NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Matt Hansen

Sen. Matt Hansen

District 26

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Published February 29, 2016

Unicameral Update

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.

Designating Priority Bills

February 26th, 2016

News for the 26th

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.

Senator Hansen and Union members at the AFL-CIO Luncheon on the February snow day.

Senator Hansen and Union members at the AFL-CIO Luncheon on the February snow day.

2016 Legislation

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: Election Technology

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: Tipped Minimum Wage

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: NICS Denials Notification (National Instant Criminal Background Check System)

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.

Earlier this month…

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.

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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.

Sen Hansen Food Deserts

Unicameral Update- LB945

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
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.”

 

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 NebraskaLegislature.gov. 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 NebraskaLegislature.gov. 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.

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.

 

 
Published April 7, 2015
Unicameral Update

Lawmakers gave first-round approval April 7 to a bill that would extend a behavioral health screening and referral program.

In 2013, the Legislature created the Behavioral Health Screening and Referral Pilot Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) 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.

Hansen said the program screened over 1,900 young people during visits to family health providers since its inception in November 2013. Approximately 23 percent of those children screened positive for a behavioral health concern, he said.

“It has been a successful program and one I feel that we, as a state, should continue,” Hansen said. “Effectively, [LB240] will continue the program and make it permanent.”

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell supported the bill, 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.

Campbell said carrying on the work established by the pilot program is critical to early detection of depression, anxiety and other disorders.
“We need to move this program from a pilot situation to making sure that it exists all across the state of Nebraska,” she said.

Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher questioned the efficacy of the pilot program, saying more data regarding its success should be offered before removing the sunset date.

Senators needs to know what form of treatment children received, how it was paid for and how effective it was, he said—as well as how those results compare to children who were not screened or treated.

“As a pilot program, we should learn something before we ‘un-pilot’ it and make it a permanent program,” Schumacher said. “Our only result from this two years is that kids were screened.”

Senators voted 32-11 to advance the bill to select file.

 

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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