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Now that session has ended, I am happy to be spending more time in the district and back home on the farm. During the summer, I try to attend as many events in the community as possible to connect with and hear from my constituents. If you see me at an event, please don’t be afraid to say hi! This summer my staff and I will be working on drafting legislation for the 106th Legislature. My top priorities will continue to be reforming property taxes, school funding, and economic development.
Usually, the last day of session is reserved to address remaining bills on Final Reading and potential governor vetoes. Because of the busy session and long debates, it was necessary for us to close out the session without the option of addressing Governor Ricketts’ vetoes. When a bill passes Final Reading, the governor has five days (excluding Sundays) to sign or veto a bill. Earlier this year Governor Ricketts vetoed LB 350, and on April 23rd he vetoed LB 449, LB 873, and LB 998.
LB 350, (McCollister) Provide for setting aside certain misdemeanor and felony convictions, was introduced in 2017 and carried over to the 2018 session. The bill did not receive a priority designation but was debated and passed on General File before the Legislature began addressing priority bills this year. LB 350 would have allow individuals convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and sentenced to a punishment such as jail or prison, to petition the court to set aside their conviction once the sentence is completed. When a criminal conviction is set aside, the person is considered not to have been previously convicted. The court would have the ability to approve or deny the request to set-aside, and if approved the court would reinstate the all of petitioner’s rights except for individual’s right to possess a firearm. The bill passed Final Reading with a 30-11 vote. Governor Ricketts vetoed LB 350 because the bill would weaken confidence in the criminal justice system and weaken the impact of serious criminal sentences by dramatically expanding set-asides to serious felonies such as human trafficking or armed robbery. He stated that the bill is poor policy and would send the wrong message to victims of crimes and to society. I support Governor Ricketts’ veto and continuing to ensure strict consequences for serious crimes.
LB 449 (Chambers) Repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act was Senator Chambers’ 2018 priority bill. Currently, the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act allows counties to adopt a prairie dog management plan to prevent adverse impacts of unmanaged prairie dog colonies when individual landowners do not control the spread of prairie dogs from their property to others’. LB 449 would repeal the authority of counties to implement prairie dog management plans. The bill passed the legislature with a 26-13 vote on Final Reading. Governor Ricketts stated his primary concern with LB 449 is that it fails to protect the individual property rights of those landowners who are detrimentally harmed by a neighbor’s inaction, effectively shifting the cost and burden of prairie dog controls from landowners who are content to have prairie dogs on their land to neighbors who object to the presence of prairie dogs on their property. While I did vote to pass LB 449 on Final Reading, I understand Governor Ricketts’ concerns.
LB 873, (The Urban Affairs Committee) Change provisions relating to cities of particular classes and villages, correct and include references as prescribed, eliminate obsolete provisions and repeal definitions, provide for interlocal nuisance agreements, to determine population thresholds, redefine certain economic development programs, authorize creation of additional land banks, change comprehensive plans for an early childhood element, authorize short-term rentals, and change provisions relating to the official state slogan and symbol, was debated as the Urban Affairs Committee’s omnibus priority bill. As amended, this large, 257-page bill contained the content of seven individual bills; LB 873, LB 735, LB 748, LB 765, LB 769, LB 854, and LB 880. While some of the content amended into LB 873 was sound legislation, the totality of the bill covered a large array of topics and ultimately produced bad policy. The bill narrowly passed with a 26-15 vote on Final Reading. Governor Ricketts stated that while he supported certain provisions of the bill, such as the section that would provide clarity regarding the taxation and regulation of online housing platforms, he could not support the entire bill due to the inclusion of language that would dramatically expand the use of land banks in Nebraska. I support Governor Ricketts veto, I hope that the sound legislation that was included in this omnibus bill has the ability to pass in future legislative sessions.
LB 998, (Walz) Create the Collaborative School Behavioral and Mental Health Program, was Senator Bolz’s 2018 priority bill. LB 998 would create a collaborative behavioral health and mental health program between the Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council, the educational service units (ESUs), and the school districts located within the ESU districts. This would provide a social worker to every ESU to train teachers and school personnel, as well as work with parents and schools to deliver family-centered services to students. The bill passed Final Reading with a 31-15 vote. While both Governor Ricketts and I both believe the underlying goal of this bill is noble and share the same concerns as Senators Walz and Bolz, we believe this legislation creates an unnecessary “one-size fits all” program that could be implemented without legislation. Additionally, there are existing mental and behavioral health care initiatives in place to accomplish the goals of LB 998. Governor Ricketts also stated that he fears this legislation could interfere with parental rights, as LB 998 does not clearly state how parents and guardians would be involved with the program. I support Governor Ricketts’ veto and will continue to support effective and necessary mental and behavioral health care initiatives to improve the lives of Nebraskans.
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!