Welcome

January 8th, 2014

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.

Sincerely,
Sen. Dave Bloomfield

Newsletter 4/11/14

April 11th, 2014

As expected, the last week of the legislative session has been full of many late nights.  Although we have spent hours discussing trivial things at times, we did manage to deal with the things that needed to be done.

LB1092, introduced by Senator Annette Dubas, would have allowed roads projects to be financed by bonds. The state could have taken on bonds totaling up to $200 million with a maximum fixed interest rate of 5 percent. We currently operate under a pay-as-you-go system when it comes to financing our roads projects and I have felt all along that we need to stay that way. This bill failed on Final Reading with a vote of 27-16-6.  The bill needed 30 votes to pass because it had some constitutional language in it.

LB1098 was advanced to Governor Heineman with a vote of 48-0-1. Introduced by Senator Tom Carlson, LB1098 would increase the membership of the Natural Resources Commission from 16 members to 27. The commission make up will consist of wildlife conservation groups, public power districts, surface and ground water irrigators, and cities. The purpose of the commission is to help the state prepare for water shortages, prepare for floods and water quality problems. The intent of this bill is to insure the state has the ability to assist local governments and give the state the ability pay for water projects with an annual appropriation of $11 million. This is a lot of tax payer money and I am not completely comfortable with the new spending.  We as a state, unfortunately, have a lot of complicated issues with water, particularly in the southwest and in and around our larger cities. This should help.

An item that is of particular interest to District 17 is LR41CA, introduced by Senator Scott Lautenbaugh. LR41CA would allow betting on ”historical horse races” at Nebraska’s thoroughbred tracks by using what is essentially a slot machine. This constitutional amendment failed to get enough votes on Final Reading but Senator Lautenbaugh filed a motion to reconsider which passed allowing LR41CA to have one more vote. It did prevail with a vote of 30-17 so it will go to the voters of the state this fall. If it is adopted this fall, communities would then be able to vote on allowing it in their communities but remember it is only allowed at thoroughbred tracks. I have been, and continue to be, opposed to this idea. It does not allow for casino type gambling which some people want.  What it will do is allow expanded gambling by these “historic horse race” machines being placed at a few select sites. It is now up to you, the voters, to decide.

LB505, a bill that was introduced to require insurance companies to offer autism coverage finally found a home in LB254. Senator Colby Coash, introducer of LB505, had made several attempts this week to amend this much needed bill into other bills but was unable to attach to any bill that successfully advanced until it landed with LB254. This bill would allow for up to 25 hours a week of covered therapy until the insured individual turns 21. It is estimated that 1,000 individuals in our state will benefit from this.

On April 9th Governor Heineman signed into law LB96 a bill that I am proud to have co-sponsored. LB96 exempts farm machine repair and replacement parts from sales tax. This will allow our Nebraska implement dealers to compete more fairly with surrounding states which have no sales tax on these items. On a final note, LB766, a bill that I introduced was signed by Governor Heineman on April 10th.  This was a clean-up bill I introduced dealing with the tuition assistance programs offered to National Guard members.

Newsletter 4/4/14

April 3rd, 2014

What a week it has been in the Legislature. Governor Heineman announced that he used his “red pen” to veto about $65.3 million from the almost $8 billion budget that the Legislature had sent him.

Because the vetoes were on budget bills the Appropriations Committee met to address the vetoes and make their recommendations. This year, the Appropriations Committee decided to address the Governor’s vetoes in one package – all or nothing! Attempts were made to pull out specific veto items but all were unsuccessful. On April Fool’s Day the Legislature moved to override the budget vetoes and it was successful. I wish I could tell you it was a bad April Fool’s joke, but it is not. The supporters of the override would have you believe that most Nebraskans feel that spending $2.5 million on fountains to be placed in the four Capitol courtyards is a priority – I fought this on General File and Select File. I still believe it is a poor use of your money.

The Governor also vetoed LB671, Senator Ernie Chambers’ bill that would eliminate the mountain lion hunting season. After an unsuccessful attempt to override the Governor, Senator Chambers moved to reconsider the vote. The motion to reconsider was successful so we had yet one more vote to attempt to override the veto. The final vote to override the veto failed. For now, the mountain lion hunting season is still allowed but I am fairly confident that this bill will be back next year.

This week there was an attempt to raise the minimum wage in the state. LB943, introduced by Senator Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, would have raised the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 over the next three years. LB943 was five votes short of the 25 it needed to advance.

We defeated LB935, introduced by Mike Gloor. This bill was in response to the Central Nebraska Veteran’s Home being moved from Grand Island to Kearney. It was bill that represented terrible public policy that would have had huge impacts on the future placements of government services.

We debated and gave first round approval to LB976, introduced by Senator Russ Karpisek of Wilber, which would change the procedure for the redistricting process. There is still much work to be done on this bill but it seems to be moving in the right direction.

We also passed, on the first round, LB383 a bill introduced by Senator Charlie Janssen which allows our veterans to acquire a “Pride” license plate for an additional fee. While this is probably not the most important thing that we have done, I know it means a great deal to some of our veterans.

Newsletter 3/28/14

March 27th, 2014

Let me start this newsletter with an explanation of my committee vote on LB1058. LB1058 would adopt the interstate compact on the agreement among the states to elect the President by national popular vote. It was originally introduced by Senator John Murante of Gretna. Senator Murante proposed the idea to me and I told him no. A former state chairman of the Republican Party came to me asking me to support the plan and I told him no.  In a procedural movie Senator Murante removed his name from the bill and it was picked up by Senator Tyson Larson from District 41 which borders District 17. Senator Larson asked me as a personal favor to help him get the bill out of committee. I did so with the understanding that I would likely oppose it on “the floor”. I am in no way supportive of this bill but it is an issue that Senator Larson feels strongly about and he wanted to have the discussion and that I can support.

Earlier this week we discussed another bill that is of great interest to District 17, LR41CA. Introduced by Senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, LR41CA is a constitutional amendment that would authorize legislation for the licensing and regulating of wagering on replayed horseraces. If you have followed the debate on this bill at all you know that I am opposed to it. I understand that there is a huge desire to approve expanding gambling in part of the district but honestly I do not feel that this bill will lead to what is wanted. If, this constitutional amendment were to become law, I am certain that it will be another ten years before a measure to allow for the further expansion of gambling is passed. If this fails to pass it will be ten years before anyone brings a bill again. While it is my job to represent the district it is also my job to do what I believe is in the best interest of Nebraska. This bill is shortsighted. LR416CA is a bill that would have been a constitutional amendment to authorize casino gaming, provide for a local vote and it was a bill that I could have supported going out to the voters though I would not personally vote for it on the election ballot. Unfortunately, LB416CA did not even get a vote in committee.

Newsletter 3/21/14

March 21st, 2014

We have twelve days left in the Legislation session and if you have watched any of the debate you know that the body is on edge.

This week started with the long awaited debate on LB887, the Wellness In Nebraska plan, or sometimes referred to as the Medicaid expansion bill. Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln worked on this bill over the interim to try to craft legislation that more senators could get behind and support. After eight hours of debate, Senator Campbell called for a cloture vote on Wednesday morning. The vote was 27 – 21 with one present and not voting, it needed 33 votes to proceed to a vote on the actual bill. As a result this bill will not be heard again this session. It met the same fate as my priority bill, it died on a technicality.

I did not support LB887 and I had let Senator Campbell know last year that I would have a very hard time supporting any bill that would expand Medicaid. Proponents claimed that the passage of LB887 would bring in roughly $350 million yearly from the federal government until 2020. It was also argued that this would allow more individuals to seek healthcare, no mention was made about number of doctors and offices that do not take on new Medicaid patients if they take any at all. There are a great number of problems with Medicaid expansion that do not show up at first glance.

Newsletter 3/14/14

March 14th, 2014

This week marked the beginning of the final third of the Legislative session for this year. With that comes the budget.

We have now passed three bills, (LB905, LB906, and LB130) which make up the budget, from General to Select File. The recommendations of the Appropriations Committee, which sent these bills to the floor, included funding for water projects, Capitol building improvements (including unneeded fountains in the courtyards), state parks, services for those who are developmentally disabled and others. It is important to remember that in addition to the budget bills there are bills making their way through the process that also have a price tag attached to them.

An amendment was brought to change the increase in the funding for the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund from $25 million to $45 million but we were unsuccessful. I brought an amendment for the purposes of discussion that would remove the funding to pay Nebraska’s dues to Midwest Passenger Rail Compact. I did not take this amendment to a vote (because I knew the votes were not there) but I do intend to bring legislation next year that will get us out of the compact and as a result put an end to the $15,000 we pay in dues every year.  You should probably know that we haven’t even attended a meeting in the last four years.  Senator Bill Kintner, of Papillion, brought an amendment that would have cut $2.5 million from the budget allocated for the silly fountains for the four capitol courtyards. This amendment also failed to advance. This group of senators really does enjoy spending your money!  In the end the budget advanced with the committee amendment.  There were only two NO votes, Senator Kintner’s and mine.

Before adjourning for the week LB682 was discussed, a bill introduced and prioritized by Senator Jim Scheer of Norfolk. LB682 would have forced the formation of allied school systems as prescribed. While I can understand the idea and what Senator Scheer was hoping to accomplish with LB682, this bill was not going to accomplish it. After the introduction of the bill and the committee amendment he moved to bracket the bill until April 17, 2014 which killed the bill. It is safe to say that Senator Scheer’s intent and motives are pure. I think the committee will probably do a study this summer. The idea behind this bill will probably appear in some form next year.  I have been receiving quite a little email about the mountain lion hunting bill, I voted to discontinue the hunting because of the very low numbers that Game and Parks tells us are in the state (around 20). It is important to know that any language that said you could not protect yourself or property has been removed from the bill. Game and Parks can and will continue to manage the cats, just not allow hunting permits.

Newsletter 3/7/14

March 8th, 2014

This has been a somewhat frustrating session so far and I do not see it getting a lot better. Last year we held off on doing anything to address the out of control taxes facing the people of Nebraska with the understanding that the Tax Modernization Committee would make recommendations that we could act on. The Tax Modernization Committee spent months traveling the state, listening to the people and what they thought. The one common thing heard at every location was that something had to be done with property taxes. As I write this, there are 22 days left in the session and so far we have done very very little to address property taxes.

Today, March 3rd, we did advance LB986 which would expand the current homestead exemption program. Senator Galen Hadley argued that this is property tax relief for the group of Nebraskans that need it the most. (I think he is mistaken. Agricultural land owners are much in need.) LB986 allows married couples to receive a partial exemption until their household income reaches $46,901. Currently, married couples making up to $28,501 can receive a partial exemption. While every little bit helps this is a far cry from being the property tax relief everyone was looking for. We will continue to push, but it seems that the “spenders” have more votes than we, the “give some back” crowd, do. That being said, I do not want to leave you with the idea that we have not made any progress. As it stands now, we are looking at being able to repeal the sales tax on farm machine repairs, reduce the tax paid on social security income and return more through the property tax credit fund. These are small steps, but please remember these are tax cuts, however small, not tax increases as other states are seeing.

This week with a vote of 32-1 we gave first round approval to legalizing industrial hemp in Nebraska. LB1001 would allow the production, sale and purchase of industrial hemp. It is important to note that hemp is not marijuana. Industrial hemp has and is required to have less than 1 percent THC. THC is the chemical that produces the “high” that some people use for mind altering purposes. Cloth, rope, fuel, and paper are all things that we could use industrial hemp to make. There are also oils that come from the flower (not the seed) that seem to control certain seizure conditions.

In the next few weeks I am fairly certain that we will be discussing LB935. LB935 was introduced by Senator Mike Gloor of Grand Island as a result of the Nebraska state veterans home being moved from Grand Island. This bill was heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which I am a member of, it was originally defeated in committee but through some fancy parliamentary procedure work it was revived and advanced out of committee with an amendment that would make the bill apply only to future projects. If passed, LB935 would require legislative approval of any project that would move a state service or agency to a different community if the cost of the move would be at or exceed $15 million. This would revise the decision making process that is now in place. I am not in favor of this bill for many reasons. My main concern at this point is the fact that we are putting federal funding for the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home in jeopardy. These are our veterans and they deserve better than this.

Newsletter 2/28/14

March 1st, 2014

As we have been making our way through the committee process it has occurred to me that it might be beneficial to provide you with some “Good Practice Ideas” for when you might be interested in legislation. 

I often have people contact my office with ideas that they feel would be great legislation. After much research I may determine that it just is not feasible, it is a great idea or maybe it is a good idea but it needs some modification. If a senator decides to bring a bill based on the idea that you brought to them – WORK WITH THAT SENATOR. Know what the introduced bill does, it may or may not be enough in your opinion. If this is the case you have some options – you can work with the senator to move towards your goal or you can work against the bill based on your idea and watch things stay status quo. 

Many people do not realize just what a delicate process it is to successfully pass a bill. Once you have a bill that has been introduced, that bill will be scheduled for a hearing. Frequently, the senator introducing the bill has very little say as to when that bill will be heard by the committee to which it has been referenced. When the hearing date is set – the person who brought the idea to a senator should make it their priority to be there to testify to support the bill. After all a senator can bring a bill but we need testifiers for that bill and if you truly care about getting your idea passed in some form you need to be there to tell the committee in person just how important it is because let’s face it, letters and emails are good but when it comes to a committee hearing being there in person is the best option because it allows the committee members to ask you questions.

Once the hearing has been held on the bill it is important that you continue to work with your senator who introduced the bill. The committee chairs are the ones that decide when or if the committee will have an executive session on a bill; this is when the committee votes to decide if a bill should be sent to the full Legislature for consideration. The bill may also be amended, simply held or killed. These executive sessions are held without public attendance – only the media and committee members are there. There are times where it may appear to you that we are doing very little to advance legislation but the fact is we are working behind the scenes trying to advance the bill. It is in your best interest not to assume that you know more about the status of the bill than the introducing senator, after all you know the old saying about assuming. 

Once a bill is out of committee, it is up to the Speaker to decide if or when a bill is placed on the agenda for debate by the full Legislature. In a year like this year, a short session, if your bill does not have a priority designation it probably will not be heard by the full Legislature. Each senator is allowed to pick only one priority bill, even this does not guarantee that the bill will be heard. For the last two years I have selected my bill that would be a partial repeal of the motorcycle helmet law (LB393). LB393 was not heard last year and was defeated this year. Selecting a priority bill can be difficult, often times senators feel very strongly about most if not all of their bills. I introduced six bills last year and of those only one of them made it out of committee and that was LB393. The other five bills that I introduced last year were still held in committee when we adjourned. This year, I introduced three bills and as of right now only one of them has been advanced from committee. LB766 has 35 cosigners, six of whom sat on the committee which is holding it simply because the committee chairman refuses to act on it. A few people think that I wasted my priority designation both this year and last year but I think it I would be doing a disservice if I prioritized a bill that was destined to not advance from committee. In addition to senator priority bills, the speaker of the Legislature is allowed to select 25 Speaker Priority Bills. Last year, I requested that LB143 be considered for this and this year I asked that LB857 be considered – both still in committee when the request was made and both times the Speaker Priority’s I requested were passed up. LB143 has since been killed by committee and LB857 is still in committee, still with 35 cosigners. 

If you take anything away from reading this, I hope, it is that if you have a senator bring legislation on your behalf, work with them, follow their advice and do not be surprised if it does not all happen overnight.

 

Newsletter 2/21/14

February 21st, 2014

On February 11th the Education Committee advanced LB682 out of committee with a committee amendment. LB682, introduced and prioritized by Senator Jim Scheer, of Norfolk, would provide for the formation of allied school systems. While the committee amendment improves the bill, it is a bill with many issues in my opinion.

LB682 requires schools with an average daily membership of less than 650 K-12 students during the last two consecutive years to align with three other school districts by July 1, 2015. To be “aligned” schools must have a common calendar and schedule. The argument being made for this bill is that by schools aligning you would have a greater pool of students and teachers and can then offer more courses that may not be available to the individual schools. We have been told repeatedly that this bill is not about consolidation and that the individuals opposed to the bill are only opposed because they just do not understand it.

I understand that our rural schools want to offer their students as many opportunities as possible but I do not feel that LB682 necessarily aids in doing this. Under LB682 schools are required to align but they are not required to offer more courses. It is my experience that school districts concerned with challenging students find ways to offer them courses and opportunities without having to align with other schools. I think the premise behind this bill is that distance education will become more commonplace in our schools – I have nothing against distance education but there are concerns that come along with it. How many classrooms will have to be outfitted with distance education capabilities? What happens if your school decides not to hire a math teacher because they can have a teacher at a school that they are aligned with teach the course via distance education? If a child is taking geometry and struggling, how do they get additional help? We need to leave these decisions up to the local school districts. They know better than those of us in Lincoln what their students and school districts need.

On another note, LB671 introduced by Senator Chambers of Omaha which would eliminate provisions relating to the hunting and killing of mountain lions has been placed on the agenda for discussion by the full Legislature. You might recall that I mentioned this bill in an earlier “Update”. LB671 advanced from the Natural Resources Committee on a 6-2 vote with an amendment. The amendment reinstates sections of the original statute that allow an individual to kill a mountain lion that is a threat to their livestock on his or her property and allows individuals to defend themselves against a mountain lion. The proposed bill and amendment does repeal the section of statute that allows Game and Parks Commission to issue mountain lion hunting permits. Since the foolishness of not being able to defend yourself or your property has been removed I will look at LB671 with a little more respect.

 

Newsletter 2/14/14

February 16th, 2014

After four days of debating my priority bill LB393, it essentially died after not receiving 33 votes on the cloture motion. A cloture vote is when a vote is taken to immediately cease debate and proceed to vote on the bill. We had 25 votes for cloture, 8 shy of 33 we needed.  This is what is commonly referred to as a filibuster.  It is a very frustrating procedure when it is used against you, but very nice when you want to stop something that you might disagree with. On an encouraging note, we did survive an earlier vote to bracket the motion until the end of session. I wish that we could have had an actual up or down vote on LB393 because I think if that had happened we would have had more than the 25 votes needed to advance the bill to Select File.

We heard many arguments for and against the bill. If you have followed my position on this bill you know that for me, repealing the helmet law boils down to one thing – the freedom of personal choice. When you mention “choice” some individuals start to question me and even claim that I am a hypocrite because while I am all for your right to decide if you want to wear a helmet on a motorcycle or not, I do not believe that you have the right to take the life of an unborn child. In my opinion there is a huge difference between the two. When it comes to abortion, an adult is making the decision end the life of an unborn child that has no say in that decision.  I believe that an adult who decides to get on a motorcycle, with or without a helmet, should know and understand the risk they are taking.  Free adults should be allowed to make that decision.

Newsletter 2/7/14

February 7th, 2014

Some of you may remember that last year I introduced LB393 which would repeal the motorcycle helmet law in Nebraska for individuals 21 or older. I had two main goals in introducing this bill. First, is to open our borders to individuals, who for one primary reason, choose to avoid our beautiful state and take their dollars elsewhere all because they wish to have the right to ride without a helmet. My second goal with the bill is uphold our citizens’ belief in their right to make choices in matters that affect themselves. It is my belief that as lawmakers we have a duty and obligation to protect and not infringe on the principals of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These freedoms have been paid for with too much blood and treasure for me to just say, “The government thinks it is a good idea, so okay.” Not in this lifetime! I understand that individuals on both sides of this issue are very passionate and that was evident during the public hearing last spring.

I designated LB393 as my priority bill last year but due to the many issues that were facing us last session, LB393 never made it on the agenda. I have been very clear that I would once again designate this bill as my priority bill this year if I needed to do so. On Monday morning, I submitted my letter making LB393 my priority bill with the hopes of it being placed on the agenda.

On Thursday morning debate finally started on LB393. It was the first of what I am sure will be several days of debate on this bill. Historically, this is a bill that when it is debated the debate will generally go for at least eight hours. I know that this is an uphill battle but it is a battle that I am willing to fight and will continue to fight until we restore the ability for each individual to make the choice of wearing a helmet or not for themselves. The fact is, there is an inherent risk to riding a motorcycle and government cannot bubble wrap individuals and save them from everything, although some individuals and too many politicians would like to try. As President Ronald Reagan said, “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”