NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

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Now that the midterm elections are over, I am excited to welcome my new colleagues to the Nebraska Legislature. I want to send my congratulations to all those who won their races for the Legislature and for local races in Wayne, Thurston, and Dakota Counties. Initiative 427, Medicaid expansion, also passed on Tuesday. Governor Ricketts has promised not to raise taxes in order to implement Medicaid expansion so it will be up to the Legislature to make room in the tight budget to fund the expansion costs. While this was not the outcome I was hoping for, I look forward to ensuring that Medicaid expansion is implemented fairly and with all Nebraskans in mind.

This upcoming Legislative session will focus on property taxes, education, and Medicaid expansion, while also planning for a predicted $232 million budget shortfall through 2020. The 2019 session is quickly approaching and we are excited to be focusing all our energy on preparing legislation and passing a balanced budget. This year my priorities will continue to be reducing the property tax burden, ensuring good business and labor practices, K-12 education, and agriculture.

Nebraska Chamber of Commerce President Bryan Slone visited the new Pender Community Center and held a round-table discussion with members of the Pender Economic Development group on November 1. I am always so proud to show off the economic progress we are making in Northeast Nebraska.

On November 2, the Nebraska State College System invited me to be the keynote speaker at their Leadership Conference at Wayne State College. The theme of the conference was “LEADERSHIP: SHARE THE VISION”, we discussed important cooperative leadership skills and how to succeed as young leaders. While touring the Wayne State campus with college President Dr. Marysz Rames and VP of Administration and Finance Angela Fredrickson I enjoyed seeing the growth of the college and new buildings on campus like the Center for Applied Technology. As I spoke with students from Wayne State College, Peru State College, and Chadron State College, I was inspired by their personal stories and the initiative they have taken at their schools. So many engaged students and young leaders makes me very hopeful and excited about the direction of our state and community.

I take into consideration every letter, email, and phone call my office receives when I consider legislation. I truly value your input and suggestions on the issues before the Legislature. It is of great importance that I hear from you in order to do my job.

I encourage my constituents to reach out to me and look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

 

I hope that everyone is having a safe and successful harvest. I’ve had the pleasure to travel the district and meet with constituents and business leaders. At the Wayne Area Economic Development’s Business and Industries committee luncheon I had the opportunity to speak with business leaders in the community about the upcoming legislative session and hear their comments about how the Legislature can help Wayne business leaders succeed. As we head into the last week of the election, I wish each candidate luck and look forward to working closely with everyone on important issues in Legislative District 17.

Nebraska Family Alliance held their annual gala on October 26th, celebrating 30 years of advancing family, freedom, and life. Speakers included Kelvin Cochran, the former Fire Chief of Atlanta; Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop (the shop featured in the SCOTUS decision on religious freedom); and Barronelle Strutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers (who brought a similar case to the Supreme Court). I want to send a special thank you to Nebraska Family Alliance for the hard work they do each year and such a lovely evening.

As Business and Labor Committee Chair, I sit on the Economic Development Task Force and meet monthly with fellow task force members to discuss strategies to encourage economic growth in Nebraska. Recently, we have been discussing the Advantage Act which is a business grant incentive program created to encourage Nebraska businesses to expand their current investment and employment through tax credits and refunds. The program sunsets (expires) in 2020 and the Legislature is studying plans to hopefully replace or improve the program. On Friday, the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) facilitated a discussion on economic development that all senators were invited to. CREC will continue to work with the Legislature to pull together recommendations for economic development policy in Nebraska, including the key decision we face on what to do about the Advantage Act.

On Friday, the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board released a new forecast predicting that the state will face another budget shortfall, totaling $232 million through 2021. Each year the forecasting board published revenue projects that we use in the Legislature to craft and amend the budget in order to ensure our budget stayed balanced. The board is expecting the shortage of workers and effects of agricultural tariffs to continue to slow economic growth. In the next few months we will learn more about the state’s economic forecast; in mid-November the state tax commissioner will present the Legislature with projections of state spending growth and the Forecasting Advisory Board will review and revise revenue projections in February and April.

The new revenue forecasts show a clear need to the Legislature to continue to be cautious with spending. Frivolous and uncertain financial mandates on the budget could seriously hurt Nebraska taxpayers and make property tax relief nearly impossible. Just as last year, it is expected that any bills that are introduced in the 2019 Legislative Session that have fiscal notes (spend taxpayers’ money) are very unlikely to pass. I hope the glum revenue forecast cautions voters when heading to the polls this year. Initiative 427, Medicaid expansion, is an unfunded, unsustainable, and uncertain mandate on Nebraska taxpayers. The revenue forecast reinforces that the state does not have the funds to pay for Medicaid expansion costs, and I fear this will lead to funds being cut from essential services such as K-12 education, roads, current Medicaid recipients, and the University of Nebraska system. I urge my constituents to consider the consequences of Initiative 427.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

 

Initiative 427 will appear on your ballot as the latest attempt to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. Medicaid expansion has unsuccessfully come before the Unicameral numerous times, and the pros and cons your Nebraska senators have considered in previous years are relevant to Initiative 427. Like most issues, Medicaid expansion is not black and white. As your representatives in the Nebraska Unicameral, we feel obligated to share our concerns and urge you to consider the consequences Medicaid expansion would have on our state.

Expanding Medicaid through Initiative 427 would hurt our most vulnerable Nebraskans by removing the focus of Medicaid benefits from people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women and placing the focus on working-age adults without disabilities or children. The costs of expansion would make property tax relief nearly impossible, leave the state’s reserve funds at a dangerously low level, and put funding at risk for K-12 education, the University of Nebraska, roads, and current Medicaid recipients.

Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) requires the federal government to reimburse states for only a portion of Medicaid expansion costs. Initiative 427 would require the state to fund the remaining expansion expenses – a price tag projected to cost Nebraska taxpayers $33 million in 2019-20 and up to $768 million over the next decade according to Nebraska’s Legislative Fiscal Office and Department of Health and Human Services. Actual costs have far exceeded projections in nearly every state that has opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. For example, in the first year Iowa expanded Medicaid, actual costs totaled nearly $150 million more than expected.

In a study published this month, Nebraska was ranked number one nationally for financial wellbeing. We have accomplished this by using taxpayer dollars cautiously and keeping unpredictable financial obligations out of our state budget. Unlike Washington, we balance our state budget each year and remain debt free. Medicaid expansion would create an unpredictable financial obligation on Nebraska, as seen in other states, which could throw our balanced budget into jeopardy. If Initiative 427 passes, Nebraskans could be forced to choose between increasing taxes or cutting funds to existing programs, such as K-12 education, roads, or current Medicaid benefits. Tax increases would create an overwhelming financial hardship for most Nebraskans, and cutting funds to existing programs is an equally unappealing option.

 

As Nebraskans, we have always prided ourselves in looking out for our friends and neighbors who are in need. Our current Medicaid program provides health care benefits to people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women. We are one of the few states to offer all federally optional Medicaid services (such as prescription drugs, mental health services, and care for the developmentally disabled) in addition to federally required services. Although the federal government would fund a limited portion of Medicaid expansion, none of these funds can be used to support benefits for current Medicaid recipients. As a result, some states have been forced to cut optional Medicaid services to their most vulnerable citizens – a reality Nebraska would also likely face.

 

Current Nebraska Medicaid recipients are at risk of losing benefits for dental services, prescription drugs, treatment for specific diseases (such as breast and cervical cancer), vision care, mental health, speech and occupational therapy, and many more. Initiative 427 would put the needs of working-age adults without disabilities over the needs of our friends and neighbors with disabilities, children, and pregnant women who truly cannot afford to lose these essential services Nebraska provides.

Medicaid expansion would place a significant burden on Nebraska taxpayers that could hurt Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens. Before you cast your vote on Initiative 427, we urge you to consider the impacts Medicaid expansion would have on your neighbors, your family, your business, and your budget.

Senator Joni Albrecht; District 17 – Chair, Business & Labor Committee

Senator Lydia Brasch; District 16 – Chair, Agriculture Committee

Senator Curt Friesen; District 34 – Chair, Transportation & Telecommunications Committee

Speaker Jim Scheer; District 19 – Speaker of the Legislature

Senator Bruce Bostelman; District 23

Senator Tom Brewer; District 43

Senator Rob Clements; District 2

Senator Steve Erdman; District 47

Senator Steve Halloran; District 33

Senator Lou Ann Linehan; District 39

Senator John Lowe; District 37

 

Senator Lydia Brasch and I attended the E15 Now bus at the Siouxland Ethanol business on September 26th. Siouxland Ethanol turns area corn into 85 million gallon of biofuels annually. Ethanol is a great fuel alternative for Nebraska citizens and Nebraska farmers alike, it’s great for our environment, it’s great for the consumer to have choices. I was happy to support taking steps to deregulating higher-octane blends so ethanol can be used throughout the whole year, not just three seasons.

On Sunday September 30th, Governor Ricketts held his second annual Nebraska Steak Fry. The event hosted Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, Governor Eric Holcomb of Indiana, and Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa. Governor Ricketts put on an awesome celebration of Nebraska’s number one industry, agriculture. As a farmer and rancher, it was exciting to share our world class beef and corn, among other awesome food and local music, with the visiting governors. I am thankful for Governor Ricketts being such a huge supporter of Nebraska agriculture.

As Election Day comes closer, I want to remind my constituents to think of the negative effects Medicaid expansion would have on Nebraska taxpayers. Medicaid expansion has had a detrimental effect on other states’ budgets since implementation. Projections of new enrollees have been dramatically underestimated in most states that have implemented expansion, causing states to spend much more than expected. Kentucky has seen a 70% growth in Medicaid spending over the last four years and enrollment numbers have more than doubled initial projections. Medicaid spending now accounts for one-third of the state’s budget and the program itself has an estimated $296 million budget shortfall over the next two years as of August 2018[1]. Massachusetts’s share of Medicaid spending jumped 20% from $6.4 billion in fiscal 2013 to $7.7 billion in fiscal 2016, causing the state to ask the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for permission to cut services to ensure funding for the expansion population[2]. Nevada has seen Medicaid enrollment increase by 90% and spending increase by 93% in the last four years. Between 2014 and 2023, Nevada will spend an additional $5.4 billion on Medicaid expansion. In Ohio, it was predicted 447,000 Ohioans would sign up for Medicaid expansion by 2020. As of 2017, 720,000 people had enrolled under the expansion. Ohio’s Medicaid spending has risen 35% in the last four years, averaging $437 million per month[3]. In order to cover the increasing costs of expansion, Oregon approved taxes on hospitals, health insurers, and managed care companies in an unusual special election in January 2018. The temporary two-year tax increase is a short-term fix that, if not supplemented by a larger and long-term tax increase, will leave Oregonians in the exact same position in two years – wondering where they will get more funding or cut services[4]. Please consider all of the consequences of Medicaid expansion when heading to the polls in November. This unfunded mandate on Nebraska taxpayers is not sustainable.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

[1] https://wfpl.org/ky-officials-warn-of-shortfall-consider-ending-medicaid-expansion/

[2] http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20170927/NEWS/170929900

[3] Jason Hart, Opinion, “Why John Kasich Is Fighting The New Health-Care Bill,” National Review, 09/19/17

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/oregon-approves-new-taxes-to-address-medicaid-costs/

As we passed the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I hope everyone had a chance to remember all those we lost on that fateful day and thank the first responders in our communities and around the country for the sacrifices they make each and every day. Each year it is inspiring to see our nation come together and remind us all that our similarities far outweigh our differences. The victims and their loved ones, as well as first responders, continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

A few weeks ago Mike and I were blessed with our twelfth grandchild. Miss Gentry Rose was born on August 31st, joining her older siblings Greeley, Grayder, and Grisham. Both Mom and baby are doing great and we are overjoyed! Between visiting with little ones, I have been staying busy in the district attending Thurston’s Watermelon Days and meeting with community leaders.

The Platte Institute held their annual Legislative Summit on September 13th. This year’s focus was on “Working Together” in the Legislature and we were lucky to hear from fellow Nebraska policymakers as well as economists and research fellows from multiple national organizations. Senator John Stinner, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, spoke about our current financial situation and what we can expect in the upcoming legislative session. While we have experienced solid growth so far this year, we will still need to keep a tight belt on legislative spending as we continue to rebuild our state’s “rainy day” fund and fund the state’s annual budget. Senator Stinner made it clear that legislation that is presented next year should not contain a fiscal note unless it is an absolutely necessary expense, it is incredibly important that we ensure every dollar is spent wisely. Senator Stinner also cautioned attendees of the dangers of the Medicaid expansion proposition that will appear on the ballot this November, at the moment we do not have money to fund the preliminary projected costs of expansion. Soon the Legislature will have a better projected cost of expansion, but the number is expected to be higher than previously thought, leaving many of us in doubt that we add expansion costs to our current budget. If we are to fund Medicaid expansion, it also drastically reduces the possibility of the Legislature achieving property tax relief and comprehensive tax reform.

The Platte Institute also facilitated a discussion about property tax relief at the summit with Senator Curt Friesen (LD34, Transportation Committee Chair), Senator Mike McDonnell (LD5, Appropriations Committee member), Jay Rempe of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Joe Young of the Chamber of Commerce, and Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation. All generally agreed that more Senators need to come to the table to discuss property tax relief and that compromise will be needed to get something done. Next month, the forecasting board will meet to produce the state’s revenue projections for the upcoming year. Once we receive the forecast we will have a much better idea of our financial restraints going into the 2019 legislative session.

While the Nebraska Supreme Court recently ruled that the Medicaid expansion question is constitutionally sound to appear on ballots this November, I strongly urge my constituents to learn more about the impacts this would have on our state. Nebraska Proposition 126 is misleadingly worded, sounding as if the Federal Government will foot the entire bill of expansion for the foreseeable future. The proposition states that policymakers must “…maximize federal financial participation to fund their care.” While Federal dollars are still your tax dollars as well, the proposition and its implementation necessitates that Nebraskan taxpayers are responsible for a large portion of funds. Medicaid expansion in Nebraska would likely begin implementation in 2020, per the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), starting in 2020 the Federal government will only pay 90% of expanded Medicaid costs. Should the Federal government decide to dial back funding of Medicaid expansion following 2020, Nebraskans could be left in a much dire funding situation than the current projections which already look bad for the budget. While Medicaid expansion and health care coverage is a multi-layered issue that we must continue to discuss, it is clear that Nebraska does not have the money fund Medicaid expansion this year and I fear we would need to cut funding to current programs or drastically raise taxes should this proposition pass. Please consider all of the implications of this reform when heading to vote this November.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

This summer, the Capitol has begun construction on the building to improve the HVAC system. Our office has been moved to room 2011 on the Second Floor. If you are ever in Lincoln we would love to have you visit our new office! Also, don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 2018 Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island from August 24th to September 3rd. More information can be found at https://www.statefair.org/.

I was lucky to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Annual Meeting in New Orleans August 8th – 10th. ALEC Is America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principals of limited government, free markets, and federalism. ALEC’s annual meeting serves as a forum for legislators and other stakeholders to exchange ideas and develop real, state-based solutions to encourage growth, preserve economic security, and protect hardworking taxpayers. As a member of ALEC, and as my role of Chair of the Business and Labor Committee, I joined the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force. In our task force and subcommittee meetings we exchanged policies and ideas on labor and business regulation, transportation and infrastructure, and financial services, among many other economic development topics. We also were able to attend workshops on topics such as energy and natural resources, the opioid crisis, and agriculture. I am excited to bring back what I learned from fellow state legislators and help apply it to the unique needs of Nebraska.

On August 14th I had the opportunity to visit the Haskell Agricultural Lab in Concord for the Crop and Climate Family Field Day. The event featured livestock and crop discussions on fostering climate resilience in beef production, livestock mortality disposal options, heat stress in livestock, as well as climate change on insects in northeast Nebraska, the Haskell Agricultural Lab long-term tillage experiment of over 30 years, and the effect of new weeds in Nebraska. The Haskell Lab serves the Northeast District of the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension program of the University of Nebraska system with the mission of providing research-based education programs for the people of northeast Nebraska. I am grateful for valuable service the Haskell Lab provides to the citizens in northeast Nebraska, to learn more visit https://extension.unl.edu/statewide/nerec/nerechistory/.

The Appropriations Committee and the Revenue Committee held a joint hearing on August 15th to hear the presentation of the 2017 Nebraska Tax Incentives Annual Report from the Nebraska Department of Revenue. Each year the Department of Revenue reports on the Nebraska Advantage Act; the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act; the Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise Tax Credit Act; the Nebraska Advantage Research and Development Act; the Employment and Investment Growth Act; the Invest Nebraska Act; and the Quality Jobs Act. The report details the specific benefits that incentive participants have and will continue to receive from their respective programs. To date, a total of $905 million in tax credits and $187 million in sales tax refunds have been given, with another $37 million in sales tax refunds pending approval. According to the Department of Revenue’s calculations of the net benefit of incentives to Nebraska tax revenue, the total tax revenue gained by the economic activity created statewide by the incentives programs will be 25 percent less, or a net annual loss to taxpayers of $32 million, than the amount of state taxes not paid by participating companies. The Department of Revenue projects that annual loss to grow to $87 million by 2022 and peak at $93 million by 2025. The current programs, especially the Nebraska Advantage Act, are the subject of multiple studies that are being conducted this summer to determine the best options to make tax incentives beneficial to all Nebraskans. To read more about the report, visit http://www.revenue.nebraska.gov/incentiv/annrep/17an_rep/17_annrp.html.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

In the last two weeks, I had the pleasure of attending fairs and events across District 17. At the Wayne County Fair, I had the pleasure of greeting attendees with Governor Ricketts at the 56th Annual Free BBQ. At the Dakota-Thurston County Fair I thoroughly enjoyed talking with attendees, and had the pleasure of watching a few of my grandchildren participate in 4H Shows. I applaud the county board members for their dedication and hard work leading to two successful fairs. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 2018 Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island from August 24th to September 3rd. More information can be found at https://www.statefair.org/.

The Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District (NENEDD) held their annual meeting on July 26th to discuss the growing economy in our corner of the state. Executive Director Executive Director Thomas L. Higginbotham, Jr. welcomed NENEDD members along with representatives for Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and U.S. Senator Deb Fischer. NENEDD has provided over $6.5 million in grants and loans to support Northeast Nebraska, creating or retaining 78 jobs and assisting 38 housing units. Four awards were presented to members of the NEDEDD; The City of Fremont was awarded the Doug Bereuter Accomplished Community Award, Tyler Thomas of T&T Electric, Fremont, received the Housing Partnership Award, The Outstanding Service Award was presented to Columbus City Finance Director Anne Kinnison, and Rural Enterprise Assistance Project Senior Loan Specialist Eugene Rahn was awarded the Entrepreneurial Advancement Award. Karl Elmshaeuser, Nebraska State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture, gave the keynote address of the event. Karl highlighted the successes that Northeast Nebraska has accomplished by coming together to create the power of the common good. He also gave well-deserved praise to NENEDD for being a “forward-focused” group that helps in the development of rural populations. Northeast Nebraska and District 17 continue to make admirable strides in economic development.

Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Heavican and his fellow justices spend one week each year traveling around the state to tour courtrooms, meet judicial branch staff, and discuss ideas to better the court system across the state. While Chief Justice Heavican’s tour visited locations all around District 17, I was honored to attend his State-Tribal Courts Roundtable on August 1st in South Sioux City. At the roundtable, representatives from the Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux, and Winnebago Tribal Courts gathered with Nebraska Supreme Court members, local judges, juvenile and probation officers, and court administration. Senator Tom Brewer, District 43, also joined the discussion as Chair of the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee. We spent the morning discussing the current state-tribal judicial coordination as well as the unique challenges facing the sovereign tribal nations and their respective court systems. Throughout our discussions, we identified successes and areas in need of improvement in state-tribal coordination, the juvenile justice system, and child welfare. The Nebraska Supreme Court, Tribal Court Officers, and other attending members all agreed that it is imperative for the court systems to work together to ensure that the court systems are able to fulfill their duties to serve our citizens. I hope that this is the beginning of many meetings to build a stronger working relationship and solve evolving problems facing the court systems.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

 

 

We have had an exciting few weeks at the Legislature and in LD 17. I have kept busy continuing to learn about the issues facing Nebraskans and working on legislative solutions. I have also been enjoying more community events such as the Wayne Chicken Days show and parade as well as Senator Deb Fischer’s Bridging the Gap annual conference that works to inspire women to engage in their communities at the local, state, and national levels.

On July 10th, I attended the first of ten Listening Tour stops in Northeast Nebraska by University of Nebraska leadership. Residents were joined by Mike Boehm, NU Vice President for Agriculture and Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to share thoughts and visions for the future of Nebraska and our community. I appreciate Mike for reaching out to our community and look forward to developing stronger relationships with the university system in the future.

Governor Ricketts held his third annual Economic Development Summit on July 12th. State and local officials, along with 400 members of Nebraska’s business and economic development communities, gathered in Lincoln to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities facing Nebraska’s economy and job market. The summit featured discussions on Nebraska’s transportation infrastructure, talent development, workforce housing, and partnerships for international trade. A continuing theme of discussion also focused on attracting and retaining young workers in the state. Attendees had the pleasure to hear from Linda McMahon, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Governor Ricketts highlighted some of Nebraska’s economic development achievements from the past year, including winning Site SelectionMagazine’s Governor’s Cup awarded for most total development projects per capita for the second consecutive year. My staff and I attended seminars that addressed important issues such as rural workforce housing projects, agricultural technology advancements, and the economic impact of recent legislation. I applaud Governor Ricketts for hosting a very successful and informative summit.

Courtney Phillips, Director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, visited our district on July 18th. I met with Director Phillips to tour the Dakota City Child Support and Social Service Office and discuss the unique issues facing District 17 and Northeast Nebraska. Director Phillips is an outstanding and hard worker and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with her in the future.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

On June 25th, heavy rains caused flooding in northeast Nebraska, including Dakota, Thurston, and Wayne counties. First responder and volunteer response to the flooding was incredibly impressive; the community clearly came out in force to protect areas by filling sandbags and cleaning up debris around their towns. Thank you to all who gave their time and assistance, especially Dakota County Emergency Manager Deanna Hagberg, Thurston County Emergency Manager Tom Perez, and Wayne County Emergency Manager Nicholas Kemnitz for working with local, state, and federal entities to serve our community. It was appreciated and surely did not go unnoticed.

I have been in constant contact with Dakota County, Thurston County, and Wayne County emergency officials as well as Governor Ricketts’ office since the flooding occurred.  On June 26th, Governor Ricketts surveyed the flood damage and proceeded to sign a disaster declaration allowing state funds from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to aid the response to flooding and damage reports from across the state. As of July 8th, Wayne, Thurston, and Dakota counties made disaster declarations and Dakota City and South Sioux City made municipal disaster declarations. It is expected that Pender will make a formal declaration in the near future. Most of the reported damage includes damage to roads, bridges, culverts, and some water treatment facilities. In the upcoming week of July 9th, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) plans to continue to surveying and assessing damage in the 14 affected counties.

It is important that all public entities and individuals report damages and documented costs to NEMA. Individuals should contact their local emergency management officials to report and address any concerns or damages. Individuals should also contact their insurance company to report damage. There is generally a 30-day reporting deadline to report damages to emergency management officials and insurance companies.

Dakota County Emergency Manager: Deanna Hagberg – 402-987-2106

Thurston County Emergency Manager: Tom Perez – 402-385-6070

Wayne County Emergency Manager: Nicholas Kemnitz – 402-833-5190

In order to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, disaster damage cost must meet a $2.7 million threshold. Currently, it does not appear that the cost threshold has been met, but preliminary assessments are still ongoing. Additionally, Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Brasch has reached out to the USDA to explore other funding options for disaster relief.

To keep up to date on road closings, visit the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s traveler information website at http://www.511.nebraska.gov/ or follow NDOT on Twitter @Nebraska511. Anyone who becomes involved in an emergency situation due to the flooding should call 9-1-1 immediately for assistance.

Information on NEMA, disaster relief, and other resources can be found at https://nema.nebraska.gov/ or 402-471-7421.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

 

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

It is such a blessing to live in this amazing country and the great state of Nebraska. I am thankful for our freedoms and for those who protect them. Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

I have really enjoyed getting out to local events the past few weeks to meet with constituents and community leaders. It was also a pleasure to attend the Nebraska GOP State Convention in Nebraska City. On June 12th, I was happy to join South Sioux City in welcoming the Husker Nation Tour featuring UNL Athletic Director Bill Moos and UNL Football coaching staff. It was exciting to spend time with fellow fans to learn about and get ready for the upcoming football season with Coach Frost.

Nebraska’s residential and agricultural land property taxes are remarkably higher than our six closest neighbors, and school funding has been closely tied to property taxes since the creation of the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA). Created in 1990, TEEOSA calculates the expected sources of school funding for each school district based on the schools’ needs and existing resources. Legislative changes to TEEOSA during years in which revenue fell combined with rapidly increasing property valuations caused an overreliance on property taxes as the major source for school funding. Nebraska outspends our neighboring states in per-student funding, yet produces similar, or sometimes worse, educational outcomes. It is important that we examine why is costs Nebraska considerably more to educate our children than neighboring states and the effect that has on our property tax rates.

Last Friday, Senator Mike Groene, Chair of the Education Committee, held a press conference to announce the formation of the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA): School Funding Legislative Study Group that is set to meet during the interim. The Study Group includes a diverse range of senators from across Nebraska; Tom Brewer (LD 43), Mike Hilgers (LD 21), Brett Lindstrom (LD 18), Lou Ann Linehan (LD 39), Jim Scheer (LD 19), Tom Briese (LD 41), Curt Friesen (34), Suzanne Geist (25), and Justin Wayne (LD 13) in addition to Senator Groene (LD 42). Senator Groene described the Study Groups plans as a three-pronged approach:

“1. Study the history of TEEOSA to understand where we are and where we started. This will include understanding changes made over the years leading to the current formula, comparing public education funding of neighboring states and across the nation, looking at TEEOSA allowable spending growth factors, and studying factors causing the funding shift to property taxes (i.e. property valuations and property tax diversion programs such as Tax Increment Financing, Homestead Exemptions, low income housing exemptions, etc.).

  1. Seek a sustainable and constant local State Aid resource to serve as the Foundation Aid. This will include seeking innovative new ideas, as well as looking at options already presented in recent proposed legislation. Senators Briese, Friesen, Groene, Scheer and Wayne have all introduced related bills.
  2. Create a legislative solution for the 2019 Session that stabilizes state aid to ALL local school districts while reversing the present property tax burden that stabilizes at a responsible inflationary growth.

As the third prong indicated, the end goal of the study is an introduction of a single 2019 legislative bill addressing the TEEOSA revenue flaw that puts equity back into school funding and can garner the support of the full Legislature.”

As property tax relief continues to be my number one priority in the Legislature, I am hopeful that this bi-partisan group will bring a dynamic discussion to the legislature and viable solutions to correct school funding and rising property taxes. I am excited to work on legislation with my colleagues.

I want to encourage my constituents to reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you!

402-471-2716

jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Senator Joni Albrecht

State Capitol, Room 2010

PO Box 94604

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4604

 

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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