Welcome

January 7th, 2015

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 7/24/15

July 27th, 2015

A few weeks ago, Governor Ricketts revealed the plan that would require Nebraskans receiving unemployment benefits to take part in a reemployment plan if they want to continue receiving those benefits. The program that is scheduled to start in October will be the only one like it in the country.

The goal of the program is to help workers find jobs sooner and help employers fill vacancies. Finding the right fit can be difficult in our state, which enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Currently, the state helps to reemploy about 6,800 people a year. The hope is that with the implementation of this program they will be able to help an additional 8,000 a year.

The Nebraska Department of Labor will implement the program, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor that is providing a $354,000 grant to fund the program. The grant funding will be for new staff and the technological updates that will be required.

Presently, unemployed claimants identified as being likely to exhaust benefits were required to participate in a reemployment plan. The new plan will require most all claimants to participate. The program will include training workers on using online resume and job searches within the Department of Labor’s website. They will also take a “career interest assessment” and an individualized reemployment plan will be drawn up with the help of a job coach.

Currently, Nebraskans are eligible for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits but they must demonstrate that they are actively pursuing employment. In recent months, the state has been paying about $4 million a month in unemployment claims down significantly from the close to $40 million a month being paid out in 2009. The Nebraska Department of Labor online job search engine has about 18,000 searchable resumes and 57,000 job openings that are listed.  I believe this program is a step in the right direction, it should help cut spending by the state and help people who really want to work find a job.

The next thing that I think needs to happen is for us to drug test able-bodied people who refuse to work and still expect to draw benefits from the state.

Newsletter 7/17/15

July 17th, 2015

I spent most of the last week (Friday thru Wednesday) in Bismarck, North Dakota at the Midwestern Legislative Conference hosted by the Council of State Governments. This is a conference where lawmakers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin along with the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan gather to share ideas regarding policy.

This is a good way to gain some prospective on how others are dealing with similar issues that we face here at home. Last year, this conference was held in Omaha.

Here is a little “tidbit” that might keep a few dollars in your pocket and avoid some hassle.  Now that water levels are low enough throughout the state that people are able to enjoy tubing down our many rivers, I want to point out an important though easily overlooked law. In Nebraska, inner tubes (that you are floating on) are considered to be a vessel and as such, it is considered boating. This is significant because it then requires you to have a life jacket accessible for each person. This also applies to rafts and canoes.

As part of the budget, Governor Ricketts included funding for an initiative that would create opportunities for students to connect to the manufacturing and technology sectors in Nebraska. The program will provide up to $125,000 to two eligible businesses per year starting in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. Qualifying businesses are those that need high-skill information technology professionals or those in manufacturing. One of the two businesses must be in a county with a population of less than 100,000. The selected businesses will work with schools to engage students in hands-on career exploration. Applications need to be submitted to the Department of Economic Development by 5 p.m. on August 7th. Time is running out to make this application.

 

Newsletter 7/3/15

July 2nd, 2015

Do you get annoying calls on your cell phone – you know those calls that want you to support a certain candidate or want to send you on “free” cruise? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided that we can now tell our phone company that we want those calls blocked.

The FCC decided that AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and other carriers have no obligation to connect “robocalls” if you the customer do not want them. Consumers and a few states had asked the FCC to rule on this issue because phone carriers were concerned that they would face ramifications if they did not connect every call – there are rules requiring them to connect every call.

In the decision, the FCC said that blocking technology should be allowed and even encouraged. Several companies already allow you to “block” individual numbers but this will not solve the problem.

“Blocking” the number means you will no longer receive calls from that number but the callers often spoof their numbers. Spoofing their numbers means that they will then call you from another number.

This week Congressman Adrian Smith announced the “The Good Life Showcase”. The showcase is looking for pictures from the Third Congressional District that can be displayed in Rep. Smith’s office in Washington, D.C.

You may submit your original high quality photo along with your name, photo location and a short description to thegoodlifeshowcase@mail.house.gov.

Rep. Smith encourages you to submit photos of all kinds – agricultural, business, nature.  They do have a few rules: you need to own the copyrights of the photo; the photo needs to be submitted by the person who took it or submitted with attribution. Photo must be from within the Third Congressional District. When you submit your photo, you give Congressman Smith’s office permission to use it. You may submit multiple photos. There is no submission deadline – the showcase is ongoing. For more information, you can contact his office at 202-225-6435.

I will be attending both the Dakota / Thurston and the Wayne County Fairs in July; I will try to have petitions to sign if you are in favor of letting the people of Nebraska vote on the death penalty issue. If you are not interested in signing, that is fine also. I am not looking for any arguments; just want to provide the opportunity to those who wish to participate.

Newsletter 6/26/15

June 29th, 2015

While I make no pretense of being a legal scholar or of ever having studied “the law”, I do have my opinions and an opportunity to share them. I believe we have witnessed this week, judicial activism at the highest level. In two rulings handed out by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), the courts have pretty much said that they no longer respect the letter of the law nor the rights of the separate states.

In the first ruling, SCOTUS ruled in favor of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) affirming nationwide subsidies for poor and middle class Americans.

In the 6 – 3 ruling the court was asked to interpret the portion of the law that said that tax credits are authorized for those who buy insurance on marketplaces that are “established by the state.” The questions came because most states, like Nebraska, did not create their own exchanges rather they participated in exchanges established by the federal government.

As of March, about 6.4 million people across the country are reported to have been receiving subsidies to assist in covering the costs of their health care in 34 states, which had not established their own marketplaces. Had the court ruled the other way those individuals would have lost their subsidies worth roughly $1.7 billion a month.

The fact remains that the ACA is a broken and costly program that needs to be fixed. While I am all for AFFORDABLE healthcare for all – this program is anything but that.

The second ruling came today, Friday, June 26th, and SCOTUS ruled that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. Governor Ricketts has already said on his Facebook page that, “While 70 percent of Nebraskans approved our amendment to our state constitution that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, the highest court in the land has ruled states cannot place limits on marriage between same-sex couples. We will follow the law and respect the ruling outlined by the court.”

As I write this, marriage licenses are already being issued to same-sex couples in Lancaster and Douglas Counties. While I disagree with this ruling, I will respect it, it is now the law of the land but it I fear that this decision has only opened the door to even more questions and concerns. It is my firm belief that SCOTUS waded into unchartered territories that it often avoids, by taking the definition of marriage away from the states.

I think Justice Scalia said it best, in reference to these two cases, he said the cases “will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.” I, like Justice Scalia find this to be unacceptable! I fear these rulings will haunt our nation for decades to come. Much like the case of Roe vs. Wade with abortion, we are destined to learn again that just because a thing is legal it does not mean that it is right.

 

Newsletter 6/19/15

June 19th, 2015

There was a news article recently regarding tuition at the University of Nebraska campuses as well as the Nebraska State College System. It seems as though the tuition freeze is a thing of the past.

Former Governor Dave Heineman had struck a deal that had the university and the state colleges freezing tuition rates for the last few years. Last week the university announced that they would be increasing tuition this fall by 1.75 percent and 2.5 percent next year. The Nebraska State College System’s board at its meeting in Wayne yesterday voted to increase tuition by 9 percent.

The state college system claims that this increase is needed in order to cover the costs of doing business – salaries, insurance, utilities, etc. The system had asked the Legislature for a 6.35 percent increase for this year to avoid a tuition increase and the Legislature gave the university and the state colleges each a 3 percent annual increase in each year of the two-year budget. 3 percent this year plus 3 percent the second year in this case would equal a little over 6 percent.

Here is what I find troubling. The state colleges asked for 6.35 percent increase to avoid a tuition increase – they got a 3 percent increase this year and next – they increased tuition 9 percent. The same day that they voted to increase tuition, they also voted to increase some key salaries. Chancellor Stan Carpenter  will see a 9 percent increase moving his salary to $255,000; Peru State President Dan Hansen will get a 5 percent increase to $189,000; Chadron State President Randy Rhine will have a 7.5 percent increase to $184,000; and salary information was not yet available for Marysz Rames who has been selected to be Wayne State’s new president. While I am in support of keeping our schools strong, it does seem like they require a lot of money. As we struggle to find ways to decrease the tax burden on the people of Nebraska, it seems that we are treating some of the best paid people in the state pretty well at the taxpayers expense. This is the same idea that led me to vote no on the pay increase for the Supreme Court Justices.

 

Newsletter 6/12/15

June 13th, 2015

June 7th – 15th marks the first international trade mission for Governor Ricketts. This mission is taking him to the European Union (EU) with visits to Belgium, Denmark, and Italy with the hopes of strengthening existing relationships while building new ones.

Trade missions are going to be a priority for the governor and his administration. The governor has made it clear that growing the economy here in Nebraska is important for not only future generations but also to ensure that our economy stays strong. Fostering relationships on a global level is going to be key to ensuring that we stay strong in years to come.

While the governor is out promoting Nebraska and Nebraska agriculture, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency continue to monitor the Avian Flu outbreak in northeast Nebraska. While nationally, it appears that we are seeing a slowdown in the spreading of the disease it is still too soon to say that we are in the clear here.

Four million young and laying hens have been euthanized, here in Nebraska, after finding the Avian Flu in three commercial and one small flock of less than 100 birds.  A flock of three million laying hens is in quarantine based on an initial positive test. All of the flocks impacted thus far have been in Dixon and Knox counties.

As a precautionary measure, all poultry events that were to have been held in Nebraska have been cancelled for the rest of 2015. This includes county and state fairs, swap meets, exotic sales, exhibition shows and live bird auctions.

The process of gathering signatures to put the death penalty issue to a vote of the people has begun. I will try to have petitions with me when I am at public events like parades and fairs. If you would like to sign one, look for me and ask. The “hate mail” continues to come in from both sides. It seems that this issue really points to a divide in our state.

 

Newsletter 6/5/15

June 5th, 2015

The session ended with me receiving numerous emails and phone calls regarding the passage of LB268, a bill that repealed the death penalty. While I have had some communication supporting the repeal, those in support of keeping the death penalty were far greater.

I promised that as things progressed towards taking the death penalty to a vote of the people, (where I believe the decision should be made), that I would keep you informed. On Monday, June 1, the group “Nebraskans for the Death Penalty” filed the paperwork with Secretary of State John Gale. Now that the paperwork has been done, the work of collecting signatures to keep LB268 from going into effect in late August can begin.

If the group is able to collect 10 percent of signatures of the registered voters (on the day that the signatures are turned in) the change in the law would not take affect and the issue would be placed on the ballot in November of 2016. Ten percent of signatures is expected to be somewhere between 112,000 to 115,000. The 10 percent needs to come from 38 of the 93 Nebraska counties.

It really is all about the numbers. If only 5 percent of the signatures are collected from voters in 38 of the counties, the issue will still be placed on the 2016 ballot but it would allow the repeal law to take effect in August of this year.

Over the last few days, the Nebraskans for the Death Penalty has said that recent surveys conducted of Nebraskans showed that 64 percent were in favor of the death penalty while only 24 percent supported repealing it. I would say that the contact with my office has run a little higher.

Within minutes of LB268 passing over the objections of the governor, Senator Beau McCoy, of Omaha, launched a group called the Nebraskans for Justice. He has said that he fully supports the Nebraskans for the Death Penaltygroup and that the groups have merged. The group launching the referendum also has the fullsupport of myself and Governor Pete Ricketts.

Since LB268 passed, there has been a lot of “heated” rhetoric from both sides of the issue, each side seemingly intent on belittling senators who voted “the wrong way”. While passions and opinions are strong, I do not think we make any headway on this issue by badmouthing other senators and how they voted. It is time for cooler heads to prevail. This should and I believe will be decided by you, the voters of Nebraska.

 

Newsletter 5/29/15

May 29th, 2015

The first session of the 104th Nebraska Legislature is over, THANK GOD. While I am honored to serve the 17th Legislative District, I cannot say that I am particularly proud of what we have done this year.

We started off this session back on January 7th with 18 new member in the Legislature, a new governor, and dreams of reducing the tax burden on our fellow Nebraskans.

We knew when we started the year that the biggest issue across the state was that property taxes were way too high. We were going to fix that with help and encouragement from our fresh new governor. Three bills were introduced to lower the percentage of the valuation to be taxed on agricultural property – none of them survived the Revenue Committee. This is the same Revenue Committee that would not vote out of committee a bill that would have exempted veteran service organizations, such as the American Legion, VFW, Sons of the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary, from having to pay sales tax on food sold at fundraisers for these organizations. The committee did find it perfectly acceptable to eliminate the sales tax for the Henry Doorly Zoo and other zoos throughout Nebraska where a good share of the money collected would be collected from folks who live outside the state of Nebraska. The same committee did manage without any problem to pass out a six cent per gallon increase in gas taxes. This tax increase passed on the floor and survived a veto by the governor.

We did manage to pass an exemption on the first $10,000 of valuation on personal property tax that should save everyone that pays that tax around $160.00. It is not a lot, but it is a step in the right direction.

We as a body passed LB623 allowing the so-called DREAMERS (the children of illegal immigrants that were brought here at a young age and have essentially grown up in the United States) to get their drivers license. That in and of its self is probably not a bad thing – the dirty little secret though is that within that bill is language that could allow those who with full knowledge broke our laws and crossed our borders illegally on their own  to also get a drivers license.

We were intent to fix the overcrowding in our prison system and passed a couple of bills along that line but then the body voted to end the death penalty as the means of the ultimate punishment in the most heinous of crimes – again the governor vetoed the idea and again our so called conservative body overrode the veto. This was the final straw, the people of Nebraska are upset and I do not blame them. I am upset too. We have not heard the end of this issue. “Stay Tuned”.

There is currently in Nebraska law no process to “recall” elected state officials – my staff is looking into ways to change that.

The one thing I can say is that property tax is no longer the biggest issue for Nebraskans, we the Legislature are.

Newsletter 5/15/15

May 29th, 2015

Last week I told you about the Legislature advancing and Governor Ricketts vetoing LB610, the gas tax increase. It passed on Final Reading with a vote of 26-15-8. On Thursday, May 14th, we took up the motion to override the Governor’s veto. With a vote of 30-13-6, the Legislature decided LB610 would become law notwithstanding the objections of the Governor. I voted to sustain the veto.

 

Beginning January 1, 2016, the gas tax will increase by 1.5 cents and will increase every January 1 for the three more years giving us an increase of 6 cents over four years. Supporters of this legislation claim that extra revenue generated will provide us with smoother roads and safer bridges I guess time will tell.

LB643, introduced by Senator Tommy Garrett of Bellevue, the Medical Cannabis Act received first round approval. The bill would allow patients to have and use the drug to treat specific conditions and illnesses. There are some issues and concerns with the bill that Senator Garrett is working on addressing before the bill is debated on Select File.  One of the concerns he will be addressing is making sure the drug will ONLY be available in pill or liquid form. While I have some reservations about this bill, I do recognize the benefit that medical marijuana can bring to some individuals and think it is worth working on which is why I voted for it.

LB623, introduced by Senator Jeremy Nordquist, allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for driver’s licenses. Currently, Nebraska is the only state that does not allow the issuance of licenses to the group of young immigrants that were brought to our country illegally as children. In 2012 President Obama issued an order saying that immigrants granted a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status were eligible for work permits, Social Security numbers, and a two-year deportation deferral that can be renewed. The bill advanced to the second round with a vote of 37-8. I do not support this bill.

The bill to repeal the death penalty, LB268, easily advanced to Final Reading. As you know, I have struggled with how I was going to vote on this bill and I still do. Earlier this week it was announced that Nebraska had purchased the three drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection execution, allowing us to carry out an execution something we have not done since 1997. Senator McCoy, of Omaha, introduced an amendment that would have sent this issue to the people of Nebraska to vote on. While I supported this amendment, others did not and the amendment failed. Given the recent events at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, I now find it hard to vote for the repeal of the death penalty. There are a few cases, where I am now convinced that regrettably nothing else can suffice. Governor Ricketts has said that he would veto this bill if it comes before him. I will vote to uphold his veto.

A few weeks ago, I told you about LB599, a bill that would lower the minimum wage for young part time workers. In a surprising vote today (May 15th) the bill failed to advance to the governor. LB599 needed 33 votes on Final Reading because it was modifying the ballot imitative that was passed last November. While the bill had the support on the first two rounds of debate, today the bill died with a vote of 29-17-1. Those among you who think that the Legislature does not listen to you, should know that this turn around came as a result of pressure from the people of Nebraska.

In other news, Governor Ricketts has declared a state of emergency because of the H5N2 avian flu virus. By declaring an emergency, funding will be available to help contain the virus that threatens the $1.1 billion poultry industry in Nebraska. Just this week the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has identified two farms in northeast Nebraska that have the virus.

Next weekend we will celebrate Memorial Day, I will be speaking at the event in Wayne.

Newsletter 5/8/15

May 8th, 2015

At the time, this is written thirteen days remain in the Legislative session.

Confirmations of gubernatorial appointments are generally fairly routine with a few senators saying a few kind words about the appointee followed by a vote of the body to confirm the appointment. This week the confirmations were anything but routine. All appointees have a public hearing and the committee then advances the nominee to the full Legislature for approval.

Governor Ricketts had nominated Bradley Rice to become the Superintendent of the State Patrol. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee recommended his confirmation with a unanimous vote. The Legislature, however, spent several hours debating this confirmation because of Rice’s involvement in a female trooper’s 2007 gender discrimination lawsuit. After debate, the Legislature confirmed Rice with a 32-7 vote.

Dr. Joseph Acierno was up for confirmation to continue serving as the state’s chief medical officer. Governor Heineman originally appointed him in 2013 and Governor Ricketts decided to keep him on. Some senators raised questions about his willingness to work with the Legislature to answer questions and concerns they had. With a vote of 22-15, the confirmation of Dr. Acierno was rejected.

Rejecting a governor’s appointee is something that rarely happens and caught several off guard. The vote was later reconsidered and after more debate, the Legislature did finally approve the confirmation of Dr. Acierno. This is a case where I did change my vote from no to yes after visiting with the chairwoman of the HHS committee and several others who serve on that committee.

LB610 was passed which would increase the gas tax. It passed on Final Reading with a vote of 26-15-8. I was one of the 15 “No” votes. Governor Ricketts wasted no time in vetoing LB610 and returned it to the Legislature. I will vote to sustain the veto if it comes to that.

The budget bills have been advanced to Final Reading, the final step before going to the governor. The two-year $8.6 billion budget keeps spending growth at 3.1 percent. This does not sound too bad until you realize that is a $266,600,000.00 increase, which is about $145.00 increase for every man, woman and child in the state of Nebraska. This is just under $5000.00 per each of us and this does not include property tax. No wonder no one is happy with us!