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Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

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WEEKLY UPDATE September 7, 2020
September 5th, 2020

The Legislative Session may be adjourned, with state senators not due back until Session begins in January 2021, but there is still plenty happening. I continue to review requests for legislation, talk and meet with constituents and stakeholders, and get out into District 17 as much as possible ahead of harvest time. Moving away from lawmaking for the week, I’d like to let you know about a few happenings at the local, state, and national level

Wayne State College has modified its 2020 Homecoming activities due to COVID-19. Some activities have been cancelled, while others have been re-scheduled for the spring and some are being held via ZOOM meetings. More information about the Wayne State College Homecoming schedule can be found at

It may not look exactly the same as in previous years, but Chicken Days Show will be happening on Saturday September 12 and the event will celebrate 40 years of fun for District 17 families. The event will take place at the Wayne County Fairgroundsm 302 Pheasant run, Wayne America. There will not be a parade this year, but there will be fun, fellowship, and fireworks! I am looking forward to attending and visiting with my neighbors. Be sure to say hello!

As most are aware, schools in District 17 and throughout the State are each doing things differently. As will the health departments, my office will be paying attention to the new numbers of COVID-19 positive tests as schools open. It is more important than ever so important to keep your children home if they are ill.

There will be a 9-11 ceremony in Dakota County at Siouxland Freedom. I plan to be in attendance and hope to see many District 17 residents there as well. We should never forget that date in our history. It is important to remember the lives lost, the heroic efforts of so many, and the way we came together as a country to respond to the horrible attack on American soil.

FOREST FOCUS: Did you know that Nebraska has 1.5 million acres of forest land? Well, it does. On September 4, United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue joined Governor Ricketts and University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green in a signing of an agreement “to promote good stewardship of Nebraska’s forests.” Congressman Jeff Fortenberry also attended the signing. We frequently see Secretary Purdue in Nebraska because of his great interest in Nebraska’s role as an agricultural leader and his support for Nebraska’s commitment to its farmers, ranchers, and it rural lands.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Fortunately, we are seeing new and continuing unemployment claims decreasing, as more and more Nebraskans return to work. We have certainly done our part to protect our healthcare system throughout the State, and it is good to see businesses opening. As businesses reopen, people go back to work. As people go back to work, families and businesses get back on their feet. Working together, we can each act collectively to help this happen successfully.

Unemployment claims in Nebraska for the week ending August 29 were down 13.3% from the week before. The United States unemployment rate fell back into the single digits in August, as well. The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) reports it has paid unemployment benefits to over 130,000 individuals throughout the pandemic.

I realize the struggle is not over but I am glad to see our State reopening and am committed, as many are, to shop and dine and do other businesses locally to help small businesses in the State get back up and running. For those who found themselves unemployed because of the pandemic but who were unable to return to work before August 1, there may be a bit more additional relief on the way.

Federal Lost Wages Supplement Grant Funds may soon be available to Nebraskans who were unemployed due to COVID-19 during the three weeks August 1, August 8, and August 15. The Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) announced last week that Nebraska will apply for the funding and, if approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), those who qualify will be paid an additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits for the three weeks mentioned. Qualified applicants are those receiving $100 or more in weekly benefits for COVID-related separation from employment. For those receiving maximum benefits under Nebraska’s unemployment law, when combined with the new program, maximum benefits will be $740 per week for the covered weeks, before federal withholding taxes. For more information, log onto the Nebraska Department of Labor website.

MEDICAID EXPANSION is unfolding. Guidelines and rules are in place, additional personnel have been added, and Medicaid Expansion, which was passed by voters in 2017, is ready to roll. Applications for Medicaid under the expansion programs began being accepted August 1, 2020. Benefits under the program are scheduled to begin on October 1, 2020. By September 1, it was reported that Heritage Health Adult Medicaid had signed up 5,218 Nebraskans. Coverage has been expanded to lower income adults 19-64 years old who are earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. (Approximately $17,609 for a single person and up to $36,156 per year for a family of four). The application process turnaround at that time was approximately seven days. Applications are taken online at, by phone at (844) 632-7633, TDD (402) 471-7256, or in person at any DHHS office

September is National Preparedness month. “Make your plan today, and be prepared to take care of yourselves for at least 72 hours after a disaster,” is the advice given by Bryan Tuma, Assistant Director of Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). NEMA and local emergency managers across the state are urge Nebraskans to use this month to plan for potential disaster.

I would like to thank emergency managers Deanna Hagberg (Dakota County), Nic Kemnitz (Wayne County), and Tom Perez (Thurston County) for their hard work and dedication to providing great service to District 17 residents.

In the event that these or other local officials and relief workers are not able to reach you or your family immediately during a disaster for whatever reason, it is important to have food, water, and supplies to sustain you and your family until help can reach you. Some items, like a first aid kit may immediately come to mind. But, do not forget batteries, waterproof matches, and water purifier tablets. Director Tuma suggests each family assemble an emergency kit that sustains them for at least 3 days. A thorough list of items that should be included in your emergency kit, as well as specific supplies for businesses, healthcare facilities and schools can be found at You can also follow NEMA on Facebook at:
and on Twitter at: for preparedness tips throughout the month.

We continue to work together as neighbors and friends to help keep one another safe. I count it a privilege to live and serve in a state that continues to show we can overcome all obstacles.

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

Today (July 29, 2020), the Legislature debated a motion to suspend the rules to enable a Senator to bring a new bill despite the rule that bills to be considered in this Session are allowed to be introduced in the first ten days of Session, which was in January. The motion was brought by Senator Vargas but failed to get the required 30 votes needed. I voted against the motion, which is consistent with my vote on the same motion brought by a different Senator last week. Senator Vargas wanted to bring a new bill regarding meatpacking plants.

While I understand Senator Vargas’s intentions, there is simply not enough time to thoroughly investigate, process, and work through any new bill. Especially on this topic. As I stated last week, every bill that is introduced is required to have a public hearing before it can reach the floor for debate. The people most likely to be affected by any bill deserve opportunity to be heard, including the workers in District 17. this should necessarily include people in District 17.

District 17 is the home of the largest Tyson Foods plant in Nebraska, employing approximately 4,500 workers. The Legislature is in its last ten (10) days of the 2020 Session. The earliest that Senator Vargas can hold a hearing on any new bill would be next Thursday, August 6, 2020. That does NOT give sufficient time for residents of District 17 to shuffle schedules or to arrange to take off of work to travel to Lincoln for a hearing. Nor should they have to.

The Legislative Resolution filed by Senator Vargas (LR459) for an interim study to review the effects of COVID-19 on the safety of workers in Nebraska is a wiser and more practical approach to this issue. In an interim study, rather than requiring people wanting to be heard, members of one or more Legislative committees can travel to them. I am looking forward to attending listening sessions in District 17 to hear from workers and processors alike.

I will note that prior to the debate on this motion, I had not heard from a single meatpacking worker with concerns about the plant in District 17. I did speak with the Governor at an early point in the pandemic and testing was conducted in Dakota City a number of times. The Governor also initiated presenting his press conferences in Spanish on a regular basis and provided documents in a number of languages to make sure nearly all, if not all, of those working in the plants were made aware of the ways to stop the spread of COVID-19. I also contacted Tyson Foods to make sure they were exercising best practices to look out for workers at the plant.

I also received a copy of Tyson’s commitment to its workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other meat processing plants, Tyson relies upon its employees to help them perform an important part of feeding America. It is committed to working to keep them safe and healthy.

Dakota County had a large number of positive cases of the virus reported when intensive testing was initiated in the area. It is comforting to see the number of positive cases steadily decline. I credit residents and businesses in District 17 that have worked hard to stop the spread of COVID-19 through frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and other recommendations of the Governor and the Nebraska Department of Health. It is true that even one death is too many and my heart goes out to the families and friends throughout the State who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Together we can continue to serve the needs and preserve the safety of District 17 workers and residents by TAKING enough time to really listen. Again, I look forward to hearing from my neighbors at the listening sessions that will take place on the issue.

As always, I invite you to contact my office by phone 402.471.2716 or by email at

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.


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
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

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room 1404
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2716
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