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Sen. Matt Hansen

Sen. Matt Hansen

District 26

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Published February 12, 2016
Unicameral Update

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.

Published February 8, 2016

The Executive Board heard three proposals Feb. 8 to create special committees of the Legislature.

LR403, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, would establish the 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 would 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 needs to decide who will bear the replacement cost.

“Adding the purchase of election machines could double or triple county [election] expenses,” he said, noting that counties traditionally are responsible for the cost of holding elections.

Bri McLarty, director of voting rights for Nebraskans for Civic Reform, testified in support of the measure, saying the state needs to begin exploring how to address the estimated $20 million replacement cost.

“While the machines may not break tomorrow,” McLarty said, “we need to start planning for the inevitable.”


The 2016 Second Session Begins

January 29th, 2016

News for the 26th

Greetings Northeast Lincoln! We’ve just completed the sixteenth day of session, with bill introductions ending and committee hearings beginning. For a list of new bills and hearing schedules, visit Continue reading for information about our newly introduced bills.

Photo from Unicameral Update- Hall of Fame

Photo from Unicameral Update- Hall of Fame

LB945: Healthy Food Financing Initiative

With the closing of Hy-Vee Mainstreet nearly a year ago, many Northeast Lincoln residents are now living in a ‘food desert.’ This term was popularized in 2006 in a study done by Mari Gallagher. Food deserts are defined as low income areas with low access to fresh, healthy and affordable foods. Today, 18% of Nebraskans live in food deserts, affecting both rural and urban populations, and now many in my district.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative establishes a source of funding in the form of loans, grants, and interest rate assistance, on a competitive, one-time basis, to projects committed to providing regular offerings of healthy and affordable foods in food desert areas. LB945 has been referenced to the Agriculture Committee; a  hearing date has not been set.

LB1031: Railroad Transportation Safety

This bill changes the levy authority of Railroad Transportation Safety Districts (RTSDs). We’ve introduced this bill to encourage the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County to work together to increase the safety of railroad crossings. Two crossings that may be affected are 33rd and Cornhusker Streets, and 35th and Adams Streets.

This bill has been referenced to the Revenue Committee; a hearing date has not been set.

LB896: Longevity Pay

This bill requires pay increases for state employees to recognize length of service and their commitment to the State of Nebraska. These pay increases will be in addition to any other pay increases provided for in state law or in any collective bargaining agreement.

The introduced longevity raise is similar to legislation introduced in other Midwestern states. We hope to establish longevity raises as a permanent component of the Nebraska state employees system. This bill has been referenced to the Business and Labor Committee.

Photo from the ACLU of Nebraska

Photo from the ACLU of Nebraska

LB831- “Today I’m not only standing up for the privacy of all Nebraskans, I’m standing for wise use of our tax payer funds”

Meet Our New Interns!

Please welcome our new interns: Sarah Wagelie and Joe Gruber. Sarah is in her final year at UNL, and will graduate in May with a degree in Political Science and a Public Policy Analysis Certificate. She is joining us from Nebraskans for Civic Reform. Joe is a sophomore at UNL, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Community and Regional Planning. Joe thinks state government is pretty cool, which effectively sums up how we feel about our new interns!

Until next time…

If you have questions or concerns about legislation or the legislative process, please let us know! Our office is always happy to help.

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

For Immediate Release

January 20, 2016, Lincoln, NE – State Senator Matt Hansen introduced legislative bill 1089 to increase the “tip wage” for Nebraska workers. It would be the first increase in the “tip wage” in 25 years. The new wage would take effect August 1, 2016, and would initially increase the wage to $3.60 per hour and then to $4.50 per hour on August 1, 2017.

“Nebraska’s ‘tip wage’ ranks significantly behind our neighboring states and directly encourages many of our best and brightest Nebraskans to seek employment and opportunity in other states,” Hansen said. “Colorado, Iowa and South Dakota all have a higher “tip wage” than Nebraska. The “tip wage” has been $2.13 an hour since 1991 – even while inflation has continued to rise.

“It is important to note that, in 2014, a vast majority of Nebraskans voted to increase the hourly minimum wage for non-tipped wage earners. I believe that vote sends a strong message to the Legislature that it needs to take action to provide this ‘tip wage’ increase for Nebraska workers and their families.”

For More Information:
State Senator Matt Hansen: 402-471-2610
Search Nebraskans for Better Wages on Facebook

Day six bill introduction

January 19th, 2016
Published January 13, 2016
Unicameral Update

Senators reconvened Jan. 13 to introduce bills for the 104th Legislature, second session.

Among the 18 bills introduced were:

LB936, sponsored by Crete Sen. Laura Ebke, which would change inheritance tax rates and exemption amounts;

LB938, sponsored by Papillion Sen. Jim Smith, which would adopt the 911 Service System Act and transfer funds from the Enhanced Wireless 911 Fund to the 911 Service System Fund;

LB939, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, which would adopt the Nebraska Early Childhood Advantage Act;

LB940, sponsored by Wahoo Sen. Jerry Johnson, which would adopt the Tax Stabilization Act;

LB944, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, which would change terminology relating to parentage and marital relationships;

LB945, also sponsored by Hansen, which would adopt the Nebraska Healthy Food Financing Initiative Act;

LB948, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, which would change an application period limitation for the designation of enterprise zones;

LB951, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, which would adopt the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Act;

LB952, sponsored by Syracuse Sen. Dan Watermeier, which would require availability of emergency medical services and change membership of the Board of Emergency Medical Services; and

LB953, sponsored by Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, which would provide protection for qualified adults from financial exploitation.

A complete list of bills introduced thus far is available at New bills may be introduced until Jan. 20.

Committee hearings will begin Jan. 19.

Day Three Bill Introduction

January 12th, 2016
Published January 8, 2016
Unicameral Update

Senators reconvened Jan. 8 to introduce bills for the 104th Legislature, second session.

Among the 40 bills introduced were:

LB814, sponsored by Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen, which would change a requirement for issuance of a school permit;

LB817, sponsored by Ralston Sen. Merv Riepe, which would adopt the Direct Primary Care Agreement Act;

LB831, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, which would adopt the Automatic License Plate Reader Privacy Act;

LB833, sponsored by Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher, which would change provisions relating to child support enforcement actions;

LB836, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, which would adopt the In the Line of Duty Compensation Act;

LB839, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, which would require background checks and other requirements for persons purchasing certain types of tactical gear;

LB840, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Nicole Fox, which would change provisions relating to the time allowed for certain internal grievances under the Health Carrier External Review Act;

LB845, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, which would provide requirements relating to confinement of juveniles and provide a duty for the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare;

LB850, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, which would adopt the Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Act; and

LB851, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, which would change the Taxpayer Transparency Act.

A complete list of bills introduced thus far is available at New bills may be introduced for the first 10 legislative days, or until Jan. 20.

Floor debate on carryover bills will begin Jan. 11. Committee hearings will begin Jan. 19.

The session will last 60 legislative days and is tentatively scheduled to adjourn April 20.

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

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’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 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.

Sen. Matt Hansen

District 26
Room #1017
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2610
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