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 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

WEEKLY UPDATE October 4, 2019
October 7th, 2019

This past week was a busy one in and for District 17. Meetings with Department directors, senators, and staff to prepare for the upcoming session, watching committee hearings on Interim studies, preparing for harvest at home, and opportunities to visit with folks in the district for special celebrations and ceremonies filled my office and personal calendars pretty quickly. Monday in Lincoln, Thursday in Thurston, Sunday from one end of the district to the other. For me, it’s all about keeping in touch with what’s happening in our part of the state. I so enjoy welcoming new business and manufacturing investors and encouraging the programs and educational institutions in their quest to keep and attract young talent. Most of all, I love to meet and honor the people who make District 17 such a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. From the occasional 80th plus birthday celebration or 60th anniversary, to business openings and events honoring our veterans and first responders, I am so honored to represent the outstanding residents of District 17. Following are only a fraction of the happenings that make me so proud to serve as state senator for District 17.

HONORING NEBRASKA HEROES
Flags flew at half-staff. Somber smiles. All seats taken. This past Sunday, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Bells Across America held memorial services throughout the country to honor firefighters who have died in the line of duty. After eating a wonderful Sunday breakfast with the Wayne firefighters at their Annual event, I drove to Dakota City, where I was honored to be part of the amazing Bells Across America tribute right here in Northeast Nebraska.
The Bells Across America service honored three fallen heroes from Dakota City, with testimonies of their courage and with ringing of a firehouse bell. Community members in attendance and I were touched by the service and visibly moved when the bell was rung. The three fine men who were honored made the ultimate sacrifice while on duty. Captain Andy Zalme, Captain Eric Speck, and Firefighter Lowell Satterwhite Sr. exemplify bravery and the greatest courage of man—putting aside one’s own safety in unimaginable situations to provide safety for others.
In Nebraska, we help our friends and neighbors on many fronts and through many tragedies. And, no one serves more capably and honorably than our Firefighters, who literally walk through fire to serve and save. Nebraska is fortunate to have such brave and caring men and women serving as First Responders. We should all be grateful.

PROVIDING CAREER PATHWAYS FOR NEBRASKA YOUTH
As I continue to focus on Workforce Development, including keeping bright young minds in Nebraska, I am so proud of the way District 17 keeps stepping up to provide a path for Nebraska’s youth. We are stronger when our young people have opportunities to live, work, and thrive right here in Nebraska. On September 23, 2019, Wayne State College helped students and their advisors explore potential career fields with leading business and industry experts in the College’s new technology center. The Skills USA Nebraska Fall Leadership Conference hosted by Wayne State involved over 150 students and their advisors from eleven Eastern Nebraska high schools. The event provided participants with instruction and hands-on learning sessions featuring career opportunities in transportation, manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and the energy industry. High schools participating included Bennington, Benson, Clearwater, Columbus, Gretna, Homer, Norris, Papillion La Vista, Papillion La Vista South, Raymond Central, Wahoo and Waverly. A big thank you to Wayne State College and others around our state who are keeping Nebraska attractive to young people here at home.

BUILDING CAREER OPPORTUNITIES IN AGRIBUSINESS
Speaking of opportunities to keep bright minds in Nebraska, the Nebraska Corn Growers and Soybean Associations provide a year-long Ambassador Program for college students who are interested in learning more about the Ag industry and/or in becoming better advocates for agriculture. According to the Associations, each year up to ten college students are selected to participate as an Ambassador. The chosen Ambassadors will take part in a trio of seminars spread throughout the year and a summer agribusiness tour. Participants get a glimpse of state and federal policies affecting the industries, advocacy and leadership opportunities after graduation and areas of manufacturing, production and processing, and insight into potential industry related jobs and internships. Students are recognized at the Associations’ Annual Meeting and presented with a $500 scholarship to help with school expenses. Applicants for the program are able to access applications to be selected as an Ambassador on the website necga.org. Deadline for applications to be a 2020 Ambassador is November 20, 2019.

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 September 6, 2019
September 9th, 2019

WATERMELON DAYS–THE SWEETEST END TO SUMMER. I, and so many neighbors, had such fun at Watermelon Days in my hometown of Thurston this past weekend. At the end of summer each year, Thurston throws a party to “ring out” summer. People come from near and far to enjoy events for every member of the family, including live music, a children’s parade, inflatables, tractor pull, and more. Watermelon Days takes place over an entire weekend, and ends in the sweetest way possible—an all you can eat watermelon feed! I was invited to ride along with the Thurston American Legion on their float and saw so many happy, friendly faces. I always appreciate their gracious invitation. Pender Public Schools had the cutest entry showing dance steps along the route. The Blue Jet band marched with excellence. Three sets of Shriners entertained the crowds with those crazy cars and other motorized vehicles. A special summer end treat indeed!

FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE: HUSKER HARVEST DAYS September 10-12 Husker Harvest Days takes/took place in the Grand Island area. I’m looking forward to attending the event. Billed as “The Nation’s most modern outdoor show site”, Nebraskans continue to lead the way with “the world’s largest totally irrigated working farm show.” The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) will be there to offer programs spanning the agricultural spectrum, from information on animal health, farmer mediation, farming tax credits, pests and noxious weed control. In addition, this year, through a joint effort with the Governor, the NDA, and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the event adds an International Visitors’ Center, that provides opportunity to better promote Nebraska agriculture and International Commerce. All visitors, including international guests, are able to “experience the latest in farming equipment, supplies, and crop technologies” Available programs include Beef Production seminars, upgraded cattle handling demonstrations, products, equipment and breed exhibits. Organizers say “Husker Harvest Days isn’t just the world’s largest totally irrigated working farm show — it’s also the Midwest’s premier agricultural event.” Every year, Nebraskans show the world why that’s true.

HIGHWAY 35 PARTIAL CLOSURE/DETOUR UPDATE: Last week I shared about the upcoming closure of Highway 35 Southwest of Hubbard due to the need for a previously unplanned box culvert replacement. On Wednesday, the Nebraska Department of Transportation issued a press release informing residents that the road closure would begin on Monday, September 9, with anticipated completion of the project in October 2019. Traffic detours have been marked, directing traffic onto Highways 9 and 20.

BACK TO LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS! With summer ending and school back in session, the 2020 Legislative session is fast approaching. The Revenue Committee continues to work with senators, and the Governor’s office on the property tax relief issue and more and more hearings are being scheduled for Interim studies on other issues as well. As a reminder, I serve on the Natural Resources Committee, the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, and the Special Committee for State-Tribal Relations.
The Natural Resources Committee is holding hearings next week. The Committee is responsible for processing legislation involving the state’s water, public power, Natural Resources Districts, the Natural Resources Commission, Environment, Energy, and Recreational lands. The Committee will be holding interim hearings in the western part of the state September 18-19 as follows:
Scottsbluff 9:00 am (MT) Wednesday, Sept. 18 LR142 (to examine any matter concerning the Game and Parks Commission)
McCook 9:00 am (CT) Thursday, Sept. 19
LR142 (to examine any matter concerning the Game and Parks Commission) & LR114 (to examine conditions under which the board of directors of the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project and the Rock Creek augmentation project may dispose of real property each owns related to the projects).

If you have interest in hearings on these, or other studies, you can find a schedule of hearings by clicking the Calendar link on the nebraskalegislature.gov home page.

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 August 30, 2019
August 30th, 2019

Hats Off to the FIRST RESPONDERS OF SOUTH SIOUX CITY! I was honored to attend the City Council meeting and personally congratulate several South Sioux City First responders who were presented with Code Save awards from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Code Saves are given out when First Responders go on a cardiac call, and their lifesaving efforts, such as C-P-R, result in the patient returning to life as normal after treatment. South Sioux City has had four Code Save Awards in the past year, putting their success rate at over 4 times the national average. I am so proud of these fine people who serve so many residents of District 17. They rose up over and over again as exceptional examples of how we Nebraskans strive for excellence as we care for one another. Congratulations on well-deserved awards!

MUMPS OUTBREAK! On August 29, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services issued a press release about a significant increase in Mumps cases. According to NDHHS, at least 30 cases have been identified in Nebraska this year, with a large number of them reported in the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department’s jurisdiction, which includes Thurston, Wayne , Cedar, and Dixon counties.
Mumps is contagious–spread by coughing, sneezing and sharing saliva. Symptoms may include swelling of the face and neck, ear ache, jaw pain, testicular pain, fever, fatigue, or muscle aches. If you have symptoms of mumps, health officials say you should see your doctor right away and stay home to avoid contact with others. For more information, you can visit the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Dept. website at https://nnphd.org/

In news affecting both ECONOMIC GROWTH AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING in Nebraska, recently HABITAT FOR HUMANITY was recognized for its new Registered Apprenticeship Program. The program reinforces Habitat’s dedication to providing affordable housing and to providing its teammates with opportunities to advance their skills and careers, while connecting generations in support of growing businesses.
In a recognition ceremony, Governor Pete Ricketts was joined by Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, Metropolitan Community College, the Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) and the US Department of Labor (USDOL), all involved and/or strong supporters of the RA program. Registered Apprenticeships are recognized by the USDOL. After completing 4,000 hours of on-the-job training and classroom learning, and working with mentors, the apprentices will receive a nationally recognized credential from USDOL.
“Our Registered Apprenticeship Program provides another opportunity for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha to support Nebraskans in their goals to build strength, stability and independence,” said Amanda Brewer, Habitat Omaha Chief Executive Officer. “We see every day in our work to create quality, affordable housing how these outcomes are transformational not just for individuals but for our entire community.”
Companies interested in starting a Registered Apprenticeship program should contact Elliott Cain at elliot.cain@nebraska.gov or Scott Asmus at scott.asmus@nebraska.gov. Job seekers interested in participating in a RA should contact their local Nebraska Department of Labor office. More information is also available on the Department’s YouTube channel and at http://dol.nebraska.gov.

Finally, The Nebraska State Fair wraps up its season on Labor Day Monday, September 2. District 17 was well represented by 4-H members from all three counties. I saw lots of Blue Ribbon performances! Hope you had a chance to get out and see it. Kudos to the Fair Board for providing shuttle transportation from the parking area, making the trek easier for everyone! Already looking forward to next year.

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

WEEKLY UPDATE AUGUST 23, 2019
August 26th, 2019

STATE FAIR WAS A BIT WET BUT TOTALLY DELIGHTFUL! I made the trip out to Grand Island this past weekend to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Nebraska State Fair’s 150th anniversary and 10th year anniversary of the Fair’s move to Grand Island. Though the weather wasn’t as cooperative as we had hoped, I want to congratulate the State Fair Board for putting together a fun and exciting event for Nebraskans! It was exciting to see exhibits from residents of District 17 and I took a lot of pictures that I hope to have on my social media site soon. I attended the Governor’s Breakfast, where he spoke of the strength of Nebraskans, who time after time show an ability to share one another’s burdens in the fact of natural disasters like this year’s flooding and addressed issues like property tax relief efforts since he’s been in office and reinforced property tax relief as his top priority in 2020. The Governor also spoke of his hope for China negotiations to go well and the important role good trade relations can play on Nebraska farmers and ranchers. I join him in that hope.

Speaking of PROPERTY TAX RELIEF, I, and many others attended a TOWN HALL in Norfolk on the subject in Norfolk on August 20, 2019. It’s no secret that property tax relief is a huge issue across the state. Nebraska reportedly has the country’s seventh-highest property taxes, with Nebraskans paying about $4 billion in property taxes annually. Though the Governor and the Legislature have been successful in growing the Property Tax Relief Fund contribution, finding a comprehensive solution has proven elusive. Town Hall participants from the Legislature discussed efforts past, present, and future. Participants included Senators Linehan and Briese from the Revenue Committee, Speaker Scheer and Senator Ben Hansen. Attendees learned that the Revenue Committee has been meeting almost weekly to discuss ways to put in place a plan for needed relief. Discussions to date and at the town hall include exploring raising the sales tax rate, legalization and taxation of all kinds of vices, making big cuts in government spending, and/or eliminating sales tax exemptions. There is no doubt the discussions will continue and I will be part of them. Be certain you will see further information in future weekly updates.

District 17 was honored to have Senator Jim Smith and the Nebraska Chamber present BLUEPRINT NEBRASKA at an event hosted by the South Sioux City Chamber on August 21, 2019. The event was well attended by Siouxlanders, were able to set eyes on the plan’s goals to achieve economic excellence in every part of the state. The Blue Print Nebraska Summary Report and its powerful recommendations for a strong Nebraska future is a collaborative effort over the last 14 months. The process involved over 2,000 participants and approximately 5,000 respondents across the states. I’d like to invite you to visit the Blue Print Nebraska website to familiarize yourself with the outcomes of the planning effort and the three to four themes the team hopes to introduce and initiate in the year ahead. The information can be found at https://blueprint-nebraska.org/. I personally appreciate the time and talents invested by the Governor, UNL President Hank Bounds, and the many Nebraskans who participated in building the vision and putting forward meaningful goals to benefit all of Nebraska. Stay tuned and stay involved!

Finally, challenging ROAD CLOSURE news for many residents of District 17 came out of the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) office in Norfolk last week. It is confirmed that, during the planned culvert rehabilitation involving the 11-mile segment of Highway 35, it was discovered that the original plan to modify a box culvert would not suffice. Instead, NDOT will replace the box culvert with a new, larger one. This means that this portion of Highway 35 will be closing in the near future and remain closed for a period of several months. I am continuing to visit with the Department about detour routes and am encouraging an effort to minimize the impact to local users. Highway 35 will remain open until work on the new box culvert can begin. I will keep you posted in my weekly update going forward about information provided by NDOT regarding length of the closure and detour information.

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 August 9, 2019
August 12th, 2019

BACK TO SCHOOL. Most area children head back to school this week -August 14-15. Hopefully, those of you with children returning to school have finished the annual pilgrimage for school supplies and are looking forward to that first day. It’s good-bye to summer, hello to books, backpacks, and bulletin boards. There is a certain excitement to transitioning from the chaos of summer to the structure of the classroom. The first day of school each year means pictures to mark advancing in grade and in life, and to help us remember the moments. Remember to watch out for kids walking and riding bikes to and from school. And while taking those treasured pictures, remind the little ones to always be aware of their surroundings.
I attended the Nebraska Association of School Board’s meeting for our area in Wayne this past week. It was a good opportunity to “plug” back in with your elected school board members and school superintendents to discuss concerns and thoughts as we begin the new school year. I look forward to working with them in the year ahead, through the lens of what happens in District 17. Please know that you, too, can relay your concerns and ideas to these folks you put in office by attending and participating in school board meetings.

Last week the BLUEPRINT NEBRASKA economic development plan was unveiled by the Governor, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, and other partners, including the University. Said to be a “turning point” for the state, almost 600 Nebraskans participated in developing the plan, with about 2,000 attending more than 60 events held across the state over the past year or so. The report lays out goals to attract and retain young people between ages 18 and 34 to all parts of Nebraska, and to expand opportunities and strengthen Nebraska’s competitive position in the country. The report contains 15 key initiative proposals, which, if successfully implemented, will reportedly create 25,000 jobs and add $15,000 a year to annual income of Nebraskans. Parts of District 17 may have identified some helpful ways to further the plan’s goals. Both Thurston and Wayne Counties joined the more populated counties as among 20 counties that saw increases in employment between 2014 and 2018.

Before implementing the plan, it will be more fully presented to Nebraska residents and businesses at public forums to be held throughout the state. The South Sioux City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nebraska Chamber are hosting a “Fall Forum” in South Sioux City on August 20, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 pm at the Copperhead Inn and Conference Center, 4401 Dakota Ave. The forum is open to the public. Interested in learning how that vision will affect District 17, I plan to attend.

UNSOLICITED ROBOCALLS can at best be annoying and inconvenient, and at worst cause great disruption and affect the bottom line of businesses that receive frequent calls. At the Legislative Summit this past week, Congressman Fortenberry advised attendees that there is an effort to address the issue underway in Congress. I’ve heard concerns from residents of District 17. I will continue to monitor the progress and pass information onto you as I receive it.

FUN FACT: Did you know that in 2018, there were an estimated 3.52 head of cattle per Nebraska resident while nationally the estimate was .29 head of cattle per capita? It will be so great to see the “Best of the Best” from around the state shining at the upcoming Nebraska State Fair, Aug. 23-Sept. 2. The 4-H participants work hard and it really shows as they compete for top honors!

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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