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
The primary election is upon us. It is my hope that on May 10th every one of the registered voters in District 17 and in Nebraska will take the time to vote.
This is your opportunity to let your voice be heard on the direction that you feel your township, city, county, state and country should take. I would encourage each of you to do a little research on the candidates vying for the opportunity to represent you. Find out where they stand on the issues that are important to you. I understand that we live in a busy world and this can be inconvenient but it is important for you to know whom you are voting for before you cast your vote.
Remember, you cannot (or should not) complain about your elected officials if you do not take the time to vote and voice your opinion.
The 2016 Legislative Session came to close on Wednesday, April 20. While the last day is normally more ceremonial, the Legislature once again ended the year debating a motion to override a gubernatorial veto.
Governor Ricketts vetoed LB947 – a bill that will allow individuals who have received temporary legal status under a 2012 presidential executive order to apply for and receive certifications and licenses. While supporters of this bill argued that the intent of the legislation was to keep educated and talented youth in Nebraska, opponents voiced concerns that LB947 would allow those here illegally that are not DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) individuals to obtain certifications and licenses.
Supporters of LB947 needed 30 votes to override the governor’s veto. After two hours of debate with more than 24 of the members taking part in the debate the motion to override the governor was successful with 31 senators supporting the bill and only 13 opposing it.
LB947 took effect immediately since it was passed with an emergency clause.
In addition to the veto of LB947, Governor Ricketts also returned LB580 (dealing with how Nebraska handles the redistricting process) to the Legislature. A motion to override the governor’s veto was not made for this bill.
The legislative session ended after farewell speeches from the eleven term limited senators, including Senator Bloomfield.
The newsletter this week was written by Jessica Shelburn, Legislative Aide to Senator Bloomfield due to the senator having a planned surgery the day after session.
This was a strange week in the Legislature, while we only met for four days it seemed much longer. We were under a time crunch to make sure that we were able to discuss every bill that was designated a priority by a senator or a committee. During those four days, we touched on several controversial bills.
One of those was LB580, a bill that would change the way we handle the redistricting process. Currently, a legislative committee is formed every ten years and charged with the task of proposing new boundaries. Once the committee has drawn up maps with several different scenarios, they are then presented to the Legislature for approval of one of them and then eventually on to the governor just like any other bill.
The proposed bill is a so-called bipartisan proposal and it would still require the Legislature and the governor to approve the new boundaries but it would no longer be a committee made up of senators that would be drawing up the maps. Under the proposal, the boundaries would be drawn up by a nine-member panel appointed by lawmakers from each of the state’s three congressional districts. The panel could have no more than five members with same political affiliation.
The thought is that it will take politics out of the process. It actually increases politics but changes the power structure. This idea would give the minority party at least 44% representation on the board and leave the majority party with the maximum possibility of no more than 55% and could actually flip the minority into the majority position (hardly democratic). This would give the minority party a lot more power since they have only 24% while the majority party has 73% of the current elected senators. This strategy also benefits the bigger cities because they would control six of the nine members of the committee. Please note that both senators who came up with this idea are from the Omaha area. I believe that you elect your senators to do these things, not to pass them off to still one more commission. This is nothing more or less than a power grab by big city politicians and their “cronies”. More Washington politics coming to Nebraska.
LB580 was advanced to Final Reading with a vote of 30-5.
We moved one step closer to Nebraska being a winner take all state when it comes to awarding presidential electoral votes. After overcoming a filibuster, LB10 moved on to the last round of debate with a 32-15 vote.
Nebraska and Maine are currently the only two states that award electoral votes to those who win the congressional districts. We have five electoral votes – one is given to each of the winners of the individual congressional districts and the final two are awarded to the individual who is the statewide victor.
If LB10 is adopted, all five of our electoral votes would be awarded to the statewide victor. LB10 will probably have to overcome another filibuster on final reading before it makes it Governor Ricketts.
You will likely pay more for permit fees from Nebraska Game and Parks. LB745 was advanced from the second round of debate with a vote of 43-3.
LB745 gives the Game and Parks Commission the authority to increase nearly all fees. Under this bill, the maximum fee for annual resident hunting permits could increase to $18 from $13 (roughly a 40% increase) and fishing permits would increase to $24 up from the current $17.50 (again roughly 40%). These people are never happy and think they never get enough of your money.
Enough frustration for one week!
Another week of “heavy lifting” has passed in your Nebraska Legislature. LB1032 the Transitional Health Insurance Program, LB959 dealing with the education property tax bill, LB1067 dealing with learning communities, and LB958 the revenue property tax bill.
We started the week off with LB1032 (the newest version of Medicaid expansion) the Transitional Health Insurance Program. It is claimed that this proposal would have extended health care coverage to an additional 97,000.
The bill struggled to come out of the Health and Human Services Committee – finally advancing on a 4-3 vote. Those struggles continued as it came before the full Legislature.
Supporters argued that this proposal would have brought nearly $1 billion in federal funding to the state over the next several years.
Unlike previous attempts to expand Medicaid this proposal was a three-year pilot program that would have required the Legislature to revisit it.
While I would agree that this proposal might have helped provide insurance to those who currently are without any, there were still too many questions. The biggest concern I had was what this would end up costing the state – the estimates were more than we could afford, in my opinion.
LB1032 was bracketed until April 20, 2016 after almost two hours of debate.
LB959, which is half of the tax package introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts, received overwhelming support. LB959 advanced to the second round of debate with a vote of 38-0.
LB959 attempts to hold local governments more accountable while making improvements to how schools are funded.
LB958, which is the second part of the tax plan introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts, was also debated. The proposal that we debated was substantially different than the one proposed by Governor Ricketts.
In current form, LB958 will increase property tax credits by $20 million next year, adding to the $204 million currently in the fund. It will also change the percentage of the fund that agricultural land receives. I will provide you with more information about this next week.
After almost six hours of debate, LB958 was advanced with a vote of 39-2.
With only eleven days left in the legislative session, we have a lot of heavy lifting ahead of us. Today (March 24) we adopted the adjustments to the budget, the only thing that we are actually required to complete, and even that “requirement” is questionable in the short session.
This session seems to be the one for debating issues for several hours before we eventually kill the bill. LB910, a bill that primarily dealt with issues within the Department of Correctional Services as introduced. The Judiciary Committee advanced LB910 from committee with an amendment, this amendment incorporated several other bills that were heard by the committee. While I think, LB910 was a good bill on its own, problems can arise as you start amending in other ideas.
The committee amendment included LB690, a bill that sought to eliminate a ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility for individuals convicted of a drug-related felony offense.
By law, if you have been convicted of three felony drug possession charges or one felony distribution charge you are not allowed to receive SNAP benefits in Nebraska. The Legislature gave first round approval to the bill earlier this month but, because of the attempt to allow these felons to qualify for SNAP, after not receiving the necessary 33 votes to end a filibuster, LB910 died.
We also killed LB586, a bill that would, in the minds of its supporters, ban job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Opponents believe that it would have, in fact, created “special rights” for these people. I am certain that this issue will be back again next year. When we bracket a bill, we are saying that the bill cannot be debated again until that specific day. LB586 was bracketed, until the last day of session, with a vote of 26-18. I did support the bracket motion.
For the second time this year, we saw a senator bracket their own bill by unanimous consent. This morning Senator Kuehn did that with LR378CA, a constitutional amendment to protect the right to farm. The motion to bracket came after three hours of debate, and two motions to kill the bill – showing that while the votes were not there to kill the bill, there also were not the votes to advance the bill against the ongoing filibuster.
The Revenue Committee held a special hearing today on an amendment proposed to LB958. LB958 is a bill introduced on behalf of Governor Ricketts to address the valuation of agricultural land. This is an ongoing attempt to find some way create some property tax relief. I am afraid that nothing substantial will come out of it. I believe we will not see significant property tax relief unless and until we find some other method of funding schools. I think part of that answer could, and should, come from the large share of the lottery proceeds that now go to the “Environmental Trust”, but there seems to be no appetite for that in the current Legislature. I attempted to move a small part of that this year with LR380CA and failed badly, it did not survive the committee process.
It was a busy week for the Legislature. The week started with finishing a filibuster on LB745, a bill that would allow Game and Parks to increase nearly all fees within Game and Parks, including state park fees. This is a bill that Senator Chambers has vowed to continue fighting but it did manage to advance with a vote of 39-3.
We also gave first round approval to the $8.7 billion budget package. Included in the budget is $1.5 million to pay for salary increases within the Department of Correctional Services – the hope is that this will help retain staff and attract new employees to help fill the current shortages. The budget also includes $13.7 million in funding for levee construction around Offutt Air Force Base.
On Wednesday, March 16th, we began debate on my priority bill. After six hours of debate I moved to invoke cloture – this is done to end a filibuster and requires 33 votes. I knew the vote would be close; I ended up three votes short. It still seems strange to me that it requires 33 votes to overcome a filibuster and only 30 votes to override a Governor’s veto.
The legislative session is running short on time (23 days left) – committee hearings have now concluded and next week (March 7th), we start having all day debate.
This week the Agriculture Committee, a committee I serve on, advanced LR378CA to the full Legislature for debate. LR378CA is a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to engage in farming and ranching. This amendment is controversial because it would require a compelling state interest for the Legislature to pass new regulations. The Agriculture Committee advanced this legislation on a second attempt with an amendment that would allow state and local governments to regulate groundwater. I still think that there are some issues to be worked out on LR378CA and I look forward to having the discussion. I did support the bill coming out of committee so we can have the discussion on the floor.
A few weeks ago the Legislature debated LR35 and after only a few hours of debate the resolution was sent back to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee – another committee that I serve on. This week the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee advanced LR35 back to the full Legislature with an amendment. While it was advanced to the full Legislature, I do not know if it will be on the agenda again given the fact that we now have 51 priority bills on General File waiting to be debated.
Last week I commented on the fact that we seem to have senators that are missing for key votes. Having senators abstain from voting is nothing new – in fact, it is often considered a “polite” no vote. Senators being absent from debate and votes altogether seems to be more prevalent this year. Last week on a bill that was fairly important, there were only 41 senators present to vote. There were eight senators gone. There are three or four who are serious repeat offenders. I guess maybe I am a little old school, but it seems to me that if you take a job you should probably show up to do the job.
There are now only 27 days left in the Legislative Session. While they have been heard in committee, we have yet to discuss on the floor of the Legislature, property tax relief, prison reform, roads funding and other issues of great importance to the state. At the rate, we are going we will not make it through all of the priority bills.
My priority, LB900, was advanced from the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee with an amendment. It came out of committee with a 6-1-1 vote, meaning six members voted for the bill, one was opposed to the bill and one member was present not voting. I am hopeful that LB900 will be on the agenda soon.
Recently, we debated LR26CA a constitutional amendment that would have allowed individuals 18 years of age to hold any statewide political office including Governor and Supreme Court Justices. This idea thankfully failed.
We also debated LR35, which is commonly known as the Convention of the States. Shortly after debate started on LR35, a vote was taken and passed on the motion to recommit this legislation to the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. This is something that does not happen very often in the Legislature, which should tell you that the body had some major concerns with LR35. It is very unlikely that LR35 will be debated on the floor of the Legislature again this year.
We spent most of this week discussing LB188. LB188 would have changed the parameters for payments made to individuals who are perceived as innocent third party victims of a police pursuit. We debated this bill for ten hours. There was a compromise amendment offered on Select File but that failed to end a filibuster. LB188 was two votes shy of the votes needed to beat cloture. The reason it failed was because there were too many senators absent. This has become a real issue this year. There are now three candidates to replace me in the Legislature, one from each county. I will tell each of them here and now, if you do not intend to be there when the Legislature is in session, PLEASE DROP OUT OF THE RACE! I intend to expand on this next week.
Nebraska is the last state with a ban on packer ownership and some of us fought hard to keep it that way, but we lost. The supporters of LB176 managed to muster the votes necessary to end the filibuster on Final Reading.
Supporters of LB176 argued that the passage of this bill would make Nebraska more competitive with other states by opening our hog markets to companies like Tyson Foods and Smithfield Farms. They also claim that it will allow new pig farmers to start up without assuming all of the financial risks that come with ownership.
Opponents of LB176 argued that it could actually have a negative impact on the current pork producers in the state and it could create large hog confinement facilities, which could become harmful to the environment.
The bill passed overwhelmingly and is now awaiting the signature of Governor Ricketts. Once the laws goes into effect processors like Tyson Foods and Smithfield Farms will be able to contract with producers to raise hogs in large operations – allowing packers to have more control over costs and consistency and therefore get as much profit as they can.
In an update on the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) transgender policy – it appears that a more restrictive policy that would be a gender-at-birth policy will fall short of the support needed to replace the policy adopted by the NSAA at their January 14, 2016 meeting. The policy adopted at the January meeting would require transgender students to show evidence of hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery before participating based on the gender that they identify with.
Before that policy was adopted, four of the six NSAA regions submitted the gender-at-birth policy. The gender-at-birth policy will be voted on at the April NSAA meeting. In January close to 300 representatives of Nebraska high schools voted on the gender-at-birth policy, the vote then was 169 in favor and 102 opposed with 26 not participating. This policy was not supported by the northeast and north-central counties, schools within District 17 that voted included – Omaha Nation, Winside, Bancroft-Rosalie, Pender, South Sioux City, Wakefield, Walthill, and Wayne.
This is being written on Friday, January 29, 2016. On Monday, February 1st, I will testify before the Transportation Committee on my final “priority” bill in the Nebraska Legislature.
The bill is LB900 and proposes to do several things. Why do I think this is important enough that I would use my last priority bill designation on it? There are several reasons!
First, LB900 creates and funds the “Motorcycle Safety and Brain Injury Trust Fund”. The main purpose of the fund is to help meet the needs of individuals in Nebraska who suffer from a brain injury. This fund would be designed to help no matter the cause of the brain injury. The most common cause of such injuries in Nebraska is from unintentional falls, followed by motor vehicle accidents.
Secondly, it provides funding for motorcycle safety awareness and education programs.
The next thing LB900 will do is to return the right to decide for themselves, what is best for themselves, to about 99,000 Nebraskans. That would be the right after you reach the age of twenty-one to decide whether or not you want to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Let me be clear that there is NOTHING in this bill that would keep anyone from wearing a helmet if they want to. For added safety, this bill would also prohibit small children, 8 years old and younger, from even being on a motorcycle on Nebraska highways.
LB900 would also, I believe, increase tourism in Nebraska because riders from other states would no longer ride around Nebraska to avoid our restrictive helmet laws. No state bordering Nebraska, with the exception of Missouri, has a law forcing all riders to wear a helmet. It is my understanding that both the House and the Senate in Missouri are working on repeal bills. My own estimates are that we would have had roughly an additional $7,000,000.00 spent in Nebraska last year during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally alone. This is based on 10% of the riders crossing Nebraska and each spending about $100.00. There were over 700,000 at the rally in 2015. In a state where the number three industry is tourism this is important. Please remember that this estimated seven million dollar increase is just from one week. We will also see people from other states spending their money in Nebraska throughout the warm weather months.
I am sure that by now you are wondering where the money is going to come from to do all of these wonderful things. I am not going to raise your taxes to do this. If you register and license a motorcycle in Nebraska, you will see a significant increase in that fee. The motorcycle support group American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) is on board with this as is every motorcycle rider I have visited with. A large number of these riders are military veterans and they realize that “freedom isn’t free”. They are willing to pay even more than they already have in order to restore a basic freedom that most take for granted. This fee increase is expected to bring in just over a million dollars per year to support the trust fund. I hope that you and all of Nebraska will get behind this bill, it is good for Nebraska, and it is long overdue.