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We have had another exciting week at the Unicameral, over 325 bills and 21 legislative resolutions have been submitted since convening on January 3rd. We have been moving through debate on many bills in General File that carried over from last year, while committees prepare to hold hearing for newly introduced bills.
On Wednesday, Governor Ricketts delivered his State of the State address highlighting his priorities and hopes for 2018. He pointed to the many successes Nebraska had last year, including winning the Governor’s Cup for most economic development projects per capita of any state in the country, Forbes’ ranking of Nebraska as the fourth best state for business, and achieving the lowest unemployment rate in the state since 1999 at 2.7 percent. As revenue continues to come in below projections and we face a $200 million shortfall, Governor Ricketts’ proposed budget dictates across-the-board budget cuts to close the gap without raising taxes while still protecting state priorities, including K-12 education, developmental disability services, child welfare and corrections.
Governor Ricketts also released a plan to address Nebraska’s crushing property taxes, through the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act (LB947) proposed by Senator Smith. While this is a work in progress, I am excited to work together to pass bipartisan legislation for much-needed property tax relief.
Also on Wednesday, our office was delighted to welcome many guests from District 17, including South Sioux City School Board members and students, the South Sioux City Chamber of Commerce, South Sioux City, Dakota City, Dakota County, and 2018 Teacher of the Year Michelle Helt to the Capitol to watch the Governor’s speech. Senator Brewer and I also welcomed Tribal leaders from across the state to watch the State of the State address followed by coffee and a productive discussion.
I was proud to stand with Attorney General Doug Peterson, Governor Pete Ricketts, fellow Senators, and law enforcement at the reveal of the “Demand an End” awareness campaign on Thursday. The awareness campaign is the latest step Nebraska is taking to end the sale of minors and adults coerced or forced into sex. Awareness posters targeting the buyers of trafficking victims will be placed at all rest stops along I-80 and many more around the state. Governor Ricketts also declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month to solidify Nebraska’s commitment to ending this heinous crime. Thank you to the brave men and women who have already begun this fight on the front lines.
This week I also introduced three additional bills, LB 949, LB 952, and LB 953:
LB 949 aims to rename the Nebraska Educational, Health, and Social Services Finance Authority Act to include cultural institutions, allowing for cultural institutions such as museums or visual arts centers to finance or refinance cultural assets they deem important to the economic vitality of their locality.
LB 952 protects businesses by limiting the number of times an employee can file and dismiss the same case in Workers’ Compensation Court.
LB 953 corrects language in current Nebraska statutes regarding workers’ compensation to allow penalties for late payments to injured workers. LB 953 also allows parties in Workers’ Compensation Court to settle their case without court approval when there may be unpaid medical bills or the employee is a Medicare beneficiary. Court approval would still be needed if the employee is not represented by an attorney.
The Business and Labor Committee’s hearings for this legislative session will be on January 22nd, February 5th, February 12th, and February 26th. The hearings will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m.
If you would like to submit written testimony for the committee to consider and you will not be personally testifying at the hearing, it is strongly encouraged that you turn your written testimony in to the committee clerk, Beverly Neel, no later than 5:00 p.m. on the business day prior to the relevant hearing. Please let Beverly know if you would like your submission to be formally on the committee’s hearing record.
You may submit your written testimony by email at email@example.com or by mail to:
Senator Joni Albrecht
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604
I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716 or to write me at the address above.
I look forward to hearing from you!
We have had an exciting start to the New Year here at the Unicameral! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. As the holidays come to an end, I am excited to start the 2018 session as I proudly represent the people from District 17 and serve as the Chair of the Business and Labor Committee.
We are starting off 2018 with two new additions to our staff. Amara Meyer is working as Legal Counsel for the Business and Labor Committee and Lauren McCarthy is working as our Legislative Aide for District 17. Beverly Neel of Wayne, who has served Legislative District 17 for seven years, will continue serving as my Administrative Assistant and Committee Clerk.
We have been preparing to go full strength into session to tackle looming budget issues, high property taxes, and our struggling corrections system. Nebraska will again be facing a large budget shortfall of $200 million due to revenues coming in below initial projections. As the session continues, I am committed to producing a balanced budget that ensures responsible government spending without raising taxes on hard working Nebraskans. I look forward to working with fellow senators and Governor Ricketts on his budget proposal, which he will unveil at the January 10th State of the State address. It is also essential for the Legislature to work towards tackling high property taxes. I expect this to be a high priority and controversial issue, considering the $200 million budget shortfall. Additionally, as we work to addresses the growing problems facing our corrections facilities, I am committed to ensuring dangerous criminals remain behind bars.
As Chair of Business and Labor Committee, I will continue to fairly consider every bill that comes to the committee and work to produce legislation to benefit Nebraska businesses and grow our economy. The Business and Labor Committee oversees legislation relating to workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, labor conditions, fair employment practices, health and safety regulations and claims against the state. We meet on Mondays, beginning January 22nd, in Room 2102 in the Capitol Building in Lincoln.
The senators serving on Business and Labor Committee include Senators Ernie Chambers (Omaha), Sue Crawford (Bellevue), Steve Halloran (Hastings), Matt Hansen (Lincoln), Sara Howard (Omaha), and John Lowe (Kearney). It is a good mixture of rural and urban Senators and ideologies.
In addition to Business and Labor, I serve on the Agriculture Committee, chaired by my good friend Sen. Lydia Brasch, and the Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Dan Hughes. I also serve on the State-Tribal Relations special committee, chaired by Sen. Tom Brewer.
Committee hearings begin the week of January 17th and will be streamed live by NET at the following address: http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live coverage of the full session of the Unicameral is also available from that page.
During the first week of session, Senators submit proposed legislation and resolutions. These are then referenced to committees to await a hearing. Last week I submitted LB 712, which protects our employers and communities and encourages healthy and capable employees by disallowing unemployment benefits if the unemployment applicant was fired or denied a job due to illegal drug use. I also submitted two resolutions congratulating South Sioux City Cardinal Elementary School teacher, Michelle Helt, for being named Nebraska’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, and Pender Elementary School for being recognized as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. I look forward to introducing more legislation in the next week, in addition to passing important legislation that was carried over from last year.
I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716 or to write me at:
Sen. Joni Albrecht
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509-4604
I look forward to hearing from you!
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