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 February 21, 2020
February 24th, 2020

“The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen.”  This inscription is on the north side of your State Capitol.  It serves to remind us all to be aware, involved, and engaged in business within that touches our lives at home.  It should also serve to call lawmakers and governing bodies to be transparent and accountable to the people we serve.

That is why I introduced LB1167.  I introduced the Bill after hearing from numerous individuals and organizations that have felt disenfranchised and unable to testify at public meetings.  Under LB1167, you and your neighbors can be heard at meetings of governing bodies that make decisions that impact you.  LB1167 makes two simple changes within the Open Meetings Act.

The changes are simple.  The message is clear:

  • If you have been elected by the people; and/or
  • If you are able to decide how to spend the people’s money;
  • Then, you are expected to listen to the people.

Members of the public deserve it and this change requires it.

There was a Committee Hearing on LB1167 on Thursday, February 20.  Prior to the hearing, there were a number of letters and emails supporting LB1167 sent to the Chair of the Committee.  There were no letters in opposition.    Ten people and organizations testified in favor of LB1167.  Most spoke of times when they or their members were kept from testifying at government meetings.  Some spoke of being frustrated when the process for them to speak was made difficult or impossible.  Five people testified against the Bill.  The five were from school, city, county, or NRD government bodies. They primarily testified that the governing bodies they represented either were okay with people testifying, as long as the body knew what the speaker would talk about in advance of “allowing” them to be put on the agenda for a future meeting and/or were afraid that open public comment might result in personnel or others being falsely accused by a testifier.

I believe the opponents’ fear of public testimony is misplaced.  In fact, the changes presented in LB1167 do NOT disturb the ability of governing bodies to make and enforce reasonable rules and regulations regarding the conduct of persons attending and/or speaking at their meetings.  In other words, a governing body could schedule public comment for a defined period at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the meeting.  The governing body could define the number of minutes each person could testify.

To be clear, the goal of LB1167 is to ensure that governing bodies recognize they are servants of the people and honor that position, along with honoring the First Amendment right of individuals to petition their government, and to honor the Open Meeting Act’s instruction that that “the public has the right to attend and the right to speak at meetings of public bodies.”In summary, people have the right to be heard.  People have the right to petition their government.  LB1167 provides clarity, uniformity, and reassurance that Nebraska respects and honors those rights.

Priority Bills.  Friday brought the deadline for designation of Priority Bills.  Committees are able to designate two Priority Bills and each Senator is able to designate one Priority Bill for the Session.  This Session, I considered a number of Bills before choosing mine.  Among the bills I considered were those that protect Farmers and further economic development and I was pleased to see Committees and other Senators prioritize those Bills.

Eventually, I designated LB1186 as my Priority Bill.  This Bill was introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers and allows me to prioritize my care for and appreciation of teachers throughout the State.  As introduced, this bill fills in a gap for teachers who are injured by an assault while on the job.  Currently, teachers who are assaulted and are unable to work due to injuries from that assault are not paid injury leave to compensate them for the seven days before workers’ compensation benefits kick in.  LB1186 requires that teachers or school employees injured by such assaults be paid their usual salary for those seven days.  I was frankly surprised that this was not already happening.  Our teachers serve our children.  If they are injured by assault while doing so, our schools should make sure they are not penalized financially by the school where they serve.

Red Flag Law.  There has been a lot of communication from members of District 17 and other members of the public concerning LB58, the Extreme Risk Protection Ask, otherwise known as the Red Flag Law affecting gun rights.  I have tried to respond to each and want to make sure my position on this type of legislation is known to residents of District 17.  I, and many of my colleagues are strong advocates of Second Amendment rights.  I agree with Senator Tom Brewer that “[t]the bill, LB58, would create a new legal process for government seizure of firearms without any criminal prosecution, criminal conviction, or finding of mental illness.” I oppose LB58 and any similar legislation.

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 February 14, 2020
February 14th, 2020

Your Legislature and my office were tremendously busy this week.  Floor debate, Committee Hearings, and groups visiting kept things moving quite quickly.  On Thursday, Feb. 13, the Legislature passed nine Bills that were then sent to the Governor.  105 Bills had public hearings in Committees.  In addition to Bills, Committees voted on advancing gubernatorial appointments and heard reports from various agencies.

District 17 visitors included guests from Leadership Wayne, Wayne State College and Wayne High School on Tuesday; Representatives from Family, Career, Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) on Wednesday; and Leadership Dakota County and South Sioux City High School Student Council on Thursday.  Everyone has the opportunity to observe the Legislature in action from the balcony when they visit the Captol while we are in Session.  I was honored to have the Speaker of the Legislature recognize so many visitors from District 17 and to lunch with the Leadership Dakota County group.  If you or your group are planning a trip to the Capitol, please let my office know so that we can be sure to welcome you to the office and recognize you from the floor of the Legislature.

PROPERTY TAX RELIEF

There seems to be some misunderstanding about LB974, which is the Property Tax Relief Bill introduced and amended by the Revenue Committee.  I think it is extremely important that the people of District 17, and throughout the State, be given accurate information about how LB974 is designed to reduce the property tax burden with No New Taxes and replace it with State Aid to schools throughout the State.

First, the primary goal is to lower the property taxes for landowners throughout the state and to lower them with NO INCREASE IN TAXES.  This is accomplished by lowering the percentage of property valuations that can be taxed by local school districts over a 3-year period.  School districts currently levy the largest percentage of property taxes in both urban and rural areas.

Contrary to some naysayers, LB974 is designed to replace the decrease in property taxes schools collect by increasing State Aid to schools in order to make them whole, while protecting the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund that pays a portion of your property tax bill each year.  This includes a per student distribution to all schools. It includes foundation aid for every student in the state which will be approximately $2,300 per student in year 3.

Finally, LB974 is designed to encourage spending restraint at the local level by implementing commonsense policies to limit growth in school spending to economic realities such as growth in the Consumer Price Index plus real growth in population numbers.  This is not a cut to schools but an increase in State Aid designed to reduce school reliance on property taxes.  Remember, the State does NOT collect or spend property taxes. Naturally, local school districts are resistant to losing some of their taxing authority, but for the property tax relief plan to work, it is essential that each local government entity do its part by controlling spending, just like every family and business does, in accordance with its reasonable growth.

As you can see in the chart below, figures from the Fiscal Office addressing State Aid to schools in District 17 when LB974 was voted out of the Revenue Committee show some increases to make schools whole.  There are also provisions in place to draw from other funds should the impact on a school district be greater than anticipated.

SCHOOL DISTRICT FY 2020-21 FY 2021-22 FY 2022-23
CURRENT PLAN UNDER LB974 CURRENT PLAN UNDER LB974 CURRENT PLAN UNDER LB974
SO. SIOUX CITY $28,749,119 28,995,697  $29,150,305 29,315,164  $29,924,785 30,457,834
HOMER COMM 2,084,725 2,426,049 2,182,453 2,714,005 2,231,706 2,974,372
EMERSON-HUBBARD 29,219 161,017 30,680 351,792 31,600 604,178
PENDER 538,840 734,757 553,408 867,977 571,240 1,121,397
WALTHILL 3,467,700 3,659,809 3,492,336 3,774,864 4,186,390 4,498,014
MACY 6,442,894 6,414,720 6,675,824 6,628,112 6,720,937 6,686,853
WINNEBAGO 6,383,860 6,496,043 6,524,585 6,610,036 6,822,324 6,963,364
WAYNE 295,801 1,068,938 463,871 1,767,809 855,114 2,666,720
WAKEFIELD 1,528,654 1,984,977 1,773,941 2,460,752 2,078,345 3,025,054
WINSIDE 412,142 517,751 422,900 544,836 436,566 749,160

 

The Bill and formula are somewhat complex but the goals are simple and the structure is designed to provide property tax relief and to provide our children with quality education, all without raising taxes.

While there may be changes to the complex formulas, the framework is reasonable and workable.  This is one reason I support LB974 in its current form and look forward to continuing to be a part of any work needed to make it even better.

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 February 7. 2020
February 10th, 2020

The Legislative Session is one-third complete.  This week we began to have debate and vote on some of the Bills passed to Final Reading.  15 Bills were passed and signed by the Speaker.  Next stop—the Governor’s office.  A number of Bills were advanced from Committees to General File.  There is limited time left in Session to actually debate Bills coming out of Committees, so the Speaker has urged Senators to identify priority Bills as quickly as possible.  The deadline for committees and Senators to designate priority bills is Feb. 21.

County Extension Visitors:  Visitors to the Legislature this week included about 120 members of County Extensions from across the state for UNL Extension Legislative Day.  Several from District 17 made a point to stop by my office and speak to me about Bills that affect or in some way touch their members and their mission.  The group visited with me about LB1026 which, as introduced, would provide $2.5million for the University of Nebraska’s Daugherty Water for Food Institute.  The research and resource extension of the University investigates time-tested, as well as innovative water management strategies with an ultimate goal of determining how to best grow more food while using less water.  LB1026 is currently scheduled for hearing before the Appropriations Committee on Feb. 12.

District 17 members from your Educational Service Unit (ESU) community also stopped by the office this week.  Stuart Clark and Sarah Hansen, Wakefield and Mary Luhr, Norfolk from the ESU #1 in Wakefield to talk about educational resources for special education, the property tax reform bill LB974, and potential changes to the Student Discipline Act bill LB147.  We fit a lot of valuable information into a short time before the session began at 9:00 am and I am grateful for their insight.

A distinguished guest from a faraway place visited the office on Feb. 3.  I was pleased to meet the Rev. Michael Z. Holder, Jr., Chaplain General of the Liberian Senate, Liberia West Africa.  It is always interesting to me how other governing bodies work in comparison to the Nebraska Unicameral.  The Liberian Senate is modelled on the United States Congress, with a House and a Senate.  The counties each have two elected senators along with representation in the House.  Our visit was fun and interesting.

PROCLAMATION PRESENTED AND ENJOYED.  As mentioned in last week’s update, on Monday, February 3, the Governor signed a proclamation making 2020 The Year of the Eye Exam.  Several members of the Nebraska Optometric Association joined the Governor and I as the proclamation was signed.  On Tuesday, I was able to join those and other members of the group from all over Nebraska at a lunch.  A quite delightful group of members from District 17 invited me and my Legislative Aide to join their table.  There were smiles and pleasant conversation and, most of all, talk of the importance of eye health and the commitment of this group to know and meet the eye health needs of District 17 communities.

COMING UP FEBRUARY 20:   During the first 10 days of the Session, I introduced LB1167, which would require that members of the public be given opportunity to speak in any meeting that is subject to the Open Meetings Act.   LB1167 will have public hearing in front of the Government, Military, and Veterans’ Affairs Committee in Room #1507 on February 20 at 1:30 p.m.  Through my years of public service, whether City Council, County Board, or the Nebraska Legislature, I have continued to welcome and value input from community members.  It is my strong belief that any elected body that has authority or ability to make decisions about taxpayer dollars should listen to what residents affected by those decisions have to say.  In my view, it is not enough to simply consider and vote on what is before us.  The voice of the public can bring valuable information to elected officials.  Not only about issues and situations that the elected officials may not yet be aware, but also about proposed solutions or ideas that may save taxpayer dollars and improve projects or programs being considered.   Hopefully, public officials agree with me and there will not be too much pushback from them at the public hearing.  Be sure to let me and members of the Government Committee know your thoughts about LB1167 and public comment. If you want to have a letter entered into the record, it should be to the Committee Clerk before 5:00 pm the day before the hearing.  If you want to testify in person, all are welcome to do so. Contact our office and we can provide email and/or mailing addresses.

 DATES YOU SHOULD KNOW:

February 13, 2020 will bring leaders from District 17 at the South Sioux City Legislative visit.  Attendees will hear from the Governor, the State Chamber, and others in state leadership positions.

February 21, 2020 is the deadline for senators and committees to designate their priority bills for the Session.

February 26, 2020 the Northeast Nebraska Chamber group is visiting the Capitol.

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 January 31, 2020
February 3rd, 2020

Thursday, January 30, 2020 we reached a point twenty-five percent through the Legislative Session.  New and carryover Bills have begun to come out of Committee, and this next week we will see debate on some Bills that that advanced in the past couple of weeks to Final Reading.  The pace has quickened and I expect to continue to do so.

VETERANS’ VISIT:  Friday, January 31, was Veterans’ Legislation Day at the Capitol.  A number of wonderful groups attended the event and took part in activities including visiting with a number of Senators.  Part of the activities included a ceremony that included the Governor signing the document finalizing changing the name of Highway 20 to the Medal of Honor Memorial Highway across Nebraska.  Highway 20 stretches across the United States from Newport, Oregon to Boston Massachusetts.  414 miles of the Highway 20 passes through Nebraska from Harrison to South Sioux City.  Back in October, I joined the other state senators in Legislative Districts through which the highway passes and signed a letter urging the name change.  On Friday, the Governor signed the final paperwork.  The Warner Chamber was filled with representatives of many Veterans’ groups.  I was proud to stand with those who have worked so hard to see the Medal of Honor Memorial Highway come to be.  Thank you to all who serve and who have served!

YEAR OF THE EYE EXAM: On Monday, February 3, I had opportunity to take part in a very important Proclamation Ceremony, recognizing the Nebraska Optometric Association and fittingly declaring 2020 the Year of the Eye Exam in Nebraska.  Like many of you may have, I entered 2020 thinking perhaps this would be the year of perfect vision.  Then, Dr. David Kincaid from South Sioux City made me aware that the American Optometric Association had declared 2020 the Year of The Eye Exam.  So fitting.  In Nebraska and all across America, Optometrists provide a vital service for the eye health of us and our children.  I, myself have worn glasses since I was nine years old and am pleased to say that we have great optometric services available in District 17.  In 2020, I invite all residents of District 17 to pay special attention to taking care of the eye health of you and your family members.

EVENTS IN DISTRICT 17:  During the week, I typically attend a number of events.  Many are held in Lincoln, but whenever I am home, I also try to attend events taking place in the District. This past week, I was pleased to attend the Chamber events in South Sioux City and Wayne.  The 1920s regalia at the Wayne Chamber Banquet was impressive and fun.  The Wayne Chamber of Commerce announced annual awards in areas of Most Valuable Patron, Business of the Year, Teacher of the Year and Citizen of the Year.   Congratulations to each winner.  At the South Sioux City Chamber event, I learned about the great status of businesses in the area and learned more about Siouland Freedom Park.  It was wonderful to learn of the fundraising efforts of the Chamberettes and that alumni from Leadership Dakota County have made it their mission to raise $250,000 to complete the interior of the Interpretive Center at Freedom Park.  The building in Freedom Park is a museum dedicated to remembering veterans and their contributions to Nebraska and to our nation.  The Chamber also made five awards to outstanding teachers in District 17.  It is exciting to see so much positive activity going on in District 17.

DATES YOU SHOULD KNOW:

February 13, 2020 will bring leaders from District 17 at the South Sioux City Legislative visit.  Attendees will hear from the Governor, the State Chamber, and others in state leadership positions.

February 26, 2020 the Northeast Nebraska Chamber group is visiting the Capitol.

If you are one of the visitors with either group, please plan to stop by my office Rm. 1404 to say hello.

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 January 24, 2020
January 27th, 2020

Week three at your Legislature got even busier, with Session until noon and Committee hearings all around the Capitol beginning at 1:30.

The final day to introduce bills was Thursday, January 23.  There have been 482 new bills introduced in the 2020 Session, bringing the total number of Bills introduced in the 106th Legislature to 1,221.

The Legislature heard from Chief Justice Heavican about the State of the Judiciary.  He described the many accomplishments the courts have made over the past year to provide everyone in Nebraska greater access to the Courts.  Part of the Supreme Court’s practice, for instance, is to hold oral arguments in each of the Law Schools in the State.  The Court now also includes rural Nebraska by holding oral arguments at high schools like South Sioux City High School, where the Supreme Court met on November 1, 2019.  The Chief Justice also discussed improvements in the Juvenile Justice System.  I am proud to have taken part in those improvements through LB595 that I introduced in 2019.  LB595, provides for an emphasis on restorative justice under the Dispute Resolution Act.  The Chief Justice informed the Legislature that the law has already helped over 300 youth and their families.

LB768, which I introduced on the first day of the 2020 Session was the first Bill heard in the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee on Tuesday, January 21.  LB 768 provides for an annual update to harmonize Nebraska law with federal regulations related to commercial motor vehicles and odometer readings, and motor carrier licensure, etc.  A 49-page document addressing changes in 33 sections, the Committee was provided with a summary of the changes and heard testimony regarding the update and had questions answered by Rhonda Lahm, Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles and Captain Gerald Krolikowski of the Nebraska State Patrol.  I anticipate that the Bill will be voted out of Committee and advance to the floor soon.

On Thursday, I introduced LB1167, which would require that members of the public be allowed an opportunity to speak at any meeting of a governing body that is subject to the Open Meetings Act.  It would still allow governing bodies to make reasonable rules concerning the timing and length of each member of the public’s testimony but would require that the public have opportunity to heard at every meeting.   I feel strongly that elected officials at all levels should be accountable to constituents and should be willing, and in fact required, to hear from members of the public who have an interest in policies involving how they are governed and how their tax dollars are being spent.  At the Legislature, every Bill introduced receives a public hearing.  Some of those hearings take a very long time but if they do, it is because we, as elected officials, are hearing the voice of those affected by the policies and laws we are considering.  The same should be true for any school board, city council, village or county board, or natural resource district board, or any other local governing body that accepts funds and is elected to manage those funds.  Only by hearing and considering the voices of the people who we have been elected to represent, can we make effective and responsive decisions.  LB11667 has not yet been referred to a Committee for hearing, but I am already hearing support from District 17.  I would appreciate hearing from other residents of the District with opinions about LB1167 and invite those interested to write or testify at the hearing once scheduled.

 THE BIG NEWS of the week was the introduction of LB974 addressing Property Tax Relief.  LB974, in its current form, provides a 3-year plan that will result in sustainable relief by reducing property taxes without adding any new taxes.

The Bill:

  • No new taxes. Uses $520 million in the budget to increase State aid to schools and reduce school funding reliance on local property taxes.  The $520 million is already available in the budget based upon projections that consider the revenue growth of the state at the past historical rate of 4.0 to 4.5%.
  • Per pupil funding. Increases the percentage of school funding provided by the State, reducing the burden of local property owners and provides per pupil funding so that every school district in the State receives State funding for its schools, whether urban or rural.
  • Reduces Valuation subject to Taxation. Reduces the amount of property valuations available to be taxed by school district levies from 75% to 55% over the three years for agricultural and horticultural properties and from 100% to 85% for residential and commercial properties during the same period.  Since 2008, property valuations have increased nearly 80% and property taxes levied have increased approximately 54%, while the average income of Nebraskans has risen only 18%.
  • Caps school spending increases at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus real growth. CPI and average income for Nebraskans have traced one another fairly closely since 2008, while valuations have grown by nearly 80% and property taxes collected by local governments have increased by about 54% based on those increased valuations.  Property taxes are collected at the local level, the largest percentage is collected for schools.  While Nebraska’s student enrollment has grown about five percent over the last 15 years, education spending has grown at a compounded rate of 138 percent during the same timeframe.  Despite the windfall benefits local governments have received because of increased valuations, local governments have only reduced their levies by about 12% cumulatively on average during that same period.

There is no doubt that Nebraskans want and deserve property tax relief.  I appreciate the hard work that members of the Revenue Committee have put in over the interim to address the issue.  LB974 increases the percentage of State funding for schools, reducing reliance on property taxes, while also addressing the need to reign in spending in order to make sure the taxpayer relief from property taxes continues.

I support LB974 in its current form.  I most certainly support the measured and commonsense approach to crafting a sustainable solution, and intend to continue to work with other Senators in any way needed to help make the Bill better.

DATES YOU SHOULD KNOW:

January 31, 2020 (Friday) is Veterans’ Legislative Day at the Capitol, with registration at 7:45 AM at the Warner Chamber; program at 8:15 AM.  Visit the Legislature in Session at 9 AM.  Veterans are encouraged to attend and take time to visit with your Senator.

February 13, 2020 South Sioux City Legislative visit by local leaders.  Attendees will hear from the Governor, the State Chamber, and others in state leadership positions.

February 26, 2020 the Northeast Nebraska Chamber group is visiting the Capitol.  I

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 January 17, 2020
January 20th, 2020

Week two of the Legislature proved to be fast and furious.  We began full day debate on carryover bills first thing Monday January 13, 2020.  The Governor gave his State of the State speech to the Unicameral and members of the public on Wednesday, January 15, and an additional 119 bills were introduced.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK:

Diving right in, I introduced Legislative Bill 768 (LB768) last week and Legislative Resolution 293 (LR293) on Monday.

LB768 represents the annual Legislative update which harmonizes Nebraska law with federal regulations by adopting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Hazardous Material Regulations current as of January 1, 2019.  The adoption of these regulations is required on an annual basis to incorporate new or revised federal regulations into State Statute.  The State Statutes must remain current with the federal regulations to avoid incompatibility and to prevent jeopardizing Nebraska’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), which is funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  The Bill was referred to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and is first on the agenda to be heard Tuesday, January 21.

I was also pleased to honor Allen Beermann by introducing LR293.  The resolution was signed onto by all 49 Senators, which says so much about this man and his lifelong service to Nebraskans!  Tuesday, January 14 was Mr. Beermann’s 80th birthday and after he was introduced by the Lt. Governor Foley, I was able to take a few minutes to let my colleagues know that Mr. Beermann grew up in Dakota County and to point out a few of his many accomplishments from military service to being the longest serving Secretary of State and going on to serve in leadership of the Nebraska Press Corps.  The well-deserved Legislative Resolution will be signed this coming week.

While the first three days were short sessions, this week the Legislature went to full days and debated two carryover priority bills, LBs 147 and 153.

LB153 advanced to Select File on a vote of 43-0.  I was proud to cast my vote for this important bill that exempts from income tax 50% of military retirement benefits.  Like so many of my colleagues, I appreciate the service of our military men and women and want to show that gratitude in whatever way I am able.  This bill not only allows me to not only recognize their service, but also to show that we appreciate the contribution they make to the fabric of our communities by choosing to live, work, and play in Nebraska after their military service.

LB147 also had first round debate but without advancing to Select File.  LB147 would allow for educators to physically intervene and remove a student from the room if a student is acting violent in order to maintain safety and order in the classroom.  Senator Groene introduced LB147 after receiving a plea for help from teachers, administrators, and the NSEA.  Thousands of teachers responded to a NSEA survey with stories of violence and outbursts in the classroom.  One teacher wrote “I have had 20 or so students threaten or commit violence at me or towards classroom staff over 10 years.  3 current.  General attitude towards these students is “they can’t help it” or “no one cares enough to help.”” Another wrote “I was punched in the stomach while pregnant on more than one occasion.” These stories are startling and it is critical that we protect our teachers.  It is evident that teachers feel the need for the support this bill will offer in order to feel they can be safe and keep their classrooms safer.   There was a lively debate about LB147 and Senator Groene is working to address some of the issues and suggestions brought forward on the floor in hopes of finalizing a bill that can be passed by the body.  It appears to me that this bill is needed to retain great educators and to provide safe spaces for them and for all students.  We have been told of teachers who have left the profession or are contemplating leaving the teaching profession because of lack of support for them managing appropriate boundaries in their classrooms.  I intend to continue monitoring and supporting positive changes where needed.

Also, there were a number of other carryover bills that were advanced out of Committee in the 2019 Session and debated for the first time this week.  Several were advanced to Select File to receive additional debate.

WHAT IS COMING NEXT?  This week the Legislature will hear from Justice Heavican, the Chief of the Nebraska Supreme Court as he delivers his State of the Judiciary address to the Unicameral.

Committee Hearings on newly introduced bills will begin Tuesday, January 21.  Hearing schedules for the present week, the following week, or for a range of dates can be viewed by clicking on the link to Hearing Schedules at nebraskalegislature.gov.  You can also find instructions for sending letters to voice your position on a specific bill in a specific committee.  As a reminder, letters for the record needs to be received by the Committee by 5:00 pm. the day before the hearing.   If you decide to come to Lincoln to testify at a hearing, please let us know you are coming and if you like, come before lunch to see your Legislature in action.  Even if you don’t call, please make it a point to stop by my office, #1404, and say hello!

The Speaker has indicated that bills on Select File will begin receiving second debate Friday, January 24.

DATES YOU SHOULD KNOW:

January 21, 2020 (Tuesday).  Committee Hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. (Introduction on new bills and debate on carryover bills will continue during morning Session.

January 22, 2020 (Wednesday). Chief Justice Heavican delivers the Nebraska State of the Judiciary Address to the Legislature.

January 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day to introduce new bills for consideration in this Legislative Session.

January 31, 2020 (Friday) is Veterans’ Legislative Day at the Capitol, with registration at 7:45 AM at the Warner Chamber; program at 8:15 AM.  Visit the Legislature in Session at 9 AM.  Veterans are encouraged to attend and take time to visit with your Senator.

April 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day of 2020 Legislative Session (Short 60-day)

Any bills that do not see final decisions by the last day of session will not carry over to the 2021 session.

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 January 10, 2020
January 13th, 2020

Your Legislature was gaveled in for the opening session of 2020 on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.  Two hundred and fifteen (215) bills were introduced in the first three days.  As a reminder, bills can be introduced by Senators for the first ten (10) days of session, which is January 23, 2020.

NEXT STEPS:  After bills are introduced, they are assigned to Committees for hearing.  Except for a few technical bills, every bill must receive a public hearing.  Hearings on bills for the 2020 Session will begin on Tuesday, January 21. They generally begin around 1:30 p.m.   If you have an interest in the hearing on a particular bill, or want to follow the schedule of bill hearings, you can access the Legislature’s schedule of Committee hearings at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/calendar/hearings_range.php.  On that page you can find information on testifying at a hearing or submitting a written letter in place of live testimony on a bill.

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR DEBATE BEGINS:  Meanwhile, on Monday, January 13, 2020, debate begins, with two carryover bills from 2019 leading the way.

The first to be heard will be LB 147, which was introduced in 2019 by Senator Groene.  LB 147 allows teachers and school administrators to physically intervene in a reasonable manner in order to maintain order in the classroom should a student become violent and present a threat of harm to himself, herself, or others.   Physical restraint is restricted to holding the hands, wrists or torso of a student to control the student’s movements. It does not include the use of any mechanical device or binding a student to any object.  Senators have heard from parents, teachers, and many others about this bill, which should be reflected in the debate.

The second carryover bill for debate is LB 153, which was introduced in 2019 by Senator Brewer and named by Senator Lowe as a priority bill.  The intent of LB153 is to exempt 50% of military retirement benefits from individual Nebraska income tax.  We have also received numerous letters and calls in support of this bill.  Veterans and active military members and their families are an important part of the fabric of Nebraska.  They deserve our honor and thanks.  Many feel strongly that LB153 is one way to show that honor and respect to veterans who have served and that it is one way to keep and attract these treasured individuals in Nebraska.

MY ACTIVITY:  In addition to what is happening on the floor of the Legislature, my office is receiving calls and visits from constituents, other Senators, and those representing individuals, companies, and ideas across Nebraska.  We are listening to clarification of bills, concerns, suggestions, and new ideas from all angles.  We are also organizing and attending meetings about issues facing our state and how to craft productive solutions.

On the first day of the Session, I introduced a bill on behalf of the Nebraska State Patrol to harmonize Nebraska Statute with federal regulations to avoid incompatibility.  The   bill adopts the Federal Motor Carrier Safety and Hazardous Material Regulations current as of January 1, 2019.  The adoption of these regulations is required on an annual basis to incorporate new or revised federal regulations into State Statute.  The State Statutes must remain current with the federal regulations to avoid jeopardizing Nebraska’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), which is funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

I also signed on as a co-sponsor to LB 814 introduced by Senator Suzanne Geist, and LR288 .  LB841, introduced by Senator Geist, makes it unlawful for anyone “to purposely perform or attempt to perform a dismemberment abortion and thereby kill an unborn child” absent an emergency.

Senator Slama introduced Legislative Resolution 288 (LR288) in large part because of damages caused by this past year’s flooding in Nebraska.  LR288 urges Congress and the United States Corps of Engineers to re-prioritize flood control and repair as a top priority for the management of water systems under their authority in the Missouri River Mainstream Reservoir System Water Control Manual.  With reports of likely flooding again this spring, it is felt that moving flood control to the top of the priority list and updating 20 to 40 year old levy standards will enable the Corps to make needed levy and other repairs along the river that it feels are precluded by current priority designations

There will be many other Legislative Bills (LB) and Legislative Resolutions (LR) that we Senators will be looking over in the days and months ahead.  I may sign onto a bill if I look at it and feel strongly in favor of that particular bill.  In some instances, I may initially view a bill favorably or unfavorably knowing that there may be amendments, expected or unforeseen, that can certainly change my opinion, the opinions of my constituents, and my level of support or opposition for the bill.  Just as I’ve done in past years, as the Legislative Session goes forward, I strive to keep an open mind until seeing and considering the bill’s final contents when it finds its way to the floor of the Legislature for a vote.

Please keep in mind that 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

Welcome
January 8th, 2020

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 17th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Joni Albrecht

WEEKLY UPDATE January 2, 2020
January 6th, 2020

Welcome to a new year and to a new decade!  And welcome to Nebraska’s 2020 Legislative Session. As everyone settles into the new year and back into the routines of life, I myself am settling into my “home away from home” in Lincoln, ready for Session to begin Wednesday, January 8.  Although I spend much time in Lincoln during the Legislative session, I also remain fully involved with constituents in Legislative District 17 by phone, email and meetings and visits when I am home.

My office has been busy and working hard ahead of all that we expect is ahead.  As I have mentioned in previous updates, finding ways to provide Nebraskans with property tax relief is at the top of many of our lists and will occupy much of our time and energy right from the beginning of session.  Add to that bills that did not make it to the floor last Session, those that are still working their way through committees, and new bills being introduced and you can imagine the abundance of work there is to do.

DATES YOU SHOULD KNOW:

January 8, 2020 (Wednesday)    Day One of the session.  The Legislature will be in session from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.  New bills will be able to be introduced beginning Day One.

January 13, 2020 (Monday).  Day Four of the session.  Debate of carry-over legislation from the 2019 session will begin.

January 15, 2020 (Wednesday).  Governor Ricketts delivers his 2020 State of the State Address to the Legislature.

January 22, 2020 (Wednesday). Chief Justice Heavican delivers the Nebraska State of the Judiciary Address to the Legislature.

January 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day to introduce new bills for consideration in this Legislative Session.

April 23, 2020 (Thursday).  Last day of 2020 Legislative Session.

Any bills that do not see final decisions by the last day of session will not carry over to the 2021 session.

STAY CONNECTED:  I have been contacted by constituents over the interim who have submitted ideas for legislation and/or who have indicated support or opposition for anticipated legislation.  We have worked together through a few issues, kept tabs on highway work and bridge repairs that affect us in Legislative District 17.  I will continue to keep constituents informed through this weekly update, which can be also be accessed at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist17/   I invite residents of District 17 to write, email, or call my office to express view about various bills as they come before the Legislature for debate or for consideration by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, or the State-Tribal Relations Special Committee upon which I serve.

NEBRASKA SAFE.  On January 6, a number of State Senators, community leaders and interested individuals joined Governor Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson for the Governor’s Proclamation of January 2020 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Over the past several years, Nebraska has worked hard in its fight against human trafficking.  In 2011 the state rated an “F” in a nationwide study of how states are dealing with the tragedy of trafficking.  Since then, senators have worked with anti-human trafficking groups to pass legislation, the Nebraska Attorney General’s office has increased efforts to train individuals and groups in recognition and prevention and to enforce laws that make penalties harsher for traffickers and furthered awareness to help free victims who often feel trapped in their situation.  At the January 6 press conference, the Governor told us that as part of Human Trafficking Awareness month, the State is launching a new series of videos to raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking and to provide victims of trafficking information about how to get help.   Nebraska’s efforts now earn it an “A” in that nationwide study.  It is not the grade, but the accomplishment.  Working together, we continue to fight to make Nebraska a safer place for everyone.  If you need to talk to someone about a situation involving human trafficking, or know someone who does, the national hotline number is 1-888-373-7888.

RECOGNIZING ONE OF DAKOTA COUNTY’S OWN.  Near the beginning of the 2020 Session, I plan to introduce a Legislative Resolution honoring Allen Beerman, who is retiring in 2020 after fifty-five years of service to the State of Nebraska.  Mr. Beerman was born and raised on a farm in Dakota County, Nebraska and was a National Honor Society graduate of South Sioux City High School.  After graduating from Creighton Law School, he spent 30 years at the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office, including time as the longest serving Secretary of State in Nebraska’s history.  Following his tenure there, Mr. Beerman embarked on a stellar career of 25 years at the Nebraska Press Association.  From being appointed as a Nebraska Diplomat by Governor Nelson in 1993 to being the first civilian recipient of the Homeland Defense Ribbon, presented by Governor Mike Johanns and Adjutant General Roger Lempke in 2003, Allen Beerman has continued his distinguished service to all Nebraskans.  Mr. Beerman certainly would be justified in retiring immediately, true to his character, he has agreed to stay on in the position until someone else is hired for the position and to help with the transition and training of that individual.  I am pleased to bring the Legislative Resolution to thank and honor Mr. Allen Beerman.

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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