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
It looks like we may need to prepare for some tough times. Governor Ricketts came out this past week and asked state agencies to control spending. Asking agencies to control spending is not new but this is being triggered because of reduced tax revenues coming into the state.
Tax receipts for May and June were below projections made by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board – falling short of projections by about $95 million. Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton has said that there is evidence that the agricultural economy is contributing to the shortfall in tax receipts – this is not good for Nebraska.
The last time the state faced tough times, the agriculture sector carried us through. If the agriculture sector is now facing tough times, it may be more difficult for the state than it was before.
In an attempt to get ahead of a possible problem Governor Ricketts has asked agencies to look at vacant positions and to postpone or eliminate hiring if possible; limit travel to essential travel; limit equipment purchases to those necessary for process improvements; and to work with political subdivisions to find savings in providing state services.
The state can cut and limit spending but I would suggest that our cities, counties and schools need to do the same – be proactive and prepare for some tough times. We need to work on doing more with less – we cannot continue to look to the state or others to fill the gaps in our budgets.
There have been some questions as to why I have not appeared at some of the parades and other events that have taken place this summer. As you all know, I am finishing up my term as your representative to the Nebraska Legislature from District 17. There are two candidates running for that office, Joni Albrecht and Ardel Bengtson. It is important for you to get acquainted with those who will be serving you in the future, parades and community events are a good place for that to happen, were I to be there, it might reduce your chance to meet with them. My office has also reached out to both candidates about meetings and some other things that are happening in the legislature. Both candidates have responded and have attended some of the events, the latest being a meeting in Winnebago with the village board, the Nebraska Dept. of Roads and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). In order to give you more opportunity to meet both candidates, I have again rented a booth at the Wayne County Fair and have invited both to join me at that booth. I intend to do the same at the Dakota/Thurston County Fair in early August. While I have personally endorsed one of them, I intend to be as fair as possible to both. It will be up to you to decide who will replace me. If you want to know who I support, you can ask me when you see me, I will not use this venue for any political purpose.
Each year during the last few weeks of June, the United States Supreme Court issues rulings on a variety of issues. This year was slightly different with the court being short one justice and being a divided court.
The first ruling of interest was in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In this case, the court voted to uphold a college admissions program that takes race into consideration. It was decided with a 4 – 3 ruling with Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor deciding to uphold the constitutionality of the program. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito in dissent. Justice Kagan had dealt with this case when she was solicitor general so she recused herself from the case.
This ruling surprised those who watch the court – the thought was that they took this case to reverse the ruling of the lower courts. While the ruling is very narrow in nature and directed at the University of Texas program, it will provide guidance for those schools that want to consider race for the purpose of admissions. Currently, Nebraska is one of eight states that ban the use of race as a factor in admissions.
The second ruling, and the one I was most interested in, was the case of the United States v. Texas. This case dealt with President Obama’s executive orders regarding immigration. The ruling was one line saying that the Court was divided.
What does this mean? This means that the programs will not be allowed to go into effect and the issue will return to the lower court. It is unlikely that the programs will be allowed to take effect during the remainder of the Obama administration.
This ruling will likely keep more than 4 million undocumented (illegal) immigrants from coming out and applying for these programs which would have allowed them to stay in the United States without concerns of being deported. This ruling does not mean the immediate deportation of those that had applied for deferred action but it does keep them in a holding pattern of undecided status.
What concerns me is the fact that in the last two years the Legislature voted to give these individuals (the DREAMERS) drivers’ licenses and professional licenses. The arguments were made that we had to do this because it was federal policy and some of my colleagues could not see the value in waiting until we had a ruling in this case.
In yet another case coming from Texas, the courts struck down a Texas law providing strict regulations for abortion clinics, which became known as “clinic shutdown” laws. Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan delivered the opinion with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito wanting to uphold the law.
The decision struck down a 2013 Texas law stating that all abortion providers had to meet ambulatory surgical standards and the physicians performing the abortion has to have admitting privileges at nearby hospital. Advocates of the law argued that it protected the health of women. The law closed the majority of facilities that provided abortions and made it so only six cities in the state had facilities that could perform abortions. Justices said there was evidence that the restrictive rules actually protected the health of women.
One of the most important considerations when you go to vote for president this fall should be the make-up of the Supreme Court. The next president will likely appoint at least three people to the court.
I often hear people make comments about how they could care less about politics, they care even less for politicians, and while I understand those sentiments, they are very dangerous. We need to care, not only when things are good or bad but we need to care at all times.
Since session has concluded my office has fielded several calls from individuals who are not happy with decisions being made in their cities and counties. The issues range from the use of eminent domain for trails and other projects to the completion of road projects.
These calls are very frustrating for my staff because unfortunately there is not much my office can do to help in these cases. I have always been a strong supporter of local control and these issues are all local issues. While in most cases I agree that the constituents calling in have very valid complaints – there is not much I can do to help them. My staff or I can make a few phone calls and ask some questions – letting the cities and counties know that we are aware of what they are doing and we have some concerns. My staff and I can provide some ideas and suggestions on how concerned constituents can move forward but that is about all we can do.
I will always fight for local control, it may not be perfect but it is far better than the alternative. Every election provides you with an opportunity to decide the future of your city, county, state and country – these elections are important, even when you are frustrated and disgusted to the point of not caring. Those local elections are incredibly important and once those elections are over, go to the board meetings and council meetings. Let your elected officials know that you are paying attention and you care. If after reaching out to your elected officials, you still are not happy, consider running for the office that deals with the issues you are not happy about. In our system, most elected people are just common folks that have decided to take part.
Roughly, a month ago, the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts released a report regarding the Nebraska Tourism Commission; this report raised many questions for lawmakers as well as citizens.
In 2012, the Legislature created the Tourism Commission to be overseen by nine commissioners appointed by the governor. Prior to 2012 tourism had been part of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Apparently, the commission has been operating since its creation without following any rules.
When it was established in 2012 there were certain things laid out in statute that the commission was legally obligated to fulfill. The audit revealed two of those requirements have not been met to statutory requirements – creating internal regulations to govern the commission and forming a strategic plan.
The commission placed the State Tourism Director Kathy McKillip on paid leave on May 13 while an investigation into the report was conducted. At a special meeting yesterday (May 26) the commission voted to fire Director McKillip.
While this is a step in the right direction, the commission has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the taxpayers. For four years now, the Nebraska Tourism Commission has operated under what appears to be the unilateral control of Director McKillip and they have grossly misused taxpayer dollars.
Funding for the commission comes from the 1 percent lodging tax.
A little over a week ago, President Obama announced that his administration was urging public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This has created an uproar of emotions from individuals on both sides of the issue. My office has been contacted by several constituents regarding this issue, which has lead me to discuss it in the newsletter.
Governor Ricketts and Attorney General Peterson have both addressed the issue. Governor Ricketts has encouraged schools to ignore the directive of the administration saying that it is not a new law, only a suggestion or guidance for schools. Attorney General Peterson sent a letter to federal officials saying that his office would do “everything in its power” to resist the suggested guidelines.
As for the Legislature, we have adjourned so we will not be weighing in on this issue. I would guess that there might be legislation introduced next year to address issues like this one but time will tell.
I want to congratulate Joni Albrecht and Ardel Bengtson on moving forward through the primary election for the legislature in district 17. I also want to thank Louis Benscoter for being willing to serve. Running for any elected position requires a lot of work.
Occasionally, I will take a break from my typical newsletter to tell you about different events that might be of interest to some of you.
During May, June and July the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension will be holding courses on tractor safety and hazardous occupations. Federal law prohibits youth under the age of 16 from working on a farm for anyone other than their parent or guardian. Upon completion of this course, 14 and 15-year-olds are granted an exemption that allow them to drive tractors and perform field work with mechanized equipment.
Each class consist of two days of instruction along with homework assignments. The cost is $60. While classes are being held across the state, they will be in Wayne June 20 – 21.
Do you know a kid that is 10 – 18-years-old that enjoy cooking? On June 3, they will be holding a youth cooking competition at Raising Nebraska at the State Fair grounds in Grand Island.
Raising Nebraska is an agriculture focused exhibit designed to create an interactive experience that focuses on where Nebraska agriculture is currently and how we working to become a global leader in feeding the world. The Nebraska State Fair, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, are behind the exhibit.
The competition will allow kids to create a dish using Nebraska grown foods. They will make their dish and then give a short presentation to the judges. Awards will be given for the best appearance of dish, best use of a mystery ingredient and the best speaking presentation. The entry fee is $20 per team and is due by May 23.
You can find more information, the rules and the entry form at www.raisingnebraska.net.
The primary election is upon us. It is my hope that on May 10th every one of the registered voters in District 17 and in Nebraska will take the time to vote.
This is your opportunity to let your voice be heard on the direction that you feel your township, city, county, state and country should take. I would encourage each of you to do a little research on the candidates vying for the opportunity to represent you. Find out where they stand on the issues that are important to you. I understand that we live in a busy world and this can be inconvenient but it is important for you to know whom you are voting for before you cast your vote.
Remember, you cannot (or should not) complain about your elected officials if you do not take the time to vote and voice your opinion.
The 2016 Legislative Session came to close on Wednesday, April 20. While the last day is normally more ceremonial, the Legislature once again ended the year debating a motion to override a gubernatorial veto.
Governor Ricketts vetoed LB947 – a bill that will allow individuals who have received temporary legal status under a 2012 presidential executive order to apply for and receive certifications and licenses. While supporters of this bill argued that the intent of the legislation was to keep educated and talented youth in Nebraska, opponents voiced concerns that LB947 would allow those here illegally that are not DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) individuals to obtain certifications and licenses.
Supporters of LB947 needed 30 votes to override the governor’s veto. After two hours of debate with more than 24 of the members taking part in the debate the motion to override the governor was successful with 31 senators supporting the bill and only 13 opposing it.
LB947 took effect immediately since it was passed with an emergency clause.
In addition to the veto of LB947, Governor Ricketts also returned LB580 (dealing with how Nebraska handles the redistricting process) to the Legislature. A motion to override the governor’s veto was not made for this bill.
The legislative session ended after farewell speeches from the eleven term limited senators, including Senator Bloomfield.
The newsletter this week was written by Jessica Shelburn, Legislative Aide to Senator Bloomfield due to the senator having a planned surgery the day after session.
This was a strange week in the Legislature, while we only met for four days it seemed much longer. We were under a time crunch to make sure that we were able to discuss every bill that was designated a priority by a senator or a committee. During those four days, we touched on several controversial bills.
One of those was LB580, a bill that would change the way we handle the redistricting process. Currently, a legislative committee is formed every ten years and charged with the task of proposing new boundaries. Once the committee has drawn up maps with several different scenarios, they are then presented to the Legislature for approval of one of them and then eventually on to the governor just like any other bill.
The proposed bill is a so-called bipartisan proposal and it would still require the Legislature and the governor to approve the new boundaries but it would no longer be a committee made up of senators that would be drawing up the maps. Under the proposal, the boundaries would be drawn up by a nine-member panel appointed by lawmakers from each of the state’s three congressional districts. The panel could have no more than five members with same political affiliation.
The thought is that it will take politics out of the process. It actually increases politics but changes the power structure. This idea would give the minority party at least 44% representation on the board and leave the majority party with the maximum possibility of no more than 55% and could actually flip the minority into the majority position (hardly democratic). This would give the minority party a lot more power since they have only 24% while the majority party has 73% of the current elected senators. This strategy also benefits the bigger cities because they would control six of the nine members of the committee. Please note that both senators who came up with this idea are from the Omaha area. I believe that you elect your senators to do these things, not to pass them off to still one more commission. This is nothing more or less than a power grab by big city politicians and their “cronies”. More Washington politics coming to Nebraska.
LB580 was advanced to Final Reading with a vote of 30-5.
We moved one step closer to Nebraska being a winner take all state when it comes to awarding presidential electoral votes. After overcoming a filibuster, LB10 moved on to the last round of debate with a 32-15 vote.
Nebraska and Maine are currently the only two states that award electoral votes to those who win the congressional districts. We have five electoral votes – one is given to each of the winners of the individual congressional districts and the final two are awarded to the individual who is the statewide victor.
If LB10 is adopted, all five of our electoral votes would be awarded to the statewide victor. LB10 will probably have to overcome another filibuster on final reading before it makes it Governor Ricketts.
You will likely pay more for permit fees from Nebraska Game and Parks. LB745 was advanced from the second round of debate with a vote of 43-3.
LB745 gives the Game and Parks Commission the authority to increase nearly all fees. Under this bill, the maximum fee for annual resident hunting permits could increase to $18 from $13 (roughly a 40% increase) and fishing permits would increase to $24 up from the current $17.50 (again roughly 40%). These people are never happy and think they never get enough of your money.
Enough frustration for one week!
Another week of “heavy lifting” has passed in your Nebraska Legislature. LB1032 the Transitional Health Insurance Program, LB959 dealing with the education property tax bill, LB1067 dealing with learning communities, and LB958 the revenue property tax bill.
We started the week off with LB1032 (the newest version of Medicaid expansion) the Transitional Health Insurance Program. It is claimed that this proposal would have extended health care coverage to an additional 97,000.
The bill struggled to come out of the Health and Human Services Committee – finally advancing on a 4-3 vote. Those struggles continued as it came before the full Legislature.
Supporters argued that this proposal would have brought nearly $1 billion in federal funding to the state over the next several years.
Unlike previous attempts to expand Medicaid this proposal was a three-year pilot program that would have required the Legislature to revisit it.
While I would agree that this proposal might have helped provide insurance to those who currently are without any, there were still too many questions. The biggest concern I had was what this would end up costing the state – the estimates were more than we could afford, in my opinion.
LB1032 was bracketed until April 20, 2016 after almost two hours of debate.
LB959, which is half of the tax package introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts, received overwhelming support. LB959 advanced to the second round of debate with a vote of 38-0.
LB959 attempts to hold local governments more accountable while making improvements to how schools are funded.
LB958, which is the second part of the tax plan introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts, was also debated. The proposal that we debated was substantially different than the one proposed by Governor Ricketts.
In current form, LB958 will increase property tax credits by $20 million next year, adding to the $204 million currently in the fund. It will also change the percentage of the fund that agricultural land receives. I will provide you with more information about this next week.
After almost six hours of debate, LB958 was advanced with a vote of 39-2.