NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 8th, 2020

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 17th 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. Joni Albrecht

WEEKLY UPDATE January 17, 2020
January 20th, 2020

Week two of the Legislature proved to be fast and furious.  We began full day debate on carryover bills first thing Monday January 13, 2020.  The Governor gave his State of the State speech to the Unicameral and members of the public on Wednesday, January 15, and an additional 119 bills were introduced.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK:

Diving right in, I introduced Legislative Bill 768 (LB768) last week and Legislative Resolution 293 (LR293) on Monday.

LB768 represents the annual Legislative update which harmonizes Nebraska law with federal regulations by adopting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Hazardous Material Regulations current as of January 1, 2019.  The adoption of these regulations is required on an annual basis to incorporate new or revised federal regulations into State Statute.  The State Statutes must remain current with the federal regulations to avoid incompatibility and to prevent jeopardizing Nebraska’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), which is funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  The Bill was referred to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and is first on the agenda to be heard Tuesday, January 21.

I was also pleased to honor Allen Beermann by introducing LR293.  The resolution was signed onto by all 49 Senators, which says so much about this man and his lifelong service to Nebraskans!  Tuesday, January 14 was Mr. Beermann’s 80th birthday and after he was introduced by the Lt. Governor Foley, I was able to take a few minutes to let my colleagues know that Mr. Beermann grew up in Dakota County and to point out a few of his many accomplishments from military service to being the longest serving Secretary of State and going on to serve in leadership of the Nebraska Press Corps.  The well-deserved Legislative Resolution will be signed this coming week.

While the first three days were short sessions, this week the Legislature went to full days and debated two carryover priority bills, LBs 147 and 153.

LB153 advanced to Select File on a vote of 43-0.  I was proud to cast my vote for this important bill that exempts from income tax 50% of military retirement benefits.  Like so many of my colleagues, I appreciate the service of our military men and women and want to show that gratitude in whatever way I am able.  This bill not only allows me to not only recognize their service, but also to show that we appreciate the contribution they make to the fabric of our communities by choosing to live, work, and play in Nebraska after their military service.

LB147 also had first round debate but without advancing to Select File.  LB147 would allow for educators to physically intervene and remove a student from the room if a student is acting violent in order to maintain safety and order in the classroom.  Senator Groene introduced LB147 after receiving a plea for help from teachers, administrators, and the NSEA.  Thousands of teachers responded to a NSEA survey with stories of violence and outbursts in the classroom.  One teacher wrote “I have had 20 or so students threaten or commit violence at me or towards classroom staff over 10 years.  3 current.  General attitude towards these students is “they can’t help it” or “no one cares enough to help.”” Another wrote “I was punched in the stomach while pregnant on more than one occasion.” These stories are startling and it is critical that we protect our teachers.  It is evident that teachers feel the need for the support this bill will offer in order to feel they can be safe and keep their classrooms safer.   There was a lively debate about LB147 and Senator Groene is working to address some of the issues and suggestions brought forward on the floor in hopes of finalizing a bill that can be passed by the body.  It appears to me that this bill is needed to retain great educators and to provide safe spaces for them and for all students.  We have been told of teachers who have left the profession or are contemplating leaving the teaching profession because of lack of support for them managing appropriate boundaries in their classrooms.  I intend to continue monitoring and supporting positive changes where needed.

Also, there were a number of other carryover bills that were advanced out of Committee in the 2019 Session and debated for the first time this week.  Several were advanced to Select File to receive additional debate.

WHAT IS COMING NEXT?  This week the Legislature will hear from Justice Heavican, the Chief of the Nebraska Supreme Court as he delivers his State of the Judiciary address to the Unicameral.

Committee Hearings on newly introduced bills will begin Tuesday, January 21.  Hearing schedules for the present week, the following week, or for a range of dates can be viewed by clicking on the link to Hearing Schedules at nebraskalegislature.gov.  You can also find instructions for sending letters to voice your position on a specific bill in a specific committee.  As a reminder, letters for the record needs to be received by the Committee by 5:00 pm. the day before the hearing.   If you decide to come to Lincoln to testify at a hearing, please let us know you are coming and if you like, come before lunch to see your Legislature in action.  Even if you don’t call, please make it a point to stop by my office, #1404, and say hello!

The Speaker has indicated that bills on Select File will begin receiving second debate Friday, January 24.

DATES YOU SHOULD KNOW:

January 21, 2020 (Tuesday).  Committee Hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. (Introduction on new bills and debate on carryover bills will continue during morning Session.

January 22, 2020 (Wednesday). Chief Justice Heavican delivers the Nebraska State of the Judiciary Address to the Legislature.

January 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day to introduce new bills for consideration in this Legislative Session.

January 31, 2020 (Friday) is Veterans’ Legislative Day at the Capitol, with registration at 7:45 AM at the Warner Chamber; program at 8:15 AM.  Visit the Legislature in Session at 9 AM.  Veterans are encouraged to attend and take time to visit with your Senator.

April 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day of 2020 Legislative Session (Short 60-day)

Any bills that do not see final decisions by the last day of session will not carry over to the 2021 session.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you.  You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

Weekly Update January 10, 2020
January 13th, 2020

Your Legislature was gaveled in for the opening session of 2020 on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.  Two hundred and fifteen (215) bills were introduced in the first three days.  As a reminder, bills can be introduced by Senators for the first ten (10) days of session, which is January 23, 2020.

NEXT STEPS:  After bills are introduced, they are assigned to Committees for hearing.  Except for a few technical bills, every bill must receive a public hearing.  Hearings on bills for the 2020 Session will begin on Tuesday, January 21. They generally begin around 1:30 p.m.   If you have an interest in the hearing on a particular bill, or want to follow the schedule of bill hearings, you can access the Legislature’s schedule of Committee hearings at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/calendar/hearings_range.php.  On that page you can find information on testifying at a hearing or submitting a written letter in place of live testimony on a bill.

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR DEBATE BEGINS:  Meanwhile, on Monday, January 13, 2020, debate begins, with two carryover bills from 2019 leading the way.

The first to be heard will be LB 147, which was introduced in 2019 by Senator Groene.  LB 147 allows teachers and school administrators to physically intervene in a reasonable manner in order to maintain order in the classroom should a student become violent and present a threat of harm to himself, herself, or others.   Physical restraint is restricted to holding the hands, wrists or torso of a student to control the student’s movements. It does not include the use of any mechanical device or binding a student to any object.  Senators have heard from parents, teachers, and many others about this bill, which should be reflected in the debate.

The second carryover bill for debate is LB 153, which was introduced in 2019 by Senator Brewer and named by Senator Lowe as a priority bill.  The intent of LB153 is to exempt 50% of military retirement benefits from individual Nebraska income tax.  We have also received numerous letters and calls in support of this bill.  Veterans and active military members and their families are an important part of the fabric of Nebraska.  They deserve our honor and thanks.  Many feel strongly that LB153 is one way to show that honor and respect to veterans who have served and that it is one way to keep and attract these treasured individuals in Nebraska.

MY ACTIVITY:  In addition to what is happening on the floor of the Legislature, my office is receiving calls and visits from constituents, other Senators, and those representing individuals, companies, and ideas across Nebraska.  We are listening to clarification of bills, concerns, suggestions, and new ideas from all angles.  We are also organizing and attending meetings about issues facing our state and how to craft productive solutions.

On the first day of the Session, I introduced a bill on behalf of the Nebraska State Patrol to harmonize Nebraska Statute with federal regulations to avoid incompatibility.  The   bill adopts the Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Hazardous Material Regulations current as of January 1, 2019.  The adoption of these regulations is required on an annual basis to incorporate new or revised federal regulations into State Statute.  The State Statutes must remain current with the federal regulations to avoid jeopardizing Nebraska’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), which is funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

I also signed on as a co-sponsor to LB 814 introduced by Senator Suzanne Geist, and LR288 .  LB841, introduced by Senator Geist, makes it unlawful for anyone “to purposely perform or attempt to perform a dismemberment abortion and thereby kill an unborn child” absent an emergency.

Senator Slama introduced Legislative Resolution 288 (LR288) in large part because of damages caused by this past year’s flooding in Nebraska.  LR288 urges Congress and the United States Corps of Engineers to re-prioritize flood control and repair as a top priority for the management of water systems under their authority in the Missouri River Mainstream Reservoir System Water Control Manual.  With reports of likely flooding again this spring, it is felt that moving flood control to the top of the priority list and updating 20 to 40 year old levy standards will enable the Corps to make needed levy and other repairs along the river that it feels are precluded by current priority designations

There will be many other Legislative Bills (LB) and Legislative Resolutions (LR) that we Senators will be looking over in the days and months ahead.  I may sign onto a bill if I look at it and feel strongly in favor of that particular bill.  In some instances, I may initially view a bill favorably or unfavorably knowing that there may be amendments, expected or unforeseen, that can certainly change my opinion, the opinions of my constituents, and my level of support or opposition for the bill.  Just as I’ve done in past years, as the Legislative Session goes forward, I strive to keep an open mind until seeing and considering the bill’s final contents when it finds its way to the floor of the Legislature for a vote.

Please keep in mind that it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you.  You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE January 2, 2020
January 6th, 2020

Welcome to a new year and to a new decade!  And welcome to Nebraska’s 2020 Legislative Session. As everyone settles into the new year and back into the routines of life, I myself am settling into my “home away from home” in Lincoln, ready for Session to begin Wednesday, January 8.  Although I spend much time in Lincoln during the Legislative session, I also remain fully involved with constituents in Legislative District 17 by phone, email and meetings and visits when I am home.

My office has been busy and working hard ahead of all that we expect is ahead.  As I have mentioned in previous updates, finding ways to provide Nebraskans with property tax relief is at the top of many of our lists and will occupy much of our time and energy right from the beginning of session.  Add to that bills that did not make it to the floor last Session, those that are still working their way through committees, and new bills being introduced and you can imagine the abundance of work there is to do.

DATES YOU SHOULD KNOW:

January 8, 2020 (Wednesday)    Day One of the session.  The Legislature will be in session from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.  New bills will be able to be introduced beginning Day One.

January 13, 2020 (Monday).  Day Four of the session.  Debate of carry-over legislation from the 2019 session will begin.

January 15, 2020 (Wednesday).  Governor Ricketts delivers his 2020 State of the State Address to the Legislature.

January 22, 2020 (Wednesday). Chief Justice Heavican delivers the Nebraska State of the Judiciary Address to the Legislature.

January 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day to introduce new bills for consideration in this Legislative Session.

April 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day of 2020 Legislative Session.

Any bills that do not see final decisions by the last day of session will not carry over to the 2021 session.

STAY CONNECTED:  I have been contacted by constituents over the interim who have submitted ideas for legislation and/or who have indicated support or opposition for anticipated legislation.  We have worked together through a few issues, kept tabs on highway work and bridge repairs that affect us in Legislative District 17.  I will continue to keep constituents informed through this weekly update, which can be also be accessed at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist17/   I invite residents of District 17 to write, email, or call my office to express view about various bills as they come before the Legislature for debate or for consideration by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, or the State-Tribal Relations Special Committee upon which I serve.

NEBRASKA SAFE.  On January 6, a number of State Senators, community leaders and interested individuals joined Governor Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson for the Governor’s Proclamation of January 2020 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Over the past several years, Nebraska has worked hard in its fight against human trafficking.  In 2011 the state rated an “F” in a nationwide study of how states are dealing with the tragedy of trafficking.  Since then, senators have worked with anti-human trafficking groups to pass legislation, the Nebraska Attorney General’s office has increased efforts to train individuals and groups in recognition and prevention and to enforce laws that make penalties harsher for traffickers and furthered awareness to help free victims who often feel trapped in their situation.  At the January 6 press conference, the Governor told us that as part of Human Trafficking Awareness month, the State is launching a new series of videos to raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking and to provide victims of trafficking information about how to get help.   Nebraska’s efforts now earn it an “A” in that nationwide study.  It is not the grade, but the accomplishment.  Working together, we continue to fight to make Nebraska a safer place for everyone.  If you need to talk to someone about a situation involving human trafficking, or know someone who does, the national hotline number is 1-888-373-7888.

RECOGNIZING ONE OF DAKOTA COUNTY’S OWN.  Near the beginning of the 2020 Session, I plan to introduce a Legislative Resolution honoring Allen Beerman, who is retiring in 2020 after fifty-five years of service to the State of Nebraska.  Mr. Beerman was born and raised on a farm in Dakota County, Nebraska and was a National Honor Society graduate of South Sioux City High School.  After graduating from Creighton Law School, he spent 30 years at the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office, including time as the longest serving Secretary of State in Nebraska’s history.  Following his tenure there, Mr. Beerman embarked on a stellar career of 25 years at the Nebraska Press Association.  From being appointed as a Nebraska Diplomat by Governor Nelson in 1993 to being the first civilian recipient of the Homeland Defense Ribbon, presented by Governor Mike Johanns and Adjutant General Roger Lempke in 2003, Allen Beerman has continued his distinguished service to all Nebraskans.  Mr. Beerman certainly would be justified in retiring immediately, true to his character, he has agreed to stay on in the position until someone else is hired for the position and to help with the transition and training of that individual.  I am pleased to bring the Legislative Resolution to thank and honor Mr. Allen Beerman.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you.  You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE December 20, 2019
December 20th, 2019

This past year has been a challenging one for a number of folks throughout Nebraska, and Legislative District 17 is no exception.  A long, intense winter that morphed into historic flooding and late crops, that caused anxiety, damage, loss, and much more.  There is no doubt that rural areas were hit especially hard and some who farm and ranch are still working through the challenges all of these months later.

In the midst of it all, we witnessed hope in action.  We saw neighbor helping neighbor, strangers helping new friends.  Through it all, we not only remained Nebraska Strong, but became Nebraska Stronger.  So many of us have so much to be thankful for, so much to celebrate, even as we say goodbye to the trials, tests, and turmoil of 2019.

As the end of 2019 draws near, I find myself so grateful to live in Northeast Nebraska, in this great state and in this wonderful country.  I am confident that no matter what the year ahead brings, we will share the joys, divide the sorrows, and we will stand side by side in Legislative District 17 and throughout Nebraska to continue that tradition of Nebraska Strong.

My Christmas wish for each of you is that you and your loved ones experience a joyous season of celebration and love.  If you are fortunate enough to be with loving family and friends– hold them close and hug them well.  If you see someone struggling-reach out, share the Christmas and love you hold in your own heart to touch another’s life.  If you are someone who is struggling—reach back, share your heart and your story with those around you. Offer them the opportunity to care.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

From our home to yours, I wish you each a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

 

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you.  You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

WEEKLY UPDATE December 13, 2019
December 16th, 2019

As Christmas approaches, so does winter weather. The children are looking forward to a holiday break and many are preparing to travel or to welcome visitors from near and far. My wish for you is that you have a safe and joyful celebration. Prepare for the unexpected by having extra supplies on hand and perhaps a preparedness package in your car that includes a blanket, a warm change of clothes, water and non-perishable food items. It is always a good idea to let friends or loved ones know your travel plans, route, and anticipated arrival time. My wish for you is the most joyful time of family celebration.

Workforce Development work continues: Our unemployment rate is low in Nebraska and lawmakers often hear from employers that are having trouble finding qualified applicants for unfilled positions. I am pleased to be in my third year of serving on the Workforce Development Board. The Board brings together state, regional, and local workforce partners to help build a workforce development system that can more effectively match employers, employees, education and training opportunities.
The Board convened on December 6, 2019 for its quarterly meeting. After discussion of Nebraska’s Annual Report, we heard from each member in attendance about specific challenges and progress being made in the areas being served by each board member, with regard to efforts and outcomes in their specific area. The Board’s purpose is to develop strategic guidelines to help communities develop and measure outcomes of local job-driven “one-stop” delivery systems, with emphasis on core programs and funding in areas dealing with youth, adult, and dislocated workers. We heard about growing coordinated training opportunities, industry-specific partnerships, grants, scholarships, and apprenticeship programs across various disciplines including the construction and rural healthcare industries, a growing concern for many in District 17 and throughout Nebraska. We also heard about efforts to more rapidly respond to unemployment and job connection needs of dislocated workers with the formation of teams that include veterans, employers, and other local community members. I shared some information about investment and workforce opportunities in healthcare taking place in Legislative District 17 with the opening of the surgical center in South Sioux and the new clinic in Pender. Unfortunately, due to lack of enough trained workforce and affordable workforce housing, Wakefield’s expansion project planned for Nebraska was moved to Iowa. In addition to matching employers with skilled employees, I will continue to active participate in furthering policies for affordable workforce housing.
It is important for residents to know that the efforts to match employers and employees and train and re-train workers effectively are taking place throughout the state. The Board provides guidance on better coordination and accountability by strategizing and accumulating measureable results in both workforce development and customer satisfaction. I am proud to be a part of the team. I will continue to monitor progress in workforce development, and will be paying close attention to any legislation dealing with the issue in the upcoming session. If you would like to know more about the programs or find out about progress in certain workforce development areas, you can access the full report by clicking on the report at www.dolnebraska.gov.

Exciting News for Nebraska. From the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans, states are working to rename Hwy 20 to the Medal of Honor Memorial Highway. In Nebraska, The American Legion Family has been leading the charge. Highway 20 crosses Nebraska and passes through Dakota County in Legislative District 17. In October, I joined other state senators from Legislative Districts through which Highway 20 runs in writing a letter to the Nebraska State Highway Commission in support of the name change. On Friday, December 13, 2019, members of The American Legion Family presented a proposal to rename the portion of Highway 20 that extends across Nebraska. Legislative District 17 was well represented by members of American Legion District 3 at the Nebraska Highway Roads Commission meeting held in Lincoln. The Commission gave unanimous consent to the proposal and the measure has gone to the Governor for approval. Shout out to all who worked on making this happen.
As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

The American Legion members attending the Friday December 13 meeting. From left to right:
Back Row: Bud Neel, Frances Shelton, Dept. Legion Commander Gary Wooten
Front Row:  Kim Daugherty, Les Feyermeier, Daryl Harrison, Adeline Hanel, Ken Hanel, Nancy Daugherty

WEEKLY UPDATE December 6, 2019
December 9th, 2019

It is getting busier at the Capitol. With the holidays upon us and friends and family visiting, if you have the opportunity to get to Lincoln be sure to drop by your State Capitol. Enjoy the beauty of the newly lit tree in the Rotunda on the second floor. Attend one of the several holiday happenings. Learn about the art and rich background of this National Historic Landmark that houses the nation’s only Unicameral. Treat yourself and your guests to a tour. The Capitol is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and free tours are given on every hour except noon.

On Wednesday, December 4, the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee met for three (3) different Interim hearings.

We first heard the Nebraska Department of Transportation report, specifically on assessment and improvement strategies to address the needs of our state highways and bridges. The priority strategies presented to the Committee were asset preservation, system modernization, and capital improvements.
The first priority stressed was preservation–taking care of what we have. Naturally, an update on major flood recovery projects was presented. The Director noted that through some pretty amazing efforts, combined with community participation and long days and nights, the state was able to get some important roads open within days of the flooding. The state is down to half a mile of pavement damage repair and down from 27 bridges closed to only three. On behalf of Legislative District 17, the Department gets a shout out from me for work completed on the Pender Bridge. We also heard about the Transportation Innovation Act and Build Nebraska Act strategies for future projects, including funding needs and current funding status on several projects. I invite you to check out information about the statewide transportation improvement plan, future and ongoing projects, and interactive maps at the Department’s website http://www.dot.nebraska.gov

Next, the Committee was briefed by the Public Service Commission on the State’s 911 Service System as the state transitions to Next Generation 911. Next Generation 911 will transition the 911 system from the current telephone system to an internet Protocol system that will allow digital information to flow seamlessly from the public to emergency responders through a 911 network. This all takes time, but I understand there are currently local discussions about how to best address the needs of Legislative District 17. The Public Service Commission and the 911 Service System Advisory Committee created by the Legislature in 2018 (LB993), are continuing the work to facilitate the transition in the best ways possible for all of Nebraska.

Finally, we received testimony from the Rural Broadband Task Force on their report. The Task Force was created in 2018 by LB944 “to review issues relating to the availability, affordability, and adoption of broadband services in rural areas of Nebraska.” The Task Force met 10 times since September 24, 2018 and the subcommittees met a combined total of 30 times in that same period.
Access to broadband in RURAL communities has been a top priority for me and so many constituents in Legislative District 17, as well as for other rural communities throughout the state. Connectivity is both desirable and necessary in the rural communities. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard about efforts to identify and address needs in rural areas currently unserved or underserved. A point of great interest was testimony about the “homework gap” that exists because children in some rural areas do not have access to the Internet to do homework, research, etc. The Task Force brought us information about efforts to connect more libraries and schools in places throughout rural Nebraska that are without the ability to get higher speed Internet or which do not have Internet in their homes at all. I will continue to participate and monitor any legislation that comes before the Committee on the subject of Broadband.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you.
You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 29, 2019
December 2nd, 2019

Thanksgiving provided opportunity to be grateful, create and consume amazing food, share smiles and hugs, and to re-invigorate for the work ahead.

My office has received a Legislative Schedule and anticipated Floor Procedures from the Speaker’s office, along with information about the pending 2019 Priority Bills. Naturally, new bills will also be introduced in the 2020 session and we will stay informed about those as they become part of the Legislative landscape. Meanwhile, the pending 2019 priority bills fall into two categories—those that have been debated and those that have not. Some of these bills will likely be the earliest we see on the floor, so if you have thoughts on any or all of them, please feel free to communicate your thoughts via letter or email.

There are currently three (3) bills on General File that have not yet been debated, including LB153 (to reduce taxation of military retirement benefits), LB109 (to modify certain position classifications and pay at the Department of Corrections), and LB147 (addressing ability of educators to effectively manage classroom misbehavior).

LB153 seeks to provide income tax relief for those who have served our country as part of the Military. The bill was introduced by Senator Tom Brewer on behalf of the Governor and is Senator Lowe’s 2019 priority bill. The bill would repeal the current, one-time election for retired military to exempt a portion of their military retirement benefit income from tax. It would replace it with a 50% exemption for military retirement benefit income, to the extent it was included in federal adjusted gross income. At its Committee hearing, LB153 had several individuals and organizations that testified in favor of the bill and no opposing testimony. Two policy groups testified in a neutral capacity. The bill passed out of Committee on a 6 to 1 vote.

LB109 is a bill that would modify the position classification plan and the accompanying salary or pay plans within the Department of Corrections in an effort to improve chances to retain staff and reduce turnover. At the Committee hearing, several individuals from the Fraternal Order of Police testified in favor of the bill. The Director of the Department of Corrections testified in opposition. The bill passed out of Committee on a 5-3 vote.

The final of the three, LB 147, is a bill that would change the Nebraska Student Discipline Act to provide for use by a teacher or administrator of necessary physical contact or restraint and provide procedures and grounds for removing a student from class in response to certain violent behavior. At the Committee Hearing, there were testifiers in support and in opposition to the bill. The bill was pulled from Committee with a 25-14 vote by the Legislative body.

Being a strong supporter of our military, of safety for students and teachers, and of maintaining safe conditions for our correctional facilities, I am watching each of these bills closely. As an elected official, it is important to me that I and my staff pay close attention to introduced legislation, floor debate, and proposed and/or adopted amendments before casting that final vote on the merits.

In addition to the three bills that still await debate, there are nine (9) more bills on General File that have had debate and may come up, depending on Legislative support, including LB44 (eliminate death penalty), LB110 (adopt Medical Cannabis Act), LB289 (county assessor assessments), LB311 (adopt Paid Family and Medical Leave Act), LB483 (change valuation of Agriculture and Horticultural land), LB550 (require voter approval of fees and taxes on wireless services), LB670 (adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act), and LB700 (providing for decommissioning and reclamation of a wind energy conversion system).

DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR SBA DISASTER LOANS:
In other news of interest to Legislative District 17, December 23, 2019 is the deadline to apply for disaster loans intended to remedy damages caused by the March 9-July 14, 2019 flooding in Nebraska. Eligible for the loans are small nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in agriculture and most private nonprofit organizations that have sustained economic injury due to flooding that occurred March 9-July 14, 2019.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Center, the low interest federal disaster loans are available in Dakota, Thurston, and Wayne counties, among others in Nebraska. The interest rate is 4 percent for businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations with terms up to 30 years. Loan proceeds may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact. For more information on the program and to access application information, interested parties may call 800.877.8339, or access online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

As we move closer to the January 8, 2020 start of the next Legislative Session, I continue to consider constituent requests and thoughts about the session ahead. As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 22, 2019
November 25th, 2019

Things are definitely picking up as we move towards the January 8 opening of the 2020 Legislative Session.

LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: On November 21 and 22, 2019, the Legislative Council was held in Nebraska City. At that meeting, members of the Legislature gathered to hear from Committee Chairs about upcoming priorities and potential legislation. Of particular interest is the clear call for property tax relief and economic development throughout Nebraska. Senator Linehan, Chair of the Revenue Committee presented the Revenue Committee’s priorities of passing the ImagiNE Nebraska Act (LB720), and passing meaningful Property Tax Relief legislation.

Economic Development has been the topic of conversation throughout the State, with individuals, businesses, local and state Chambers of Commerce, and other stakeholders. Senator Kolterman spoke of LB720 in terms of establishing Guiding Principles of Simplicity, transparency, integrity, and competitiveness. Expect to hear more about the ImagiNE Nebraska Act in the days and weeks to come.

PROPERTY TAX RELEIF IS A PRIMARY FOCUS OF THE 2020 LEGISLATURE. With so many Nebraska citizens expressing concern there is no doubt that passing meaningful property tax relief is at the forefront of every legislator’s mind. Senator Linehan and the Revenue Committee have been hard at work all interim to craft a solution that is effective, meaningful, and doable. In her presentation, the Senator discussed how we got where we are as a state, and what steps we might take to correct the current property tax situation.

The State does NOT levy or collect property taxes. All of that takes place at the local level. Based on 2017 figures, valuations of real property have risen about 50% over the prior 10 years and, while some local taxing entities have lowered their tax levy rates to reflect the increased revenues, many have not, and of those that have, the average rate has been lowered by only 15%. For instance, in the largest cities in each state, Omaha ranks as the 11th highest in property tax rates. Of great importance to those of us in rural Nebraska, is the increasing shift of the property tax burden to the agricultural producers in the state. Based on that 2017 census data, looking at the average property taxes paid per farmer in 2017, Nebraska ranks 2nd only behind California. At the same time, most rural schools receive no equalization funding from the state, while transportation and other needs make the cost per pupil for those districts greater than the cost per pupil in the urban areas. A problem ten years in the making, this is not an issue that allows for a quick solution. With these and other important factors in mind, the Revenue Committee and the Legislature must craft something that addresses the issue responsibly and transparently over time. The rural areas are the most affected by the increases in property tax and funding formulas over the past decade, and therefore, there is suggestion that the Legislature’s initial focus should be on alleviating the burden to farmers and ranchers throughout the state. As always, I will be paying close attention to, and sharing in, discussions about property tax relief and how it can be addressed to relieve the burden of those in Legislative District 17, as well as others throughout Nebraska.

At the Legislative Council meeting, Legislators also heard from the chairs of the Health and Human Services Committee (Sen. Howard), the Appropriations Committee (Sen. Stinner), and the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Lathrop). The Appropriations Committee report centered on the 2019 Budget report.
The Health and Human Services Committee has held 16 interim study hearings and six briefings regarding issues like Medicaid waivers, fingerprinting of child care workers, the August crisis at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center. Twenty-eight Interim studies were referred to the committee and work continues to evaluate and address these and other issues.

Senator Lathrop, Chair of the Judiciary Committee reported on prison overcrowding and understaffing. The Senator’s presentation discussed status of the 2006 Facilities Master Plan, historical and projected populations, readiness for accommodation, and potential solutions for the issue. His presentation also centered on employee vacancies, overtime, attitudes and turnover rate of personnel. The senator discussed the 2016 findings of the Justice Program Assessment of Nebraska Prisons and the consequences of understaffing. The Committee and Legislators continue to work toward acceptable solutions to ensure the safety of correctional staff, inmates, and the general public.
It is my intent to continue to keep you updated on these and other issues as the issues and potential solutions or bills present themselves in the session ahead.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 15, 2019
November 18th, 2019

More than simply a national holiday, Thanksgiving gives us opportunity to gather with family and friends and to reflect on what we have, acknowledge from where and how we got it, and to appreciate the blessings of people, circumstances, and moments that touch our lives.
As I reflect, my heart is filled with appreciation and gratefulness for so much. Though there is not room here to list everyone or everything for which I am grateful, I would like to share some of my thoughts with you. This Thanksgiving season, I give thanks
• For my family, including my wonderful husband, children, and grandchildren. I also give thanks for my Dad, who served in the United States Navy and other family members who served in the branches of the Armed Forces to ensure and protect our freedom.
• For the honor of serving as state senator for the fine people of Legislative District 17.
• For my staff and colleagues at the Legislature, who work diligently to do what they think is right and best for Nebraska residents.
• For DeAnna Hagberg, Dakota County Emergency Management Director, Tom Perez, Thurston County Director, and Nick Kimnitz, Wayne County Director, and their staff, and the many other state employees who keep residents of Legislative District 17 informed and alert to flooding issues and weather-related conditions or risks.
• For the Veterans, military members, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and each of their families who give of themselves daily in the service of others.
• For the many schools, organizations, and businesses that have hosted and presented programs and meals honoring our veterans over this entire month, including:
o The 84th Annual Dixon County Legion and Emerson Legions
o The schoolchildren who decorated, and sang songs to warm the hearts of those in attendance at many events, including those children at the South Sioux City Hy-vee celebration who, after their program, made sure every veteran attendee was given a lovely hand-crafted card expressing thanks for their service.
o Tim Schipull, manager of South Sioux City Hy-vee for organizing and hosting the Veterans’ Day event.
o The American Legion Women’s Auxiliary
• For the constituents who call and write my office to express ideas, concerns, and suggestions that help me be a more effective elected official.
• For Senator Clements who shepherded a Proclamation from the Governor urging all citizens to acknowledge the rich heritage of our nation, its founding principles, and its Founding Fathers and to observe November 24-30, 2019 as Christian Heritage Week.
Highlighting the formation and growth of our nation, Christian Heritage Week presents an opportunity for teachers and individuals to “center attention on and to teach children of our Christian Heritage, which is foundational to the institutions, values, and vision of our nation.” Below is the proclamation in its entirety.

As we all move into the busy Holiday season, it is my hope and wish that you and your family enjoy time to enjoy one another and to reflect on the many blessings for which you can be grateful.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room #1404
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2716
Email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
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