NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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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

I hope everyone was able to spend time with their loved ones this week. When tragedy strikes I am reminded how blessed I am to hug my children and grandchildren at night. We are praying for the families and friends of the 17 innocent lives lost on Wednesday, and for our leaders, parents, and communities to come together to find a solution to senseless violence.

I am excited to spend the Legislature’s four day weekend in all three counties of District 17. Saturday I will be attending and speaking at the open house for the new Thurston County Jail, then I will be attending the Wayne County Republican Party’s Lincoln – Reagan Dinner. On Monday, I will be attending the 41st annual Joint Dakota City, County, and School Dinner. I enjoy taking any chance I can to talk to constituents about current events in the legislature.

On Thursday I had the pleasure of introducing LB 1040 to the Health and Human Services Committee. LB1040 is a bill to help grieving families by offering commemorative birth certificate for those who suffer a pregnancy loss prior to 20 weeks gestation. Every pregnancy loss is a tragedy that has a profound impact on women and entire families, yet most go unrecognized. Any woman who has ever miscarried knows the pain and loss are real no matter the gestation. Whether a pregnancy is lost at 5 weeks, 12 weeks, 19 weeks or 20 weeks and beyond, the pain of that loss is severe and should be recognized and honored for those who wish to do so.

I was honored to introduce LB 1040 with Jennifer, Laura, Marci, Jennifer, Audra and Lisa. We also received many support letters from OBGYNs and the support of the Nebraska Hospital Association. I look forward to seeing this bill come out of committee and am hopeful it will earn a “yes” vote from fellow senators on the floor.

Next week, each senator and committee will have submitted their priority bills for the session. Priority Bills are placed on the agenda for debate before non-priority bills, and usually take up the remaining days of session leaving little room for other bills to be debated. Once all priority bill designations have been submitted, we will have a good idea of the subjects that will dictate session through April. To view Priority Bill designations visit: https://nebraskalegislature.gov/session/priority.php.

The budget shortfall will be discussed extensively this session as well. Governor Ricketts has released his budget proposal and the Appropriations Committee has held hearings to get public input on proposed budget cuts. The economic forecasting board will release predictions on state revenue projections at the end of this month, then the proposed budget will be adjusted according to the projections. To stay updated on the budget you can visit: http://budget.nebraska.gov/index.html.

The remaining Business and Labor Committee’s hearing for this legislative session will be on February 26th. The hearing will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m.

Committee hearings will be streamed live by NET at the following address: www.netnebraska.org/capitol. Live coverage of the full session of the Unicameral is also available from that page.

If you would like to submit written testimony for the committee to consider and you will not be personally testifying at the hearing, it is required that you turn your written testimony in to my office, no later than 5:00 p.m. on the legislative day before the relevant hearing. Please let us know if you would like your submission to be formally on the committee’s hearing record.

You may submit your written testimony by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or by mail to:

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010s

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716 or to write me at the address above.

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

The harsh weather this week was a good reminder to all of us to be mindful and safe when driving. I hope everyone stayed warm and safe. Although we had a short week in Lincoln, due to a recess day on Friday, my staff and I were hard at work preparing for committee hearings and upcoming bills.

On the floor, we had long and thoughtful debates on several bills, all but one passed on to Enrollment and Review to be advanced to Select File. We also passed bills on Final reading for the first time this session, a total of 19 bills that Governor Ricketts signed into law.

Additionally, my bill LB 949, which allows the Nebraska Educational, Health, and Social Services Finance Authority to be a conduit issuer of bonds for private not-for-profit cultural institutions, passed the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee to General File. I am excited to present this bill on the floor to fellow senators.

On Thursday, we were fortunate to welcome Leadership Wayne Class IX members to our office as they toured the Capitol and learned about the government and Legislature. We also welcome multiple doctors and physical therapists from District 17 to the office. I enjoy when constituents engage with state government and visit the Legislature.

I am looking forward to presenting LB 1040 to the Health and Human Services Committee on February 15th. LB 1040 is a bill to help grieving families suffering from a miscarriage by giving them the option to honor and recognize their loss with a special commemorative birth certificate. The state of Nebraska currently makes birth certificates available for miscarriages that occur after 20 weeks, LB 1040 extends that courtesy to grieving families who lose a pregnancy before 20 weeks with a new type of certificate. I look forward to answering thoughtful questions from committee members and am hopeful that they will advance the bill to General File.

I was informed of a great opportunity for military veteran farms to attend a free conference in March I wanted to share.

Answering the Call is a free conference for military veteran farmers who are currently farming or want to begin farming. The conference is an opportunity for veterans to connect with fellow former service members who are engaged or interested in farming. Veterans can see firsthand how other veterans have translated the duty and drive of military life into a second career on the farm. Session topics include programs available to veterans interested in farming, diversified agriculture, conservation, and agritourism. A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Answering the Call is set for Saturday, March 24, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Central Community College in Hastings, NE.

Conference attendance is free, but pre-registration is required by Friday, March 16. Register at www.cfra.org/AnsweringTheCall. For more information, contact Cora Fox at coraf@cfra.org or 402-687-2100 ext 1012.

The remaining Business and Labor Committee’s hearings for this legislative session will be on February 12th, and February 26th. The hearings will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m.

Committee hearings will be streamed live by NET at the following address: http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live coverage of the full session of the Unicameral is also available from that page.

If you would like to submit written testimony for the committee to consider and you will not be personally testifying at the hearing, it is required that you turn your written testimony in to my office, no later than 5:00 p.m. on the legislative day before the relevant hearing. Please let us know if you would like your submission to be formally on the committee’s hearing record.

You may submit your written testimony by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov or by mail to:

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010s

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716 or to write me at the address above.

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

What a beautiful week in Nebraska! I hope everyone has been staying warm and enjoying the sunshine. At the Unicameral, we spent much of the week continuing debate on Senator Crawford’s LB 589 and Senator Hughes’ 758. Following thorough debate, we did not vote to advance or indefinitely postpone LB 589. Senator Hughes’ bill was moved to Enrollment and Review (the step before Select File) with 47 senators voting “yes” and 2 “present – not voting”. After moving a few other bills to Enrollment and Review, we began debating LB 211 on Friday. LB 211, introduced by Senator Hansen, would increase the tipped minimum wage, the usual compensation method for those in the restaurant service industry. Many have raised concerns about this bill and I did not vote to advance it from Business and Labor Committee, but I look forward to hearing the remaining floor debate on the topic before the General File vote.

On Tuesday, I presented LB 949, which allows the Nebraska Educational, Health, and Social Services Finance Authority to be a conduit issuer of bonds for private not-for-profit cultural institutions, to the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. I was pleased to see the bill attract multiple proponents, with no one testifying in opposition. I am thankful for the committee members asking thoughtful questions and am hopeful the committee will advance it to General File next week.

This year, the Legislature will again work towards tackling high property taxes. Governor Ricketts’ tax plan, proposed by Senator Smith as LB 947, was heard in Revenue Committee on Wednesday. LB 947, the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act, allows residential homeowners a refundable income tax credit equal to a percentage of property taxes paid during the taxable year. Resident individuals paying property taxes on agricultural land, horticultural land, farm sites and improvements on farm sites shall also be allowed a refundable income tax credit equal to a percentage of property taxes paid during the taxable year. LB 947 also provides for a two-year phase down of the top individual income tax rate from 6.84% to 6.69%, as well as a two-year phase down of the corporate tax rate for all taxable income in excess of $100,000 from 7.81% to 6.69%. Additionally, the bill directs the State Treasurer to transfer from the General Fund a total of $10 million to the Job Training Cash Fund over the next two years. Governor Ricketts and Senator Smith have made it clear that this bill is a work in progress and have already submitted multiple amendments to address concerns. I will continue to monitor the progress of this bill and ensure that it is in the best interest of District 17, as well as the entire state. To keep up with developments on the bill, visit https://nebraskalegislature.gov/ and search for LB 947.

On Thursday my office was happy to welcome representatives from the Wayne Chamber of Commerce to the Capitol and to the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame banquet in Lincoln. I was delighted to sit at their table and talk about business in Wayne over dinner.

Monday will be the Business and Labor Committee’s second of four committee hearing days of the session. We look forward to hearing testimony on the following bills:

LB928 (McDonnell) Change provisions relating to compensation paid upon the death of an employee under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act

LB 952 (Albrecht) Change provisions relating to dismissals of actions under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act

LB953 (Albrecht) Change provisions relating to lump-sum settlements under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act

LB957 (Lowe) Provide procedures for choosing a method of payment for payments under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act

LB1024 (Wayne) Change references from Big Twelve Conference to Big Ten Conference in provisions requiring a stipend or restricting hours of participation for intercollegiate athletes

The remaining Business and Labor Committee’s hearings for this legislative session will be on February 12th, and February 26th. The hearings will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m.

Committee hearings will be streamed live by NET at the following address: http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live coverage of the full session of the Unicameral is also available from that page.

If you would like to submit written testimony for the committee to consider and you will not be personally testifying at the hearing, it is strongly encouraged that you turn your written testimony in to the committee clerk, Beverly Neel, no later than 5:00 p.m. on the legislative day before the relevant hearing. Please let Beverly know if you would like your submission to be formally on the committee’s hearing record.

You may submit your written testimony by email at bneel@leg.ne.gov or by mail to:

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716 or to write me at the address above.

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

We have had another exciting week at the Unicameral, over 325 bills and 21 legislative resolutions have been submitted since convening on January 3rd. We have been moving through debate on many bills in General File that carried over from last year, while committees prepare to hold hearing for newly introduced bills.

On Wednesday, Governor Ricketts delivered his State of the State address highlighting his priorities and hopes for 2018. He pointed to the many successes Nebraska had last year, including winning the Governor’s Cup for most economic development projects per capita of any state in the country, Forbes’ ranking of Nebraska as the fourth best state for business, and achieving the lowest unemployment rate in the state since 1999 at 2.7 percent. As revenue continues to come in below projections and we face a $200 million shortfall, Governor Ricketts’ proposed budget dictates across-the-board budget cuts to close the gap without raising taxes while still protecting state priorities, including K-12 education, developmental disability services, child welfare and corrections.

Governor Ricketts also released a plan to address Nebraska’s crushing property taxes, through the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act (LB947) proposed by Senator Smith. While this is a work in progress, I am excited to work together to pass bipartisan legislation for much-needed property tax relief.

Also on Wednesday, our office was delighted to welcome many guests from District 17, including South Sioux City School Board members and students, the South Sioux City Chamber of Commerce, South Sioux City, Dakota City, Dakota County, and 2018 Teacher of the Year Michelle Helt to the Capitol to watch the Governor’s speech. Senator Brewer and I also welcomed Tribal leaders from across the state to watch the State of the State address followed by coffee and a productive discussion.

I was proud to stand with Attorney General Doug Peterson, Governor Pete Ricketts, fellow Senators, and law enforcement at the reveal of the “Demand an End” awareness campaign on Thursday. The awareness campaign is the latest step Nebraska is taking to end the sale of minors and adults coerced or forced into sex. Awareness posters targeting the buyers of trafficking victims will be placed at all rest stops along I-80 and many more around the state. Governor Ricketts also declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month to solidify Nebraska’s commitment to ending this heinous crime. Thank you to the brave men and women who have already begun this fight on the front lines.

This week I also introduced three additional bills, LB 949, LB 952, and LB 953:

LB 949 aims to rename the Nebraska Educational, Health, and Social Services Finance Authority Act to include cultural institutions, allowing for cultural institutions such as museums or visual arts centers to finance or refinance cultural assets they deem important to the economic vitality of their locality.

LB 952 protects businesses by limiting the number of times an employee can file and dismiss the same case in Workers’ Compensation Court.

LB 953 corrects language in current Nebraska statutes regarding workers’ compensation to allow penalties for late payments to injured workers. LB 953 also allows parties in Workers’ Compensation Court to settle their case without court approval when there may be unpaid medical bills or the employee is a Medicare beneficiary. Court approval would still be needed if the employee is not represented by an attorney.

The Business and Labor Committee’s hearings for this legislative session will be on January 22nd, February 5th, February 12th, and February 26th. The hearings will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m.

If you would like to submit written testimony for the committee to consider and you will not be personally testifying at the hearing, it is strongly encouraged that you turn your written testimony in to the committee clerk, Beverly Neel, no later than 5:00 p.m. on the business day prior to the relevant hearing. Please let Beverly know if you would like your submission to be formally on the committee’s hearing record.

You may submit your written testimony by email at bneel@leg.ne.gov or by mail to:

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me at 402-471-2716 or to write me at the address above.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Weekly Report – September 8

September 10th, 2017

Next year will be on us before we know it, which means the second session of the Legislature will be underway. In preparation, I’m pleased to announce I have brought on Amara Meyer as Legal Counsel for the Business & Labor Committee.

Amara is originally from a farm near Brule, Nebraska. She holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Amara began her legislative career while still in college by serving as a Legislative Page. Since then, she has spent almost seven years working for the Unicameral in various capacities in the office of the Clerk of the Legislature.

She has also clerked for firms in Holdrege and Beloit, Kansas. Additionally, Amara has spent significant amounts of time serving the community through the Juvenile Re-Entry Project, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and Community Legal Education Project.

In my office, she will work with the members of the Business & Labor Committee to draft bills and amendments, analyze legislation, and perform legal research on committee subject matters which broadly include workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, labor and employment relations, fair employment practices, labor conditions, and other matters that fall under the Committee’s jurisdiction. She will also write the bill summaries and any special reports put out by the Committee which will be available on the Legislature’s website.

She will also work with my Committee Clerk Beverly Neel to ensure our committee meeting, hearings, and interactions happen smoothly and without a hitch.

I am confident that Amara will be a wonderful addition to our team and will effectively and efficiently serve the people of Nebraska.

For younger leaders, the Nebraska Department of Education recently announced two students will be selected to join 102 other delegates in Washington D.C. for the United States Senate Youth Program’s 56th Annual Washington Week in early March.

This merit-based leadership program brings two students from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity to Washington each year to experience an intensive, week-long educational program about the workings of the Senate and the federal government overall.

Most notably, each of the 104 student delegates will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship in addition to the expenses paid for the trip to the nation’s capital. This fantastic opportunity for qualifying students.

Commissioner of Education, Matthew L. Blomstedt, in cooperation with high school principals, will select Nebraska’s delegates from juniors or seniors, elected student offices and those belonging to a district, regional or state-level civic or educational organization who hold a high-level leadership position for the entire 2017-2018 academic year.
Interested students can find more information and an application at https://www.education.ne.gov/ss/ussyp.html. Applications are due to the Nebraska Department of Education by 4:00 p.m. CST on October 4, 2017. To see more information about the program itself, visit the USSYP website at http://www.usssenateyouth.org.

Finally, our hearts go out to those impacted by the forest fires and horrendous storms impacting our county. Nebraskans have historically been known to rise to the occasion and to help our neighbors.

But you should be aware that there are those who would capitalize on such tragedy. Never give any personal information to someone who calls you out of the blue, even if they claim to be from a charity. Also, beware of attachments in e-mails as these may contain viruses that could hurt your computer or worse.

The Federal Trade Commission is a wonderful resource if you have questions about a disaster relief charity. More information can be found at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity#Checklist

Weekly Report – August 22

August 23rd, 2017

It is a wonderful time of the year. Students are back to school, and those of us involved in agriculture are counting the days until harvest.

Even though the weather has been cooperating this year, sometimes disaster strikes. When a storm is declared a Federal Disaster, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is there to help individuals, businesses, and tribes deal with the aftermath.

There was a Federal Disaster declaration on August 1, 2017, for the June 12 through June 17 severe storms, tornadoes, and straight-line winds. Public assistance and 406 Mitigation was declared for the counties of Banner, Box Butte, Butler, Cass, Cuming, Dodge, Douglas, Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Morrill, Polk, Sarpy, Saunders, Sheridan, Sioux, Thurston and Wayne.

To apply for Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding, send a letter of intent to NEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Office. Information can be found at https://nema.nebraska.gov/recovery/state-hazard-mitigation-program. Letters of intent are due to NEMA by September 29, and applications are due on January 31.

With fall comes back to school, and with back to school comes a number of opportunities for students to grow as well as help their communities.

One distinguished opportunity available to college students is working with the Nebraska Legislature during our upcoming session.

Nebraska college students interested in becoming a page for the Nebraska Legislature for the 2018 Legislative session are encouraged to apply through my office or through the Clerk of the Legislature.

Legislative pages are selected in the fall each year to work in the state Capitol beginning in January 2018.

Pages do a lot of tasks such as running errands, delivering messages, photo copying materials, and assist the presiding officer. Another big role pages have is during committee hearings. Pages are responsible for setting up hearing chambers and have a role in making sure the hearings go off without a hitch. As a chair, I know that the page assigned to my committee last session was wonderful to work with. It wasn’t glamourous, but the work they did was important and appreciated.

Pages must be high school graduates who are currently enrolled in a Nebraska college or trade school with a minimum grade point averages of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. They must be able to work 20 hours a week during session. It is preferred that pages work the same four-hour shift each day. The legislative session will begin in early January. This is a paid position and you may also be able to receive credit hours through your college.

Applications are available through the Clerk of the Legislature’s office, Room 2018, in the State Capitol or through my office. A page applicant is also encouraged to contact his or her home district state senator for a letter of recommendation. If you do not know who your senator is, you can contact the Clerk of the Legislature’s office for assistance.

The deadline for submitting page applications and letters of recommendation for the 2018 legislative session will be Friday, September 29 at 5:00 p.m.

I strongly encourage all interested college students to consider this wonderful opportunity. For more information, please feel free to contact my office.

Weekly Report – August 1

August 1st, 2017

It has been a busy summer for me, as I am sure it has been for my constituents. Summer has been flying by!

In just a few short weeks, on August 21, Nebraska will be ground central for an amazing celestial event as we celebrate the Great American Eclipse. Though unfortunately, those of us in northeast Nebraska will not have much of a view of the eclipse, there are many areas of our great state that will offer tremendous viewing opportunities.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected, so if catching the eclipse is on your to-do list, I would recommend planning early. The Nebraska Tourism Commission has been working with communities along the path of the eclipse, and there will be a variety of events taking place before, during, and after the event in many areas of our state.

More information can be found on the Nebraska Tourism’s website at http://neclipse17.com/.

Earlier this year, I was appointed by Speaker Jim Scheer to serve as a member of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee of the Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC).

Since 1933, the Council of State Governments has served officials in all 50 states and the U.S. territories. It is a non-partisan organization which promotes excellence in state government through the exchange of ideas and best practices to help state officials advance public policy.

In July, I was able to attend the MLC – the only event designed for state and local lawmakers from the Midwest – with several colleagues from the Unicameral. We heard from a mix of speakers, held professional development workshops, and had policy discussions on issues of critical importance to Nebraska and the surrounding states.

Closer to home, fair season is upon us and it was great to get out and meet up with folks. Thankfully, the weather has cooperated for the most part, and I got to see a lot of you at various events over the past two weeks. I’m looking forward to the Thurston County Fair, which is only a few days away as I write this.

One question I was asked recently was how my constituents could use their professional expertise to serve the state. While there are many ways an interested individual can donate their time and effort to help their community, one specific way to apply to serve on one of Nebraska’s state board and commissions. These boards and commissions meet regularly and offer a way for citizens to become engaged in both policy and rule-making efforts without requiring an unreasonable commitment.

Each board and commission is unique, and not all have vacancies currently. More information can be found at: https://governor.nebraska.gov/board-comm-req

Finally, recently I had the opportunity to sit down with many business, education, and local leaders. I recently had the chance to grab coffee with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Chancellor Ronnie Green. With a record high enrollment of 25,897 in 2016 and a fourth straight year of enrollment, the University is excited about the upcoming year. The University system is the largest employer in Nebraska, and it was interesting having the chance to speak one-on-one with the man who is steering the ship.

Weekly Report – May 1st

May 15th, 2017

Last week we passed the 73rd day of the legislative session. We are currently working on the state’s $8.9 billion budget package. Nebraska’s state budget is structured on a two-year basis, with emergency budget sessions called as necessary.

Gering Senator John Stinner and the Appropriations Committee has spent months preparing the budget proposal, even going so far as to prepare a “mini-budget” earlier in the session to address the shortfall we were facing at the time.

This is a long process. The goal is prepare a balanced budget that encourages growth without being a burden on Nebraska tax-payers.

Among other provisions, the budget includes increases to educational funding through the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) of $62.4 million, $35.6 million for Medicaid, and $15.4 million for the Department of Corrections.

The proposed budget would cut $24.7 million to other state agencies and $13 million to the university system, among other cuts.

There is still a lot of work left to do and over the next week I expect this issue to take us well into the evenings. The budget should be passed by May 10 and sent to the Governor for his signature.

On another topic, I’m proud to announce my priority bill, LB 506 – the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act – was signed into law by Governor Ricketts last week.

As prenatal testing becomes increasingly routine and diagnostic methods have improved significantly over the last few years, more fetal anomalies are being detected. In these very rare, but tragic circumstances, parents are given minimal options.

No parent prepares to hear the news that the child they are carrying is going to die before or shortly after birth. Until today, families in this heartbreaking situation had to leave their doctor’s office in shock with no help, no hope, and feeling they have nowhere to turn.

Perinatal hospice is an innovative and compassionate model of support for families who find out a pregnancy has a life-limiting condition. This support helps parents embrace whatever life their baby might be able to have and also enables families to make meaningful plans to honor their child.

This care begins at diagnosis and continues through the baby’s birth and death.

Unfortunately, many parents faced with this horrible situation find themselves adrift without a life raft and having to find out for themselves what resources there are.

The purpose of this bill is to raise awareness of perinatal hospice care and provide readily available information to help women and families through one of life’s most difficult stages.

That is why I introduced LB 506 and that is why I’m proud to have worked with so many who helped make today possible.

Over the last few months I have had wonderful, eye-opening and emotional conversations with experts, medical professionals, and families. The most challenging situation faced by mothers should be met with the most readily available information, compassion and care.

Weekly Report – March 17

March 22nd, 2017

The Nebraska Legislature has passed the halfway point in this year’s session, and committee hearings are beginning to wrap up. Some committees are already done for the year. My committee, the Business and Labor Committee, has one more hearing on March 20. After the week of March 20, the legislature will move into full day debate on the floor of the Unicameral.

I’m looking forward to celebrating National Agriculture Week from March 21-23. Agriculture and family farms are tremendously important to Nebraska’s economy. It is estimated that one in four jobs and a quarter of our state’s economic activity is related in some way to agriculture. Healthy farms and ranches are integral to our state’s economic success now and in the future.

According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, in the last two years our state has seen a 9.3 percent increase in our beef cow inventory and an 11.1 percent increase in our state’s dairy herds. Our growth in the pork industry is outpacing national trends.

It is great to see that Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Director Greg Ibach will be touring the state to celebrate Ag Week and even swinging by our neck of the woods. They will be touring Wakefield Farms in Emerson and taking part in the National Ag Day Celebration Dinner in Wakefield.

I’m proud of my family farming operation with my husband, Mike, and being a member of the Agriculture Committee has been fascinating, educational and illuminating. Every hearing is an opportunity to take part in issues that, as I’ve said, directly impact our state’s economy.

Serving in Nebraska’s state legislature has been such a wonderful experience, and I’m thrilled to help announce an opportunity for Nebraska students to learn more about the nation’s only Unicameral.

Each June, the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office coordinates a four-day legislative simulation, which offers high school students a hands-on opportunity to experience the legislative process. The Unicameral Youth Legislature meets in the historic Warner Chamber (the former home of the Nebraska Senate) from June 11- 14 and provides young Nebraskans an in-depth learning experience. Student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and using the same processes and rules that I and every other state senator use every day we are in session.

This four-day event gives a behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will also have the opportunity to interact with senators and staff to learn how the legislature functions.

Applications are due by May 15. Registration includes lodging, meals (including a luncheon at the Governor’s Residence) and daily transportation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus to the State Capitol.

There is a cost of $350 to attend, but registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship which covers the full cost of the session. Other scholarships are also available.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature is jointly sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development office and the University of Nebraska Big Red Summer Camps program.

More information is available at www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or by calling (402)-471-2788. Interested students can also contact my office.

Weekly report – February 21

February 23rd, 2017

This past week, the body finally agreed to adopt a set of temporary rules which should allow us to begin hearing legislation on the floor of the Unicameral, a welcome development. Now the bills which have passed out of committee will be given debate on the unicameral floor.

In the Business and Labor Committee, we are now halfway through our committee public hearings. We’ve heard 16 of the 32 bills in our committee. Seven of bills have advanced to general file.

On Monday, February 13th the Committee heard several bills. Among them were LB 518, a bill sponsored by Senator Williams to adopt the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act. This bill creates grants to support the development of workforce housing necessary to recruit and retain employees in rural and underserved communities.

We also heard Sen. Bruce Bostelman testify on LB 639, a bill which changes when a preference is required for certain government employment relating to service members and their spouses and veterans. This bill includes service member as a person who would be “preference eligible” when seeking employment with the State of Nebraska or its governmental subdivisions. (Service member is defined as a person who serves on active duty in the armed forces of the United States.) It also includes the spouse of a service member while the service member is on active duty and for 180 days following the service member’s discharge or separation from service.

We also heard about a bill introduced by my colleague Senator Kate Bolz to create the Nebraska Integrated Education & Training Grant Program. This bill addresses the need for developing and implementing integrated education and training initiatives, which include instruction that provides adult education and literacy or remedial education concurrently and in the context of workforce preparation and occupational training.

Finally, Senator Matt Hansen talked to us about LB 261, the Nebraska Water Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. This bill uses the federal WARN Act as a guide to provide state-level legislation for the purpose of protecting workers by requiring advance notification of large-scale employment loss.

We did not have a committee hearing Monday, February 20th as the Legislature was not in session due to President’s Day.

Our next hearing is Monday, February 27th when we will hear from Senators and the public about such bills as the Adopt the Wage Disclosure Act and bills which will change provisions relating to mental injury and mental illness for workers’ compensation. We will also be taking up my bill to eliminate the Farm Labor Contractors Act.

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room #2010
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2716
Email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
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