and Committee priority bills this session.  There are 107 bills that have been designated a priority of some sort, few of which have been addressed yet this session.

Thursday, March 1st several constituents, family and staff from NorthStar in West Point were in the Capitol for “Birthday Our Way” sponsored by the Nebraska Association for Service Providers discussing their concerns and needs for those with disabilities in regards to pending legislation.

On the floor Thursday, debate centered on LB117 introduced by Senator Hilkemann to allow eligible patients to be treated with any drug, biological product, or device that has successfully completed Phase 1 of a clinical trial but has not yet been approved for general use by the USFDA.  Commonly referred to as “right to try” legislation, the bill moved to Select File after vigorous debate surrounding the consumer protection provisions in the bill and its constitutionality.

Tuesday, March 6th we convened after recess days on Friday and Monday.  Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Week 8 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 29 through 32.

Week eight of the 2018 Legislative session began on Tuesday, February 20th after observing President’s Day on February 19th.

Tuesday was also the deadline for Senators and Committee Chairs to identify their priority bills for this session.  I named LB1069, a bill to change provisions relating to the committee on Americanism as my priority bill. Though this bill is currently held up in committee short two votes to advance, I am optimistic because of the tremendous support of other Senators and community members who have reached out to our office.  It’s critical to the character of our state this bill sees the light of day and is debated on the floor by the full legislature.

The Americanism bill promotes the great Spirit of America. It celebrates and commemorates our long history as a nation and the people who fought to uphold our freedom that is the envy of the globe. It aims to inspire our youth and future generations of patriots, rekindling a love of liberty that characterized our nation since its inception. The original Americanism law has been in state statute since 1949, yet many shared with me or testified at the hearing that Americanism committees are not practiced or recognized and perhaps are thought of as outdated or are forgotten.  Not only would the committee review Social Studies curriculum and hold other responsibilities, but it must hold three meetings annually, at least one meeting where public testimony is received, effectively placing more influence into the hands of a school district’s citizens about what and how the subject is taught in Nebraska’s schools.

The bill would also require that school districts administer the civics portion of the naturalization examination taken by immigrants to the United States.  Students’ individual scores would be reported to parents while the aggregate district scores are reported to the Nebraska Department of Education.  It’s vitally important to the successful future of our great country that our youth understand the challenges Americans have overcome to deliver the freest society and greatest quality of life people have ever known.  Social Studies must be taught in a way that reinforces the character of America’s most honorable and the brilliance of our founding fathers.  LB1069 seeks to ensure that our youth are given the opportunity to flourish and carry on the exceptional history of Americanism, liberty, and freedom.  It’s distressing that the bill faced significant opposition in committee but it now has over 20 cosigners who understand the consequence of the bill’s intent and its many supporters are grateful for their virtue.  I will continue to work on bringing this bill to the floor of the legislature.

The Agriculture Committee held its hearing on LB893, a bill introduced to ban the sale of non-rescue cats and dogs in retail pet stores.  No immediate action was taken on the bill.  Additionally, the Committee selected LB 477 and LB 808 as its priority bills for the session.  LB477 would make certain deceptive fuel price advertising practices a violation of the Weights & Measures Act.  LB808 would implement recommendations of a task force report regarding community gardens.

The Legislature moved to bills on Final Reading to end the week on Friday, February 23rd, taking action on 13 bills that will be reviewed before being sent to the Governor for final approval. Looking forward, the Legislature will take up full days of debate on Wednesday, February 28th.

Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.  You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16
Room #1022
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2728
Email: lbrasch@leg.ne.gov
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