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 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

WEEKLY UPDATE 8.2.2019

Fair Fun! I had a great time visiting with folks and enjoying the energetic atmosphere at the Dakota/Thurston County Fair this past weekend. From the Butterfly Encounter to the free rodeo and Equine Parade, from sack races, cake eating and Nail driving contests to the Battle of the Bands, the fair offered a whole lot of something for everybody. For me, it was a packed weekend, as I ran between two fairs, with grandkids participating in the Dakota/Thurston County and the Dodge County Fairs. There’s no substitute for the looks of excitement on the kids’ faces as they show their projects and receive those coveted ribbons. I was impressed by the hard work and amazing talent on display throughout the entries. As always, I enjoyed attending and appreciate that the communities go all out to provide a fun, welcoming atmosphere and a quality line-up of entry categories and activities. Most of all, I appreciate the community commitment to provide an opportunity for neighbors to connect over good food and great fun. I’m already looking forward to next year!

In other news, the Tax Rate Review Committee had its required meeting this month to determine whether the sales and income tax rates in Nebraska should be changed. The Legislative Fiscal Office presented a report to the committee. No action was taken.

To summarize the report, General Fund receipts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-19 were $131.4 million above the April forecast. By law, the additional revenues will be transferred to the State’s “Rainy Day Fund” (Cash Reserves). The adjusted revenue receipts for FY 2018-19 rose 8.7%, compared to the forecasted 5.7% increase. However, the actual increase from the prior year is 7.2% (rather than 8.7%). The difference is due to adjustments such as a shift of income tax revenue from FY 2019 to 2020 due to delayed filings related to flooding. How the FY 2018-19 revenue performance will affect the forecasts for the next two fiscal years (FY2019-20 and FY2020-21) will be addressed at the October meeting of the Nebraska Economic Forecast Advisory Board (NEFAB). I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, I’ve been waiting for word from Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) about the Hwy. 94 Bridge in Pender that was damaged by the spring flooding. Although damaged and impassable bridges are an inconvenience for everybody and we wish things moved more quickly, we also recognize the widespread damage to infrastructure throughout the state. We finally received a status and funding update from NDOT that I’d like to share with you:

HWY 94 East of Pender Project Status: The contractor, Valley Corp, has notice to proceed and will begin the process of excavation following utility location. Tribal monitoring has not impacted the schedule of the project as of August 2, 2019.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) does have a six percent TERO tax agreement with the Omaha Tribe and is currently negotiating a Tribal Monitoring Agreement for the HWY 94 bridge and river bank repairs as the Omaha tribe has requested tribal monitoring on the project..

The project is a result of the March 2019 flooding which means it is covered by a Governor’s Emergency Declaration, as well as a Federal Major Disaster Declaration. The severity of the event allows the NDOT to expedite the procurement and construction process to restore essential traffic. This means that the typical construction process, to include the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, is adjusted to allow mobility to be reestablished as quickly as possible.

For repair work on the estimated $156M in damages to the federal-aid eligible transportation system, initial financial responsibility falls upon the NDOT with the Federal Highway Administration reimbursing NDOT after the repairs are compete. Reimbursement rates are dependent on if work is temporary (100% federal) or permanent (80% federal and 20% state). For roads off the federal-aid system the financial responsibility falls to the local entity and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Please visit NDOT’s flood recovery website for updated information:https://dot.nebraska.gov/news-media/nebraska-flood-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

The 2018 US Farm Bill removed Industrial hemp from the controlled substance list and paved the way for growing and cultivation throughout the United States. In May, 2019 the Nebraska Legislature cleared the way for Nebraska farmers when it adopted the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act. To legally grow hemp in Nebraska, interested parties must apply for, and receive a signed license agreement from the State.
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) took applications for limited agreements in this initial “pilot program” year. There were 176 applications received by the NDA by the June 28, 2019 deadline. Ten (10) applicants were notified of their eligibility and sent Agreements to participate in the NDA hemp growing program.
Ho-Chunk Farms, owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s Economic Development Corporation received its approval on Thursday July 18. Aaron LaPointe, the company’s business manager, says the first season will start small, with 5.5 acres of hemp. Planting is expected to start in the coming weeks. LaPointe says the initial crop for a pilot program will help the company prepare for next year.
Although there has been some recent criticism of the limited number of applications granted for the pilot program, it is important that we recognize the wisdom in not moving forward too quickly. Before we start criticizing the Governor and Nebraska Department of Agriculture, we should look at why limited scope is warranted in the first growing year and what is in the best interest of Nebraska taxpayers and producers. For instance, more growers means more personnel paid for by taxpayers to oversee testing of appropriate THC levels. Also, this type of production can be an expensive initial investment for a producer. Generally hemp, which is a short day plant, should be planted after danger of hard freezes, and slightly before the planting date of corn in soil temperatures above 46’-50’. Good soil moisture is necessary for seed germination, and plenty of rainfall is needed for good growth, especially during the first six weeks. It is no secret that throughout Nebraska, corn, soybeans and other agricultural products are already in the ground.
I love fair season! I had a great time meeting and visiting with folks at the Wayne County Fair this past weekend. It is always so wonderful to see county residents coming together for fair events and competitions. I am especially proud of the 4-H groups, who all show great dedication and commitment to their communities and their projects. I look forward to the upcoming Thurston/Dakota County fair July 31-August 1.
The University of Nebraska Haskell Lab Science and Agricultural Family Field Day was held in Concord on July 24. I was unable to attend but am so grateful that the University did what it could to keep the Lab open in order to provide this amazing resource for residents of Northeast Nebraska. Attendees were introduced to the diverse research projects conducted at the Lab and were able to interact with exhibits like MakerSpace, robotics, and other STEM activities. If you were able to go, I would love to hear from you about your experience.
POW WOWs are coming up. The 153rd Annual Winnebago POW WOW and Celebration took place July 25-28, 2019 at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Winnebago, Nebraska. The 215th Annual UNOnHOn HE’THUSKA HEDEWACHI is being held August 15-18 at Little Warrior Park in Macy, Nebraska. These celebrations are rich in tradition, expression, community and culture.
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

Another busy week for District 17. It was great to attend the Governor’s Summit and see so many friendly faces from Northeast Nebraska.
The Governor’s 4th Annual Economic Summit was held on Wednesday, July 19, 2019. The program included important topics like workforce talent recruitment and retention, career path development, housing, and more. The statewide focus is a vibrant Nebraska where our children, their children, and others, have opportunities to live, work, and raise their families.
Though held in Lincoln, all three counties in District 17 were recognized for their impressive work towards keeping the Nebraska economy thriving.
A shout out to Dakota County’s own South Sioux City Community Schools, which was recognized at the Summit for its Approved Career Academy. The Approval designation signals quality programming that allows students to take part in academic and career & technical education courses which reflect local, regional, or state employment needs and demands. The South Sioux City Academy offers education for employment opportunities in fields of Business, Marketing, and Management, Communication and Information Systems, Health Sciences and Education and Skilled and Technical Services. Great for our youth—great for our future. Way to go South Sioux!
Wayne County was asked to share about its great progress in developing workforce housing. Megan Weaver, Executive Director of Wayne Community Housing Development, shared about projects and accomplishments in Wakefield leveraging funds generated through LB518, the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act. It is rewarding to see the results of the labor that went into introducing, prioritizing, and passing LB 518 when I chaired the Business & Labor Committee in 2017. Wakefield successfully leveraged the available funds to increase housing stock and increase the tax base through a community partnership with local business, contractors, utilities, and banks. Transforming empty lots and/or dilapidated housing into attractive and affordable housing is a goal that benefits all in the community.
Ray Welsh of Welsh Financial Group from Pender was a panelist on the topic of business growth opportunities that build communities where people want to stay. Highlighting the Welsh group’s successful growth in Pender, Ray had plenty to share about the importance of providing an attractive environment for businesses in small town Nebraska. He stressed that Pender is always considering what it would take for a family moving to Pender to call Pender “home.”
Finally, in a surprise ending to the Summit, the Governor and First Lady Susanne Shore unveiled a video being released to attract and encourage folks to live, work, and start businesses in Nebraska. Entrepreneurs Lukas Rix and Mark Kanitz and their businesses Rustic Treasure & 1912 Emporium in Wayne are spotlighted in the video. No doubt about it- District 17 businesses and residents model Nebraska Strong!
WALTHHILL MEMORIAL RODEO –
On a sadder note, the 45th Annual Walthill Memorial Rodeo put on its last show July 12-14, 2019. Though incredibly fun and entertaining as always, the finality of this years’ performances was sad for many. “It ain’t our first rodeo, but it is our Last,” declared the rodeo banner and photo. Some who are saddened by the rodeo’s end say that the organizers of the Rodeo have, over the years, provided not only a great time for friends and family, but also an annual opportunity for a “reunion” that will be greatly missed. I wish to extend my heartfelt appreciation for the Rodeo’s dedication to Thurston County and say Congratulations on 45 years of a successful event for all ages. Thank you Walthill Rodeo for nearly five decades of family and community fun and enjoyment!
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

It has been a busy week in District 17!

I love the opportunities to visit community celebrations like the Wayne Chicken Show and others during the summer months. It is always a pleasure to meet and speak with you. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend couple of community celebrations/parades recently due to my husband’s surgery. If yours was one, I am sorry I missed you and I look forward to seeing you next year!

With additional county fairs and other outdoor activities at a high this time of year, be sure to keep your families and children safe by keeping plenty of water and sunscreen on hand. Also, remember to periodically check on those neighbors who may have challenges related to heat and make sure their air conditioners are providing the relief they need.

Also, I would like to congratulate my Legislative Aide Mackenzie Martin-Fisk, on her pending move to Kansas City. We are very excited that she and her husband are embarking on a new adventure. We will miss her and are grateful for her dedication to our office. Please join me in wishing her the best! Last week was Mackenzie’s last week with our office.

Our office has been busy getting everything ready and prepared for this office change. We welcome my new Legislative Aide Cyndi Lamm to the office beginning July 15. Cyndi has education, experience, and skills that I believe will serve District 17 well and she looks forward to working with constituents on issues in the District.

Finally, I will be attending the Governor’s Summit on Workforce Development this week and will provide a summary for you in next week’s newsletter.

In addition to this office update, I also wanted to let you know about a few more opportunities being offered for Nebraskans.

Sen. Ben Sasse’s office is accepting nominations for the United States Service Academies. Applications opened on May 1st and they are due by October 1st. The Senator will then be conducting interviews in Lincoln in mid-November of this year. You can find out the required materials for this nomination at www.sasse.senate.gov->services->academynominations.

Attending a U.S. Service Academy allows individuals the opportunity to attend a prestigious institution and receive an education free of cost. It also offers a wide variety of academic vocations to choose from, will allow development of leadership skills and attributes that are unparalleled to other institutions and provides participants with the skills and education to serve the country with honor. Finally, as a graduated military officer, individuals have the potential to shape the future of the country’s armed forces.

Interested applicants should apply with your State Senator (my office if in District 17), with their Congressman, and with the US Senator’s office. Consider diversifying the recommendation letters that are submitted and reread your application for any corrections or additions before the October 1st deadline.

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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