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 July 13, 2020
July 13th, 2020

As we move closer to reconvening at the Legislature, Nebraska also moves towards economic recovery. Our state continues to lead the country, even in the midst of COVID-19. In June, Nebraska posted the lowest unemployment rate in the Nation, showing once again the amazing work ethic of Nebraska residents and their commitment to a strong recovery of our State.

Speaking of unemployment, the extra $600 per week for those collecting unemployment benefits is set to expire July 31. Also, beginning the benefit week of July 12, 2020, performing and reporting work search activities are once again required for those claiming benefits unless the claimant has an employer-confirmed recall date within 112 days of their layoff, is in approved training, a union member with a hiring hall, or in a short-time compensation program.

Kudos to Walmart South Sioux City that has actively participated in reaching the goal of Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment to hire 250,000 veteran associates since its Memorial Day 2013 launch. Nebraska helped reach the goal with 2,200 veteran hires and 421 veteran associate promotions in the state. I am proud that District 17 played a part in this honorable effort.

Working from home the last few months has involved more than a few frustrating moments without adequate Internet service. This last week, I directly experienced the need for improved broadband and internet access for those of us in District 17. The gap in adequate rural access to broadband has become even more apparent with increased use of Internet by so many working from and staying at home during the pandemic. Never having left my mind, rural broadband access is once again at the forefront. I serve on the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. In February, the Committee designated LB992 as one of our two priority bills. LB992 proposes the Broadband Internet Service Infrastructure Act and makes changes recommended by the Rural Broadband Task Force to improve access. The changes in part provide a process enabling broadband to expand service by running over existing electric easements to the rural communities throughout Nebraska. I am looking forward to discussing LB992 during these next 17 days of the Session.

Looking ahead to reconvening July 20, property tax relief remains a focal point for me and many of my colleagues. There has been hard work since January to try to bring tax relief to individual, commercial, and agricultural landowners. Many senators have worked tirelessly to make LB1106 a better bill. Reports have indicated that there is still a struggle to get the 33 votes needed to pass LB1106. My thanks to Senator Groene for outlining the following changes being proposed in the most recent amendment to LB1106:
1. Agriculture, horticultural & special valuations within the TEEOSA formula adjusted to 52%; residential, commercial/industrial & centrally assessed property adjusted to 83%
2. Taxable property valuations for school districts: 55% for agriculture, horticultural & special valuations; 87% for residential, commercial/industrial & centrally assessed property.
3. Acceptable ranges for property valuations by Counties adjusted to 49-55% for agricultural, horticultural, & special valuations; 79-87% for residential, commercial/industrial & centrally assessed property.
4. Foundation Aid, currently set at 2.23% of local income taxes to each school district from the State, under LB1106 in its currently proposed amendment would replace the Income Tax Rebate with 15% of net income, corporate, sales & use tax collections divided by statewide K-12 fall membership. Foundation Aid cannot be less than 15% of a school district’s basic funding.
5. Base limitation on budget growth. Adjust from 2.5% Basic Allowable Growth Rate of expenditures, which has averaged 1.48% to 2.0% maximum allowable growth in expenditures.
6. Budget authority, currently allowed to accrue unused budget authority year over year may access a maximum of 2.5% of additional budget authority annually. This would continue after 2020-21, however, would include a one-time reset of all school districts’ unused budget authority back to current year expenditures. To eliminate budget authority hoarding, the 2.5% cap would be eliminated and districts that use the year over year budget method would be allowed to set base-year maximum expenditures at 110
% of the most recent 2-year budget.
7. Maximum levy of $1.05 per $100 valuation adjusted.

In summary, the State pays a larger percentage of educational costs for Nebraska’s children and the school districts restrain spending growth. At the center of the proposal is a plan to reduce local reliance on property tax revenues.

Naturally, the changes noted above, along with a few others may change,. As the amendment is currently proposed, District 17 taxpayers and schools will benefit from its passage.
What is certain is that enough is enough. We need to do what is best for the children, the taxpayers, and the State. As we look toward reconvening on July 20, I am challenging my colleagues in the Legislature to join hands across the aisle and to take care of this issue that the people of Nebraska have already waited 40 years for us to fix. Enough is enough. The time is now. In the infamous words of John F. Kennedy, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

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.

It was an historic day in South Sioux City on July 3. I was honored to be a part of the program at the unveiling of the Nebraska Medal of Honor Highway sign, which represented the official and public renaming of U.S. Highway 20. The renaming is an appropriate honor for those who have given so much to fight for our country. It is an appropriate time for the ceremony as we celebrate the 244th birthday of our great nation. My thanks and the thanks of others go out to the many Veterans who worked so hard to bring this change and to make the day a reality.

On Saturday, I was delighted to take part in the Hoskins parade—the only official Fourth of July parade taking place in District 17. As do many of you, I love parade season. Thank you Hoskins for making this parade happen. I look forward to the many parades I expect to see next year. I believe planning has already begun!

Shortly after the Legislature reconvenes on July 20, the Forecasting Board will meet per the Speaker’s request. The Forecasting Board typically meets twice a year; using the first to develop a forecast of revenues for the year ahead, and the second that usually takes place in April, to adjust the forecast to reflect actual revenue receipts to that point. You may recall my Weekly Update including news of better than expected revenues the past couple of years. Generally speaking, the Forecasting Board develops its forecast using its best estimate. The 2020-2021 Forecast presented in April of this year estimated state revenue growth of 4.8% over last year’s revenues.

Last week, John Keuhn, former senator and current member of the Forecasting Board said that, despite the past couple of months of the pandemic, when compared to the certified forecast, Nebraska revenues so far are fairly on track, off only about 1/10th of 1% from the 2019 forecast. Mr. Keuhn attributed this to what he described as good, responsible, fiscal conservative leadership that “has put us in good position to weather the impact of COVID-19 to this point.” Though strong to this point, Mr. Kuehn believes we will see some lower revenues because of decreased purchasing and activity over the past few months, which he opines will likely cause a ripple effect in rural communities too. Nevertheless, we will recover as we always do, by working together. We are, after all, #NebraskaStrong.

Is it possible that there may be amendments related to what we’ve experienced with COVID-19 when we reconvene later this month? Possibly, but only to a limited extent. Remember, COVID-19 was not expected when Bills were introduced in January, and Nebraska law requires that every new Bill have a Committee Hearing before it can be debated on the floor. Consequently, any new “add on” provisions to legislation that may attempt to address issues related to the pandemic will would also need to receive a public hearing. There are most certainly concerns from businesses and organizations involved in reopening efforts that will need to be addressed but which likely need to take the form of future legislation. Because the earliest new Bills dealing with the COVID-19 issues could be seen is at the Legislature’s January 2021 Session, there is hope that the most pressing issues related to liability and such will be addressed at the federal level in the interim.

Meanwhile, property tax relief and recovery of the Nebraska economy remain at the forefront of our thoughts. There is a group of several senators continuing to work on a viable Bill to reduce property taxes, in conjunction with a Bill to replace the Advantage Act business incentive program due to sunset this year. The senators continue to collaborate in good faith and to keep the rest of us posted on status. Change is hard and, although we all recognize the need to address high property taxes and the inequality being felt by the rural community and its schools, people are resistant to change.

As the unrest across the nation has unfolded and continues, there is a sense that many living in more urban situated states are considering relocating. In that respect, Nebraska holds an attractive alternative. You and I and other Nebraska residents know why. Still, if our population is to grow and if we are to attract talented individuals, families, and businesses from other places, we need to have in place an environment that is inviting from an economic standpoint. Our balanced budget and strong fiscal structure may be attractive, but we also must be able to offer a more family and business friendly tax structure.

As I’ve said in many instances, property tax relief is a priority of mine and remains a priority of many of my colleagues. In addition to talk of the impact of COVID-19, look for lots of discussion surrounding bringing meaningful property tax relief to District 17 and to all of Nebraska.

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 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

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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