NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

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

Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 17th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Joni Albrecht

In the last two weeks, I had the pleasure of attending fairs and events across District 17. At the Wayne County Fair, I had the pleasure of greeting attendees with Governor Ricketts at the 56th Annual Free BBQ. At the Dakota-Thurston County Fair I thoroughly enjoyed talking with attendees, and had the pleasure of watching a few of my grandchildren participate in 4H Shows. I applaud the county board members for their dedication and hard work leading to two successful fairs. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 2018 Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island from August 24th to September 3rd. More information can be found at https://www.statefair.org/.

The Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District (NENEDD) held their annual meeting on July 26th to discuss the growing economy in our corner of the state. Executive Director Executive Director Thomas L. Higginbotham, Jr. welcomed NENEDD members along with representatives for Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and U.S. Senator Deb Fischer. NENEDD has provided over $6.5 million in grants and loans to support Northeast Nebraska, creating or retaining 78 jobs and assisting 38 housing units. Four awards were presented to members of the NEDEDD; The City of Fremont was awarded the Doug Bereuter Accomplished Community Award, Tyler Thomas of T&T Electric, Fremont, received the Housing Partnership Award, The Outstanding Service Award was presented to Columbus City Finance Director Anne Kinnison, and Rural Enterprise Assistance Project Senior Loan Specialist Eugene Rahn was awarded the Entrepreneurial Advancement Award. Karl Elmshaeuser, Nebraska State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture, gave the keynote address of the event. Karl highlighted the successes that Northeast Nebraska has accomplished by coming together to create the power of the common good. He also gave well-deserved praise to NENEDD for being a “forward-focused” group that helps in the development of rural populations. Northeast Nebraska and District 17 continue to make admirable strides in economic development.

Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Heavican and his fellow justices spend one week each year traveling around the state to tour courtrooms, meet judicial branch staff, and discuss ideas to better the court system across the state. While Chief Justice Heavican’s tour visited locations all around District 17, I was honored to attend his State-Tribal Courts Roundtable on August 1st in South Sioux City. At the roundtable, representatives from the Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux, and Winnebago Tribal Courts gathered with Nebraska Supreme Court members, local judges, juvenile and probation officers, and court administration. Senator Tom Brewer, District 43, also joined the discussion as Chair of the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee. We spent the morning discussing the current state-tribal judicial coordination as well as the unique challenges facing the sovereign tribal nations and their respective court systems. Throughout our discussions, we identified successes and areas in need of improvement in state-tribal coordination, the juvenile justice system, and child welfare. The Nebraska Supreme Court, Tribal Court Officers, and other attending members all agreed that it is imperative for the court systems to work together to ensure that the court systems are able to fulfill their duties to serve our citizens. I hope that this is the beginning of many meetings to build a stronger working relationship and solve evolving problems facing the court systems.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

 

 

We have had an exciting few weeks at the Legislature and in LD 17. I have kept busy continuing to learn about the issues facing Nebraskans and working on legislative solutions. I have also been enjoying more community events such as the Wayne Chicken Days show and parade as well as Senator Deb Fischer’s Bridging the Gap annual conference that works to inspire women to engage in their communities at the local, state, and national levels.

On July 10th, I attended the first of ten Listening Tour stops in Northeast Nebraska by University of Nebraska leadership. Residents were joined by Mike Boehm, NU Vice President for Agriculture and Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to share thoughts and visions for the future of Nebraska and our community. I appreciate Mike for reaching out to our community and look forward to developing stronger relationships with the university system in the future.

Governor Ricketts held his third annual Economic Development Summit on July 12th. State and local officials, along with 400 members of Nebraska’s business and economic development communities, gathered in Lincoln to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities facing Nebraska’s economy and job market. The summit featured discussions on Nebraska’s transportation infrastructure, talent development, workforce housing, and partnerships for international trade. A continuing theme of discussion also focused on attracting and retaining young workers in the state. Attendees had the pleasure to hear from Linda McMahon, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Governor Ricketts highlighted some of Nebraska’s economic development achievements from the past year, including winning Site SelectionMagazine’s Governor’s Cup awarded for most total development projects per capita for the second consecutive year. My staff and I attended seminars that addressed important issues such as rural workforce housing projects, agricultural technology advancements, and the economic impact of recent legislation. I applaud Governor Ricketts for hosting a very successful and informative summit.

Courtney Phillips, Director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, visited our district on July 18th. I met with Director Phillips to tour the Dakota City Child Support and Social Service Office and discuss the unique issues facing District 17 and Northeast Nebraska. Director Phillips is an outstanding and hard worker and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with her in the future.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

On June 25th, heavy rains caused flooding in northeast Nebraska, including Dakota, Thurston, and Wayne counties. First responder and volunteer response to the flooding was incredibly impressive; the community clearly came out in force to protect areas by filling sandbags and cleaning up debris around their towns. Thank you to all who gave their time and assistance, especially Dakota County Emergency Manager Deanna Hagberg, Thurston County Emergency Manager Tom Perez, and Wayne County Emergency Manager Nicholas Kemnitz for working with local, state, and federal entities to serve our community. It was appreciated and surely did not go unnoticed.

I have been in constant contact with Dakota County, Thurston County, and Wayne County emergency officials as well as Governor Ricketts’ office since the flooding occurred.  On June 26th, Governor Ricketts surveyed the flood damage and proceeded to sign a disaster declaration allowing state funds from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to aid the response to flooding and damage reports from across the state. As of July 8th, Wayne, Thurston, and Dakota counties made disaster declarations and Dakota City and South Sioux City made municipal disaster declarations. It is expected that Pender will make a formal declaration in the near future. Most of the reported damage includes damage to roads, bridges, culverts, and some water treatment facilities. In the upcoming week of July 9th, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) plans to continue to surveying and assessing damage in the 14 affected counties.

It is important that all public entities and individuals report damages and documented costs to NEMA. Individuals should contact their local emergency management officials to report and address any concerns or damages. Individuals should also contact their insurance company to report damage. There is generally a 30-day reporting deadline to report damages to emergency management officials and insurance companies.

Dakota County Emergency Manager: Deanna Hagberg – 402-987-2106

Thurston County Emergency Manager: Tom Perez – 402-385-6070

Wayne County Emergency Manager: Nicholas Kemnitz – 402-833-5190

In order to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, disaster damage cost must meet a $2.7 million threshold. Currently, it does not appear that the cost threshold has been met, but preliminary assessments are still ongoing. Additionally, Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Brasch has reached out to the USDA to explore other funding options for disaster relief.

To keep up to date on road closings, visit the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s traveler information website at http://www.511.nebraska.gov/ or follow NDOT on Twitter @Nebraska511. Anyone who becomes involved in an emergency situation due to the flooding should call 9-1-1 immediately for assistance.

Information on NEMA, disaster relief, and other resources can be found at https://nema.nebraska.gov/ or 402-471-7421.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

It is such a blessing to live in this amazing country and the great state of Nebraska. I am thankful for our freedoms and for those who protect them. Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

I have really enjoyed getting out to local events the past few weeks to meet with constituents and community leaders. It was also a pleasure to attend the Nebraska GOP State Convention in Nebraska City. On June 12th, I was happy to join South Sioux City in welcoming the Husker Nation Tour featuring UNL Athletic Director Bill Moos and UNL Football coaching staff. It was exciting to spend time with fellow fans to learn about and get ready for the upcoming football season with Coach Frost.

Nebraska’s residential and agricultural land property taxes are remarkably higher than our six closest neighbors, and school funding has been closely tied to property taxes since the creation of the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA). Created in 1990, TEEOSA calculates the expected sources of school funding for each school district based on the schools’ needs and existing resources. Legislative changes to TEEOSA during years in which revenue fell combined with rapidly increasing property valuations caused an overreliance on property taxes as the major source for school funding. Nebraska outspends our neighboring states in per-student funding, yet produces similar, or sometimes worse, educational outcomes. It is important that we examine why is costs Nebraska considerably more to educate our children than neighboring states and the effect that has on our property tax rates.

Last Friday, Senator Mike Groene, Chair of the Education Committee, held a press conference to announce the formation of the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA): School Funding Legislative Study Group that is set to meet during the interim. The Study Group includes a diverse range of senators from across Nebraska; Tom Brewer (LD 43), Mike Hilgers (LD 21), Brett Lindstrom (LD 18), Lou Ann Linehan (LD 39), Jim Scheer (LD 19), Tom Briese (LD 41), Curt Friesen (34), Suzanne Geist (25), and Justin Wayne (LD 13) in addition to Senator Groene (LD 42). Senator Groene described the Study Groups plans as a three-pronged approach:

“1. Study the history of TEEOSA to understand where we are and where we started. This will include understanding changes made over the years leading to the current formula, comparing public education funding of neighboring states and across the nation, looking at TEEOSA allowable spending growth factors, and studying factors causing the funding shift to property taxes (i.e. property valuations and property tax diversion programs such as Tax Increment Financing, Homestead Exemptions, low income housing exemptions, etc.).

  1. Seek a sustainable and constant local State Aid resource to serve as the Foundation Aid. This will include seeking innovative new ideas, as well as looking at options already presented in recent proposed legislation. Senators Briese, Friesen, Groene, Scheer and Wayne have all introduced related bills.
  2. Create a legislative solution for the 2019 Session that stabilizes state aid to ALL local school districts while reversing the present property tax burden that stabilizes at a responsible inflationary growth.

As the third prong indicated, the end goal of the study is an introduction of a single 2019 legislative bill addressing the TEEOSA revenue flaw that puts equity back into school funding and can garner the support of the full Legislature.”

As property tax relief continues to be my number one priority in the Legislature, I am hopeful that this bi-partisan group will bring a dynamic discussion to the legislature and viable solutions to correct school funding and rising property taxes. I am excited to work on legislation with my colleagues.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

I hope that everyone had a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend! As we spend long weekends with family and friends, I hope each of you joined me in remembering the brave servicemen and women who sacrificed themselves to give us the freedom and liberties we enjoy every day in the great state of Nebraska.

On June 4th, I attended the South Sioux City Area Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Lunch. I presented a wrap up of this year’s legislative session and answered questions. It is always encouraging to see so many engaged constituents at local meetings. With the recent grain elevator explosion in the city, I have been inspired to hear of the fast acting and vigilant first responders that have been working to contain the situation. My prayers are with those who have been affected by the explosion.

On June 6th the Omaha Storm Chasers held their annual Ag Night presented by the Nebraska Farm Bureau. I attended to speak with fellow agricultural producers and discuss the E-15 story that I shared in my last newsletter and in the Omaha World-Herald on May 24th.

As Chair of the Business and Labor Committee, I have the pleasure of sitting on multiple workforce related boards and learning extensively about the business climate in Nebraska. The Nebraska Workforce Development Board convenes quarterly with state, regional, and local workforce development systems with the goals of enhancing the capacity and performance of Nebraska’s workforce, improving outcomes of Federally-funded and other workforce programs, and promoting economic growth. The Board held a meeting on June 8th to discuss state and local workforce development plans, Registered Apprenticeship programs, and review labor availability studies and talent initiatives. It is estimated that in 2018 nearly $7 million will be allotted from state and local sources for youth, adult, and dislocated worker programs through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Nebraska offers a Registered Apprenticeship program through the Department of Labor. In October 2016, the Department received an ApprenticeshipUSA State Accelerator Grant that provided additional assistance to the Registered Apprenticeship program. The Department was happy to report that over the course of the grant term, employers with Registered Apprenticeship programs increased by 24%, including new programs in the healthcare and manufacturing industries. The Registered Apprenticeship system combines supervised on-the-job training with technical classroom instruction in subjects related to the apprentice’s chosen occupation. Apprenticeship has been proven to be a very successful strategy for preparing skilled workers to help America compete effectively in the global economy. The apprentice has the opportunity to earn a living while gaining skills, and pay raises are awarded throughout the program as skills increase. Employers and those looking to gain skills, while earning a wage can go to https://dol.nebraska.gov/EmploymentAndTraining/Training/RegisteredApprenticeship to learn more about the awesome apprenticeship programs being offered across the state and at home in District 17.

The Department of Labor also offers Worker Training Grants to promote retention of Nebraska Workers, promote the expansion of Nebraska businesses and increase their competitive edge, and train new employees of expanding Nebraska businesses. Employers or labor organizations that are seeking to secure training for demand occupations in a particular industry can apply to receive grants that will assist in retaining employees, supporting apprenticeship programs, supporting training programs, and supporting small business and entrepreneurial training. More information about the application and grant process can be found at: https://dol.nebraska.gov/EmploymentAndTraining/Training/WorkerTrainingProgram.

 

Nebraska offers many more programs and resources aimed at developing, expanding, and retaining our workforce. Resources for both job seekers and employers can be found at https://dol.nebraska.gov/EmploymentAndTraining or by calling 402-471-9000.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

I hope everyone has been staying cool the last few days that we have experienced incredible heat waves. Each week, the USDA publishes a Nebraska Crop Progress and Condition report. As of May 20th, Corn planting was at 88% complete and soybean planning was at 68% complete across the state, both numbers are ahead of schedule compared to last year. As planting season comes to an end, I am wishing all our farmers well as we prepare for the summer and the eventual harvest this fall. I will be praying for our farmers as they work hard to continue to put food on our tables, we cannot thank them enough for all the hard work they do.

A few weeks ago, my good friend, constituent, and widely loved political activist Naomi Brummond passed away. I attended her funeral last week to celebrate her life and many accomplishments. Nebraska is a better place because of caring and dedicated people like Naomi.

On May 14th, I was excited to attend an event with the Wayne Area Economic Development Chamber and David Rippe, Nebraska’s new director of the Department of Economic Development. Director Rippe joined us to discuss Wayne’s recent strides in economic development and the $639,000 Rural Workforce Housing Fund grant the Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation received this May. Director Rippe expressed praise for Wayne’s development, energy, and momentum in the past 10 years. We were excited Director Rippe visited Wayne and South Sioux City to see the wonderful communities and potential our district has to offer. I would like to send a special thanks to Luke Virgil of the Wayne Area Economic Development Chamber for inviting me to this informative and special event.

As I hope many of you know, May 15th was Primary Election Day across the state. This is a big election year as we have many federal, statewide, legislative, and local seats to fill. It is incredibly important that we turn out to vote in every election. Sadly, only 24% of registered voters cast a vote in the Primary Election statewide. I hope this newsletter will serve as a friendly reminder to vote in the General Election on November 6th. Every two years we hold legislative elections, trading off between elections for even and odd numbered legislative districts, this year all even numbered legislative districts are holding elections. Of the 24 districts, eight seats are vacant due to term limits or senators deciding not to run for reelection, five incumbent senators are running unopposed, and all eleven incumbent senators that faced challengers advanced through the nonpartisan primary. It is refreshing to know we have citizens who are willing to take on the responsibilities of public service. I would like to extend congratulations to every one that advanced through the primary in races across the state as well as local races in Wayne, Thurston, and Dakota Counties. I look forward to working closely with incumbents and newly elected officials in all levels of government in the coming years.

Last week, I published an Op-Ed in the Omaha World-Herald concerning EPA barriers on fuel blended with 15% ethanol, E15. We need U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to fight hard for rural growth and press the Environmental Protection Agency to lift strict regulations on E15 fuel that restrict sales every summer. Biofuels represent a critical market for farmers. Lifting EPA barriers on E15 would not only promote rural growth, it would also provide consumers with cleaner, lower-cost options at the pump. President Donald Trump has announced his support for repealing E15 restrictions, and Perdue can make it happen by holding the EPA accountable to farm communities that are waiting for a much-needed boost in demand. I urge anyone who cares about the rural economy to join me in offering Secretary Perdue our full support in this important fight.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

With the legislative interim in full-swing, I have had a few great weeks in the district. During the summer I enjoy spending time connecting with constituents and learning about the issues facing our community. As I learn more about the issues our community experiences, I discuss possible solutions with my staff and colleagues and decide if perusing legislation is the best option. We also continuously research and examine options to address property taxes, education funding, and economic development; my top three priorities in the Legislature. As I continue to pursue solutions to the biggest issues facing Nebraskans, I am happy to listen to constituent concerns and legislative ideas as we gear up for the 2019 session.

I was thrilled last week to attend a ceremonial bill signing for pro-life legislation in Norfolk with Governor Ricketts and fellow senators to highlight Nebraska’s proven pro-life budget and legislative record. At the event, Governor Ricketts’ highlighted the 105th Legislature’s success in passing pro-life legislation; including the creation of the “Choose Life” license plates, the passage of my bill LB 1040 that recognizes pre-born life and allows for optional commemorative birth certificates to mothers who miscarry before 20 weeks gestation, and our pro-life budget that prevented Title X dollars from funding abortion-related services. In addition to legislation passed the last two years, Governor Ricketts recently announced a new maternity leave donation program for state teammates.  Starting in January, expecting mothers or new mothers who work for the state can receive donated vacation and compensatory time from their co-workers to expand their own paid time off while on family medical leave.  This program will give new mothers additional flexibility to invest their time, love, and care in their newborn child. I continue to be inspired by and proud of Nebraska’s pro-life record.

Since the end of session, the ballot initiative petition that was circulating to put a $1 billion mandate on the state and citizens to fund property tax relief was disbanded. I did not support the ballot initiative petition and the illogical mandate it would put on Nebraska citizens. I am happy to hear that the Legislature will be given another chance to address property taxes next session. Every year the Legislature is held hostage by trying to create a large omnibus tax reform package that prevents us from coming to a common agreement and achieving property tax relief. I am hopeful, given recent events, that the Legislature will be able to advance a package that will solely address property taxes. I will stand firm and ensure that the Legislature make headway on property tax reform.

I would like to send a special congratulations to the graduating members of District 17. From pre-kindergarten to high school and college, you have all reached a major milestone and accomplishment in your lives and I am proud to represent you. Congratulations! I am excited to see what your bright future holds for you and our community.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

Now that session has ended, I am happy to be spending more time in the district and back home on the farm. During the summer, I try to attend as many events in the community as possible to connect with and hear from my constituents. If you see me at an event, please don’t be afraid to say hi! This summer my staff and I will be working on drafting legislation for the 106th Legislature. My top priorities will continue to be reforming property taxes, school funding, and economic development.

Usually, the last day of session is reserved to address remaining bills on Final Reading and potential governor vetoes. Because of the busy session and long debates, it was necessary for us to close out the session without the option of addressing Governor Ricketts’ vetoes. When a bill passes Final Reading, the governor has five days (excluding Sundays) to sign or veto a bill. Earlier this year Governor Ricketts vetoed LB 350, and on April 23rd he vetoed LB 449, LB 873, and LB 998.

LB 350, (McCollister) Provide for setting aside certain misdemeanor and felony convictions, was introduced in 2017 and carried over to the 2018 session. The bill did not receive a priority designation but was debated and passed on General File before the Legislature began addressing priority bills this year. LB 350 would have allow individuals convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and sentenced to a punishment such as jail or prison, to petition the court to set aside their conviction once the sentence is completed. When a criminal conviction is set aside, the person is considered not to have been previously convicted. The court would have the ability to approve or deny the request to set-aside, and if approved the court would reinstate the all of petitioner’s rights except for individual’s right to possess a firearm. The bill passed Final Reading with a 30-11 vote. Governor Ricketts vetoed LB 350 because the bill would weaken confidence in the criminal justice system and weaken the impact of serious criminal sentences by dramatically expanding set-asides to serious felonies such as human trafficking or armed robbery. He stated that the bill is poor policy and would send the wrong message to victims of crimes and to society. I support Governor Ricketts’ veto and continuing to ensure strict consequences for serious crimes.

LB 449 (Chambers) Repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act was Senator Chambers’ 2018 priority bill. Currently, the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act allows counties to adopt a prairie dog management plan to prevent adverse impacts of unmanaged prairie dog colonies when individual landowners do not control the spread of prairie dogs from their property to others’. LB 449 would repeal the authority of counties to implement prairie dog management plans. The bill passed the legislature with a 26-13 vote on Final Reading. Governor Ricketts stated his primary concern with LB 449 is that it fails to protect the individual property rights of those landowners who are detrimentally harmed by a neighbor’s inaction, effectively shifting the cost and burden of prairie dog controls from landowners who are content to have prairie dogs on their land to neighbors who object to the presence of prairie dogs on their property. While I did vote to pass LB 449 on Final Reading, I understand Governor Ricketts’ concerns.

LB 873, (The Urban Affairs Committee) Change provisions relating to cities of particular classes and villages, correct and include references as prescribed, eliminate obsolete provisions and repeal definitions, provide for interlocal nuisance agreements, to determine population thresholds, redefine certain economic development programs, authorize creation of additional land banks, change comprehensive plans for an early childhood element, authorize short-term rentals, and change provisions relating to the official state slogan and symbol, was debated as the Urban Affairs Committee’s omnibus priority bill. As amended, this large, 257-page bill contained the content of seven individual bills; LB 873, LB 735, LB 748, LB 765, LB 769, LB 854, and LB 880. While some of the content amended into LB 873 was sound legislation, the totality of the bill covered a large array of topics and ultimately produced bad policy. The bill narrowly passed with a 26-15 vote on Final Reading. Governor Ricketts stated that while he supported certain provisions of the bill, such as the section that would provide clarity regarding the taxation and regulation of online housing platforms, he could not support the entire bill due to the inclusion of language that would dramatically expand the use of land banks in Nebraska. I support Governor Ricketts veto, I hope that the sound legislation that was included in this omnibus bill has the ability to pass in future legislative sessions.

LB 998, (Walz) Create the Collaborative School Behavioral and Mental Health Program, was Senator Bolz’s 2018 priority bill. LB 998 would create a collaborative behavioral health and mental health program between the Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council, the educational service units (ESUs), and the school districts located within the ESU districts. This would provide a social worker to every ESU to train teachers and school personnel, as well as work with parents and schools to deliver family-centered services to students. The bill passed Final Reading with a 31-15 vote. While both Governor Ricketts and I both believe the underlying goal of this bill is noble and share the same concerns as Senators Walz and Bolz, we believe this legislation creates an unnecessary “one-size fits all” program that could be implemented without legislation. Additionally, there are existing mental and behavioral health care initiatives in place to accomplish the goals of LB 998. Governor Ricketts also stated that he fears this legislation could interfere with parental rights, as LB 998 does not clearly state how parents and guardians would be involved with the program. I support Governor Ricketts’ veto and will continue to support effective and necessary mental and behavioral health care initiatives to improve the lives of Nebraskans.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716, email me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or to write me at:

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

I look forward to hearing from you!

As the final days of session have passed, we have stayed busy at the Unicameral. Last Monday was the last day that bills could be heard on General File, last Tuesday was the last day to hear bills on Select File, and the past two Wednesdays were the last days to passing bills on Final Reading. On Wednesday, April 18th we reconvened to pass the remaining bills on Final Reading and bid farewell to the leaving Senators that had reached their term limit in office or chose not to run for a second term.

As I reflect on the session, I am disappointed in the Legislature’s inability to pass property tax reform. The drastic increase in property taxes has become a dire issue for Nebraskans. Every year the legislature is held hostage by trying to create a large omnibus tax reform package that prevents us from achieving property tax relief. We need to stand our ground and produce legislation that gets something done for the people of Nebraska, and I will stand firm and ensure that the Legislature make headway on this issue. Twelve of my colleges and I have signed a letter to the Secretary of State John Gale to request a special legislative session. Secretary Gale will now be asking the remaining senators if they will agree to hold a special session, if twenty more sign on, for a total of thirty-three senators, we will convene in May to work on property taxes. Regardless if a special session convenes or not, over the interim my colleagues and I will be working hard to craft legislation that will provide relief and benefit all Nebraskans. I look forward to continuing to work on reforming property taxes, and I hope to continue to hear your comments and concerns.

I do not believe that the ballot initiative petition that is circulating in Nebraska is the right solution to provide property tax relief and I fear it will have dire consequences for the state if passed. This plan will put a $1 billion mandate on the state and on citizens that we simply cannot afford. I encourage my constituents not to sign the petition.

On April 9th, one of the first bills we addressed on Select File was the Education Committee’s priority bill LB 1081, (Groene) Change education provisions regarding reporting, penalties, residency, boundaries, priority schools, subpoena authority, poverty, and limited English proficiency and adopt the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act. On General File, Senator Linehan’s 2017 priority bill, LB 651 – Adopt the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act, was amended on to LB 1081. This bill mandates that each Nebraska public school student’s progression from one grade to another be determined, in part, upon proficiency in reading. School district board policies would facilitate reading instruction and intervention services to address student reading needs. Each student and his or her parent or guardian must be informed of that student’s reading progress. Last week, Senator Linehan successfully amended the bill to remove the school district reporting requirement that would have mandated the use of state general funds, effectively reducing the impact on the state budget. LB 1081 was heard on Final Reading on April 11th and passed with a 46-1 vote.

The Business and Labor Committee’s priority bill LB 791, (Ebke) Change Nebraska State Patrol employees’ bargaining rights, passed Final Reading this past week after many hours during the first two stages of debate. LB 791 makes changes to the State Employees Collective Bargaining Act regarding the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) to eliminate certain conflicts of interest and to provide for accountability and transparency in NSP investigations. Specifically, LB 791 removes NSP sergeants from the collective bargaining unit and places them in the supervisors unit. LB 791 also removes disciplinary and investigative procedures of the NSP from the scope of collective bargaining. This bill paves the way to provide more transparency and accountability in law enforcement.

My personal priority bill LB 1040 – Provide for commemorative certificates of nonviable birth, passed Final Reading with a 44-1 vote, with Senator Bob Krist as the sole “no” vote. LB 1040 provides the option to request a commemorative, state-issued certificate of nonviable birth for miscarriages that occur before the twentieth week of gestation during a pregnancy that has been verified by a healthcare practitioner. Every pregnancy loss is a tragedy that has a profound impact on women and entire families, yet most go unrecognized. Whether a pregnancy is lost at 5 weeks, 12 weeks, 19 weeks, or 20 weeks and beyond, the pain of that loss can be severe and should – and now can – be recognized and honored for those who wish to do so. I want to give many thanks to all of the courageous Mothers; Jennifer Sommer, Laura Linder, Marci Petta, Jennifer Henning, Audra Pace, and Lisa Bresley that testified at the Health and Human Services Committee hearing, as well as to all the senators who spoke in favor of the bill on the floor, especially Senators Brasch, Geist, and Thibodeau for sharing their stories and experiences with pregnancy loss to the Legislature. Governor Ricketts signed LB 1040 into law on April 18th and the Department of Health and Human Services is now working to make the certificates available soon. I am incredibly proud to have sponsored this legislation to give grieving mothers and families begin their healing process after experiencing a pregnancy loss.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716, email me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or to write me at:

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

As we are hitting crunch time at the Legislature, with four days left, we have been busy working to address all 2018 priority bills. My priority bill, LB 1040 – Provide for commemorative certificates of nonviable birth, successfully passed Select File Friday with a 33-3 vote. I am thankful for my fellow senators voting to give grieving mothers and families recognition for their pregnancy losses.

On Tuesday, April 3, the Legislature debated LB 947, Adopt the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act, change income tax rates, and eliminate certain exemptions and credits, which was introduced by Senator Smith on behalf of Governor Ricketts. This is one of three bills introduced to address property tax relief this year, in addition to one from last session. LB 947 is the Revenue Committee’s compromise for property tax relief and I have confidence in their judgments on the subject. As a farmer this bill is not perfect and it is hard for all of us to swallow, but I am optimistic that we are on the right track and hope we can build on tax reform in the future. I am dedicated to fighting for tax relief and coming to a compromise that benefits all Nebraskans.

On Wednesday, Business and Labor’s priority bill LB 791, (Ebke) Change Nebraska State Patrol employees’ bargaining rights, was heard on the floor. LB 791 makes changes to the State Employees Collective Bargaining Act regarding the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) to eliminate certain conflicts of interest and to provide for accountability and transparency in NSP investigations. Specifically, LB 791 removes NSP sergeants from the collective bargaining unit and places them in the supervisors unit. LB 791 also removes disciplinary and investigative procedures of the NSP from the scope of collective bargaining. My staff and I have been working diligently to craft an amendment that addresses involved parties’ concerns. On Monday we hope to bring the bill with amendments back to the floor for a healthy debate and hope to advance it to Select File.

Wednesday we also debated my bill LB 953, Change provisions under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act and the Employee Classification Act, which was also chosen as a Business and Labor priority bill. LB 953 requires the Workers’ Compensation Court to approve a lump-sum settlement in cases in which the employee at the time of settlement is eligible for Medicare or has a reasonable expectation of becoming eligible for Medicare within 30 months. A lump-sum settlement may also be approved if medical expenses incurred for treatment of the injury will not be fully paid as part of the settlement, if the employee’s attorney affirms that the settlement is in conformity with the compensation schedule, and for the best interests of the employee or his or her dependents. LB 953 also addresses a recent Workers’ Compensation Court’s decision regarding the enforceability of late payment penalties. Business and Labor’s amendment AM 1779 addresses concerns brought by the Nebraska Medical Association and Nebraska Hospital Association and was adopted onto the bill. I allowed Senator Vargas to amend his bill, LB 784 Change the Employee Classification Act to prohibit contractors with unpaid fines from contracting with the state or political subdivisions, through AM 2762 on to LB 953. LB 784 passed out of Business and Labor Committee with a 7/0 vote and is intended to strengthen existing Nebraska law that imposes penalties on contractors and employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors. Additionally, under 784, contractors or employers with unpaid fines for violating the Employee Classification Act would be barred from entering into contracts with the state or any other political subdivision until the fines are paid. LB 953, as amended, advanced to Select File with a 29/1 vote. Senator Schumacher, the sole “no” vote will be offering a friendly amendment Monday to address his concerns, I am confident this amendment and LB 953 will advance to Final Reading easily.

During debate on Friday of LB 1103, (Friesen) Provide a minimum amount of state aid for each school district, Senator Briese attempted to amend his property tax relief bill, LB 1084 Adopt the Property Tax Request Limitation Act, provide sunset dates for certain tax exemptions and incentives, and change other revenue and taxation provisions, to be included in LB 1103. This brought another long and passionate debate to the floor about property taxes and the dire need to do something to address the skyrocketing costs that are being forced on to land and homeowners. While I support LB 947 over LB 1084, I appreciate senators continuing to bring a discussion to the table about property taxes.

On Friday, Speaker Scheer spoke on the floor about his dissatisfaction with the Legislature’s inability to reach a compromise on tax relief this session. He mandated that the senators who had brought property tax reform packages and had been involved in crafting the legislation, Senator Smith, Senator Briese, Senator Groene, Senator Harr, Senator Friesen, and Senator Erdman, meet Friday evening and throughout the weekend to work on a compromise for property tax relief. I admire Speaker Scheer for taking initiative in working towards a property tax solution. It was evident that the senators involved could not come to a collective solution and it does not look like a tax relief bill will advance this year unfortunately.

Live coverage of the full session of the Unicameral is also available at www.netnebraska.org/capitol

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716, email me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or to write me at:

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

I take into consideration every letter, email, and phone call my office receives when I consider legislation. I truly value your input and suggestions on the issues before the Legislature. It is of great importance that I hear from you in order to do my job.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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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