NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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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

April 22, 2022 News
April 22nd, 2022

Weekly News – April 22, 2022 – Senator Joni Albrecht

Spring has arrived and we should be excited to get outside. The students have been outside participating in school activities. I enjoy reading the school sports articles and seeing so many great accomplishments. The 107th Session has come to a close; Sine and Die was on April 20th. THE MOST HISTORICAL SESSION IN NEBRASKA’S HISTORY. Included in this was a tax package that has something for every Nebraskan that will have an impact for many years to come.

Senators Mike Hilgers, Myron Dorn and Steve Lathrop paid tribute to Nebraska State Senators who have passed. My office and I extend our deepest sympathy to their families.

Brad Ashford and Dennis Michael Byars. Senator Ashford served in the Nebraska Legislature from 1987 to 1995 and from 2007 to 2015. Additionally, he represented Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District in Congress from January 2015 to January 2017. Brad spent his adult life in service to our state. He passed on April 19, 2022 at the age of 72.

Senator Dennis Michael Byars served Gage County from 1988-1994 and from 1999-2006. He was very active in public service. He most recently was serving as Gage County Commissioner at the time of his death. He passed on April 14, 2022. He was 81 years old.

The Legislature passed 119 bills out of 593 bills presented. They included tax relief, public safety, water investments and allocating more than $1 billion in federal ARPA funds for Nebraskans. Which includes investments in police training, Perkins County Canal project, a new marina and road safety for Lake McConaughy, a new boat access facility and event center on the Niobrara River, a marina expansion at Lewis and Clark Lake, flood control near Schuyler and Wahoo and a new 4,000-acre reservoir between Lincoln and Omaha. These are just a few of the many bills that will benefit Nebraskans throughout the state.

The Governor so far has signed 29 bills into law. My most memorable moment in Nebraska history was standing with Governor Ricketts as he signed LB873 into law. It is now on the books in the107th Legislative Session as the most momentous bill signing. It was an honor representing District 17 as I served on the Revenue and Transportation and Telecommunications Committees this session. Again, every Nebraskan will benefit from the 107th Unicameral Session. Nebraska taxpayers will be keeping more of their own money.

When we heard the Governor’s last State of Address, he used one word to explain it all, WOW!
It has been a privilege to serve with Governor Ricketts. Nebraska had some trying times with floods, Covid19 and fiscal responsibilities, he succeeded them all. He is Second to none.

Governor Ricketts invited Senator Dave Murman, the sponsor of LB1261e and I the sponsor of LB596 for the bill signing. Those in attendance were Senators Myron Dorn and Tom Brandt and the Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Pork Producers, Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Dairy Association, Nebraska Corn Board, Agricultural Leaders, Renewable Fuels Advocates as well as Ethanol Board members. LB1261e extends the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act which was set to expire at the end of 2022. This bill promotes investment in Nebraska agriculture (livestock modernization or expansion) and to encourage businesses to locate in rural Nebraska. I amended LB596 into LB1261e to provide tax credits to fuel retailers selling E15 or higher blends of ethanol.

The Legislature approved a Resolution submitted from my office, saluting the Nebraska Association of County Extension Boards. For 50 years the Nebraska Extension still remains a strong asset for the state in both urban and rural areas in all 93 counties.

As the Session came to a close, we heard from the Senators who will not be returning next year. We want to wish them well in their future endeavors. We will be looking forward to new faces on the floor of the 108th Legislative Session starting in January of 2023.

I will not be in the office much during the interim but I do anticipate many calls from you. My staff will gladly take your calls and inform me of your questions or concerns. I will not be publishing a newsletter weekly, but I plan to send news to the newspapers and on my webpage if I feel there is something of importance to share. Please call 402-471-2716 or email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.


April 12th, 2022

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the flowers are starting to bloom. April brings
warmth to Nebraska as the spring season advances rapidly.
HISTORICAL TIME IN NEBRASKA –The Legislature delivered the most significant tax relief for Nebraskans. $900 million package of tax cuts were approved. Income tax, corporations, property owners and Social Security recipients will benefit.
The biggest tax cut in over 30 years was LB873. This bill cuts the top income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.84%. It also cuts the corporate income tax rate from 7.81% to 5.84%. both cuts will be phased-in over five years. Nebraska has the highest income and corporate taxes of any state in the central time zone.
This legislation phases out income taxes on Social Security payments by 2025.
In addition, LB873 creates another refundable income tax credit for the portion of property taxes paid to community colleges. This is a credit you’ll claim starting next year on your state income taxes.
It has been a long 60 day session, but all 49 Senators worked diligently trying to get their bills passed.
Nebraska Human Life Protection Act LB933, the speaker made as his priority bill, fell two votes short of the 33 needed to end the filibuster and force a vote. The vote was 31-15. Those who denied protecting life were Senator Blood, Senator Bostar, Senator J. Cavanaugh, Senator M. Cavanaugh, Senator Day, Senator DeBoer, Senator M. Hansen, Senator Hunt, Senator McCollister, Senator McKinney, Senator Morfeld, Senator Pansing-Brooks, Senator Vargas, Senator Walz and Senator Wishart. Senators that were excused – not voting were Senators Lathrop, Pahls and Wayne. This bill would have prohibited the performance of an abortion on live, unborn child upon the occurrence of one of three events: the overturn of Roe v. Wade, an amendment to the United States Constitution, or the passage of enabling legislation by the United States Congress. I will continue to fight to protect and promote society’s respect for human life, including the life of the unborn. We made be called back in June for a special session if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The battle may have been lost this week but the war on the unborn, the voiceless and most vulnerable will be won.
My personal priority bill LB1213 – would ensure that outside database providers contracted to provide digital and online resources to students in grades K- 12 that make obscene and harmful materials available; was stopped due to lobbyist interference and will come back next year. In the mean time be aware of what your children are exposed to through their devices provided by tax dollars. “More to come”.
I thank all of you that supported the Nebraska Human Life Protection Act. My office received numerous emails and phone calls. Not all people were in support, but your comments were heard.
By this time next week, the session will be over. In my next letter I will report to you what was achieved during those past 60 days.
LB1014, introduced by Speaker Hilgers contains appropriations. Among the appropriations are $100 million for “shovel-ready” projects for qualifying sports complexes and nonprofits related to the arts, culture and humanities, $91 million for workforce housing and $20 million for water transportation infrastructure grants.
The bill also contains provisions of more than 20 proposals introduced this session, including:
• LB1089, sponsored by Gering Sen. John Stinner, which appropriates $55 million to the state Department of Health and Human Services for licensed and Medicaid-certified nursing facilities;
• LB1066, sponsored by Stinner, which appropriates $28 million to DHHS and the University of Nebraska for behavioral health care services;
• LB1172, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Robert Hilkemann, which appropriates $55 million for rate increases for certain providers of developmental disabilities services; and
• LB1201, sponsored by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, which appropriates $20 million to DHHS for grants to nonprofit organizations providing food assistance.
Lawmakers passed LB1014 on a 40-4 vote and the bill took effect immediately. There is something for everyone.
The bill allocating American Rescue Plan Act dollars would provide funds to some 40 projects and initiatives across the state. Among them: replacing aging rural ambulances, boosting health and human services provider payment rates, repairing wastewater systems in state parks, and funding nonprofit construction projects that were interrupted by the pandemic. Others include: developing rural and urban low-income housing, updating a climate change study, building a rural health complex at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and repairing an irrigation canal that runs from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to Gering. Senators also provided for a grant program to start or expand child care centers, expanded mental health treatment, scholarships and loan repayments for health care providers and a program providing education and preventative medication to people at high risk of getting HIV.
My Legislative Assistant, Lisa Weeks has left. She was an asset to this office. We wish her well and will miss her. Please don’t hesitate to call the office and speak with Jacki, she will be happy to assist you.
The work that I do as your Senator I do for you, my constituents. Please contact my office with any comments or concerns. Your views are appreciated, I enjoy hearing from you. My Lincoln contact information is (402) 472-2716 or jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov. Have a great week.


March 25th, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

This week the Legislature spent the majority of the week debating how to use the 

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds granted to the state of Nebraska from the federal government as part of the Covid stimulus package. The American Rescue Plan granted $1.04 billion to the State of Nebraska for spending needs, which is more than 25% of the state’s annual general fund budget. The money is to be used for needs that have arisen as a direct result of Covid 19 has made on our communities. Having the extra resources to steward has undoubtedly made our job as Legislators extremely more complicated this Session.

Pro-Life Bill 

Earlier in the year I introduced LB933, which would prohibit the performance of an abortion on live, unborn children upon the occurrence of one of three events: the overturn of Roe v. Wade, an amendment to the United States Constitution, or the passage of enabling legislation by the United States Congress. This is one of the most important bills that has been before the Legislature since my time in office. After filing a pull motion to bring the bill out of committee to a debate on the Floor, the pull motion succeeded on Friday and the bill will be debated on the Floor when it is scheduled.

Ag Week in Nebraska

Monday morning Governor Pete Ricketts held a press conference to proclaim March 20-26, 2022 as Agriculture Week in Nebraska.  He was joined by representatives of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen, and Nebraska Corn Growers Association. I salute the tremendous farmers and ranchers not only in District 17, but in the state. You are our backbone. Nebraska would not be the same without you.

Cash Reserve Budget Bill Advanced 

The Legislature gave first-round approval on March 22 to the last of three main bills comprising the Appropriations Committee’s mid-biennium budget adjustment package. The state budget is structured on a two-year basis, with the budget enacted during legislative sessions held in odd-numbered years. Adjustments are made during sessions held in even-numbered years. The mainline budget bill and another measure that would authorize and provide certain fund transfers, create funds and change and eliminate provisions regarding a fund were advanced last week after successful cloture votes. LB1013, introduced by Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln at the request of Governor Ricketts, would change provisions relating to the state’s Cash Reserve Fund, also known as the rainy-day fund. Gering Senator John Stinner, chairperson of the Appropriations Committee, said the cash reserve serves a “dual purpose” for Nebraska. “It serves, certainly, as an economic stabilizer for the state’s budget, but it also serves as a one-time source of funding for different projects”. An Appropriations Committee amendment would use $513 million from the cash reserve for a variety of transfers outlined in bills introduced this session, including:

  • $80 million to the Jobs and Economic Development Initiative Fund, from LB1023, introduced by Hilgers;
  • $53.5 million to the Perkins County Canal Project Fund, from LB1015, introduced by Speaker Hilgers;
  • $50 million to the Surface Water Irrigation Infrastructure Fund, from LB1074, introduced by Brainard Senator Bruce Bostelman;
  • $50 million to the Nebraska Rural Projects Fund, from LB788, introduced by Gordon Senator Tom Brewer;
  • $30 million to the Military Base Development and Support Fund, from LB1233, introduced by Bellevue Senator Rita Sanders;
  • $30 million to the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Fund, from LB1071, introduced by Gothenburg Senator Matt Williams;
  • $20 million to the Middle Income Workforce Housing Investment Fund, introduced by Omaha Senator Tony Vargas; and
  • $15.6 million to the state Department of Health and Human Services for construction, renovation and equipment replacement at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, from LB792, introduced by Kearney Senator John Lowe.

Among other provisions, the committee amendment also would set aside $175 million to be released to the Nebraska Capital Construction Fund for a potential new state penitentiary but would not appropriate those funds until certain conditions are met. Following approximately three hours of discussion Stinner offered a motion to invoke cloture, which ceases debate and forces a vote on the bill and any pending amendments and motions. The motion was adopted 39-4 and lawmakers then voted 40-3 to adopt the committee amendment. LB1013 advanced to Select File on a vote of 39-4.

Budget Package

Several amendments were offered during debate on LB1012, which would authorize and provide for certain fund transfers, create funds and change and eliminate provisions regarding a fund.

-Brainard Senator Bruce Bostelman offered an amendment, adopted 42-0, that would ensure that a $955,000 transfer from the interest on the Nebraska Telecommunications Universal Service Fund to the 211 Cash Fund is a one-time transfer rather than an annual one. The USF must be protected in the future for its intended purpose of making universal access to telecommunications services available to everyone in the state.

-Omaha Senator Mike McDonnell, whose LB911 initiated the transfer, supported the amendment. He said he would find a different source of funding going forward for the 211 Information and Referral Network, which is a free hotline that connects Nebraskans with non-emergency health and human services. A cloture motion after four hours of debate, which was adopted 43-2, and lawmakers advanced LB1012 to final reading on a voice vote.

-Omaha Senator Steve Lathrop offered an amendment, adopted 42-0, to LB1011, the mainline budget bill. In addition to a series of technical changes, the amendment would correct the omission of a $5 million transfer to the Governor’s Emergency Cash Fund. LB1011 advanced to Final Reading.

-Lawmakers also advanced LB1013, which would change provisions related to the Cash Reserve Fund, to final reading by voice vote following the 41-3 adoption of a cloture motion.

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the Legislative process. You can contact me at my Lincoln office by phone (402) 471-2716 or email jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov. I will enjoy hearing from you. Have a great week!


March 11th, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

Daylight Savings Time, potential snow and sunshiny days. It’s that time of the year where you get a sense that things are changing. Spring is upon us after a mild Nebraska winter. I have always loved the change of seasons in Nebraska. As our family prepares for calving season, I look out over a pasture to see our cows, anticipating the coming of a new calf, and new life. 

DMV and State Patrol Bill

I was pleased to introduce LB720 on behalf of the Nebraska State Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles. LB720 adopts the most recent version of federal laws and regulations in effect as of January 1, 2022. Maintaining alignment between federal regulations, state statutes, and operational activities, ensures Nebraska remains compliant with federal requirements and is eligible to receive 100 percent of their allotment of federal highway funds. The bill passed to Select File with 35 votes.

Eliminate Concealed Handgun Permit

A bill that would eliminate Nebraska’s permit requirement to carry a concealed handgun was placed on general file March 8 after a pull motion. LB773, introduced by Gordon Senator Tom Brewer, would prohibit counties, cities and villages from regulating the ownership, possession and transportation of a concealed handgun. Under the bill, registration and training requirements for concealed handguns no longer would be required. Individuals who currently are prohibited from possessing or carrying a gun still would be prohibited from doing so under the bill. Carrying a concealed handgun while under the influence of alcohol also would remain illegal. Concealed handguns would remain prohibited in schools, certain government premises and private businesses that have such rules in place. The bill advanced to Select File.

Bills on Final Reading

Unemployment Benefits– LB 567 was introduced by the Chair of the Business and Labor Committee at the request of the Department of Labor. This bill will require the Department of Labor to only look at an applicant’s most recent separation from employment when determining maximum unemployment benefits and reductions. LB567 would make permanent the relevant provisions of Executive Order 20-26, which streamlined the application process in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Diabetes– LB 698 was introduced by Senator Kolterman. The purpose of Legislative Bill 698 is to direct Nebraska Medicaid to cover diabetes patient access to continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). Continuous Glucose Monitors allow individuals with diabetes to track their glucose levels at regular intervals and help patients with diabetes more accurately dose insulin. Patients with better management of their diabetes have better outcomes, a higher quality of life, and cost significantly less to the state. In Nebraska, some Medicaid plans already cover CGMs for their patients in order to save long term costs of hospitalizations. However, not all plans provide this coverage. LB 698 would provide equitable access to these devices for all Medicaid patients with diabetes.

Pharmacy Benefit Manager– LB767, introduced by Senator Kolterman, would enact 12 new sections to be known as the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure and Regulation Act. The bill would establish standards and criteria for the licensure and regulation by the Director of Insurance of pharmacy benefit managers providing a claims processing service or other prescription drug or device service for a health benefit plan. The bill is based on the State Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure and Regulation Model Act of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

County Surveyors– LB 791, introduced by Senator Lowe. The qualifications and role of the county surveyor are set in part based on the population of the county that they serve. The county surveyor serves in multiple roles in most Nebraska counties, including that of surveyor, county engineer, and county highway superintendent. The largest counties break out these same responsibilities across several county offices. County surveyors in the largest counties must also possess more specific qualifications relating to their position. This bill would increase the population threshold at which the first tranche of qualifications requirements is applied from 60,000 to 100,000.

South Platte River Canal Project 

Lawmakers gave first-round approval March 9 to a proposal to build a canal that would divert South Platte River water from Colorado to Nebraska under a 1923 interstate compact. The compact entitles Nebraska to 120 cubic feet of water per second during the summer. Nebraska also has a right to 500 cubic feet of water per second during the non-irrigation season but only if it builds a canal to divert it from the river in Colorado to a reservoir system in Nebraska. Lincoln Senator Mike Hilgers, who introduced LB1015 on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts, said Nebraska has received those winter flows for the past century, but Colorado now is seeking to capture as much of that water as possible to support rapid population growth along the Front Range. The bill would authorize the state Department of Natural Resources to develop, construct, manage and operate the canal and its associated storage facilities, called the Perkins County Canal Project, under the terms of the compact. It also would authorize the department to use eminent domain to acquire land and resolve any legal disputes that arise as a result of the project. I gave the bill my green light because I believe that Nebraska could make up for reduced Platte River flows only by releasing water from Lake McConaughy, which would affect irrigation, hydropower generation and municipal water supplies. If we don’t assert our rights, less water will cross the state line in the future. 

Lake Development and Water Recreation

LB1023, introduced by Speaker Hilgers, creates the Lake Development and Water Recreation Enhancement Act based upon recommendations by the S.T.A.R.W.A.R.S. Task force created by LB406 in the 2021 session of the Legislature. The Act directs the Dept. of Natural Resources and the Game and Parks commission to oversee construction and management for certain projects such as (1) A reservoir in between Lincoln and Omaha near Sarpy County, (2)projects at Lake McConaughy, (3) projects in Niobrara State Recreation Area and Lewis and Clark Lake. On behalf of the state, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Game and Parks Commission will each manage the construction and development of certain aspects of the projects in a way that encourages public-private partnerships, donations and investments. Coming from the farming industry, I look for wants and needs and the greater good for the state of Nebraska. I may see our water resources very differently than someone from the city. I believe water is a commodity. It is highly essential to the backbone of survival in the agricultural community. Without sufficient water our livestock and production suffer significantly. This bill would take some farm families who have lived on their land for generations, completely out of production for the purpose of recreation. That does not make sense to me. I also have real caution about the projected cost in years to come. All that being said, I gave LB1023 a red, no vote. 

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the Legislative process. You can contact me at my Lincoln office by phone (402) 471-2716 or email jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov. I will enjoy hearing from you. Have a great week!


February 25th, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

Breaking the halfway point in the Unicameral this Session is a welcome, yet surprising reality. Next week will be our last week of committee hearings and we will go into full swing of floor debate. Short sessions create a very intense dynamic for the Legislature, demanding focus on Priority Bills, which means the most important legislation rises to the forefront. 

Pro-Life 

Three major pro-life bills were heard by the Legislative Judiciary Committee.

I introduced LB 933 – the Human Life Protection Act which provides that if or when Roe v. Wade is overturned, the performance of an abortion in Nebraska will be an illegal act. There is an exception for a medical emergency to preserve the life of the mother. No woman who obtains or seeks an abortion may be prosecuted. Senator Julie Slama introduced LB 781 the Heartbeat Act which prohibits an abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Senator Suzanne Geist introduced LB 1086 – Chemical Abortion Safety Protocol Act which improves safety and reporting requirements for chemical abortion and prohibits chemical abortion after 7 weeks gestation.

Tax Reform Bill

Senator Lou Ann Linehan’s LB939 advanced to Select this week. A Revenue Committee Bill, LB939 is an income and corporate tax reduction plan that would attract businesses and talent to Nebraska, helping meet the challenge posed by our current workforce shortage and opening the door to growth in the state. The bill will reduce the top individual income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.58% as follows: TY 2023 6.34% TY 2024 6.14% TY 2025 5.84% bringing consistency between the top rate for both individual and corporate income taxes. This bill could be historical in the efforts to bring tax reform to help grow and keep people in our great state. I foresee amendments coming and will keep you posted to what happens with LB939.

Ethanol 

The state’s ethanol stakeholders asked me to carry LB596, which became a Speaker Priority Bill. The bill creates the Nebraska Higher Blend Tax Credit Act for Nebraska retail dealers that sell and dispense E-15 or higher blends. The Act would become effective January 1, 2022. The ethanol industry in our state supports jobs for more than 1,400 Nebraskans and directly impacts our state’s economy by $5 billion. There are 25 ethanol plants who have the capacity to produce more than 2.5 billion gallons of ethanol– making Nebraska the No. 2 ethanol-producing state in the country. Ethanol production increases demand for field corn, which helps Nebraska’s agriculture thrive.

Elective Soil Education

Senator Tim Gragert’s LB925 also advanced to Select this week. The bill would require the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide technical and legal assistance to a producer learning community — a nonprofit, voluntary membership organization led by agricultural producers — to foster skills and share knowledge related to healthy soils management. The proposal also would require the DNR to divide the state into different regions representative of each area’s diversity of soils, topography, rainfall, cropping systems and other factors. I voted in favor of the bill because it does not require producers to take part, but rather simply encourages producers to weigh in on best practices. It is my perspective that, if passed, I would like to see the DNR cover the cost. I foresee some amendments coming on this bill. Stay tuned.

Future Farmers of America Week

Governor Ricketts has proclaimed February 19-26 as FFA Week in Nebraska. Designated as a national week in 1947, selected to celebrate the impact George Washington had on agriculture, FFA chapters across the country are using this week to help others in their school and community learn about FFA and agriculture education. In 2020-2021 there were 200 FFA Chapters in Nebraska, involving 229 FFA teachers and advisors and over 10,000 members strong.

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the Legislative process. If you have taken the time to reach out to my office, please understand that with over 1200 bills being heard over the next 60 days, I am not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls I receive. Have a great week!


February 18th, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

It seems hard to believe we are 28 days into our 60 day Session this year. There are a unique set of challenges that come with a shorter Session. Having carried over any unfinished business from last year, as well as the new proposed legislation working through the system, it is very challenging for Senators to get everything heard and out of Committee and onto the Floor for debate. That being said, I am proud of my colleagues for their hard work on extremely important legislation that is being heard at the Capitol.

Income and Corporate Tax Relief

Every year the Revenue Committee works on tax reform to address the three legged stool of income tax, property tax and sales tax. This past week we have been hearing a great deal about reducing income tax and corporate tax to be more inline with other states in the country I wholeheartedly believe that if we want youth to stay and companies to be attracted to Nebraska, we have to get the taxes that effect them the most to be lowered. 

Senator Linehan has introduced LB939 which would gradually lower our top income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.84%. Some have tried to brand this as a tax cut for the wealthy.  The truth is that this relief would be available to all Nebraskans with a taxable income of $32,210 a year, or families with a taxable income of $64,430 a year. We must also recognize that our income tax rates are not competitive within the region.  The only state around us with a higher income tax rate is Iowa, and they’re considering major income tax cuts this year that will usher in rates well below Nebraska’s.  To grow Nebraska, we must follow the trend of lowering income tax rates.  We want our kids and grandkids to stay here in the Good Life.  A competitive tax climate will help us keep our children and families in Nebraska.  Without action, we risk being an outlier in the region for our high tax rates.

State Board of Education Bill

This week I presented LB768 to the Education Committee. LB768 does two things:

  1. removes the word “comprehensive” in section 79-712 from the health education program, and 2. prohibits the State Board of Education from developing, approving, distributing, adopting or promulgating any academic content standards in a new content area that is not explicitly authorized in Nebraska statute.

To give you a little background, in 2000 the Unicameral gave the State Board of Education and the Nebraska Board of Education a legislative mandate to develop measurable standards for core subjects. Over the past decade, the State Board of Education and the Nebraska Department of Education have expanded their reach into non-core subjects, which was fine until last year when they created a Health Education Standard that introduced a tremendous amount of controversial content. 

The Health Education Standards have created a crisis of confidence in the State Board of Education and our Department of Education. An overwhelming number of Nebraska parents, grandparents, teachers and others from all corners of the state are standing in opposition to this content. They are now mobilized, and showing up by the hundreds at every State Board of Education and local school board meetings since March of 2021. 

The State Board of Education and the Department of Education stepped outside of their jurisdiction when they published a Health Education Standards draft that introduced such controversial content unrepresentative of the majority of Nebraskans.

All taxpayer funded agencies require transparency and oversight. Local control is set forth by our Founding Fathers and Nebraska has embraced this idea since it became a state. Local control is HOW we prevent another disaster like the proposed Health Educational Standards. Parents are the primary educators of their children. There is no purer form of local control than a parent/guardian directing their child’s education. 

I think it is important for all Nebraskans to know that the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, in Article 7 says that the State Department of Education shall have general supervision and administration of the  school system of the state and of such other activities as the Legislature may direct. It also says that the duties and powers of the State Board of Education shall be prescribed by the Legislature and that the Commissioner of Education shall have power and duties as the Legislature may direct. Clearly, in Nebraska, the State Board of Education, the Department of Education and the Commissioner of Education are all to be directed by the Legislature. 

The Legislature’s job is clear, we should keep it short and simple- the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, along with the Commissioner should focus on improving the standards they have been authorized to formulate by the legislature and everything else should be returned to and be decided by the local schools. It is my belief that the corner has been turned, trust needs to be built. It is time to listen to our teachers, administrators and parents in our local districts their ideas about what is going on in our schools. The shortage of teachers is alarming. Teachers retiring early,  substitutes are hard to come by and the number of college graduates selecting a career in teaching is dwindling. Teaching is not the favored profession it used to be. I think we have to ask ourselves, why is that? When we make mandates in our schools that require teaching outside of the core subjects, we are putting many people in a position they won’t stay in. Not only are the parents and children suffering, but teachers are the very core, who we need the most to help us  get through this tenuous time, and we are driving them away. We need to give each school district, principles, superintendents, and teachers the tools they need to create the best environment they see fit to set our children up for the best environment to flourish. Let’s let them get back to the basics. 

Academic Transparency Bill

In hopes of fostering a stronger relationship between the school and the parents, Bellevue Senator Rita Sanders, introduced LB1158, a needed update to a nearly 30-year-old state law requiring public schools to develop and adopt policies on parental involvement.

Under LB1158, the policy would include how the district will provide parents and guardians access to digital and learning materials and training materials for teachers, administrators and staff as well as procedures for the review and approval of such materials and activities, among other information. The policy would have to describe under what circumstances a parent or guardian could ask that their child be excused from learning materials, activities and guest speakers that the parent finds objectionable. Parents already may request that their children be excused from testing, classroom instruction and other school experiences. LB1158 would require a “reasonable opportunity for public comments” at a required public hearing on the policy.

The bill also would require each school district to make all district and school policies accessible by a prominent link on the school’s website and make a reasonable effort to make any learning materials available for public inspection upon request. If the commissioner of education determines that a school district has failed to comply with the bill’s requirements, the commissioner would be required to direct that the district’s state aid be withheld and that any county with territory in the district withhold all money belonging to the district.

Nebraska AG Youth Institute

Apply now to attend one of the biggest youth agriculture outreach events in the

state—the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI). NAYI brings together high school juniors and seniors to learn more about Nebraska agriculture, network with agriculture leaders and discover the many careers available in agriculture. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) helps sponsor and coordinate NAYI every year.

NAYI will be held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus July 11–15, 2022.

Applications for NAYI are available at nda.nebraska.gov/nayi and must be submitted online. Current high school juniors and seniors interested in attending have until April 15, 2022, to apply. This year’s theme is “Cultivating Connections.” For more information contact Christin Kamm at 402-471-6856.

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the Legislative process. If you have taken the time to reach out to my office, please understand that with over 1200 bills being heard over the next 60 days, I am not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls I receive. Have a great week!


February 11th, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope this season finds you enjoying the love and close relationships you are blessed with. Mike and I have enjoyed the wonderful weather and chance to be out and about visiting friends and family more than some Nebraska February’s have offered. 

My Priority Bill

This was a big week for my office in the Legislature. I presented my Priority Bill, LB1213 to the Judiciary Committee. In fact, when I first heard about it I found it quite difficult to believe. Let me start by setting the context. During the summer research season my staff came across many states that are struggling with defining what content children have access to in the educational setting. We learned that there are primarily two companies that provide educational research databases to nearly every school, not only in Nebraska, or in America, but in Australia, and Great Britain and around the world. Marketing themselves specifically for Kindergarten through 12th grade, these educational research database providers/vendors will tell you that they provide a safe environment for students to learn.The reality is that many people from many states have told the providers about the inappropriate content the students are coming across, often accidentally. Though these companies will remove the specific identified link for that school, they do not remove it from all schools and make no attempt to clean them all up.  Be aware that we are not dealing with mild or arguable pornography.  Researchers have found the most vile and graphic obscenity on K-12 school databases, including many that encourage violence. It is our responsibility as Legislators, teachers and parents to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to provide logins and devices that are a safe environment to grow and learn so every K-12 student can become what they were meant to be under our watch.

I met with the Nebraska Library Commission and learned that they are the entity in our state that negotiates a contract with the educational research database providers. Their contract provides educational research databases for nearly every school in Nebraska.

LB1213 does three things. 

  1. It requires education research database providers to filter and block obscene materials to minors as defined by Nebraska statute. 
  2. It gives a school and/or the Nebraska Library Commission the legal authority to end a contract if the provider does not remove the inappropriate content in sufficient time and in a sufficient way. 
  3. It establishes an annual reporting mechanism where all schools in Nebraska submit all noncompliant incidents to the governor and to the Legislative Education Committee.

Nebraska’s parents and teachers are more astute than ever as to what is happening in our schools. This Legislature owes it to Nebraska’s children, parents, teachers, librarians and schools to stop K-12 children from being exposed to obscene consent in the name of education, paid for by Nebraska’s tax dollars. As Senators, together we can easily hold educational research database providers/vendors accountable for obscene content included in the databases they are currently providing to our K-12th children.

Upcoming Senator’s Priority Bills

Brandt -LB543-Agriculture Equipment Right to Repair Act 

Brewer-LB773-Provide for carrying of concealed handgun without a permit 

Erdman-LR264CA-Retail consumption taxes and excise taxes.

Gragert-LB925-Adopt the Resilient Soils and Water Quality Act 

Hilgers-LB933-Adopt the Nebraska Human Life Protection Act

McDonnell-LB1023-Lake Development Act & Water Recreation Enhancement Act

Sanders-LB1158-Parental involvement in and access to learning materials 

COVID -19 Vaccine Mandates

LB906, introduced by Blair Senator Ben Hansen, would apply to all employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates by Nebraska entities with 20 or more employees.

The amendment that replaced the bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to create and publish a form on its website to be filled out by employees seeking an exemption based either on a healthcare practitioner’s recommendation or the individual’s sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance. LB906 would apply to entities with one or more employees, including state agencies and other political subdivisions. The federal government, any corporation wholly owned by the federal government, Indian tribes and bona fide private membership clubs, other than labor organizations, that are exempt from federal taxation would be exempted from the bill’s provisions. Under LB906, employers could require unvaccinated employees to wear personal protective equipment or submit to COVID-19 testing at the employer’s expense. After adoption of the amendments, senators advanced LB906 to Select File on a 33-0 vote.

Debate on School Funding

This week the Legislature had some serious conversations about education funding and the appropriate ratio of taxes to provide for it with a first-round debate on LB890, a package of bills to provide an extensive rewrite to the state’s education formula known as TEEOSA. Through a variety of mechanisms, the bill would direct $730 million more in state funding to schools. The pay-for companion bill, LB891, introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom is still in committee. Without those pay-fors, the legislature would be on the hook for finding that $730 million to fund this rewrite of the formula. The proposed pay-fors in LB891, though, would eliminate net option payments, direct a half-cent of sales tax and repurpose the Property Tax Incentive Act, which currently distributes property income tax credits to Nebraskans for property taxes paid. While I am in full support of public schools, enhancing TEEOSA for some doesn’t mean it is enhanced for all. Two years ago the Legislature passed LB1107, the ImagiNE Act. I am not in favor of those taxpayer credits to be used as a funding source for this legislation. After six hours of debate Senator Walz asked for a Speaker hold with the intention of hopefully working with others on the bill. In my opinion with only 36 days left, I don’t see this coming back until a much later date.

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the Legislative process. If you have taken the time to reach out to my office, please understand that with over 1200 bills being heard over the next 60 days, I am not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls I receive. That being said, it is great when you are watching to see which bills make it to the Floor and let me know what you think about them. That helps me make decisions that best represent District 17. I hope you have a great week!


February 4th, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

This was a very full week of Legislative duties. During our morning Floor debates we debated a number of Senator Priority Bills. The afternoons are filled with Committee hearings, of which I sit on the Revenue and Transportation and Telecommunications Committees. Many organizations hold gatherings during the evenings, giving Senators an opportunity to meet leadership representatives and learn more about all that is taking place in business and trade across the state. Any time in between those meetings, my staff and I strategize with stakeholders and leaders to hone my bills and perspectives on other legislation that has been introduced. I count it an honor to represent District 17. 

A Bill to Help Rural Pharmacies

LB767, which, advanced this week, was introduced by Senator Mark Kolterman of Seward, would establish licensure and regulation standards for pharmacy benefit managers — companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers — by the state Department of Insurance. The bill will provide much needed regulation of PBMs, reduce pharmacy administrative costs and allow small pharmacies to better compete with larger ones. PBMs effectively have created a monopoly in Nebraska and are causing prescription drug prices to increase.

School District Property Tax Limitation

Albion Senator Tom Briese, sponsored LB986 to put a cap on public schools’ taxing authority. I co-sponsored this bill, which advanced to this week. I believe this bill is critical if the Legislature is to direct more state funding to schools in an effort to reduce an overreliance on property taxes to fund public education. Under LB986, a district’s property tax request — the amount of taxes requested to be raised through its levy — could not exceed its property tax request authority, which the state Department of Education would calculate each year. The resulting amount then would decrease by an amount equal to the increase in a district’s non-property-tax revenue, which includes certain state sources. If revenue from those sources decreases, a district’s property tax request would increase by an equal amount. This floating cap would ensure that any new state aid to public schools results in property tax relief. Requiring a vote of the people would give taxpayers an opportunity to say ‘no’ if the increases are inappropriate at that time or to approve an override if school boards have made a good case for that.

My bills this week:

LB1213 – would ensure that outside database providers contracted to provide educational research database resources to students in grades K- 12 make obscene and harmful materials unavailable; and to cause the Nebraska Library Commission and the State Department of Education to submit an annual report; and to provide a civil cause of action for failure in this area. K-12 students in schools throughout Nebraska are given access to curated databases for study and research on 100,000s of publications. The multinational companies who make billions on these school databases market K-12 versions of the databases as “age-appropriate” and safe for children. These databases contain obscenity – illegal under Nebraska law. Once these databases are accessed, the filters installed by the schools, and by parents on home computers, no longer have any effect. The schools and parents are all but helpless to protect their children from illegal obscenity that is so graphic it can truly warp minds. It is easy for a child innocently to stumble into graphic obscenity on these databases, without looking for it. Most people do not realize this situation exists. Even many schools and school districts are unaware.

The companies are well aware of the situation, and the technology exists to fix it with relative ease. Nonetheless, the companies do not generally filter/block obscene material, but rather just respond to a particular complaint and remove the specific link that has been accessed. There is no possible way for schools or parents to catch all such obscene entries in an ever changing database of 100,000s publications. LB 1213 requires all such providers of online materials and databases to filter/block materials obscene as to minors. 

LB1240- is a bill I am carrying for the Governor that would appropriate federal funds to the State Department of Education to provide Family-Directed Education Recovery Program. The recommendation includes $30 million in 2021-22 and an additional $30 million in 2022-23 for a three-year program to provide for low-income children and families. This three-year pilot program will provide direct assistance to children in K-12 for the 2022-2025 school years. For each school year, up to $20 million will be allocated to parents for educational expenses to address learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility for Nebraska children will be determined if a child is eligible for the federal free lunch program, and attends grades K-12 in a public, non-public, or exempt school. A child can receive up to $2,000 of benefit per school year for educational services that include but are not limited to; private school tuition, tutoring, digital learning subscriptions, exempt school curriculum, and other K-12 educational services. This program does not authorize the purchasing of computing devices or equipment, as other federal funding has been made available to make these devices accessible to children covered in this program. 

Newspaper for Kids

This week I learned of a new publication and reading program our community newspapers are providing to our local schools. KID SCOOP NEWS NEBRASKA was initiated last September as a partnership between community newspapers and students in grades 3-5. The Nebraska Press Association and its member newspapers have undertaken this program to try to help improve reading scores and to improve literacy in Nebraska. The youth oriented publication is delivered by local newspaper publishers and staff at the beginning of each month to the schools, at no cost. Each month 10,000 copies are delivered to 580 classrooms, in 91 districts across 23 counties. I received copies of several issues that I found absolutely fascinating and creatively laid. I congratulate the local newspapers for investing in the next generation of Nebraskans in such an impactful way,  I can’t wait to go through them with my grandchildren!

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the Legislative process. If you have taken the time to reach out to my office, please understand that with over 1200 bills being heard over the next 60 days, I am not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls I receive. Have a great week!


January 28th, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

Last weekend my family and I had the delightful opportunity to join hundreds of Nebraskans at the Nebraska Family Alliance annual banquet. What an encouragement to learn all that is taking place across the country to stand up for those most vulnerable in our country. I will also be joining many state and local leaders for Nebraska Right to Life’s Walk for Life in Lincoln this weekend. 

School Choice Week in Nebraska

In Governor Ricketts’ proclamation of School Choice Week he said, “We need to empower families to choose the best educational setting for their children. Giving parents and students this freedom will provide the next generation of Nebraskans with expanded opportunity for an excellent education.” Senators Lou Ann Linehan, Dave Murman and myself urged our colleagues in the Unicameral to support school choice legislation, like LB364, so that all families in Nebraska have the ability to choose the educational option best suited for their children. Nebraska is one of just two states in America that has not enacted a school choice policy.

Social Security Income Tax Phase-Out

The Legislature passed LB825 42-0-1 to speed up the eventual elimination of state taxation of Social Security income. I co-sponsored the bill introduced by Omaha Senator Brett Lindstrom, which sets the exemption on such income, to the extent that it is included in federal adjusted gross income, at 20 percent in tax year 2022. The exemption then is scheduled to increase 10 percent per year until reaching 50 percent in tax year 2025, with the stated intention of eliminating the tax entirely in 2030. It is projected that LB825 will benefit some 325,000 retirees across Nebraska.

The Nebraska Property Tax Incentive Act

Senator Tom Briese of Albion introduced LB723, a state tax credit intended to offset part of Nebraskans’ property tax bill. It would create a refundable income tax credit based on the amount an eligible taxpayer paid in property taxes to their school district during the previous year. The credit is equal to a percentage set by the state Department of Revenue multiplied by the amount of school district taxes paid. LB would ensure that the credit does not drop below its current amount of $548 million, which is an approximately 25 percent rebate on the amount paid in school property taxes. Under Briese’s proposal, the credit could increase by an allowable growth percentage beginning in tax year 2024. The percentage is equal to the growth in statewide real property value and cannot exceed 5 percent in any one year. The bill has passed from General to Select File.

Chief Justice Addresses the Unicameral

Last week Chief Justice Michael Heavican of the Nebraska Supreme Court delivered his State of the Judiciary address to the Unicameral. He noted the importance of Nebraskans being able to maintain access to the courts during a challenging year of logistical obstacles and staff shortages due to Covid 19. One highlight of the past year was the work of the statewide restorative justice initiative which requires juvenile law violators to meet with the victims of their crimes. Youth who participated in the program had a recidivism rate of 11.3 percent compared to 19 percent for those who did not participate and work is underway to expand the program to more Nebraska youth. Heavican said other problem-solving courts — such as the young adult, mental health and veterans treatment courts — have continued to find new and innovative ways to provide sentencing alternatives and help divert criminal offenders from the state’s prisons and jails. “We owe the success of our courts to the good old-fashioned work ethic of judges, staff and practicing attorneys,” he said. “We also owe our positive accomplishments to the increased use of technology and the accompanying innovative initiatives of our court family.”

Watch-Follow-Comment the Legislature

I appreciate how many District 17 constituents are informed and involved in the Legislature. If you have not been as involved as you would have liked in the past, the Nebraska Legislature has a wonderful website which contains a wealth of information. Viewers can read the text of bills introduced, search statutes, find a Senator’s webpage, follow the progress of Legislation, read the Unicameral Update, and watch the Legislature live through video streaming.

A new tool has been added that allows interested individuals to submit their position statements online on pending legislation as soon as that bill is scheduled for a hearing. I think this is a wonderful tool that can be used by the Second House, the people of Nebraska, to weigh in on bills and resolutions as they move through the Legislative process. Simply enter a bill number in the search on the home page or click “Bills and Laws” to search for a particular bill. Once you are on the individual bill page, click  “Submit Comments Online” to submit your position. For statements to be included in the official public hearing record as an exhibit, they must be submitted through the website prior to 12:00 p.m. CST on the last Legislative day prior to the public hearing. You can find all of the information you need on the homepage at nebraskalegislature.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Jacki or Lisa in my office if you have any questions about the process.

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the Legislative process. If you have taken the time to reach out to my office, please understand that with over 1200 bills being heard over the next 60 days, I am not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls I receive. Have a great week!


January 21st, 2022

2ND SESSION OF THE 107TH LEGISLATURE 

President Ronald Reagan once said, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” Every decision that happens in Nebraska by an elected official should be for the purpose of protecting the rights of our citizens. I take that responsibility very seriously as I seek to discern each proposed piece of legislation that comes before me.

There are 523 bills that were carried over from last Session and 754 new bills that have been introduced in the last 10 days. The Legislature certainly has a full schedule to get through all of the bills in this short Session of 2022. I want to highlight for you some key bills that I think strongly impact the people of Wayne, Thurston, Dakota and Dixon Counties in Nebraska.

Pro-Life Bills

I am partnering with fellow Senators Suzanne Geist of Lincoln and Julie Slama of Peru in carrying three pro-life bills this Session. 

LB781- The Heartbeat Act– introduced by Senator Slama creates requirements that prior to performing any abortion, a physician shall perform an ultrasound of the pregnant woman’s unborn child to determine if a fetal heartbeat is detectable. If a heartbeat is detectable, it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly perform an abortion.

LB933- The Nebraska Human Life Protection Act- provides that when Roe v. Wade is overturned, the performance of an abortion in Nebraska will be a Class IIA felony.

LB1086 – The Chemical Abortion Safety Protocol Act– introduced by Senator Geist would restrict access to a medical abortion by limiting the window in which medication abortion pills can be prescribed. It would also add new reporting requirements and allow doctors to face felony charges for violations of its provisions.

School Database Bill

I also introduced LB1213, which requires that vendor contracts for digital and online library resources for K-12 students contain a provision verifying that the resource will not contain material deemed harmful to minors as defined in Nebraska code and providing that contracts may be suspended or terminated for violation of that provision. It also requires that the Nebraska Library Commission and Department of Education submit an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature outlining issues with vendor compliance. 

State Board of Education Bill

I have introduced LB768 to clearly define the guidelines for education standards in Nebraska School Districts and to establish that no education standards can be created or distributed by the Nebraska Department of Education without the authority of the Legislature. 

DMV- State Patrol Bill

I was honored again this year to introduce LB720, a joint bill to harmonize our state Department of Motor Vehicles and the Nebraska State Patrol which advanced out of Committee this week. During his testimony at the hearing Officer Mike Maytum of the Nebraska State Patrol shared the following statistics that I found very impressive. The following is an excerpt of his testimony. “Every day our Troopers strive to make our highways safe. In Fiscal Year 2021, the Nebraska State Patrol conducted 24,858 roadside inspections, identifying 8,317 violations of driver requirements, and requiring that 1,139 inspected drivers be placed out of service. 7,026 vehicles were inspected, with an average of 2.67 violations discovered per vehicle and 2,979 vehicles being placed out of service due to serious defects. The roadside inspection program has enabled the State to establish clear guidelines for commercial vehicle operators while ensuring a Nebraska State Patrol presence to assist in correction of operators who have vehicle or driver defects.” I could not be any more impressed with the fine work of the Nebraska State Patrol. The guidelines they carry out create a significantly safer driving environment as we travel across Nebraska.

Bills I am Co-sponsoring 

I am grateful to have courageous colleagues who are standing to protect Nebraskan’s freedoms by introducing the following bill which I am cosigning: 

LB310, Inheritance Tax Reduction– introduced by Elmwood Senator Robert Clements, would decrease inheritance tax rates on beneficiaries and increase the amount of property value that is exempt from the tax, which in Nebraska is collected by counties. The bill would require county treasurers to compile and submit a report regarding inheritance taxes to the state Department of Revenue. LB310 has advanced to Select File.

LB773, Concealed Carry- sponsored by Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon, would provide for the carrying of a concealed handgun without a permit and prohibit regulation of such carrying by cities, villages and counties.

LB774, Religious Freedom Protections– also introduced by Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon, would prevent state and local political subdivisions from placing a “substantial burden” on individuals, associations, partnerships, corporations, churches, religious institutions, estates, trusts, foundations and other legal entities’ right to practice sincerely held religious beliefs.

LB906, Vaccine Exemptions– sponsored by Blair Senator Ben Hansen would require employers to provide for vaccine exemptions and provide duties for the State Department of Health and Human Services.

LB1077, Critical Race Theory- introduced by Senator Ben Hansen of Blair would prohibit public schools, public postsecondary institutions and governmental entities from training or teaching certain concepts relating to race and sex. The bill would allow the state to withhold funding from schools that knowingly violate the new limitations and would put government agencies that do so at risk for lawsuits, at the attorney general’s discretion. 

I always appreciate each of you who intentionally stays informed and engaged in the legislative process. If you have taken the time to reach out to my office, please understand that with over 1200 bills being heard over the next 60 days. Though I would like to, I am not able to personally respond to all of the emails and calls I receive. Have a great week!

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room 12th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2716
Email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
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