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.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield
October 10th, 2014
Every spring senators have the opportunity to introduce Legislative Resolutions to be studied during the interim. This past session I introduced three such resolutions.
It looks like only one of my three resolutions is actually going to have official hearings by the committee that it was assigned to be heard by. LR527, a study to examine the reasons why emergency disaster payments made by or through the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seem not to be made in a timely manner once awarded. I introduced this study as a result of local representatives of the South Sioux City community contacting me regarding payments that they were still waiting on from the flooding in 2011.
LR527 was sent to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. My staff and the committee staff have met with and had several conversations with NEMA over the last few months learning the process that a community goes through following a disaster and it is not as simple as one would think or hope it would be. Through the conversations and the communications that my office has had with NEMA I have confidence in NEMA and the processes they use.
That being said, Nebraska and northeast Nebraska has seen numerous disasters in recent years. I think NEMA told us that Nebraska has had 17 federal disaster declarations since 2007 and our neighbor to the west, Colorado has not had this many since 1950.
While I felt like I had received answers to the questions regarding the process and payments I still felt that it was important for the discussion and learning process to continue. With all of the storm damage in northeast Nebraska in mind, I asked the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to go ahead and have hearings on LR527. On Friday, October 24th there will be a hearing at 1:30 p.m. in room 1507 of the State Capitol. To make the process more accessible, there will be an additional committee hearing on Wednesday, October 29th at 1:00 p.m.in the city Council Chambers at city hall in South Sioux City. Both of these hearings are open to the public (this means you) and in particular to officials from all communities that have suffered recent storm damage. The State Senators representing Dixon, Stanton, Cuming and Burt Counties have also been invited to attend. It is my hope that anyone needing to deal with these two government agencies would gain valuable information and insight from these hearings. I hope to see you there.
October 6th, 2014
One year ago, a large part of Nebraska was severely affected by adverse weather. Western parts of the state were hit with an early snow storm, the central part of the state was pummeled by tremendous amounts of rain and northeast Nebraska was ripped apart by tornados. The city of Wayne and Wayne County was probably the hardest hit area but we cannot forget there was also much damage in Thurston County including the town of Macy. Dixon County also did not escape the wrath of the storms. October 4th, 2013 and its aftermath is a date and time that no one who was even slightly involved in will forget any time soon. There was a great deal of damage and devastation, homes and business were destroyed, lives were changed and how God could allow these kind of things to happen was questioned. One thing I do not remember is a lot of hand wringing or questions of why me or why us. What I do recall is a lot of: “Do you have a place to stay?” “What do you need?” “What can I do to help?” “Where can we donate?”.
Fast forward one year and look around at what has happened, not all of the scars are gone nor are all the shattered dreams of each individual completely restored, but what has happened is nearly miraculous. First and foremost among the many good things is that people have come together. Folks who did not even know one another now call each other friend. People have found within themselves a strength and courage that they never knew existed. Life has a greater meaning to a lot of people than it did before “the storm”. New buildings have sprung up to replace those that were destroyed, new businesses have come to Wayne and for the most part the “old” businesses have rebuilt better and stronger. There is one glaring exception to this pattern, and that is too bad, Pacific Coast Pillow decided not to rebuild. While the jobs lost were and are a hard hit to the Wayne area, I truly believe that the greater loss will be to that company. Northeast Nebraska has, I think, the best labor force anywhere in the country.
While we were working to rebuild what was taken in the October storms, northeast Nebraska was hit again in June of 2014. Pilger in Stanton County was devastated and lives were lost. Farms in Wayne and Dixon counties were destroyed; Coleridge and farms in Cedar County were also hit. Once again we saw and are seeing the grit of the people of Nebraska. These people and places will also rise again, it is the NEBRASKA WAY.
September 30th, 2014
With fall upon us I would like to remind all of you that the mid-term elections are quickly approaching, as well as many dates for voters to be aware of.
If you are 18 years of age or will be before the November 4th election I would encourage you to register to vote. If you plan to register in person you have until October 24th. If submitting your registration by mail it needs to be postmarked by October 17th.
If you have already registered to vote and would like to vote early, October 29th is the last day to request a ballot be mailed to you.
The first day to vote in person is October 4th.
There is absolutely no reason not to vote, there is also no excuse for not being informed.
A while back I did a few newsletters on the minimum wage initiative and I have some additional information for you. Three public hearings (one in each congressional district) have been planned to discuss the initiative to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016. The first hearing is October 8that 6:30 p.m. in the Theater Room at College Park in Grand Island. The second hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Omaha Public Schools TAC Building board room. The final hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. on October 21st in room 1507 of the State Capitol.
Secretary of State Gale is holding these hearings because the public never had the opportunity to be heard on this measure since it was a ballot initiative. Generally, these issues go through the legislative process and have a public hearing but this did not so Secretary Gale is holding a hearing in each congressional district. While those of you in our district would have to travel to one of these hearings, it is an opportunity to inform yourself and hear arguments for and against raising the minimum wage.
September 19th, 2014
It has been year full of twist and turns in the political scene here in Nebraska and there is no reason to think things will calm down before the November 4th election.
Last week Lt. Governor Lavon Heidemann resigned from office and withdrew his name from consideration for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket because of issues arising from a family matter. He was quickly replaced on the Republican ticket by current State Auditor Mike Foley. Secretary of State John Gale was then asked to change the ballots to reflect the changes.
By the end of the week Secretary Gale had announced his decision that Foley’s name would appear on the ballot despite the fact that the change occurred after the September 1st deadline. This was a troublesome decision in the eyes of some and a case was quickly filed in the Lancaster County District Court.
While there is a September 1st deadline, Secretary of State Gale also has the responsibility to make sure ballots are accurate. The case was ultimately dismissed. The court decided that there was no legal duty for Secretary Gale to deny the request.
This has brought about discussions on deadlines in state government. This week Governor Heineman entered the deadline debate by stating that he had received budget requests from most state agencies with the exception of the Legislative Council. Budget requests were to be submitted to the Governor by Monday, September 15th. It is the Legislature’s Executive Board that is charged with developing the budget request for the Legislature.
The Nebraska budget office was notified, prior to the deadline, that the Legislature’s budget request would be late because the Executive Board was not able to meet until Friday, September 19th to vote on the budget request.
I mention this because it is my intention to run for Chairman of the Executive Board in January when the Legislature convenes. There are several reasons that I have decided to seek this position. I will expand on them in future updates.
I may not have a newsletter next week because I will be traveling to Long Beach, California for a conference on “Veterans Initiatives: Increasing Educational Attainment”. I think this will be a worthwhile conference because I serve on the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee which deals with most issues related to veterans. This is an invitation only conference that I was invited to and I am attending it at no cost to Nebraska taxpayers.
September 15th, 2014
Last week I mentioned that as we were preparing to send the newsletter out we received word that the Nebraska Supreme Court had passed down a ruling that would not allow voters to decide on whether or not we should allow betting on “historic” horse races. As promised I will tell you a little more about this decision.
When it came down to it the decision from the court had very little to do with the issue of gambling. The issue was actually about the fact that the ballot measure contained two separate issues. The two issues found in the ballot language were 1) whether to allow betting on “historic” horse races and 2) how the revenue derived from the betting on “historic” horse races should be distributed. Constitutional amendments are required to contain only one subject matter and this measure clearly contained two as noted by the court. This Legislative Resolution (LR41CA) was in my opinion not only poorly written, but a bad idea as well. I am personally pleased with the high court’s decision.
The 33 page ruling cited cases that went as far back as 1889. The decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court was unanimous that the ballot measure was in violation of the one subject matter requirement. This overturned a July decision by Secretary of State John Gale that said while it did contain two subject matters the two subjects were “natural and necessary connection.”
While I know this is a blow to the hopes of many in District 17, I feel it is the correct decision. We must protect and abide by our Constitution. We spent hours discussing this measure before it was eventually passed and a good part of that discussion regarded the fact that these were two different issues that we were putting on a single ballot.
September 5th, 2014
It is once again time to bring your attention to an opportunity for the youth that call District 17 their home. Every year legislative pages are selected in the fall to work for the upcoming legislative session, beginning the following January. Pages work in the center of the action on the floor of the Legislature and in committee sessions. As a legislative page you will respond to senators’ request lights on the legislative floor, run errands, deliver messages, photocopy materials, assist the presiding officer, set up and staff committee hearings and perform other duties as assigned.
Pages must be high school graduates who are currently enrolled in a Nebraska college or trade school with a minimum grade point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. They must be able to work 20 hours a week during session and it is preferred that they work the same four-hour shift each day. The legislative session will begin January 7, 2015, and will go through June of 2015. This is a paid position with first year pages earning $9.90 per hour and second year pages earning $10.30 per hour. In addition, a page may also be able to receive credit hours through their college. This is a great opportunity to learn about the legislative process here in Nebraska and make a few dollars to help with school expenses. Jessica, my Legislative Aide, once served as a page, she can explain the process better than I can.
Applications are available from my office in Lincoln: Senator Dave Bloomfield, State Capitol – District 17, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604 or from the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street, Lincoln, NE 68509. If you are interested in becoming a legislative page or have any questions I encourage you to contact my office. I would be happy to submit a letter of recommendation for any eligible student from District 17. This year applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 3, 2014.
As I was finishing up my newsletter I received word that the Nebraska Supreme Court had ruled on the historic horse races issue being on the November ballot. Without having read the ruling it is my understanding that the measure will not be on the ballot. I will have more about this next week.
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.
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.
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.
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.