Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 17th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
Please feel free to contact me with any issues or concerns you may have regarding public policy or your state government, and let me know how I may assist you. My staff in my State Capitol office in Lincoln look forward to hearing from you and assisting you. Please feel free to contact me using the contact information on the right.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield
Nebraska is the last state with a ban on packer ownership and some of us fought hard to keep it that way, but we lost. The supporters of LB176 managed to muster the votes necessary to end the filibuster on Final Reading.
Supporters of LB176 argued that the passage of this bill would make Nebraska more competitive with other states by opening our hog markets to companies like Tyson Foods and Smithfield Farms. They also claim that it will allow new pig farmers to start up without assuming all of the financial risks that come with ownership.
Opponents of LB176 argued that it could actually have a negative impact on the current pork producers in the state and it could create large hog confinement facilities, which could become harmful to the environment.
The bill passed overwhelmingly and is now awaiting the signature of Governor Ricketts. Once the laws goes into effect processors like Tyson Foods and Smithfield Farms will be able to contract with producers to raise hogs in large operations – allowing packers to have more control over costs and consistency and therefore get as much profit as they can.
In an update on the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) transgender policy – it appears that a more restrictive policy that would be a gender-at-birth policy will fall short of the support needed to replace the policy adopted by the NSAA at their January 14, 2016 meeting. The policy adopted at the January meeting would require transgender students to show evidence of hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery before participating based on the gender that they identify with.
Before that policy was adopted, four of the six NSAA regions submitted the gender-at-birth policy. The gender-at-birth policy will be voted on at the April NSAA meeting. In January close to 300 representatives of Nebraska high schools voted on the gender-at-birth policy, the vote then was 169 in favor and 102 opposed with 26 not participating. This policy was not supported by the northeast and north-central counties, schools within District 17 that voted included – Omaha Nation, Winside, Bancroft-Rosalie, Pender, South Sioux City, Wakefield, Walthill, and Wayne.
This is being written on Friday, January 29, 2016. On Monday, February 1st, I will testify before the Transportation Committee on my final “priority” bill in the Nebraska Legislature.
The bill is LB900 and proposes to do several things. Why do I think this is important enough that I would use my last priority bill designation on it? There are several reasons!
First, LB900 creates and funds the “Motorcycle Safety and Brain Injury Trust Fund”. The main purpose of the fund is to help meet the needs of individuals in Nebraska who suffer from a brain injury. This fund would be designed to help no matter the cause of the brain injury. The most common cause of such injuries in Nebraska is from unintentional falls, followed by motor vehicle accidents.
Secondly, it provides funding for motorcycle safety awareness and education programs.
The next thing LB900 will do is to return the right to decide for themselves, what is best for themselves, to about 99,000 Nebraskans. That would be the right after you reach the age of twenty-one to decide whether or not you want to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Let me be clear that there is NOTHING in this bill that would keep anyone from wearing a helmet if they want to. For added safety, this bill would also prohibit small children, 8 years old and younger, from even being on a motorcycle on Nebraska highways.
LB900 would also, I believe, increase tourism in Nebraska because riders from other states would no longer ride around Nebraska to avoid our restrictive helmet laws. No state bordering Nebraska, with the exception of Missouri, has a law forcing all riders to wear a helmet. It is my understanding that both the House and the Senate in Missouri are working on repeal bills. My own estimates are that we would have had roughly an additional $7,000,000.00 spent in Nebraska last year during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally alone. This is based on 10% of the riders crossing Nebraska and each spending about $100.00. There were over 700,000 at the rally in 2015. In a state where the number three industry is tourism this is important. Please remember that this estimated seven million dollar increase is just from one week. We will also see people from other states spending their money in Nebraska throughout the warm weather months.
I am sure that by now you are wondering where the money is going to come from to do all of these wonderful things. I am not going to raise your taxes to do this. If you register and license a motorcycle in Nebraska, you will see a significant increase in that fee. The motorcycle support group American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) is on board with this as is every motorcycle rider I have visited with. A large number of these riders are military veterans and they realize that “freedom isn’t free”. They are willing to pay even more than they already have in order to restore a basic freedom that most take for granted. This fee increase is expected to bring in just over a million dollars per year to support the trust fund. I hope that you and all of Nebraska will get behind this bill, it is good for Nebraska, and it is long overdue.
The 2016 session is in full swing, I have introduced five bills so far.
LB687, a bill I introduced would provide procedures for the recall of state elective officials and yes, this does include state senators. Along with LB687, I introduced LR379CA, a constitutional amendment allowing for the actual recall of state officials. LR379CA if passed would then go on the November 2016 ballot and allow the people to decide if state officials should be eligible for recalls. LB687 would then provide the legislation that would support the constitutional amendment. Both of these bills will be heard by the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Another bill I introduced is already proving itself to be a little controversial. LB688 would require that all driver’s license test be given in English only. I see this as a safety issue. If you are unable to take the test in English and understand it, how are you able to read the various road signs. I understand that most of signs have a shape that has a specific meaning but how can you read the Amber Alert boards that are often used to send specific messages regarding road conditions. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee will hear this bill.
Last year I introduced LB191 that would have allowed veteran service organizations to be exempt from sales tax when selling food. This bill has yet to come out of the Revenue Committee, in spite of its small fiscal note. I told the committee at the hearing that if we could not exempt this small group then maybe we should reevaluate whether or not political functions should be exempt. In keeping with that line of thought, I introduced LB689, which would remove the exemption provided to the sale of food at political functions. This bill like, LB191, has been sent to the Revenue Committee.
LR380CA is another bill that if passed would be on the ballot for the people to decide. This bill changes how the lottery proceeds are divided up. Proceeds will still go to the same funds but under my bill, we would lower the amounts given to State Fair (as it seems to be doing very well) and the Environmental Trust and increase the amounts given to education as directed by the Legislature. This could possibly help provide a little property tax relief. This bill has been referenced to the General Affairs Committee, where issues involving gaming usually go.
Our schools have been in the news lately after the results of a new statewide accountability program were released. The Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow ranks the 245 school districts and the 1,130 schools in the state into four groups, either excellent, great, good or needing improvement. This new accountability system is required to evaluate schools on factors other than testing.
The report identified five school districts with the designation of excellent, 124 districts were great, 106 districts were good, and 10 districts needed improvement. While we can gain some valuable information from these evaluations, they do not always show the whole picture. Nebraska Public Schools now serve more than 312,000 students. We have one of the best graduation rates in the nation – close to 90% of our seniors graduate. In 2014, 86% of our high school students took the ACT. While there is work to be done, we have a lot to be proud of.
Keep a look out for a yellow postcard coming your way from the Nebraska Department of Revenue (you may already have received it) touting how much your property tax bill was reduced thanks to tax credits this year. At a cost of about $274,000, the state is sending postcards out to about 700,000 property owners. Call me crazy if you like, but I would much prefer to have seen that $274,000 be used for more property tax relief, or any other type of tax relief!
December 25th, the day most of us celebrate as the birthday of our savior, Jesus the Christ, is just around the corner, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
It is time for an update on issue that I have mentioned several times over the last few years – the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) has advanced a transgender participation policy. On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, the NSAA Board of Directors met in Norfolk and advanced the draft policy that they have been working on for months behind closed doors.
The draft policy that they advanced to final reading will be voted on at their January meeting. The advanced policy allows schools to have their own policy regarding transgender students with the option of allowing administrators to ask the NSAA if a specific student can participate. I do not know all of the guidelines that NSAA will use when advising the schools. The policy does require transgender students to use locker rooms and bathrooms according to their biological gender. Additionally, a student transitioning from male to female would have to have at least one year of hormone therapy to participate in high school sports. The policy also lays out the process for families, schools and the NSAA when deciding on the participation of a transgender student. While this is an improvement over what they attempted a couple of years ago, you still need to watch and be involved. Bad things happen when “we the people” are not vigilant. All the proof you need of that can be seen by just looking at Washington D.C. and what is going on throughout our nation.
We are in full swing preparing for the upcoming Legislative session. Preparation for the session is not only focused on drafting proposed legislation but many other items as well. One of those items is the process of lining up volunteer chaplains. We are once again looking for any clergy members that would be interested in coming down to Lincoln to serve as “Chaplain of the Day” and say a prayer before the daily session. This will be a 60 day session, providing several opportunities for those interested. It would be great if District 17 was represented. I understand that it is a commitment but if you have days that you know you are going to be in Lincoln, let us know and we can see if that date is available. If you would like more information about this, please let me know or contact my office 402-471-2716 or the Clerk of the Legislature at 402-471-2271.
I mentioned, a couple of weeks ago that there are two candidates running for the position that I now hold. There is still time for others to file. The deadline to file is March 1, 2016. I know that a lot of you are already sick and tired of political ads, mostly at this time on the presidential race, but you really do need to be involved in deciding who will represent you on the local level. The primary election is May 10, 2016, it is coming sooner than we sometimes realize.
Back in 2012, I had a constituent contact me wanting to me to introduce Erin’s Law in Nebraska. Erin’s Law is legislation that deals with teaching our students about child sexual abuse in our schools. After researching Erin’s Law, I was not convinced that it was the best option for Nebraska and honestly, I was not willing to place another mandate on our schools.
That being said, I did see great value in encouraging our schools to address this issue. The question was how. In 2013, I introduced LB143, which would have required the Nebraska Department of Education to develop a model policy addressing child sexual abuse. If a school decided to adopt a policy there would be certain things they would have to do in order to comply with the bill. I modeled my bill after a similar bill that had been passed in previous years dealing with dating violence. LB143 never made it out of the Education Committee.
In 2015, I introduced LB303, which was the same bill as LB143 with a few technical changes made at the request of Health and Human Services regarding language used. After discussions with committee counsel, I decided to request that the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) develop a model policy and make it available to schools wanting or looking for a policy addressing child sexual abuse.
NDE has formed a committee tasked with developing a model policy. I am pleased to announce that this committee started their work this week. My legislative aide is one of several members of this committee and she was very impressed with committee and the work that was done this week. It is our hope that there will be a model policy in place and available for schools to adopt for the 2016 – 2017 school year.
I have taken some heat over this bill for the last three years, mostly from an individual that does not seem to understand the legislative process and thinks that the only way to proceed is their way. I am sure that this individual will once again attack me and tell me that I do not care about children but I think that we are making great progress and we will end up having a much better policy available for schools by going this route. It has taken a long time to get to the point that we are at, we are moving forward, and it will not require another law or mandate, we have too many now!
As most of you are aware, I will not be able to run for re-election in 2016 due to term limits. Since I was appointed less than half way through Bob Giese’s term, I am allowed only six years in the Legislature. There are currently two people who have announced that they intend to seek the position.
The first to announce was Ardel Bengtson from South Sioux City. Ardel is a retired South Sioux City school teacher and a small business owner. Ardel has been close to city politics as her late husband, Al, served on the city council for a number of years. I have met her several times since her announcement.
In early November, Joni Albrecht announced that she would also be a candidate for the job. Joni farms with her Husband Mike and their family between Emerson and Thurston in Thurston County. Joni has some previous political experience having served in both city council and county board positions. I have known Joni for several years, having first met her through her work with Farm Bureau and at the Dakota/ Thurston County Fair.
There may or may not be others that get into this race, but at the very least you will have two candidates to choose between. The choice will be yours; it is up to YOU to learn where they stand on the issues that are most important to you. Given my five years of experience, I think you may want to find out where each stands on some of the following ongoing issues: TAXES–lower taxes or more state funding, you can’t have both. ABORTION–pro-life, or pro-choice, SECOND AMENDMENT — gun-rights or gun control, DEATH PENALTY–for or against, ANIMAL RIGHTS there are people who want to add many regulations as to how farm animals are raised, where do the candidates stand?
I have listed only five of the issues that the legislature struggles with nearly every year, I will try to mention more as we get closer to election day, The Primary will be held on May 10, 2016
I am sure that Ardel and Joni will make themselves available to you as time passes. There are very few things more important than who you elect to serve you.
I have seen several articles recently regarding increased costs of the State Patrol. The articles hurry to point out that the governor’s security detail is a main force behind the increased State Patrol costs.
According to some reports, which I have not verified, the Patrol is spending $50,000 a month more in overtime costs than last year and all previous years dating back to 2002. The governor has troopers assigned to his security detail and they protect the governor around the clock as they have with previous governors. There are usually two troopers on at a time; the governor is never without security, nor should he be in today’s world.
Since taking office in January, Governor Ricketts has left the state 14 times – trade missions (Belgium, Denmark, Italy, and Japan), various conferences, and for some Chicago Cubs games and meetings, (he has family ties there). Additionally, he has spent a lot of time traveling our great State talking to people (not just senators and lobbyists). These trips, in and out of state, are important – he is connecting with Nebraskans, addressing concerns and issues and he is out promoting our state. Those who wish to complain about Ricketts’ travel need to understand that. I have been pleased that our Governor has traveled several times to the 17th District. He, in less than a year, has been to events that I have been able to attend in Wayne, South Sioux City, Winnebago and Macy that I can think of tonight. I know he has been in the district several times when I could not attend. People complain that our leaders are inaccessible, and then when we get one who wants to meet and visit with the folks, they complain about that as well. I for one hope that Governor Ricketts continues to reach out to the people of Nebraska. I would be honored to welcome him to our district anytime.