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What does democracy mean? To me, it means getting involved and being an active participant in our community, and one way to do that is by lending your voice to the legislative process.
This session, I’ve been thinking about all we covered in hearings, and among these, I’ve had one hearing in particular that has stuck with me. On a bill to create the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, I was moved by all those who shared personally traumatic and painful experiences in the hope of creating a better state for others.
I’m proud to be part of our shared democracy in the Nebraska Legislature. With this in mind, I’m having a town hall at Union College on May 28 and I hope you’ll join me. If we’ve talked in the past, I’d love to see you again, or if you’re looking to get more engaged in these issues, this would be a great place to start. I’ve included more information below in this newsletter.
Of course, if you can’t make it, you can always reach me at email@example.com, or to call my office at 402-471-2734, as well.
Below is some of what I’ve been working on in recent weeks. If you’d like to watch the legislature as we debate these items, NET has gavel-to-gavel coverage over the air on the NET World channel and streaming online.
May 28th Town Hall
On Tuesday, May 28 at 6:00 PM, I’ll be part of a Southeast Lincoln Town Hall at the Union College Krueger Center Lang Amphitheater. Myself, LPS Board Member Don Mayhew and County Commissioner Roma Amundson will be discussing city, state, and local topics relevant to Southeast Lincoln. To RSVP click here.
I’ll be sending out additional details in a follow up email.
Open Office Hours
The afternoon of Thursday, May 16, I’ll be holding open office hours at the capitol. If there are any legislative or state issues you’d like to share with me, I invite you to get in touch and schedule a time to meet. To do so, you can call or email my administrative assistant, Sam at 402-471-2734 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and he can help with scheduling a time. Parking is available on the west and south sides of the building.
Working to solve Nebraska’s prison staffing crisis
This session, I used my personal priority on LB109, legislation that would improve frontline employee retention at the Nebraska Department of Corrections. LB109 achieves this by creating new pay structures based on skill and experience, providing a career path for employees that currently leave the Department for better career opportunities.
The Department of Corrections has long suffered from high turnover and staffing shortages, which have contributed to a number of security issues at Nebraska’s prisons. By bringing forward these new wage tiers, we can take steps to retain the most highly trained and experienced workers at the Department of Corrections. Recently, officers negotiated a new contract, and this policy is in line with these goals.
Enhancing Nebraska’s Workforce Training
Another bill I’ve introduced, LB180, expands program eligibility for Nebraska’s Community College Gap Assistance Program. In recent years, employees have increasingly highlighted the lack of skilled employees available to fill open positions. LB180 expands the number of fields eligibility for the Gap Assistance Program, which provides financial aid community college students taking non-credit courses that lead to jobs in high-demand fields. Examples of programs include certified nursing assistants and commercial driver’s license programs. LB180 passed through the legislature last week and has been sent to the Governor.
The lack of trained employees to fill Nebraska’s job needs will continue to hurt our state’s economy until we can find ways to link people with the training necessary to fill open jobs. A few weeks ago, Senator Matt Hansen of northeast Lincoln and I reaffirmed the need to seek a variety of solutions for this growing issue, including adequately funding Nebraska’s community and state college system, and seeking the perspectives of both business leaders and employees in finding ways to train Nebraska residents and attract new talent to our state to fill these needs.
Extending the Children’s Commission
Nebraska’s child welfare system is not a single entity. It relies on the work of a number of state agencies, nonprofits, private actors, and families. It’s in the best interests of kids being served to have all these organization on the same page and working in unison to carry out their missions. Since 2012, the Nebraska Children’s Commission has brought stakeholders, service providers, members of the Legislature, Supreme Court, Department of Health and Human Services, and Supreme Court together to coordinate a shared vision for Nebraska’s child welfare system.
Over its six years, the Children’s Commission has recognized a number of gaps in state laws that were harming kids, and has lead to a number of pieces of legislation to improve the lives of Nebraska children. The Children’s Commission is set to sunset in 2019. LB330removes this sunset on the Children’s Commission, clarifies and streamlines its responsibilities, and places the entity under the Nebraska Office of the Public Council. LB330 passed out of the Executive Board on a 9-0 vote, and is currently on General File.
Bridge to Independence
One of the recent recommendations from the Children’s Commission relates to minor changes we can make to the Bridge to Independence program to increase the number of youth assisted. The Bridge to Independence Program was created in 2013 and helps provide support to youth ages 19 through 21 that are aging out of foster care. Some of these services include Independence Coordinators to provide advice, resources and goals, as well as assistance with signing up for eligible health care coverage, such as the ACA exchange or Medicaid. To stay in the program, youth must be working, pursuing an education, or volunteering.
LB332 and the amendment, AM1384, adjust the Bridge to Independence Program by changing the eligibility criteria to expand access to youth who entered into a guardianship from the juvenile justice system before they were 17. These changes are paid for by eliminating duplicative payments and limiting program eligibility to Nebraskans. This allows the program to serve more youth while staying within current funding levels.