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

Weekly News–June 14, 2024
June 14th, 2024

The nation’s first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington. However, it was not until 1972–58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official–that the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday in the United States. (History.com authors. “Father’s Day 2024”. History.com. 31 January, 2024. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/fathers-day)

Father’s Day was this past Sunday, June 16th. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the fathers and grandfathers in the district a Happy belated Father’s Day. I hope you were able to enjoy time with your family.

Bill Update
This week I would like to go over LB1329, one of the two Education Committee priority bills.

LB1329, introduced by Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil, updates the Nebraska Career Scholarship Act by transferring its administration from the state Department of Economic Development to the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. The bill expands the definition of “first-time freshman” to include dual enrollment graduates, updates scholarship eligibility to a 3.0 GPA or higher and aligns reporting with census data to consider all eligible programs, retention, and graduation data. LB1329 modifies language regarding the State Board of Education policies on truancy and allows school boards to determine the length of behavioral intervention training for employees. Eleven other bills were amended into LB1329.

  • LB550, sponsored by Senator Beau Ballard of Lincoln, allows K-12 students to attend a public school outside their district once in elementary, middle, and high school, for a total of three times before graduation.
  • LB673, introduced by Senator Ben Hansen of Blair, provides grants to schools that adopt a policy to provide emergency response mapping data to law enforcement agencies.
  • LB855, sponsored by Senator Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, prohibits school districts from contracting with a collection agency to assess or collect interest, fees, or other monetary penalties for outstanding debts on a student’s school lunch or breakfast account.
  • LB962, introduced by Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha, requires public schools to exclusively use the Gall-Peters or AuthaGraph projection map for teaching purposes in the classroom.
  • LB1012, sponsored by Senator Lynne Walz of Fremont, allows the Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund to be used for abatement projects to address school safety infrastructure concerns.
  • LB1083, introduced by Senator Conrad, expands the Nebraska Career Scholarships to include a program of study in education, engineering or early childhood education as an eligible program of study for scholarship eligibility for private colleges and community colleges.
  • LB1328, introduced by Senator Murman, amends statutes that refer to school districts by class size by adding the newly proposed classes as applicable. Class I encompasses school districts with a population of fewer than 1,500 inhabitants, maintaining both elementary and high school grades under the governance of one school board; Class II comprises school districts with a population ranging from 1,500 to fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, maintaining both elementary and high school grades under the governance of one school board; Class III encompasses school districts with a population between 5,000 and fewer than 200,000 inhabitants, maintaining both elementary and high school grades under the governance of one school board.
  • LB1331, introduced by Senator Murman, represents proposals by the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) to address a variety of issues it believes can be administered more effectively. Such issues include truancy, option enrollment, graduation requirements, alternative teacher certification, student loan repayment assistance, innovation and improvement grant programs, Summer Food Service program, special education expenditures, programs for learners with high ability, behavioral health, state lottery funds, behavioral awareness training, and the College Pathway Program. This bill modernizes and harmonizes language to match current practices and eliminates outdated language as well as clarifies language and wording to match current state statutes, federal language, and current practices.
  • LB1339, introduced by Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon, permits certain school districts to authorize security personnel and off-duty law enforcement to carry firearms on school grounds and at school-sponsored activities. Participating school districts are required to have a written policy regarding qualifications, training, and the appropriate use of force. The provision does not apply to public elementary or secondary schools in Class III, IV, or V school districts.
  • LB1377, sponsored by Senator Walz at the request of the Governor, directs the State Board of Education to create model policies addressing behavioral intervention, management, and student removal, with training frequency left to school boards. School districts must adopt these policies by August 1, 2025, and staff training aligning with the policies is required from the 2026-27 school year. Similar requirements apply to dating violence policies and training. The State Board of Education is also authorized to establish minimum school security standards, including reasonable training for security personnel.
  • LB1385, introduced by Senator Kathleen Kauth of Omaha at the request of the Governor, streamlines the approval application process for teaching certificates and creates reciprocity among states for their issuance. (Portions taken from “Omnibus education bill approved”. Unicameral Update. 12 April, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36409)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–June 7, 2024
June 10th, 2024

Parades and community events are in full swing. Two weekends ago, I enjoyed attending the Tri-County Days in Emerson. I had a good time along with my family and grandkids. The fire department fed everyone hamburgers and there were a lot of activities for people of all ages.

I would like to congratulate New to You on their 25th anniversary of being open, for all the scholarships given to Emerson-Hubbard seniors, money donated to the community, and to the many volunteers that give of their time to run NYT. May you be open for many more years to come.

Bill Updates

This week I would like to go over individual bills that were passed this past session or were Senator or Speaker priority bills.

  • LB257, introduced by Senator John Lowe of Kearney, rewrites section 12-701 of the cemetery statutes to provide cities, counties, and villages with a process to revest lots purchased for internment or burial in a cemetery owned by the city, county, or village, if no one has been buried in the lot for at least thirty years. The bill provides for proper notice proceedings that allow the owner of such a lot the opportunity to file a valid claim showing they have not abandoned the lot, and further allows, the governing body to bring an action in district court to restore the cemetery lot to the governing body, should no valid claim by an owner be filed. New language is added to section 12-702 to allow the city, county, or village that becomes the revisionary owner of the cemetery lot pursuant to 12-701 to then sell the same and convey title to a new purchaser of the lot for purposes of internment or burial. LB257 passed 44-0 and was approved by Governor Pillen on March 11, 2024.
  • LB1087, introduced by Senator Mike Jacobson of North Platte and was Senator Christy Armendariz’s personal priority bill, requires the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to submit a state plan amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval to impose an assessment on Nebraska hospitals. Under the plan, each Nebraska hospital would pay an assessment fee based on their quarterly net patient revenue. The total statewide assessment amount could not exceed 6% of the total net patient revenue of all assessed hospitals. Jacobson said the bill would allow Nebraska to access a federal program used by 43 other states and the District of Columbia that provides matching funds to help hospitals cover the cost of treating individuals on Medicaid. For each dollar assessed under the program, he said, the federal match in Medicaid directed payments would be approximately $2.19–a total of approximately $1 billion per year. Those dollars would be distributed to Nebraska hospitals based on their share of Medicaid patients treated in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The program will be administered by DHHS, which will receive an administration fee of 3% of the assessment amount, not to exceed $15 million per year. Of the total assessed amount, 3.5% may be used for health priorities including funding non-hospital Medicaid providers. That amount is capped at $17.5 million. LB1087 passed 45-0 and took effect immediately. It was approved by Governor Pillen on March 27, 2024. (“Hospital assessment program clears first round”. Unicameral Update. 16 February, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35607)
  • LB857, introduced by Senator George Dungan of Lincoln and his personal priority bill, creates the Nebraska Prenatal Plus Program to cover the cost of prenatal services for at-risk mothers–defined as pregnant women eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program who a health care provider determines are at risk for a negative maternal or infant health outcome. Prenatal services under the program include nutritional counseling, psychosocial counseling and support, general client education and health promotion, breastfeeding support, and targeted case management. The program will sunset June 30, 2028. The bill also includes provisions of LB933, introduced by Senator Carolyn Bosn of Lincoln, that expands Nebraska Medicaid coverage for continuous glucose monitors to include individuals with gestational diabetes and those receiving any type of insulin therapy. This bill passed on a vote of 45-0 and was approved by Governor Pillen on April 2, 2024. (“Medicaid prenatal program approved”. Unicameral Update. 28 March, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36179)
  • LB876, introduced by Senator Rick Holdcroft of Bellevue and a Speaker priority bill, expands safe haven provisions for Nebraska infants. Current state law allows for the surrendering of infants 30 days or younger in person at a hospital. LB876 raises the age to 90 days and provides additional options for a parent or a person acting on the parent’s behalf to voluntarily release custody of an infant. In addition to hospitals, the bill allows a parent or designee to surrender physical custody to an emergency care provider or at a fire or police station that is staffed 24 hours a day. No individual can be prosecuted solely for the act of surrendering a newborn under the bill’s provisions. This bill also appropriates $65,000 to the state Department of Health and Human Services in fiscal year 2024-2025 and $10,000 in FY 2025-2026 to develop, implement, and maintain a public information program regarding the bill’s provisions. This bill was passed on a vote of 47-0 and was approved by Governor Pillen on April 2, 2024. (“Safe haven provisions expanded”. Unicameral Update. 11 April, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36382)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

I hope that everyone had a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend! As we spent the long weekend with family and friends, I hope each of you joined me in remembering the brave servicemen and women who sacrificed themselves to give us the freedom and liberties we enjoy every day in the great state of Nebraska.

Bill Update
This week I would like to go over LB1073 which was introduced by Senator Julie Slama of Dunbar and become one of the two priority bills of the Business, Commerce, and Insurance Committee. This bill contained the provisions of eleven other measures considered by the committee this session.

LB1073 eliminates a requirement that at least one operations review of a third-party administrator within a semiannual review period be conducted onsite. The bill instead gives the director of the state Department of Insurance discretion to require an onsite evaluation if deemed necessary.

  • Provisions of LB446, sponsored by Senator Eliot Bostar of Lincoln, provides a regulatory framework for peer-to-peer vehicle sharing in Nebraska and determines the priority of insurance liability. They require that the owner and driver be insured under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy during each sharing period and specify what such a policy must include.
  • LB873, sponsored by Senator Beau Ballard of Lincoln increases from $500 to $5,000 the amount of “good funds” a person acting as a real estate closing agency must have available for disbursement at the time of closing a real estate transaction.
  • Provisions of LB885, sponsored by Senator Bostar, creates a lung cancer screening mandate for individuals between 50 and 80 years of age who currently smoke or who quit within the past 15 years and had a 20-pack per year smoking history. The provisions prohibit a deductible, coinsurance or cost-sharing requirement for qualified individuals.
  • LB990, sponsored by Senator Bostar, alters the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure and Regulation Act.
  • LB1024, also sponsored by Senator Bostar, changes provisions related to documents and information provided to an independent review organization under the Health Carrier External Review Act.
  • LB1135, sponsored by Senator Robert Dover of Norfolk, prohibits the use of right-to-list home sale agreements and changes provisions of the Nebraska Real Estate License Act.
  • Provisions of LB1136, sponsored by Senator Dover, increases the maximum civil fine that the state Real Estate Commission may impose on an individual performing brokerage activities in Nebraska without a license. The provisions raise the cap from $2,500 per complaint to $5,000 or the total amount of commission earned by the licensee in each transaction subject to a complaint.
  • LB1147, sponsored by Senator Bostar, provides requirements for separate investment accounts that hold assets of index-linked variable annuity contracts.
  • LB1148, sponsored by Senator Ben Hansen of Blair, changes requirements relating to insurance coverage of step therapy for certain drugs.
  • LB1227, sponsored by Senator Ballard, allows a professional employer organization to offer its covered employees any health benefit plan that meets the requirements of the Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement Act and the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
  • LB1409, sponsored by Senator Bostar, changes provisions of the Nebraska Condominium Act related to notification requirements regarding the subdivision of a unit, creation of timeshares or proposed amendment to a declaration that adversely affects the priority of the mortgagee’s right to foreclose its lien or otherwise materially affects the rights and interest of the mortgagee or beneficiary. (“Insurance omnibus measure clears final round”. Unicameral Update. 15 April, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36449)

LB1073 passed on a 44-0 vote and took effect immediately. It was approved by Governor Pillen on April 15, 2024.

News from Governor Pillen’s Office

Governor Jim Pillen, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) encourage Nebraskans to register for the One Nebraska Ag & Economic Development Summit. This year’s event will take place August 7-8, 2024 at the Younes Conference Center North in Kearney. Registration for the Summit is now open at govsummit.nebraska.gov. Troy Dannen, Athletic Direct for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will be the keynote speaker.

“The key to our success is working together as one Nebraska to grow our state,” said Governor Pillen. “At this summer’s Summit, we’ll unite around a shared vision to create great opportunities for our kids and grandkids. We have the most sustainable ag supply chain on the planet, and we’re sitting on our pot of gold–the Ogallala Aquifer. The potential is sky high for Nebraska to be a hub for advanced fermentation, biomanufacturing, and production of next-generation biofuels.”

The One Nebraska Summit convenes economic developers and industry leaders in agriculture and business to discuss how to best grow Nebraska. This year, breakout sessions will cover talent attraction, the emerging bioeconomy, housing and childcare solutions, stewardship of water resources, manufacturing, and much more.

“We’re revolutionizing our approach to economic development in Nebraska,” said DED Director K. C. Belitz. “We’re now competing for people, not only jobs. It’s critical that we retain more of our grads and recruit top talent to the state. At the same time, we’re redoubling our efforts to encourage homegrown entrepreneurship by supporting the businesses that give so much to our communities. It’s crucial that Nebraska’s leaders understand where we’re going and how we intend to get there. I encourage you to join us for the 2024 Summit in Kearney.”

The 2024 Summit officially kicks off on Wednesday night, August 7th, with a reception and banquet hosted by the Nebraska Diplomats. The evening event includes an awards ceremony to honor leaders, businesses, and communities who have made key contributions to the state’s economic success over the previous year. Thursday, August 8th, is the primary day of the Summit. It features opening and closing remarks from Governor Pillen, a keynote from Troy Dannen, and a full slate of breakout sessions–each led by a panel of subject matter experts.

To register for the Diplomats Banquet and Summit, visit govsummit.nebraska.gov. A full Summit agenda is also available through the website. For questions, contact Lori Shaal at lori.shaal@nebraska.gov or (402) 890-4624. (Strimple, Laura and Urlis, Allan. Press Release. “Gov. Pillen Invites Nebraskans to Register for the One Nebraska Ag & Economic Development Summit Headlined by Husker AD Troy Dannen”. 29 May, 2024. https://shorturl.at/4El0y)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Summer is upon us. School is officially out all over the district and students are now on to their summer activities. I look forward to working outdoors and going to my grandchildren’s activities.

Bill Update

This week I would like to go over LB1284 which was Fremont Senator Lynne Walz’s priority bill. It became an omnibus education proposal and included portions of eight other bills.

LB1284 provides funding and resources to implement the provisions of the Computer Science and Technology Education Act, which the Legislature passed in 2022. The bill requires the Nebraska Department of Education to employ or contract with computer science specialists to develop and deliver computer science educator training for teachers. The training will be accessible to all teachers in the state, including those seeking supplemental computer science certification. LB1284 also establishes the Computer Science and Technology Education Fund, which the department will administer. The fund will receive $1 million from the Education Future Fund by June 30, 2025 and $500,000 annually if matching private funds are raised.

  • LB985, introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan from Elkhorn, clarifies that eligibility for the Nebraska Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act also requires an applicant teach in the area of their high-need certification
  • LB986, also introduced by Senator Linehan, amends the Teach in Nebraska Today Act to increase the maximum grant total awarded each year from $5 million to $10 million.
  • LB1005, introduced by Senator Walz, provides technical changes to carry out provisions of a 2023 Education Committee omnibus bill.
  • LB1014, also introduced by Senator Walz, reimburses school districts and education service units for the cost of contracting with outside agencies to cover required services of school psychologists.
  • LB1050, introduced by Senator Danielle Conrad from Lincoln, creates a pilot program administered by the Nebraska Department of Education to provide school districts with free menstrual products in Fiscal Year 2025-26.
  • LB1252, introduced by Senator Linehan, provides funding to the Nebraska Department of Education to develop and implement a professional learning system to help provide sustained professional learning and training regarding evidence-based reading instruction for teachers who teach children from four years of age through third grade. The state Department of Education will work with educational service units to provide regional coaches to provide assistance and job-embedded training relating to evidence-based reading instruction to teachers who teach students in kindergarten through third grade.
  • LB1253, introduced by Senator Linehan, provides up to $500,000 in grants to research the use of artificial-intelligence-based writing assistance for individuals with dyslexia, which teachers could use to develop a comprehensive literacy plan.
  • LB1254, also introduced by Senator Linehan, would provide funding to the Nebraska Department of Education to create reading improvement mentorship programs that focus on developing the science of reading skills and employ regional coaches to assist teachers with reading instruction.

LB1284 passed on a 42-0 vote and took effect immediately. (“Education package clears final round”. Unicameral Update. 15 April, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36474)

News from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

The federal Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) plan to run the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program. USDA officials commended DHHS for the several touchpoints included in the plan to ensure Nebraska families receive the services they need during summer months.
Eligible families will receive $120 per child for the summer period. An estimated 175,000 students, or 80,000 households, will be eligible to receive Summer EBT benefits.
Along with issuing the cards, the Summer EBT program will include multiple touchpoints of outreach throughout the following months, including:

  • Educational information on the types of nutritious foods that parents can purchase for their kids with Summer EBT cards;
  • DHHS sending text messages to families with a brief survey to help identify additional needs or resources; and
  • Trained staff following up personally to assess any other needs and determine what resources would be of benefit to families.

In addition to DHHS utilizing Summer EBT and built-in touchpoints in its plan, NDE will also administer the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) which provides no-cost meals to children ages 1 through 18 at nearly 300 locations across Nebraska. No applications or paperwork are required to receive meals from approved sites. Most SFSP sites begin providing meals during the first week of June. Text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304 to receive information about local SFSP sites.

School-age, income-eligible children may receive Summer EBT benefits. This includes:

  1. School-age children participating in the following public assistance programs:Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
    a. Aid to Dependent Children (ADC);
    b. Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR); or
    c. Children on Medicaid with household income under 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
  2. School-age children who are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or School Breakfast Program (SBP) based on the following statuses:
    a. Participation in Head Start;
    b. Homeless;
    c. Foster;
    d. Migrant; or
    e. Runaway.
  3. School-age children who have already been approved for free or reduced-priced meals through filling out a school meals application; and
  4. School-age children enrolled in a school participating in NSLP/SBP, not already eligible, and determined income-eligible through a Summer EBT application, which will be available after June 1.

If a child meets the first three above criteria, they do not need to complete a Summer EBT application. Their benefits will be issued to a Summer EBT card and mailed to the address provided by the student’s school or maintained by DHHS for public assistance participants.

School-aged homeschooled children not receiving public assistance benefits do not qualify for Summer EBT benefits, as they are not participating in an NSLP/SBP school.

To learn more about Summer EBT and SFSP, please visit https://dhhs.ne.gov/SummerEBT. More information on benefit issuances will be shared as implementation continues this summer. (Spilinek, Collin. Press Release. “DHHS Summer EBT Program Plan Approved by USDA”. 6 May, 2024. https://shorturl.at/DK3Hr)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Memorial Day will be celebrated on Monday, May 27, 2024 in towns and cities across Nebraska. Americans prepare to honor the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have served our country by serving in the military. We honor those who gave up their lives with bravery and selflessness for the countless freedoms we currently enjoy. God Bless America.

Bill Update
This week I would like to go over LB43 which was one of two Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee priority bills

LB43, introduced by Senator Rita Sanders of Bellevue, would direct hearing officers and judges not to rely on a state agency’s interpretation of state laws or regulations in contested cases under the Administrative Procedures Act. Sanders said the goal is to focus more on the legislative intent behind laws and less on agency interpretations in situations involving disputes over state agency actions. Deferring to state agency interpretations often serves to enhance the power of an unelected bureaucracy, she said. (“Omnibus government regulation bill clears first round”. Unicameral Update. 24 January, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35065)

LB43 included six additional proposals that address the state’s Administrative Procedures Act and Public Records Act:

  • LB41, sponsored by Senator Ben Hansen of Blair, prohibits the state from placing “intrusive or politically motivated” filing or reporting requirements on charitable organizations beyond those required by state law unless narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest or to fulfill federal funding requirements.
  • LB277, introduced by Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon, creates a more restrictive standard for imposing a “substantial burden” on a person’s right to the exercise of religion and authorizes indigenous tribal members who are students in approved or accredited public schools to wear tribal regalia at any school facility or function, unless doing so would prevent school purposes or interfere with the educational process.
  • LB297, sponsored by Senator Rita Sanders, prohibits state and local government agencies from compelling a nonprofit organization to release the personal information of its members, supporters, volunteers, or donors.
  • LB366, introduced by Senator Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, changes the threshold at which Nebraska residents may be charged for time spent fulfilling a public records request from four to eight hours and allows nonresidents to be charged the full cost of fulfilling a request.
  • LB637, sponsored by Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston, requires a public body to allow members of the public an opportunity to speak at every meeting except for closed sessions related to personnel matters, investigations regarding allegations of criminal conduct or other purposes already exempted under state law.
  • LB650, introduced by Senator Mike McDonnell of Omaha, amends public records law to permit the state or any political subdivision to withhold records relating to the “nature, location or function of cybersecurity”.

LB43 passed on a 39-0 vote and took effect immediately after Governor Pillen signed it on March 27, 2024. (“Government reform bill approved”. Unicameral Update. 21 March, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36030)

News from the Governor’s Office

Governor Jim Pillen, in accordance with a request from the White House, announced that all U. S. and Nebraska flags were to be flown at half-staff, on May 15, 2024, on Peace Officers Memorial Day.

“During Police Week, and especially today on Peace Officers Memorial Day, we recognize the tremendous sacrifice made by those men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty,” said Governor Pillen. “We acknowledge their sacrifices and those of their family members, who continue to mourn their loss.”

Governor PIllen marked the start of Police Week with an address to members of the law enforcement community at Offutt Air Force Base on Monday, May 13, 2024. He spoke to law enforcement members from across the state, survivor family members and guests at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony in Grand Island on Friday, May 17th, during which time the names of law enforcement officers were added to the wall of remembrance. (Strimple, Laura and Urlis, Allan. Press Release. “Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day”. 15 May, 2024. https://shorturl.at/cewMP)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the area high school seniors on their graduation from high school. I want to wish you the best of luck as you move forward with your plans to go to college, vocational training school, or on to a job. I know you will go far with whatever you decide to do with your life. I would also like to congratulate those college/university graduates. I know that you are ready to take the next steps forward in your life’s journey. “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Zig Ziglar

Bill Update

This week I would like to go over LB262 which was one of two Agriculture Committee priority bills.

LB262 was introduced in 2023 and would clarify and combine terms within the Nebraska Pure Food Act to align with the federal Food and Drug Administration Food Code. Under current law, only individuals who are credentialed as registered environmental health specialists qualify as food inspectors. Among other changes, LB262 would remove that requirement. An Agriculture Committee amendment replaced the bill and added other proposals to LB262.

  • LB264 revised the definition of “grain” to remove an ambiguity regarding whether grain excludes segregated commodities such as certified organic. It would also change grain dealer licensure requirements as follows:
    • increase the maximum dealer security from $300,000 to $1 million;
    • increase the maximum warehouse bond from $500,000 to $1 million;
    • Remove a formula for calculating the security amount and allow the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) to set the amount by regulation; and
    • Clarify an exemption from criminal background checks for an individual submitting a new license application who previously submitted a background check for a separate license.
  • LB305, sponsored by Senator Steve Halloran, would remove the duty and authority of the PSC to establish grain storage rates, but would specify that warehouse licensees must prominently post storage rates and related charges on signage issued by the commission. New license applicants would file a schedule of storage rates and charges with their application. Warehouse licensees could adjust such rates and charges by filing notice with the PSC and all grain owners of record at least 30 days prior to any adjustment taking effect. The amendment would also make it a Class IV misdemeanor to charge storage rates other than, or in addition to, those filed and posted. (“Omnibus ag proposal clears first round”. Unicameral Update. 6 March, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35871)
  • Portions of LB999, introduced by Senator Teresa Ibach of Sumner, would transfer licensure and regulation of hemp cultivation from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to the U. S. Department of Agriculture beginning January 1, 2025. Hemp production in Nebraska has declined significantly in recent years and the few Nebraskans who are engaged in hemp cultivation would be better served by federal regulations–including a lack of licensure fees. The state would continue to regulate the transportation of hemp. It would also terminate the state hemp Commission and the Hemp Promotion Fund and transfer any money in the fund to the state’s Noxious Weed Cash Fund.
  • LB1061, sponsored by Senator Ibach, would change the Nebraska Corn Resources Act. Her amendment to LB262 would increase the checkoff assessment collected at the time corn enters commercial channels from 0.5 cents per bushel to 1 cent per bushel, beginning October 1, 2024.
  • Provisions of LB321, sponsored by Senator Tom Brandt of Plymouth, were amended into LB262 and would change regulations under the Nebraska Pure Food Act related to the cottage food industry–which authorizes the sale of foods prepared in private homes and sold directly to consumers. The amendment expanded the cottage food exemption to include additional foods. The changes allows producers to sell certain non-refrigerated foods and other specific time and temperature-controlled items.
  • LB1207, sponsored by Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston, added “insect production” to the definition of an agricultural product in state law.

LB262 passed on final reading 47-0 and was signed by Governor Pillen on April 16, 2024. (“Agriculture proposal amended, advanced”. Unicameral Update. 15 March, 2024. https://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35967)

NDOT State Highway Construction & Detour report for Northeast Nebraska

This update is from the May 1, 2024 Nebraska Department of Transportation in Interstate and State Highway Construction and Detours currently happening. Call 511 or visit www.511.nebraska.gov for the most current information.

  • NE-9 in both directions between Willis Street (near Pender) and Prairie Street (Emerson). Bridge construction. A lane is closed intermittently. Look out for temporary traffic lights. There is a 12-foot width in effect.
  • NE-9 ROAD IS CLOSED between W Road and X Road (3 miles south of Pender). Bridge construction work is in progress .County Road W is closed westbound due to bridge construction.
  • NE-9 ROAD IS CLOSED at W Road (3 miles south of Pender). Road construction is in progress.
  • NE-9 between W Road and X Road should potentially be open by May 17th. They are putting the asphalt overlay on the bridge and the project is close to finishing up.
  • NE-57 in both directions between 859th Road and 860th Road (near Carroll). Road construction work is in progress. The roadway is reduced to one lane. Look out for temporary traffic lights. Look out for flaggers. There is a 12-foot width limit in effect.
  • NE-57 in both directions between 857th Road and 858th Road (2 miles south of Carroll). Road construction work is in progress. The roadway is reduced to one lane. Look out for temporary traffic lights. Look out for flaggers. There is a 12-foot width limit in effect.
  • US-77 in both directions between NE-94 and US-75 (6 miles south of Winnebago). Road construction work is in progress. Traffic will be maintained with temporary traffic signals, a pilot car and flaggers. There is an 11-foot width limit. Anticipated completion is July 2024.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

What a week we have had of unsettling weather. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were affected by the tornados that went through Nebraska on April 26th. It was nice to watch Nebraskans rally around one another to help clean up, provide food and water, and even find a location for lost pets to be brought and checked over until their owners could be located.

Governor Jim Pillen issued the following statement in the aftermath of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that resulted in damage across eastern Nebraska Friday (April 26th) afternoon. “Suzanne and I extend our deepest prayers to all those impacted by today’s storms. I have ordered that state resources be made available to assist with the emergency response and to support local first responders as they assess the damage. Nebraskans are tough, resilient people, and our neighbors and communities will rally around affected families and businesses to assist them. Nebraskans are no strangers to severe weather and, as they have countless times before, Nebraskans will help Nebraskans to rebuild.” (Strimple, Laura and Urlis, Allan. Press Release. “Governor Pillen Reacts to Damaging Storms; Orders State Resource Assistance”. 27 April, 2024. https://shorturl.at/fuCFT)

I would also like to wish all the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day. I hope that you are able to spend time with your children and extended family.

Bill Updates

This week I would like to continue going through the bills included in LB937.

  • LB937, introduced by Lincoln Senator Eliot Bostar, a family caregiver is eligible for a non refundable income tax credit equal to 50% of expenses incurred that are directly related to the care for and support of an eligible family member. Total credits are limited to $1.5 million in fiscal year (FY) 2025-26 and FY 2026-27 and $2.5 million in the following years. As amended, LB937 contains provisions of several other bills heard by the Revenue Committee this session.
  • LB901, introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, purchases made by a nonprofit organization are exempt from state sales and use tax if the nonprofit acquired property or contracts to build, improve, or repair property that will be transferred to a nonprofit whose purchases already are exempt.
  • LB1084, introduced by Senator Teresa Ibach of Sumner, a Class III shoreline rail company located wholly or partly in Nebraska can apply to the department for a nonrefundable tax credit equal to 50% of its qualified maintenance expenditures during the tax year. The credit amount cannot exceed $1,500 per mile of track.
    Under the amended provisions of LB1184, introduced by Eliot Bostar of Lincoln, Nebraska taxpayers can apply to the Department of Revenue for a one-time, refundable state income tax credit of up to $1,000 to offset the cost of installing a reverse osmosis system at their primary residence if test results show high levels of nitrates, uranium, or certain chemicals in the drinking water.
  • The amended provisions of LB1002, sponsored by Plymouth Senator Tom Brandt, set the maximum amount of tax credits available under the Nebraska Biodiesel Tax Credit Act at $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2024-2025 and $1.5 million in the following years.
  • LB1047, introduced by Senator Tom Brandt, expands the list of denaturants subject to an excise tax paid by ethanol producers and imposes the tax on 2% of certain agricultural ethyl alcohol sold that is unfit for beverage purposes.
  • LB1072, introduced by Senator George Dungan of Lincoln, allows a producer or importer of sustainable aviation fuel to claim a nonrefundable income tax credit based on the number of gallons in all sold or used qualified mixtures.
    (“Tax credits for caregivers, others created”. Unicameral Update. 18 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36526)

LB126, introduced by Omaha Senator Jen Day, allows current homestead exemption recipients to remain eligible for an exemption if a valuation increase pushes the value of their homestead above the allowed maximum. For homesteads valued at or above the maximum value, the exempt amount will not be reduced and the homestead will remain eligible for an exemption for the current year if it received an exemption in the previous year, was valued below the maximum value in the previous year, and is not ineligible for an exemption for any reason other than exceeding the maximum value by at least $20,000. The exception does not apply if the valuation increase is due to improvements to the homestead. Two other bills were amended into LB126 by a Revenue Committee Amendment on Select File.

  • Provisions of LB1151, introduced by Norfolk Senator Robert Dover, updates the definition of “occupy” under the homestead exemption program. Under LB126, a departure from a property for health or legal reasons does not disqualify an owner from receiving an exemption so long as they demonstrate an intention to return to the property.
  • LB1019, introduced by Bellevue Senator Rick Holdcroft, requires county assessors or county clerks to correct the assessment and tax rolls after a final order of the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC).

(“Homestead exemption changes approved”. Unicameral Update. 18 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36520)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–April 26, 2024
April 29th, 2024

Planting season is in full swing and calving season is happening. It was so nice to get some much needed rain in our area. Hopefully that hasn’t delayed planting but added some nice moisture to the soil. This time of year reminds me of a tweet that I received from the Nebraska DOT last year with this reminder–“Drivers–be on the lookout for farm equipment this planting season! If you happen to come across a farm vehicle, slowing down and practicing patience is an easy and effective way of keeping both you and the farmer safe.” Please keep an eye out for farming equipment moving on the roads and stay safe.

This past session there were many omnibus packages passed and I would like to go through several of these and share information about what was amended into the overarching bill. I plan to do this over the course of the next several newsletters. This week I would like to begin with LB937.

Bill Update

  • LB937, introduced by Lincoln Senator Eliot Bostar, a family caregiver is eligible for a non refundable income tax credit equal to 50% of expenses incurred that are directly related to the care for and support of an eligible family member. Total credits are limited to $1.5 million in fiscal year (FY) 2025-26 and FY 2026-27 and $2.5 million in the following years. As amended, LB937 contains provisions of several other bills heard by the Revenue Committee this session.
  • LB58, introduced by Omaha Senator John Cavanaugh, exempts diapers from state sales and use tax.
  • LB1025, introduced by Senator Eliot Bostar, creates the Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Support Act. The provisions allow qualifying direct support professionals who care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to claim a refundable state income tax credit. Employers of direct support professionals can claim a new nonrefundable credit, as can employers that either employ an individual receiving services pursuant to a Medicaid home and community-based services waiver or provide certain services to an individual pursuant to such a waiver. The state Department of Revenue may approve a total of $1 million in credits in FY 2025-26, $1.5 million in FY 2026-27, and $2 million in later years.
  • LB901, introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, purchases made by a nonprofit organization are exempt from state sales and use tax if the nonprofit acquires property or contracts to build, improve or repair property that will be transferred to a nonprofit whose purchases are already exempt.
  • LB1158, introduced by Senator Eliot Bostar, the state treasurer will contract with a medical debt relief coordinator to purchase and discharge medical debt of eligible residents. Nebraska residents with a household income at or below 400% of the federal poverty guideline or with medical debt equal to at least 5% of the individual’s household income qualify. Contributions to the program’s fund are deductible for state income tax purposes.
  • LB606, introduced by me, allows individuals, passthrough entities, corporations, estates and trusts to claim a nonrefundable credit of up to 50% of their state income tax liability on contributions they make to qualifying pregnancy help organizations. Total credits are limited to $500,000 in FY 2025-26 and $1 million in FY 2026-27 and later years.
  • LB1022 (The Cast and Crew Nebraska Act), introduced by Senator Rita Sanders of Bellevue, film and television production companies may apply for a refundable income tax credit equal to at least 20% of their qualifying expenditures attributable to the production of films, documentaries, and other projects in Nebraska. The state Department of Economic Development could approve no more than $500,000 in credits in FY 2025-26 and $1 million in the following years.
  • Under a bill passed last session, grocery stores, restaurants, and agricultural producers may apply for a nonrefundable state income tax credit equal to 50% of the value of food they donate to food banks, pantries or rescues, up to a maximum of $2,500. Under LB1040, introduced by Senator John Fredrickson of Omaha, the Nebraska Department of Revenue may approve $500,000 in credits each fiscal year beginning in FY 2025-26. (“Tax credits for caregivers, others created”. Unicameral Update. 18 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36526)

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–April 19, 2024
April 25th, 2024

As we ended session on April 18th, we heard from Governor Pillen and Speaker Arch. Governor Pillen commended us on the work we had accomplished, but was also disappointed that we didn’t get Property Tax Relief across the finish line. He did tell us he would be calling as many special sessions as it would take in order to get the people’s work done. The people of Nebraska have spoken and the number one concern is lowering property taxes. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Pillen to reduce the property tax burden in our state. 

Speaker Arch also commended us on the work we were able to get done in 60 days. There were 597 bills introduced this session and over 370 were sent to Governor Pillen’s desk including Appropriation bills.

Fifteen of us are leaving at the end of this year as we are either term limited or not returning for one reason or another. Each one of us was able to give a farewell speech. I am grateful to my constituents for electing me to serve them for eight years. Again, I can’t say enough what an honor it has been to serve District 17.

On Saturday, April 20th, I attended the Dakota City Appreciation Dinner. This dinner honored city employees as well as firefighters and first responders. I was pleasantly surprised and honored when I received an award for my “continued support and dedication to First Responders in the State of Nebraska”. I have always appreciated the work that First Responders and Volunteer Firefighters bring to our district. Your willingness to respond to an emergency and assist the community at the sound of your pager is a testimony to your service and dedication to each community. It has been an honor to continue to support legislation that helps firefighters and first responders in the state of Nebraska.

Bill Update

LB1402, introduced by Senator Lou Ann Linehan from Elkhorn, passed on Final Reading on Thursday, April 18th.This bill would appropriate $10 million dollars in general funds in fiscal year 2024-2025 to the state treasurer to provide grants to scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs), who then would use the funds to provide scholarships to eligible students to pay costs associated with attending a K-12 qualified school. Section 1(2)(c) of LB1402 states that a qualified school means any nongovernmental, privately operated elementary or secondary school located in this state that (i) is operated not for profit, (ii) complies with the antidiscrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. 1981, as such section existed on January 1, 2024, (iii) complies with all health and life safety laws or codes that apply to privately operated schools, and (iv) fulfills the applicable accreditation or approval requirements established by the State Board of Education pursuant to section 79-318. If the total amount of grants awarded in any fiscal year exceeds 90% of the appropriation to the state treasurer for that fiscal year the appropriation for the following fiscal year would increase by 25%, not to exceed a maximum appropriation of $100 million. Senator Linehan said she offered the bill as a replacement for the Opportunity Scholarships Act (LB753), which was passed by the Legislature last year. The state treasurer, rather than outside SGOs, would be responsible for overseeing the program and the treasurer could contract with an outside entity to administer it. The amendment would repeal LB753. Senator Linehan said 1,000 students have applied for scholarships under the existing program, and about 2,500 students have expressed interest.(Portions taken from “Private school scholarship program clears first round”. Unicameral Update. 10 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36319) Nebraska will become the 50th state to have school choice. That makes us the very last state to offer this option to the citizens of Nebraska!

Many arguments have been made against LB1402. Here are the facts about those arguments.

  • Constitutionality–The Nebraska Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the state constitution permits direct aid to students and also allows an incidental or indirect benefit to a school. In Lenstrom v. Thone (1981), the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a nearly identical scholarship program at the post-secondary level, which is more easily recognizable today as the Nebraska Opportunity Grant (NOG) program. In the Lenstrom case and in the same way NOG functions today, these programs provide appropriations for scholarships to students in financial need to attend a postsecondary school of their choice, including private religious universities and colleges. The “direct beneficiary” of a student aid program is the student, not the school. Almost every court, including the U. S. Supreme Court, has found that the beneficiaries of student aid programs are students, not schools.
  • No Accountability–All school choice programs have some level of administrative and financial accountability and most programs have academic accountability. Private schools in every state must comply with health and safety regulations as well as antidiscrimination laws. Already in Nebraska, nonpublic schools must comply with the Department of Education’s Approval (Rule 14) and Accreditation (Rule 10) standards. As such, private schools have testing standards, health and safety standards, financial accountability standards, among other standards, And private schools are accountable to those who matter the most:  parents.
  • Special Needs Students–According to RealClear Education, over 137,000 special education students report using choice programs nationally (over 16% of all students exercising choice). Clearly private schools are meeting the needs of a substantial number of students with special needs and doing so without the funding mechanisms accessible to public schools. Private schools are increasingly developing funding and programming to accept more children with special needs, as well as creating schools specifically tailored to serving certain populations of students with special needs. As studies show, 15%-16% of students in public schools have special needs, while 12%-13% of students in private schools have special needs.

Just a reminder that the Legislature passed LB583 which provided $1,500 to each student in public schools and expanded special education funding to 80%. We also established the Education Future Fund, championed by Senator Robert Clements, which provided an initial investment of $1 billion with an additional $250 million each year after. The annual investment to public school districts will exceed $300 million per year beyond what they receive through the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act. (Strimple, Laura. Press Release. “Gov. Pillen Highlights Public Education Funding at Back to School News Conference”. 27 July, 2023. https://shorturl.at/fARY8) We do support public schools, but also realize that we need to support all children in Nebraska where they are.

If we do nothing more this year and we don’t come back for a special session, we will have moved public school funding up to 28th in the nation from 49th. If we come back for a special session and address property taxes, we can move up to 8th in the nation for public school funding if we do what we set out to do for funding public schools in Nebraska.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly News–April 12, 2024
April 25th, 2024

Session finished up this week (April 18th). It has been an honor and a privilege to serve District 17 as your representative for the past 8 years. I so appreciate those of you who have supported me and made this an awesome experience and having the opportunity to make Nebraska a better place to call home.

Bill Updates
This past session there have been many omnibus packages passed. I plan to go through several of these and share information about what was amended into the overarching bill over the course of the upcoming months. This week I would like to touch on a few bills that were passed on April 11, 2024 on Day 59 with further information coming soon.

LB1301, introduced by Niobrara Senator Barry DeKay on behalf of Governor Jim Pillen, adds a number of conditions to the right of foreign individuals or foreign-owned companies to own land in the state. This bill will modernize restrictions on foreign ownership of land in Nebraska. Most of the state’s laws regarding foreign ownership of land haven’t been changed since 1943! Individuals and entities are subject to greater scrutiny and restrictions on land ownership in Nebraska if they are on the sanctions list maintained by the federal Office of Foreign Assets control of the U. S. Department of the Treasury or determined by the U. S. Secretary of Commerce as having engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to U. S. national security. Among other provisions, the measure allows individuals to report suspected foreign ownership of land by a restricted entity, and the state Department of Agriculture is required to investigate suspected violations and refer them to the state attorney general or, if necessary, retain outside counsel. The court may terminate a lease that is in violation of the bill and the state may sell any real estate acquired under the bill’s divestment provision. This bill passed on a 46-0 vote and was sent to the Governor’s office for his signature on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (“Foreign land ownership restrictions updated”. Unicameral Update. 11 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36334)

LB262, introduced by the Agriculture Committee, clarifies and combines terms within the Nebraska Pure Food Act to align with the Food and Drug Administration Food Code and adds insect production to the definition of an agricultural product in state law. My bill, LB1207, was amended and adopted 31-0 on Select File. My bill adds insect production to the definition of an agricultural product in state law. Other bills amended into LB262 were LB999 and LB1061 by Senator Teresa Ibach and LB321 By Senator Tom Brandt. I will elaborate more on this committee priority bill in the coming weeks. (Portions taken from “Agriculture proposal clears final round”. Unicameral Update. 11 April, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=36361)

LB867, introduced by Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, would allow the state Game and Parks Commission to create an online hunting and fishing guide and outfitter database. The provisions of five other bills heard by the committee this session were included on general file. I introduced an amendment on Select File to include provisions of LB636, which would prohibit political subdivisions from enacting any ordinance or other policy that restricts or prohibits the types of fuel sources of energy that natural gas utilities, natural gas transmission companies, and certain other entities may use or deliver to customers. I introduced this bill on behalf of Black Hills Energy. “Bans can cost jobs in the [industries that] rely on affordable energy–like agriculture–can hurt a community’s competitiveness and negatively impact the economy.” I said. Other bills amended into LB867 include LB866 and LB868 by Senator Bruce Bostelman, LB971 by Senator Loren Lippincott, LB1001 by Senator Danielle Conrad, and LB1406 by Senator Rita Sanders. I will elaborate more on this committee priority bill in the coming weeks. (Portions taken from “Natural resources omnibus bill amended, advanced”. Unicameral Update. 15 March, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35960) This bill passed on Final Reading 47-0 and was sent to the Governor’s office on April 11, 2024.

LB685, introduced by Kearney Senator John Lowe, imposes a 5% annual tax on the net operating revenue of each mechanical amusement device in the state. Such devices are cash video machines that are used for games and contests and are considered games of skill. Fraternal organizations are exempt from the annual revenue tax. Revenue generated from the tax will be distributed as follows:

  • 40% to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund;
  • 10% to the Nebraska Tourism Commission Promotional Cash Fund;
  • 2.5% to the state General Fund;
  • 2.5% to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund; and
  • 20% to the Charitable Gaming Operations Fund to carry out the bill’s provisions.

The remaining 25% of tax revenue will be split between the cities and counties where mechanical amusement devices are located. Beginning January 1, 2024, the bill also requires an annual licensing fee of $5,000 for manufacturers of mechanical amusement devices and $100 per device, up to $5,000, for distributors. In addition, a retail establishment offering cash amusement devices is required to generate at least 60% of their gross operating revenue from other sources under the bill. The state tax commissioner is responsible for establishing a central server to receive accurate revenue and income reporting from cash devices across the state. Once the server is operational, each cash amusement device must be connected to it at all times. Portions taken from “Cash amusement device, co-branded alcohol regulations approved”. Unicameral Update. 15 April, 2024. Portions taken from “Natural resources omnibus bill amended, advanced”. Unicameral Update. 15 March, 2024. http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=35960) This bill passed on Final Reading 46-0 and was sent to the Governor’s office on April 11, 2024.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by calling my office at (402) 471-2716 or emailing me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Sen. Joni Albrecht

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