Welcome!

January 8th, 2014

Thank you for visiting my website! It has been my privilege since 2006 to represent District 26 (northeast Lincoln) in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns about legislation or our state government. I am always eager to learn what issues are affecting you and your families. I can be reached by phone at (402) 471-2610, by email at amcgill@leg.ne.gov, or in my office at the Capitol (Room 1212). My staff and I are always here to listen and help, so don’t hesitate to stop by or give us a call.

Thank you for your participation in the legislative process, and I hope to serve you well!

CASA Program Asking for More Money to Expand

April 2nd, 2013

Janteice Holston and her brothers spent most of their lives in Nebraska foster care, with brief reunifications with their mother.

Through 15 placements beginning a year or so after her birth, one person became a dependable port in Holston’s stormy childhood — her court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer, Diana Drew of Trumbull. Drew came into her life when Holston, now 21, was in fourth grade.

The CASA volunteer got things moving for the kids, Holston said. A lot of behind-the-scenes information wasn’t coming out in meetings and court hearings. Drew took time to get to know Holston and her brothers and was able to represent their interests.

“Anything that we needed, she was always there for,” Holston said.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to speak in court for the safety and well-being of an abused or neglected child.

Corrie Kielty, executive director of CASA, said more volunteers like Drew are needed in Nebraska to represent state wards. A bill (LB126) that will get a hearing Tuesday with the Appropriations Committee would ensure more volunteers are recruited and trained for the many children in the child welfare system waiting for help.

The bill, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, asks the Legislature to appropriate $500,000 in each of the next two fiscal years to help that effort, Kielty said. In the past two years, the state provided $300,000 to CASA for recruiting, training and expanding the programs.

That helped to increase the number of volunteers from 412 in 2010 to 634 in 2012.

But in the 37 counties served by 22 CASA programs, 1,665 children are waiting for volunteers, she said. About 750 to 800 more people are needed to fill that need.

New volunteers must have 30 hours of training before they can serve children, and current volunteers must have 12 hours a year of ongoing training.

Kielty said studies show a child served by a CASA volunteer spends four to five fewer months in the child welfare system. If every child had a volunteer, that reduction in care would amount to an estimated $12.5 million a month.

Children with CASA volunteers also have fewer placement changes, she said.

The organization will hold a gala March 23 at The Cornhusker to raise money. Holston will speak at the dinner and auction.

Her younger brother, who is still in the system, has lived with her in Hastings for about seven months. Drew is his CASA worker but also checks in frequently with Holston to see whether she needs anything.

Every foster child should have a CASA worker, Holston said.

“It’s really just a good support system,” she said. “You have that one person that’s not paid to be there. … They go out of their way to actually see you. And they’re on your side, more than anything.”

When a lot of other people were letting her down, Drew was there for her.

“She just really helped me learn how to trust people and know that there are good people in the world that I can rely on,” she said. “She has a really good heart.”

- Journal Star: JoAnne Young March 12, 2013

State Senator Says Nebraska Must Address Juvenile Mental Illness

April 2nd, 2013

A state senator says there needs to be an attitude shift on mental illness if Nebraska is to address the problem of juvenile delinquency.

Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln says Nebraska can learn by the strides other states have made.

“There’s still a lot to learn about what mental health care should look like, integrated into that primary care setting. And, that’s the way we’re going,” McGill tells Capitol reporters. “It’s part of a growing national debate, but it also goes along with that attitude shift of people not being ashamed of mental health issues either in themselves or in their children and seeking out the right supports.”

McGill is one of the state senators looking into ways to move Nebraska away from the incarceration of juveniles to treatment. She proposes creating a pilot program specifically addressing mental illness among the state’s youth.

McGill says that not only is treatment needed, but more professionals are needed to offer the treatment.

“And it also means creating the workforce so that when people are seeking out that help that they’re getting quality therapist helping them, quality educated doctors who can make the right prescriptions or send them to therapy as opposed to a prescription,” according to McGill.

McGill says Nebraska also needs to study the work other states are doing in treatment mental illness among the young.

- Nebraska Radio Network: Brent Martin March 15, 2013

Real Women Run Conference Urges Women to Run for Public Offices

April 2nd, 2013

When Sen. Ken Haar asked a crowd of elementary-school-aged kids several years ago to raise their hands if they think the government needs more women, nearly all of them raised their hands.

On Saturday, Haar joined a group of aspiring Nebraska politicians at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in an effort to change that.

The Real Women Run Conference, hosted in the Nebraskan Union’s Georgian Suite, was the third event of its kind to offer women interested in politics the confidence and skills for success. The event gave women from a variety of careers advice on how to run a successful campaign, overcoming thoughts about inadequacy and managing their public image.

“We wanted everyone to know that real women run,” said Kathie Uhrmacher, president of the Women’s Foundation of Lincoln and Lancaster County. “And real women need to run.” The conference was coordinated by the Women’s Foundation of Lincoln and Lancaster County, the YWCA and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Women’s Center. Along with Uhrmacher, State Sens. Amanda McGill and Haar and Haar’s volunteer coordinator Chris Funk gave presentations to a crowd of about 30 women.

“The group of people here are pretty high caliber,” said Shauna Benjamin, regional organizer for Planned Parenthood. Benjamin said the event was a good opportunity to network with bigger names in “progressive” Nebraska politics. Benjamin has worked grassroots political campaigns before and said she enjoys the work.

“I like to get people elected,” Benjamin said. “I’m not sure if I’m the person to be elected.”

Women hold about 18 percent, or 97 seats, in Congress. Lincoln has one woman on city council, and there are only three on the county board of commissioners.

“Women should have a bigger voice if we are 50 percent of the population,” Uhrmacher said.

Avni Srivastav, a junior at Lincoln Southeast High School and a member of the Lincoln Public Schools Entrepreneurship Focus Program, attended Saturday’s event after going to the first event of this series with her mother on Feb. 28 at the Rococo Theater. Srivastav is already involved in local politics, serving as a youth adviser to Mayor Chris Beutler.

Srivastav, who plans to pursue a law degree after high school, said she may be interested in a political career someday.

“A lot of people freak out about ‘OK, I’m a woman,’” Srivastav said. “I don’t think that’s a big deal. I know I can do as many things as I want to.”

McGill, one of 10 female state senators in Nebraska, spoke about controlling your social media image while campaigning and not being afraid of social media because it allows a glimpse of your personality.

“Ultimately, you have to be yourself,” McGill said.

Before McGill was elected to the state legislature six years ago, she was working as a television news reporter as well as at the Nebraska Democratic Party. The party had been struggling to find the right candidate. The thought crossed her mind, but she didn’t really consider it until a colleague told her she should run.

She then called three people and asked them for reasons why she should and shouldn’t run, something she recommended anyone running for office do. She continued to talk to those close to her. A speech coach of hers emphatically said, “Do it.”

“What?” McGill remembered her mother asking when McGill told her she’d decided to run. Not soon after, however, her mother was “totally sold.”

And the political arena is not the only place where women are underrepresented, McGill said. She said while politics is her passion, she wants to help women find their passions elsewhere too.

“I want women to succeed in all walks of life, not just politics,” McGill said.

This conference kicked off a week’s worth of events to celebrate Women’s Week 2013. Throughout the week, leadership luncheons, Shakespeare readings and art shows will be held in the Nebraska Union, Sheldon Museum of Art and East Nebraska Union.

Haar spoke about the ups and downs of his campaign in an effort to explain the dedication a candidate must have to win political office.

“There are times when you’re really up, and you come home after walking, and then there’s time when you want to just sit down and cry,” Haar said.

Women at the event said they think that as the conversation about women in government continues, and stronger communities form, more women can run and win political office.

“If we come together as women, and supporters of women, we can make a difference,” Uhrmacher said.

- Daily Nebraskan: James Pace-Cornsilk March 11, 2013

Amanda McGill to Present on Anti-trafficking Laws to UNA’s Nebraska Chapter

April 2nd, 2013

State Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln will make a presentation on human trafficking legislation for the Nebraska Chapter of the United Nations Association on Monday afternoon.

McGill has been active in the push for anti-trafficking laws in Nebraska and introduced LB255 to the state legislature in February as part of a three-year plan to combat human trafficking in the state, according to her website.

LB255 aims to protect those charged with prostitution if the person involved is a human trafficking victim. The bill would also protect minors from prostitution charges, allow victims to opt out of testifying if appearance in court would threaten their safety and increase penalties for those involved in “pimping” and solicitation. LB255 is a follow-up to LB1145, which McGill introduced last February. With its passing, LB1145 created Nebraska’s Human Trafficking Task Force and mandated a trafficking curriculum for state law enforcement.

The United Nations Association’s mission is to educate, inspire and mobilize Americans, according to its website. McGill’s presentation aims to do all three. Along with explaining LB255, she will “be sharing personal stories and letting folks know how they can get involved in helping to identify the problem and help women who are saved from trafficking,” she said. She’ll present at 12:30 p.m. at the Aldersgate Methodist Church on 84th and South streets.

Robert Haller, president of the UNA Nebraska Chapter, said he sees how McGill’s message matches the goals of the UNA.

“Sen. McGill has made herself knowledgeable about the worldwide prevalence of human trafficking in all forms and the bills she has introduced, especially LB 255, would put Nebraska clearly into collaboration with the national and world effort to stop human trafficking,” Haller said.

Sriyani Tidball, an advertising lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and faculty adviser for Nebraska University Students Against Modern-day Slavery, has worked with McGill for two years. Tidball said she admires McGill for her dedication and for providing a push for human trafficking legislation in the state.

“Amanda is a very passionate person about standing up for the rights of our women and children in the state of Nebraska,” Tidball said. “Today we have bills waiting to become laws on human trafficking because of Sen. McGill’s persistence.”

Haller predicts McGill’s knowledge and passion will benefit those who attend the presentation.

“We believe that all Americans should be aware of the prevalence of human trafficking and the ways in which our state can make a difference,” Haller said.

- Daily Nebraskan: Mara Klecker March 25, 2013

2013 Legislative Newsletter

February 6th, 2013

Hello all, 

We are almost a month into legislative session, and the heavy tasks ahead make me happy we are in a longer session so we can take our time investigating the pros and cons of many of the bills before us.  Income tax reform.  Medicaid expansion.  Water issues.  Juvenile justice reform.  All important bills with major repercussions for our state.  

This session, we are also welcoming 10 new State Senators along with welcoming Sen. Chambers back to the Legislature.  I am honored to once again serve as the Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee and look forward to making the most of my last two years serving you in District 26.  

The following are just a few of the 25 bills I introduced this session.  As always, please feel free to contact me at any time regarding issues before the legislature or personal matters government can be helpful with.

All my best, 

Amanda  

LB 255 – Fighting Human Trafficking – This is follow up legislation to my bill last year creating the Human Trafficking Task Force.  It does a variety of things including the following: 
*Provides that a victim of human trafficking may use their status as a victim to defend against a charge of prostitution.
*Prohibits children under the age of 18 from being prosecuted for prostitution.
* Requires that the names of those convicted of solicitation of prostitution shall be published on a website for six months.
* Provides tougher penalties for solicitation, pandering, debauching a minor and keeping a house of prostitution.
*Refines the statutory definition of sex trafficking and labor trafficking and creates a separate definition for labor trafficking of minor.
*Requires law enforcement to collect and maintain information about human trafficking perpetrators and victims.

LB 422– Military Spouses - Allows spouses of active members of the military to get a temporary professional license when moving into Nebraska.  Military families move frequently and we are grateful when they move into our state.  We want the spouses of members of the military to be employed as soon as possible, but sometimes they are delayed while their professional credentials are evaluated in Nebraska.  This bill doesn’t give any professional a “free pass” to practice in our state, but it recognizes that a professional license in good standing in another state will likely meet the requirements for licensure in Nebraska.

LB 421– Military Workforce - Provides that military training, education and experience shall be considered for the purpose of professional credentialing in the civilian workforce.  Veterans leave the military with exceptional education and work experience.  This bill recognizes this and helps veterans enter the civilian workforce quickly.  There are also instances when a member of the military is deployed and his professional license expires.  This bill provides that the member of the military may work under a temporary license when he comes home until the license is renewed.

LB 557– Solar Gardens - A solar garden allows people whose homes aren’t ideal for solar panels to subscribe to a shared solar array. Subscribers receive credits on their monthly utility bills. Residents, businesses, nonprofits, faith communities, and local governments can become subscribers and realize a savings on their electric bills.

LB 318 – Fingerprinting - Adds those arrested for misdemeanors to the list of those needing to be fingerprinted.  Some individuals escalate their criminal behaviors, and if we aren’t fingerprinting them early on in their criminal endeavors, they will escalate the crime and go unidentified until they are caught. This bill will help insure guns don’t end up in the hands of criminals.  There are a number of misdemeanors (domestic violence, drugs, etc.) that are often not fingerprinted for and therefore never make it to the state or federal databases that regulate gun permits.

LB 162 – Associate’s Degree Completion – Many students accumulate academic credits while enrolled at a community college and then transfer to a four-year university to get a bachelor’s degree. Some may earn additional credits at the university, but for whatever reason, don’t finish the program and leave school with no degree. This bill creates a process for the two-year school to become aware that a transfer student has reached the 70 credits necessary for an associate’s degree.  The college can then award the student with the degree.

LB 163 – Workforce & Education Report- Nebraska is losing out on business growth and new jobs because our state does not have the trained workforce to meet the needs of today’s economy.  Good jobs are likewise available and are remaining unfilled.  This bill creates an annual report on the state’s workforce needs and what careers students are being trained for in our educational system.  The report will be given to K-12 schools to help them prepare students for the jobs that are available and growing. The report will also identify public or private institutions that could help meet workforce shortfalls.

LB 216 – Extended Foster Care Services – Allows young people who transition or age out of foster care to access housing assistance, Medicaid coverage, and age-appropriate case management services until they are 21.  Unfortunately, many of these young people face significant barriers to college and employment, and far too many end up struggling with health care access, poverty, unstable housing, or even worse, homelessness.  However, research has shown that providing critical services during this transition greatly improves chances of success in adulthood and saves the state money in the long run, yielding a two-to-one return on the investment.

LB 320 – Probable Cause - Provides that law enforcement can remove children from their home or detain youth for a potential law violation if there is probable cause to do so.  There is currently no specific law enforcement standard for removals or detentions which sometimes means children are taken out of the home when it is not absolutely necessary.

LB 556– Children’s Mental Health – This bill expands telemedicine services that can be provided over the internet.  The intent is to make mental health services available to children in schools, their homes, and other convenient locations, as well as providing mental health consultation services to pediatricians. Second, the bill proposes the expansion of community-based services through the Behavioral Health Regions so that more children can access mental health services outside of the child welfare system.  Finally, the bill proposes that mental health screenings become a part of child physicals.  These screenings would be very brief, with the intent to help parents identify mental health concerns early.  Any follow up with the results of these screenings would, of course, be at the discretion of the parent.

LB 127 – Youth Voter Preregistration - Allows young people to preregister to vote starting at age 16. Preregistration of teens has been shown to improve registration and turn out as the young people reach voting age.

LB 109 – Jewelry Stores – A constituent who works for State Farm Insurance informed me that jewelry stolen from homes is being sold to jewelry stores and being resold before police are able to track it down.  This bill provides that precious metals dealers (jewelry stores) be regulated similarly to pawnshops and be required to hold jewelry for 14 days before sale (increase from five days). 

McGill Introduces Military Package

February 1st, 2012

LINCOLN, NE – Today, State Senator Amanda McGill introduced four bills supporting Nebraskans who have honorably served our state and country. Two bills support military members and spouses seeking work in licensed fields here in Nebraska.

“With the winding down of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have many young men and women returning home in need of jobs,” said Sen. McGill. “LB 892 will help them use relevant military experience to obtain the licenses needed to do similar jobs here in Nebraska.”

Two of the bills introduced by Sen. McGill focus on the availability of military license plates. Constituents expressed a desire to create these plates over the interim.

“Nebraska Armed Forces Pride Plates Legislation would be a display of great respect for the service men and women who are or who have served their country so nobly with honor, courage and commitment, and for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said retired U.S. Marine Corp Captain Jonathan Schwarz. “I would think and hope that all of Nebraska’s State Senators would gladly want to stand behind the men and women of the Armed Forces of this nation as well as their constituents in supporting this bill and I want to thank Senator Amanda McGill and her staff for their efforts in working on and backing this legislation.”

LB 892– Streamlines the process for those who have served our country and developed specific skills to get the license necessary to perform that job here at home. Also streamlines the process for military spouses with a license and experience from another state.

LB895 – Streamlines the process for a military spouse to get a teaching license in Nebraska if they have a license and experience from another state.

LB894 – Authorizes the spouse of a purple heart recipient to keep a purple heart plate after his/her spouse passes away.

LB893 – Creates Nebraska Armed Forces Pride Plates.

McGill Tackles Human Trafficking

February 1st, 2012

LINCOLN, NE – Today, State Senator Amanda McGill introduced two bills to strengthen state laws and programing pertaining to human trafficking. The Judiciary Committee studied the problem of human trafficking, including forced prostitution, during an interim study in December.

“Since last spring, I’ve been meeting with a variety of scholars, law enforcement officials and concerned citizens who want to put an end to this modern form of slavery,” said Sen. McGill. “We’ve put together a comprehensive package of laws that addresses multiple aspects of the problem from law enforcement training to harsher penalties for pimps.”

LB 1145 includes the following provisions:
* Requires posting the National Human Trafficking Hotline in key establishments.
* Requires mandatory training on human trafficking for law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, officials involved with juvenile detention and prosecution, and other relevant government officials.
* Allows victims of sex trafficking to file a motion to vacate a conviction of prostitution.
* Authorizes law enforcement officials to seize property obtained due to a violation of the state human trafficking statute. This property would then be subject to forfeiture.
* Establishes a commission to study and investigate key aspects of human trafficking including the availability of victim services and the scope of human trafficking in the state.
* Provides tougher penalties for solicitors of prostitution.

LB 1146 provides funds to carry out the Nebraska Prostitution and Treatment Act. The act was passed in 2006, but funding for the program was vetoed two years in a row by the Governor. The proposed $20,000 would provide diversion and treatment services to those charged with prostitution.

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McGill Tackels Child Welfare Crisis

February 1st, 2012

Lincoln, NE – A public hearing will be held on Thursday on two of State Senator Amanda McGill’s proposals to provide for the needs of foster children throughout Nebraska.
LB 1149 restructures the way case management is provided by the state and private agencies. The bill specifies:

- child welfare caseloads will be in compliance with national best practice standards;

- all child welfare case management duties can be executed by one person instead of these duties being split between two people, one a government employee and one a contracted employee, as is the case in some parts of the state under the current scheme; and

- a process for funding Nebraska’s child welfare system that is transparent and responsible.

Child welfare caseloads in Nebraska are measured by number of “cases” or families on a caseload. Nationally recognized best practice standards advise that caseloads should be measured by the number of children on a caseload, not by the number of families. Under the current method of caseload calculation, a child welfare caseworker may have 17 families on a caseload, which appears to comply with best practice standards. The reality of this situation, however, is that this case worker may be responsible for 30-40 children as most families have multiple children involved with the system.

Under the current scheme of privatized child welfare, case management duties are split between two individuals. This system is extremely confusing for families and has proven to be inefficient and ineffective. Children and families can best be served with one case manager, who has a manageable work load.

LB 1150, the Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Services Act, would allow eligible youth to stay in foster care until age 21. The bill also provides that extended Medicaid and post-secondary education assistance would be available to more former foster youth than currently qualify for this assistance under NDHHS policy.

Research indicates that youth who continue to receive services during this transition period have improved chances of success when they transition from care and that providing these services also saves money in the long run, yielding an approximately two to one return on the investment.

Amy Peters, age 22, a former ward that was in state custody for 6 years, said, “I believe that the Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Services Act is a big step toward ensuring that young adults who age out of the foster care system in Nebraska are given the tools they need to transition and become successful adults. Furthermore, I admire Senator McGill for not only taking the initiative to introduce the bill, but for reaching out to foster care alumni and giving us the opportunity to give feedback about the bill before introducing it. With this sort of collaboration, I truly believe that this piece of legislation will help to better serve foster youth in Nebraska.”

Janteice Holston, age 20, a former ward that was in state custody for 17 years, said, “When my case was dismissed I lacked all the necessary supports I needed to succeed. I ended up dropping out of college and working as much as possible to survive. I didn’t want to, but it was really the only choice I had. I believe having something like this bill in place during my transition would have made a life changing difference. It would have meant less stress about wondering where I’m going to live, how I’m going to pay my bills, or pay for my asthma medicine with no insurance and more time on studying, building relationships, personal growth, and so much more.”

Jacob Rusher, age 20, a former ward that was in state custody for 14 years, said, “I bounced in and out of foster care from age 5 to 12 and stayed in foster care from 12 to 19 when I aged out.  If the “Youth Supports Act” were available to me when I aged out at 19, I wouldn’t have had to wonder where I might sleep for so many nights.  It would have had a very positive effect on my life, the stability and structure would have made it feel like I was not doing it all on my own.  It would have eased a lot of the struggle I went through and made life just not so difficult.”

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2011 Legislative Session Wrap-up

July 5th, 2011

The 2011 Legislative Session wrapped up a month ago and I’d like to share with you some of the accomplishments, and challenges, of the year.  This session was particularly draining with tough decisions having to be made in the budget and redistricting.

The Legislature carried out its constitutional duty of balancing our complex budget.  We embraced the task of doing this without raising taxes and keeping necessary services available to our most vulnerable citizens.

On another note, my colleagues re-elected me as Chairwoman of the Urban Affairs Committee, and I am honored to serve in this leadership position again for the next two years.  I hope you will take a few moments to scan over the bills I passed and the issues we worked on in the Urban Affairs Committee.

I have also attached a few press releases from the last month highlighting my participation in a briefing and reception at the White House and an upcoming educational exchange I am a part of with Turkey.  Even once session is over, legislative matters keep me very busy, as does my job as Executive Director of the YWCA Lincoln.

Have a great summer!

Amanda McGill

District 26

471-2610

 

MY BILLS PASSED

LB 524- PRIZE-LINKED SAVINGS! (My priority bill)

The Legislature unanimously sent LB 524 to the Governor and on April 26, he signed it.  This bill gave Nebraska credit unions the ability to offer savings promotion raffles. Saving raffles are a financially safe way to promote savings among Nebraska families while allowing them a chance to win a prize. We live in a society where people don’t save money like they used to, and when an unexpected expense pops up, it brings turmoil to the family.  Last summer, I listened to a Harvard Professor talk about the impact this product had in motivating non-savers and low-income people to save. In Michigan, people saved $1.6 million dollars in 11 months. This new product has the potential to boost savings amongst all Nebraskans, specifically those that are most financially vulnerable.

LB 79- EXPANDING CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

CASAs serve as the one constant helping abused and neglected children in foster care navigate through the court system.  My bill creates a grant program administered by the Nebraska Supreme Court to help CASA expand into counties that are not already served and recruit volunteers to help kids on the waiting list.  When a child in the system has a CASA, they spend less time in out of home care, saving the state millions.  I believe CASA’s are a vital resource in our community.

LB 80- ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHILD WELFARE

This bill was attached onto another bill and was signed by the Governor on May 4.  Before the passage of LB 80, there was an imbalance in our courts, which hurt families.  When the Department of Health and Human Services takes a child out of a home, they should have to prove that their plan for that child is in the child’s best interest.  The burden was on the parent(s) to prove the state is not doing what is in the best interest of the child.  The State should be held accountable, especially when making decisions about our children.  We all want to keep kids safe, and we need to uphold families’ rights in the process.

LB 146- HELP FOR NON-PROFIT EXPANSION

This bill will implement Amendment 1 that was approved by you, the voters, in May of 2010. Amendment 1 was a constitutional amendment that allows cities to issue bonds on behalf of non-profit institutions, so they can expand the services they offer, and this bill moves that process forward.

LB 335- HELPING CITIES ACCESS FEDERAL GRANT DOLLARS

This is a bill that creates language to allow cities to waive their bidding requirements when necessary to receive federal money. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, cities were eligible to apply for federal stimulus grants. A requirement of the grant was to “Buy American” during the bidding process. There was concern that this requirement could conflict with a “lowest responsible bidder” requirement in state statute, and the intent of LB 335 is to remove the possible conflict so cities can access federal grant money.

MY BILLS ADVANCED BY COMMITTEE – TO BE DEBATED NEXT YEAR

LB 304- EXPEDITED PARTNER THERAPY

LB 304 was advanced out of the Health and Human Services Committee March 9, 2011.  This bill expedites the treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.  This gives healthcare professionals a new tool to combat rising rates of STDs in Nebraska and the epidemic levels in Douglas County.

LB 310- UPDATING OUR DEFINITIONS OF ABUSE

Unanimously advanced out of the Judiciary Committee, LB 310 allows a victim of abuse, law enforcement, and prosecutors to take steps toward preventing a threat of domestic violence from becoming a reality.  This bill also would enhance the penalties for violating a domestic or harassment protection order.

BILLS HELD IN COMMITTEE

LB 553 – REGULATING PAYDAY LENDERS

Over my 4 years as state senator, I have talked to many people in Northeast Lincoln and the rest of Nebraska who have experienced the nightmare of being stuck in a cycle of debt with payday lenders. A database would help us enforce our current laws, rules and regulations regarding this industry, at no cost to the taxpayer.  I want to keep payday lending available to those who really need them, while protecting consumers.

LB 630- TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN WITH BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS

This bill creates a licensing mechanism for the practice of Applied Behavioral Analysis.  Currently, applied behavioral analysis can be used to help treat children with feeding disorders, children with autism, and children with severe and persistent self-injurious or outward injurious behavioral disorders.  Licensing is a first step to help families have more options.

BILLS PASSED BY THE URBAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

LB 159 – BETTER SUBDIVISION DEVELOPMENT!

This bill extends the use of Planned Unit Developments to cities of the second class and villages. Previously, only larger cities like Omaha and Lincoln were able to use this development tool in conjunction with zoning to make the best use of the land when planning new subdivisions. We think extending this power to all municipalities in Nebraska is fair and will help cities as they develop.

LB 329 – UPDATE THE NEBRASKA ENERGY CODE

This was one of the committee priority bills this year, and it updated our statutes to the 2009 version of the International Energy Conservation Code as the Nebraska Energy Code. This update will help our state to reduce energy consumption in our homes and public buildings, and will create a consistent energy conservation policy throughout the state.

LB 437- CHANGES TO BUILDING CODE ADOPTION

LB 437 makes changes to the process we use in the adoption of the state building code. Currently, the legislature adopts newly produced versions of the code automatically when they are issued every 3 years. The Attorney General has told us it is unconstitutional to adopt codes this way, and this bill changes the statute to eliminate the automatic code adoption provision. This bill was amended onto LB546, which dealt with a different aspect of the state building code, listed below.

LB 546- NO MANDATORY FIRE SPRINKLERS IN NEW HOMES

This was the most controversial issue we faced in the Urban Affairs Committee this year. This bill adopted the 2009 version of the International Residential Code, WITHOUT the mandatory fire sprinkler provision. It allows for cities to amend their local building codes to include the fire sprinkler provision if the city council should vote to add it back in to the code. There were many testifiers in favor of and against this bill at the hearing, and the committee worked very carefully to create the policy best suited for Nebraskans.

ISSUES FOR NEXT YEAR

LR 243 HUMAN TRAFFICKING

This is an interim study to examine the extent of human trafficking in Nebraska in connection with labor and sex trafficking.  I used to believe human trafficking was not an issue in Nebraska. However, this past year, I have learned this horrific practice is in fact happening in our own backyard.  We will work with groups around the state who are conducting in-depth research on what the picture of human trafficking in Nebraska looks like and what we can do to combat it.

LR 208 TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN WITH BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS

The goal of this interim study is to determine the best manner in which to license certified applied behavioral analysts.  Over the summer, I plan to expand this interim study to address the challenges families face when trying to get much needed services for their children.  I have talked with several constituents who have faced endless hurdles and brick walls in trying to get the proper care for their autistic children.  Other states have made changes in their laws to help these families, and Nebraska needs to join the movement.

LB 298 FINDING EFFICIENCIES IN JUVENILE JUSTICE THROUGH STATE AGENCY COLLABORATION

I introduced this interim study to explore ways state agencies can work together when providing services to children and families.  We will look at a successful project in Omaha where Probation and the Department of HHS collaborated with significant results.  I believe this type of program, if implemented statewide, could produce meaningful cost savings to the taxpayers and improve the quality of services we are providing to children at a critical point in their lives.

Do you have an issue you would like me to study this summer?  Please let me know!

THANK YOU for being engaged constituents.  Please let me know if there are any other issues on your mind.  I always appreciate your feedback.