NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. 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

April 28th – LB415

April 27th, 2017

LB 415 is one of the Retirement Committee’s Priority bills.  I have said many times that I support defined benefit plans for public employees as long as they are well-funded and sustainable.  In order to achieve that goal, I believe it is necessary to monitor events that cause funding impacts along the way, and to make adjustments before plans get into funding difficulties.

Funding levels can change quickly.  For example, in 2014 the actuary projected that the School Plan would be 100% funded in 2019 and no actuarially required contributions (ARCs) were projected for at least 30 years.  But a number of things happened since 2014 and now the School Plan is projected to not reach 100% funded status until 2040, and ARCs are projected to begin in 2020 and increase every year after that.

So what happened?  Since 2014 there have been two years of low investment returns on the retirement plans —  3.9% in 2015 and 1.6% in 2016 — and an Actuarial Experience Study was conducted which resulted in two major assumption changes.  Beginning July 1, 2017, the assumed investment rate will be reduced from 8% to 7.5% and a new mortality table will be used to reflect the fact that plan members are living longer.  While the mortality experience is great news for our plan members, it’s expensive news for the plans.  When defined benefit plan members can retire in their 50s, but mortality tables indicate they are living much longer, it means that benefits are likely to be paid over a longer period of time.

My goals in introducing this bill are to make benefit adjustments to the school plans to lower long-term funding obligations.  Plan changes will also encourage school employees to work until they are truly ready to retire and limit double dipping.  Changes also will ensure there are bona fide separations of service and no sham terminations, which are important changes in order to comply with IRS requirements for qualified pension plans.

I have been working with representatives of school employees, school administrators and the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems for the past two years regarding many of these proposed changes. Since the bill was introduced, I have continued to meet with school groups and have agreed to compromise on some of the original provisions in the bill.

The bill was advanced from Committee with a number of changes to LB 415.  As introduced, the bill proposed a Rule of 90 with a minimum retirement age of 60.  This was changed to a Rule of 85 with a minimum age of 60.  This means that school employees may retire with full benefits if their age and years of school service are equal to or greater than 85.  The new Rule of 85 with a minimum retirement age of 60 applies only to new members and does not affect any of the current plan members. This change is responsive to the new actuarial information that employees are living longer and encourages and requires members to work and contribute to the plan in order to reduce the number of years that benefits will be paid.  It also encourages members to work until they are truly ready to retire so hopefully there are fewer members who return to work and “double dip”.  The actuarial analysis conducted on this benefit change indicates that this will result in a cost savings over the next 30 years of $100 million for the statewide School Plan and the Omaha School Plan.

Another major change in the school plans are new separation of service requirements.  Currently, in the school plan, a 180-day break in service is required for members before they can return to work for a school district.  However, there are current exemptions to this break in service – for example — members may currently return to work for a school if they provide intermittent voluntary or substitute service.  Allowing intermittent substitute service has resulted many challenges trying to determine what intermittent means, and in some cases has been seriously abused or ignored.  Under LB 415 these exemptions are eliminated in order to draw a bright line about what constitutes a true bona fide separation/break in service.  Retirees or terminated employees will be required to sit out the full 180 days – no exceptions.  I understand that this change can create challenges for school districts who need substitute teachers, however, let me be clear – this change has no effect on those retirees or school employees who have been retired or ceased employment once 180 days have passed.  After that 180 break in service, these former members and retirees will remain available to provide voluntary and substitute service whenever called upon.

The bill also adds an additional separation of service period for school employees who accept an early retirement inducement – also called a voluntary separation agreement.  These inducements include, for example, lump sum cash payments, payment of insurance costs until the employee is eligible for Medicare, additional wages, or purchase of a retirement annuity. This inducement is in addition to the retirement benefit that is paid for the lifetime of the member.

As originally introduced this separation period was 36 months, however I have agreed to reduce this period to 24 months.  During this 24 month period, members who accepted an early retirement inducement will not be allowed to provide any substitute service to any school district, nor work as a consultant or contractor for any school district.  Once 180 days has passed, the member can provide unpaid voluntary service to a school district.  This new requirement does not impact a school retiree’s ability to work in the private sector, and once the 24 month period has passed the retiree can provide substitute service or return to work as an employee.  Though this additional separation of service period will create limited savings for the plans, I am mindful of the tax dollars that pay for these multiple benefits particularly when most taxpayers don’t have access to either a defined benefit retirement plan or a buyout package.  As a fiscal conservative, I believe it is necessary to be mindful of how we spend taxpayers’ dollars.

Like many other Committee Priority bills, LB 415 as advanced from Committee with a number of other bills amended into it.  Most of the additional 7 bills that were added were technical clean-up bills introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems – the agency that administers the plans.  Here is a brief summary of each bill:

  • LB 31 eliminates the ability of a school employer to purchase additional service for a school plan member in order to increase the member’s retirement benefit.  It also declares the only types of leave that will be counted as creditable service.
  • LB 32 makes a change in the County Employees Retirement Plan regarding the calculation of an annuity that is paid to county employees who worked for counties before the statewide County Plan was created.
  • LB 110 eliminates an annual reporting requirement for political subdivisions that offer defined contribution plans.  Governmental entities with defined benefit plans will now have to provide an annual report to the State Auditor and the Auditor will post these annual reports on the Auditor’s website.
  • LB 219 makes changes to definitions in each of the retirement plans to comply with new actuarial assumptions that were adopted last year following an Actuarial Experience Study.  The changes are primarily focused on changes to the mortality tables and to the interest rate used to calculate annuities in the State and County cash balance plans.
  • LB 278, clarifies the definition of disability in the County, State and School Employees Retirement Acts and also clarifies that a medical condition may be qualifying if it is either initially diagnosed or becomes disabling while the member is an active participant in the plan.  All disability applications must be filed within one year of termination of employment.
  • LB 413 is a technical clean-up bill introduced at the request of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems to clarify the definition of “officer” in the Nebraska State Patrol Retirement Act and to clarify language in the Judges’ Retirement Plan regarding a discretionary payment.
  • Under the changes in LB 532, the state is liable for funding any obligation in the Judges’, State Patrol and State Employees Retirement plans to provide benefits based on the period of military service for a member who has returned to work after providing military service. The county in which the employee is employed, and the school district in which a school member is employed is responsible respectively, to provide funding for benefits based on the period of military service of the returning member.  The employer is not required to pay the member and employer contributions for military service provided under the state Military Code.

If you have any questions about any of the changes in LB 415 or any of the bills that were amended into it, please don’t hesitate to contact my Committee Legal Counsel, Kate Allen.  She can be reached at 402-471-2626 or if you want to e-mail her, at kallen@leg.ne.gov.  My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756.  My legislative staff, David 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.

 

April 21st – Taxes

April 21st, 2017

This week the legislature debated two tax reform proposals, LB640 and LB461. I  support both pieces of legislation and see LB640 as the first bill to advance from the Revenue Committee in quite some time that can provide significant property tax relief for Nebraskans. If this bill does not pass, most likely no bill will pass with significant property tax relief this year. The bill did not move forward when debated, but it remains on General File and it’s possible it could move forward this year.

Alternatively, other proposals have suggested the solution is to raise sales taxes on hard working Nebraska families, using that revenue to reduce property taxes. I, along with the Governor, do not support this alternative and will support the Governor should that proposal move forward. The Governor has committed to veto a sales tax increase if placed on his desk, and I would uphold a veto.

The major tax reform bill being debated is LB 461.  I have had constituents indicate that LB 461 is not the ideal tax reform package, as it does not provide the level of property tax relief they feel is needed, and because it includes an income tax relief component. In order to move any tax relief packages forward, however, we need to build a coalition of State Senators who have a variety of perspectives and interests represented in their constituencies.  Urban State Senators tend to hear from their constituents in urban areas the importance of income tax relief, and rural State Senators hear from their areas that property tax relief is paramount.  A package that includes components of each has the best chance of advancing and I support working collaboratively on both of these issues to move forward a reform package.  Lowering both property and income taxes is good for the State and creates a climate for economic growth and prosperity.

The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports LB461, stating that Nebraska’s reliance on income taxes has grown too large, as 60% of state revenue comes from income taxes. Taxes in Nebraska are high and we have been paying too much for far too long. This bill will provide tax relief for all Nebraska taxpayers, while not shifting the tax burden from one group of citizens to another. LB461 encourages business expansion and retention, and assists in recruiting qualified workers for our growing state. It also protects agriculture at a time when ag property taxes are too high and commodity prices are too low. Simply, LB461 helps working families keep more of their hard-earned money.

LB461 is the most comprehensive tax relief package that the legislature has seen is several years. Amongst other things, LB461 collapses the number of income tax brackets in Nebraska from 4 to 3, reduces the top tax bracket starting at $29,830 per year from 6.84% to 5.99%, and gives more tax credits to low-income families by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit by 20 percent.

For agricultural land taxes, LB461 caps aggregate ag land valuation growth at 3.5% annually, changes ag land valuation from market-based to income potential-based, and reduces ag land property taxes by 12% statewide.

Opponents are concerned whether the state will be the next Kansas and won’t have the revenue to pay for core government functions such as education, criminal justice, and road maintenance. However, through the use of revenue “triggers,” LB461 is designed to prevent tax cuts from taking place unless ample revenue is also available to fund government services. If state revenue is not projected to grow by the required amounts, the tax cuts will not take effect that year.

LB461 will attract companies and create jobs, help farmers and manufacturers, and protects K-12 education by investing about $30 million annually into the state aid formula and adding equalization aid to about 40 additional school districts. It is time for the legislature to enact tax reform and make this great state even better.  If you have additional ideas on how we can fix our tax system, please contact me and share them.  We’re always open to ideas on how we can provide tax relief to all areas of our state.

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. David 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.

 

April 14 – LB44

April 13th, 2017

Last week, we debated LB44, bill that requires remote sellers (online retailers without a physical presence in our state) to collect and remit sales tax if their gross revenue in Nebraska exceeds $100,000 or their sales in Nebraska consists of 200 or more separate transactions.  Requiring remote sellers to collect sales tax on purchases can help add between $30-$40 million annually to the state’s general fund. This is money that can help close the budget deficit and is desperately needed.

Right now, when people purchase items online, they should be tracking those purchases and paying the use tax on their 1040 Form during tax season.  However, in 2012, the Department of Revenue reported over 11,000 people paid about $850,000 in taxes, and estimated about $45 million in taxes were owed to the state.  That was five years ago which means it is possible that Nebraska has missed out on over $100 million in lost tax revenue.

LB44 is not a tax increase.  It closed a loophole and only requires online retailers to follow the law and collect and remit sales tax to the state.  It is way past time that they do what local retailers have been doing for many years, leveling competition among retailers.  Beginning in January of this year, Amazon, the largest online retailer, voluntarily began collecting sales tax for online purchases in the state.  It is expected that Amazon will collect over $20 million annually for Nebraska.  That is in addition to revenue that LB44 would collect from other online and catalogue retail sources.

At the committee hearing, LB44 was supported by many organizations, including the Nebraska and Lincoln Chambers of Commerce, the Farm Bureau, Nebraska Retail Federation and the League of Municipalities. Additionally, many small, locally owned businesses from across the state came out in support of this legislation.  I do not think the status quo is fair to local retailers who are required to collect the tax, while out of state online retailers do not have to collect it.  If main street businesses close, it obviously hurts the local community.  I support this legislation because it will help even the competitive playing field with online retailers.

LB44 advanced from General File on a 28-13 vote, with many senators not voting or absent for the vote.  The Governor has vowed to veto this legislation should it get to that point, so LB44’s still has some challenges ahead before it becomes a law.  The legislature will revisit this bill on Select File in the next week or two.

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. David 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.

One of the unique components of the Nebraska Legislature is that each and every bill introduced by a senator receives a public hearing.  During the long session, which is this year, committee hearings typically last until the middle or end of March.  During the period when we hear committee hearings, the legislature only debates bills on General File in the morning, and the committee hearings are conducted in the afternoon.  Committee hearings for all bills ended on March 23rd, and on March 28th, the legislature began full day debate on bills.

Some bills are pretty cut and dry and can advance in only a matter of minutes.  Bills that are filibustered can be debated for up to six hours on General File before a cloture motion vote is taken.  We have a lot of work left to do and we will soon begin our late night schedule which means that a legislative day can last until 11:59pm, though a typical let night ends around 8 or 9pm.

To date, five of my bills passed the legislature and were signed into law by the Governor.  Three bills are on Final Reading, one bill is on Select File, and nine bills are on General File.  Only a handful are still in committee while we discuss what needs to be improved in order to advance them to General File.  Some of these improvements may not happen this year, and we will work with stakeholders over the interim to find what needs to be changed so that the best bill is brought forward that everyone compromises on. I think it is imperative to discuss bills openly with everyone involved to find agreement, and not jam legislation down the throats of those opposed to a bill.

Monday, April 10, marks the 62 day of the 90 day session, and we are a little over two thirds of the way finished with the long session.  We still have to discuss the budget and budget gap, property taxes and tax reform, internet sales tax, and many other senator and committee priority bills.  I am always interested to hear your opinions on issues that concern you.  We may not agree on all bills, but I welcome your feedback so that I can do my best to serve the people that elected me to office.

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. David 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.

 

Senator Kolterman invites students to Youth Legislature

 

High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 11-14.  At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking.  Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

This is an excellent chance for high school students to experience how their state government operates, and I highly encourage students interested in government and politics to apply for this unique opportunity.

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission.  Applicants must submit a short essay.  Other $100 scholarships are also available.

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature.  The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788.  The deadline for registration is May 15, 2017.

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. David 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.

 

My office receives a good amount of correspondence regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, so I wanted to address that issue with you.  I have always been supportive of the pipeline, and recently, I signed a bipartisan letter from 33 members of the Nebraska Legislature to the Public Service Commission in support of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Having closely monitored the proposed project and reviewed TransCanada’s safety and environmental record in our state for the past six years, I believe they have demonstrated a strong commitment to operating responsibly in our state.  In conversations with Nebraskans along the existing Keystone pipeline route (Cedar, Wayne, Stanton, Colfax, Butler, Seward, Saline, Jefferson and Platte Counties) I have found enthusiasm for both the manner in which the company has operated and the property tax dollars its project has contributed since 2010.  I have spoken with friends and neighbors in Seward County that have pipeline in their property, and they have mentioned how easy it is to work with TransCanada when putting land back to its original state, like they were never there.

A large majority of Nebraskans agree with this view considering recent media reports indicating more than ninety percent of landowners along the proposed Keystone XL route have already voluntarily agreed to easements, most for figures at or above market value.  I am particularly pleased that these agreements, as they appear to cover crop losses and inconveniences which my constituents may experience during the anticipated construction time.

The proposed Keystone pipeline will be extensively monitored with checkpoints for oil spills.  It will be better than the current pipeline, and much safer than filling trucks and rail cars with oil, and then sending them on our roads and tracks.  The construction of the pipeline will create good jobs along the route, and lower the electrical rates of local electric systems.  In 2016, Seward County alone billed TransCanada pipeline almost a half million dollars for property taxes.  It was also announced that the latest route proposal would shift slightly west around the Seward County wellhead protection area.

I share your desire to protect the quality of water in our state.   The NDEQ has taken the proper steps to ensure protection of the Sandhills region and Ogalalla Aquifer by endorsing a route which avoids the Sandhills region and the areas of northern Nebraska which are home to fragile soils.

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. David 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.

 

Townhall meetings are an important way for elected officials to meet with their constituents to talk about issues in the district, pending legislation or to just enjoy a cup of coffee together. Last Friday I visited with about 20 constituents in Stromsburg at the 4th Street Coffee House. We discussed all aspects of this legislative session and issues that affect my district.  While I always appreciate hearing from constituents via letter, phone and email, it is nice to have an in-person conversation and meet face-to-face.

I have scheduled two more townhalls on Friday, March 24th. If you are available, I hope you are able to join me at one of them. At 9am I will be at PERKS (1045 N Main St) in Henderson and at 12pm I will be at the Stromsburg Public Library (320 Central Street). Food is being provided for lunch, so please RSVP by calling the library at 402-764-7681 so there will be enough for everyone.

Last week I shared an update about LB92, my priority bill. This week I wanted to tell you about another piece of legislation I introduced this year – LB323, a bill to create the Palliative Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program and the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Advisory Council.

Palliative care is an approach that improves quality of life for patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illnesses through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and treatment of pain and other problems besides physical, such as psychosocial and spiritual. Integrating palliative care into mainstream medicine for all patients and families facing serious illness offers an essential opportunity to deliver person-centered and family-focused care, achieve better health, better care, and lower cost. Despite the rising amount of evidence showing its benefits, many professionals mistakenly equate palliative care with end of life and hospice. Because of this lack of understanding of what palliative care is and when it should be provided, there are often barriers preventing access to it.

The purpose of this bill is to improve quality, patient-centered and family-focused care in Nebraska. The bill create the Palliative Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program, which relates to information sharing about palliative care through the department’s website. It would include: continuing education opportunities for professionals around palliative care, delivery of palliative care in the home, information about best practices, ​educational materials and referral information. The purpose of the education program is to maximize the effectiveness of palliative care initiatives in the state by ensuring that comprehensive and accurate information is available to the public, healthcare providers, and healthcare facilities.

The second part of the legislation creates the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Advisory Council. This council brings together health professionals that have palliative care experience and/or experience in palliative care delivery models in a variety of in-patient, outpatient, and community settings with various of populations. The Advisory Council will consult with and advise the Department of Health and Human Services on matters relating to palliative care initiatives, especially the educational components that would go on the we​bsite. Significant advances in medicine have meant many of us will live longer and also live better, even in the face of serious illness. Helping patients and their families achieve these dual outcomes, longer life and higher quality of life, is a key objective of palliative care.

As many of you know, my wife is battling pancreatic cancer.  I learned about palliative care as we moved forward with her illness and her treatments.  Suzanne was placed on palliative care in July of last year.  It was an eye-opening experience for us to discover all the ways this service can help us through her journey.  I want other families to have the same resources we found, and this bill will go a long way in making sure that happens.

This bill advanced unanimously out of committee and has been placed on General File. I appreciate my colleagues recognizing the benefits of this program.

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. David 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.

 

March 10th – LB92

March 10th, 2017

Each year Senators are given the opportunity to select one bill to designate as their personal priority.  This year, the bill I chose to designate is LB92, a bill to require certain health carriers to provide coverage for certain services delivered through telehealth.  LB92 advanced out of committee unanimously and has no fiscal note, meaning it will not have a cost burden on the state of Nebraska.

Under this legislation, health insurance companies are required to cover any service offered through telehealth that is already covered for an in-person consultation.  Currently, even though many doctors have embraced telehealth technology, some have been reluctant to utilize it because they do not know whether insurers will reimburse them.  This reimbursement policy is already in place for state Medicaid, and it only makes sense that we would extend it to those covered by individual or group health insurance plans.

Initially, I was unfamiliar with exactly what telemedicine meant, but learned it is the use of advanced telecommunications and other technologies exchanged in real time via electronic communication between sites to monitor patient health status.  Tools that can be utilized to deliver telemedicine include networked programs, point-to-point connections, monitoring centers, or web e-based e-health patient service sites. I like to think of it as “Facetime” with a medical professional.

Under this legislation, services provided include primary care, specialist referral services, remote patient monitoring, consumer medical and health information, consultation, diagnosis, and health education to patients.

I believe telemedicine is particularly important in assuring timely and effective delivery of health services to vulnerable populations such as individuals in rural areas, low-income individuals, and individuals with mobility impairments. Telemedicine provides the opportunity for alternative delivery of care and cost saving opportunities for plans, providers, and beneficiaries.

I truly believe that this tool, designed to serve smaller communities that have health clinics but few if any full-time doctors, is incredibly valuable to Nebraskans. As we consider the shortage of doctors and practitioners throughout the state, especially in the rural areas, it is important for us to utilize all the options in reaching our entire population with vital services. Telehealth consultations can also be significantly less expensive than an in-person doctor visit.

I believe it is time for Nebraska to expand telehealth services across the state and eliminate any doubt for doctors and patients that these services are covered by insurance.  My colleagues agreed with me, and the bill was advanced to Select File earlier this week with strong support.

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. David 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.

 

 

 

As a state Senator I am often faced with interesting and complex issues that I hadn’t spent much time thinking about prior to being asked to look at these policy issues while serving in office.  One of those issues we have heard a lot about in recent years is the issue of medical marijuana.  As the country grapples with the legalization of this substance that has been around for years, in Nebraska we are looking at two pieces of legislation that deal with the topic.  These two bills are Senator Wishart’s LB 622, which would allow the legalization of medical marijuana in Nebraska, and Senator Ebke’s LB 167, which reschedules cannabidiol in a drug product approved by the FDA into Schedule V of the Nebraska Controlled Substances Act.

Under Senator Ebke’s legislation, upon FDA approval, rescheduling by the DEA will take place and take care of federal law, but Epidiolex (a drug currently in phase 3 of FDA testing) would be rescheduled in each state, including Nebraska. This bill allows the legislature to proactively reschedule cannbidiol in an FDA approved product, ensuring Epidiolex will be available to patients in Nebraska as soon as federal approval and rescheduling is complete.  I was glad to see Ebke introduce this legislation, as I believe it’s a way for people to access the drug, getting the help they need while going through proper and regulated channels. I believe it is an appropriate way for Nebraska to handle this issue through a common sense approach.

While LB 622 was brought with similar intentions of allowing Nebraska citizens who need this drug for appropriate treatment an avenue to access it, I feel the legislation is too broad.  Additionally, I have concerns about the creation of the new program to administer the drug, which I fear could cost additional money that the state does not have at this time.  I very much empathize with citizens who suffer from medical conditions that respond positively to cannabidiol, but believe we need to make sure we are putting the proper regulations in place when they access this substance. I believe LB 167 works within the current framework while allowing those suffering from certain medical conditions that ability to access the substance they need.  I am hopeful the process will move forward quickly so those who need this substance have the ability to access it legally in Nebraska in the near future.

Another piece of legislation I support is LB 645 introduced by Senator Pansing-Brooks, which would add a definition of dyslexia to Nebraska statute, designating it as a specific learning disability.  While this law may seem simple in nature, I believe it is important, as once dyslexia is identified as a specific learning disability, children with this disability will able to access the resources available through school based learning disability programs in Nebraska.

Finally, one of the more interesting pieces of legislation I learned about this year, and one I will be supporting, is LB 506, brought by Senator Albrecht.  Under this legislation, a physician who diagnoses an unborn child as having a lethal fetal anomaly would provide the family with information provided by the Department of Health and Human Services pertaining to perinatal hospice care, including access to a list of perinatal hospice programs available in Nebraska and nationally.  It is my hope that these resources would provide an avenue for families facing this challenging process to gain support from professionals as they go through their experience.  Over the years I have known many families who have faced sad news about their children prior to them being brought into the world.  Whether grieving a child’s death while the child is in the womb or in the world, these resources should be made available to families and I am very supportive of this occurring.

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. David 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.

 

 

 

 

I thought I would take some time this week to share a bit about the importance of hearing from constituents in the district and how important it is for me to connect with you on a regular basis.  With Nebraska’s unique unicameral system, it’s always been widely accepted that the people are the second house in our state.  I truly believe that and have tried throughout my legislative career to keep the constituents as the focus of my service.  Each day I have many opportunities to connect with constituents who visit the legislature.

Today, as an example, I started my morning connecting with rural superintendents and administrators at the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association breakfast, and I finished my evening at a dinner with teachers from the district who are members of the NSEA. At both meetings we visited about education policy as well as the much discussed topic of education funding as it relates to property taxes.

Last week I was able to spend time with members of the Leadership York class, Educational Service Unit 7 representatives, and the Bottlerocket Boys from Bottlerocket Brewery.  Each of these visits were productive in that we were able to discuss legislation that will impact each of these groups in some way.  Constituents shared their views on the legislation with me and I was able to provide them feedback about where I stood on the issues.  These are only a sampling of the types of meetings that take place regularly each and every week the legislature is in session.  It’s not uncommon for me to be invited to two or three events for breakfast and lunch every day.  I always try to attend when I know constituents will be present, as it gives me a great opportunity to connect with them and learn about the bills that are important to them, the legislation that might impact them, or emerging issues in their industries or businesses.  It’s often difficult to be at all of the events, but I do try to attend as many as I can.

Another way I try to connect with constituents is by visiting with them when they stop by the State Capitol.  In addition to the many school classes that visit on a regular basis, we also have groups and organizations who hold special days visiting the session.  If you are part of those groups or are just passing through, you can always give a note to the “red coats” who are positioned right outside of the legislative Chamber.  They will bring the note to me, indicating you are present.  If I am not engaged in an issue on the floor, I may be able to step outside the Chamber for a few minutes. This is a good way for an impromptu conversation or just to say hello.  People visiting the state Capitol are also welcome to stop by my office in room 2004 and visit with my staff.  Katie and David can help you set up an appointment with me or answer questions about legislation.  If you have specific questions about the Retirement Committee, my legal counsel Kate Allen is a wealth of knowledge and great at working through retirement issues with citizens who have inquiries.

 

Sen. Mark Kolterman

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