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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!