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

Weekly Column – March 29th
March 29th, 2019

In this week’s column, I want to highlight another bill of mine.   At the beginning of session, I introduced LB 607 on behalf of the Board of Cosmetology, Electrology, Esthetics, Nail Technology and Body Art.  LB 607 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.

First and foremost, LB 607 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 607, the act of pedicuring fell under the definition of manicuring, but the practice was never defined itself.

LB 607 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 607, the Health and Human Services Committee heard from numerous industry professionals who expressed the need for this legislation, particularly the 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.

I want to highlight the experience of Niki.  Niki received a pedicure in June of 2018 by an individual not licensed.  Since that person was not licensed, they used a “cheese grater” foot file, a tool that is prohibited for use by licensed individuals.  Unfortunately, Niki developed a flesh-eating infection.  In the past eight months, Niki has received five surgeries, most recently to amputate her leg to hopefully stem the infection from spreading.  Her amputation occurred hours after the hearing on LB 607.

Niki is just one example.  Unfortunately, there are numerous other lawsuits that have been brought to my attention relating to incidences due to unlicensed individuals providing these types of services that have resulted in harm to the customer.  At this time, LB 607 remains in the Health and Human Services Committee even though the bill reduces barriers to enter the practice and provides for greater opportunities for our body artists while increasing public health 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. 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 22nd
March 22nd, 2019

In this week’s column, I want to highlight bills of mine that were discussed in committee last week.  On Tuesday, March 12, I introduced three bills, LB 379, a bill that changes provisions under the Delayed Deposit Services Licensing Act and the Nebraska Installment Loan Act, LB 27, a bill that changes provisions related to the budgetary process of community colleges, and LB 669 which would appropriate $15 million dollars to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for the sole purpose of pancreatic cancer research.

LB 379 was introduced to address two issues identified following the adoption of LB 194, a bill to reform the delayed deposit services industry last year.  LB 379 requires delayed deposit service operators to license under the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System.  Under current law, licensed delayed deposit companies are the only entities that are not required to use this system when licensing with the State.

Secondly, the bill allows for delayed deposit services online, with an additional licensing fee, as long as that licensee has at least one principle place of business within the state.  Consumers want to access credit online, and the reality is our constituents are already accessing these loans online, just through a lender that is not licensed and regulated by this state.  LB 379 allows Nebraskans a safe, regulated source for that short term, small dollar credit.

LB 379 advanced from the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee and has been named a priority bill by the Speaker of the Legislature.

LB 27 was introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Community College Association.  LB 27 would allow community colleges to have greater flexibility in their budgeting process by removing the 2 cent capitol levy distinction and merging that fund with their general fund.  This would allow for dollars currently allocated for general fund use to be used for capital improvements or for money currently allocated for capital improvements to be used for general fund purposes.  LB 27 simply allows for greater flexibility.  LB 27 did not receive any opposition during the hearing, but remains in the Education Committee.

Finally, I want to address LB 669, a bill that means a lot to me.  LB 669 is a bill that allocates $15 million dollars from the Health Care Cash Fund to create a Center of Excellence at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that would focus on pancreatic cancer research.  Before any state dollars are appropriated from the cash fund, the University must raise $15 million dollars in private funds for this same purpose, thus creating a public/private partnership to research this terrible disease.

My involvement in this proposal is unfortunately based on personal experience.  I lost my beautiful wife Suzanne to pancreatic cancer about 18 months ago. Her diagnosis came without warning, as she was the picture of health until she began noticing symptoms. This made a huge impact on our lives and continues to impact them daily.  In visiting with medical professionals on how to screen for this cancer, it quickly became evident that there is no such screening available and that there is little they can do to prevent the onset.

LB 669 has been endorsed by the Board of Regents and now we are working on funding the Center.  This can’t bring Suzanne back, but it’s my hope that it will help many in the generations to come as UNMC focuses on pancreatic cancer research and treatments. Our goal is that one day they will discover a screening that can prevent and prepare families for this type of situation.

The reality is that currently there is inadequate focus on this specific type of cancer and it is considered underfunded in research, largely because of how rare it is and its high mortality rate.  The Nebraska Legislature sadly learned this lesson this week.  On Wednesday, the Legislature lost a true icon who had been with the institution for fifty years to pancreatic cancer.  During her tenure, she mentored over 1200 college students who signed up for the Legislative Page program, some of whom have gone on to do great things and some who have become state senators or even members of the United States House of Representatives.  All of us at the Legislature will miss her dearly.

We should think about Suzanne, the former Mayor of Seward, Bob Elwell, and our fellow citizens who are facing this disease and undergoing treatment.  I believe in UNMC and the work they are doing and I wish them the best as they look for a screening, new treatments, and maybe someday, a cure and I pray the Appropriations Committee incorporates LB 669 into the budget.

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.

March 15th – Weekly Column
March 15th, 2019

First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been impacted by the wild range of weather that has affected our state over the past week.  The flooding throughout the state is nothing like I have ever seen before.  I want to thank our local and state emergency management officials, first responders, and volunteers who are risking everything to save others.  If you need help finding housing, food, or any other help related to this natural disaster affecting our state, please call 2-1-1 to talk to a specialist near you.  211 is a free, community resource hotline that is available to the public provided by the Heartland United Way.  211 is a wonderful service for individuals when they need basic services such as food banks, clothing, or shelter, health services, and/or emotional support.

I urge you to take caution as you travel throughout the state.  As of Friday, March 15, at least four bridges in the State have washed out or been damaged.  These bridges are at Highway 12 at Niobrara, Highway 22 just south of Genoa, Highway 281 south of Spencer, and Highway 11 just south of Butte.  Flooding continues to run over numerous roadways and bridges.  If you come across water over the roadway, do not drive through it and do not drive around barricades or flagged closures.  Due to the adverse travel conditions around the state, please check 511 prior to leaving.   511 provides the most up to date travel conditions and is available by dialing 5-1-1 or online at www.511.nebraska.gov.  The Nebraska State Patrol highway helpline is available 24 hours per day for motorists in need of assistance by dialing *55.  Remember, if you are in an emergency, always call 911.

Another component of this situation in our state is the impact the blizzard and flooding has had on the livestock across Nebraska, specifically on Nebraska’s cattle men and woman during calving season.  Often low pressure systems can bring an uptick in animal births, and in Nebraska it was literally a perfect storm of new calves being born and farmers and ranchers struggling to reach them due to blizzard conditions or floodwaters.  In some cases, we are hearing stories of entire herds of cattle being swept away in floodwaters.  Our ranch families often spend years building up their herds, and losing many of them in one catastrophic event is almost unfathomable.

Through all of these situations, whether flood devastation, cattle loss, and even the loss of some of our Nebraskan neighbors as they have rushed to help others, I am heartened by the outpouring of love and generosity of Nebraska’s people.  As we continue to lift each other up in prayer, we also see true engagement from our fellow citizens as they prepare to open their homes to house their neighbors who have been displaced, as they fill sandbags, as they risk their own lives to save others, and as they provide necessities to our citizens in need.

Maybe I am unique, but in true times of crisis such as the one we are facing, I don’t worry about our state.  Nebraskans know how to pick themselves up, dust off their boots, and go to work rebuilding.  We have seen it time and time again following tornadoes, floods, fires, and other devastation.  We are a hearty bunch, and even if you don’t see that on the national nightly news – that doesn’t matter – because it’s happening everywhere across our state right now.  Although District #24 has had challenges with flooding and loss – our situation should leave us thankful that the loss was not worse.  I am confident that once we are back on our feet, we will reach out to the rest of Nebraska that was not quite as lucky.

Please know that as your state Senator, I will do everything I can do to advocate for the resources for our area needed to repair and rebuild.  Nebraska’s emergency management officials, the Nebraska National Guard, the Nebraska State Patrol, the Nebraska Department of Roads, and the many elected and appointed officials across our district have been wonderful in their proactive approach, their commitment to keeping our families safe, and their service.   Again, I thank them.

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.

 

State Sen. Mark Kolterman hopes the state will allocate $15 million and private donors will provide another $15 million to fight the disease that took his wife’s life.

Suzanne Kolterman died in November 2017 of pancreatic cancer, a disease that crept up on her with little notice. By the time it was diagnosed, she had advanced cancer and only 18 months to live.

The senator said his legislative bill, which was heard Tuesday by the Appropriations Committee, isn’t about him. He already endured his wife’s death and there’s no going back.

But Kolterman, of Seward, would like to see the University of Nebraska Medical Center receive a big chunk of money for pancreatic cancer research so that the disease can be detected earlier and, possibly, cured. The money would bolster a program that already is known nationally for pancreatic cancer research.

The committee hearing made it evident that Kolterman’s proposal has competition. At least three other programs sought money from the state’s health care cash fund Tuesday, and more than 20 already are drawing a total of at least $61 million from it this year. Members of the committee said they want to be cautious in the use of that fund. State Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln asked Kolterman if there were other sources of money for his concept.

“I know it’s a big ask,” Kolterman said of his request. “I appreciate the fact that we’re dealing with limited funds.”

UNMC is one of three National Cancer Institute Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) in pancreatic cancer. The two others are the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Washington University in St. Louis.

Kolterman’s bill, Legislative Bill 669, would draw $15 million from the state’s health care cash fund. UNMC would have to raise $15 million in matching money from donors before receiving the state funds.

The National Cancer Institute says SPORE programs “must demonstrate a high degree of collaboration between first-rate scientists and clinicians” and show excellence in translational research, which moves a project from the lab to the patient clinic.

UNMC is working on treatments, earlier detection and other elements in the fight against pancreatic cancer. The American Cancer Society said the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer from 2008-14 was the lowest — 9 percent — of all of the cancers listed.

The society estimated that 270 Nebraskans and 480 Iowans will die of pancreatic cancer this year. Nationwide, the estimate is 45,750.

UNMC is near the conclusion of a five-year grant of $11.5 million for pancreatic cancer research through the federal SPORE initiative.

“We’re known nationally as being a center” for pancreatic cancer research, said Michael “Tony” Hollingsworth, a professor and pancreatic-disease scientist at UNMC.

Among those who spoke Tuesday in support of Kolterman’s proposal were Shirley Young, whose husband, Jim (Union Pacific’s CEO), died of pancreatic cancer in 2014; UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey Gold, whose father, Arthur, died of the disease in 2012; and UNMC oncologist James Armitage, whose wife, Nancy, died of it in 2017.

“I really think this is an opportunity to do something important,” Armitage said in an interview.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey also testified in favor of Kolterman’s proposal.

Kolterman said he wants UNMC to maximize its strength in pancreatic cancer research. “The point is, we have a gem in our backyard here in Nebraska,” Kolterman said in an interview early this week.

He said UNMC physicians and staffers gave his wife good care, and she lived much longer than the Mayo Clinic suggested she would.

“We had a wonderful 18 months,” he said. The Koltermans took three grandchildren to Hawaii in August 2017.

“She promised them she would take them there, and she fulfilled her promise,” he said.

While his grandchildren call him Grandpa, he said, they had an unusual name for their grandmother. He fondly recalled that they just called her Kolterman.

 

https://www.omaha.com/livewellnebraska/health/senator-who-lost-wife-to-pancreatic-cancer-seeks-million-from/article_f2e8a8fb-fb11-5460-b67d-769f7b4e0bc8.html?fbclid=IwAR3F3OJgnhuHWOdst2Qjc5PNm81U6aYlkmZ6Y5a1aNQ09YsdnTEgUNhF75E

When vendors have been unable to meet the terms of the state contracts, the resulting cancellations have cost Nebraska millions in recent years.

If the state were able to nip potentially problematic contracts in the bud, before they cost taxpayers too much or resulted in embarrassing failures, it should presumably save money. Fiscal prudence benefits all Nebraskans.

Sen. Mark Kolterman has proposed creating an appeals process for companies that believe agencies have awarded contracts in error. He believes – as does the Journal Star editorial board – the addition of judicial review to state contracts exceeding $5 million will provide another layer of security to ensure Nebraskans’ tax dollars are spent wisely.

The Journal Star’s Chris Dunker detailed shortcomings in Nebraska’s existing procurement laws and how single-source contracts and the lack of a judicial review process have been problematic. A company that felt it should have been able to bid on a 2017 Department of Labor contract awarded without a bid, for instance, had no formal avenue to protest when the deal was awarded to another vendor.

At the time, business attorneys and state senators worried the lack of such recourse – which most states have in some fashion – hurt Nebraska’s reputation. Driving away bidders and deterring competition, they surmised, costs us all.

Then, consider a pair of technology upgrades that Nebraska formally canceled last December, for instance. The projects cost the state – and its taxpayers – about $6 million apiece before new administrators pulled the plug following a reviewing of the progress.

Nebraska got little more than heartburn for that $12 million. State officials decided to make do for the time being with one system while pursuing an update through a different vendor for the other. A transition to streamline payroll and personnel operations was estimated by the Department of Administrative Services to run $12 million over budget before it was canceled.

We applaud these officials for cutting their losses – which are all of ours, too – before additional cost overruns. We believe that Kolterman’s proposal decreases the likelihood the state finds itself in this type of fiscal pickle going forward.

The Seward senator expressed a willingness to craft “a process everyone can live with.” That process will need to be designed to address such matters expediently, calming state officials’ concern over an appeals process they fear could delay projects.

But cost-effectiveness by and confidence in state government must drive this idea. As Labor Commissioner John Albin told the Journal Star about the 2017 contract: “I’d rather suffer a little bit of embarrassment being late than a lot of embarrassment in a failure.”

As would all Nebraskans, we presume. Hence, extra protection against a failure makes sense for the state’s procurement process.

 

https://journalstar.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-closing-gaps-in-procurement-process-good-for-taxpayers/article_59b8f84b-dde3-51df-bb68-8bc95fbeaa8f.html

Weekly Column – March 8th
March 11th, 2019

In this week’s column, I would like to discuss LB 720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act with you a second time.  This week, on March 6, the Revenue Committee held the hearing on LB 720.  As a reminder, LB 720 will increase the value of the incentive program to the Nebraska tax payer through better investments, better jobs, more robust reporting and more overall transparency as compared to the Nebraska Advantage Act.  LB 720 accelerates the value of the tax credit by simplifying the process, will increase the competitiveness of the program by increasing the Net Present Value of tax credits, thus helping Nebraska to win more projects and other opportunities for our state.  Finally, LB 720 will allow the State to build stronger relationships with businesses in order to encourage greater levels of investment and will allow the Department of Economic Development to better understand the needs of businesses and the evolution of business thinking in real time.

During the hearing that lasted approximately four and a half hours, the Revenue Committee heard from testimony from the Director of Department of Economic Development, Dave Rippe, Chad Denton on behalf of the State Chamber of Commerce, Walker Zulkowski on behalf of the Nebraska Economic Developers Association, David Brown on behalf of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, David Arnold on behalf of Buildertrend and Andy Hunzeker on behalf of Lincoln Industries, all of whom argued feverously that LB 720 is a critical piece of legislation that our state needs in order to grow the state.

The Revenue Committee also received letters expressing their support of the legislation from the City of Lincoln, the North Platte Area Chamber & Development, Advanced Power Alliance, Novozymes, Great Plains Communication, Omaha Public Power District, the United Cities of Sarpy County, First Five Nebraska, and the Nebraska Public Power District.

I completely agree with those who expressed support, both in person and via letter.  LB 720 is a critical piece of legislation for our state.  I am very passionate and am on record in finding ways to lower Nebraska’s already high property and income tax burden but I also believe if we cannot provide a competitive package to attract businesses to invest or to even relocate to Nebraska, there will be no money available for any type of tax relief and there will be less money for education.  If we, as a state, do not provide business incentives to recruit new industry to our state, I believe we will hurt the opportunities of our children and our grandchildren.

I am not alone in this effort.  I am thankful for all of those who testified in support of growing Nebraska.  I am honored that 21 of my colleagues from all corners of the state and of all political persuasions have cosponsored the ImagiNE Nebraska Act to ensure our state’s economic future in this ever changing global environment.  Having incentives to help grow our tax base is critical for our children’s future, for tax relief, and for job opportunities down the road.

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.

​​Nebraska needs to do far more to incentivize state agencies to hold to a high standard in managing contracts. The state could have much greater success in attracting additional qualified companies to bid on major projects if it remedied the shortcomings in its procurement process, including the handling of appeals by unsuccessful bidders.

A 2017 article for the Nebraska state bar bluntly described problems, saying the state’s current appeals procedures “fail to account for the potential that agencies awarding state contracts sometimes make mistakes or fail to follow applicable agency rules, laws, official guidance or the term of the RFP at issue.”

The appeals process for unsuccessful bidders contains “no discernible standards of any kind, nor any limits on (the deciding agency’s) discretion,” the article stated. Nebraska could greatly boost the competition for bids if it remedied such problems, the article said.

Several years ago, the stat​​e needed to create a large-scale replacement of its Medicaid eligibility software. The state chose a small Arizona company for a $50 million contract over a Fortune 100 company with extensiv​​e experience in such software. The Arizona company ultimately failed at its duties, and the state pulled the plug midway through the contract — after $7 million in state tax dollars had been spent, for naught.

A similar failure involved another terminated computer project, with $5 million in state losses. Including federal dollars, the losses on the two projects totaled $60 million.

The Nebraska official who terminated the Medicaid software contract was Kerry Winterer. Last month Winterer, a former head of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, testified before a legislative committee to voice strong support for legislation to address flaws in the state’s procurement process.

Legislative Bill 21, by State Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, would insist that the state follow a sounder appeals process. Unsuccessful bidders on projects exceeding $5 million would have a clearer, formalized process to present evidence and advocate their cause to the state.

An unsuccessful bidder would be able to appeal to District Court. More than half the states, including Iowa, Missouri and Colorado, use such an approach. Having an independent agent, a judge, scrutinize the state’s procurement process would go far to spur state agencies to adhere to rigorous professional standards for contracts, Kolterman and other testifiers told the committee.

Opponents say that allowing a court appeal would cause delays and increase costs. The fiscal note for LB 21 is about $200,000 annually for handling appeals.

But the state is already experiencing delays — an example is the on-again, off-again status of state contracting for child welfare in the Omaha area. And the current system already can have high costs, as shown by the $12 million in state funds in wasted spending on the computer contracts.

The committee should forward LB 21 to the full Legislature so state senators can debate the pros and cons on this important issue. Nebraska state contracting deserves such scrutiny by the Legislature. LB 21 provides an important opportunity to understand the current problems and decide whether Kolterman’s proposal is the best solution.

Weekly Column – March 1st
March 1st, 2019

Throughout the course of each legislative session, I often become engaged in legislation that is brought by other State Senators.  From time to time I become aware of this legislation by visiting with my colleagues or by hearing from constituents.  As I learn about bills that are of interest to my constituents, I may investigate them further, and if it is a piece of legislation I am supportive of, I will sign onto the legislation.

One of the bills that was brought to my attention by farmers from District #24 is LB 227, a bill brought by State Senator Dan Hughes, which would update Nebraska’s state Right to Farm Act.  As it was originally written in 1982, Nebraska’s Right to Farm Act would maintain that a farm or public grain warehouse cannot be found to be a public or private nuisance if it existed before a change in the land use or occupancy of land in its locality and would not have been a nuisance prior to the change.  LB 227, however, would extend that protection to a farm or public grain warehouse if there is “no significant change” in the type of operation and if the farm or warehouse has been in operation for at least one year and was not a nuisance at the time it began.  Additionally a “significant change” would not include a conversion of one type of farm or warehouse to another, a change in the size or ownership of the operation, the enrollment, reduction or cessation of participation in a government program or the operation’s adoption of new technology.  Finally, the farm or grain warehouse could not be found a nuisance if “reasonable techniques” are used to keep dust, noise, insects and odors to a minimum and the farm or grain warehouse complies with applicable laws and regulations, including the zoning regulations of local governing bodies.

Many farm organizations supported this legislation and I was happy to sign on as a cosponsor.  Preserving our farms in Nebraska is critical to the success of our state.  Livestock production specifically is a key economic driver. In 2016, the University of Nebraska reported roughly 56 percent of all agriculture commodity sales in Nebraska were attributed to livestock.  The analysis also estimates that the direct economic impact of livestock production in Nebraska is $8.5 billion.  The livestock sector also plays a role beyond direct impacts. It is estimated that when you take into account crop production, food processors, wholesalers, and transportation businesses, for each $1 spent in direct economic impact from livestock, an additional $.62 in sales is generated outside the agriculture production complex. Using this multiplier impact, the total impact from livestock production across Nebraska is closer to $13.8 billion.

When you stop to look at the analysis related to job creation from this industry, a 2012 report by the University stated that livestock production in Nebraska has approximately 41,000 jobs related directly to the industry.  The estimated $13.8 billion is considered to be a conservative estimate, as it does not include these economic impacts in related industries, nor does it include the wage income in those sectors – but it does significantly demonstrate the impact of livestock on the state.

Estimates show that 49% of all Nebraska farms and ranches are involved in some type of livestock or poultry production.  As of the beginning of 2018, Nebraska ranked #1 in the nation with cattle in feedlots with a capacity of more than 1,000 head.  According the 2017 data, Nebraska was first in commercial red meat production and second among all states in both cash receipts from all livestock and products and the number of raised cattle and calves.

While serving in the Legislature, I have worked with our local counties to make sure they were taking advantage of this booming industry, offering support for York, Polk, and Seward Counties as they considered becoming Livestock Friendly counties. I have also encouraged and supported individual farm families who have approached me about starting or growing a livestock operation.  We are fortunate in District #24 that our counties have established fair and clear guidelines for livestock operations, providing designated areas of our counties where livestock can coexist on family farms with small communities and rural neighbors in the region.  Properly managed operations that follow zoning and environmental guidelines allow for expansion and growth in this industry, while also allowing for a buffer from urban or suburban areas.

At its core, District #24 is driven by agriculture and it is my hope that our farm families will continue to be supported by their neighbors as they move forward in diversifying their agriculture incomes, while preserving their farms for future generations.  In many cases, starting or expanding a livestock operation is a way a family can bring a child back or keep a child on the family farm. And as Nebraskans, I believe that is something we all can get behind.

LB 227 would update our current state statutes related to “Right to Farm” and would address the growing challenge of a population further and further removed from the day-to-day operation of family farms. I’m hopeful this legislation will become law and I look forward to the continuation of growth in District #24 related to agriculture.

 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 22nd
February 22nd, 2019

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 21 which will provide a formal protest procedure for state contracts exceeding five million dollars which was heard in the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee on February 20.

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 decision.  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.

Kerry Winterer, the former CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services who terminated the contract, testified in support of the legislation.  He said the bill will create an efficient, effective and unbiased process that would provide confidence in the state as well as vendors.  Former United States Senator David Karnes testified in favor of the legislation on behalf of the IT Alliance for Public Sector, who represents companies who often bid on state contracts such as Oracle, Facebook, Dell, and Microsoft.

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.

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.

 

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony Feb. 20 on two bills that would change state contracting rules.

Brewer said the proposal would prohibit the state or any political subdivision from giving preference to union or non-union contractors when it accepts bids for contracts. He said he was unaware of any situation in which the state had done so.Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon introduced LB151, which would adopt the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act. Under the bill, a request for bids could not require or prohibit contractors or subcontractors from entering into or adhering to a collective bargaining agreement.

“We just want to make sure the state isn’t playing favorites,” Brewer said.

David Chapin, chairperson of Associated Builders and Contractors, testified in favor of the bill. He said LB151 could prevent the state from entering into a project labor agreement—a collective bargaining agreement that details the terms of the contract before bidding begins. Such agreements drive up costs, he said.

“It’s a free-market issue,” Chapin said.

Electrical contractor Jay Buchanan also testified in favor of LB151. He said project labor agreements discriminate against the majority of workers who are non-union.

“It spits in the face of fair and open competition,” Buchanan said, adding that 24 states have outlawed project labor agreements.

Felicia Hilton of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters spoke against the bill. She said project labor agreements generally are used for large construction projects, like a football stadium, and are a valuable tool for states and municipalities.

“There’s nothing in state law that encourages or discourages use of these type of agreements, and it should stay that way,” Hilton said. “It makes no sense to ban the state from using this tool.”

Also testifying against the bill was Susan Martin of the Nebraska State AFL-CIO. Project labor agreements provide clear boundaries and expectations for a project, Martin said, leading to higher productivity and better pay for workers.

“The use of PLAs does not restrict competition by shutting out non-union contractors,” Martin said. “PLAs simply create a level playing field for all contractors by standardizing labor conditions on a project.”

The committee also considered LB21 introduced by Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman. The bill would allow a company to formally protest if it failed to secure a state contact that exceeds $5 million. The state Department of Administrative Services would create a protest procedure that would include a hearing within 60 days of a formal protest being filed.

“By not allowing judicial review, it puts Nebraska at a disadvantage,” Kolterman said.Kolterman said the current appeal process is flawed, causing contractors to refuse to do business in the state.

Attorney Tom Kenny spoke in favor of LB21. It would fill in gaps in Nebraska’s bidding process, he said, and safeguard taxpayer money.

“We have large contractors come to us and say ‘what do you mean you don’t have a protest process?’ ” Kenny said. “That differs from other states, significantly.”

Also testifying in favor of LB21 was Kerry Winterer, former CEO of the state Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, he said, appeals are decided solely by the state Department of Administrative Services. As a result, in the past appeals often led to lawsuits, he said, causing the agency to delay a project while litigation worked its way through the courts.

“[Under LB21] litigation may well decline in the future as court precedents are set,” Winterer said.

Bo Botelho, interim CEO of DHHS, testified against the bill. He said the current appeal process takes three to six weeks, and allows a contractor to submit evidence and cross examine witnesses, “just like a court.”

Botelho added that LB21 would increase the likelihood of litigation and delay projects.

The committee took no immediate action on either bill.

Bills seek changes in state contracting

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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