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 December 20, 2019
December 20th, 2019

This past year has been a challenging one for a number of folks throughout Nebraska, and Legislative District 17 is no exception.  A long, intense winter that morphed into historic flooding and late crops, that caused anxiety, damage, loss, and much more.  There is no doubt that rural areas were hit especially hard and some who farm and ranch are still working through the challenges all of these months later.

In the midst of it all, we witnessed hope in action.  We saw neighbor helping neighbor, strangers helping new friends.  Through it all, we not only remained Nebraska Strong, but became Nebraska Stronger.  So many of us have so much to be thankful for, so much to celebrate, even as we say goodbye to the trials, tests, and turmoil of 2019.

As the end of 2019 draws near, I find myself so grateful to live in Northeast Nebraska, in this great state and in this wonderful country.  I am confident that no matter what the year ahead brings, we will share the joys, divide the sorrows, and we will stand side by side in Legislative District 17 and throughout Nebraska to continue that tradition of Nebraska Strong.

My Christmas wish for each of you is that you and your loved ones experience a joyous season of celebration and love.  If you are fortunate enough to be with loving family and friends– hold them close and hug them well.  If you see someone struggling-reach out, share the Christmas and love you hold in your own heart to touch another’s life.  If you are someone who is struggling—reach back, share your heart and your story with those around you. Offer them the opportunity to care.

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

From our home to yours, I wish you each a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

 

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 December 13, 2019
December 16th, 2019

As Christmas approaches, so does winter weather. The children are looking forward to a holiday break and many are preparing to travel or to welcome visitors from near and far. My wish for you is that you have a safe and joyful celebration. Prepare for the unexpected by having extra supplies on hand and perhaps a preparedness package in your car that includes a blanket, a warm change of clothes, water and non-perishable food items. It is always a good idea to let friends or loved ones know your travel plans, route, and anticipated arrival time. My wish for you is the most joyful time of family celebration.

Workforce Development work continues: Our unemployment rate is low in Nebraska and lawmakers often hear from employers that are having trouble finding qualified applicants for unfilled positions. I am pleased to be in my third year of serving on the Workforce Development Board. The Board brings together state, regional, and local workforce partners to help build a workforce development system that can more effectively match employers, employees, education and training opportunities.
The Board convened on December 6, 2019 for its quarterly meeting. After discussion of Nebraska’s Annual Report, we heard from each member in attendance about specific challenges and progress being made in the areas being served by each board member, with regard to efforts and outcomes in their specific area. The Board’s purpose is to develop strategic guidelines to help communities develop and measure outcomes of local job-driven “one-stop” delivery systems, with emphasis on core programs and funding in areas dealing with youth, adult, and dislocated workers. We heard about growing coordinated training opportunities, industry-specific partnerships, grants, scholarships, and apprenticeship programs across various disciplines including the construction and rural healthcare industries, a growing concern for many in District 17 and throughout Nebraska. We also heard about efforts to more rapidly respond to unemployment and job connection needs of dislocated workers with the formation of teams that include veterans, employers, and other local community members. I shared some information about investment and workforce opportunities in healthcare taking place in Legislative District 17 with the opening of the surgical center in South Sioux and the new clinic in Pender. Unfortunately, due to lack of enough trained workforce and affordable workforce housing, Wakefield’s expansion project planned for Nebraska was moved to Iowa. In addition to matching employers with skilled employees, I will continue to active participate in furthering policies for affordable workforce housing.
It is important for residents to know that the efforts to match employers and employees and train and re-train workers effectively are taking place throughout the state. The Board provides guidance on better coordination and accountability by strategizing and accumulating measureable results in both workforce development and customer satisfaction. I am proud to be a part of the team. I will continue to monitor progress in workforce development, and will be paying close attention to any legislation dealing with the issue in the upcoming session. If you would like to know more about the programs or find out about progress in certain workforce development areas, you can access the full report by clicking on the report at www.dolnebraska.gov.

Exciting News for Nebraska. From the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans, states are working to rename Hwy 20 to the Medal of Honor Memorial Highway. In Nebraska, The American Legion Family has been leading the charge. Highway 20 crosses Nebraska and passes through Dakota County in Legislative District 17. In October, I joined other state senators from Legislative Districts through which Highway 20 runs in writing a letter to the Nebraska State Highway Commission in support of the name change. On Friday, December 13, 2019, members of The American Legion Family presented a proposal to rename the portion of Highway 20 that extends across Nebraska. Legislative District 17 was well represented by members of American Legion District 3 at the Nebraska Highway Roads Commission meeting held in Lincoln. The Commission gave unanimous consent to the proposal and the measure has gone to the Governor for approval. Shout out to all who worked on making this happen.
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

The American Legion members attending the Friday December 13 meeting. From left to right:
Back Row: Bud Neel, Frances Shelton, Dept. Legion Commander Gary Wooten
Front Row:  Kim Daugherty, Les Feyermeier, Daryl Harrison, Adeline Hanel, Ken Hanel, Nancy Daugherty

WEEKLY UPDATE December 6, 2019
December 9th, 2019

It is getting busier at the Capitol. With the holidays upon us and friends and family visiting, if you have the opportunity to get to Lincoln be sure to drop by your State Capitol. Enjoy the beauty of the newly lit tree in the Rotunda on the second floor. Attend one of the several holiday happenings. Learn about the art and rich background of this National Historic Landmark that houses the nation’s only Unicameral. Treat yourself and your guests to a tour. The Capitol is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and free tours are given on every hour except noon.

On Wednesday, December 4, the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee met for three (3) different Interim hearings.

We first heard the Nebraska Department of Transportation report, specifically on assessment and improvement strategies to address the needs of our state highways and bridges. The priority strategies presented to the Committee were asset preservation, system modernization, and capital improvements.
The first priority stressed was preservation–taking care of what we have. Naturally, an update on major flood recovery projects was presented. The Director noted that through some pretty amazing efforts, combined with community participation and long days and nights, the state was able to get some important roads open within days of the flooding. The state is down to half a mile of pavement damage repair and down from 27 bridges closed to only three. On behalf of Legislative District 17, the Department gets a shout out from me for work completed on the Pender Bridge. We also heard about the Transportation Innovation Act and Build Nebraska Act strategies for future projects, including funding needs and current funding status on several projects. I invite you to check out information about the statewide transportation improvement plan, future and ongoing projects, and interactive maps at the Department’s website http://www.dot.nebraska.gov

Next, the Committee was briefed by the Public Service Commission on the State’s 911 Service System as the state transitions to Next Generation 911. Next Generation 911 will transition the 911 system from the current telephone system to an internet Protocol system that will allow digital information to flow seamlessly from the public to emergency responders through a 911 network. This all takes time, but I understand there are currently local discussions about how to best address the needs of Legislative District 17. The Public Service Commission and the 911 Service System Advisory Committee created by the Legislature in 2018 (LB993), are continuing the work to facilitate the transition in the best ways possible for all of Nebraska.

Finally, we received testimony from the Rural Broadband Task Force on their report. The Task Force was created in 2018 by LB944 “to review issues relating to the availability, affordability, and adoption of broadband services in rural areas of Nebraska.” The Task Force met 10 times since September 24, 2018 and the subcommittees met a combined total of 30 times in that same period.
Access to broadband in RURAL communities has been a top priority for me and so many constituents in Legislative District 17, as well as for other rural communities throughout the state. Connectivity is both desirable and necessary in the rural communities. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard about efforts to identify and address needs in rural areas currently unserved or underserved. A point of great interest was testimony about the “homework gap” that exists because children in some rural areas do not have access to the Internet to do homework, research, etc. The Task Force brought us information about efforts to connect more libraries and schools in places throughout rural Nebraska that are without the ability to get higher speed Internet or which do not have Internet in their homes at all. I will continue to participate and monitor any legislation that comes before the Committee on the subject of Broadband.

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 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

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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