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As the final days of session have passed, we have stayed busy at the Unicameral. Last Monday was the last day that bills could be heard on General File, last Tuesday was the last day to hear bills on Select File, and the past two Wednesdays were the last days to passing bills on Final Reading. On Wednesday, April 18th we reconvened to pass the remaining bills on Final Reading and bid farewell to the leaving Senators that had reached their term limit in office or chose not to run for a second term.
As I reflect on the session, I am disappointed in the Legislature’s inability to pass property tax reform. The drastic increase in property taxes has become a dire issue for Nebraskans. Every year the legislature is held hostage by trying to create a large omnibus tax reform package that prevents us from achieving property tax relief. We need to stand our ground and produce legislation that gets something done for the people of Nebraska, and I will stand firm and ensure that the Legislature make headway on this issue. Twelve of my colleges and I have signed a letter to the Secretary of State John Gale to request a special legislative session. Secretary Gale will now be asking the remaining senators if they will agree to hold a special session, if twenty more sign on, for a total of thirty-three senators, we will convene in May to work on property taxes. Regardless if a special session convenes or not, over the interim my colleagues and I will be working hard to craft legislation that will provide relief and benefit all Nebraskans. I look forward to continuing to work on reforming property taxes, and I hope to continue to hear your comments and concerns.
I do not believe that the ballot initiative petition that is circulating in Nebraska is the right solution to provide property tax relief and I fear it will have dire consequences for the state if passed. This plan will put a $1 billion mandate on the state and on citizens that we simply cannot afford. I encourage my constituents not to sign the petition.
On April 9th, one of the first bills we addressed on Select File was the Education Committee’s priority bill LB 1081, (Groene) Change education provisions regarding reporting, penalties, residency, boundaries, priority schools, subpoena authority, poverty, and limited English proficiency and adopt the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act. On General File, Senator Linehan’s 2017 priority bill, LB 651 – Adopt the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act, was amended on to LB 1081. This bill mandates that each Nebraska public school student’s progression from one grade to another be determined, in part, upon proficiency in reading. School district board policies would facilitate reading instruction and intervention services to address student reading needs. Each student and his or her parent or guardian must be informed of that student’s reading progress. Last week, Senator Linehan successfully amended the bill to remove the school district reporting requirement that would have mandated the use of state general funds, effectively reducing the impact on the state budget. LB 1081 was heard on Final Reading on April 11th and passed with a 46-1 vote.
The Business and Labor Committee’s priority bill LB 791, (Ebke) Change Nebraska State Patrol employees’ bargaining rights, passed Final Reading this past week after many hours during the first two stages of debate. LB 791 makes changes to the State Employees Collective Bargaining Act regarding the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) to eliminate certain conflicts of interest and to provide for accountability and transparency in NSP investigations. Specifically, LB 791 removes NSP sergeants from the collective bargaining unit and places them in the supervisors unit. LB 791 also removes disciplinary and investigative procedures of the NSP from the scope of collective bargaining. This bill paves the way to provide more transparency and accountability in law enforcement.
My personal priority bill LB 1040 – Provide for commemorative certificates of nonviable birth, passed Final Reading with a 44-1 vote, with Senator Bob Krist as the sole “no” vote. LB 1040 provides the option to request a commemorative, state-issued certificate of nonviable birth for miscarriages that occur before the twentieth week of gestation during a pregnancy that has been verified by a healthcare practitioner. Every pregnancy loss is a tragedy that has a profound impact on women and entire families, yet most go unrecognized. Whether a pregnancy is lost at 5 weeks, 12 weeks, 19 weeks, or 20 weeks and beyond, the pain of that loss can be severe and should – and now can – be recognized and honored for those who wish to do so. I want to give many thanks to all of the courageous Mothers; Jennifer Sommer, Laura Linder, Marci Petta, Jennifer Henning, Audra Pace, and Lisa Bresley that testified at the Health and Human Services Committee hearing, as well as to all the senators who spoke in favor of the bill on the floor, especially Senators Brasch, Geist, and Thibodeau for sharing their stories and experiences with pregnancy loss to the Legislature. Governor Ricketts signed LB 1040 into law on April 18th and the Department of Health and Human Services is now working to make the certificates available soon. I am incredibly proud to have sponsored this legislation to give grieving mothers and families begin their healing process after experiencing a pregnancy loss.
I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to write me at:
Senator Joni Albrecht
State Capitol, Room 2010
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604
I look forward to hearing from you!