NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 29, 2019
December 2nd, 2019

Thanksgiving provided opportunity to be grateful, create and consume amazing food, share smiles and hugs, and to re-invigorate for the work ahead.

My office has received a Legislative Schedule and anticipated Floor Procedures from the Speaker’s office, along with information about the pending 2019 Priority Bills. Naturally, new bills will also be introduced in the 2020 session and we will stay informed about those as they become part of the Legislative landscape. Meanwhile, the pending 2019 priority bills fall into two categories—those that have been debated and those that have not. Some of these bills will likely be the earliest we see on the floor, so if you have thoughts on any or all of them, please feel free to communicate your thoughts via letter or email.

There are currently three (3) bills on General File that have not yet been debated, including LB153 (to reduce taxation of military retirement benefits), LB109 (to modify certain position classifications and pay at the Department of Corrections), and LB147 (addressing ability of educators to effectively manage classroom misbehavior).

LB153 seeks to provide income tax relief for those who have served our country as part of the Military. The bill was introduced by Senator Tom Brewer on behalf of the Governor and is Senator Lowe’s 2019 priority bill. The bill would repeal the current, one-time election for retired military to exempt a portion of their military retirement benefit income from tax. It would replace it with a 50% exemption for military retirement benefit income, to the extent it was included in federal adjusted gross income. At its Committee hearing, LB153 had several individuals and organizations that testified in favor of the bill and no opposing testimony. Two policy groups testified in a neutral capacity. The bill passed out of Committee on a 6 to 1 vote.

LB109 is a bill that would modify the position classification plan and the accompanying salary or pay plans within the Department of Corrections in an effort to improve chances to retain staff and reduce turnover. At the Committee hearing, several individuals from the Fraternal Order of Police testified in favor of the bill. The Director of the Department of Corrections testified in opposition. The bill passed out of Committee on a 5-3 vote.

The final of the three, LB 147, is a bill that would change the Nebraska Student Discipline Act to provide for use by a teacher or administrator of necessary physical contact or restraint and provide procedures and grounds for removing a student from class in response to certain violent behavior. At the Committee Hearing, there were testifiers in support and in opposition to the bill. The bill was pulled from Committee with a 25-14 vote by the Legislative body.

Being a strong supporter of our military, of safety for students and teachers, and of maintaining safe conditions for our correctional facilities, I am watching each of these bills closely. As an elected official, it is important to me that I and my staff pay close attention to introduced legislation, floor debate, and proposed and/or adopted amendments before casting that final vote on the merits.

In addition to the three bills that still await debate, there are nine (9) more bills on General File that have had debate and may come up, depending on Legislative support, including LB44 (eliminate death penalty), LB110 (adopt Medical Cannabis Act), LB289 (county assessor assessments), LB311 (adopt Paid Family and Medical Leave Act), LB483 (change valuation of Agriculture and Horticultural land), LB550 (require voter approval of fees and taxes on wireless services), LB670 (adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act), and LB700 (providing for decommissioning and reclamation of a wind energy conversion system).

DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR SBA DISASTER LOANS:
In other news of interest to Legislative District 17, December 23, 2019 is the deadline to apply for disaster loans intended to remedy damages caused by the March 9-July 14, 2019 flooding in Nebraska. Eligible for the loans are small nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in agriculture and most private nonprofit organizations that have sustained economic injury due to flooding that occurred March 9-July 14, 2019.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Center, the low interest federal disaster loans are available in Dakota, Thurston, and Wayne counties, among others in Nebraska. The interest rate is 4 percent for businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations with terms up to 30 years. Loan proceeds may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact. For more information on the program and to access application information, interested parties may call 800.877.8339, or access online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

As we move closer to the January 8, 2020 start of the next Legislative Session, I continue to consider constituent requests and thoughts about the session ahead. As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 22, 2019
November 25th, 2019

Things are definitely picking up as we move towards the January 8 opening of the 2020 Legislative Session.

LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: On November 21 and 22, 2019, the Legislative Council was held in Nebraska City. At that meeting, members of the Legislature gathered to hear from Committee Chairs about upcoming priorities and potential legislation. Of particular interest is the clear call for property tax relief and economic development throughout Nebraska. Senator Linehan, Chair of the Revenue Committee presented the Revenue Committee’s priorities of passing the ImagiNE Nebraska Act (LB720), and passing meaningful Property Tax Relief legislation.

Economic Development has been the topic of conversation throughout the State, with individuals, businesses, local and state Chambers of Commerce, and other stakeholders. Senator Kolterman spoke of LB720 in terms of establishing Guiding Principles of Simplicity, transparency, integrity, and competitiveness. Expect to hear more about the ImagiNE Nebraska Act in the days and weeks to come.

PROPERTY TAX RELEIF IS A PRIMARY FOCUS OF THE 2020 LEGISLATURE. With so many Nebraska citizens expressing concern there is no doubt that passing meaningful property tax relief is at the forefront of every legislator’s mind. Senator Linehan and the Revenue Committee have been hard at work all interim to craft a solution that is effective, meaningful, and doable. In her presentation, the Senator discussed how we got where we are as a state, and what steps we might take to correct the current property tax situation.

The State does NOT levy or collect property taxes. All of that takes place at the local level. Based on 2017 figures, valuations of real property have risen about 50% over the prior 10 years and, while some local taxing entities have lowered their tax levy rates to reflect the increased revenues, many have not, and of those that have, the average rate has been lowered by only 15%. For instance, in the largest cities in each state, Omaha ranks as the 11th highest in property tax rates. Of great importance to those of us in rural Nebraska, is the increasing shift of the property tax burden to the agricultural producers in the state. Based on that 2017 census data, looking at the average property taxes paid per farmer in 2017, Nebraska ranks 2nd only behind California. At the same time, most rural schools receive no equalization funding from the state, while transportation and other needs make the cost per pupil for those districts greater than the cost per pupil in the urban areas. A problem ten years in the making, this is not an issue that allows for a quick solution. With these and other important factors in mind, the Revenue Committee and the Legislature must craft something that addresses the issue responsibly and transparently over time. The rural areas are the most affected by the increases in property tax and funding formulas over the past decade, and therefore, there is suggestion that the Legislature’s initial focus should be on alleviating the burden to farmers and ranchers throughout the state. As always, I will be paying close attention to, and sharing in, discussions about property tax relief and how it can be addressed to relieve the burden of those in Legislative District 17, as well as others throughout Nebraska.

At the Legislative Council meeting, Legislators also heard from the chairs of the Health and Human Services Committee (Sen. Howard), the Appropriations Committee (Sen. Stinner), and the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Lathrop). The Appropriations Committee report centered on the 2019 Budget report.
The Health and Human Services Committee has held 16 interim study hearings and six briefings regarding issues like Medicaid waivers, fingerprinting of child care workers, the August crisis at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center. Twenty-eight Interim studies were referred to the committee and work continues to evaluate and address these and other issues.

Senator Lathrop, Chair of the Judiciary Committee reported on prison overcrowding and understaffing. The Senator’s presentation discussed status of the 2006 Facilities Master Plan, historical and projected populations, readiness for accommodation, and potential solutions for the issue. His presentation also centered on employee vacancies, overtime, attitudes and turnover rate of personnel. The senator discussed the 2016 findings of the Justice Program Assessment of Nebraska Prisons and the consequences of understaffing. The Committee and Legislators continue to work toward acceptable solutions to ensure the safety of correctional staff, inmates, and the general public.
It is my intent to continue to keep you updated on these and other issues as the issues and potential solutions or bills present themselves in the session ahead.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 15, 2019
November 18th, 2019

More than simply a national holiday, Thanksgiving gives us opportunity to gather with family and friends and to reflect on what we have, acknowledge from where and how we got it, and to appreciate the blessings of people, circumstances, and moments that touch our lives.
As I reflect, my heart is filled with appreciation and gratefulness for so much. Though there is not room here to list everyone or everything for which I am grateful, I would like to share some of my thoughts with you. This Thanksgiving season, I give thanks
• For my family, including my wonderful husband, children, and grandchildren. I also give thanks for my Dad, who served in the United States Navy and other family members who served in the branches of the Armed Forces to ensure and protect our freedom.
• For the honor of serving as state senator for the fine people of Legislative District 17.
• For my staff and colleagues at the Legislature, who work diligently to do what they think is right and best for Nebraska residents.
• For DeAnna Hagberg, Dakota County Emergency Management Director, Tom Perez, Thurston County Director, and Nick Kimnitz, Wayne County Director, and their staff, and the many other state employees who keep residents of Legislative District 17 informed and alert to flooding issues and weather-related conditions or risks.
• For the Veterans, military members, firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and each of their families who give of themselves daily in the service of others.
• For the many schools, organizations, and businesses that have hosted and presented programs and meals honoring our veterans over this entire month, including:
o The 84th Annual Dixon County Legion and Emerson Legions
o The schoolchildren who decorated, and sang songs to warm the hearts of those in attendance at many events, including those children at the South Sioux City Hy-vee celebration who, after their program, made sure every veteran attendee was given a lovely hand-crafted card expressing thanks for their service.
o Tim Schipull, manager of South Sioux City Hy-vee for organizing and hosting the Veterans’ Day event.
o The American Legion Women’s Auxiliary
• For the constituents who call and write my office to express ideas, concerns, and suggestions that help me be a more effective elected official.
• For Senator Clements who shepherded a Proclamation from the Governor urging all citizens to acknowledge the rich heritage of our nation, its founding principles, and its Founding Fathers and to observe November 24-30, 2019 as Christian Heritage Week.
Highlighting the formation and growth of our nation, Christian Heritage Week presents an opportunity for teachers and individuals to “center attention on and to teach children of our Christian Heritage, which is foundational to the institutions, values, and vision of our nation.” Below is the proclamation in its entirety.

As we all move into the busy Holiday season, it is my hope and wish that you and your family enjoy time to enjoy one another and to reflect on the many blessings for which you can be grateful.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 11, 2019
November 12th, 2019

I continue to move through the month of November with a heart full of gratitude for our nation’s veterans, military members, and their families. On Veterans’ Day, I had the wonderful pleasure of serving and visiting with some of Nebraska’s finest military members at the Veterans’ Day Breakfast at the South Sioux City Hy-vee. There were many such events taking place all across the state—as it should be. What a humbling experience and incredible opportunity to be able to spend a bit of time hearing the stories and learning about the lives and families of those who serve the rest of us so admirably. My life is richer for having a chance to express thanks from me, my family, and from the great state of Nebraska. There are not enough words to express the true appreciation so many of us feel.

Many Veterans’ Day celebrations across the nation also included presenting some Veterans with a Quilt of Valor. The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national organization founded in 2003 by “Blue Star” mom Catherine Roberts, who had a son deployed in Iraq. During her son’s deployment, Ms. Roberts, had the idea of comforting Veterans with quilts. Since then, more than 140,000 quilts have been awarded. The quilts themselves reflect the nation’s patriotic colors. They often contain traditional patriotic patterns or images and the Quilts of Valor label. But these quilts are most remembered for the combat veterans they honor. According to the organization’s website, “Wrapped in their very own Quilt of Valor, veterans across the nation have been receiving tangible gifts of love and appreciation from quilters since this nationwide grassroots program started in 2003.” Along with other Quilts of Valor awarded throughout the United States on Veterans’ Day, in Legislative District #17, three quilts were awarded at a ceremony in Winside, with two more waiting to be presented.

Another group whose mission it is to honor and support Veterans, their families, and the American Legion Auxiliary celebrates its 100th Anniversary year! Last week, Governor Ricketts proclaimed November 10, 2019 as the Official Kickoff Date for the 100th Anniversary Celebration. In the proclamation, the Governor noted the Auxiliary’s history of honoring the sacrifice of those who serve by embracing the lives of the veterans, military, and their families, at home and abroad. In fulfilling that commitment, the 597,000 plus members of the Auxiliary donated over 7,000,000 volunteer hours and raised and spent over $22 million on to honor those who serve, their families, and communities.

It is clear that we have great heroes among us here in Nebraska, and across these United States. It is good to take time to say THANK YOU VETERANS!!!

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 1, 2019
November 4th, 2019

Celebrating Veterans. All across America we prepare to celebrate our Veterans on November 11, 2019.
Veterans Day in the United States began in 1921, in a memorial involving burial of an unknown World War I American soldier in Arlington National Ceremony. Similar ceremonies had previously taken place in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor. Each took place on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I fighting. The day became known as “Armistice Day,” officially receiving its name through Congressional resolution and became a national holiday by similar Congressional action. After WWII, where 407,000 Americans died in service, the singular focus of Armistice Day changed to Honor All Veterans, and In 1954, Congress passed the bill that President Eisenhower signed proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day. https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/vetday.pdf

Here, in Legislative District 17, I wish to extend my personal and most heartfelt appreciation to all who have served and who continue to serve. And, I am not the only one. There are celebrations of gratitude and recognition taking place throughout the district through this month. One such event taking place on November 8, 2019, is the proclamation of Freedom Park Day by the Mayor of South Sioux City. As you may recall, Freedom Park is the home of the Vietnam Veterans’ half-scale Memorial Wall. I will also have opportunity to speak at the Veterans’ Day celebration at the Hy-Vee in South Sioux City on Monday. If you have the time, please try to attend one of these or other celebrations in the District, or wherever you might find yourself.

Committee Hearings: In other happenings in Legislative District 17, the Legislature’s Urban Affairs Committee held public hearings October 22, 2019 as part of its inquiry into the regulation of solar energy and cross-border issues and/or concerns for municipalities sharing a border with other states. The Committee also held hearings in other parts of the state and I appreciate the Committee offering the opportunity for participation by those municipalities sharing borders in the Northeast part of the state.

Nebraska Supreme Court: I was delighted to attend oral arguments in front of the NEBRASKA SUPREME COURT, in the South Sioux City Middle School Auditorium on Friday November 1, 2019. The Court regularly holds oral arguments at High Schools and Law Schools throughout the state as part of an effort by the Court and the legal community to raise awareness of the processes and importance of the Court’s role in our state and society. After oral arguments, the Court took questions—not about the cases being argued of course, but questions from attendees about the Court’s processes in scheduling, hearing, and deciding cases before it. We are fortunate in Nebraska to have a Court that engages community members across the state.

On Friday, November 1, 2019, the Rural Broadband Task Force created by LB 994 in the 2018 Legislative session released its report and recommendations. They will be discussed at the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee hearing in Lincoln on LR 166 at 1:00 p.m. on December 4, 2019. Rural broadband has been a priority for me, with discussions and various meetings taking place during last session and over the interim. I look forward to the upcoming hearing and on sharing thoughts with constituents about the topic and the meeting contents.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLYUPDATE October 25, 2019
October 28th, 2019

MORE VETERANS NEWS FROM 2019 SESSION: Reflecting once again on the sacrifices made every day by the women and men who served in the high performing branches of our military, I feel compelled to continue my review last session and look ahead to how we might serve them in the upcoming session. In addition to those bills I wrote about last week, in the 2019 session I was proud to introduce LB223, which specifies duties of the state with regard to state-sponsored insurance programs for members of the Nebraska National Guard. The measure passed on March 21, 2019 and was signed into law by the Governor.

Also passed was my resolution, LR150, recognizing National Poppy Day and the work of veteran poppy makers that help us celebrate and remember the lives lost in World War I. My resolution noted that National Poppy Day is celebrated in memory of all veterans who have given their lives, the ultimate sacrifice; and red crepe paper poppies have been made, worn, displayed, and distributed for fundraising efforts by veterans’ groups such as the American Legion Family and American Legion Auxiliary for decades to serve as a powerful reminder of the cost of our country’s freedom. Among those named as veteran poppy makers committed to our renewed remembrance throughout the country, is Wayne’s own Dennis Otte. Our thanks to service members and those who help us remember should always remain unending.

STATE EARNINGS LOOK GOOD: In my August 2, 2019 Weekly Update, I let you know about the $131.4 million in revenue exceeding April 2019 forecast for General Fun receipts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-19. As required by state law, those additional earnings went to the State’s “Rainy Day” fund. At the time, we did not yet know how that increase in earnings would impact FY 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 projections. I promised to update you after the October meeting of the Nebraska Economic Forecast Advisory Board (NEFAB).

I am happy to report that the Board has raised the revenue forecast for FY 2019-2020 by $161 million and for FY 2020-2021 by $105 million. This significant increase over the next two fiscal years provides the Legislature with a greater opportunity to achieve meaningful property tax relief as we go into the 2020 session.

LOOKING AHEAD: As the 2020 Legislative session gets closer, I continue to work with other senators to focus on property tax relief. The Revenue Committee has been meeting regularly as a committee, and with senators, to work towards meaningful relief. The increased forecast provides good news towards the efforts. On November 21, 2019, the Revenue Committee hopes to unveil a Revenue bill for review by senators at the Legislative Council meeting in Nebraska City.

I also continue to work and monitor work on issues like vaping, caps on out-of-pocket expenses for one or more types of medication, on potential changes to the ImagiNE Nebraska Act (LB 720) discussed in last week’s update, and more. I also continue to listen and learn so that I am able to legislate for you more effectively.

OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN: As many of you know, I enjoy meeting and visiting with constituents and groups during the interim. As part of my efforts in this area, this week I had opportunity to share the inside workings of getting a bill from an idea to the Governor’s desk for a signature. It was good to use a recent bill as we discussed presentation of the idea, associated research, bill drafting, communication with colleagues, committee hearings, and debate and then, if successful, to the Governor for a signature. The engagement by attendees was reassuring. Looking ahead, my office has been working diligently to research and keep abreast of several suggested and/or issues that may or may not become bills in the upcoming session. We have been taking calls, researching history locally and across state lines, in order to determine the viability, policy impact, and potential results of proposed legislation.

On another front, it is important that, as a citizen and as a member of the Legislative Branch, I and others be aware of how the three branches work together for the good of our state. While legislators at times have frequent interaction with the Executive Branch, especially when bills are being passed on to the Governor for signatures, the Judicial Branch also plays a vital role in review and oversight of laws we pass. I am looking forward to witnessing the Nebraska Supreme Court in action during oral arguments on two cases at South Sioux City Middle School at 10:00 a.m. on November 1, 2019. The event is opened to the public, but is designed for high school students as part of the Nebraska Supreme Court High School Outreach Argument Program.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE October 18, 2019
October 21st, 2019

As we move towards November, we move towards Veterans’ Day and my mind moves towards those who help keep our nation safe and free. It is a time we honor those who serve and who have served. Truth is, they deserve honor every day, but it is encouraging to know that November 11, 2019, and the weekend are set aside across the nation to intentionally give honor and gratefulness to veterans.

VETERANS TAKE CENTER STAGE
Veterans rightfully took center stage a few times in the 2019 Nebraska Legislature as well and will again in 2020. In the 2019 Legislature, I was proud to support LB152, which protects the privacy and personal information of National Guardsmen called upon to come alongside law enforcement in times of need. In addition, I also supported LB 138, which passed on a 49-0 vote. As enacted, LB138 provides for five additional military honor license plates available to honor persons who have been awarded a number of Campaign medals, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, or the Vietnam Service Medal. Also created a “Support Our Troops” license plate. A portion of the application fee paid by each applicant for the special plates is directed to a new Veterans Employment Program Fund.
Coming up in the 2020 session, expect to see the return of LB153, a bill that would replace the current one time election for retired military to exempt a portion of their military retirement benefit income from tax and with a 50% exemption for military retirement benefit income across the board, to the extent it was included in federal adjusted grow income. It is always such an honor for me to have an opportunity to serve those who serve our country.

IMAGINE NEBRASKA ACT ON OUR RADAR
This week, I spent some time exploring the workings of LB720, otherwise known as the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. This Act is intended to encourage economic growth and development throughout the state. The ImagiNE Nebraska Act, replacing the expiring Nebraska Advantage Act, has the stated goals of Simplicity, Transparency, Integrity, and Competitiveness. Of special interest to me, and to residents and businesses in District 17, is that in addition to a simplified application and faster application process, the Act provides up to $2 million dollars a year for economic development projects that wouldn’t qualify for the mainline program for projects located in counties with fewer than 40,000 residents. Naturally, Legislative District 17 comes to mind.
Though not necessarily in final form, LB720 is exciting and is certainly one to watch!

STAFF REPORT
Legislative Aide Cyndi Lamm reports it has been such a pleasure to visit with so many of you since she began with Senator Albrecht in mid-July. There is certainly lots to catch up on and much to see, so staff is all working hard at the Capitol to keep things running smoothly for the interim and as we approach the 2020 session. This week found Cyndi on a bus and walking tour of the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) campus and the campus of University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). What a great opportunity for Legislative staff to hear about the number of Nebraska families served through education at UNMC, think through workforce development opportunities, view expansion in programs such as the Munroe Meyer Institute and learn about cutting edge research in labs throughout both campuses. Legislative staffers were able to meet some Scott Scholars who planned and executed two great projects at the request of the folks at Apple. Brilliance abounds in Nebraska! The students performed so well, they are on their way soon to make a presentation to Apple executives. Rest assured, these young people will represent Nebraska well. Staffers also learned about the technology, aerospace, and mechanical engineering programs at UNO and Cyndi was able to discuss the growing uses of drones in business and agriculture. Lots to look forward to.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE October 11, 2019
October 11th, 2019

As we draw closer to the beginning of the 2020 Legislative session, the number of interim hearings and office meetings increase, as staff works diligently to prepare for the session. I have been visiting with many constituents, business owners, and organizational leaders across District 17 as I am able.

In addition to working with fellow senators towards meaningful property tax relief, an area of particular interest to me during the interim has been the expansion of broadband into the rural areas of Nebraska, District 17 chief among them. I had opportunity this past week to tour and visit with folks at NE Nebraska Telephone in Jackson. The company is working to deliver fast and efficient fiber optics to the rural communities in order to provide high speed internet service, which in turn will open up educational and economic avenues to countless rural residents. I look forward to the December 4, 2019 Transportation and Telecommunications Committee meeting where we will review the report of the Rural Broadband Study Task Force. The task force was created by LB994 in the 2018 session with the intent that citizens in rural Nebraska would have comparable broadband service to those citizens in urban areas.

COUNTY GOVERNMENT DAY DRAWS DISTRICT HIGH SCHOOLERS
It was wonderful to speak to and visit with the 40 to 50 high school seniors at County Government Day in Dakota City this past week. Every year, The American Legion-sponsored County Government day provides high school students with a chance to learn more about how their local government works. According to the Legion’s website, each year, over 5,000 students in more than 60 counties visit local courthouses to learn more about the duties and responsibilities of various county officials. Having served in a county position in the past, and now serving in the Legislature, I was honored to share my knowledge and insights with students from South Sioux City and Homer High Schools. I am thankful for The American Legion’s purpose in planning County Government Day and wholeheartedly embrace the organization’s quest to engage youth in the workings of the local government which will be run by their generation in no time.

ROADWAY UPDATES
On Tuesday, my office learned the good news that the Pender Highway 94 Bridge will officially open on Saturday, October 12, 2019. This is wonderful news about a necessary transportation route for many who are beginning harvest and who have patiently traveled miles out of their way to get to school, work and to do errands in the area. Our transportation infrastructure is vitally important all year round, but absolutely essential to a safe and productive harvest season. Hats off to the department and road crews who worked relentlessly to get this project over the finish line.
In other roadway news, the box culvert on Highway 35 southwest of Hubbard has had delays due to weather and soil conditions. As soon as the geotechnical engineers can take a closer look at the site we will have a better report on progress. It is tough to regulate Mother Nature but every effort is being taken to keep the project moving forward.

VAPING DANGERS
We hear about the newly discovered dangers of vaping everywhere we go lately. According to NBC News, as of September 30, 2019, there were 15 reported deaths and over 800 reported cases of lung injury linked to the use of electronic cigarettes, or vaping across the nation. One death occurred in Nebraska. You should know that I and many other members of the legislature are exploring options for addressing the health hazard associated with the practice of vaping. Last session, the legislature passed a bill prohibiting sales and use of e-cigarettes to anyone under 19 years old. In addition, self-service displays of vaping items is restricted to specialty stores and cigar bars. I appreciate the work of Senator Quick, who carried the bill and was proud of work we did across party lines to pass the bill for the good of the state. The news about lung disease and even death associated with vaping began hitting news wires in mass after the session was over, so our eyes are on the topic still. On September 27, the Health and Human Services Committee held an Interim study hearing to examine health concerns related to the public use of and secondhand exposure to electronic nicotine delivery systems and other products. Impressions from that hearing are being discussed, as is new information we are receiving about the vaping issue. As a group of us continue to work out the most effective course of action going forward, I welcome feedback from constituents and businesses in District 17. Rest assured, I will continue to monitor and be involved in this most important issue.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE October 4, 2019
October 7th, 2019

This past week was a busy one in and for District 17. Meetings with Department directors, senators, and staff to prepare for the upcoming session, watching committee hearings on Interim studies, preparing for harvest at home, and opportunities to visit with folks in the district for special celebrations and ceremonies filled my office and personal calendars pretty quickly. Monday in Lincoln, Thursday in Thurston, Sunday from one end of the district to the other. For me, it’s all about keeping in touch with what’s happening in our part of the state. I so enjoy welcoming new business and manufacturing investors and encouraging the programs and educational institutions in their quest to keep and attract young talent. Most of all, I love to meet and honor the people who make District 17 such a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. From the occasional 80th plus birthday celebration or 60th anniversary, to business openings and events honoring our veterans and first responders, I am so honored to represent the outstanding residents of District 17. Following are only a fraction of the happenings that make me so proud to serve as state senator for District 17.

HONORING NEBRASKA HEROES
Flags flew at half-staff. Somber smiles. All seats taken. This past Sunday, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Bells Across America held memorial services throughout the country to honor firefighters who have died in the line of duty. After eating a wonderful Sunday breakfast with the Wayne firefighters at their Annual event, I drove to Dakota City, where I was honored to be part of the amazing Bells Across America tribute right here in Northeast Nebraska.
The Bells Across America service honored three fallen heroes from Dakota City, with testimonies of their courage and with ringing of a firehouse bell. Community members in attendance and I were touched by the service and visibly moved when the bell was rung. The three fine men who were honored made the ultimate sacrifice while on duty. Captain Andy Zalme, Captain Eric Speck, and Firefighter Lowell Satterwhite Sr. exemplify bravery and the greatest courage of man—putting aside one’s own safety in unimaginable situations to provide safety for others.
In Nebraska, we help our friends and neighbors on many fronts and through many tragedies. And, no one serves more capably and honorably than our Firefighters, who literally walk through fire to serve and save. Nebraska is fortunate to have such brave and caring men and women serving as First Responders. We should all be grateful.

PROVIDING CAREER PATHWAYS FOR NEBRASKA YOUTH
As I continue to focus on Workforce Development, including keeping bright young minds in Nebraska, I am so proud of the way District 17 keeps stepping up to provide a path for Nebraska’s youth. We are stronger when our young people have opportunities to live, work, and thrive right here in Nebraska. On September 23, 2019, Wayne State College helped students and their advisors explore potential career fields with leading business and industry experts in the College’s new technology center. The Skills USA Nebraska Fall Leadership Conference hosted by Wayne State involved over 150 students and their advisors from eleven Eastern Nebraska high schools. The event provided participants with instruction and hands-on learning sessions featuring career opportunities in transportation, manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and the energy industry. High schools participating included Bennington, Benson, Clearwater, Columbus, Gretna, Homer, Norris, Papillion La Vista, Papillion La Vista South, Raymond Central, Wahoo and Waverly. A big thank you to Wayne State College and others around our state who are keeping Nebraska attractive to young people here at home.

BUILDING CAREER OPPORTUNITIES IN AGRIBUSINESS
Speaking of opportunities to keep bright minds in Nebraska, the Nebraska Corn Growers and Soybean Associations provide a year-long Ambassador Program for college students who are interested in learning more about the Ag industry and/or in becoming better advocates for agriculture. According to the Associations, each year up to ten college students are selected to participate as an Ambassador. The chosen Ambassadors will take part in a trio of seminars spread throughout the year and a summer agribusiness tour. Participants get a glimpse of state and federal policies affecting the industries, advocacy and leadership opportunities after graduation and areas of manufacturing, production and processing, and insight into potential industry related jobs and internships. Students are recognized at the Associations’ Annual Meeting and presented with a $500 scholarship to help with school expenses. Applicants for the program are able to access applications to be selected as an Ambassador on the website necga.org. Deadline for applications to be a 2020 Ambassador is November 20, 2019.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE SEPTEMBER 27, 2019
September 30th, 2019

DEADLINE OCTOBER 4!
As a reminder, this Friday is the final date for applications to be a page at the Nebraska Legislature! If you have a student in your family who has an interest in learning more about Nebraska’s State Capitol, now is your chance. The Clerk of the Legislature’s Office is currently accepting page applications for the 2020 Legislative Session. A Legislative Page is typically someone who serves as an aide on the Legislative floor to the Senators with copy work, delivery, answering phones and assisting in many other ways throughout the legislative session. It is a great opportunity to get involved in state government. The deadline for submitting page applications and letters of recommendation for the 2020 Legislative Session is this Friday, October 4th at 5pm.

SAFETY FIRST!
As Harvest season kicks off, and with news of a recent fatality involving a vehicle and slower moving farm equipment please use caution and watch out for slow moving vehicles. Our sympathies to the family of the recent tragedy. Remember that farm vehicles and equipment are wider and cannot travel as fast as other vehicles. So, please Be aware that posted speed limits are not always the wisest speed to travel. This time of year it is not unusual to come over a hill and find yourself behind a slower moving vehicle without enough time to stop. I wish everyone a safe and productive harvest.

BRIGE WORK ON-TARGET
On Friday, September 27, I made an on-site visit to the Hwy 94 Bridge that was damaged in the March 2019 flood. The road crew was working especially hard and informed me that the bridge is on-target for completion by mid-October, barring interference by any weather events. Good news for community members and area visitors just in time for harvest. I gathered good pictures as I witnessed and visited with those construction workers who are doing a great job.

RURAL NEBRASKANS THRIVE!
Statistics released from the University of Nebraska’s Rural Futures Institute on September 20, 2019 found that rural Nebraska ranked high for economic growth, quality of life, and social capital. The benchmark index tool was developed by UNL’s Bureau of Business Research and the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s College of Business and Technology to identify trends in various regions throughout a state. Especially exciting is the finding that on the index, the Siouxland region ranked third in the State. According to its website, “the 2019 Nebraska Thriving Index provides economic developers, local elected officials and community leaders with economic and quality of life indicators to identify thriving and lagging regions so strategic, future focused investments can be made.” The regions identified by the index are matched and compared with peer regions in other states. The Siouxland region was not only compared to others in Nebraska, but also to regions in North, Northwest, and Southeast Iowa as well as Southwest Illinois. You can learn more about the index and the trends and view the 2019 report online at https://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/nethrivingindex/.

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room #1404
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2716
Email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
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