NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Matt Hansen

Sen. Matt Hansen

District 26

Preparing for Session

December 11th, 2015

Greetings Northeast Lincoln! This month I had the pleasure of attending the Wreaths Across America ceremony in the Warned Chamber. I was presented with a wreath honoring veterans, and accepted it on behalf of the Nebraska Legislature.

The tradition of laying wreaths began in 1992, when the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine donated 5,000 wreaths to be placed on headstones at the Arlington Cemetery. As part of the program, Wreaths Across America sends a wreath to each state capitol to honor veterans during the holiday season. Over 1,000 locations around the nation participate in this event. This was the sixth year that Lincoln has participated.

On Saturday, December 12th, Wyuka Cemetery will host another ceremony, where over 600 wreaths will be placed on the graves of veterans in the Soldier Circle.

Wreaths Across America

Honoring veterans at the Wreaths Across America ceremony, with Diane Bartels, Ralph Bierman, and Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley.

The 2016 Session

The 2016 Legislative Session will begin on Wednesday, January 6th. The Nebraska Constitution requires that the Legislature convene annually on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January. Sessions in odd-numbered years last 90 days, and those in even-numbered years last 60.

During this short session, the first three days will consist mainly of bill introductions. Additionally, on the first day of session, the Legislature will elect a Retirement Committee Chair, a position that became vacant with the resignation of Senator Nordquist.

While there has been some rearranging of committee positions, I remain on the General Affairs committee; Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs committee and the Urban Affairs committee.

ACCESSNebraska Report

The ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee has made its final report to the Legislature for the year. The committee finds that ACCESSNebraska has seen significant improvement over the last several months.

Many changes made to the system under the new administration should be attributable to these improvements; recognition by officials of the operational challenges plaguing ACCESSNebraska allowed DHHS to make necessary modifications. These include the creation of targeted lists and work groups which have helped the system rise from the critical stage it was formerly in. Additionally, allowing for the cross-sharing of documents between Economic Assistance and Medicaid and Long-Term Care has enabled clients to cut down on the amount of paperwork they must complete. It’s also important to recognize ACCESSNebraska’s long-term employees, who have continued to work hard through additional training and overtime hours, and continue to advocate for the ACCESSNebraska program.

The committee recommends that ACCESNebraska officials continue to explore funding opportunities that would allow the system to update its technology, to support the changing needs of social assistance programs. The committee does not recommend any related legislation, but does recommend at least one more year of legislative oversight.

Hansen Foley Christmas Tree

Fifth and sixth grade students from McPhee Elementary School attended the Wreaths Across America ceremony with their principal.

With the start of the new year, our office will begin sending out newsletters at the end of the month rather than the beginning, as we’ve done in the past.

We look forward to hearing from you! As always, thanks for reading.

 

ACCESSNebraska Update

October 13th, 2015

ACCESSNebraska began a metric reporting program in April to measure the system’s functionality. At the first hearing of the session, on July 17th, DHHS shared ACCESSNebraska performance metrics for the months of May and June. The most recent published metrics provided are for the month of September.

The metrics from September show a continued performance improvement in most categories. On the Economic Assistance (EA) side, both expedited and non-expedited applications are meeting federal standards of processing timeliness. Also on the EA side, metrics show a major decrease in average call wait times since June- from 23 minutes and 10 seconds to 4 minutes and 48 seconds. The chart below shows that ACCESSNebraska has surpassed their target goal.

ACCESSNebraska Performance Metrics, September, 2015.

In addition to these successes, Nebraska’s newest ranking in federal SNAP application processing timeliness has improved- from 48th to 39th.

On the Medicaid side, application timeliness for Children and Families, and the Aged and Disabled has improved since April to exceed federal standards. Medicaid has seen continual decreases in total enrollment and Children and Families enrollment since March. However, this September broke the trend with both categories seeing an increase of over 1,000 individuals. Aged and Disabled enrollment has also grown over the last two months.

There are only two categories in which Nebraska is not exceeding the federal standard; both are related to SNAP. Nebraska’s denial accuracy rate for SNAP falls short of the federal standard, which is around 95 percent. However, Nebraska’s rate is substantially higher than the national average, hovering between 75-80 percent. In SNAP application processing timeliness, Nebraska falls short of the federal standard and the national average.

In September, the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee toured the Lexington and Scottsbluff offices. In October and November, we will be touring the Fremont call center and Lincoln imaging center.

Interim Activities- Keeping Busy

September 11th, 2015

News for the 26th

Greetings Northeast Lincoln! This September, the capitol tower will shine red for Hunger Action Month. The tower lighting was sponsored by the Food Bank for the Heartland and Lincoln, a non-profit organization that delivers food to schools, pantries, and shelters from Nebraska to Western Iowa. The office of the Capitol Commission invites you to view Lincoln’s changing colors from the tower’s observation decks. They are open during public hours, and are accessible via the northeast elevator. To see the capitol’s public hours, go to capitol.nebraska.gov.

Over the course of the summer, I had the pleasure of attending two legislative conferences. The Council for State Governments (CGS) held it’s Midwest Meeting at the event center in Bismarck, North Dakota, and the National Council of State Legislators (NCSL) Summit was held in Seattle, Washington. NCSL is a bipartisan organization that provides research and technical assistance to legislators and staff. Prior to the Summit, I was appointed to NCSL’s Legislative Effectiveness standing committee to examine practices, procedures, and strategies promoting effectiveness among legislatures. The committee’s next meeting will be this December in Washington, D.C.

sen hansen new americans

Senator Hansen addresses issues facing New Americans at the Center For People In Need in August

Committee Hearings

Interim hearings have been scheduled for General and Urban Affairs Committees. General Affairs will meet on September 25th and October 23rd. In September, the committee will hear LR288 and LR290, examining issues related to public libraries, and LR307, examining issues that fall under General Affairs’ jurisdiction. In October, the committee will review LR287, examining licensure of craft breweries, and LR289, examining UNL alcohol policies.

The Urban Affairs committee has scheduled hearings on September 25th, October 23rd, and November 5th. The first hearing will address two resolutions: LR512, examining the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act of 1991, and LR155, examining potential economic development tools for municipalities. In October, the committee will hear LR278, examining tools for municipalities to encourage neighborhood revitalization, and LR174, examining issues surrounding the Nebraska Energy Code. The third hearing will be held at the Lifelong Learning Center at Northeast Community College in Norfolk.

The Government committee has not yet scheduled any fall hearings. However, two of my interim studies will be addressed in this committee. LR196 examines current statutes governing population thresholds while LR335 examines the Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s latest report.

ACCESSNebraska

ACCESSNebraska’s first hearing of the session was held on July 17th. At the hearing, DHHS shared ACCESSNebraska performance metrics for the months of May and June. The metric program began recording in April to measure the system’s functionality. More recently, DHHS shared performance metrics for the month of July.

July’s metrics show that most categories have seen performance improvements since April. On the Economic Assistance (EA) side, both expedited and non-expedited applications are meeting federal standards of processing timeliness. Also on the EA side, metrics show a major decrease in average call wait times since June- from 23 minutes and 10 seconds to 15 minutes and 51 seconds. Call wait times have not been this short since October of 2014.

In addition to these successes, the number of Nebraskans enrolled in SNAP has increased in number of households and number of individuals for the last three months.

On the Medicaid side, application timeliness for Children and Families, and the Aged and Disabled has improved to exceed federal standards. However, Medicaid has seen continual decreases in total enrollment, Children and Families enrollment, and Aged and disabled enrollment for the last four months.

The next special investigative committee hearing has not yet been scheduled.

News Bulletin:

On August 18th, Nicole Fox was sworn in to office by Governor Ricketts. Appointed by the Governor, she will represent LD 7, effectively replacing Jeremy Nordquist.. Senator Fox has been assigned to two committees: Health and Human Services, and Banking, Commerce & Insurance.

Don’t miss the last University Place Community Market of the season on Wednesday, September 16th. The market will have produce, food, and crafts, from 3-7pm at 48th and Madison streets.

On September 19th, Speak Truth to Sexual Violence is sponsoring an Assault Awareness Rally at noon on the North Plaza.

The Nebraska Legislature is seeking Legislative Pages for the upcoming session. Call the Clerk’s office at (402) 471-5100 to request an application. Applications will be due by Wednesday, September 30th.

Senator Hansen’s office is seeking an intern for the upcoming session. Please e-mail mhansen@leg.ne.gov for more information.

Now that we have reached the interim, our office will not be sending out a monthly newsletter, but we will continue to keep you up-to date with less frequent newsletters. My staff will continue to be available to you during normal business hours.

We look forward to hearing from you! As always, thanks for reading.

ACCESSNebraska Update

August 7th, 2015

The ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee had its first hearing of the year on Friday, July 17th. The committee invited several public employees and client advocates to testify, including DHHS’s new CEO, Courtney Phillips. Ms. Phillips assured the committee that DHHS has spent considerable time meeting with staff at call centers and local offices to gain insight and identify necessary improvements.

Under new leadership, DHHS has taken steps to improve the ACCESSNebraska system. One improvement involves the creation of the ACCESSNebraska Dashboard. The dashboard demonstrates how ACCESSNebraska is doing in an easy-to-understand format, using metrics developed by DHHS to show successes and failures in the system. The dashboard is shown on ACCESSNebraska’s website, and is updated monthly. The current report is shown online along with an archive of past reports and a link to subscribe to the monthly updates. There are also plans to update the Nebraska Family On-Line Client user system (N-FOCUS) technology on the Medicaid side.

In 2013, programs administered by ACCESSNebraska were split between two sides. The Medicaid and Long-Term Care (MLTC) side administers Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Children and Family Services (CFS) or Economic Assistance (EA) side administers SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), ADC (Aid to Dependent Children), Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD), the Nebraska Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Child Care Subsidy, the State Disability Program (SDP), the Social Service Block Grant (SSBG), and the Refugee Resettlement Program (RRP).

DHHS has developed a Top 10 list of operational hurdles to overcome. The list includes reviewing mail operations to ensure mail goes out in a timely manner, reviewing policies to simplify processes for efficiency, and reviewing data requested for reports to ensure that the right information is being reported. DHHS will be analyzing workforce management to better handle work when it hits peak levels, and will also focus on the recruitment and retention of staff.

DHHS seems to have acknowledged many of the concerns mentioned in testimony from outside organizations. Problems mentioned include a lack of available human resources, the too-old technology used in N-FOCUS, and that the confusion caused by separating MLTC and CFS has caused people to miss out on benefits they’re eligible for.

The committee will continue to provide oversight to ACCESSNebraska’s progress. The next hearing will likely be later this fall.

News for the 26th

Greetings Northeast Lincoln! The 104th Nebraska Legislature has adjourned sine die. Over 600 bills were introduced this session, and over 240 were passed and approved by the governor. After several weeks of late night debate, the legislature was able to adjourn one day early, saving the state a total of $10,203.

To adjourn sine die means to adjourn without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing. To adjourn sine die is to adjourn for an indefinite period. 

I’m extremely proud of what the Legislature has been able to accomplish this session. We passed a strong budget that includes a $60 million per year increase in the amount transferred to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund. We passed a bill with broad bipartisan support to allow for the issuance of drivers licenses to Dreamers, giving thousands of Nebraskans a new sense of independence.

Unicameral Update- George W. Norris Chamber

Unicameral Update- George W. Norris Chamber

I’m also thankful for the passage of three of my bills: LB 240, LB 304, and LB 314.

LB 240, a bill relating to behavioral health; to extend the Behavioral Health Screening and Referral Pilot program an additional two years, and to allow for more clinics to serve as sites for the program. 

LB 304, a bill relating to cities and villages; to adopt the Municipal Custodianship for Dissolved Homeowners Associations Act; and to provide a duty for the Revisor of Statutes. 

LB 314, a bill relating to county courts; to state matters subject to the jurisdiction of county courts.

Interim Studies

This session, I introduced three successful Legislative Resolutions.      LR 196 will examine current state statutes governing population thresholds for Nebraska counties. Lancaster county has recently exceeded the 300,000 population threshold, and this study will examine the projected population of Nebraska counties and whether legislation is needed to update current statutes.

LR 335 will examine election law, namely the most recent report published by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The commission’s recommendations will be explored to determine what steps Nebraska must take to be in compliance.

Finally, LR 336 will examine the appropriation of funds to the State Department of Education to implement mentor teacher programs. This study will examine mentor teacher programs in other states and how those programs are funded.

ACCESSNebraska

ACCESSNebraska has struggled for many years to keep up with it’s workload. It has consistently struggled to provide benefits to Nebraskans in an efficient and effective manner. Problems include long wait times, lost documentation, the adequacy of staffing and training, and the adequacy of the technology used within the system.

The ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee was established with the passage of LR 400 in 2014 by former Senator Annette Dubas. It is the committee’s job to study and investigate the effectiveness of the ACCESSNebraska system. The committee consists of seven members of the Legislature, a legal counsel, and a committee clerk. We will hold hearings and issue subpoenas as deemed necessary. Our first hearing will be held on Friday, July 17th at 1:30 pm.

ACCESSNebraska is Nebraska’s public benefits delivery system and was adopted in 2008 in attempts to modernize the former delivery system.

The End of Session

Now that we have reached the interim, our office will not be sending out a monthly newsletter, but we will continue to keep you up-to date with less frequent newsletters. My staff will continue to be available to you during normal business hours.

We look forward to hearing from you! As always, thanks for reading.

Hansen learns the ropes

May 8th, 2015
 
Published May 7, 2015
Unicameral Update

Sen. Matt Hansen is the Legislature’s youngest senator, having graduated from Lincoln Southwest High School in 2006. He continued on to the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science. Later as a law student there, he specialized in alternative dispute resolution—not knowing how quickly the skill would serve him as a state senator.

“If you had asked me even five years ago, I don’t know if I would have predicted this office,” he said.

Getting involved in his northeast Lincoln neighborhood of University Place, he saw how issues affected the people in his community. This inspired him to run for office.

After his election, he learned his status as the youngest senator in the body traditionally deems him the chairperson of the Legislature’s smallest committee—the Enrollment and Review Committee.

A committee of one, legislative rules indicate that the E&R chairperson is to: report bills which have been engrossed, correct the spelling of words and the erroneous division and hyphenation of words, capitalize or decapitalize words, convert masculine or feminine referents to neutral gender when appropriate and change numbers from words to figures or from figures to words in legislation.

Good thing Hansen likes details. As his tenure continues, he looks forward to applying his mediation experience to good use with his legislative colleagues.

“I’ve always been interested in problem solving,” he said. “I’m a details guy. I like getting down to the nitty gritty of an issue.”

Before his new role as a senator, that attention to detail drew Hansen to the theater. He takes special pleasure in working backstage for Lincoln Community Playhouse productions. He operated the light board for their 2013 run of “Little Women” and again for “Miss Nelson is Missing” this spring.

But don’t expect to see this soft-spoken senator commanding center stage any time soon. He much prefers to work behind-the-scenes.

“I resent people who think the technical side of theater is for actors who didn’t get cast,” he said with a grin.

Like all new senators, Hansen is tasked with learning about a number of diverse issues in a very short time period. Luckily, he’s been able to lean on his colleagues.

“It’s a strange experience to go from candidate to full-blown senator overnight,” he said. “I really appreciated the orientation process and having the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as possible from current and former senators.”

 
Published May 7, 2015
Unicameral Update

The termination date for a children’s behavioral health screening and referral program was extended May 7.

In 2013, the Legislature created the Behavioral Health Screening and Referral Pilot Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to develop ways to address unmet children’s behavioral health needs that could be replicated statewide.

LB240, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, extends the program’s termination date to Sept. 6, 2017.

The bill passed 36-9.

 
Published April 29, 2015
Unicameral Update

A bill seeking to make a children’s behavioral health screening and referral program permanent was amended April 29 to terminate in 2015.

In 2013, the Legislature created the Behavioral Health Screening and Referral Pilot Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to develop ways to address unmet children’s behavioral health needs that could be replicated statewide.

LB240, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, would remove the Sept. 6, 2015, termination date for the program and an existing cap on the number of clinic sites.

Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher offered an amendment during select file debate that would change the 2015 termination date to 2017.  The pilot project was poorly structured, he said, and too many questions remain unanswered regarding the success of the program.

“I think it’s perfectly obvious … that this pilot program is inconclusive and hasn’t given us the kind of data we need to make it a permanent program,” Schumacher said.

Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston supported the amendment, saying the pilot program lacked the proper metrics to evaluate its success.

“As we all know, [once] an item or a program is enacted into law, it is very, very difficult to back out of that situation,” he said.

Hansen opposed the amendment. The pilot program has proven to be an important tool in bridging the gap between screening and treatment, he said, and should be available across the state.

“The real issue at hand is the efficacy of this program,” he said.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell also opposed the amendment, saying the pilot program grew out of the state’s safe haven “debacle” in 2008. In the years following passage of the law, she said, it became clear that Nebraska needed to do more to identify and treat behavioral health disorders in young people.

“This is not a new rodeo,” Campbell said. “This is an extension of a program that has been very successful.”

The Schumacher amendment was adopted 26-9.

Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield offered a motion to bracket the bill until June 5, saying senators should have access to more data before making a decision on the fate of the pilot program.

“The bill would still be alive next session when we would have the required information,” he said.

The bracket motion failed 14-31. Lawmakers voted 26-14 to advance the amended bill to final reading.

 

News for the 26th

Greetings Northeast Lincoln! Spring has sprung and the legislature is gearing up to spend more and more time in-doors.  With only five weeks left of Session, we will be working long hours to make sure our bills are heard by the body.

Legislative Update

Legislative Update

Late Nights & the Beginning of the Budget

The first round of debate on the biennial budget bills began last week. The Appropriations committee voted unanimously to advance from committee the 8 budget bills that are now on General file. The budget funds programs such as correctional services, property tax credits and schools like Southeast Community College, which would receive a general 3% increase under this budget. The proposed budget can be found here:

Nebraskalegislature.gov/pdf/reports/fiscal/2015budget.pdf

Consent Calendar

Last Wednesday, we debated 36 bills that were placed on the Consent Calendar. The Consent Calendar represents a portion of the agenda carrying noncontroversial bills. A bill on this calendar should not be debated for more than 15 minutes, and should advance somewhat quickly. Most bills change or update provisions or restrictions. If any three members of the Legislature believe a bill to be controversial, they can request that the bill be removed from the consent calendar.

BHECN & other Bills

In 2013, the Legislature created the Behavioral Health Screening and Referral Pilot Program at UNMC to address children’s behavioral health needs that were not being met. This year, I introduced LB 240 to remove the program’s termination date and allow for more clinic sites. Out of the 1,900 children screened since the program’s inception, approximately a quarter of those screened positive for a behavioral health concern. There is a need in our state to identify and treat disorders such as depression and anxiety among young people, and LB 240 seeks to meet that need. After advancing from General file to Select file, an amendment was adopted that will sunset the program in September of 2017. Last Wednesday, LB 240 advanced to Final Reading. By extending BHECN, we are bridging the gap between screening and treatment, investing in happy and healthy youth, and preventing fatalities related to behavioral health.

After the advancement of BHECN, there were several hours of late-night debate on LB 599, a bill to lower the minimum wage for certain young student workers. I fought against the advancement of this bill with many of my colleagues, unsuccessfully However, the legislature will have one more opportunity to vote on LB 599 before it’s sent to the Governor. As the youngest member of the legislature, I feel compelled to maintain the rights of Nebraska’s youth. The value of our young people cannot be exaggerated.

Since last month, many bills have advanced, and many have failed to advance. The following bills are ones that I co-sponsored. LB 472, the Medicaid Redesign Act, introduced by Senator Campbell, was bracketed until June 5, 2015. LB627, a bill to change provisions relating to pregnancy and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act, introduced by Senator Mello, was approved by the Governor. Finally, Senator Chambers’ LB 268, a bill to repeal the death penalty, advanced to Select file with 30 votes.

The pie chart below represents the concerns shared with our office by constituents. The healthcare category is over-arching, and includes medicaid expansion, women’s health, child welfare, and behavioral health. The Ag Issues category includes animal rights and livestock markets.

Percentage of constituents who shared opinions in corresponding represented category

Percentage of constituents who shared opinions in corresponding represented category

April Events

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with several different groups. I was able to tour Gateway Vista, a retirement and assisted living facility in the district, with a healthcare administrator to see the facility and to talk about the healthcare process. I spoke to the Meadowlane Area Residence Association at their annual meeting about this session’s most important legislation. Most recently, I attended the Stand Up For Kids Carnival with several other Lincoln leaders to give tips on protecting our children. I was also able to meet with the NU’s President Hank Bounds.

Since the last newsletter, two LD 26 schools have visited us- Trinity Lutheran and Faith Lutheran. Thank you to all the students who have come to visit your Nebraska Legislature! We look forward to receiving Trinity Lutheran’s seventh and eighth graders this week.

Announcement

The Nebraska Youth Legislature will be held June 7-10, 2015 and is open to all high school students. Registration includes lodging, meals, and daily transportation from East Campus to the Legislature. The deadline to register is May 15 and the fee is $350. Scholarships available. For more information visit NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl

Thanks to everyone who has called, sent letters, e-mailed, or stopped by our office to share your views! We hope you’ll continue to let us know what is important to you. As always, thanks for reading.

LINCOLN, NE – High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 7-10. 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.

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Speaker 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’s 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) 471-0764. The deadline for registration is May 15.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 16th, 2015

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Ami Johnson
Nebraska Legislature
Unicameral Information Office
(402) 471-0764
ajohnson@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Matt Hansen

District 26
Room #1017
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2610
Email: mhansen@leg.ne.gov
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