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My first session as a Nebraska State Senator was been eye-opening, frustrating, exhilarating, gratifying, humbling and exhausting. If you think this sounds like every emotion in the book, you are correct!
The state’s budget shortfall hovered over every vote. I am pleased we did not raise taxes to meet our state obligations, but I do not believe the use of transfers from cash funds to plug financial holes is a long term solution.
As state officials, we must act responsibly and not overspend the tax-payers’ money. Just as a family must make hard decisions and change spending habits when money is tight, so too, must the state.
I am concerned tougher financial decisions lay ahead of us, since the one time money has already been depleted in the current budget and it will not be available in the future.
As a new senator, I was assigned to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. I was also honored to be chosen to serve as Vice Chair of the Nebraska Legislative Performance Audit Committee.
I really enjoy the diversity of my committees and am immersing myself in the issues.
I introduced three bills this session. All three were voted out of committee with two being debated and passed by the full body this year.
I introduced LB154 on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources to eliminate a $10 nuisance fee that was required when a dam is completed. It was costing the Department more money in time and resources to collect the fee than the amount it generated.
LB164 was amended into a larger Transportation Committee bill to modernize a few areas of law for the Department of Motor Vehicles. Nebraskans’ personal information when they register motorboats, ATVs, snowmobiles and minibikes is now protected at the same level as other motor vehicle records. The new law also allows the Department of Transportation to send the Motor Vehicle Accident Report electronically to the Department of Motor Vehicles, saving time and money.
Each session, senators are allowed to select one priority bill, insuring it will be considered ahead of other bills. I chose LB271, introduced by my good friend, Senator Mike Hilgers.
LB271 allows the Nebraska Department of Transportation to assume responsibility for reviews of environmental, social and economic effects of proposed transportation projects in Nebraska. This will speed up road projects like the East Beltway and save taxpayer money.
I am pleased the bill passed with zero “no” votes and was signed into law by Governor Ricketts in April.
While the more contentious topics where heavily publicized, the Legislature quietly tackled many important issues this year. One example is LB166, introduced by Senator Mark Kolterman.
This new law allows patients being dismissed from an emergency room to receive small amounts of medications when a retail pharmacy is not open during evening or weekend hours in our rural or underserved urban communities.
Near the end of this session, the Legislature passed LR127, creating the Nebraska Justice System Special Oversight Committee. This special committee provides oversight of the Nebraska Department of Corrections and the role of state agencies and their involvement in the justice system.
I was chosen to serve on the committee, along with five other members of the legislature and Senator Ebke, the Judiciary Committee Chair. We are busy visiting the correctional facilities around the state and speaking with staff and inmates.
If we want to provide real solutions to the obstacles facing our Department of Corrections, we must work together across agency lines and branches of government. I am heartened by so many who are willing to do just that.
While the session had its challenges, it is an honor to work with my fellow senators and serve the citizens of Legislative District 25!
If you need assistance or have a question, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Capitol office, 402-471-2731.