NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

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

WEEKLY UPDATE June 29, 2020
June 29th, 2020

It is sad and disappointing to not be able to meet and visit with you at the county fairs this year. I know the young people work so hard all year long looking forward to showing the rest of us their skills, fine animals, and amazing creations of all sorts. Like so many of you, my family and I would normally be getting ready to visit each fair. I look forward to returning to our county fair traditions in 2021.

One tradition will continue, though it will look a bit different this year. Hoskins will still host its Fourth of July parade at 11:00 AM, with no breakfast to follow. I am delighted to be participating in the parade and will be excited to see any of you who are able to attend.

As we open up our State, we in Nebraska remain positive about returning to a higher level of normalcy even as we continue to practice measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 to friends and family members.

Moving forward despite recent events, Congratulations are in order for Wayne, Nebraska, which has been recognized and designated as a 2020 Accredited Main Street America program, along with Beatrice, Falls City, Fremont, and Grand Island. Accredited status is the top tier of recognition from Main Street America and signifies Wayne’s commitment to revitalization and commitment to build stronger community through preservation-based development of older and historic commercial districts.

At the state level, Nebraska Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton briefed the Legislature’s Revenue Committee along with other senators on the State’s tax receipts through May 2020. We continue to monitor and analyze the economic impact of COVID-19 on our state as we prepare to reconvene on July 20, 2020.

Even as we consider how to navigate and adjust for economic impact caused by our COVID-19 response, we must also deal with prison overcrowding. In accordance with Nebraska law, on July 1, 2020, the Governor will make an emergency declaration regarding the current overcrowding. That declaration will trigger a series of accelerated reviews by the Parole Board. It is important to note that this does NOT mean the State is releasing inmates indiscriminately. What it does mean is that the Parole Board will continue to put public safety first as it accelerates and holds more frequent parole hearings to consider parole for eligible inmates.

Our country, too, continues to look and move forward. July 1, 2020 marks the beginning date for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the current NAFTA agreement that governs trade in North America. USMCA is important to the United States and the new agreement contains enhancements in Intellectual Property (IP), Digital trade and Agricultural markets. No state has a greater interest in USMCA than Nebraska, where the Governor anticipates USMCA will play a key role in growing our state’s economy with its increased opportunities in agricultural, manufacturing, and transportation markets. When addressing State Chamber members online last week, Governor Ricketts pointed to the three primary principles of USMCA, to 1) maintain market access, 2) reduce tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, and 3) update approaches to biotechnology and bioscience that can help take trade relationships to their next level. Predictability in manufacturing and expanded access to the markets will be accomplished through reduced red-tape, protection of trade secrets, and partnerships in production. All-in-all, Nebraska has much to look forward to.

Meanwhile, the state is also addressing immediate needs for recovery. Last week, Governor Ricketts announced the Community CARES program, which offers $85 million for charities and childcare providers across Nebraska. There are three separate components that can be applied for by those nonprofits and providers who believe they are eligible.
$40 million in Stabilization grants are available to provide direct assistance in reopening or stabilizing nonprofits and select providers that have experienced loss or increased expenses due to COVID-19. The grants consist of one-time payments of up to $12,000 per eligible applicant. The application for these grants is June 29, 2020 through July 6, 2020, with award notifications set to go out July 15, 2020.
$43 million is being made available for competitive Response and Recovery Grants. These grants will be competitively awarded in amounts between $50,000 and $2 million. They are designed to support those organizations offering community services including food security, housing, and behavioral health care to underserved populations negatively impacted by COVID-19. The application period for the Response and Recovery Grants is July 1, 2020 through July 8, 2020, with anticipated award decisions made by July 15, 2020.
Finally, $2 million has been set aside for one-time payments to childcare providers and centers of worship to assist in providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
Applications and information can be accessed at dhhs.ne.gov/CommunityCares or by calling the DHHS call center at (833) 220-0018.

I remain grateful for the way Nebraskans have worked together through the pandemic and am hopeful as we continue to work together towards our recovery. In District 17, and throughout Nebraska, there is a strong sense of community and it is apparent that we work hard to help ourselves and others live our best lives.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by contacting me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or by calling my office at 402.471.2716.

The Legislature has been called by the Speaker to reconvene on Monday July 20, 2020.

Some of my colleagues have called for remote voting for the remainder of the Legislative session. I oppose the idea. We were each elected by our constituents to be present and to go into the “line of fire” on their behalf. I stand ready to do just that. Yes, we should and will act responsibility and thoughtfully in how we navigate the remainder of the session, exercising appropriate precautions. At the same time, we are called to keep constituents safe and aid in the recovery of our economy. We are the voice of the people, for the people, and I stand ready to defend the people of Nebraska, our great State, and our Country.

That is not to say that completing the session will be quick or easy in other aspects either. There are 17 days left in the session. We are told to expect to be in session five days a week for two weeks, July 20-24 and July 27-31, followed by four days August 3-6 and three days August 11-13. Many sessions will be scheduled into the evening and perhaps nighttime hours.

It is unlikely that all bills will be heard, and may even be difficult for the Legislature to consider all bills designated as priorities earlier in the session. There are 46 priority bills on final reading alone. These include 12 Speaker Priority bills, 12 Committee Priority bills, and 22 Senator Priority bills. Final reading of a bill is the last stage of debate that a bill must pass before going to the Governor for his consideration. This is not always as a fast process. Full and fair debate is essential, especially when Bills have other bills amended into the original. For instance, the 12 Committee Priority bills also contain 29 other bills amended into them and the 22 Senator Priority bills also contain another 25 bills amended into them. That means that on final reading alone, there are actually 100 bills being considered. That is a big order for 17 Legislative days. Add to that the importance and commitment of lawmakers to address the Property Tax Relief Bill LB1106 and the ImagiNE Nebraska Act business incentive bill LB720, which I expect to take center stage fairly early on.
In light of the economic impact of COVID-19 and the anticipated decreases in revenue, the Speaker has asked that the authors of bills that will likely impact the General Fund Budget re-visit their bills before the Legislature reconvenes to see what changes, if any, may need to be made.

I am looking forward to moving ahead with the People’s business. Before COVID-19, I had already received calls and emails from constituents letting me know their views on different bills. Hearing from constituents is important and lets elected officials know what they think in order to govern more effectively. I invite and continued calls and emails from my constituents.

On another note, as mentioned last week, the USDA announced the provision of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and the application process for direct payments to ag producers began May 26. There are payments available to eligible producers in the areas of traditional crop payments like soybeans, corn, wheat, and sorghum, livestock, dairy, and specialty crops. Information about the various commodity categories for assistance, eligibility, and the process to apply can be found in a number of places, including the USDA at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at https://nda.nebraska.gov/COVID-19/index.html, and a Zoom video from Nebraska Farm Bureau at ahttps://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=682850435595153&ref=watch_permalink

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by contacting me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or by calling my office at 402.471.2716.

WEEKLY UPDATE April 17, 2020
April 20th, 2020

Patience is key as we wait to hear about re-opening Nebraska and the nation. So many changes to lifestyles throughout Nebraska and across the U.S. have resulted in harm to our economy, our agricultural goals, and challenges to daily work and family life.  Though the virus is still with us, it appears we have worked together through hopefully the worst of it.  On Thursday, April 16, 2020, the President announced his 3-part plan for Re-opening America.  True to the Tenth Amendment and common sense, the President provided the outline of a plan while recognizing the importance of placing leadership for the reopening with governors who know their states.

COVID 19 UPDATES: By Friday, April 24, Nebraska will be at Day 15 of the Governor’s 21-day Stay Home and Stay Healthy request for Nebraska residents.  Over the weekend, my office was notified that as of today there a total of 66 cases in Dakota County as of April 18, 2020.  There was a false alarm over the weekend, but my office has confirmed that as of that date there was also one (1) case in Wayne County.

UPDATE 4.22.2020: The first confirmed case of COVID 19 in Thurston County was reported by the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department (NNPHD) on April 22, 2020.  For update on the national numbers, go to https://www.cdc.gov/covid19  click on CASES in the US.

WORK IN WASHINGTON and The CARES Act

Our federal delegation in Washington, D.C., continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation with an eye towards its impact on individuals, businesses, and agricultural operations in Nebraska.  This week, Congressman Adrian Smith issued a letter containing the following statement:

Even as COVID-19 has closed much of America, our farmers and ranchers continue to produce.  However, because of a multitude of challenges, such as the precautionary shutdown of production facilities and a dramatic shift in consumption from restaurants to cooking at home, the current demand for food isn’t aligned with what producers expected when planting crops or birthing livestock. That is why supporting American agriculture and strengthening our food supply remains so vital during this pandemic.”

The recently passed CARES Act included stimulus checks for most Americans, as well as emergency funding for businesses and replenished funding of the Commodity Credit Corporation for agricultural producers.

Stimulus checks have been received by millions of Americans.  Thanks to the efficient work of Nebraska bankers, Nebraska has been the number one recipient of small business funds made available by the CARES Act.  The program ran out of funds last week, but members of Congress, the Senate, and the White House are working for additional funding to help businesses stay at the ready for reopening.

Meanwhile, some funding for farmers and ranchers has moved more slowly and it is my understanding that members of the Nebraska federal delegation, along with leadership from the Farm Bureau, the State Chamber, and others have been working to facilitate more funding options and disbursement of aid.

As cattle producers we are aware, the CCC does not have a “cattle” provision included with provisions for crops, dairy and pork.  However, the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the USDA received an additional $9.5 billion as part of the CARES Act that can be disbursed for specialty crops, farm-to-market programs and livestock.  In further support of agricultural producers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended its emergency declaration that provides relief from certain rules or drivers in order to keep the food supply chain moving as smoothly as possible.

Additionally, the Secretary has informed us that the federal government will purchase the excess milk and other products about which many are concerned in order to aid producers and struggling food banks, families, and/or food distribution centers.  The products will be purchased by the government and distributed to meet community needs through appropriate organizations.

For more information about the USDA authority under the CARES Act, go to www.USDA.gov and/or www.farmer.gov  . To see the declaration regarding the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, go online to:   https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency/expanded-emergency-declaration-under-49-cfr-ss-39023-no-2020-002-relating-covid-19

Remember, the deadline for sending in your request for absentee ballots is May 1.

My husband and I are grateful to count our family among so many in District 17 and other Nebraska farmers and ranchers who work every day to feed the world.

As always, I invite you to let me know your thoughts, ideas, concerns, or suggestions by contacting me at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or by calling my office at 402.471.2716.

WEEKLY UPDATE March 6, 2020
March 9th, 2020

Things keep moving as we continue to try to accomplish goals set for the betterment of District 17 and all of Nebraska.  This week my Priority Bill LB1186 passed first reading.  Together, Senator Hilgers and I expressed the importance of making sure we take care of our teachers.  As a reminder, LB1186 requires that schools pay teachers their regular wages for the period up to seven days that workers’ compensation does not if the teacher is unable to teach because of an injury caused by an intentional assault while working.

VISITORS.  I was delighted to have family visit the Capitol last week.  Scott and Lisa Albrecht from Thurston, Laura Fischer from Scribner, and Andrea Diehm from South Dakota, were welcomed to the chamber by the Speaker, as were their children Isaac, Ben, Evelyn, Keegan, Kylie, and Kessler.  Be sure to make the Capitol one of your stops if visiting Lincoln.  I would love to see you and introduce you to the Legislature.

NOVEL CORONOVIRUS: By now, we have all heard much about the global spread and local appearance of COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China.  As talk of the virus has increased worldwide, so has attention on Nebraska, UNMC/Nebraska Medical Center, and the crucial role our state is playing in effective quarantine and diagnosis and treatment research.  Notably, the qualifications for release from UNMC/Nebraska Medical Center are greater than CDC qualifications.  The nation’s first clinical trials on coronavirus therapy has begun at UNMC.  Updated on the University’s role on the virus can be found at https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID.

The Health Director for Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department (NNPHD) which serves several counties in Northeast Nebraska, including Thurston and Wayne, has kept me updated on status of their commitment to keeping on top of the situation.  There are currently weekly phone call updates involving the CDC, NNPHD and other health departments across the state.  Health Alerts have been drafted and distributed to the medical community, local government officials, and to schools, daycares, and Wayne State College.    Weekly meetings with Pender Community Hospital department heads, and meetings with Wayne State College Student Health Staff and International Student Coordinator have taken place.  Links to CDC information are also now included on the NNPHD website.

As for personal action, the most important information we are hearing is that, despite the global and local attention on the virus, individual risk of contracting the virus is low.  Everyone reinforces a singular message-prevention is key.  Exercise good hygiene practices, stay home from work and activities if you are ill, and self-quarantine if you suspect you have symptoms consistent with those of the virus.

 COMING UP IN SIOUXLAND   At 11:00 am on April 9, 2020, representatives of the United States Army Corps of Engineers will be at the Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, 300 Third St. to answer questions from the public.  The conversation will likely include the Corps’ action to cut water release in certain areas because of melting snow downstream.

 PROPERTY TAX RELIEF MAY BE ON THE FLOOR AGAIN SOON.  I continue to work toward the passage of the property tax relief provided by LB974.  There is great resistance from large schools as LB974 seeks to make sure that every property owner gets some relief and that every public school, including those in rural Nebraska, receives funding for every pupil being served by that school.

Under LB974, there is a three tier, three year plan for reducing property taxes on agricultural land, commercial property, and residential property, while at the same time reducing public school reliance on property taxes.

A review of the figures for District 17 schools that was provided by the Fiscal Office and that I included in my February 14 Weekly Update to provide a reality check if we do not pass LB974.  If we do nothing, the property tax burden for every Nebraska property owner is not reduced and reliance on property taxes to fund public schools means property taxes will continue to grow with increased spending.

Additionally, District 17 schools stand to leave over $12 million dollars on the table as larger and louder school districts protect their taxing authority.  I simply cannot stand by and watch this happen.

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

WEEKLY UPDATE February 14, 2020
February 14th, 2020

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

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

PROPERTY TAX RELIEF

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

WEEKLY UPDATE November 22, 2019
November 25th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEKLY UPDATE November 15, 2019
November 18th, 2019

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

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

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

WEEKLY UPDATE November 1, 2019
November 4th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEKLYUPDATE October 25, 2019
October 28th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEKLY UPDATE October 11, 2019
October 11th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sen. Joni Albrecht

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