NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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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

Weekly Report – October 13

October 13th, 2017

Fall is a wonderful time of the year. Harvest is coming along and the school year is in full swing. I’m proud of the schools in my district, and I wanted to begin this column with a hearty “congratulations!” to Pender Elementary School for being selected as a National Blue Ribbon School.

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes outstanding schools throughout America which are demonstrating that all students can achieve to high levels and affirms the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming educational environments.

In its application, Pender Schools pointed out its work with the Teammates Mentoring Program, its efforts to recognize positive behavior and classroom success, and its high quality instruction to students. Only four Nebraska schools were selected and only 342 schools nationwide earned this recognition, putting Pender in some pretty good company.

Congratulations are also in order for Michelle Helt, of Cardinal Elementary School in South Sioux City who has been named Nebraska Teacher of the Year. She has spent her entire career working at Cardinal Elementary in various capacities. Later this year, she will participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

I’m proud of all of the schools and educators in my district that make such an impact and I love it when Nebraska schools can get these sort of national accolades.

Fall also brings the start of the severe weather season, which means it is time for the Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness/Preparedness Public Service Announcement (PSA) contest, sponsored by the Nebraska Association of Emergency Management, the National Weather Service, and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

Open to all seventh and eighth grade media classes, the contest calls for multimedia products that promote preparedness, storm readiness, tornado safety, fire safety and other emergency topics. Entries may be a 30-60 second video or audio PSA, a 2-5 minute instructional video, or a digital image/educational graphic.

Contest rules and other information can be obtained at the Nebraska Association of Emergency Management website at www.naem.us. All submittals must be in by November 20, 2017.

While we are on the topic of safety, please remember that as the days grow shorter and the leaves fall off the trees, we are entering into Halloween season. To help ensure adults and children have a safe holiday, here are some tips to keep in mind:

• A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children as they go from house to house.
• If your older children are going out without you, plan and review the route the trick-or-treaters will follow and agree on a specific time for them to come home.
• Trick-or-treaters young and old should stay in populated, well-lit areas.
• Only walk on the sidewalk, and only cross the street at crosswalks.
• Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to ensure visibility. Glow sticks are also a handy item to have along.
• Trick-or-treaters should never enter a stranger’s home and they should never consume unwrapped food items or beverages.
• For motorists, enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
• Watch for children walking on medians and especially for young children darting between houses.

With students going back to school, farm equipment on the road, and Halloween coming up, drivers should be cautious and aware on our roads. Be safe!

Weekly Report – September 29

October 4th, 2017

I consider myself fortunate that I married into a farming family. It has truly been an eye-opening experience. I discovered early on that it is not easy. But I love the hard work, the early mornings and late hours. I have never doubted – nor regretted – my love for the farm for a second.

With nearly 50,000 farms and ranches across the state – combined with other agriculture related businesses – I’m proud to be part of the team that makes this state great. Our agriculture industry is the economic engine for our state.

One great example of Nebraskans working to grow our agriculture economy was on display Monday, October 2nd, when Thurston County received it’s designation as a Livestock Friendly County. This designation is given to counties that actively support the livestock industry. Since 2003, when it was first adopted, Nebraska has had 43 counties receive this designation.

Nebraska also leads the nation in a number of agriculture-related metrics:

Nebraska ranks first in commercial red meat production, first in Great Northern bean production, and first in popcorn production. Our state ranks near the top in ethanol production, alfalfa, sorghum, and soybeans– the list goes on and on.

In 2015, Nebraska exported $6.4 billion worth of agricultural goods. We rank number one in the nation for beef and veal exports, bringing in $1.1 billion.

Governor Ricketts has just returned from a trade mission to Japan to expand our trade opportunities and I have worked with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development on ways that the legislative branch can encourage Nebraska’s export opportunities.

While we want to encourage growth of our agriculture industry, I’m also committed to making sure family farm operations are able to compete. I want to find ways to encourage the next generation of farmers – to keep younger Nebraskans in their small downs and combat the “brain drain” that is happening in so many areas of our state.

As Chair of the Nebraska Legislature’s Business & Labor Industry and a member of the Agriculture Committee, one of my main goals is to make sure our state’s agriculture producers and businesses have the resources and freedom they need to survive and thrive.

The ag industry generates 25 percent of all jobs in Nebraska, and creates employment in other industries such as construction, finance, insurance, technology and law. If this is going to continue, we need to find ways to bring younger farmers into the fold.

Yes, hard times come and go and right now we are facing a downturn in the agriculture economy. This has created a lot of sleepless nights for many throughout our state.

I’m concerned about weak prices and tight margins, both as a state senator and as an agriculture producer myself. Unfortunately, there is no way to legislate success. My goal is to work to ensure that the opportunity for success is available to all.

The second half of the 105th Legislature will kick off in early January. It will be a short, 60-day session, but there will be time for us to discuss issues that impact our agriculture industry.

If there is one thing I’ve learned is that our ag producers are resilient. We are going to keep working to feed the world and keep Nebraska strong.

Nebraska will continue to be an agriculture leader thanks to the thousands of farmers and ranchers in our state. I’m proud of what you have accomplished and I look forward to working with them to strengthen our ag economy.

Harvest is just around the corner, so I want to make sure that everyone has a safe and bountiful year!

Weekly Report – September 8

September 10th, 2017

Next year will be on us before we know it, which means the second session of the Legislature will be underway. In preparation, I’m pleased to announce I have brought on Amara Meyer as Legal Counsel for the Business & Labor Committee.

Amara is originally from a farm near Brule, Nebraska. She holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Amara began her legislative career while still in college by serving as a Legislative Page. Since then, she has spent almost seven years working for the Unicameral in various capacities in the office of the Clerk of the Legislature.

She has also clerked for firms in Holdrege and Beloit, Kansas. Additionally, Amara has spent significant amounts of time serving the community through the Juvenile Re-Entry Project, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and Community Legal Education Project.

In my office, she will work with the members of the Business & Labor Committee to draft bills and amendments, analyze legislation, and perform legal research on committee subject matters which broadly include workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, labor and employment relations, fair employment practices, labor conditions, and other matters that fall under the Committee’s jurisdiction. She will also write the bill summaries and any special reports put out by the Committee which will be available on the Legislature’s website.

She will also work with my Committee Clerk Beverly Neel to ensure our committee meeting, hearings, and interactions happen smoothly and without a hitch.

I am confident that Amara will be a wonderful addition to our team and will effectively and efficiently serve the people of Nebraska.

For younger leaders, the Nebraska Department of Education recently announced two students will be selected to join 102 other delegates in Washington D.C. for the United States Senate Youth Program’s 56th Annual Washington Week in early March.

This merit-based leadership program brings two students from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity to Washington each year to experience an intensive, week-long educational program about the workings of the Senate and the federal government overall.

Most notably, each of the 104 student delegates will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship in addition to the expenses paid for the trip to the nation’s capital. This fantastic opportunity for qualifying students.

Commissioner of Education, Matthew L. Blomstedt, in cooperation with high school principals, will select Nebraska’s delegates from juniors or seniors, elected student offices and those belonging to a district, regional or state-level civic or educational organization who hold a high-level leadership position for the entire 2017-2018 academic year.
Interested students can find more information and an application at https://www.education.ne.gov/ss/ussyp.html. Applications are due to the Nebraska Department of Education by 4:00 p.m. CST on October 4, 2017. To see more information about the program itself, visit the USSYP website at http://www.usssenateyouth.org.

Finally, our hearts go out to those impacted by the forest fires and horrendous storms impacting our county. Nebraskans have historically been known to rise to the occasion and to help our neighbors.

But you should be aware that there are those who would capitalize on such tragedy. Never give any personal information to someone who calls you out of the blue, even if they claim to be from a charity. Also, beware of attachments in e-mails as these may contain viruses that could hurt your computer or worse.

The Federal Trade Commission is a wonderful resource if you have questions about a disaster relief charity. More information can be found at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity#Checklist

Weekly Report – August 22

August 23rd, 2017

It is a wonderful time of the year. Students are back to school, and those of us involved in agriculture are counting the days until harvest.

Even though the weather has been cooperating this year, sometimes disaster strikes. When a storm is declared a Federal Disaster, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is there to help individuals, businesses, and tribes deal with the aftermath.

There was a Federal Disaster declaration on August 1, 2017, for the June 12 through June 17 severe storms, tornadoes, and straight-line winds. Public assistance and 406 Mitigation was declared for the counties of Banner, Box Butte, Butler, Cass, Cuming, Dodge, Douglas, Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Morrill, Polk, Sarpy, Saunders, Sheridan, Sioux, Thurston and Wayne.

To apply for Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding, send a letter of intent to NEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Office. Information can be found at https://nema.nebraska.gov/recovery/state-hazard-mitigation-program. Letters of intent are due to NEMA by September 29, and applications are due on January 31.

With fall comes back to school, and with back to school comes a number of opportunities for students to grow as well as help their communities.

One distinguished opportunity available to college students is working with the Nebraska Legislature during our upcoming session.

Nebraska college students interested in becoming a page for the Nebraska Legislature for the 2018 Legislative session are encouraged to apply through my office or through the Clerk of the Legislature.

Legislative pages are selected in the fall each year to work in the state Capitol beginning in January 2018.

Pages do a lot of tasks such as running errands, delivering messages, photo copying materials, and assist the presiding officer. Another big role pages have is during committee hearings. Pages are responsible for setting up hearing chambers and have a role in making sure the hearings go off without a hitch. As a chair, I know that the page assigned to my committee last session was wonderful to work with. It wasn’t glamourous, but the work they did was important and appreciated.

Pages must be high school graduates who are currently enrolled in a Nebraska college or trade school with a minimum grade point averages of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. They must be able to work 20 hours a week during session. It is preferred that pages work the same four-hour shift each day. The legislative session will begin in early January. This is a paid position and you may also be able to receive credit hours through your college.

Applications are available through the Clerk of the Legislature’s office, Room 2018, in the State Capitol or through my office. A page applicant is also encouraged to contact his or her home district state senator for a letter of recommendation. If you do not know who your senator is, you can contact the Clerk of the Legislature’s office for assistance.

The deadline for submitting page applications and letters of recommendation for the 2018 legislative session will be Friday, September 29 at 5:00 p.m.

I strongly encourage all interested college students to consider this wonderful opportunity. For more information, please feel free to contact my office.

Weekly Report – August 1

August 1st, 2017

It has been a busy summer for me, as I am sure it has been for my constituents. Summer has been flying by!

In just a few short weeks, on August 21, Nebraska will be ground central for an amazing celestial event as we celebrate the Great American Eclipse. Though unfortunately, those of us in northeast Nebraska will not have much of a view of the eclipse, there are many areas of our great state that will offer tremendous viewing opportunities.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected, so if catching the eclipse is on your to-do list, I would recommend planning early. The Nebraska Tourism Commission has been working with communities along the path of the eclipse, and there will be a variety of events taking place before, during, and after the event in many areas of our state.

More information can be found on the Nebraska Tourism’s website at http://neclipse17.com/.

Earlier this year, I was appointed by Speaker Jim Scheer to serve as a member of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee of the Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC).

Since 1933, the Council of State Governments has served officials in all 50 states and the U.S. territories. It is a non-partisan organization which promotes excellence in state government through the exchange of ideas and best practices to help state officials advance public policy.

In July, I was able to attend the MLC – the only event designed for state and local lawmakers from the Midwest – with several colleagues from the Unicameral. We heard from a mix of speakers, held professional development workshops, and had policy discussions on issues of critical importance to Nebraska and the surrounding states.

Closer to home, fair season is upon us and it was great to get out and meet up with folks. Thankfully, the weather has cooperated for the most part, and I got to see a lot of you at various events over the past two weeks. I’m looking forward to the Thurston County Fair, which is only a few days away as I write this.

One question I was asked recently was how my constituents could use their professional expertise to serve the state. While there are many ways an interested individual can donate their time and effort to help their community, one specific way to apply to serve on one of Nebraska’s state board and commissions. These boards and commissions meet regularly and offer a way for citizens to become engaged in both policy and rule-making efforts without requiring an unreasonable commitment.

Each board and commission is unique, and not all have vacancies currently. More information can be found at: https://governor.nebraska.gov/board-comm-req

Finally, recently I had the opportunity to sit down with many business, education, and local leaders. I recently had the chance to grab coffee with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Chancellor Ronnie Green. With a record high enrollment of 25,897 in 2016 and a fourth straight year of enrollment, the University is excited about the upcoming year. The University system is the largest employer in Nebraska, and it was interesting having the chance to speak one-on-one with the man who is steering the ship.

Weekly Report – May 30

June 5th, 2017

The first session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature is now officially adjourned. The past few months have been quite an exciting ride and I appreciate everyone who reached out to me through phone, e-mail or even on the street. We may not always see eye-to-eye on issues, but I take all of your comments to heart.

Though we finished a little earlier than our target adjournment date, we accomplished a lot and have a lot more work to do. We balanced the budget, but there are some very real challenges ahead of us as our state’s fiscal situation still remains uncertain. We are keeping an eye on the state’s revenue stream, and the possibility of a special session to deal with a budgetary shortfall remains a very real possibility.

I was disappointed we cut off debate on finding ways to reduce the property tax burden on Nebraskans. Though the bill that was brought forward was not perfect by any means, we ended debate before any real changes could be made that provided some tax relief for Nebraskans without causing any sort of budget shortfall.

Some of my colleagues have already put forth ideas for next session, and I look forward to working with them as we take up this challenge.

Earlier this year I was elected Chair of the Business & Labor Committee. We had a good year, one that I would call a success. We heard 32 bills through the first session and advanced 16 bills to the floor. Of those, ten became law.

One of the bills which was passed through the committee and was signed into law was LB 518, a bill introduced by Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg which would adopt the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act. The Committee designated this bill a priority, and it should have a positive impact on rural areas in need of workforce housing.

The other Committee priority bill was LB 203. Introduced by Sen. John Kuehn of Hastings, this bill changes the requirements for receiving unemployment benefits for individuals who voluntarily leave a job without good cause. It would require an individual who does so to earn four times their weekly benefit amount to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Nebraska now joins 47 other states with a requalification requirement.

During bill debate, I introduced an amendment to include two other bills which advanced from my committee unanimously that are related to unemployment. My amendment added LBs 273 and 301 to LB 203. LB 273 was introduced by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings and allows the Department of Labor to round down in unemployment calculations for the minimum earnings requirement. My bill, LB 301, allows the Department of Labor to notify claimants of unemployment electronically, if they elect that method. Unemployment claimants will have the power to choose to receive notifications either electronically or by postal mail under this bill. LB203 was signed into law by Governor Ricketts.

I’m pleased to say that my personal priority bill, LB 506 – the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act – passed unanimously and was signed into law. This bill tasks the Department of Health and Human Services to post information on perinatal hospice on their website and allows physicians who diagnose a lethal fetal anomaly to provide information on perinatal hospice services.

Another of my personal bills which updated the definition of hybrid seed corn was selected by the Agriculture Committee as one of their priority bills. LB 276 clarifies the definition of hybrid seed corn and the process of cross fertilization, which hasn’t been updated in decades. Also under the bill, a district court in the county where the violation occurs has jurisdiction to grant a restraining order if necessary. This bill gave me a chance to work with my colleagues and the Department of Agriculture to amend the original bill as needed, a lesson I’m sure will prove valuable as we move forward.

Weekly Report – May 23

June 5th, 2017

Today, May 23rd, is the last day of the first half of the 105th legislature. We were slated to be in session through June 2nd, which would allow time for Governor Pete Ricketts and the state Senators to work on any last minute legislation or to deal with any bills the Governor vetoed. Beyond the line-item vetoes (meaning he vetoed specific funding without vetoing the entire bill) of the state budget package last week, Governor Ricketts has stated that he will not veto any other piece of legislation, meaning we can end the session early.

As I mentioned, last week we took up overriding the line-item vetoes in the state budget package. Two weeks ago, the Unicameral passed several bills that comprised the $8.9 billion budget package, of which Governor Ricketts vetoed $56.5 million in line-items from the budget. In the end, I chose to vote against the override motion brought by the Appropriations Committee. This was not a vote I took lightly and I heard from constituents on both sides of the issue – those who wanted us to override the vetoes and those who supported the cuts.

One of the main issues facing Senators was the fact that without these spending cuts, Nebraska would have to rely on our cash reserve (or “rainy day” fund) in order to balance the budget. The cash reserve is intended to provide a cushion in case our state faces an unprecedented or unexpected hardship (such as a major drought or other disaster). It is not there to make up the difference in the budget.

Among the provisions vetoed in LB327 was $33.6 million in general funds approved for Medicaid, child welfare, behavioral health, and developmental disability providers.

Overall, for the Nebraska Medicaid program received $1.69 billion in the two-year funding bill, of which Governor Ricketts made a line-item veto of $11.8 million in each of the two fiscal years (roughly 1.62%). I have received assurances from the Administration the line-item veto of funding in the Medicaid aid budget will not result in across-the-board reductions to providers. The Medicaid aid budget is a block appropriation based on forecasts of need and Medicaid has the responsibility to manage the program within its appropriation and minimize adverse access-to-service issues for Medicaid eligible individuals and families.

This does not impact services not covered by Medicaid – such as long-term care, nursing home care, and assisted-living care services. The Medicaid program will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical services such as long-term care, and as your Senator I will be monitoring this situation to ensure this promise is kept.

The Division of Developmental Disabilities program was budgeted to receive $303 million over the next two years. Governor Ricketts line-item vetoed $3.2 million in each of the next two fiscal years. Again, I have received assurances the line-item veto in funding will not mean providers will receive across-the-board reductions and that the department will work with stakeholders to devise an appropriations reduction strategy that protects critical health.

From the $333 million two-year funding for the Division of Children & Family Services (CFS), Governor Ricketts vetoed $1.2 million. CFS has identified efficiencies in how it administers drug testing contracts that will garner savings in excess of the amount included in the line-item veto.

Weekly Report – May 15

June 5th, 2017

Monday, May 15th is the 82nd day of our 90 day session. With only a few more days left, I am pleased to say that much of the heavy lifting has been done for the session. Though we may still have some contentious issues come up between now and the last day of session, the Unicameral has accomplished our main duty, which is to pass a budget package which contains the mainline budget (the “main” budget that contains most of the governmental spending) as well as bills which make funds transfers as needed.

We started debate on our state’s $8.9 billion budget package on April 25, but the actual process began much earlier with hearings held by the Appropriations Committee. The package provides for increases in the Property Tax Credit Fund, K-12 education, our state’s Department of Corrections, among others. It reduces funds for the University of Nebraska and some state agencies.

The Unicameral gave final approval to the three components of the two-year budget late last week. Among the measures passed was LB331, which creates funds, makes fund transfers and lowers our “rainy day fund (the minimum cash reserve requirement) from 3 to 2.5 percent. LB 327, which is the state’s mainline budget bill, also passed on a vote of 36-12.

During the debate I voiced my concerns that this budget was taking us down a path that is just not sustainable. I agree with many who felt that, in the face of a significant budget shortfall of nearly $1 billion, we needed to take a harder look at the levels of spending in some areas.

I joined with several of my colleagues to demonstrate our concern with state spending levels, and to express our misgivings at how little attention curtailing state spending was given during the budget process. I also had strong misgivings about lowering our state’s minimum cash reserve requirement.

I offered an amendment to cut spending by 1 percent across the board. Though my measure did not have the votes to pass, it allowed us to have a discussion about our levels of spending and what we are going to do if our budget shortfall continues to expand. Too often, we target one source of spending, such as the University of Nebraska system, with the idea that those smaller cuts will be enough. Or, as I stated earlier, we use budget gimmicks like borrowing from the cash reserve.

While this budget was balanced and did cut some spending, there were a lot of areas untouched and the methods that were used to balance the budget will not be there in the future.

Our state simply cannot keep borrowing from other areas to make up the difference between expenses and revenues. If we are not willing to curtail spending, then the only other option will be to increase taxes, which is something I cannot support. I feel that many members feel just as strongly.

So far, Governor Ricketts has vetoed $11 million in spending intended for a project that will replace the Capitol’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning replacement project. There may be more spending vetoes that will be announced in the coming days. We will get a report on the fiscal impact of this and any other line item vetoes and there may be a motion to override any or all of them, which requires thirty votes. It will be an interesting week.

Weekly Report – May 5th

May 15th, 2017

May 5th was the 77th day of our 90 day session. We are approaching the end of the session, and with that, there are a number of “big item” legislation. This week we worked into the evenings, and while we did get through much of the legislative agenda, there is still a lot of work left to do.

This week we gave final approval to LB 409, introduced by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, which adjusts Nebraska’s school funding formula to match budget projections. The bill, which passed 43-0, modifies two components of the formula which we use to distribute school funds.

The bill reduces the base limitation rate – the rate at which school budgets are allowed to grow from year to year from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent. It also increases the local effort rate, which accounts for a district’s property tax capacity, from $1.00 to approximately $1.02.

The main focus of this week has been to work through a number of budget bills which we need to pass to keep the state up and running. Right now the budget package calls for general fund spending of $8.9 billion, limiting spending growth to about 1 percent and does so without raising taxes – something that was important to me.

Unfortunately, it does draw $173 million from the cash reserve – which has been created as a “rainy day” fund there to ensure we have money. The cash reserve was an integral reason that Nebraska was able to weather the economic down turn a few years ago, and I am not a fan of taping those funds to cover the budget.

I would have liked to have had a more robust discussion about where we could find spending cuts, unfortunately there just was not enough time for us to bring those issues to the floor.

Also this week, LB 461, which would have provided tax relief for taxpayers, failed to achieve the necessary 33 votes to end debate. This was unfortunate as it did end any chance we had to pass meaningful tax reform this year. The debate proved to be tremendously interesting and at times emotional. I appreciate that people on both sides of the issue have contacted me about this issue, and I took their comments to heart.

One thing to remember is that Nebraska was one of the last states to implement a state income tax 50 years ago. Today, Nebraska imposes one of the highest income tax rates in our region. This didn’t happen overnight, and I don’t think it will be solved overnight.

Another criticism of the bill was that it did not adequately address property tax issues.

As I’ve said, I agree that property taxes in our state are an issue. LB 461 did attempt to address property tax values, but for many it did not go far enough. While I still contend that a little property tax relief would have been better than no tax relief, I understand ag land owners’ frustrations.

I do hope this issue will come up again next year. It is a conversation that needs to be had. LB 461 would have provided for a responsible, conditional and step-wise approach to provide tax relief for workers, small businesses, retirees and – yes – ag producers. Now the conversation moves on.

There was an attempt to amend the budget bill with language specifically dealing with property tax. Unfortunately the way the amendment was brought to the floor – at the last minute and without enough time to adequately discuss what was actually in the amendment, it was tabled.

Weekly Report – May 1st

May 15th, 2017

Last week we passed the 73rd day of the legislative session. We are currently working on the state’s $8.9 billion budget package. Nebraska’s state budget is structured on a two-year basis, with emergency budget sessions called as necessary.

Gering Senator John Stinner and the Appropriations Committee has spent months preparing the budget proposal, even going so far as to prepare a “mini-budget” earlier in the session to address the shortfall we were facing at the time.

This is a long process. The goal is prepare a balanced budget that encourages growth without being a burden on Nebraska tax-payers.

Among other provisions, the budget includes increases to educational funding through the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) of $62.4 million, $35.6 million for Medicaid, and $15.4 million for the Department of Corrections.

The proposed budget would cut $24.7 million to other state agencies and $13 million to the university system, among other cuts.

There is still a lot of work left to do and over the next week I expect this issue to take us well into the evenings. The budget should be passed by May 10 and sent to the Governor for his signature.

On another topic, I’m proud to announce my priority bill, LB 506 – the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act – was signed into law by Governor Ricketts last week.

As prenatal testing becomes increasingly routine and diagnostic methods have improved significantly over the last few years, more fetal anomalies are being detected. In these very rare, but tragic circumstances, parents are given minimal options.

No parent prepares to hear the news that the child they are carrying is going to die before or shortly after birth. Until today, families in this heartbreaking situation had to leave their doctor’s office in shock with no help, no hope, and feeling they have nowhere to turn.

Perinatal hospice is an innovative and compassionate model of support for families who find out a pregnancy has a life-limiting condition. This support helps parents embrace whatever life their baby might be able to have and also enables families to make meaningful plans to honor their child.

This care begins at diagnosis and continues through the baby’s birth and death.

Unfortunately, many parents faced with this horrible situation find themselves adrift without a life raft and having to find out for themselves what resources there are.

The purpose of this bill is to raise awareness of perinatal hospice care and provide readily available information to help women and families through one of life’s most difficult stages.

That is why I introduced LB 506 and that is why I’m proud to have worked with so many who helped make today possible.

Over the last few months I have had wonderful, eye-opening and emotional conversations with experts, medical professionals, and families. The most challenging situation faced by mothers should be met with the most readily available information, compassion and care.

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room #2010
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2716
Email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
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