Welcome

January 8th, 2014

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

Please feel free to contact me with any issues or concerns you may have regarding public policy or your state government, and let me know how I may assist you. My staff in my State Capitol office in Lincoln look forward to hearing from you and assisting you. Please feel free to contact me using the contact information on the right.

Sincerely,
Sen. Dave Bloomfield

Newsletter 9/19/14

September 19th, 2014

It has been year full of twist and turns in the political scene here in Nebraska and there is no reason to think things will calm down before the November 4th election.

Last week Lt. Governor Lavon Heidemann resigned from office and withdrew his name from consideration for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket because of issues arising from a family matter. He was quickly replaced on the Republican ticket by current State Auditor Mike Foley. Secretary of State John Gale was then asked to change the ballots to reflect the changes.

By the end of the week Secretary Gale had announced his decision that Foley’s name would appear on the ballot despite the fact that the change occurred after the September 1st deadline. This was a troublesome decision in the eyes of some and a case was quickly filed in the Lancaster County District Court.

While there is a September 1st deadline, Secretary of State Gale also has the responsibility to make sure ballots are accurate. The case was ultimately dismissed. The court decided that there was no legal duty for Secretary Gale to deny the request.

This has brought about discussions on deadlines in state government. This week Governor Heineman entered the deadline debate by stating that he had received budget requests from most state agencies with the exception of the Legislative Council. Budget requests were to be submitted to the Governor by Monday, September 15th.  It is the Legislature’s Executive Board that is charged with developing the budget request for the Legislature.

The Nebraska budget office was notified, prior to the deadline, that the Legislature’s budget request would be late because the Executive Board was not able to meet until Friday, September 19th to vote on the budget request.

I mention this because it is my intention to run for Chairman of the Executive Board in January when the Legislature convenes. There are several reasons that I have decided to seek this position. I will expand on them in future updates.

I may not have a newsletter next week because I will be traveling to Long Beach, California for a conference on “Veterans Initiatives: Increasing Educational Attainment”. I think this will be a worthwhile conference because I serve on the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee which deals with most issues related to veterans. This is an invitation only conference that I was invited to and I am attending it at no cost to Nebraska taxpayers.

Newsletter 9/12/14

September 15th, 2014

Last week I mentioned that as we were preparing to send the newsletter out we received word that the Nebraska Supreme Court had passed down a ruling that would not allow voters to decide on whether or not we should allow betting on “historic” horse races. As promised I will tell you a little more about this decision.

When it came down to it the decision from the court had very little to do with the issue of gambling. The issue was actually about the fact that the ballot measure contained two separate issues. The two issues found in the ballot language were 1) whether to allow betting on “historic” horse races and 2) how the revenue derived from the betting on “historic” horse races should be distributed. Constitutional amendments are required to contain only one subject matter and this measure clearly contained two as noted by the court. This Legislative Resolution (LR41CA) was in my opinion not only poorly written, but a bad idea as well. I am personally pleased with the high court’s decision.

The 33 page ruling cited cases that went as far back as 1889. The decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court was unanimous that the ballot measure was in violation of the one subject matter requirement. This overturned a July decision by Secretary of State John Gale that said while it did contain two subject matters the two subjects were “natural and necessary connection.”

While I know this is a blow to the hopes of many in District 17, I feel it is the correct decision. We must protect and abide by our Constitution. We spent hours discussing this measure before it was eventually passed and a good part of that discussion regarded the fact that these were two different issues that we were putting on a single ballot.

 

Newsletter 9/5/14

September 5th, 2014

It is once again time to bring your attention to an opportunity for the youth that call District 17 their home. Every year legislative pages are selected in the fall to work for the upcoming legislative session, beginning the following January. Pages work in the center of the action on the floor of the Legislature and in committee sessions. As a legislative page you will respond to senators’ request lights on the legislative floor, run errands, deliver messages, photocopy materials, assist the presiding officer, set up and staff committee hearings and perform other duties as assigned.

Pages must be high school graduates who are currently enrolled in a Nebraska college or trade school with a minimum grade point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. They must be able to work 20 hours a week during session and it is preferred that they work the same four-hour shift each day. The legislative session will begin January 7, 2015, and will go through June of 2015. This is a paid position with first year pages earning $9.90 per hour and second year pages earning $10.30 per hour. In addition, a page may also be able to receive credit hours through their college. This is a great opportunity to learn about the legislative process here in Nebraska and make a few dollars to help with school expenses. Jessica, my Legislative Aide, once served as a page, she can explain the process better than I can.

Applications are available from my office in Lincoln: Senator Dave Bloomfield, State Capitol – District 17, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604 or from the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street, Lincoln, NE 68509. If you are interested in becoming a legislative page or have any questions I encourage you to contact my office. I would be happy to submit a letter of recommendation for any eligible student from District 17. This year applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 3, 2014.

As I was finishing up my newsletter I received word that the Nebraska Supreme Court had ruled on the historic horse races issue being on the November ballot. Without having read the ruling it is my understanding that the measure will not be on the ballot. I will have more about this next week.

 

Newsletter 8/29/14

August 29th, 2014

I said last week that I would follow up on Initiative 425 which is the ballot issue that you will face this fall on minimum wage in Nebraska. There is no doubt that there are two sides to this issue.

Supporters of increasing the minimum wage will tell you that for every $1 you increase the minimum wage you will see an annual increase in spending of $2,800 per family.  It is claimed that this increase will help pull Nebraska families out of poverty. Unfortunately, even with the increase and earning a minimum wage of $9.00 an hour and working full time your earnings would still be below the poverty level for a family of three.

Other arguments being made in favor of this ballot initiative include that it could increase workforce morale because employees will be earning more and therefore they will feel more appreciated. Additionally, it is claimed that if the minimum wage is increased it will give those who are currently unemployed a reason to now seek employment. I really question that logic, if you are unwilling to work for $7.25, you are not likely to enjoy a new found abundance of ambition for another dollar or so an hour.

Those opposed to the increase will tell you that if you increase the minimum wage you are increasing the amount businesses will have to spend on their labor force. Spending more on wages decreases the amount a business will have available for investment capital. These increases can lead to increases in the cost of goods and services.

There is also the argument that it will hurt the number of jobs that are available for teenagers or the younger inexperienced workforce. In general, it could lead to jobs being lost or at very least cuts in hours. All of which lends itself to preventing job growth from being as strong as most people would like.

Keep in mind that as a state Nebraska weathered this last recession very well. Our unemployment rates have remained very low, some of the lowest in the country. Having a low unemployment rate helps increase the wages offered. If you look across Nebraska, even right here in District 17 there are employers looking for workers and they are willing to pay far more than minimum wage. What they really want and need are people who are willing to learn how to do a job and are willing to show up for work. They do not need folks that are high on drugs, drunk or unreliable. The minimum wage is traditionally a starting point, it was not intended to be a living wage, but more of a learning wage. In Nebraska, if you are willing to apply yourself and not afraid to challenge yourself, there is no reason to work very long at a minimum wage, whatever that wage number is.

I opposed the effort to pass this in the Legislature; I will continue to oppose it this fall. Please study this idea carefully before election day, consider whether this measure will help or hurt YOUR chances of moving forward in your career.

Newsletter 8/22/14

August 25th, 2014

It is official; when you head to the voting booth in November you will have the opportunity to vote on raising the minimum wage. It is my intent to discuss this in this and upcoming newsletters.

Secretary of State, John Gale, has announced that Initiative 425 received 9,000 signatures more than the 90,000 signatures needed to get it on the November ballot. We will be joining Alaska and South Dakota in voting as to whether or not we should increase our minimum wage.

We were one of 34 state legislatures that had bills proposing minimum wage hikes – 10 states and D.C. actually enacted the proposed legislation. I was opposed to legislation last session that would have increased Nebraska’s minimum wage and we blocked it in the Legislature. Senator Jeremy Nordquist from Omaha, along with other like-minded folks mounted a successful “ballot initiative” to place the question on the election ballot this fall. Currently our minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. Initiative 425 would increase the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour in 2015 and $9.00 an hour in 2016.

Presently, five states have no minimum wage meaning they default to the federal minimum wage, while 23 states have a minimum wage that surpasses the federal minimum wage. Twelve states have plans to increase their minimum wage in upcoming years. Based on laws that have been enacted, by July of 2018 six states will have a minimum wage surpassing $10.00 an hour.

When talking about the minimum wage it is important to keep in mind who it applies to. The state minimum wage applies to businesses with four or more employees. The federal minimum wage applies to businesses conducting business across state lines, with a yearly gross income of $500,000 or more, schools, hospitals and few others.

These are some of the bare bone facts about minimum wages. Next week I will try to explain some of the pros and cons of Initiative 425.

Newsletter 8/15/14

August 16th, 2014

There has been a lot of talk in Lincoln about having a special session to address issues within the Department of Corrections. Senator Brad Ashford, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, of Omaha has asked Governor Heineman to have a special session after more concerns came to light recently.

A number of problems within the Department of Corrections have come to light thanks to the very high profile case dealing with the release of Nikko Jenkins. Upon his release Jenkins went on a killing spree in Omaha. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the Department of Corrections this past session and a special investigative committee looking into prison issues was created. LR424 established the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee of the Legislature, chaired by Senator Steve Lathrop of Omaha.

While the creation of this committee was initially in response to the Nikko Jenkins case it is able to look at the Department of Corrections on a larger scale. It has become very clear that there are several issues that need to be dealt with within the department. Early on the talk centered around the fact that we needed to revamp the Good Time Law but as more and more facts are coming out we are discovering that the problem may not be with the law but rather with how the department was applying the law.

We have laws on the books addressing prisoner releases, the Nebraska Supreme Court has handed down rulings on the subject it is up to the Department of Corrections to follow the laws and rulings. It appears as though this has not been happening.

In addition to the department’s investigation and the legislative committee looking into the department we now have a criminal investigation taking place. Governor Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning have announced that they have requested the Nebraska State Patrol pursue a criminal investigation into the miscalculations and early release of prisoners.

Having a special session is not the answer. We need to allow these three investigations to play out and once we have the findings we can make decisions on how we should proceed. Senator Ashford has been chair of the Judiciary Committee for eight years and if more legislation was the answer to the problems within the department he has had ample opportunity to pursue it, at this time there is no need for a special session which would cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. This call by Senator Ashford could conceivably have the smell of political opportunism around it.  He is after all running for the U. S. House of Representative.

 

Newsletter 7/25/14

July 25th, 2014

During this past session the Legislature passed LR41CA, a constitutional amendment that would authorize the licensing and regulating of wagering on live or replayed horse races on the ballot. We have known since then that when we head to the voting booth on November 4th we will have the opportunity to vote on this measure.

An Omaha attorney, Steve Grasz, requested that the Secretary of State John Gale remove this from the ballot on the basis that he said it violated the state constitution because it contained more than one subject. Secretary Gale has rejected this request stating that all of the subjects contained are all related by one general subject. While this may still be challenged in the courts, as of right now you will be able to vote on whether Nebraska should allow machine gambling on historic horse races at licensed race parks in the future.

The Nebraska State Fair is just around the corner, starting on August 22nd, and they are looking for some volunteers. Since making the move to Grand Island the fair has been growing and as it grows so does the need for volunteer workers. This year the fair runs from August 22nd to September 1st and will more than likely see more than 325,000 walk through the gates.

Fair organizers say that they have a job for anyone who is willing to help and that volunteers play a huge role in the success of the fair. If you are interested in being a volunteer you can sign up online at GIChamber.com or by calling 308-382-9210.

 

Newsletter 7/18/14

July 21st, 2014

I write this newsletter today as 122 new laws are going into effect. These laws are wide ranging from indoor tanning to tuition assistance and many topics in between.

As a result of LB132 children under the age of 16 will no longer be able to use indoor tanning beds unless a parent or guardian is with them. The parent/guardian will have to sign a written consent form on each visit in which the child uses an indoor tanning bed.

If you are a trucker hauling livestock to or through Omaha and have a manure spill, you will now face a minimum fine of $250.00 which is an increase from the current $100.00. Evidently, this is big problem in south Omaha around the meatpacking plants. This increase was passed even though the judges had authority to impose a fine of more than $100.00 but usually chose not to.

If you would like to buy a novelty lighter in Nebraska it will now be required to have child-proof safety features. We spent too many hours debating this bill and listening to the various arguments. Supporters of this bill argued that these lighters are a threat to youngsters because they can come in shapes of toy guns, tractors, cars, animals and various other objects that are of interest to children. The original intent of the bill was to totally ban the sale of such lighters. I still think we have too many laws and regulations and not enough good parenting.

If you are a veteran who left the military recently you are now eligible for in-state college tuition as long as you meet a few requirements. The requirements are that you have established residency in Nebraska and have registered to vote here. Once these requirements are met you, your spouse and any dependents will qualify.

Newsletter 7/11/14

July 11th, 2014

Under the First Amendment to our United States Constitution we are guaranteed the right of free speech. We are promised the freedom to speak out against our government and those who represent us at all levels.

If would appear to me that all of the “Hub bub” generated by the float at the Norfolk 4th of July parade is being used in an attempt to squelch free speech.

The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) is going to look into this parade float issue! Really? With the IRS scandal going on, thousands of illegals swarming across our borders  the DOJ has nothing more important to do than investigate someone expressing an opinion on a parade float in a parade celebrating our freedom.

It is painfully obvious that our federal government is out of control! As a state, we send five elected officials to represent us on the federal level. Sadly the silence from them has been deafening.

As a country I think we are taking political correctness to an extreme and it is not always applied equally across the board. The First Amendment grants us freedom of expression; it does not say you are free to express yourself as long as it does not offend anyone else.

How is it that we have forgotten the principles that founded this great nation? I am positive that we can all think of a time when we were offended by something someone said, a commercial, a float or even protestors – does that mean that they should not have the right to express their thoughts or views?

I hate to say it but it often seems as if freedom of expression is allowed for those who are expressing more liberal views. Whereas, those expressing a more conservative view are often chastised or at present called racist. Newsflash – people can disagree with the current administration without being a racist. You may not like it or agree with it but we all have the right to express our thoughts and views without being called names this is one of the principles that has made our country great for so long.

Next week (July 13-16) I will be attending the Midwestern Legislative Conference or the Council of State Governments in Omaha. Nebraska is hosting the conference this year with legislators and their guests coming to Omaha from North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan for four days of discussions on state policy. This is a great opportunity to get together with our neighbors to compare ideas and see what is or is not working in other states that may work for us.

Newsletter 7/4/14

July 3rd, 2014

As the area is picking up and the rebuilding and/or repairing process is starting after the recent storms I would like to caution all of you to be on the lookout for scammers. With the amount of destruction in the area it will undoubtedly attract contractors who are less than upstanding.

In dealing with a contractor make sure they offer written contracts. Get the name, address and phone number of the contractor especially if they are from out of town. Make sure they are licensed and have all the proper permits and ask for references. If you are thinking about using an out-of-town contractor be sure to find out how warranties or any problems will be handled after the work is completed. Most importantly, DO NOT give full payment up front.

You can always contact the Better Business Bureau to check out a contractor. Go to the “Start With Trust” section  at www.bbb.org or call them at 800-649-6814.

Roughly two years ago President Obama made several appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was in a “pro-forma” session. During a “pro-forma” session the chamber is called to order and adjourned every few days. President Obama claimed the Senate was in recess and therefore he could make the appointments without seeking confirmation from the Senate.

An Oregon based soft drink bottling and distribution company, Noel Canning, brought a lawsuit challenging the appointments. This past week, in a unanimous decision the United States Supreme Court agreed. The justices agreed that the NLRB appointments were unconstitutional but they were divided on when a president should be able to use the Recess Appointments Clause to fill vacancies. This is another case of presidential over reach which President Obama seems to do a lot. This is strictly federal stuff and I maybe shouldn’t even comment, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

The season for parades and community celebrations is here, I will not be attending as many of these this year as I usually do. This is an election year and there should be enough candidates to go around. It is my intent to attend the Dakota / Thurston and the Wayne County Fairs. I hope to see you there.