NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Lydia Brasch

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16

Our first day back to the work of serving our districts and our Great State of Nebraska in the Legislature has arrived. This begins the first session of a two-year biennium. If you did not attend, watch online or on NET2, each day of session is recorded into a daily “Legislative  Journal,” which read: “Pursuant to the provisions of Article III, Section 10 of the Constitution of Nebraska, the One Hundred Fifth Legislature, First Session of the Legislature of Nebraska, assembled in the George W. Norris Legislative Chamber of the State Capitol at the hour of 10:00 a.m., on Wednesday, January 4, 2017, and was called to order by President Foley.”

Due to term limits, this is my final two years as your state senator. We opened the session with prayer offered by Senator Kolterman, followed by the Presentation of Colors and a Call to Order; there was a Quorum (majority of the body) present. The task was to call for an appointment of Temporary Officers (Clerk, Sgt. at Arms). The motion prevailed.

It was my honor to move the motion that “we proceed to the election of five persons to serve as the Committee on Credentials.” They report to the Legislature on the “credentials of those claiming to be elected to the Legislature in the General Election in November 2016.” John Gale, Secretary of State, ceremoniously carries in a box of certified election results and verifies that “the attached is a true and correct copy of the Official Roster of members of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature elected or appointed to serve in the One Hundred Fifth Legislature, First Session, 2017.”

The election of a new speaker took place; Senator Jim Scheer of Norfolk prevailed. When elections for committee chairs commenced, I was chosen to be the chairperson of the Agriculture Committee. It was a truly joyful, yet humble day to see the balcony and seats filled with many new faces. The press covered a few contentious moments on the floor as some, myself included, spoke freely about the need for transparency in voting with regard to electing our chairpersons. Many senators invoked arguments regarding the true nature of the Unicameral being, or no longer being, a nonpartisan institution. I found it surprising when those opposed to this transparency spoke of George Norris rolling over in his grave about this controversy, when in fact secret voting for chairmanships by the body of the Legislature began as recently as the 1970’s, several decades after Norris’s death.  Certainly the life and principles of George Norris will be closely examined by many in the days that follow.

On Thursday and Friday we witnessed the swearing in ceremonies for the Chief Justice and new members of the Nebraska Supreme Court, Public Service Commission, State Board of Education Members and the Board of Regents; all of them take the same oath of office as every senator. We also began submitting new legislation to be entered into the record. Next week’s column will include bills I introduced.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of  pervious office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

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

Tuesday, November 8 is just around the corner, the day Nebraskans will choose their representatives who pledge to support the type of government Nebraskans want.

Nationally, our choice for leadership positions will have a big impact on state policy. From the Supreme Court and the sanctity of life and the family, to regulatory policies, illegal immigration, from the military and national security, unaffordable health care, to a bankrupting national debt and the disregard for the rule of law, there is much at stake in this election.

Statewide, there are 11 term-limited senators and 13 running for re-election to their second, and final, 4-year term. Basically there are about 25 of 49 seats up for reelection every two years.  In the past 10 years, Nebraskans have elected 86 new senators. In two years, when my term is done, along with five other senators, there will have been a 100% turnover. New ideas and leadership emerge with each election cycle.

As much as this sounds like a revolving door, oddly enough some key issues, such as meaningful tax relief, remain stagnant. Instead of addressing heavy taxation, Nebraska became only the 20th state to repeal capital punishment. For one, I hear many more people asking for meaningful tax relief than from those wanting senators to repeal the death penalty. I understand this to be the case across the state as well. This became clear when Referendum 426 successfully gained more than enough signatures to challenge Senator Chambers’s LB268, which repealed capital punishment. On November 8, I will vote “Repeal” in order to repeal LB268, so Nebraska retains the ultimate punishment for those who commit heinous murders and who continue to not only be a danger to law enforcement and the general prison population, but also to society.

Claims that have been made to repeal the death penalty include “times have changed, prisons are more secure than ever” and “life without parole ensures society is safe”. However, building bigger and safer prisons requires more tax dollars in a very stagnant economy, and Nebraska is already facing prison overcrowding. Consider the riot in the Tecumseh prison last year that took the life of one inmate, injured others, and endangered prison guards. If capital punishment is repealed, individuals who commit capital crimes will be housed among the general population of the prison. What about the safety of corrections officers and other inmates? Life without parole sounds good on paper, but in reality, murderers would therefore have nothing to lose and society would be unable to protect itself against those who continue to pose a serious danger to innocent life.

Other claims cite the cost of the death penalty. However, the fiscal note, or cost, of LB268, per the Legislative Fiscal Office, is zero. In other words, the state will not save money without the death penalty. The opposite in fact may occur, as there will not only continue to be appeals for those with life in prison, but the use of the plea bargain as a tool for county prosecutors to plea down from capital punishment to life in prison will no longer be available, which will make it much more difficult for county prosecutors to keep society safe.

Another claim is that death row inmates have been exonerated. That has not occurred in Nebraska and there is no evidence that Nebraska has executed a single innocent person since before 1900. Also, if people are being exonerated in other parts of the country, that means the appeal process is working as it should; and as technology continues to improve, so will the justice system’s accuracy in ensuring that the person executed is the correct individual. These are important facts that should perhaps be taken into consideration.

Sen. Fischer, former Gov. Orr to join the September 22-23 announcement tour

LINCOLN – Today, the Office of Governor Pete Ricketts announced that the Governor will travel the state to unveil new infrastructure priorities identified by the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR).

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer will travel with the Governor for Friday’s events.  Former Nebraska Governor Kay Orr will join the announcement tour for both days.  Additionally, State Senators Jim Smith of Papillion and Lydia Brasch of Bancroft will appear in Lincoln and West Point respectfully.

Over the last several months, NDOR has held public input events to identify new infrastructure priorities to receive funding from the Build Nebraska Act (BNA) and the Transportation Innovation Act (TIA).  The BNA, championed by Senator Fischer during her time in the Unicameral, set aside a quarter cent of existing Nebraska sales tax revenues for roads construction.  The TIA, one of Governor Ricketts’ top legislative priorities in 2016, commits funding to complete the expressway system originally envisioned by Governor Orr.  The projects announced at these events will be funded by the BNA and the TIA.

At each stop, Governor Ricketts and others will deliver brief comments highlighting the new project priorities.  The public is invited to attend any of the following stops.

Thursday, September 22

9:00 a.m.          Lincoln News Conference, Governor’s Hearing Room, Nebraska State Capitol, LINCOLN

Note: The Lincoln news conference will be livestreamed.  Click here to watch.

3:00 p.m.          Remarks, Rural Futures Regional Forum, Nielsen Community Center, 200 Anna Stalp Avenue, WEST POINT

3:30 p.m.          Media Availability, Nielsen Community Center, 200 Anna Stalp Avenue, WEST POINT

 

Friday, September 23

10:45 a.m.        Remarks, League of Nebraska Municipalities Conference, Holiday Inn, 110 S. 2nd Avenue, KEARNEY

11:15 a.m.        Media Availability, Holiday Inn, 110 S. 2nd Avenue, KEARNEY

2:00 p.m.          North Platte News Conference, State Patrol Building, 300 West South River Road, NORTH PLATTE

 

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Taylor Gage

Public Relations Director

Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

402-471-1970 (office)

402-499-8351 (mobile)

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

The Clerk’s Office of the Nebraska Legislature is Now Accepting

Applications for Legislative Page Positions

The application process for selecting pages for the 2017 Legislative Session is now underway in the Clerk’s Office at the Nebraska Legislature. “Working as a page provides a unique opportunity to assist legislators throughout the session,” said Senator Brasch. She continued, “Pages are privileged to work on the Floor of the Legislature during debate and interact with senators. The experience acquired will equip students for a variety of career fields. In my six years as senator, several college students from District 16 have worked as pages.”

Legislative pages are local college students employed by the Legislature to respond to senators’ requests for assistance on the Legislative Floor, answer incoming calls to the Legislative Chamber, and possibly assist in committee hearings. The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, October 3, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. A letter of recommendation from your state senator is encouraged. College students from District 16 requesting a letter of recommendation from Senator Brasch should contact our office at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Applications are available at the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street. For further information on the application process, please contact the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271 or Kitty Kearns at (402) 471-0617, or email Kitty at kkearns@leg.ne.gov.

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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information:
Brett Waite, Legislative Aide
Office of Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16
(402) 471-2728
bwaite@leg.ne.gov

 

Join Senator Lydia Brasch and Governor Pete Ricketts for a Town Hall in Blair, NE

Senator Lydia Brasch and Governor Pete Ricketts will be hosting a town hall together in Blair on Monday, August 8, 2016, and the public are invited to attend. “This will be a great opportunity for the constituents of District 16 to voice their concerns directly to me, as well as the Governor,” said Senator Brasch.

The details for the town hall are as follows:

  • 1:30 p.m. at the Memorial Community Hospital & Health System, 810 N 22nd, Blair, NE.

Questions about event details can be directed to Brett Waite at (402) 471-2728.

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This is my last legislative update of the session. Wednesday, April 20 was the final day of the 104th Legislative Session. We adjourned Sine Die (Latin for “without day”), meaning “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.” The last day of the second session of a biennium is more ceremonial in recent years because of term limits.  It is not only a time to debate and vote on motions of gubernatorial overrides, but also for farewell speeches by term-limited senators. I, myself, will be term-limited in two years. There were 11 senators who said their goodbyes and bid the rest Godspeed. There are another 14 current members up for re-election, where three are unopposed. Next year, the Legislature will elect a new speaker, new committee chairmen, and could potentially welcome 22 new senators.

A motion was made to override the Governor’s veto of LB947. After two hours of debate, thirty-one senators voted to override the veto; thirteen, including me, voted to sustain the veto; five abstained from voting.

My opposition to LB947, and to uphold the Governor’s veto, is from the high regard I hold our immigration laws, especially as a daughter of Ukrainian, legal immigrants. Many others, sharing this same sentiment, called or emailed and referenced their ancestry and other generations of legal immigrants. As of 2013, exactly 123,182 legal immigrants made Nebraska their home, many with extended family waiting patiently to join them through the legal process. There are exactly 4,422,600 foreigners waiting to legally immigrate to the United States. The American Dream was not created through lawlessness, but through a just and stable law. The passage of LB947 sends the wrong message to individuals and families who, out of deference and fairness, abide by our laws and wait to enter our country legally.

Nebraska’s LB947 allows anyone who is work authorized to obtain a professional or commercial license. Many individuals who entered the United States illegally are now work authorized via President Obama’s expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. As of 2012, it is estimated there are approximately 55,000 illegal immigrants in Nebraska. President Obama’s expansion of DACA, and the implementation of DAPA, are what 26 states, including Nebraska, sued the Federal Government over. A Federal District Court judge in Texas initially blocked the program, and a federal appeals court ruled 2-1 in favor of the injunction. The Supreme Court will submit its opinion in June.

These two programs were implemented via executive orders and therefore can be undone via executive orders. To prevent such inconstant and impulsive lawmaking, America’s Founding Fathers divided authority. A foundational principle of the U.S. Constitution is separation of powers: laws are not passed by one person in this country, not even by one branch. If Congress, elected by the people, is deadlocked on an issue and chooses not to act, that does not give the President the authority to act independently. If the people elect divided government, then that is final until the next election. Either we will have rule of law and therefore a stable government, or we start down the road of anarchy. Unfortunately, our immigration predicaments are a result of a decades-long negligence of duty by the Federal Government to not secure our borders and enforce immigration laws.

LB947 puts Nebraska far beyond other states, even California and New York, in terms of issuing professional or commercial licenses to illegal immigrants of every profession. In Iowa, professional licensing boards issue commercial and professional licenses if a person issues a valid social security number. California offers professional or commercial licenses in over 50 professions to individuals, regardless of their immigration status. New York offers licenses for 53 different professions to only DACA recipients. Illinois and Florida allow DACA recipients to receive a license to practice law. Lastly, Nevada grants only a teaching license to DACA recipients. After the passage of LB947, Nebraska now grants professional or commercial licenses to any person – including those who are waiting to be approved for asylum – with work authorization for over 170 professions who might not have been educated in Nebraska or even our country.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol.

Day 60, the final day of this short session, is Wednesday, April 20. It will be used for – among other legislative business – any motions made by members of the Legislature to override gubernatorial vetoes; but is also used to present awards and to say farewell to those legislators who are term-limited.

During the two days the Legislature was in session last week, there were numerous bills that easily passed Final Reading and only a few which caused extended debate.

A few of the bills that passed Final Reading were the following:

  • LB958, LB959, and LB1067, were the trio of bills dealing with property taxes, education, and the learning community, respectively. All three bills underwent significant debate and transformation since the time they were introduced to the time they passed Final Reading. In their final forms: LB958 added $20 million to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund, LB959 eliminated the minimum levy requirement for state aid purposes and the levy requirements for the averaging adjustment, and LB1067 eliminated the common levy for the Learning Community, while adding a component to the state aid formula for schools with 40% of their students in poverty, and it also adds the option for educational service units and learning communities to create community achievement plans for state aid purposes. I voted in support of all three bills.
  • LB1106 adds another component of transparency to government throughout Nebraska. The bill requires that in order for law enforcement to seize property from an individual, the individual must at least be charged with a crime. If law enforcement do seize property from an individual, the law enforcement entity must report any and all property seized to the Auditor of Public Accounts, along with the value of the property seized. Also, the bill provides a way for innocent property owners to reclaim their property if it was involved in the seizure. I voted in support of this bill.
  • LB960 creates the Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which was my priority bill. The bill initially started off by transferring $150 million from the Cash Reserve Fund through 2023, but was lessened to $50 million by an amendment. The intent of the bill is to speed up the pace of construction for Nebraska’s expressway system by making more funds available and to provide a way for counties to repair their bridges through the County Bridge Match Program. I voted in favor of this bill.

One bill that passed Final Reading with extended debate was LB824. This bill eliminates some regulatory barriers for private wind energy developers that will make Nebraska a more wind-friendly state. The opponents of LB824 presented their concerns about the potentially negative impact that privately developed wind farms may have on our public power system in this state. However, the regulations related to building wind farms that LB824 left in place, are still stricter than several neighboring states. This legislation would not preempt any existing local ordinances or zoning laws that regulate the building of wind farms; and will also require consultation with Game and Parks 30 days prior to the start of a project. While there were very compelling arguments on both sides of this issue, I believe the evidence in favor of the bill outweighed the concerns presented by the opponents of it. I voted for the bill.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol. You can follow the Legislature online at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

The fourteenth week of session adjourned Thursday. There are only three session days remaining before we adjourn for the year. Several bills advanced to Final Reading last week, even with all the extended debate that took place.

On Tuesday we had six hours of debate on LB643, a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana. It was an emotional debate, because we all want more treatment options available for individuals suffering from various medical maladies. However, legislators must make decisions not from emotion, but with as much prudence as possible based on the current information. It would not have been prudent to provide another option that is absent the necessary, objective scientific research.

I had many concerns with this legislation. First, while there is anecdotal evidence that marijuana has helped some individuals with medical ailments, the use of marijuana as a medicinal drug lacks rigorous, objective scientific research involving double-blind studies. There is a lack of data regarding marijuana’s potency, efficacy, proper dosage, interaction with other drugs, and safety, which concerned many senators, as well as major medical associations and health care practitioners. Not only could it be harmful to adults, but also it could be more harmful for children. Neurologists in Colorado have reported increases in the number and severity of seizures in their epileptic patients who have tried using medical marijuana. The bill fell three votes short of advancing, and I did not support it.

For patients and physicians who are out of treatment options, the FDA has a compassionate use exception whereby a physician, whose patient wants to try a drug that is not FDA-approved and is not available for prescription, can complete the necessary paperwork and obtain the drug for use. One such drug is Epidiolex; it contains the CBD oil found in marijuana, and is used to treat epilepsy. See: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ExpandedAccessCompassionateUse/ucm20080392.htm.

Bills advanced to Final Reading:

  • LB10 allocates all five of Nebraska’s Electoral College votes to the winner of Nebraska’s popular vote in presidential elections. Currently, Nebraskans have a diminished voice in choosing their president than, for example, citizens in New Mexico which also has five Electoral College votes and allocates them on a winner-take-all basis, rather than by congressional district, like Nebraska does. Based on the principles of federalism, I believe states should speak with one voice for their choice for president. I voted to advance this bill.
  • LB824 furthers the development of wind energy in Nebraska. I was a cosponsor of this bill and voted to advance it.
  • LB1106 prevents law enforcement personnel from seizing personal property without due process. If an arrest and a charge is made, this legislation also provides a way to retrieve seized property. I voted to advance this bill.
  • LB958, LB959, and LB1067 also advanced to Final Reading. I have explained these bills in previous columns which can be found here: http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist16/.

On Thursday we had a signing ceremony with Governor Ricketts for LB891, The Down Syndrome Diagnosis Information and Support Act, which passed Final Reading April 1. Many families with children with Down syndrome, along with Down syndrome organizations, attended the event.

Thank you to Chaplain Jean Vargo who said the opening prayer at the start of the Legislative day on Monday. Chaplain Vargo is from Grace Lutheran Church in West Point. Also, thank you to Chaplain Rebecca Hjelle, from First United Methodist Church in Blair, who said the opening prayer on Tuesday.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol. You can follow the Legislature online at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Following a long weekend celebrating Easter, our thirteenth week were days 50-53, with only six session days remaining. Unfortunately, time is running out to find agreement on solutions to the property tax burden. Last week saw some progress but not a long term solution.

LB958 and LB959 are complementary bills introduced at the request of Governor Ricketts to specifically address the growing property tax burden. LB958 was introduced in the Revenue Committee and LB959 was introduced in the Education Committee. Both bills underwent significant transformation, both in their respective committees and during long and heated floor debate. LB958 passed General File with a vote of 39-2 and the form it eventually took was adding $20 million more to the $204 million Property Tax Credit Cash Fund, and also cuts $120 for every $100,000 of valuation for agricultural land. LB959 passed General File with a vote of 38-3, and it repeals the minimum levy requirement that school districts must abide by in order to not lose state aid. I supported both bills.

LB1037 was also debated. This bill was brought to me by the Department of Revenue and the Governor’s Policy Research Office to address the property tax burden on agriculture in counties whose first acre valuations have dramatically risen due to non-agricultural housing development adjacent to farmland. LB1037 redefined agricultural and horticultural land to include farm home sites lying in or adjacent to and in common ownership or management with other agricultural and horticultural land. It would have required land underneath homes to be valued at 75% of its market value, but the house itself would still be valued at 100% of market value. The home site for farmers and ranchers is different from individuals who live in town because for almost all of the people who live in town their livelihood is not tied to their home. When property taxes rise dramatically in town, those individuals have the option to move. When property taxes rise dramatically on farmers and ranchers, they do not have the option to move because their house is tied to their livelihood. In the interest of time I pulled the bill after extended debate.

LB1032, Medicaid Expansion, was debated last week. Since the inception of Medicaid in Nebraska, it has grown from 2% of our state budget to 20% of our state budget. For Fiscal Year 2015-16, the Legislature appropriated about $820 million to Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid to another 134,000 individuals is something our citizens cannot afford – it is unstainable. The estimated expenditures, which comes from the Legislative Fiscal Office, was about $155 million for fiscal year 2017-18. The cost would only increase as more people will be added to the program. LB1032 failed to pass and I did not support it.

LB1067 caused another lengthy debate. It eliminated the Common Levy for the Learning Community and adds the option for multi-district educational service units to submit community achievement plans. The bill also adds a poverty aid component to the TEEOSA formula for school districts with poverty students comprising more than 40% of total students. LB1067 was another bill that required extended debate but passed General File 40-1. I supported this bill.

Thank you to Chaplain Jonathan Ripke who came to the Capitol to say the opening prayer at the start of the day on Tuesday. Chaplain Ripke is from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Washington County.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 in the Capitol. You can follow the Legislature online at http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

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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