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

January 8th, 2020

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.

Sen. Joni Albrecht

WEEKLY UPDATE October 19, 2020
October 19th, 2020

The Nebraska Manufacturing Industry Database has some news that includes mention of industry and businesses in District 17. Residents, farmers, and ranchers in all of rural Nebraska realize that food products are a large and important part of our state’s employment and economy. Did you know that good and kindred products lead Nebraska industries in employment numbers, employing 32% of all workers in the state? The largest manufacturing employer in the State, as reported by the database, is our own Tyson Fresh Meats in Dakota City, which employs approximately 4,000 people. This places Dakota City in the number five spot for cities with the most manufacturing jobs.

ELECTION 2020. My office has been receiving calls and emails from District 17 residents with questions about voting in the November 3 election. We reached out to get the information requested and put it all in one place for residents’ convenience.

Dakota County:
• Early voting is taking place up until November 2, at the County Clerk/Election Office, 1601 Broadway, Dakota City.
• Election Day, November 3, 2020. In person voting will be available in the 13 precincts located throughout the county. Vote-by-mail ballots cannot be received at these locations.
Vote-by-mail: Registered voters were sent cards by the Secretary of State inviting them to request a vote-by-mail ballot if desired. An estimated 2,121 ballots have been requested and sent out to date.
• It is important to note that if a voter has received a vote-by-mail ballot, it cannot be turned in at a voter precinct! Also, ballots must be received in the Election Commissioner’s Office no later than 8:00 pm on Election Day November 3.
• October 23 is the last date these can be requested and sent out to voters.
Three Options for returning vote-by-mail ballots. After signing the outside of the envelope, voters can:
1. Returned by mail. It is recommended that this be done as early as possible to allow timely delivery. If sent by mail, ballots must be received at the Election Commission’s USPS box at PO Box 39, Dakota City, 68731 by November 3.
2. Deposit in Drop Box in front of the Courthouse at 1601 Broadway. The locked Drop Box provided by the Secretary of State is monitored by camera and is checked twice a day. The last check to gather ballots from the Drop Box will be at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day November 3.
3. Drop off in person at the County Clerk/Election Office in the Courthouse at 1601 Broadway by 8:00 p.m. Election Day. .

Thurston County:
In Person:
• Early voting is available for voters until November 2, 2020 in the Clerk’s Office at the Thurston County Courthouse, 106 S. 5th St., Pender,
• Election Day, November 3, in person voting will be available at usual precincts.

Vote-by-mail: Postcards were sent to all registered voters by the Secretary of State offering an opportunity for residents to request a vote-by-mail ballot. As of Friday, October 16, 2020, the Commissioner reported there had been approximately 700 vote-by-mail requests received and ballots sent as a result.
• It is important to note that if a voter has received a vote-by-mail ballot, it cannot be turned in at a voter precinct! Also, ballots must be received in the Election Commissioner’s Office no later than 8:00 pm on Election Day November 3.
• October 23 is the last date these can be requested and sent out to voters.
Three Options for returning vote-by-mail ballots. After signing the outside of the envelope, voters can:
1. Returned by mail. It is recommended that this be done as early as possible to allow timely delivery. If sent by mail, ballots must be received at the Election Commission’s USPS box at PO Box 159, Pender, NE 68047. Last pick up is 4:00 pm. November 3rd.
2. Deposit in Drop Box located on south side of Courthouse at 106 S. 5th St. (alleyway). The locked Drop Box provided by the Secretary of State is monitored by camera and is checked daily. There are cameras on the courthouse. The last check to gather ballots from the Drop Box will be at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day November 3.
3. Drop off in person at the Clerk’s Office in the Courthouse at 106 S. 5th St. by 8:00 p.m. Election Day, November 3.

Wayne County: This is the first year that rural Wayne County voters can vote only by mail unless they voted in person before last Wednesday, October 24. This change was requested by the Wayne County Election Commissioner after letters and cards asking for voter feedback on the issue came back overwhelmingly in favor of the process several years ago. The Secretary of State approved Commissioner Finn’s request and, beginning in 2020, all voters who have not voted at the Election Commission Office in person before October 14, 2020, MUST VOTE BY MAIL. Ballots were mailed out on October 14. Voters in the City of Wayne can vote in person or by mail.

• Early voting for any resident of Wayne County was available until October 14, 2020, when ballots were mailed out. Early voting for registered voters in the City of Wayne can vote in person until November 2 at the County Clerk/Commissioner’s Office at 510 Pearl St.
• Election Day November 3, 2020. Registered voters in the City of Wayne can vote in person at the District 1 Wayne County Shop, 515 Thorman in Wayne.

Vote by Mail: Beginning this year, with the exception of residents of the City of Wayne and early voters, Wayne County residents must vote by mail. Postcards and letters about the vote-by-mail process were sent every voter in rural Wayne County, explaining the process. Ballots were mailed out to all registered voters in the rural county that had not voted before October 14.
If you did not early vote and you are not a resident of the City of Wayne, YOU MUST VOTE BY MAIL. Your ballot was mailed out on Wednesday, October 14.
If you do not receive your ballot in the mail by this Friday, October 23, you can call the Wayne County Election Commissioner’s office at 402.375.2288 to request a duplicate be sent. Or, you can appear in person to pick up a duplicate at 515 Thorman in Wayne.
• Residents of the City of Wayne can vote by mail if a ballot has been requested and received.
Three Options to return your vote-by-mail ballot. After signing the outside of the envelope:
1. Return by mail. It is recommended that this be done as early as possible to allow timely delivery. Ballots must be received in the Election Commissioner’s office by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
2. Deposit in Drop Box located on the north side of the Courthouse at 510 Pearl St., Wayne. The locked Drop Box provided by the Nebraska Secretary of State is in view of cameras on the Courthouse. Election officials check the box and obtain deposited ballots nearly hourly. Final check will be at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day November 3.
3. Drop off in person at the Clerk’s Office in the Courthouse at 510 Pearl St. by 8:00 p.m. Election Day, November 3.

DISTRICT 17 COVID by the numbers. October 10 through October 16, 2020:
Dakota: +90 (2457)
Thurston: +15 (350)
Wayne: +61 (314)

Due to the rising number of positive COVID-19 tests in Nebraska, on Friday, October 16, Governor Ricketts announced a new Directed Health Measure (DHM) that goes into effect on October 21 and imposes some restrictions related to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Nebraska. Protecting the capacity of hospitals and other healthcare facilities to care for COVID-19 and other patients remains the priority. Therefore, under the new DHM, hospitals must maintain a ten percent (10%) cushion for beds in Intensive Care Units (ICU) in order to schedule elective surgeries and procedures. The new DHM also returns to limiting restaurants and bars, currently able to operate at 75% capacity to pull back to 50% rated capacity, and limiting small groups at tables to eight (8) persons or fewer.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE October 12, 2020
October 12th, 2020

Even as District 17 and all of Nebraska’s residents work together to balance slowing the spread of COVID-19 with re-opening our economy, there is hope and good news in many respects. Nebraska’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation, dipping as low as 4% as reported rin the September 22 Nebraska Chamber of Commerce news update. Even better than the September 16, CBS report that Nebraska fell below 5%. CBS also reported that, along with a few other states, Nebraska’s economy is operating at least 88% of where it was in early March before the pandemic, ranking Nebraska high on the Back-to-normal index.

This rebuilding of the Nebraska economy is good news. Re-opening Nebraska’s schools, its economy, and restoring jobs is important to each of us. The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) recently released Unemployment statics for the week of September 27 through October 3, 2020. In its weekly report, the NDOL also reported a breakdown of over $1.1 billion in Unemployment benefits paid in Nebraska since March 29, 2020. The breakdown of $1,118,147,443 total benefits paid in Unemployment $298,397,142 has been paid in Regular Unemployment Insurance claims, $61,404,720 has been paid in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), $695,358,272 in $600/weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, $11,789,505 in Pandemic Emergency (Extended) Unemployment Compensation, and $50,522,895 in the $300/week retroactive payments of Lost Wages Assistance Program.

Importantly, the final report of the Nebraska Rural Poll was released today, October 12, 2020. “The report examines how rural Nebraskans are connected to agriculture as well as how they feel about the Livestock Friendly County designation and livestock development in the state.” Of no surprise, the report shows a strong connection between the people of Nebraska and her Agricultural roots. Those of us in the agricultural and rural communities remain #NebraskaStrong. The full report, which includes graphs and statistics, can be accessed at:

While agriculture is certainly a driving force of the Nebraska economy, the manufacturing sector also plays an important role in Nebraska’s economy and in its recovery. Last week, the Governor proclaimed October as Manufacturing Month in Nebraska, recognizing that the manufacturing sector employs at least 100,000 people, or 10% of Nebraska’s workforce. In Nebraska, our manufacturers have played a continued role in COVID-19 vaccine research and development, as well as in resource production, food production, and even in NASA’s space exploration efforts.

We have much to be proud of in Nebraska and in District 17. Our commitment to unity and to caring for our neighbor as we work through the impact of COVID-19 shows. It is part of what makes Nebraska a place where companies want to do business and where new people want to live, work, and raise families.

DISTRICT 17 COVID numbers. We continue to monitor positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. For the period of October 3, 2020 to October 9, 2020 (based on available data):
Dakota County: +79 (2367)
Thurston County:+ 9 ( 335)
Wayne County: +18 ( 253)

Hospitalizations in Nebraska have increased. Still, helping to “flatten the curve” of the spread has been instrumental in allowing the time needed to prepare and protect our state healthcare system. While leadership of local hospitals is naturally concerned when more hospitalizations occur, the Associated Press (AP) reports “senior hospital officials insist they can handle a significant surge in serious infections.” Further, AP reports that officials with the state’s biggest hospitals said they could expand capacity to handle even greater numbers, and even double capacity if needed. As District 17 residents, along with our neighbors across Nebraska, continue preventative health practices, we all help keep our healthcare system capable and prepared.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE October 5, 2020
October 5th, 2020

A TIME TO REMEMBER. This past weekend, I was honored to attend the 2020 BELLS ACROSS AMERICA TRIBUTE TO FALLEN FIREFIGHERS. Governor Ricketts ordered that flags across the state fly at half-mast in remembrance. The District 17 tribute took place in Dakota City at the Volunteer Fire Department on Sunday. The ceremony honored Dakota County firefighters, along with fallen firefighters from across the State. Never to be forgotten from Dakota City are: Andrew Zalme, age 42; Eric C. Speck, age 38; Lowell R. Satterwhite, Sr., age 67. Volunteer firefighters are a unique family of citizens dedicated to the safety of their community, often sacrificing their family and personal time to tend to the needs of others. I was honored to join so many in saying thank you. Please thank a firefighter, EMT, or a first responder for the sacrifice they make not only in Dakota City, Nebraska, but throughout our District, our state, and our country.

The National Fire Protection Association announced in June that October 4-10, 2020 is Fire Prevention Week. This year’s theme is “Serving up Fire Safety in the Kitchen”. Cooking is reportedly the leading cause of home fires, with unattended items on the stove posing the most common danger. Also in October, it is recommended that we all check smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and practice drills with the family. In the farming community, there are additional risks in the outdoors.

With the winds, dry grasses, and bean dust, we have been seeing combine fires and grass fires in Northeast Nebraska. Be sure to keep alert for overheated equipment and smoldering materials, and also be sure to verify your extinguisher is full and in working order.

We have also begun to see those rural accidents I spoke of in the last newsletter. Please urge others to be careful when driving in the rural areas, especially when cresting hills. It is important that drivers allow themselves enough time to brake and stop when a slow moving vehicle or piece of farm machinery appears suddenly on the road before them. Let’s all work together to keep it safe out there!

Speaking about preparedness, there will be a HAZMAT response training exercise taking place in South Sioux City on Thursday, October 8. The Northeast Planning, Exercise, and Training Region will be conducting the drill from 3:00 pm to 7:00 p.m. The drill will “focus on the deployment and operation of the Salamander Accountability equipment during a potential HAZMAT incident,” the group reports. ,

DISTRICT 17 COVID by the numbers. We continue to monitor positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout District 17. For the period September 24 to October 2, 2020 (based on available data):
Dakota County: +112 (2288)
Thurston County: + 20 ( 326)
Wayne County: + 64 ( 225)

ACROSS NEBRASKA: In addition to ordering flags to fly at half-mast in honor of fallen firefighters, last week the Governor spoke about Medicaid expansion, about the three gambling initiatives on the November 3 ballot, and, he was joined by Secretary of State Bob Evnen to discuss election security.

The Governor spoke highly of the May primary, and reminded voters to use caution, noting the following:
• Secretary Evnen, the Elections Division, and Nebraska volunteers did a great job of overseeing a smooth election in May.
• They’re again making preparations to ensure visits to the polls are as safe as possible for Nebraska voters.
• Given the pandemic, our elections team is prepared for an unusually large number of absentee ballots to be mailed in.
• They’re carefully reviewing incoming ballots to verify their legitimacy.
• We also want to remind folks to turn in their own ballot to the election commissioner. Do not give it to a political operative to turn in for you.
Secretary of State Bob Evnen also addressed the upcoming General Election, noting:
• The polls will be open as they were in the primary election. We will keep our voters and poll workers safe.
• This is a great time for young Nebraskans to step up once again and serve as poll workers. This gives a break to our older poll workers who are in high-risk health categories.
• We expect higher than normal participation in early voting. The USPS says that ballots must be in the mail by October 27th to be received by November 3rd.
• Only ballots received by the close of polls on Election Day will be counted.
• If you don’t feel comfortable putting your ballot in the mail, you can deliver it to secure ballot collection lock boxes outside of your county office in every county in the state. You may also deliver your ballot personally to your county election official.
• Mail-in ballots have their own security issues. We’re redoubling our efforts to ensure that ballots are cast by the registered voter and not by someone else.
You can find these details and more about the topics covered by the Governor in his press briefings on the Governor’s website at under the heading Press Releases tab.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE September 28, 2020
September 28th, 2020

Welcome Fall! As we move into this most colorfully changing time of year, I want to wish everyone a safe and bountiful harvest! With the change in weather also comes a change in traffic on the roads. In addition to watching for school buses, it is important for drivers to be on the lookout for farm vehicles and machinery traveling on the roads. Remember to slow down. Watch for slow moving vehicles, especially as you come over hills. You won’t have to wait long. Waiting for a neighbor to navigate the road between fields is the equivalent of waiting through two (2) lights in the city. Take time and make this your time—to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of nature changing around you.

Congratulations to Darren Wolfe of Macy on his appointment by the Governor to the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs and thank you to Mr. Wolfe for being willing to serve. The Commission on Indian Affairs was established by statute in 1971. The mission of the Commission is “to do all things which it may determine to enhance the cause of Indian rights and to develop solutions to problems common to all Nebraska Indians.” The Commission serves as liaison between the four headquarter tribes of the Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux and Winnebago. There are 14 Indian commissioners appointed by the Governor and four ex-officio members representing the Pawnee tribe, Ogallala Sioux, Ioway, Sac and Fox on the Commission.

On Thursday, September 24, Governor Ricketts was joined by State Senators, the Adjutant General of the Nebraska National Guard Major General Daryl Bohac and leaders from the National Guard as he signed LB450 into law. LB450 increases opportunity to members of the National Guard by increasing the tuition credit for degrees from 75% of resident tuition to 100% of resident tuition. It also increases tuition credit of 50% for graduate and professional degrees. Those who are ever ready to protect and serve the needs of Nebraskans and to go wherever in the Nation they may be called certainly deserve to benefit from our State’s educational system.

This Sunday, October 4, 2020, I will have the honor of speaking at the Bells Across America service in Dakota City. Dakota City joins fire departments across the nation in paying tribute to fallen firefighters lost in 2019, while also recognizing its own fallen firefighers Captain Andrew Zaime, lost in 2016; Captain Erin Speck, lost in 2016, and Firefighter Lowell E. Satterwhite Sr., also lost in 2016. Our firefighters play a vital role in keeping our communities safe and I appreciate each of them. This is a touching and important memorial service. The service will be held to remember fallen firefighters and will begin at 1:00 p.m. at the Dakota City Fire Hall, 208 S. 21st St. The public is invited to attend.

COVID-19 BY THE NUMBERS: As we continue to be cautious while we move toward reopening and normalcy as a State and as a Legislative District, seeing schools and businesses reopen, I think it is important that we track the reported positive cases in District 17 from week to week and I will plan to do so in this Weekly Update going forward. Thank you to Northeast Nebraska Public Health and Dakota County Public Health for keeping me updated. New reported positive tests in District 17, by county, for the period Sept. 18 to Sept. 24, 2020 were:
Dakota County: +48
Thurston County: + 8
Wayne County: +10

COMING UP! The 107th Legislature will be here before we know it. Not long after the November 3 election, newly elected, re-elected, and sitting State Senators will join together in a gathering of the Legislative Council. Each member of the Legislature is a member of the Legislative Council and under Nebraska law, the group must meet at least once every two (2) years. The gathering will give all senators the opportunity to get to know one another better, to recap the Legislative Sessions of the past two years, and to discuss important upcoming issues like the post-Covid budget concerns and re-districting. I look forward to joining my colleagues and meeting new Senators in November.

Legislative Page Opportunity Deadline. Having pages at the Capitol to assist us as Senators is more important than many people realize. During Session, we are frequently hard at work reviewing bills and speaking to other Senators, as well as answering questions and preparing for opening on our own bills. Leaving the floor for the many various needs we may have is oft times impossible. Consequently, each year, Nebraska College or trade school students are chosen as Legislative pages to assist Senators on the Legislative floor. During their 20-hour weeks, Pages assist Senators by running errands, delivering messages, photocopying materials, and so forth. They also assist presiding officers at hearings to set up and staff committee hearings and perform other assigned duties. This is a 20-hour a week paid position which may also offer college credits. Deadline for applications is 5:00 p.m. this Friday, October 2, 2020. I am happy to talk with any interested student to write a letter of recommendation for the position. Applicants can apply online at:

Looking forward to re-districting: After the 2020 Census is complete, the Legislature will begin to undertake the process of drafting and enact new district maps designed to meet federal law that requires representation of equal populations in each Legislative District (LD). Redistricting involves identifying district lines for Nebraska’s three (3) United States Congressional representatives and Nebraska’s 49 elected state legislators. I am intrigued about the process and am considering serving on the Committee initially concerned with putting the pieces in place before sending a plan to the Government, Military, and Veterans’ Affairs Committee that handles the legislation regarding redistricting.

All in all there is much happening now as my family and I also tend to the harvest, and there is much to look forward to on the home front and at the Legislature.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE September 21, 2020
September 21st, 2020

Things having calmed down a bit in the State’s Capitol, for this week I thought it best if we take some time to talk COVID.

It is time we talk about COVID-19 a bit. A lot has happened since the first news of COVID-19 in February brought American evacuees to Omaha from a Princess cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan due to an outbreak of COVID-19. A natural veil of concern blanketed Nebraskans, along with our fellow Americans, as we watched while the experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) once again stepped up to treat and analyze an infectious disease. We saw UNMC’s well-trained staff and top-notch medical professionals care for the ill as they assessed the severity and risk of COVID-19 to the rest of us. By February 25, UNMC began conducting clinical trials of treatment for the infection.

So much has happened in the months since this all began. Reaction to COVID-19 and the fears that it would overwhelm our healthcare systems throughout the Nation brought a nationwide push to “slow the curve.” Hygiene standards became the most frequently uttered words of the day. “Wash your hands frequently.” “Avoid touching your face.” “Social Distance 6 feet apart.” “Stay home if you feel ill.” We began to see businesses where human contact could not be avoided closed. Companies sent staff to work from home. The Nebraska Legislature recessed out of an abundance of caution and, like many of my colleagues, I had my staff work from home as well.

Time has brought information and technology that has helped us all get a handle on what the virus is really about. As we have seen the virus spread, we no longer place ill patients in bio-containment at UNMC. We keep a close eye on the number of hospital beds, Intensive Care Units (ICU) beds, and ventilators that are available as we work to safely reopen businesses and schools throughout the country. As a Nation, we have implemented quarantine and self-isolation recommendations, travel bans, and hygiene standards. Our health departments have issued guidelines to help businesses and schools re-open and to put Americans back to work. This has taken much longer than any of us expected, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Governor moved all but one county into Phase 4 of the State’s reopening plan. My office receives daily reports about the number of COVID-19 cases, including positive and negative test results. The figures are important as we see our schools and communities re-open and continue to monitor our healthcare system.

At the national level, updated reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are released at 3:00 p.m. daily. The country has seen an increase in numbers at times, including with recent school and business openings, but continue the downward trend that began after peaking in mid-July.

Nebraska continues to follow the trend seen at the national level, and has also seen an uptick since college campuses started opening the first week in September. The increase in positive tests being reported out of college campuses, though certainly adding numbers, has not greatly impacted the positivity rate, which has remained fairly steady at around 9.5% to 9.6%. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), reports that the Nebraska statewide COVID-19 case total as of 5:45 p.m. CT Sept. 18 is 40,387 since March 20, including 466 new cases this past Friday, and 442 deaths, with no new deaths reported on Friday. A total of 30,509 Nebraskans diagnosed with COVID-19 have since recovered.

I am watching District 17 COVID-19 numbers closely as our community businesses and schools reopen and as youth sports and family gatherings for weddings, funerals, and other events increase in frequency. Northeast Nebraska Public Health reports that as of September 18, 2020, Thurston County had 281 positive cases, with three (3) of those reported throughout the previous week. Wayne County has seen 128 total positives, with nine (9) of those reported throughout the previous week. By far, the number of positive tests is coming from the 20 to 29 year-old age group. Since the sharp increase from 246 to 1654 in Dakota County positive cases between April 26 and May 30, workplace modifications and disbursement of information in a number of languages has helped to slow the spread of the virus. A review of monthly numbers reveals approximately 100 to 120 positive tests per month as the County has been reopening, with the most recent increase of 148 new cases between August 30 and September 20.

Even as we work through COVID-19, flu season is quickly moving in. Flu vaccines are available through local health departments and at pharmacies. Those at high risk may also be advised by their physicians to get a pneumonia vaccination, especially with the respiratory risks associated with the COVID-19 virus.

My office and I will continue to monitor the case numbers in all three counties in District 17 and continue to communicate with employers, schools, and community leaders in the District, and consult with the Governor’s office and officials at DHHS. I will keep District 17 residents informed through my weekly updates and local community events.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

Weekly Update September 14, 2020
September 14th, 2020

Although the Day of Remembrance of what took place in this Nation on September 11, 2001 has passed, the memory of it is never far from my mind. There is little doubt that life changed for us in America that day. Our sense of security was assaulted, our peace of mind destroyed. At the same time, the acts of heroism and unity of purpose, along with the determination to get back what was taken will also be forever remembered. Each of us remembers where we were when we heard the news on 9/11. We remember the eerie feeling experienced when realizing there were no planes in the air; the horrifying images of the towers collapsing, people running and jumping for their lives; the voices and images of our first responders putting their own safety aside as they rushed in to save lives. I thought of all of this and more as I attended the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at the Fire Hall in Dakota City. I was grateful for the pause in time to reflect and remember and I appreciate the Freedom Park Committee for investing all that was required to put together the touching and encouraging ceremony.

We have worked hard as a Nation to restore our sense of security. Certainly steps have been taken to decrease the probability of acts of terror from forces outside of our borders. Recently, the threat inside our borders has become an increasing concern. In the last several months, we have witnessed and experienced the reality of terror within. When I consider the rioting, looting, and chaos of the last several months, I am struck by the reemergence of fear among us. This time, citizens fear violence in the streets of our own cities, amidst an unbelievable call to defund the very forces that protected and saved lives on 9/11. Residents fear for their personal safety and the safety of their families. They fear for their livelihood, for businesses they and their neighbors have spent lifetimes building. Most of all, they fear for the future of our country. Unfortunately, Nebraska has not been spared the violence in its own larger cities.

On the streets of Lincoln and Omaha, we have seen angry mobs threaten and attack our law enforcement officers. Just like law enforcement in places like Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Portland, Nebraska’s fine men and women in uniform have had people shout them down within inches of their faces; they have been spat upon, and have had bottles of urine and gasoline, and fireworks thrown at them. We have seen public buildings and businesses damaged and destroyed, looted, and burned. There should be no place for that type of hateful lawlessness in America, and certainly not in Nebraska.

The United States is a land of law and order. Nebraska is too. With that in mind, and to restore peace of mind in Nebraska residents, I am working with stakeholders across the state on a piece of legislation I currently call the First Responder and Public Protection Act. Discussions with stakeholders began, of course, in District 17. The discussions with others within the District and throughout the state will continue right up until the legislation is debated and voted on in the next Legislative Session.

Others increasingly putting aside their personal safety in recent years are our public school teachers. I not only stand behind law enforcement but I also stand behind giving our teachers the tools necessary to help them protect themselves and protect the children we entrust to their care. A few years ago, over 7,000 teachers submitted stories of assaultive and out-of-control students causing injury and chaos in the classroom. They reported being forced to clear the room of other students rather than remove the disruptive student to provide maximum learning time to the others. They reported personal assaults and reported being unauthorized to intervene to prevent the assaults on other students. These teachers requested help from lawmakers. My priority bill LB1186 and Senator Groene’s LB147 were appropriate responses to their requests for help.

Thankfully, LB1186 passed. LB1186 requires that school districts compensate teachers from day one for injuries they experience resulting from assault by a student. That is one way we take care of our teachers.

Tragically, LB 147 did not pass. LB147 would have given teachers the ability to remove out-of-control students from the classroom, given teachers the authority to intervene for the protection of other students, and would have provided de-escalation training to help them do both. I have to admit that I was taken aback when State Senators, who were supported by the teachers’ union, refused to give these 7,000 plus teachers the tools needed to protect themselves. Tools needed to protect other students, to restore calm to the classroom, and to maximize the learning time of all students. Our teachers deserve better. I fully supported LB147 and will continue to be in full support of giving teachers these tools when the bill comes to the floor again.

Locally, it is great to see our State reopening. All counties in District 17 entered Phase 4 of the State’s reopening plan on Monday, September 14, 2020. I attended Chicken Days over the weekend and received a number of questions about the particulars of Phase 4. In Phase 4, restrictions are removed from the Directed Health Measures (DHMs), with the guidance provided to bars and restaurants under the DHM still in effect and recommended for use by establishment. The same is true for Childcare Facilities, churches, gyms, fitness or health clubs, salons, spas, massage therapy services, tattoo parlors, and wedding and funeral reception venues.. Indoor gatherings are limited to 75% of rated occupancy and outdoor gatherings may take place at 100% of rated occupancy. Social distancing of six (6) feet separation between groups remains in guidance and plans to reopen or expand to capacities must be submitted to the local health department and approved for indoor and outdoor locations that hold 500 or more individuals.

District 17 saw some exciting times this past week and our district has much to look forward to.
On Thursday, I attended the groundbreaking of the Northeast Community College NEXUS Ag Facilities Project in Norfolk. The project includes a new veterinary technology clinic, classrooms, and a large farm animal handling facility. It is good to see Northeast Nebraska expanding the campus. The project provides wonderful opportunities for our young women and men to expand their choices for careers in Nebraska.

On Friday, September 18, Governor Ricketts will make remarks at the ACE Hardware Grand Opening on Dearborn St. in Wayne. I am looking forward to attending and extending my congratulations.

This past Saturday, it was great to see people come out and enjoy the great weather for the 40th Annual Chicken Days event sponsored by Wayne Area Economic Development (WAED). The event was held at the Wayne County Fairgrounds. Even without a parade, it was a great success and fun was had by all, enjoying everything from decorated businesses in the morning, a car show, the farmers market, performances by the Wayne State College band, the Chicken Toss, the Chicken Dale’s float and lots of food and other fun all the way up to the nighttime fireworks show. Congratulations on 40 years!

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE September 7, 2020
September 5th, 2020

The Legislative Session may be adjourned, with state senators not due back until Session begins in January 2021, but there is still plenty happening. I continue to review requests for legislation, talk and meet with constituents and stakeholders, and get out into District 17 as much as possible ahead of harvest time. Moving away from lawmaking for the week, I’d like to let you know about a few happenings at the local, state, and national level

Wayne State College has modified its 2020 Homecoming activities due to COVID-19. Some activities have been cancelled, while others have been re-scheduled for the spring and some are being held via ZOOM meetings. More information about the Wayne State College Homecoming schedule can be found at

It may not look exactly the same as in previous years, but Chicken Days Show will be happening on Saturday September 12 and the event will celebrate 40 years of fun for District 17 families. The event will take place at the Wayne County Fairgroundsm 302 Pheasant run, Wayne America. There will not be a parade this year, but there will be fun, fellowship, and fireworks! I am looking forward to attending and visiting with my neighbors. Be sure to say hello!

As most are aware, schools in District 17 and throughout the State are each doing things differently. As will the health departments, my office will be paying attention to the new numbers of COVID-19 positive tests as schools open. It is more important than ever so important to keep your children home if they are ill.

There will be a 9-11 ceremony in Dakota County at Siouxland Freedom. I plan to be in attendance and hope to see many District 17 residents there as well. We should never forget that date in our history. It is important to remember the lives lost, the heroic efforts of so many, and the way we came together as a country to respond to the horrible attack on American soil.

FOREST FOCUS: Did you know that Nebraska has 1.5 million acres of forest land? Well, it does. On September 4, United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue joined Governor Ricketts and University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green in a signing of an agreement “to promote good stewardship of Nebraska’s forests.” Congressman Jeff Fortenberry also attended the signing. We frequently see Secretary Purdue in Nebraska because of his great interest in Nebraska’s role as an agricultural leader and his support for Nebraska’s commitment to its farmers, ranchers, and it rural lands.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Fortunately, we are seeing new and continuing unemployment claims decreasing, as more and more Nebraskans return to work. We have certainly done our part to protect our healthcare system throughout the State, and it is good to see businesses opening. As businesses reopen, people go back to work. As people go back to work, families and businesses get back on their feet. Working together, we can each act collectively to help this happen successfully.

Unemployment claims in Nebraska for the week ending August 29 were down 13.3% from the week before. The United States unemployment rate fell back into the single digits in August, as well. The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) reports it has paid unemployment benefits to over 130,000 individuals throughout the pandemic.

I realize the struggle is not over but I am glad to see our State reopening and am committed, as many are, to shop and dine and do other businesses locally to help small businesses in the State get back up and running. For those who found themselves unemployed because of the pandemic but who were unable to return to work before August 1, there may be a bit more additional relief on the way.

Federal Lost Wages Supplement Grant Funds may soon be available to Nebraskans who were unemployed due to COVID-19 during the three weeks August 1, August 8, and August 15. The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) announced last week that Nebraska will apply for the funding and, if approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), those who qualify will be paid an additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits for the three weeks mentioned. Qualified applicants are those receiving $100 or more in weekly benefits for COVID-related separation from employment. For those receiving maximum benefits under Nebraska’s unemployment law, when combined with the new program, maximum benefits will be $740 per week for the covered weeks, before federal withholding taxes. For more information, log onto the Nebraska Department of Labor website.

MEDICAID EXPANSION is unfolding. Guidelines and rules are in place, additional personnel have been added, and Medicaid Expansion, which was passed by voters in 2017, is ready to roll. Applications for Medicaid under the expansion programs began being accepted August 1, 2020. Benefits under the program are scheduled to begin on October 1, 2020. By September 1, it was reported that Heritage Health Adult Medicaid had signed up 5,218 Nebraskans. Coverage has been expanded to lower income adults 19-64 years old who are earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. (Approximately $17,609 for a single person and up to $36,156 per year for a family of four). The application process turnaround at that time was approximately seven days. Applications are taken online at, by phone at (844) 632-7633, TDD (402) 471-7256, or in person at any DHHS office

September is National Preparedness month. “Make your plan today, and be prepared to take care of yourselves for at least 72 hours after a disaster,” is the advice given by Bryan Tuma, Assistant Director of Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). NEMA and local emergency managers across the state are urge Nebraskans to use this month to plan for potential disaster.

I would like to thank emergency managers Deanna Hagberg (Dakota County), Nic Kemnitz (Wayne County), and Tom Perez (Thurston County) for their hard work and dedication to providing great service to District 17 residents.

In the event that these or other local officials and relief workers are not able to reach you or your family immediately during a disaster for whatever reason, it is important to have food, water, and supplies to sustain you and your family until help can reach you. Some items, like a first aid kit may immediately come to mind. But, do not forget batteries, waterproof matches, and water purifier tablets. Director Tuma suggests each family assemble an emergency kit that sustains them for at least 3 days. A thorough list of items that should be included in your emergency kit, as well as specific supplies for businesses, healthcare facilities and schools can be found at You can also follow NEMA on Facebook at:
and on Twitter at: for preparedness tips throughout the month.

We continue to work together as neighbors and friends to help keep one another safe. I count it a privilege to live and serve in a state that continues to show we can overcome all obstacles.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE August 31, 2020
August 31st, 2020
    Legislative Wrap-up by the numbers.

The 106th Legislature consisted of two very full Sessions in the midst of strong economic growth and small unemployment numbers in 2019 and going into 2020, the 2019 flooding and disaster relief efforts, and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. During the two Sessions, the Legislature passed 389 bills that became law. Those 389 bills contained other bills amended into them as well- bringing the grand total of bills actually passed by the Legislature to 579. During the two year Session, Senators introduced 1,222 bills, along with 477 resolutions and 17 Constitutional Amendment Resolutions. We are all now working towards the 2021 Session. My office is reviewing constituent requests for potential legislation and meeting with constituents and other stake holders to determine the legislation I may introduce.

    Re-opening schools and businesses.

Schools are opening. Students, teachers, and administrators are all navigating changes and modifications designed to keep everyone safe from the Coronavirus. There may be some “bumps” along the way but we can accomplish much when we work together. Our children need to be back in school. It is in our schools that our children find education for the future. It is in our schools that our children find encouragement and sometimes nurturing, stability, and food security they do not get elsewhere. Health Department officials are working with schools and monitoring the situation closely.

Meanwhile, last week Governor Ricketts announced that the entire state will be moved into Phase 4 of reopening on September 14, absent any alarming increase in hospitalizations. Phase 4 removes certain sections from Directed Health Measures (DHM) Guidelines and makes use of the practices “recommended.”

Removals from the guidelines include bars, restaurants, childcare facilities, churches, gyms, salons and barber shops and other salons, massage therapists, sports, and wedding and funeral reception venues. Indoor gatherings are limited to 75% of rated occupancy and outdoor gatherings are able to function at 100% capacity; both require social distancing measures and venues with capacity for 500 to 1,000 guests must present a re-opening plan through the local Health Department. There are currently 27 counties where Phase 4 is in place. None of those counties are within District 17. Although there are still some new cases being reported in District 17 counties, the healthcare system here, and throughout the State, is operating with plenty of capacity to accommodate any who need healthcare whether or not related to COVID-19.

    USDA Grants still available

Specific to District 17, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported on August 28, 2020 that rural communities in Nebraska counties where there has been a FEMA disaster declared have utilized only $638,300 of the $2.2 million provided by USDA for disaster recovery. The grants are still available to qualified applicants. The grants are available through the Community Facilities Program at

These funds may be used for non-disaster projects also. A sample of the funded projects to date include emergency type (siren, firetruck, and ambulance), utility truck, new auditorium equipment, and renovations to essential community facilities.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, non-profit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in eligible rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Dakota, Thurston, and Wayne Counties, along with the Native Reservations lying within Thurston County are included among the counties eligible for funds under the declaration. The USDA states that that grant applications will continue to be processed up to the expiration date or until the funds are exhausted, whichever comes first. For more information contact the USDA at

    In Other news

Applications for Medicaid Expansion Programs began being accepted August 1, 2020. I plan to include updated information on the resources and application numbers in my next newsletter.

There are also a few initiatives that may be on the November 3 ballot. At this point, exactly what will be included is in than hands of the Nebraska Supreme Court. I will update District 17 residents on those developments next week as well.

As always, I invite you to contact my office by phone 402.471.2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE August 24, 2020
August 24th, 2020

Last week, I discussed the Governor’s signature of LB814, which bans dismemberment abortion. After the bill passed in the Legislature on August 13, I spoke on the floor about the hard work of Julie Schmit-Albin, who was at the helm of Nebraska Right to Life for more than 30 years. The Governor signed a Proclamation naming August 13, 2020 as Julie Schmit-Albin Day. A well-deserved honor. Over the weekend, I learned of the passing of this amazingly committed woman after a hard fought battle with cancer. I was privileged to work with Julie and shall miss her. I know many in District 17 have followed and supported Julie’s work. Regardless of where one stands on the pro-life issue, Julie’s dedication and fierce advocacy is deserving of recognition and deep respect. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

Additional time having passed, it is time for a brief recap of a few bills. On Thursday, August 20, I attended a ceremony where Governor Ricketts signed LB1107. As I mentioned last week, LB1107 combined the beginnings of property tax relief, business incentives designed to attract investment and higher paying jobs to Nebraska, and limited funding for the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) NExT program.
The Governor expressed his pleasure in signing the historic bill, his appreciation for Legislators working through much to pass what is a priority for most Nebraskans, and gave a shout out to those of us in the ag and other communities, stating, “I also thank the farmers, ranchers, and homeowners who persisted in voicing the urgent need for action on property taxes. LB 1107 delivers real, significant property tax relief and will help grow Nebraska for years.”

District 17 residents have helped keep property tax relief at the top of my list and I appreciate the many calls and emails of encouragement and support from residential, commercial, and agricultural property owners throughout the four years I have served.
The Governor also applauded the performance-based business incentives in LB1107, and the Bill’s support of University of Nebraska Medical Center’s project that “would support an academic medical facility to help the United States address future pandemics and other disasters,” and “would enhance UNMC’s position as a national leader in medical research and hazard response, which has the potential to create 8,700 great-paying jobs.”

Some other bills that should be of interest to residents of District 17.
LB768, which I introduced, was merged into and passed as part of LB944. LB768 harmonized State Patrol passed earlier in the Session. LB768 updated laws to harmonize Nebraska law and references with changes in federal law concerning largely Transportation regulations.

My priority bill LB1186, introduced by Senator Hilgers, passed unanimously on a 48-0 vote. I was pleased to carry the bill that entitles teachers who are injured by a student to be compensated for lost wages from the first day. Protecting our teachers is important to me. Because of my commitment to the principles of teacher safety and maximized learning time for students, I was disappointed that LB147, which was a response to teacher reports of classroom abuse by out-of-control students, did not pass. LB147 would have given teachers the training and tools they need to de-escalate and restore calm to the classroom.

Unfortunately, LB1167, which I introduced, did not make it out of committee. LB1167 was designed to increase transparency and accountability by requiring public testimony be allowed at every meeting of governing bodies. The bill, received tremendous support at the hearing, with the only opponent being the League of Municipalities. Testimony revealed story after story of taxpayers who were kept from testifying at meetings where officials were making decisions that would impact residents. I intend to re-introduce LB1167 in the 2021 Session.

I attended the Governor’s signing of LB153 in Kearney, Nebraska on Monday, August 24. LB153 exempts 50% of military retirement pay from income tax throughout the State. I appreciate Senator Brewer for introducing LB153 and enthusiastically join him in recognizing the richness and value members of our armed forces bring to our State.

Several bills including LB1140, LB1144, LB1148, and LB1188 address many of the concerns emerging from the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) this past year. The bills provide for Legislative oversight of the centers, require plans from each center, and appoints a superintendent to administer education throughout the centers.

Of the bills that passed, the Governor vetoed seven (7) bills last week to protect public safety and support schools in Nebraska. The bills vetoed and a brief descriptions released by the Governor were:
• LB 238 – A bill that would undermine the death penalty and public safety.
• LB 515 – A bill that would undermine the ability of schools to keep drugs out of classrooms and school grounds.
• LB 607 & 607A – Bills that imposed unnecessary and onerous occupational licensing requirements on nail manicurists.
• LB 1004 & 1004A – Bills that would let violent criminals become eligible to get out of prison early.
• LB 1089 – A bill that would mandate all high school students to hand over financial information to the federal government as a condition for graduating.

As anticipated, there was insufficient time left in the last 17 days of the Legislative Session to fully address and discuss meatpacking workers and employers and related issues raised by Senator Vargas’ amendment to LB667. It is my hope; however, that Senator Vargas and the committee will have a hearing in District 17 so that employees and employers in our area can be heard on the topic. I will keep District 17 residents updated on my Legislative website and through this weekly update.

We continue to see decreasing numbers in positive COVID-19 cases in the three counties in District 17. I am grateful to all of those who have worked hard to slow the spread. At the same time, we must all remain vigilant in our sanitation and social distancing practices as schools begin to fill with children again and school sports begin to take place. Nebraskans working together are stronger than ever.

As always, I invite you to contact my office by phone 402.471.2716 or by email at

WEEKLY UPDATE August 17, 2020
August 17th, 2020

“We are adjourned sine die,” that is Latin for “without a day” to reconvene. The 106th Legislative Session came to a close on Thursday, August 13, 2020. In the course of the 106th Session, the Speaker reported that the Legislature passed approximately 258 bills. The Session was packed and, when we reconvened after the COVID-19 interruption, the last 17 days did not miss a beat. We got a lot done and have much more to do. My colleagues and I will be working through the interim on various bills left undone. January begins a new Legislative year and many will be working to bring forward some bills that didn’t make it out of committee come back to the floor in new form.

Two Important Bills passed on the Last Day:
On the last day of Session, the Legislature passed two historic and monumental bills. LB1107, that delivers property tax relief that has been a long time coming; and LB814 that bans dismemberment abortions in Nebraska.

As I noted in an earlier newsletter, LB1107 is not all that I had hoped for but did incorporate portions of the former property tax relief bills LB974 and LB1106, along with the business incentives of LB720 and funding for the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) NExT project. Within the bill, property tax payers will be eligible for a refundable income tax credit based upon a percentage of the amount of property taxes paid towards school funding. That percentage grows annually to a maximum percentage, dependent upon revenue growth in the State. The bill sets aside future revenue growth for return to taxpayers for property tax relief. The business incentive portion of LB1107 encourages financial investment and good paying job growth in Nebraska. The incentives are performance-based, meaning companies must perform before they are able to realize the benefits of the incentives. Finally, the UNMC project will bring in more than $1 Billion dollars from federal and other investment before the State makes its contribution.

LB1107 was not all that we had hoped for, but it is a historical start. As I have done from the beginning, I will continue to work for more property tax relief for District 17 and all Nebraska residential, commercial, and agricultural property owners.

On Thursday, August 13, 2020, the Legislature also passed LB814, which prohibits dismemberment abortions from being performed in Nebraska. The Governor held a public signing of LB814 on the Capitol steps on Saturday. I was honored to be among the pro-life Senators standing with the Governor and with Senator Geist, the bill’s introducer. There were hundreds of Nebraskans in attendance. The Governor also recognized Julie Schmit-Albin, who has worked tirelessly for the unborn for over 30 years. In fact, on Thursday, the Governor also signed a proclamation designating August 13 as “Julie Schmit-Albin Day” in honor of her hard work that has helped keep Nebraska a pro-life state.

Other Important Bills Passed as well:
There are many bills to mention, but I do want to let you know about a couple I am especially proud to have supported. I was pleased to support LB1008, which was brought on behalf of the Governor and signed into law during the last days of Session. LB1108 provides $1 million in additional funding to state colleges’ Career Scholarship Programs and the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to establish the Corrections Workforce Development Pathways program, a partnership between Peru State College and NCS. Wayne State College is among the colleges that will be offering the scholarships for students in critical workforce areas needed for Nebraska economic growth.

Additionally, beginning with the tax year 2022, veterans receiving military retirement pay will find 50% of that pay exempted from income tax under Senator Brewer’s bill LB 153. We value those who have served our country and want to make sure they will honor us with their continued presence in the State. It was essential that LB153 become law so that Nebraska is competitive with neighboring states. I was especially proud to support this bill.

As you know, I sit on the Natural Resources and Transportation and Telecommunications Committees. Important Committee priority bills that were passed during the last 17 days of Session were LB632 and LB992. There were a number of bills included in each priority bill. LB632 was a Natural Resource Committee priority bill that makes technical clarifications in the section of state law providing for procedures to be used for improvements in rural water districts. LB632 also brings statewide uniformity to plastic bag bans by limiting authority for such bans to be placed in State law. LB632 passed with a 46-0 vote.

LB992 was a priority bill from the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee for the purpose of providing statutory changes recommended by the Rural Broadband Task Force. Increasing broadband service in rural areas remains a priority for me and for the Committee and I was happy to see LB992 pass on Final Reading with a 47-0 vote.

Rural Investment: In addition to what was happening at the Legislature, it is worth noting that the Trump Administration announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $10,556,000 in Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative to build and improve critical electric infrastructure that will benefit more than 6,000 rural residents and commercial customers in South Dakota and Nebraska. I will be looking further into this investment and will report to you in a later newsletter to what degree District 17 may benefit.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room #1404
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2716
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