NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov

Weekly Column – April 9th
April 9th, 2021

This week, the Legislature began discussions on the 2021-2022 $9.7 billion budget.  As a new member of the Appropriations Committee, I am proud to have worked on this budget that properly funds our pressing needs, while allowing for over $211 million available for other legislation that is pending in the Legislature.  I want to highlight some of the major items in the budget.

One of the major concerns the Legislature addressed in this budget is providing significant property tax relief.  Last year, the Legislature enacted the Property Tax Incentive Program that provides refundable income tax credits for any taxpayer who pays school district taxes.  This program will provide $313,672,849 dollars towards property tax relief each year over the next two years.  The Legislature also increased appropriations to the original Property Tax Credit Fund.  This year, the Legislature is appropriating $300 million dollars to the Property Tax Credit Fund and in 2022, $313 million dollars.  When these two programs are combined, over $600 million a year is going towards direct property tax relief.

The Legislature has also provided a rate increase to our service providers.  Over the next two years, we are providing a 4% increase which amounts to an increase of $83.5 million dollars.  These funds are provided to providers serving individuals who qualify under various Department of Health and Human Services programs, community correction services, and juvenile services.  By increasing these funds, these providers will be able to serve more people across the state.

The Legislature is also replenishing the cash reserve fund by providing an additional $351 million dollars bringing the total balance to $763 million dollars.  This “rainy day fund” helps cover the State’s cash flow needs to continue State operations if there is a disruption in regular revenues.

This week, I was also appointed to the LR 29 – Eastern Service Child Welfare Contract Special Investigative and Oversight Committee of the Legislature.  This Committee will investigate the circumstances relating to the procurement of the Saint Francis child welfare contract by the Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Committee will also investigate the implementation and oversight of the child welfare contract itself.

As you may remember, Saint Francis submitted an unreasonably low bid to win the award, and returned to the state less than two years later to ask for an additional $110 million dollars, which is a more expensive contract than what competing bidders were requesting to provide these same services.  At the same time, they still have not met the requirements established by the contract in the first place.

Over the last three years, I have introduced legislation to address procurement reform.  If that legislation had been enacted two years ago, this entire situation would have likely been prevented.  I look forward to working with this committee to further shine the light on this sloppy, mismanaged procurement for child welfare services that did not follow the Department of Administrative Services’ own procurement manual, the request for proposal, or even Nebraska law, which has placed the children of Nebraska at risk.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – March 26th
March 26th, 2021

This week, the Legislature discussed LB 529, a bill that outlined how the State of Nebraska will distribute education lottery dollars for the five-year period from 2021-22 through 2025-26.  I introduced a similar bill, LB 62, this year because these programs are critical to our students.  As LB 529 contained the provisions of LB 62, I am proud to support this legislation. These dollars appropriated through LB 529 are allocated for our students, whether they are in elementary school, high school, college, or even those individuals who are in the workforce who are returning to school for career training.

Included in LB 529 are provisions that remove the sunset date for the Nebraska Opportunity Grant (NOG) program which was due to expire this year.  NOG is the only need-based financial aid program for postsecondary students in Nebraska who are Pell-eligible.  In 2020, NOG provided aid to nearly 13,000 students across Nebraska to attend the student’s college of choice, such as Southeast Community College, York College, and Concordia University.

LB 529 also establishes the Access College Early (ACE) Cash Fund.  ACE helps pay tuition and mandatory fees for qualified, low-income students to enroll in courses from our colleges or universities if a student decides to do dual-enrollment courses or enroll in an institution early.  The Community College Gap Assistance program is also extended.  These funds offer financial aid to students not eligible for Pell grants who are enrolled in community colleges that could lead to jobs in a high-need field.  The Legislature is also providing funds to help cover testing fees for certain students enrolled in AP classes in high school to allow the student to receive college credit.

LB 529 distributes funds for the Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant Fund.  This program helps fund after school programs and summer school programs.  There are currently four programs located within District 24 that utilize this funding: St. Vincent de Paul Extended Care Program in Seward, the Colt’s Corral in Utica, York Elementary School and York Middle School.

Funds allocated through LB 529 will also go towards behavioral training for the first time for our teachers.  These funds will help train our teachers to properly identify and intervene in classroom situations when an issue arises. These funds also establish an employee assistance program for our teachers to allow them to talk to teachers across the state to discuss best strategies on how to respond to certain situations.

The Legislature is also appropriating money to the Excellence in Teaching cash fund, with a majority of those funds earmarked to attract new teachers into the profession, including $1,000 in financial assistance to student teachers who complete their program.  The appropriation also continues to provide assistance to established teachers who are seeking further education to allow them to teach more classes.  The Career-Readiness and Dual-Credit Education Cash fund helps our educators earn extra college credits in order to allow them to teach dual-credit classes.

As I stated earlier, I am proud to support this bill.  This comprehensive bill helps all our students, regardless of where students are in their academic career, in all corners of the state by providing funds to these critical programs.  On March 24, LB 529 advanced from General File to Select File and I look forward to helping ensure this bill is enacted into law.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – March 19th
March 19th, 2021

This year, I am proud to have prioritized LB 64, a bill to change provisions relating to the taxation of social security benefits which was introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom of Omaha.  As introduced, LB 64 would have phased out the income tax on social security income.  Starting in 2021, 20% of the income would be exempt, and would increase by 20% each subsequent year until 2025 when 100% of all social security income would be exempted.

During the committee hearing, the Revenue Committee heard from Jina Ragland, the Associate State Director of Advocacy and Outreach for AARP Nebraska who testified in support of LB 64.  During her testimony, she told the committee that Nebraska is one of only thirteen states that currently taxes Social Security benefits.  She further explained that these taxes on Social Security benefits could be used to pay for prescription drugs, food, and utility bills.

Before 1984, Social Security benefits were exempt from federal income tax and Nebraska income tax.  However, in 1983, the United States Congress enacted legislation to tax a portion of Social Security benefits, with the tax gradually increasing as a person’s income rose above a certain threshold.  With this change in federal statute, Nebraska began to tax these benefits, and in 1993, a second income threshold was added at the federal level that increased the taxable share of benefits.  As a result of these changes in federal statutes, many states changed their laws to ensure these benefits were not taxed at the state level, however, Nebraska was not one of these states.

LB 64 helps more than retirees as social security also provides monthly benefits for disabled workers, their spouses and dependents, and also provides monthly benefits to qualified survivors of deceased workers.  For these citizens on fixed income, annual increases in Medicare and Medicaid Supplemental insurance fees often wipe out Social Security benefit increases which reduces retiree household income.  LB 64 allows for greater financial security for our citizens who are receiving Social Security benefits. It also allows for these individuals to care for their families and to live in their own homes, which I believe is a shared goal of us all as we age.

On March 15, LB 64 advanced from the Revenue Committee and placed on General File with am 473.  AM 473 simply extends the phase out of taxation of social security benefits from 5 years to 10 years and reduces the percentage of exempt from 20% a year to 10% a year.  Currently, the average monthly Social Security benefit in Nebraska is $1,232.  This is not a tax break for the rich.  This allows our citizens receiving Social Security benefits to live with greater dignity and independence. I, along with Senator Lindstrom, and 8 other cosponsors, look forward to enacting LB 64 to make our state friendlier to retirees and those others who are on a fixed income.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – March 12th
March 12th, 2021

Last year, the group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana submitted over 180,000 verified signatures in an attempt to allow our citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not to allow for medical marijuana in Nebraska, as it is now legal in 33 states and Washington D.C. Following a Nebraska Supreme Court decision that barred the question from being placed on the ballot due the initiative being in conflict with the single subject rule, Senator Anna Wishart of Lincoln introduced Legislative Bill 474, a bill that would adopt the Medicinal Cannabis Act. Given the groundswell of support the citizens of Nebraska have shown for medical marijuana legislation, I have explored the provisions of LB 474 further.

If LB 474 were to be enacted into law, a patient must have a qualifying medical condition and a written certification issued by a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant with whom they have a bona-fide relationship.  A qualifying medical condition is any illness for which cannabis provides relief as determined by the patient’s healthcare practitioner.  Any patient under 18 years of age would require written consent from a parent or guardian.

These practitioners would be required to perform a physical exam on patients, which would include an assessment for alcohol and substance abuse.  Under LB 474, a practitioner would be required to complete continuing medical educational courses if they provide more than 10 patients a certification for medicinal cannabis per year and a practitioner is prohibited from issuing more than 275 certifications for this treatment in any 90-day period.

Any patient who is certified may possess cannabis products such as ointments, pills, or tinctures that do not contain more than 2000 milligrams of THC unless granted a waiver to receive a higher amount, and a patient may designate a caregiver to assist in the use and purchase of medical cannabis.  A patient may not smoke cannabis, but may use vaporizing products, and patients cannot consume edible products, other than pills.  Patients would also be prohibited from cultivating their own cannabis.  There are also restrictions on operating a vehicle while under the influence, and the consumption of cannabis while in a vehicle, regardless if the patient is a driver or a passenger.

LB 474 would allow for four types of medical cannabis businesses.  One to grow cannabis, one to make products such as oils, lotion, and pills, establishes dispensaries, and establishes laboratories to test for potency and contaminants.  Any dispensary would be required to contract with a licensed pharmacist to give patient advice which is a new addition to this legislative proposal.  These businesses are prohibited from being near schools, and could even be prohibited from any locality if the governing board decides to ban them.

LB 474 would create the Cannabis Enforcement Department, which would create and enforce rules, regarding oversight, record keeping, security, and labeling.  This Department would establish requirements for law enforcement and health professionals to report adverse events involving these products to the department.  LB 474 would also restrict advertising and marketing.

I have never been opposed to the idea of medical cannabis if it were prescribed by a physician and administered through a pharmacy like any other prescription medication, however, these provisions have never been included in any previous proposal which is why I haven’t supported similar legislation in the past.  Senator Wishart is working hard to listen to the concerns of stakeholders such as our medical professionals, pharmacists, and law enforcement issues to make a restrictive medical marijuana bill that protects patients and the public.  Personally, I believe if we have medical marijuana in our state, we regulate through the Legislature rather than the Nebraska Constitution.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – March 5th
March 5th, 2021

This week, I’d like to highlight another important piece of legislation that I introduced this legislative session that will help fill a serious gap in the state’s procurement process.  I introduced LB 61 which will provide a formal protest procedure for state contracts exceeding ten million dollars which was heard in the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee on March 4.

Currently, Nebraska law does not provide an express right of judicial review of an agency award decision.  The current appeal process is very limited, allowing a disappointed vendor to write a protest letter and a meeting with the Director of the Department of Administrative Services.  Following the meeting, the Director will make the final decision.  This puts Nebraska at a disadvantage.  LB 21 would allow for an unsuccessful vendor to protest an award decision, and within 60 days of receipt of the protest, the Department of Administrative Services will hold a hearing.  After the decision is made, any party to the decision could then appeal the decision to court.

Without judicial review of procurement decisions, this puts Nebraska at a disadvantage.  Over half of all states and the United States Government provides for a judicial review of procurement decisions.  During the hearing, the Committee heard testimony that without an appeal process which includes judicial review, many companies are being dissuaded from investing in Nebraska.  LB 21 will show vendors that they will be treated fairly during an appeals process and would give them certainty that errors in the process can be corrected.

Time after time, we receive news that a state contract has been terminated after millions of dollars in state funds have been spent due to the vendor not being able to complete its work.  The most recent was in December when contracts with two technology companies were terminated.  The two contracts were terminated after $12 million dollars of state tax money was spent.

This is not the only example.  In 2007, the State awarded a $50 million dollar contract to a Medicaid Management Information System project to a company with 75 employees even though a larger company with 20,000 employees and a history of completing similar projects.  After the contract was awarded, the contract was terminated when the State found out that the smaller company wouldn’t be able to complete the contract, costing the state $7 million in tax dollars.

A recent contract failure, that being the contract that was awarded to Saint Francis to provide child welfare services in Douglas and Sarpy Counties is the most egregious example of why we need this legislation.  Saint Francis submitted an unreasonably low bid to win the award, and returned to the state less than two years later to ask for more funds than what competing bidders were requesting to provide these same services and the Department of Health and Human Services rewarded Saint Francis for doing so.

This sloppy, mismanaged procurement for child welfare services, which did not follow the Department of Administrative Services’ own procurement manual, RFP, or Nebraska law, puts the children of Nebraska at risk.  All of these issues would have been discovered by an independent third-party review of the procurement decision that allows for discovery, depositions, and judicial review.

I look forward to working with the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee to advance this important piece of legislation to help make the state’s procurement process more fair and transparent in order to save the state, and most importantly, the taxpayer, their tax dollars. While allowing for juridical review may slow down the procurement process slightly, these are contracts that cost our tax-payers tens of millions of dollars and could put our most vulnerable citizens at risk and it is better to do things correctly rather to do them fast.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – February 19th
February 19th, 2021

As you may know, I have served on the Retirement Committee for six years and have served as Chair of the committee for five. Since I have been with the Committee, I have been working with OPS on various issues related to the investments and management of the Omaha School Employees Retirement System or OSERS for short. Before going into the legislation I introduced on OSERS this year, I want to give you some background on the work the Retirement Committee has done on the OSERS retirement system.

In 2016, at the request of OPS, we passed legislation to move the investment authority of the OSERS retirement assets to the Nebraska Investment Council – which also invests all the state-administered retirement system assets. As part of that legislation, the governance of the OSERS plan was shifted from the OPS Board of Education to the OSERS Board of Trustees.

In 2019, OPS expressed interest in exploring transferring the management of the OSERS plan to the Public Employees Retirement Board (PERB), which already administers 6 retirement systems for the State. I introduced legislation for the PERB to produce a Work Plan, which was completed in June of last year.  It examined management transfer tasks, projected a 3-year timeline for the transition to occur, and estimated transfer costs which ranged from $3.8 million to $6.1 million, with the most likely cost tagged at $4.2 million.

The OPS Board of Education reviewed the Work Plan and last August voted to move forward with the management transfer, with the understanding that OPS is solely responsible for all transfer costs and that OPS would continue to retain all financial obligation and liability for the OSERS plan.

I agreed to introduce legislation to move forward with the understanding that the State will not assume any liability for any costs related to this plan, nor will it assume the near $1 billion unfunded liability for the OSERS plan. I also made it clear that the management transfer is not a merger of the OSERS plan with the School retirement plan – they remain separate retirement systems.

On Tuesday, February 23, the Retirement Committee will hold hearings on a package of bills I have introduced to carry out the transfer of OSERS management to the PERB.  Here is a summary of the bills.

LB 144 was introduced as merely a placeholder bill. Under our legislative rules, retirement bills can only be introduced in the 90-day session, so this bill will carry over until next session and serve as a vehicle for any follow-up legislation needed on the management transfer.

Since the Work Plan was completed last summer, additional study and tasks have been identified that need to be completed before the transfer occurs. LB 145 requires an IRS Legal Compliance Audit to be conducted in 2021 to determine if the plan is in compliance with all IRS requirements. Any audit issues identified in the compliance audit that require statutory changes will be amended into the placeholder bill and taken up in the 2022 session. It also requires the State Auditor to begin auditing the OSERS plan in 2022 to examine any operational issues that may need to be addressed prior to the transfer and requires the PERB to continue to advise the Retirement Committee of any additional issues that need to be addressed prior to management transfer. To accommodate these additional examinations to ensure compliance audit and operational issues can be resolved, the date of transfer will be delayed one year until September 1, 2024.

LB 146 allows school retirees and school employees who have terminated employment with any school district in the state, including Omaha, to provide substitute service 8 days in every calendar month during the 6 months following termination or retirement. This new policy makes it possible for former teachers to sub more frequently during this 6-month time period which will help address the tremendous need for substitutes teachers in all school districts throughout the state.

LB 147 is the main management transfer bill that makes necessary changes for a transfer to occur on September 1, 2024. It clarifies that this is not a merger of the Class V retirement plan with the School plan and contains extensive liability provisions to ensure that the OPS Board of Education retains all financial responsibilities and obligations for the Class V retirement plan and indemnifies and holds harmless the State of Nebraska, the PERB and the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System from any financial responsibility or funding obligations of the Class V retirement system.

The fifth bill in the package is LB 582, which once again vests retirement administration authority in the OPS Board of Education until the OSERS plan is transferred to the PERB effective September 1, 2024. It also grants the OPS Board of Education the authority to appoint a new Board of Trustees and adds a duty to the Board of Trustees to facilitate the transition and transfer of the plan management to the PERB. Vesting administrative authority with the OPS Board of Education which is seeking this transfer will ensure a smoother transition.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – February 12th
February 16th, 2021

Since being elected as your State Senator, I have heard from many of our locally owned pharmacies and their issues with Pharmacy Benefit Managers, also known as PBM’s.  As a retired insurance agent, I have introduced and successfully guided legislation across the finish line to help address the issues raised, whether it has to deal with price transparency, claw back provisions in contracts, or gag clauses prohibiting pharmacies from telling the consumer how much the drug actually costs.

While we have made some progress, there is still much work to be done because it is such a complex issue for all stakeholders.  Knowing this is an ongoing issue, this year, I introduced LB 375, a bill that would adopt the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Regulation and Transparency Act.  Before its introduction, I assured all stakeholders I would be willing to meet with them and listen to their concerns about the legislation.  With this in mind, on Friday, February 12, I, along with Chairman of the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee Matt Williams, and Senator Adam Morfeld, hosted a roundtable discussion with pharmacists from across the state, representatives from the insurance industry, and representatives from the PBM industry.

We heard from all attendees about issues ranging from auditing requirements, maximum allowable costs, spread pricing, specialty pharmacies and drugs, drug coupons and rebates, and what is known as 340B programs, which is a topic I’d like to explain further.  As a former insurance agent, I had not heard of this program before recently because it is an agreement between hospitals and other health care facilities and the pharmaceutical industry, but I believe it is something that deserves a lot more recognition.

The 340B program requires any pharmaceutical manufacturer that participates in Medicaid to sell outpatient drugs at a discounted price to healthcare organizations that care for uninsured or low-income patients, such as community health centers, children’s hospitals, critical access hospitals, and public and nonprofit disproportionate share hospitals that serve low-income and indigent populations.

These savings to the hospitals through the 340B program are then reallocated to provide healthcare-related services that may not otherwise be available.  These savings allow hospitals to provide uncompensated care, additional patient care services such as chemotherapy in our more rural areas of the state, and provides them the ability to provide discounted and/or free drugs to patients in need.  According to data I was provided, there are 64 hospitals from across the state that are not just eligible, but participate in this program.

I realize there is still much more work to be done on LB 375. While we did not come to an agreement today on how the bill should look moving forward, I believe we moved the needle.  Pharmacists, pharmacy benefit managers, and the insurance industry all want to do what is best for their consumers while keeping costs of drugs low to allow for greater access.  I believe with greater dialogue between all the stakeholders, and their commitment to this issue, it will be just a matter of time before we come to an agreement on how to move forward on this important topic.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – February 5th
February 5th, 2021

As most of you know, one of the unique characteristics of the Nebraska Legislature is that every bill introduced by a senator receives a public hearing.  This week, I would like to discuss two of the bills I introduced that had their committee hearing this week.  LB 337 – Adopt the Step-Therapy Reform Act was heard on Monday in the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee and LB 143 – Require notice to school districts regarding changes in child placement was heard in the Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

LB 337 establishes the Step Therapy Reform Act which enshrines into state statute common sense guard rails for the practice of step therapy. Step therapy, also known as Fail First, is a program commonly used by insurers to control the order in which a patient takes certain therapies approved for a given condition. Under step therapy, a patient may be required to try one or more alternative prescription drugs chosen by their insurer before coverage is granted for the drug prescribed by that patient’s health care provider. Because of this, a patient may have delayed access to the best therapy for their condition.

The Committee heard from four testifiers in support, 8 testifiers who submitted written testimony, and 38 people and groups who submitted letters in support of the bill and there was no opposition to the bill.  This level of support told me, and the Committee, that this is an issue we as the Nebraska Legislature needs to address.  The Committee advanced the bill with no dissenting votes and the bill was placed on General File on February 4.

LB 143 requires that if a determination is made by the Department of Health and Human Services that it is in the best interest of the child who is in the care of the department to not remain in the same school district after a placement change is made, the notice of placement change that is filed with the Court shall also be provided to the new school where the child will be enrolled.

Currently, the Department provides what is known as a “superintendent’s letter” to the new school if a child is to be placed in the school district, but there is no statutory requirement as to when this letter is delivered, which can lead to a disruption for the child if the new school is unable to provide needed services right away.  By providing a deadline to the Department to notify the new school, our students who are in foster care or wards of the state will be more successful because the schools will be made aware of the needs of the student.

During the hearing, the Health and Human Services Committee heard from area superintendents, school advocacy groups, and child advocacy groups and there was no opposition during the hearing.  As of this column, the Health and Human Services Committee has not taken action on the bill, but I believe the bill will advance as this communication is needed in order to allow our schools to set the students in the foster care system for success.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – January 29th
January 29th, 2021

As you may have heard, I, along with the other members of the Appropriations Committee, are in quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure.  I have tested negative and I am symptom free, but it is important we all adhere to public health guidelines to fight this pandemic.  This year, I introduced LB 19 on behalf of the Board of Cosmetology, Electrology, Esthetics, Nail Technology and Body Art.  LB 19 is an extension of the effort the Health and Human Services Committee and the Legislature has taken over the past few years in updating the statutes that govern these professions.

LB 19 updates the definition of manicuring to include the practice of performing on the natural fingernails of a person and provides a clear cut definition of the practice of pedicuring.  Before LB 19, the act of pedicuring fell under the definition of manicuring, but the practice was never defined itself.

LB 19 also updates statutes regarding tattooing to align the definition with current industry standards and puts into statute language that will allow for temporary body art facilities and temporary body artists.  This is important as it will allow for the State to host body art conventions at locations such as the Pinnacle Bank Arena or the CHI Health Center in Omaha.  The temporary body art facility will be licensed and inspected by the department and the license is only valid for up to seventy-two hours and shall expire at the conclusion of the event.  The temporary body artist license could allow the artist to offer services at the temporary body art facility or to be hosted in by a facility licensed as a traditional body art facility.  An individual must be registered by the State before they can practice as a temporary body artist and the registration should only last for fourteen consecutive days which can be renewed up to two times per calendar year.

During the hearing on LB 19, the Health and Human Services Committee heard from multiple industry professionals who expressed the need for this legislation, particularly the need for statutes that would license natural nail procedures.  Since individuals do not have to be licensed to perform these services, it means these individuals providing these services do not have to have minimum competency, do not have to adhere to disinfectant regulations, equipment regulations, and general safety regulations as that licensed nail technicians must meet.

Since these individuals providing unlicensed services do not have to meet minimum competency standards and disinfectant standards, this puts our citizens at risk.  By using tools that could be unclean, our citizens are at risk of contracting mycobacterium fortuitum or even MRSA, an antibiotic resistant staph infection that can lead to severe scarring, amputation, and even death.

Unfortunately, there have been multiple lawsuits that have been brought to my attention relating to incidents due to unlicensed individuals providing these types of services that have resulted in harm to the customer.  Similar legislation I introduced in 2019 was vetoed last year by the Governor after 30 of my colleagues supported this effort to update our statutes.  Because this bill improves public health, while lessening barriers to enter the profession, I am willing and able to work with opponents of the bill and the members of the Health and Human Services Committee to move this important legislation forward.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler 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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – January 13th
January 13th, 2021

Greetings!  I hope you and your family enjoyed the holiday season and I pray you have stayed healthy during this deadly pandemic.

The 107th Legislative Session kicked off on Wednesday, January 6.  This year we will conduct a 90-day session, also known as the long session, with the expected adjournment date in early June.  There are notable changes to the makeup of the legislative body.  We welcome back Senator Ray Aguilar, Senator Mike Flood and Senator Rich Pahls, who previously served in this body, and welcome five new freshmen senators to the body.

This year, Senator Mike Hilgers of Lincoln was elected by unanimous consent as Speaker of the Legislature.  Senator Dan Hughes of Venango replaces Senator Hilgers as Chair of the Executive Board of the Legislative Council.  The first contested leadership race was that of Vice Chair of the Executive Board.

In a close vote, Senator Tony Vargas of Omaha defeated Senator Julie Slama of Peru on a vote of 26 to 23 to retain the position.  Senator Ben Hansen of Blair defeated Senator Matt Hansen of Lincoln to become the next Chair of the Business and Labor Committee on a vote of 26-23.  Senator Lynne Walz of Fremont defeated Senator Mike Groene of North Platte to be the next Chair of the Education Committee in the closest contested race of the day.  On the first round of votes, Senator Walz and Senator Groene were tied with 24 votes each.  On the second round of votes, Senator Walz triumphed with 25 votes to 23 votes.  The last contested race was that of the Natural Resources Chair, which Senator Bruce Bostelman of Brainard defeated Senator Tim Gragert of Creighton on a vote of 33-14.

I was unanimously re-elected as chairman of the Retirement Committee.   During this upcoming session, I intend for the Retirement Committee to continue its work in protecting our state retirement plans assets, responsibly managing taxpayer dollars via the State’s contribution to the plans to provide economic security to our retirees.

In addition to serving as Chair of the Retirement Systems Committee, I have been selected by my colleagues to serve on the Appropriations committee.  I will also serve on the Committee on Committees which is a committee that assigns senators to committees.

As you may know, the first ten days of session is the only time Senators are allowed to introduce legislation.  Given that each Senator has their own priorities, bills are introduced on a multitude of issues, but based upon bills that have already been introduced, I believe the major issues facing this legislative session relate to the COVID pandemic, corrections reform, additional measures for property tax reform, school spending, and law enforcement reform.

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 mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler  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. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24
Room 2004
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2756
Email: mkolterman@leg.ne.gov
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