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 December 6, 2019
December 9th, 2019

It is getting busier at the Capitol. With the holidays upon us and friends and family visiting, if you have the opportunity to get to Lincoln be sure to drop by your State Capitol. Enjoy the beauty of the newly lit tree in the Rotunda on the second floor. Attend one of the several holiday happenings. Learn about the art and rich background of this National Historic Landmark that houses the nation’s only Unicameral. Treat yourself and your guests to a tour. The Capitol is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and free tours are given on every hour except noon.

On Wednesday, December 4, the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee met for three (3) different Interim hearings.

We first heard the Nebraska Department of Transportation report, specifically on assessment and improvement strategies to address the needs of our state highways and bridges. The priority strategies presented to the Committee were asset preservation, system modernization, and capital improvements.
The first priority stressed was preservation–taking care of what we have. Naturally, an update on major flood recovery projects was presented. The Director noted that through some pretty amazing efforts, combined with community participation and long days and nights, the state was able to get some important roads open within days of the flooding. The state is down to half a mile of pavement damage repair and down from 27 bridges closed to only three. On behalf of Legislative District 17, the Department gets a shout out from me for work completed on the Pender Bridge. We also heard about the Transportation Innovation Act and Build Nebraska Act strategies for future projects, including funding needs and current funding status on several projects. I invite you to check out information about the statewide transportation improvement plan, future and ongoing projects, and interactive maps at the Department’s website http://www.dot.nebraska.gov

Next, the Committee was briefed by the Public Service Commission on the State’s 911 Service System as the state transitions to Next Generation 911. Next Generation 911 will transition the 911 system from the current telephone system to an internet Protocol system that will allow digital information to flow seamlessly from the public to emergency responders through a 911 network. This all takes time, but I understand there are currently local discussions about how to best address the needs of Legislative District 17. The Public Service Commission and the 911 Service System Advisory Committee created by the Legislature in 2018 (LB993), are continuing the work to facilitate the transition in the best ways possible for all of Nebraska.

Finally, we received testimony from the Rural Broadband Task Force on their report. The Task Force was created in 2018 by LB944 “to review issues relating to the availability, affordability, and adoption of broadband services in rural areas of Nebraska.” The Task Force met 10 times since September 24, 2018 and the subcommittees met a combined total of 30 times in that same period.
Access to broadband in RURAL communities has been a top priority for me and so many constituents in Legislative District 17, as well as for other rural communities throughout the state. Connectivity is both desirable and necessary in the rural communities. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard about efforts to identify and address needs in rural areas currently unserved or underserved. A point of great interest was testimony about the “homework gap” that exists because children in some rural areas do not have access to the Internet to do homework, research, etc. The Task Force brought us information about efforts to connect more libraries and schools in places throughout rural Nebraska that are without the ability to get higher speed Internet or which do not have Internet in their homes at all. I will continue to participate and monitor any legislation that comes before the Committee on the subject of Broadband.

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

WEEKLY UPDATE November 29, 2019
December 2nd, 2019

Thanksgiving provided opportunity to be grateful, create and consume amazing food, share smiles and hugs, and to re-invigorate for the work ahead.

My office has received a Legislative Schedule and anticipated Floor Procedures from the Speaker’s office, along with information about the pending 2019 Priority Bills. Naturally, new bills will also be introduced in the 2020 session and we will stay informed about those as they become part of the Legislative landscape. Meanwhile, the pending 2019 priority bills fall into two categories—those that have been debated and those that have not. Some of these bills will likely be the earliest we see on the floor, so if you have thoughts on any or all of them, please feel free to communicate your thoughts via letter or email.

There are currently three (3) bills on General File that have not yet been debated, including LB153 (to reduce taxation of military retirement benefits), LB109 (to modify certain position classifications and pay at the Department of Corrections), and LB147 (addressing ability of educators to effectively manage classroom misbehavior).

LB153 seeks to provide income tax relief for those who have served our country as part of the Military. The bill was introduced by Senator Tom Brewer on behalf of the Governor and is Senator Lowe’s 2019 priority bill. The bill would repeal the current, one-time election for retired military to exempt a portion of their military retirement benefit income from tax. It would replace it with a 50% exemption for military retirement benefit income, to the extent it was included in federal adjusted gross income. At its Committee hearing, LB153 had several individuals and organizations that testified in favor of the bill and no opposing testimony. Two policy groups testified in a neutral capacity. The bill passed out of Committee on a 6 to 1 vote.

LB109 is a bill that would modify the position classification plan and the accompanying salary or pay plans within the Department of Corrections in an effort to improve chances to retain staff and reduce turnover. At the Committee hearing, several individuals from the Fraternal Order of Police testified in favor of the bill. The Director of the Department of Corrections testified in opposition. The bill passed out of Committee on a 5-3 vote.

The final of the three, LB 147, is a bill that would change the Nebraska Student Discipline Act to provide for use by a teacher or administrator of necessary physical contact or restraint and provide procedures and grounds for removing a student from class in response to certain violent behavior. At the Committee Hearing, there were testifiers in support and in opposition to the bill. The bill was pulled from Committee with a 25-14 vote by the Legislative body.

Being a strong supporter of our military, of safety for students and teachers, and of maintaining safe conditions for our correctional facilities, I am watching each of these bills closely. As an elected official, it is important to me that I and my staff pay close attention to introduced legislation, floor debate, and proposed and/or adopted amendments before casting that final vote on the merits.

In addition to the three bills that still await debate, there are nine (9) more bills on General File that have had debate and may come up, depending on Legislative support, including LB44 (eliminate death penalty), LB110 (adopt Medical Cannabis Act), LB289 (county assessor assessments), LB311 (adopt Paid Family and Medical Leave Act), LB483 (change valuation of Agriculture and Horticultural land), LB550 (require voter approval of fees and taxes on wireless services), LB670 (adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act), and LB700 (providing for decommissioning and reclamation of a wind energy conversion system).

DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR SBA DISASTER LOANS:
In other news of interest to Legislative District 17, December 23, 2019 is the deadline to apply for disaster loans intended to remedy damages caused by the March 9-July 14, 2019 flooding in Nebraska. Eligible for the loans are small nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in agriculture and most private nonprofit organizations that have sustained economic injury due to flooding that occurred March 9-July 14, 2019.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Center, the low interest federal disaster loans are available in Dakota, Thurston, and Wayne counties, among others in Nebraska. The interest rate is 4 percent for businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations with terms up to 30 years. Loan proceeds may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact. For more information on the program and to access application information, interested parties may call 800.877.8339, or access online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

As we move closer to the January 8, 2020 start of the next Legislative Session, I continue to consider constituent requests and thoughts about the session ahead. As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

WEEKLY UPDATE November 11, 2019
November 12th, 2019

I continue to move through the month of November with a heart full of gratitude for our nation’s veterans, military members, and their families. On Veterans’ Day, I had the wonderful pleasure of serving and visiting with some of Nebraska’s finest military members at the Veterans’ Day Breakfast at the South Sioux City Hy-vee. There were many such events taking place all across the state—as it should be. What a humbling experience and incredible opportunity to be able to spend a bit of time hearing the stories and learning about the lives and families of those who serve the rest of us so admirably. My life is richer for having a chance to express thanks from me, my family, and from the great state of Nebraska. There are not enough words to express the true appreciation so many of us feel.

Many Veterans’ Day celebrations across the nation also included presenting some Veterans with a Quilt of Valor. The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national organization founded in 2003 by “Blue Star” mom Catherine Roberts, who had a son deployed in Iraq. During her son’s deployment, Ms. Roberts, had the idea of comforting Veterans with quilts. Since then, more than 140,000 quilts have been awarded. The quilts themselves reflect the nation’s patriotic colors. They often contain traditional patriotic patterns or images and the Quilts of Valor label. But these quilts are most remembered for the combat veterans they honor. According to the organization’s website, “Wrapped in their very own Quilt of Valor, veterans across the nation have been receiving tangible gifts of love and appreciation from quilters since this nationwide grassroots program started in 2003.” Along with other Quilts of Valor awarded throughout the United States on Veterans’ Day, in Legislative District #17, three quilts were awarded at a ceremony in Winside, with two more waiting to be presented.

Another group whose mission it is to honor and support Veterans, their families, and the American Legion Auxiliary celebrates its 100th Anniversary year! Last week, Governor Ricketts proclaimed November 10, 2019 as the Official Kickoff Date for the 100th Anniversary Celebration. In the proclamation, the Governor noted the Auxiliary’s history of honoring the sacrifice of those who serve by embracing the lives of the veterans, military, and their families, at home and abroad. In fulfilling that commitment, the 597,000 plus members of the Auxiliary donated over 7,000,000 volunteer hours and raised and spent over $22 million on to honor those who serve, their families, and communities.

It is clear that we have great heroes among us here in Nebraska, and across these United States. It is good to take time to say THANK YOU VETERANS!!!

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 18, 2019
October 21st, 2019

As we move towards November, we move towards Veterans’ Day and my mind moves towards those who help keep our nation safe and free. It is a time we honor those who serve and who have served. Truth is, they deserve honor every day, but it is encouraging to know that November 11, 2019, and the weekend are set aside across the nation to intentionally give honor and gratefulness to veterans.

VETERANS TAKE CENTER STAGE
Veterans rightfully took center stage a few times in the 2019 Nebraska Legislature as well and will again in 2020. In the 2019 Legislature, I was proud to support LB152, which protects the privacy and personal information of National Guardsmen called upon to come alongside law enforcement in times of need. In addition, I also supported LB 138, which passed on a 49-0 vote. As enacted, LB138 provides for five additional military honor license plates available to honor persons who have been awarded a number of Campaign medals, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, or the Vietnam Service Medal. Also created a “Support Our Troops” license plate. A portion of the application fee paid by each applicant for the special plates is directed to a new Veterans Employment Program Fund.
Coming up in the 2020 session, expect to see the return of LB153, a bill that would replace the current one time election for retired military to exempt a portion of their military retirement benefit income from tax and with a 50% exemption for military retirement benefit income across the board, to the extent it was included in federal adjusted grow income. It is always such an honor for me to have an opportunity to serve those who serve our country.

IMAGINE NEBRASKA ACT ON OUR RADAR
This week, I spent some time exploring the workings of LB720, otherwise known as the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. This Act is intended to encourage economic growth and development throughout the state. The ImagiNE Nebraska Act, replacing the expiring Nebraska Advantage Act, has the stated goals of Simplicity, Transparency, Integrity, and Competitiveness. Of special interest to me, and to residents and businesses in District 17, is that in addition to a simplified application and faster application process, the Act provides up to $2 million dollars a year for economic development projects that wouldn’t qualify for the mainline program for projects located in counties with fewer than 40,000 residents. Naturally, Legislative District 17 comes to mind.
Though not necessarily in final form, LB720 is exciting and is certainly one to watch!

STAFF REPORT
Legislative Aide Cyndi Lamm reports it has been such a pleasure to visit with so many of you since she began with Senator Albrecht in mid-July. There is certainly lots to catch up on and much to see, so staff is all working hard at the Capitol to keep things running smoothly for the interim and as we approach the 2020 session. This week found Cyndi on a bus and walking tour of the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) campus and the campus of University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). What a great opportunity for Legislative staff to hear about the number of Nebraska families served through education at UNMC, think through workforce development opportunities, view expansion in programs such as the Munroe Meyer Institute and learn about cutting edge research in labs throughout both campuses. Legislative staffers were able to meet some Scott Scholars who planned and executed two great projects at the request of the folks at Apple. Brilliance abounds in Nebraska! The students performed so well, they are on their way soon to make a presentation to Apple executives. Rest assured, these young people will represent Nebraska well. Staffers also learned about the technology, aerospace, and mechanical engineering programs at UNO and Cyndi was able to discuss the growing uses of drones in business and agriculture. Lots to look forward to.

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 27, 2019
September 30th, 2019

DEADLINE OCTOBER 4!
As a reminder, this Friday is the final date for applications to be a page at the Nebraska Legislature! If you have a student in your family who has an interest in learning more about Nebraska’s State Capitol, now is your chance. The Clerk of the Legislature’s Office is currently accepting page applications for the 2020 Legislative Session. A Legislative Page is typically someone who serves as an aide on the Legislative floor to the Senators with copy work, delivery, answering phones and assisting in many other ways throughout the legislative session. It is a great opportunity to get involved in state government. The deadline for submitting page applications and letters of recommendation for the 2020 Legislative Session is this Friday, October 4th at 5pm.

SAFETY FIRST!
As Harvest season kicks off, and with news of a recent fatality involving a vehicle and slower moving farm equipment please use caution and watch out for slow moving vehicles. Our sympathies to the family of the recent tragedy. Remember that farm vehicles and equipment are wider and cannot travel as fast as other vehicles. So, please Be aware that posted speed limits are not always the wisest speed to travel. This time of year it is not unusual to come over a hill and find yourself behind a slower moving vehicle without enough time to stop. I wish everyone a safe and productive harvest.

BRIGE WORK ON-TARGET
On Friday, September 27, I made an on-site visit to the Hwy 94 Bridge that was damaged in the March 2019 flood. The road crew was working especially hard and informed me that the bridge is on-target for completion by mid-October, barring interference by any weather events. Good news for community members and area visitors just in time for harvest. I gathered good pictures as I witnessed and visited with those construction workers who are doing a great job.

RURAL NEBRASKANS THRIVE!
Statistics released from the University of Nebraska’s Rural Futures Institute on September 20, 2019 found that rural Nebraska ranked high for economic growth, quality of life, and social capital. The benchmark index tool was developed by UNL’s Bureau of Business Research and the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s College of Business and Technology to identify trends in various regions throughout a state. Especially exciting is the finding that on the index, the Siouxland region ranked third in the State. According to its website, “the 2019 Nebraska Thriving Index provides economic developers, local elected officials and community leaders with economic and quality of life indicators to identify thriving and lagging regions so strategic, future focused investments can be made.” The regions identified by the index are matched and compared with peer regions in other states. The Siouxland region was not only compared to others in Nebraska, but also to regions in North, Northwest, and Southeast Iowa as well as Southwest Illinois. You can learn more about the index and the trends and view the 2019 report online at https://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/nethrivingindex/.

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 20, 2019
September 23rd, 2019

BROADBAND ON ITS WAY TO RURAL NEBRASKA. You may remember that back in July, CenturyLink announced the completion of a broadband deployment initiatives in the Thurston and Pender communities. Now, add Microsoft and Nextlink to the list of companies working to bring broadband service to thousands of unserved residents in rural Nebraska. Microsoft has announced it will be partnering with the wireless service provider to bring broadband service to rural residents throughout the state and the region. More than $40M in federal Connect America Funds will be infused into our state over the coming years, providing rural Nebraskans an opportunity to “bridge the digital divide, which is particularly important for precision agriculture, closing the homework gap and enabling rural business owners to succeed in a global economy.” Nextlink will be bringing an array of technologies to Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas. Microsoft’s long term goal is to bring internet to 3 million underserved rural Americans. Partnerships with providers like Nextlink is a way that Microsoft hopes to make low-cost technology more accessible to help eliminate the broadband gap, as well as providing residents resources like digital skills and technology. This is a major opportunity for our state and we are excited that Microsoft is continuing to invest in Nebraska. “Solving the broadband gap will take innovation and investment and we are thrilled rural Nebraskans will benefit from this partnership.”

TEACHING PRACTICAL, CAREER BUILDING SKILLS IS A COMMUNITY EFFORT in South Sioux City! On Friday, September 20, South Sioux City Schools broke ground on a “Student Powered” project involving a partnership with HUD, the city, local businesses, tradesmen and students. Excitingly, local High School students will be working together with these partners, educators, and mentors to build a house in South Sioux. The project shows a community coming together to teach skills that can be translated to future job and career opportunities. Many builders and others in the construction industry across the state are finding it increasingly difficult to fill positions in construction-related fields. With that shortage, students engaged in the project are already finding apprenticeship and internship opportunities. The home built by the students will be sold when completed. Matching students with those skills now will increase the chances they continue to live and thrive right here at home. I won’t be surprised to see one or more future contractor business owners rising from this group. This is a great example of ways we can work together to develop a local workforce and add to the economy. My congratulations on the groundbreaking go out to School Superintendent Todd Strom, the city of South Sioux, and the area businesses coming together to make this project happen. You can catch a video of the ceremony at: https://www.facebook.com/ssccardinals/videos/2433539850302094/ or go to the school district’s Facebook page, which can be found at facebook.com/ssccardinals .

SPEAKING OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, Riverview Surgical Center unveiled its new 50,000 sq. ft. facility on September 24. The team had a vision of a state of the art facility combining medical offices and outpatient surgery opportunities in one location. Goals of the facility include a commitment to leveraging that combination to result in savings to patients from 1/3 to 1/2 of the costs of current options. New equipment, highly qualified staff, a floor that appears to float, and a peaceful view along the Riverfront, all highlight the creativity and ingenuity of people and businesses in Nebraska. The Center has also partnered with a hotel, located right next door, offering a convenient place to stay for patients and their families if needed. Quality, Commitment, and Caring. Better outcomes for patients and physicians means better outcomes for families. That’s the way the Riverview Surgical Center team works, and that’s the way District 17 residents and businesses work together to Grow Nebraska!
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 13, 2019
September 16th, 2019

STANDING BEAR TAKES CENTER STAGE! On Wednesday, September 18, 2019, at 2:00 pm (CT), the Dedication of Chief Standing Bear in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., will take place. I proudly joined Senator Tom Brewer and other fellow Senators in voting to place the statute of the landmark civil rights leader Chief Standing Bear in the Hall. The Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs and Sen. Hilkermann have teamed up to schedule a “Watch Party”, where the dedication will be live streamed over the internet into the Warner Chamber at the Nebraska State Capitol. The ceremony in Washington, DC will include a Native American color guard, a Native American honor song performed by Steve Laravie, Jr., a direct descendent of the Ponca Chief, members of the Nebraska congressional delegation, other congressional leaders, and Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer. Live streaming may also be available from home. No final word on sources yet, but if interested in viewing from home, you might try searching on the web to find a link. My office should have information about remote viewing by the day of the event. Please feel free to call us at 402.471.2716. On Tuesday morning (9/17/19), my office received confirmation that the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska will have a live stream feed from their Facebook page for anyone who wishes to watch: https://www.poncatribe-ne.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/190918_StatueDedication_FBLive.pdf.

BRINGING UP NEBRASKA: I was fortunate to join a group of leaders from across the state in Kearney on Tuesday, September 10 to discuss, collaborate, and develop long-term plans and strategies to prevent and address the needs of vulnerable Nebraska families and children. I appreciate First Lady Suzanne Shore for spearheading the initiative and for making this a priority in our state! Approaching the issue as neighbors standing together, when the initiative was launched, the First Lady stated, “We need to look at any child in need as one of our own . . . These are Nebraska’s kids. And we [the community] need to be the solution.” It is so true. We are modeling Nebraska Strong when we bring together those who know our local communities and families best in order to serve their needs and provide needed services most effectively. The people and organizations participating at the Kearny meeting care deeply about our state’s children and families and are working hard to help prevent challenges from becoming crisis. In fact, at the meeting District 17’s own JoAnn Gieselman was honored for her work and leadership in helping Growing Community Connections have a positive impact on the children and families we serve in our communities.

Finally, WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT and housing affordability have long been on my priority list. For the last three years as a state senator, I have been privileged to serve on the Workforce Development Board alongside statewide representatives from K-12 schools, secondary educators, businesses, the Governor’s office, and many others. The goal of the board is to make sure our adult children and others considering career and life decisions have opportunity and know how to access the opportunities available right here in Nebraska. The board brings together a number of strategic local, regional, and statewide stakeholders to develop a one-stop information delivery system about career and training availability, as well as business services that can be accessed by job seekers, workers, and employers. The board meets quarterly and at our Friday, September 13 meeting, we welcomed new board members from Nebraska Community College Association, the City of Valentine, and Nucor Steel from Norfolk. We cleaned up language in the board by-laws and received initial reports about program performance throughout Nebraska. We are currently working to compile and review performance and statistical information about the state’s progress for the Program Year 2018-19, which will be published as a report online by October 1. From there, we can collaborate on recommendations for the Program Year ahead.

WEEKLY UPDATE AUGUST 16, 2019
August 19th, 2019

THE NEBRASKA STATE FAIR begins celebrating its 150th anniversary in four days at Fonner Park in Grand Island. Held August 23-September 2 this year, the Fair attracts visitors and competitors from across Nebraska and from surrounding states. Those 4-H members and others who have worked hard all year long and have gained recognition at local county fairs compete at a new level at the State Fair. I am excited to see several emerge as “the Best of the Best”. There are some exciting changes in atmosphere and programming this year. There is no doubt that the sights, sounds, and feel of the Nebraska State Fair provide families with special moments and memories that last a lifetime. I’m looking forward to taking some time away from the farm to visit the exhibits and hopefully to hear U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, talk about Nebraska and Agriculture at his scheduled public town hall event on Friday, Aug. 23.

In case you missed it: FLOOD DAMAGE COVERAGE EXPANDED! At the Governor’s request, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended the incident period in which disaster-caused damage may be covered. The presidential disaster declaration, issued March 21, 2019, originally covered the period from March 9 to April 1. With the extension, additional uninsured damage sustained through July 14 may now be eligible for FEMA assistance and U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest loans.
If you have already registered with FEMA for disaster related damage that occurred between March 9, 2019, and April 1, 2019, AND your home received additional uninsured damage through July 14, 2019, you may be eligible for additional assistance. You do not need to reapply. You should submit an appeal in the form of a signed letter to FEMA requesting reassessment and explaining your reasons in writing. Appeal letters and supporting documents can be uploaded quickly to your account. A sample appeal letter, can be found at: https://nema.nebraska.gov/sites/nema.nebraska.gov/files/doc/appeal.pdf.
In District 17, homeowners, renters and businesses in Thurston County may also be eligible for low interest SBA loans under the expansion. Homeowners, renters, businesses and private nonprofits that have sustained new or additional uninsured or under-insured damages through July 14, can contact and apply for an SBA loan online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela or by calling SBA’s customer service center at 800-659-2955. The deadline to register is Sept. 13, 2019.

HEARINGS ON INTERIM STUDIES requested by Senators in last session are beginning to fill committee calendars as we move into the fall. The Revenue, Judiciary, and Appropriations Committees have a number scheduled hearings to examine the plans for, effectiveness of, fiscal impact of, and/or funding streams on a number of issues being considered. You can find the hearing schedule calendar and topics at www.nebraskalegislature.gov/hearings. Most hearings can be seen live-streamed on NET TV, so if you have a particular area of interest, tune in to watch and listen.
As a reminder, your Legislature has the following standing committees to consider issues and legislation for Nebraskans:
Agriculture
Appropriations
Banking, Commerce, and Insurance,
Business and Labor
Education
General Affairs
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
Health and Human Services
Judiciary
Natural Resources*
Nebraska Retirement Systems
Revenue
Transportation and Telecomm cations*
Urban Affairs

* I currently serve on the Natural Resource and Transportation and Telecommunications Committees in addition to the Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations.
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 is hard to believe that it is already July. It feels like the summer is just passing us by.

Our office has maintained a busy rhythm of getting everything organized, filed, and dealt with. July 4th was a paid holiday for state employees so my Capitol office was closed. It was a great opportunity for everyone to recharge.

I would first like to wish all of you a very Happy 4th of July. I hope that all of you were able to enjoy it, that you all stayed safe, and that it gave you time to reflect on what the Independence Day celebration truly means to this country.

This week I also wanted to share with you several great opportunities that are coming up.

If you have a student in your family that has an interest in learning more about Nebraska’s State Capitol, now is your chance. The Clerk of the Legislature’s Office is currently accepting page applications for the 2020 Legislative Session. A legislative page is typically someone who performs small tasks such as running errands, delivering coffee to State Senators, answering phones, or assisting in many other ways throughout the legislative session. It is a great opportunity to get involved in state government. The deadline for submitting page applications and letters of recommendation for the 2020 Legislative Session will be Friday, October 4th at 5pm.

The page selection committee will meet in October to select individuals to fill those positions. If you are interested in becoming a legislative page, then please contact our office and we will get you started on the process.

Congressman Adrian Smith is now currently accepting Angels in Adoption Nominations. Congressman Smith believes Nebraskans who open their homes to provide safety and shelter for children deserve to be recognized for it. Angels in Adoption is a project of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute providing members of Congress the opportunity to honor an individual or entity from their districts for extraordinary contributions on behalf of children in need of homes. Congressman Smith is looking forward to receiving these nominations to honor those who positively impact young lives through adoption and foster care. If you would like to make a nomination then visit, adriansmith.house.gov/angelsinadoption

The nominations are due by Friday, July 19th. The information that needs to be included in the nomination are the name of the nominee, organization if applicable, address, phone, email, and reason for nomination that is 325 words or less. If you would like more information on Angels in Adoption then please contact Congressman Smith’s Grand Island Office at 308-384-3900.

The last opportunity that I want to talk to you about this week is that Nebraska received a grant to expand registered apprenticeships. The Nebraska Department of Labor, NDOL, has received over $840,000 from the US Department of Labor to expand the program across the state. The Apprenticeships State Expansion grant covers the next three years and will allow NDOL to assist business with the new program development. Gov. Pete Ricketts stated that “The ‘earn while you learn’ model of Registered Apprenticeships is growing the state by equipping students to excel in IT and manufacturing.” He added, “Apprenticeships put young Nebraskans on a path to learn valuable skills and to gain technical expertise so that they can get high-paying jobs. As the same time, they help the state’s businesses to find proficient, highly trained Nebraskans to join their teams.”

The grant allows for enrolling over 400 new Registered Apprentices. As of March 2019, there were approximately 125 Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs in Nebraska, representing an increase of 44% since 2016. Companies that are interested in starting an RA program may contact Scott Asmus with the Nebraska Department of Labor at 402-471-9928. Job seekers interested in participating in an RA should contact their local Nebraska Department of Labor office.

You can also find more information about this at http://dol.nebraska.gov

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 another busy week for District 17. We have been working diligently to continue completing all of the follow ups from our town hall meetings.

There were some great ideas that were expressed to me during my town halls and I am excited to dive into the research side of getting the nuts and bolts figured out on each item first before we proceed any further.

Like always, if you have legislation ideas or thoughts then please feel free to reach out to my office and I will do some digging on those.

This week I want us to dive into what happened with all of my legislation during this year’s legislative session.

I introduced nine pieces of legislation this year. Seven of the nine bills passed and only two stayed in committee.

The nine bills that I introduced were:

  • LB 209 was our informed consent bill. It would require information, materials, and reporting regarding continuing a viable pregnancy after taking mifepristone. LB 209 will also require the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to publish information on finding a qualified health care professional who can administer the reversal process in their print materials, they also will publish this information on their website, and update this information as necessary. It was passed on final reading on May 30th and the vote was 36 yes, 12 no, and 1 present but not voting. I was excited to see this true labor of love get signed into law by the Governor.

 

  • LB 222 will change the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act. The Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act was created in 2016 to award a $250 refundable tax credit for volunteer emergency responders who meet certain criteria. LB 222 will amend language in the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act to simplify the administration of the tax credit. The bill was passed on final reading on April 26th  with a vote of 46 yes and no opposition. Our office recently mailed out a packet of information on this bill to all of our district’s fire departments.

 

  • LB 223 will provide duties with regard to a state-sponsored insurance program for members of the Nebraska National Guard. LB 223 provides further guidance within state law on the state-sponsored life insurance program, ensuring National Guard members maintain the opportunity to access information and enroll in the program. The bill was passed on final reading on March 7th with 46 yes and 1 present but not voting.

 

  • LB 224 will rename the Nebraska Educational, Health, and Social Services Finance Authority Act (NEHSFA). LB 224 will now allow NEHSFA to also be a conduit issuer for private cultural institutions. Private cultural institution means any private not-for profit corporation or institution that (1) has a primary purpose of promoting cultural education or development, such as a museum or related visual arts center, performing arts facility, or facility housing, incubating, developing, or promoting art, music, theater, dance, zoology, botany, natural history, cultural history, or the sciences, (2) is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(a) of the code, (3) is located within this state and is not owned or controlled by the state or any municipality, district, or other political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, and (4) does not violate any state or federal law against discrimination. The bill passed on final reading on March 15th. The vote was 41 yes and 2 present but not voting.

 

  • LB 307 will change provisions relating to certain Department of Environmental Quality Funds. LB 307 updates state revolving fund statutes to be consistent with federal laws that allow states additional flexibility to administer the Wastewater Treatment Facilities Construction Loan Fund and the Drinking Water Facilities Loan Fund. The bill was passed on final reading on March 7th with a vote of 45 yes and no opposition.

 

  • LB 320 will change various provisions of the Pesticide Act and update federal references. LB 320 amends the Pesticide Act, by updating the federal regulations adopted by reference relating to changes in the applicator certification program as set out in 40 CFR Part 171. The changes primarily include certification categories for private applicators, requirements related to training and supervision for restricted use pesticide (RUP) applications by uncertified applicators, and setting eighteen as the minimum age for licensed RUP applicators. LB 320 also amends the Pesticide Act by clarifying product registration requirements, jurisdictional issues for out-of-state registrants and licensed applicators, and other clean up provisions. The bill passed on final reading with a vote of 49 yes and no opposition.

 

  • LB 595 will provide for restorative justice under the Dispute Resolution Act, Nebraska Juvenile Code, and the Student Discipline Act and in compulsory attendance collaboration plans and change provisions relating to mediators under the Parenting Act. LB 595 would amend the 1991 Dispute Resolution Act in order to explicitly incorporate restorative justice into the Supreme Court’s Office of Dispute Resolution’s mission and purpose and to sustain its successful restorative justice pilot efforts conducted since 2015. The bill was passed on final reading on May 13th with a vote of 47 yes and no opposition.

 

  • LB 581 would require the use of generally accepted accounting principles in preparing budgets under the Nebraska Budget Act. LB 581 proposes potential language to encourage accessible, uniform, and easy to understand budgets and audit reports of political subdivisions. LB 581 was not passed and stayed in the Government, Military, and Veteran Affairs Committee. I believe, though, that this is something that we need to continue working on and we will be working on it during the interim and bringing it back to the floor next year.

 

  • LB 722 would authorize seizure of Gray Devices under the Nebraska County and City Lottery Act. LB 722 prohibits by definition games (of skill or chance) that make use of a Gray Device, which is a mechanism that accepts currency and awards monetary prizes or something redeemable for monetary prizes, and which uses casino-style games, card games, certain amusement games, or bingo, keno or pickle card themes. The bill, as written, was not brought to the floor. However, parts of LB 722 were amended in Senator Lathrop’s LB 538. The Department of Revenue was pleased to have the two bills come together to make LB 538 as strong as possible. LB 538 was passed on final reading on May 23rd with a vote of 44 yes and 3 present but not voting.

If you would like to read more about any of my bills or any other bills from this past session then please go to https://nebraskalegislature.gov/.

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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