NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Kate Bolz

Sen. Kate Bolz

District 29

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at kbolz@leg.ne.gov

Death Penalty

May 20th, 2013

Death Penalty

 A serious and somber debate about repeal of the death penalty was held by the Nebraska Legislature last week.  A filibuster by proponents of the death penalty prevented a vote to advance LB 543, the bill that would have abolished Nebraska’s death penalty.  State senators spent eight hours discussing the issue.  I was among the 28 senators who voted for cloture, a procedural vote that would stop debate and allow a vote on amendments and the bill. Unfortunately, there were not enough senators in favor of advancing the bill and ending the filibuster.  When a cloture motion fails, debate on the bill ends for the day.  LB 543, remains on General File, and is available for discussion again.

 LB 543 is an important bill, and I appreciate the opportunity to debate the issue.  Currently, Nebraska is one of thirty-two states that has retained capital punishment.   The average death penalty case costs $3 million to prosecute, compared to $1.1 million for cases of life without parole.  In Nebraska, there have been 260 first-degree murder convictions since 1973.  Thirty-three of these offenders were given the death penalty.  Of those 33 cases, only three men have been executed during the past 30 years.  There are eleven men on death row in Nebraska today.

There are many arguments on both sides of this issue.  I oppose the death penalty for several reasons, including cost, concern regarding the fair implementation of the law, and the risk of error.  In the United States alone, 306 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence to date, and 18 of these individuals had served time on death row.  The death penalty is permanent; we cannot risk the possibility of making an irreversible mistake.

 Importantly, I have also heard from an overwhelming number of constituents who support repeal of the death penalty, and their moral conviction is compelling to me. Thank you to all of the constituents who contacted my office in opposition to the death penalty.  Thank you also to Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Nebraska Innocence Project, and the Nebraska Catholic Conference for providing supporting documentation that was very helpful to me in preparing for this debate.

Budget Bills Debated

May 13th, 2013

Budget is Debated

The Appropriation Committee’s budget was debated and advanced last week.  I’m proud of our moderate, strategic budget.  As a post-recession budget, we have included moderate investments in line with the administration’s proposals.

It has been a very informative and rewarding experience for me to be a member of the Appropriations Committee. Several issues were very important to me while debating the state’s budget. One such item in the budget honors a two-year freeze on tuition for students who attend the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, Omaha, and Kearney) and the three State Colleges (Chadron, Peru, and Wayne). Also, more money was designated for people on a waiting list for developmental disabilities services.  Of course, we also invested in the basics, ranging from ensuring that the state patrol members have gas in their cars to making sure that libraries have adequate funding to continue on-line services.

We also kept a healthy amount of money (nearly $625 million) in the cash reserve for the future. This is perhaps the most important part of the budget to me, it will help us meet our state obligations while preventing need for discussion of tax increases in the future.

After four days of debate, the Appropriation Committee’s plan for a two-year, $7.8 billion dollar budget was advanced. Ten amendments were introduced and discussed at length on the main budget bill, LB 195. Two of these amendments, offered by Senator Heath Mello, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, were adopted. The two amendments were late additions to the budget that were adopted after the bills were being printed. They include an upgrade to the state’s emergency radio system and an adjustment to the state aid formula bill as agreed to when that bill, LB 407, was advanced to the second round of debate. Four amendments were withdrawn after debate, and four others were voted down. Several amendments involved property tax relief, which is an issue that constituents in every legislative district have requested. The majority of senators decided to wait for the major tax study that is scheduled for the interim before changing the current tax policy.

There are two more rounds of debate, then the seven budget bills, as amended, go to the Governor Heineman for his review. The Governor can sign the bills, or make individual line-item adjustments in these bills. We are required to pass a budget must by day Eightieth of session this year, which is May 20th. We are well on our way to meeting this requirement.

School Aid – LB 407

May 13th, 2013

LB 407 – School Aid

School aid, a top priority of the State’s biennial budget, was recently discussed at the Nebraska Legislature. The bill, LB 407, had an extensive debate. All state senators, myself included, are deeply concerned with providing children with the best education possible.

Every year, state senators work hard to figure out how to fairly appropriate school aid between Nebraska’s diverse school districts and this year was no different.  The school funding formula, officially known as the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA), was drafted to distribute “equalized” aid to schools. TEEOSA uses an equation to determine a schools’ needs, then subtracts their resources. Determining the needs and resources for each of Nebraska’s 249 school districts is not an easy task.

LB 407, as it has been agreed to, distributes the funds based on needs and resources and gives more money to school districts that hold a longer school year and employ more highly educated teachers.

As a Lincoln state senator, I watched to see  how this compromise will affect Lincoln Public Schools (LPS). One of the most important parts of the compromise for LPS is that it retained an averaging adjustment for districts, which gives funding to districts that are close to or at the tax levy limits. Lincoln is at the $1.05 limit. Lincoln Public Schools takes in just more than $5,000 per year in property taxes for each of its 36,000 students. LB 407, with the compromise, will amount to an increase of approximately $14 million to LPS.  State senators have tried to be fair to Nebraska’s many school districts, and all senators want the best education possible for our children.

Education is a top priority for me and for District 29.  I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas at (402) 802-8312 or kbolz@leg.ne.gov.  We’ll keep working hard for our kids!

 

Medicaid

April 19th, 2013

MEDICAID DEBATE

Thank you for visiting my website. This week has included debate on one of the most important issues of the session: The Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), and the expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska. This discussion became necessary last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that expanding Medicaid was an optional provision in the ACA. States must decide if they will cover their low-income residents (who currently do not qualify for Medicaid benefits) through this expansion.

LB 577, introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell, is the Medicaid bill advanced by the Health and Human Services Committee. It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to add the newly eligible adult population, as outlined in the federal ACA, to the Nebraska Medicaid plan. The bill also outlines the health coverage provided under the program. State officials predict that health care coverage could be extended to approximately 54,000 uninsured Nebraskans under this bill.

Proponents argued that the bill would help working families and people who need assistance now but simply do not qualify for Medicaid. It would also bring federal dollars into Nebraska, where those dollars can be used more efficiently. Opponents expressed concerns about the cost of expanding medical services to thousand of people. They also questioned whether there are health care professionals available to provide these services.

During floor debate this week, an amendment was adopted that would require the Nebraska Legislature to revisit this Medicaid expansion if the federal government does not honor its promise to fund at least 90% of the expansion. During the first three years (2014-2016), the federal government has committed to paying for 100% of the expansion. Federal funding decreases to 90% between 2016- 2020. I was one of the 30 senators who voted in favor of this amendment.

After 10½ hours of debate, Speaker Greg Adams decided to suspend debate on LB 577. Senator Campbell does not have the necessary 33 votes to stop debate and proceed to a vote (cloture). There are five amendments currently filed on the bill, which must be addressed before the bill can advance without cloture. LB 577 may be brought up for debate again this year if an agreement is reached between the two sides.

I appreciate hearing from constituents so you can be represented. Currently, more supporters than opponents have contacted me on this bill. If you would like to share your thoughts on this legislation (or any other bill before the Legislature), please email me at kbolz@leg.ne.gov. You may send a letter to: Senator Kate Bolz, District 29, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509, or call my office at 402 – 471 – 2734. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you.

Priority Bills

April 15th, 2013

PRIORITY BILLS

Welcome to the website. The session is almost two-thirds of the way done, and debate for the next two weeks will focus on priority bills. Priority bills are those bills which are deemed to be the most important of the session. They, along with the state’s budget, will be the focus during the remaining thirty days of the session.

My personal priority bill is LB 507, introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln.  The key purposes of this bill are to increase child care quality in the state, provide accountability for public dollars invested in child care, improve school readiness and provide clear information to parents about the quality of child care where they are placing their children.  I think it is important for the families in District 29.

Two of the bills I introduced will were designated as priority bills. LB 310 was selected by the Business and Labor Committee as a committee priority. This bill would change disability compensation provisions in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act to make it more fair to workers significantly injured on the job.

LB 483 was selected by Speaker Greg Adams as one of his twenty-five priorities. This bill provides funding to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for programs to improve personal and parenting skills of incarcerated parents. Recidivism rates for released inmates who participate in these programs are much lower compared to inmates who do not have this knowledge. Most inmates will be released after serving their sentences, and all of society benefits from their success.

I’m always happy to hear from you about these bills or any other issues on your mind.

Please feel free to contact my legislative office. You can email me at kbolz@leg.ne.gov, or send a letter to: Senator Kate Bolz, District 29, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509. You may also call my office at 402 – 471 – 2734. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you.

Newsletter – 2/20/2013

February 20th, 2013

Thank you for visiting my website. It is my hope to write frequent updates so that you know what is happening in the District 29 Legislative Office.

First of all, as a Freshman Senator, I am busy learning as much about the legislative process as possible. My days currently consist of meetings, legislative debate in the mornings, Appropriations Committee briefings and hearings in the afternoons, and sometimes attending events at night.

State senators can only introduce bills during the first ten days of the session.  All bills are assigned to a committee, and all bills will have hearings. Legislative hearings take place during the first half of the session. During the second half, when hearings are over, senators spend most of the days on the legislative floor debating bills that have advanced out of committee. This year, the Nebraska Legislature will be in session for 90 days; next year, we will meet for 60 days.

I introduced eight bills this session. Two of those bills have already had hearings. LB 297 would add coroners to a section of the workers’ compensation benefits law. The bill would provide coroners with benefits for mental injury if the injury occurred while performing their duties as coroners. Current law already provides this coverage for employees who are working as first responders. Coroners are asked to witness some truly horrific sites. I believe we need to help them recover from a mental injury just as we currently cover physical injuries that are job related. LB 297 was heard before the Business and Labor Committee on January 28, and there has been no further action on the bill since the hearing.

LB 264 would provide an income tax credit for caregivers. Specifically, the bill would give a $500 annual tax credit to caregivers, starting in 2013, for caring for a disabled person over the age of 65. In order to qualify for these tax credits, caregivers must earn less than or equal to 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Baby Boomers are growing older. Costs are very high to take care of our elderly citizens in nursing homes or assisted living centers. If we can help Middle Class families who take care of family members in their homes by giving them a tax credit, it will help their family budgets and save the state Medicaid dollars. LB 264 was heard by the Revenue Committee on February 1st. No action has been taken on this bill by the Revenue Committee.

Please feel free to contact my legislative office. You can email me at kbolz@leg.ne.gov, or send a letter to: Senator Kate Bolz, District 29, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509. You may also call my office at 402 – 471 – 2734. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sen. Kate Bolz

District 29
Room #1015
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2734
Email: kbolz@leg.ne.gov
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