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 8/29/14

August 29th, 2014

I said last week that I would follow up on Initiative 425 which is the ballot issue that you will face this fall on minimum wage in Nebraska. There is no doubt that there are two sides to this issue.

Supporters of increasing the minimum wage will tell you that for every $1 you increase the minimum wage you will see an annual increase in spending of $2,800 per family.  It is claimed that this increase will help pull Nebraska families out of poverty. Unfortunately, even with the increase and earning a minimum wage of $9.00 an hour and working full time your earnings would still be below the poverty level for a family of three.

Other arguments being made in favor of this ballot initiative include that it could increase workforce morale because employees will be earning more and therefore they will feel more appreciated. Additionally, it is claimed that if the minimum wage is increased it will give those who are currently unemployed a reason to now seek employment. I really question that logic, if you are unwilling to work for $7.25, you are not likely to enjoy a new found abundance of ambition for another dollar or so an hour.

Those opposed to the increase will tell you that if you increase the minimum wage you are increasing the amount businesses will have to spend on their labor force. Spending more on wages decreases the amount a business will have available for investment capital. These increases can lead to increases in the cost of goods and services.

There is also the argument that it will hurt the number of jobs that are available for teenagers or the younger inexperienced workforce. In general, it could lead to jobs being lost or at very least cuts in hours. All of which lends itself to preventing job growth from being as strong as most people would like.

Keep in mind that as a state Nebraska weathered this last recession very well. Our unemployment rates have remained very low, some of the lowest in the country. Having a low unemployment rate helps increase the wages offered. If you look across Nebraska, even right here in District 17 there are employers looking for workers and they are willing to pay far more than minimum wage. What they really want and need are people who are willing to learn how to do a job and are willing to show up for work. They do not need folks that are high on drugs, drunk or unreliable. The minimum wage is traditionally a starting point, it was not intended to be a living wage, but more of a learning wage. In Nebraska, if you are willing to apply yourself and not afraid to challenge yourself, there is no reason to work very long at a minimum wage, whatever that wage number is.

I opposed the effort to pass this in the Legislature; I will continue to oppose it this fall. Please study this idea carefully before election day, consider whether this measure will help or hurt YOUR chances of moving forward in your career.

Newsletter 8/22/14

August 25th, 2014

It is official; when you head to the voting booth in November you will have the opportunity to vote on raising the minimum wage. It is my intent to discuss this in this and upcoming newsletters.

Secretary of State, John Gale, has announced that Initiative 425 received 9,000 signatures more than the 90,000 signatures needed to get it on the November ballot. We will be joining Alaska and South Dakota in voting as to whether or not we should increase our minimum wage.

We were one of 34 state legislatures that had bills proposing minimum wage hikes – 10 states and D.C. actually enacted the proposed legislation. I was opposed to legislation last session that would have increased Nebraska’s minimum wage and we blocked it in the Legislature. Senator Jeremy Nordquist from Omaha, along with other like-minded folks mounted a successful “ballot initiative” to place the question on the election ballot this fall. Currently our minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. Initiative 425 would increase the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour in 2015 and $9.00 an hour in 2016.

Presently, five states have no minimum wage meaning they default to the federal minimum wage, while 23 states have a minimum wage that surpasses the federal minimum wage. Twelve states have plans to increase their minimum wage in upcoming years. Based on laws that have been enacted, by July of 2018 six states will have a minimum wage surpassing $10.00 an hour.

When talking about the minimum wage it is important to keep in mind who it applies to. The state minimum wage applies to businesses with four or more employees. The federal minimum wage applies to businesses conducting business across state lines, with a yearly gross income of $500,000 or more, schools, hospitals and few others.

These are some of the bare bone facts about minimum wages. Next week I will try to explain some of the pros and cons of Initiative 425.

Newsletter 8/15/14

August 16th, 2014

There has been a lot of talk in Lincoln about having a special session to address issues within the Department of Corrections. Senator Brad Ashford, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, of Omaha has asked Governor Heineman to have a special session after more concerns came to light recently.

A number of problems within the Department of Corrections have come to light thanks to the very high profile case dealing with the release of Nikko Jenkins. Upon his release Jenkins went on a killing spree in Omaha. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the Department of Corrections this past session and a special investigative committee looking into prison issues was created. LR424 established the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee of the Legislature, chaired by Senator Steve Lathrop of Omaha.

While the creation of this committee was initially in response to the Nikko Jenkins case it is able to look at the Department of Corrections on a larger scale. It has become very clear that there are several issues that need to be dealt with within the department. Early on the talk centered around the fact that we needed to revamp the Good Time Law but as more and more facts are coming out we are discovering that the problem may not be with the law but rather with how the department was applying the law.

We have laws on the books addressing prisoner releases, the Nebraska Supreme Court has handed down rulings on the subject it is up to the Department of Corrections to follow the laws and rulings. It appears as though this has not been happening.

In addition to the department’s investigation and the legislative committee looking into the department we now have a criminal investigation taking place. Governor Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning have announced that they have requested the Nebraska State Patrol pursue a criminal investigation into the miscalculations and early release of prisoners.

Having a special session is not the answer. We need to allow these three investigations to play out and once we have the findings we can make decisions on how we should proceed. Senator Ashford has been chair of the Judiciary Committee for eight years and if more legislation was the answer to the problems within the department he has had ample opportunity to pursue it, at this time there is no need for a special session which would cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. This call by Senator Ashford could conceivably have the smell of political opportunism around it.  He is after all running for the U. S. House of Representative.

 

Newsletter 7/25/14

July 25th, 2014

During this past session the Legislature passed LR41CA, a constitutional amendment that would authorize the licensing and regulating of wagering on live or replayed horse races on the ballot. We have known since then that when we head to the voting booth on November 4th we will have the opportunity to vote on this measure.

An Omaha attorney, Steve Grasz, requested that the Secretary of State John Gale remove this from the ballot on the basis that he said it violated the state constitution because it contained more than one subject. Secretary Gale has rejected this request stating that all of the subjects contained are all related by one general subject. While this may still be challenged in the courts, as of right now you will be able to vote on whether Nebraska should allow machine gambling on historic horse races at licensed race parks in the future.

The Nebraska State Fair is just around the corner, starting on August 22nd, and they are looking for some volunteers. Since making the move to Grand Island the fair has been growing and as it grows so does the need for volunteer workers. This year the fair runs from August 22nd to September 1st and will more than likely see more than 325,000 walk through the gates.

Fair organizers say that they have a job for anyone who is willing to help and that volunteers play a huge role in the success of the fair. If you are interested in being a volunteer you can sign up online at GIChamber.com or by calling 308-382-9210.

 

Newsletter 7/18/14

July 21st, 2014

I write this newsletter today as 122 new laws are going into effect. These laws are wide ranging from indoor tanning to tuition assistance and many topics in between.

As a result of LB132 children under the age of 16 will no longer be able to use indoor tanning beds unless a parent or guardian is with them. The parent/guardian will have to sign a written consent form on each visit in which the child uses an indoor tanning bed.

If you are a trucker hauling livestock to or through Omaha and have a manure spill, you will now face a minimum fine of $250.00 which is an increase from the current $100.00. Evidently, this is big problem in south Omaha around the meatpacking plants. This increase was passed even though the judges had authority to impose a fine of more than $100.00 but usually chose not to.

If you would like to buy a novelty lighter in Nebraska it will now be required to have child-proof safety features. We spent too many hours debating this bill and listening to the various arguments. Supporters of this bill argued that these lighters are a threat to youngsters because they can come in shapes of toy guns, tractors, cars, animals and various other objects that are of interest to children. The original intent of the bill was to totally ban the sale of such lighters. I still think we have too many laws and regulations and not enough good parenting.

If you are a veteran who left the military recently you are now eligible for in-state college tuition as long as you meet a few requirements. The requirements are that you have established residency in Nebraska and have registered to vote here. Once these requirements are met you, your spouse and any dependents will qualify.

Newsletter 7/11/14

July 11th, 2014

Under the First Amendment to our United States Constitution we are guaranteed the right of free speech. We are promised the freedom to speak out against our government and those who represent us at all levels.

If would appear to me that all of the “Hub bub” generated by the float at the Norfolk 4th of July parade is being used in an attempt to squelch free speech.

The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) is going to look into this parade float issue! Really? With the IRS scandal going on, thousands of illegals swarming across our borders  the DOJ has nothing more important to do than investigate someone expressing an opinion on a parade float in a parade celebrating our freedom.

It is painfully obvious that our federal government is out of control! As a state, we send five elected officials to represent us on the federal level. Sadly the silence from them has been deafening.

As a country I think we are taking political correctness to an extreme and it is not always applied equally across the board. The First Amendment grants us freedom of expression; it does not say you are free to express yourself as long as it does not offend anyone else.

How is it that we have forgotten the principles that founded this great nation? I am positive that we can all think of a time when we were offended by something someone said, a commercial, a float or even protestors – does that mean that they should not have the right to express their thoughts or views?

I hate to say it but it often seems as if freedom of expression is allowed for those who are expressing more liberal views. Whereas, those expressing a more conservative view are often chastised or at present called racist. Newsflash – people can disagree with the current administration without being a racist. You may not like it or agree with it but we all have the right to express our thoughts and views without being called names this is one of the principles that has made our country great for so long.

Next week (July 13-16) I will be attending the Midwestern Legislative Conference or the Council of State Governments in Omaha. Nebraska is hosting the conference this year with legislators and their guests coming to Omaha from North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan for four days of discussions on state policy. This is a great opportunity to get together with our neighbors to compare ideas and see what is or is not working in other states that may work for us.

Newsletter 7/4/14

July 3rd, 2014

As the area is picking up and the rebuilding and/or repairing process is starting after the recent storms I would like to caution all of you to be on the lookout for scammers. With the amount of destruction in the area it will undoubtedly attract contractors who are less than upstanding.

In dealing with a contractor make sure they offer written contracts. Get the name, address and phone number of the contractor especially if they are from out of town. Make sure they are licensed and have all the proper permits and ask for references. If you are thinking about using an out-of-town contractor be sure to find out how warranties or any problems will be handled after the work is completed. Most importantly, DO NOT give full payment up front.

You can always contact the Better Business Bureau to check out a contractor. Go to the “Start With Trust” section  at www.bbb.org or call them at 800-649-6814.

Roughly two years ago President Obama made several appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was in a “pro-forma” session. During a “pro-forma” session the chamber is called to order and adjourned every few days. President Obama claimed the Senate was in recess and therefore he could make the appointments without seeking confirmation from the Senate.

An Oregon based soft drink bottling and distribution company, Noel Canning, brought a lawsuit challenging the appointments. This past week, in a unanimous decision the United States Supreme Court agreed. The justices agreed that the NLRB appointments were unconstitutional but they were divided on when a president should be able to use the Recess Appointments Clause to fill vacancies. This is another case of presidential over reach which President Obama seems to do a lot. This is strictly federal stuff and I maybe shouldn’t even comment, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

The season for parades and community celebrations is here, I will not be attending as many of these this year as I usually do. This is an election year and there should be enough candidates to go around. It is my intent to attend the Dakota / Thurston and the Wayne County Fairs. I hope to see you there.

Newsletter 6/20/14

June 20th, 2014

It is hard to believe that it was just eight months ago that the Wayne community was devastated by a tornado and now northeast Nebraska is once again being hammered by Mother Nature.

This last week has been full of storms and tornados that have taken a toll on our part of the state. While the destruction in Pilger has received a lot of coverage it has at times overshadowed the fact that other communities have also been hit and are in need of assistance. If you are able to assist in the clean-up in any of these areas it is important to follow the instructions of the local individuals organizing clean-up activities.

If you have had property which was damaged by any of the recent storms please make sure you contact your insurance agent and DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! The State Fire Marshal has been fielding calls by individuals wishing to start burning homes that were destroyed in the storms but you do not want to do that until after you have talked to your insurance company. If you lost livestock, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture is encouraging you to keep detailed records of those losses. Documentation should include some kind of third party verification.

Monetary donations are also being accepted at several locations depending on where you would like your donation to go. Midwest Bank, Stanton State Bank, or the American Red Cross are all taking donations.

If you are looking for information or guidance on what to do or how to volunteer I would encourage you to visit the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency website at www.nema.ne.gov.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all of the communities affected by these storms.

Newsletter 6/13/14

June 13th, 2014

If you are looking for something to do this summer I would encourage you to consider participating in the 2014 Nebraska Passport Program. The program, organized by the Nebraska Tourism Commission encourages the exploration of Nebraska by collecting stamps from the participating attractions to earn prizes.

This year there are 80 attractions on ten different themed tours: Home Grown Nebraska, Fork in the Road, Without Walls, Sips and Suds, Rare Finds, Can’t Get Enough, Patchwork Passion, Hit the Snooze, How We Move and Stars and Stripes. The grand prize is a 60” plasma TV. For more information go to http://www.nebraskapassport.com/.

One of the 80 places to visit is Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area, a popular place during the summer months. Whether you are visiting Lake McConaughy or one of the other many lakes in the state it is important to remember that current state law requires that anyone born after December 31, 1985 must complete a boating safety course before operating a motorboat or personal watercraft. I would also remind you that individuals must be at least 14 years of age to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft. While this may be an inconvenience it is intended to be for your safety as well as the safety of those around you. (I did not support this bill when it was passed.)

To find a list of boating safety courses offered or for information regarding the test out option, go to www.BoatSafeNebraska.org.

In legislative news, on June 9th the United States House of Representatives adopted the Walberg Amendment to the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.

The amendment was offered by Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) along with a few others. The amendment eliminates a provision in the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations act that would have allowed the Secretary of Transportation to once again discuss motorcycle safety initiatives with state legislators.

In 1998 Congress made it illegal for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to lobby state legislatures. Prior to this law NHTSA spent tens of thousands of dollars traveling to states when those states were debating the helmet law.

I am pleased this amendment to the bill was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives, which advanced the bill on June 10th. The issue of motorcycle helmets, like many other issues, is best decided at the state level. The money that NHTSA would waste traveling from state to state to lobby would be better spent on other issues, or better still, not spent at all.

Newsletter 6/6/14

June 6th, 2014

On Friday, May 30th it was my honor to attend the induction ceremony of Alvin Saunders Johnson into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

Johnson was born in 1874 on a farm near Homer to Danish immigrants. Growing up he embraced the work ethic and values that come along with farm life. He went on to receive a bachelors and masters degree in the classic from the University of Nebraska. In 1902 he received his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.

He was a professor at several American universities including the University of Nebraska. He served in the military during the Spanish-American War before he co-founded and led the New School for Social Research. The New School now serves as the model for adult education. While with the New School he founded the University in Exile which was a haven for European intellectuals that were fleeing Nazi persecution. He gained national and international recognition as an educator, humanitarian, social activist, economist, editor and writer. Throughout his life his concern for minority groups discriminated against or persecuted at home or abroad was evident.

Established in 1961 the Nebraska Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to Nebraska and the nation. To be considered the individual must have died at least 35 years ago.

Alvin Saunders Johnson was a remarkable individual that we, as a state, should be very proud of.

On June 3rd I attended a USDA Rural Development home ownership meeting in Norfolk. If you are looking for financing for a home you might want to check them out. They seem a little skewed toward first time buyers and or single parents. If you fall into either or both of those categories, I would highly recommend that you contact them. If you don’t fit in either of those groups they may still have something that would help. It cost nothing to find out, go to, www.rurdev.usda.gov/ne for more information.