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.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield
The election is about six and one half weeks away and there will be more on your ballot than whom you want to serve as president. On November 8, Nebraskans will decide whether to retain or repeal the death penalty.
Voters will be asked to vote on Referendum No. 426. Voting on this referendum is not as easy as voting to retain or repeal the death penalty because you are actually voting on if you want to retain or repeal LB268 – the bill that passed in 2015 that ended the death penalty in Nebraska and changed the penalty for first-degree murder to life in prison. Secretary of State John Gale is required to hold a hearing in each of the three congressional districts to inform individuals about the referendum.
At the hearings, the supporters of the referendum repealing LB268 will be invited to speak first, but anyone will be allowed to attend and testify. Testimony from these hearings will be part of the public record. An additional benefit to attending a hearing is that you will gain insight on how to interpret the often-confusing language used on the ballot.
The first hearing will be October 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, 6700 University Drive South. On October 13, they will have a hearing at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Nebraska Student Union, 1013 W. 27thSt at 6:30 p.m.. The final hearing will be October 18, 6:30 p.m. in room 1525 at the Nebraska State Capitol.
Remember, you are being asked to decide if LB268 should be repealed, which would result in reinstating the death penalty. Please be sure to read the ballot carefully, because the language is confusing at best.
State law will require schools to use a college entrance exam in lieu of statewide assessments by 2017. This past week the Nebraska Department of Education took action a year early to give all juniors the ACT in the spring of 2017.
The ACT use to be known as American College Testing but in 1996 they officially shortened the name to ACT. Just like the ACT in 1997, SAT dropped the meaning, which had been the Scholastic Assessment Test or Scholastic Aptitude Test.
The ACT is the college entrance exam that most Nebraska students take but the department did have proposals from both ACT and SAT. The ACT proposal came in $31,000 less than the SAT proposal, which also factored into the decision. The ACT tests students on English, math, reading, science and writing, very similar to what the 11th grade statewide assessments test.
In the past juniors’ have performed poorly on the statewide assessments, concerning educators. The statewide tests had no bearing on grades, which educators fear allow the students to treat them as less of a priority, leading to the poor performance. The ACT can be used to get into college and for scholarships, giving students a reason to care and hopefully put forth more effort.
Currently about eighty-eight percent of Nebraska’s 2016 high school graduates took the ACT, while only about 700 took the SAT.
Last week, (8-19-16) I was in Lincoln to attend a hearing of the Executive Board of the Legislature. At that meeting, the board was to discuss what steps, if any, should be taken on the matter involving Senator Bill Kintner.
The board decided that more information was needed and have scheduled another hearing for 8-29-16. Senator Kintner has admitted to using his state issued computer in a cybersex incident while he was in Massachusetts.
While we might find cybersex revolting and/or disgusting, it is, to the best of my knowledge, not illegal. The only actual crime that Senator Kintner is guilty of is improper use of state equipment. Senator Kintner has been asked to resign by Governor Ricketts and Speaker Hadley as well as some other senators, but he has declined to do so. Senator Kintner’s resignation would have been the quiet and easy way out of this mess for both he and the legislature.
I am inclined to agree with Senator Kintner due to the fact that there are very few guidelines or rules controlling how these things should be handled. I am sure changes will be made in the very near future to define the actions that should be taken. Someone once told me that even a dirty, ugly looking cloud can let down some sweet rain; I think that is what we are seeing here.
There have been calls to have a special session to deal with this. Some want to impeach Senator Kintner others want to expel him and still others want to censure him.
The very thought of having a special session for this is more wrong than anything Senator Kintner has done. A special session would cost Nebraska around $75,000.00 and probably would not have the votes to remove him from office. There is nothing that could be done now that the next Legislature cannot deal with and some of the personal petty problems will be removed at the next election.
I will be back in Lincoln on Monday, August 29; I will be trying to convince the Executive Board that there are more important things to deal with such as a budget shortfall in excess of $100,000,000.00. Senator Kintner has admitted his error, asked God for forgiveness, apologized to his wife and received her forgiveness, apologized to the legislature and the voters of his district and paid a fine of $1,000.00 to the accountability office, the rest can wait until next year or maybe even two years when the voters in his district can decide his fate.
On Thursday, August 11, Secretary of State John Gale announced that the proposed constitutional amendment to allow casino gaming at horse-racing tracks came up short of the signatures needed to place it on the ballot.
Keep the Money in Nebraska, the group spearheading the petition drive needed 117,188 signatures. When the verification process was completed, they had submitted 77,956 valid signatures. While they had turned in 120,000 signatures roughly, 35 percent of the signatures were invalid.
County election officials threw out at least 41,000 signatures. I am sure there will be discussions as to why the rejection rate was so high.
Ho-Chunk Inc. financed a good majority of the $1.3 million spent on the initiative.
Gambling has been on the ballot in the past. In 2006, a proposal to allow video keno devices failed. In 2004, the voters rejected two proposals that would have allowed casinos in the state, one brought by the Legislature and one by petition.
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 4, 2017, and will go through May of 2017. This is a paid position with first year pages earning approximately $10.37 per hour and second year pages earning approximately $10.78 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 if you have any questions.
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 to the Clerk of the Legislature’s office by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 3, 2016. I would like anyone who would like a letter of recommendation from me to have his or her application to our office no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 30, 2016.
It looks like we may need to prepare for some tough times. Governor Ricketts came out this past week and asked state agencies to control spending. Asking agencies to control spending is not new but this is being triggered because of reduced tax revenues coming into the state.
Tax receipts for May and June were below projections made by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board – falling short of projections by about $95 million. Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton has said that there is evidence that the agricultural economy is contributing to the shortfall in tax receipts – this is not good for Nebraska.
The last time the state faced tough times, the agriculture sector carried us through. If the agriculture sector is now facing tough times, it may be more difficult for the state than it was before.
In an attempt to get ahead of a possible problem Governor Ricketts has asked agencies to look at vacant positions and to postpone or eliminate hiring if possible; limit travel to essential travel; limit equipment purchases to those necessary for process improvements; and to work with political subdivisions to find savings in providing state services.
The state can cut and limit spending but I would suggest that our cities, counties and schools need to do the same – be proactive and prepare for some tough times. We need to work on doing more with less – we cannot continue to look to the state or others to fill the gaps in our budgets.
There have been some questions as to why I have not appeared at some of the parades and other events that have taken place this summer. As you all know, I am finishing up my term as your representative to the Nebraska Legislature from District 17. There are two candidates running for that office, Joni Albrecht and Ardel Bengtson. It is important for you to get acquainted with those who will be serving you in the future, parades and community events are a good place for that to happen, were I to be there, it might reduce your chance to meet with them. My office has also reached out to both candidates about meetings and some other things that are happening in the legislature. Both candidates have responded and have attended some of the events, the latest being a meeting in Winnebago with the village board, the Nebraska Dept. of Roads and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). In order to give you more opportunity to meet both candidates, I have again rented a booth at the Wayne County Fair and have invited both to join me at that booth. I intend to do the same at the Dakota/Thurston County Fair in early August. While I have personally endorsed one of them, I intend to be as fair as possible to both. It will be up to you to decide who will replace me. If you want to know who I support, you can ask me when you see me, I will not use this venue for any political purpose.
Each year during the last few weeks of June, the United States Supreme Court issues rulings on a variety of issues. This year was slightly different with the court being short one justice and being a divided court.
The first ruling of interest was in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In this case, the court voted to uphold a college admissions program that takes race into consideration. It was decided with a 4 – 3 ruling with Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor deciding to uphold the constitutionality of the program. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito in dissent. Justice Kagan had dealt with this case when she was solicitor general so she recused herself from the case.
This ruling surprised those who watch the court – the thought was that they took this case to reverse the ruling of the lower courts. While the ruling is very narrow in nature and directed at the University of Texas program, it will provide guidance for those schools that want to consider race for the purpose of admissions. Currently, Nebraska is one of eight states that ban the use of race as a factor in admissions.
The second ruling, and the one I was most interested in, was the case of the United States v. Texas. This case dealt with President Obama’s executive orders regarding immigration. The ruling was one line saying that the Court was divided.
What does this mean? This means that the programs will not be allowed to go into effect and the issue will return to the lower court. It is unlikely that the programs will be allowed to take effect during the remainder of the Obama administration.
This ruling will likely keep more than 4 million undocumented (illegal) immigrants from coming out and applying for these programs which would have allowed them to stay in the United States without concerns of being deported. This ruling does not mean the immediate deportation of those that had applied for deferred action but it does keep them in a holding pattern of undecided status.
What concerns me is the fact that in the last two years the Legislature voted to give these individuals (the DREAMERS) drivers’ licenses and professional licenses. The arguments were made that we had to do this because it was federal policy and some of my colleagues could not see the value in waiting until we had a ruling in this case.
In yet another case coming from Texas, the courts struck down a Texas law providing strict regulations for abortion clinics, which became known as “clinic shutdown” laws. Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan delivered the opinion with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito wanting to uphold the law.
The decision struck down a 2013 Texas law stating that all abortion providers had to meet ambulatory surgical standards and the physicians performing the abortion has to have admitting privileges at nearby hospital. Advocates of the law argued that it protected the health of women. The law closed the majority of facilities that provided abortions and made it so only six cities in the state had facilities that could perform abortions. Justices said there was evidence that the restrictive rules actually protected the health of women.
One of the most important considerations when you go to vote for president this fall should be the make-up of the Supreme Court. The next president will likely appoint at least three people to the court.
I often hear people make comments about how they could care less about politics, they care even less for politicians, and while I understand those sentiments, they are very dangerous. We need to care, not only when things are good or bad but we need to care at all times.
Since session has concluded my office has fielded several calls from individuals who are not happy with decisions being made in their cities and counties. The issues range from the use of eminent domain for trails and other projects to the completion of road projects.
These calls are very frustrating for my staff because unfortunately there is not much my office can do to help in these cases. I have always been a strong supporter of local control and these issues are all local issues. While in most cases I agree that the constituents calling in have very valid complaints – there is not much I can do to help them. My staff or I can make a few phone calls and ask some questions – letting the cities and counties know that we are aware of what they are doing and we have some concerns. My staff and I can provide some ideas and suggestions on how concerned constituents can move forward but that is about all we can do.
I will always fight for local control, it may not be perfect but it is far better than the alternative. Every election provides you with an opportunity to decide the future of your city, county, state and country – these elections are important, even when you are frustrated and disgusted to the point of not caring. Those local elections are incredibly important and once those elections are over, go to the board meetings and council meetings. Let your elected officials know that you are paying attention and you care. If after reaching out to your elected officials, you still are not happy, consider running for the office that deals with the issues you are not happy about. In our system, most elected people are just common folks that have decided to take part.
Roughly, a month ago, the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts released a report regarding the Nebraska Tourism Commission; this report raised many questions for lawmakers as well as citizens.
In 2012, the Legislature created the Tourism Commission to be overseen by nine commissioners appointed by the governor. Prior to 2012 tourism had been part of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Apparently, the commission has been operating since its creation without following any rules.
When it was established in 2012 there were certain things laid out in statute that the commission was legally obligated to fulfill. The audit revealed two of those requirements have not been met to statutory requirements – creating internal regulations to govern the commission and forming a strategic plan.
The commission placed the State Tourism Director Kathy McKillip on paid leave on May 13 while an investigation into the report was conducted. At a special meeting yesterday (May 26) the commission voted to fire Director McKillip.
While this is a step in the right direction, the commission has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the taxpayers. For four years now, the Nebraska Tourism Commission has operated under what appears to be the unilateral control of Director McKillip and they have grossly misused taxpayer dollars.
Funding for the commission comes from the 1 percent lodging tax.
A little over a week ago, President Obama announced that his administration was urging public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This has created an uproar of emotions from individuals on both sides of the issue. My office has been contacted by several constituents regarding this issue, which has lead me to discuss it in the newsletter.
Governor Ricketts and Attorney General Peterson have both addressed the issue. Governor Ricketts has encouraged schools to ignore the directive of the administration saying that it is not a new law, only a suggestion or guidance for schools. Attorney General Peterson sent a letter to federal officials saying that his office would do “everything in its power” to resist the suggested guidelines.
As for the Legislature, we have adjourned so we will not be weighing in on this issue. I would guess that there might be legislation introduced next year to address issues like this one but time will tell.