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Last week we celebrated National Ag Week, which gave us the opportunity to recognize the unsung heroes of our State – the farmers and ranchers. It also allowed Nebraskans to recognize the important role that agriculture plays in our everyday lives. On Monday, I joined Governor Pete Ricketts and two of my colleagues, Senator Lydia Brasch and Senator Lou Ann Linehan, at the Pioneer Hi-Bred seed-corn plant north of York. We were also joined by several students from the Agronomy Academy.
Later Monday, I had the opportunity to attend the Seward County Agriculture Recognition Banquet, helping them celebrate the 50th year of their event. It was a great evening, hosted by the Kiwanis Club, the Seward County Agriculture Society, and the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership. One thing that was especially impressive was the number of FFA students who attended to assist with the meal. These kids are the future of agriculture in our state and District #24, and I was so pleased to see such a vibrant group. I appreciated the opportunity to host Governor Ricketts, Director of Nebraska Department of Agriculture Steve Wellman, and Chair of the Legislature Agriculture Committee Senator Brasch. They all work tirelessly to support and promote agriculture in Nebraska. Congrats to the award recipients – Roy, Dave, and Doug Cast and Families, Bill White, and the many scholarship winners: Bailee Tucker, Colton Hackbart, Andrew Cast, Molly Suhr, Kane Aegerter and Riley Kamphaus. Agriculture has been such an important part of my family’s heritage. It was great to see so many residents of Seward County celebrating agriculture.
It is hard to believe that last Friday was the forty-eighth day of the 105th Legislature session. With only twelve days left in the Legislative session, we still have a lot of priority bills to debate. On Tuesday, we debated a Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee priority bill, LB1005. It addresses the withdrawal of an employer from the County or School retirement plans, which are administered by the State. LB1005 ensures that the withdrawing entity would be financially responsible for all costs to the plan so those costs do not fall on state taxpayers or other plan members or employers. During the floor debate the bill was amended to include several other minor retirement bills. LB1005 eventually advanced to Select File on a 38-1 vote.
During Wednesday’s debate, the Legislature advanced an amended version of the bill creating a super-two rural highway classification and changing the maximum highway speed limits, LB1009. The bill no longer includes a provision to increase the speed limit on the Interstate System to 80 miles per hour. LB1009 would authorize the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to do the following:
Increase speed limits from 60 mph to 65 mph on any four-lane divided highway that is not a part of the state highway system and any part of the state highway system other than an expressway or freeway;
Increase speed limits from 65 mph to 70 mph on expressways that are part of the state highway system and freeways that are part of the state highway system but not part of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways; and
Increase speed limits from 60 mph to 65 mph on any portion of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways located in Douglas, Lancaster and Dakota counties.
It is important to note that NDOT will not raise speed limits unless it is supported by a traffic and engineering study. LB1009 advanced to Select File on a 35-2 vote.
Also on Wednesday, the Legislature failed to advance the mainline budget bill, LB944, during an extensive second-round of debate, due to a filibuster led by opponents to a provision of the bill restricting the distribution of Title X funds to health clinics that also provide abortion services. Failing to adopt this provision could jeopardize approximately $1.9 million Nebraska receives in Title X funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An attempt to pass the budget on Friday also failed to overcome the filibuster. It is frustrating that we were unable to approve a budget bill that advanced out of the Appropriations Committee unanimously. I am confident that the Legislature will reject the Washington-style politics that has stalled the budget and adopt it before we adjourn.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Todd and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance.