Interim Work Continues
With the interim well underway, my office has begun work on our legislative resolution studies. I’ve also stayed busy attending meetings, interim study hearings, and conferences.
NCSL Legislative Summit
In August I was able to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures annual Legislative Summit in Chicago. NCSL is a unique organization lead by state legislators and legislative staff from across the country. It is dedicated to providing resources, training, and research to legislators and their staff. As part of this event, I was invited to a special conference panel on human trafficking. Legislators from many states were on hand to discuss how this issue impacts their communities, and a panel of social workers and prosecutors from the Chicago area shared their experience. I was able to share details about LB 843, which we passed in Nebraska this year, granting some of the strongest legal protections to human trafficking victims in the country.
I also serve on NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Committee, and was fortunate to participate in many different trainings and presentations. I volunteered to serve on this committee to expand my experience with election law, which is under the oversight of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee I serve on here in Nebraska.
On the final day of the conference there was an in depth session on the problem of opioid addiction in America, which has been reaching alarming levels. A panel of doctors, prosecutors, social workers, and legislators from across the nation compared the challenges and success in their states. This panel reconfirmed the importance of LB 471, which passed this session, strengthening our prescription drug monitoring program, and highlighted the work still to do on this issue.
Photo above: An informational poster from the NCSL conference in Chicago about election technology. I serve on the Election Technology Committee here in Nebraska, which was formed by LR 403, a legislative resolution I introduced.
Midwestern Legislative Conference
In July, I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the 71st annual Midwestern Legislative Conference hosted by the Council of State Governments, or CSG. CSG is a nonpartisan organization that serves all three branches of state government. In Wisconsin, I attended sessions on state water policy, early childhood development, the upcoming 2016 elections, and fiscal leadership, among others. I enjoyed the opportunity to attend the conference and engage in good discussions with my Nebraska colleagues and legislators from other states. I can’t wait to bring this experience back to Nebraska and District 26.
Urban Affairs Committee Hearing
On August 18th, the Urban Affairs Committee held it’s first interim study hearing for the year. Myself and members of the committee headed to Aurora, Nebraska for a hearing on Legislative Resolution 490. LR 490 is an interim study to examine the enforcement of state and local building codes. More information about this resolution can be found here.
Page Applications Now Available
Applications for pages with the 2017 legislative session are now open! Pages are college students who assist senators and the Clerk of the Legislature during session with a variety of tasks, including delivering messages and staffing committee hearings. This is a paid position and pages may also be eligible to receive college credit hours. If you or someone you know is interested, applications are available through the Clerk of the Legislature’s office, room 2018 in the Capitol building. For more information, please call the Clerk’s office at (402) 471-2271, or contact our office via phone at (402) 471-2610 or email at email@example.com. Applications are due to the Clerk of the Legislature’s office by Monday, October 3rd, 2016.
In Other News…
Check out the University Place Community Market every Wednesday from 3pm to 7pm! Produce, crafts, food, and more! The market will run from June 8th to September 14th at a new location on 48th and Leighton.
Now that we have reached the interim, my office will keep you up-to-date with regular but less frequent newsletters. My staff will continue to be available to you during normal business hours. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at (402) 471-2610 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from you! As always, thanks for reading.
Our long-time Administrative Assistant, Amanda Johnson, will be leaving Nebraska to get her Master of Science in Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Amanda has been with Senator Hansen’s staff since he took office, and we will be sad to see her go this Friday, July 15th.
Stepping into the role of Administrative Assistant is Sarah Wagelie. Sarah graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this May with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a public policy analysis certificate, and she is excited to help Senator Hansen serve the people of Legislative District 26! If there is anything our office can help you with, Sarah can be reached at email@example.com, or via our office phone, (402) 471-2610.
The newest member of our office is Kate Gotsdiner, who will be taking over the position of Legislative Aide until November. Kate has been active in Nebraska politics over the last six years and worked for former U.S. Senator Ben Nelson in Washington, D.C. We’re excited to have Kate on board! She can be reached via our office phone, (402) 471-2610.
The 104th legislative session comes to a close, eleven senators say goodbye.
As the session comes to an end, Senators must say goodbye to eleven colleagues, including Speaker Galen Hadley, all of whom are pictured on the next page.
During this short session, the legislature passed 216 bills, including prison reform legislation, funding for roads, and property tax relief. Nearly all priority bills were debated, and 76 were passed into law. This includes my priority bill, LB947, the details of which are also on the next page, including a quote from my first floor speech on the bill.
Early this month, my bill, LB741 was amended into Senator John Murante’s LB874. LB874 will make several changes to Nebraska’s election laws. The original bill makes the process for filling vacancies on school boards consistent statewide with the stipulation that an appointee will fill a vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.
As passed, LB874 includes provisions of four additional bills, including my bill. LB741 removes from the list of banned electioneering practices the display of yard signs on private property within 200 feet of a polling place. However, this does not include properties that are under common ownership with the polling place.
Other additions include provisions from Senator Adam Morfeld allowing for ballot selfies, and Senator Joni Craighead changing the deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot.
LB874 was passed by the legislature with a 45-0 vote.
On the final day of session, the legislature debated LB947: a bill to provide for the issuance of professional or commercial licenses for DACA recipients. After having passed LB947 on Final Reading with 33 affirmative votes, the bill was returned to the legislature on day 60 without approval from the governor.
To qualify for the federal DACA program, residents must have: lived in the US since June, 2007; been no older than 31 as of June, 2012; entered the country before turning sixteen; attended school, earned a diploma, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces; and not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor.
On day 60, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Heath Mello, offered a motion to override the governor’s veto. To override a veto, the affirmative. After two hours of debate, the body voted 31-13 to override the veto of LB947.
“Time and time again we’ve heard about the importance of workforce development, and its critical connection to the future growth of our state… With LB947, we have an opportunity to ensure that young Nebraskans have the full opportunity to obtain a professional license to join their ideal profession.”
I chose LB947 as my personal priority bill to address the inability of so many Nebraskans to become professionals. Throughout session, my office received dozens of emails and phone calls in support of this legislation. I’m happy we were successful in passing LB947, because I believe our state supports DACA recipients making a life in Nebraska, supporting their families, and supporting their community.
The 105th Legislative Session will begin January 4th, 2017 for a 90 day session.
As always, thanks for reading!
Published April 7, 2016
Lawmakers gave final approval April 7 to a bill that makes a number of changes to the state’s election laws.
LB874, introduced by Gretna Sen. John Murante, makes the process for filling vacancies on school boards consistent statewide by stipulating that an appointee will fill a vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.
The bill includes provisions of four additional bills.
LB879, originally introduced by Murante, changes the requirement to place a candidate’s name on the partisan general election ballot by petition to at least 10 percent of the registered voters entitled to vote for the office.
LB787, originally introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, allows a voter to voluntarily photograph his or her ballot after it is marked and reveal the photograph.
LB741, originally introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, removes from the list of banned electioneering practices the display of yard signs on private property within 200 feet of a polling place that is not under common ownership with the polling place.
LB682, originally introduced by Omaha Sen. Joni Craighead, changes the deadline for a voter to request a vote-by-mail ballot from 4 p.m. of the Wednesday preceding the election to the close of business on the second Friday preceding the election.
The bill also designates the 22nd day before an election as the earliest date that an election commissioner or county clerk may send out vote-by-mail ballots. That date currently is the 20th day before an election.
LB874 passed on a 45-0 vote and takes effect immediately.
Greetings Northeast Lincoln! We’ve just begun the final ten days of session. Upon adjournment sine die on April 20th, all bills that were not passed will be cleared from the agenda.
Last week, the body passed three bills to adjust the biennial budget. The state budget is passed during odd-numbered years with adjustments made during even-numbered years. These second session bills address the gap between projections and the $8.7 billion budget passed in 2015: LB956 makes adjustments based on a downward revision in tax receipt forecasting and increases to state aid, LB957 makes transfers from the Cash Reserve Fund, and LB981 approves agency write- offs and claims against the state.
LB742, my bill to change county population thresholds, was chosen as a speaker priority. As a speaker priority, LB742 receives priority status behind senator priority bills, and is considered ahead of other bills in debate. LB742 is based on the findings of LR196, an interim study conducted last year by the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee, and is currently on the agenda on Select File.
My bill, LB808, has been amended into LB1059. LB1059 also changes provisions of the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, in addition to the Community Development law. This bill was introduced by Senator Crawford, and prioritized by the Urban Affairs committee. LB1059 was passed by the Legislature last week, pending the Governor’s approval.
Legislative update-Sen. Hansen introduces LR403 to the body.
Earlier this session, LR403, my election technology resolution, was adopted. It established the Election Technology Committee which will study the longevity of technology used by election commissioners and county clerks, and the feasibility of updating or replacing Nebraska’s election technology.
Those appointed to the committee include myself, Senator Robert Hilkemann of Omaha, Senator Dan Hughes of Venango, Senator Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, Senator Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, and Senator John Stinner of Gering. As the Chairperson of the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator John Murante of Gretna is also the Chairperson of the Election Technology Committee.
The ACCESSNebraska Oversight committee has replaced the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee. ACCESSNebraska is the public benefits delivery system developed and implemented by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The Special Investigative Committee was established to investigate an array of problems including long wait times for callers, high worker turnover rates, and lost paperwork. The Oversight Committee was authorized by the Legislature in February with the adoption of LR418 to continue communication with the ACCESSNebraska system.
Those appointed to the Committee include Senator Al Davis of Hyannis, Senator John Kuehn of Heartwell, Senator John McCollister of Omaha, Senator Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, and Senator John Stinner of Gering. Senator Sara Howard of Omaha is the Chairperson, and I have been selected as the Vice- Chairperson.
My fiancé and I celebrating St. Patrick’s day!
We also enjoyed attending the Canada Day Reception, honoring the Canada-Nebraska relationship.
If you have questions of concerns about legislation or the legislative process, call (402) 471-2610 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; our office is always happy to help.
We look forward to hearing from you! As always, thanks for reading.
Published March 10, 2016
The Executive Board of the Legislature announced appointments to three special committees March 9.
The Election Technology Committee was established Feb. 29 with the adoption of LR403. The committee will study the longevity of technology used by election commissioners and county clerks and the feasibility of updating or replacing Nebraska’s election technology.
Appointed to the committee are:
Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen;
Omaha Sen. Robert Hilkemann;
Venango Sen. Dan Hughes;
Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom;
Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld;
Gretna Sen. John Murante (chairperson); and
Gering Sen. John Stinner.
Lawmakers established the Task Force on Behavioral and Mental Health Feb. 29 with the adoption of LR413.
The task force will study issues relating to the adequacy of the state’s behavioral health system, including monitoring the progress of a statewide needs assessment and strategic planning being conducted by the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Appointed to the committee are:
Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz;
Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford;
Omaha Sen. Sara Howard;
Omaha Sen. Heath Mello;
Omaha Sen. John McCollister;
Hastings Sen. Les Seiler; and
Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer.
The chairperson will be elected by members of the task force.
The AccessNebraska Oversight Committee replaced a special investigative committee that was established in 2014. AccessNebraska is an online and call center system developed and implemented by DHHS to determine public benefit eligibility and deliver benefits to clients.
A committee was established to investigate an array of problems including long wait times for callers, high worker turnover and lost paperwork. Authorization for the committee was extended until the beginning of the current legislative session.
An oversight committee was authorized Feb. 29 with the adoption of LR418. Appointed to the committee are:
Hyannis Sen. Al Davis;
Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen;
Omaha Sen. Sara Howard (chairperson);
Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn;
Omaha Sen. John McCollister;
Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks; and
Gering Sen. John Stinner.
Reports containing the committees’ findings and recommendations are due to the Legislature by Dec. 15.
High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 5-8. 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.
“The Youth Legislature is a great event for young people interested in public service,” said Senator Hansen. “This is a special experience because it brings together youth with a common interest, and provides a unique insight into the way our unicameral functions.”
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) 471-2420. The deadline for registration is May 15.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Unicameral Information Office
Published February 29, 2016
Lawmakers approved the creation of a temporary committee Feb. 29 that will analyze the current state of election technology in Nebraska.
LR403, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, creates the seven-member Election Technology Committee to study the longevity of technology used by election commissioners and county clerks to conduct elections as of Jan. 1, 2016.
The committee also will study the feasibility of updating or replacing elections technology.
Hansen said that passage of the 2002 Help America Vote Act required states to ensure equal access to elections for individuals with disabilities. In response, the Nebraska secretary of state’s office used approximately $15 million in federal funds to purchase Automark machines, which are used by visually impaired voters.
Those machines soon will need to be replaced, Hansen said, and the state must decide who will bear the replacement cost.
“This will allow us to create a broad range of interested senators and highlight the need for [new equipment] to citizens,” he said. “We need to take a good hard look at how elections are [administered] in this state.”
The committee will seek input from interested stakeholders including the secretary of state, county election commissioners, individuals with disabilities and voting rights advocates before submitting a final report to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2016.
Following the adoption of a technical amendment, the resolution passed on a 30-4 vote.
Greetings Northeast Lincoln! The Legislature has just finished a week of priority bill designations. Each senator has the opportunity to choose one bill, each committee two bills, and the Speaker up to 25 bills to prioritize in a single session.
This year, my priority bill is LB947, which declares all work-authorized persons eligible to obtain a professional or commercial operating license. Those affected by LB947 are the same population granted eligibility to obtain a drivers license through LB623, a bill passed last session.
Last month, I wrote about LB808, relating to the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, and LB831, relating to automatic license plate readers. Both bills have advanced from the Urban Affairs committee and Judiciary committee, respectively, and have been placed on General File.
LR403 would create an Election Technology Committee as a special committee of the Legislature to address Nebraska’s aging election technology and equipment. The special committee would study the longevity of technology used by election commissioners and county clerks to conduct elections, and the feasibility of updating or replacing this technology.
LB1089 would incrementally increase the minimum wage for persons compensated by way of gratuity from the current $2.13 per hour to $4.50 per hour by January, 2017, or 50 percent of the standard minimum wage.
While the state minimum wage was increased last year through a ballot initiative, the tipped minimum wage has not changed since 1991. In 1991, it was uncoupled from the standard minimum wage which was set at $4.25.
31 states have a higher tipped minimum wage than Nebraska. Increasing Nebraska’s tipped minimum wage would set us in line with Iowa ($4.35 per hour), Colorado ($4.98 per hour), and other neighboring states.
LB1090’s hearing is scheduled for March 3rd, before the Judiciary committee. This bill would require notification of law enforcement by the Nebraska State Patrol of denials of certificates to purchase, lease, rent, or receive transfer of handgyns.
LB1090 would also require an annual written report to the Nebraska State Patrol from state or local law enforcement agencies that have received notifications. The report would include information on certificate denials, the status of any open investigations, and explanations of denials that did not lead to investigations.
This bill is intended to provide law enforcement with the information they need to help prevent the next crime from happening, and to keep our families and communities safe.
Two LPS high school students interested in a career in politics shadowed me for a day. They were able to sit in on the morning floor debate and an afternoon committee hearing.
This month, I introduced LB945 before the Agriculture committee. LB945 is the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Act, aimed at alleviating the prevalence of food deserts.
If we haven’t heard from you yet, we hope this newsletter will serve as a reminder to contact us with any questions, concerns, or support regarding state legislation.
As always, thanks for reading!
Published February 12, 2016
A bill heard by the Agriculture Committee Feb. 9 would create a financing program intended to increase underserved Nebraskans’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy food.
LB945, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, would provide $150,000 to the program for fiscal year 2016-2017 and again for FY2017-2018. The state Department of Economic Development would contract with community development entities, which would award grants for eligible projects such as grocery store renovations and the creation of farmers’ markets, food cooperatives and community gardens.
The bill also would set aside up to $60,000 for the University of Nebraska to conduct a study that would identify areas in Nebraska with limited access to healthy food.
Hansen said that approximately 325,000 Nebraskans live in food deserts—areas that lack easy access to affordable and nutritious food. He said limited access to healthy food affects rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities.
“Lack of access to healthy, affordable food ultimately contributes to higher societal costs including increased public costs for providing health services,” Hansen said.
Traci Bruckner, speaking for the Center for Rural Affairs, testified in support of the bill. Research shows that rural grocery stores are closing across the nation, she said, making access to healthy food more difficult.
Data on rural Nebraska grocery stores is not available, she said, but in Iowa more than 43 percent of grocery stores in towns with less than 1,000 people have closed. In Kansas, 38 percent of grocery stores in towns with less than 2,500 people closed between 2006 and 2009.
Small stores could receive grants for distribution projects that would make it easier for them to stock fresh fruits and vegetables, she said.
Kathy Siefken, representing the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, testified in opposition to the bill, saying that it could exacerbate the problem it intends to solve. Funding food cooperatives or farmers’ markets that compete with small rural grocery stores, which operate on thin margins, could force them to close, she said.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.