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In the last few weeks, our community has been having a conservation about the balance between keeping people safe and responding humanely to the pain of racism and injustice. It’s clear we have a lot of work to do to confront uncomfortable truths and find a shared way forward.
I believe one of the best ways for me to be a good ally is to be a good listener and to work hard to be an elected official that supports racial equality. I’m listening to diverse leaders in my community and learning. Last week at the Malone Center, agency staff along with the police chief shared that the Lincoln community is working with local law enforcement to develop these kinds of community-based responses.
This week the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee held listening sessions in Omaha and Lincoln. I attended the Lincoln session, and was encouraged by the turnout in our community, and the thoughtful ideas brought forward in the session. I’m working with my colleagues to bring forward reform proposals when the legislature reconvenes in July, and we will remain committed to finding solutions to these inequalities.
In March, when the risks of COVID-19 to the general public and our health infrastructure became clear, the Legislature took the unprecedented step of going into recess. We briefly reconvened to pass emergency relief funding, and have been in recess since.
Recently, Speaker Scheer has announced that we will be reconvening on Monday, July 20, and adjourning on Thursday, August 13. You can view the updated session calendar here.
Nearly every corner of our state’s economy has been affected by COVID-19, and the Legislature will need to address these economic challenges. I’ve heard from many of you who have been directly impacted and I am working with my colleagues and community stakeholders to find the most effective way we can leverage state resources to help.
CARES Act Transparency
In March, the Federal Government passed a significant amount of emergency Coronavirus relief funds through the CARES Act. In order to ensure that these funds are administered in a way that most helps Nebraskans, my colleagues and I have sent a letter to Governor Ricketts, asking him to promote transparency and responsiveness in administering CARES Act funding and the Coronavirus Relief Fund. We’ve outlined a number of steps, including a public comment period, public database of funds, and hearings which are open to the public, among other suggestions. CARES Act Funds Letter June 10.
The high number of unemployment claims that have been filed with the Nebraska Department of Labor has meant that some claims have taken a long time to be processed. If you’ve waited a significant amount of time for unemployment payments to begin, please reach out to me at email@example.com or (402) 471-2734 and we can work with the Department of Labor to see when you can expect payments to begin.
How to Contact Me
If you need assistance with Nebraska’s state government, or you’d like to share your legislative priorities, you can email me at KBolz@leg.ne.gov, or call my office at 402-471-2734.
Unicameral Update and NET Coverage
To stay up to date on the news of the Legislature, you can follow the Unicameral Update, a daily publication put out by the Clerk of the Legislature. Among the topics covered by the Unicameral Update include legislative activity, floor debate and committee hearings. Additionally, NET has gavel-to-gavel coverage over the air on the NET World channel and streaming online.
The past few months, all of us have faced varying degrees of challenges and adjustments to our lives. Through this, we’ve seen many essential workers and first responders continue to do incredible work the face of unprecedented uncertainty. I’ve been proud of the work that our state government has done in helping Nebraskans get through this difficult time. We are here to help as well. You can still call and email us at (402) 471-2734 and firstname.lastname@example.org. We are working remotely, but checking in regularly.
In March my office compiled a list of frequently asked questions about Coronavirus, and places Nebraskans can go for more information. We’ve recently updated this document, and have added new information on unemployment insurance, elder care, crisis hotlines and small business assistance. To view the May 1 update of the COVID-19 resources Q&A, you can do so here.
Last week week, I shared my thoughts in the Lincoln Journal Star on how to best navigate the challenging budget circumstances that our state faces.
There will be some economic pain ahead as state revenue declines, however, our state a stronger economic position than many others, and now is the time for us to maximize our state resources by addressing emergency needs (including ongoing assistance for flooding recovery and support for healthcare providers), family economic stability, helping businesses and nonprofits move forward, getting people back to work, retaining government institutions, and supporting local governments. If you’d like to read my full editorial, you can do so here.
Reopening Healthcare Exchanges
In the Legislature, we’ve been looking at ways to provide additional help to Nebraskans. Last month, members of the Legislature sent correspondence to our Federal Delegation asking the federal healthcare exchange to be reopened in response to the virus.
For those with short term coverage, opening the marketplace would provide an insurance option for individuals throughout this pandemic, a crucial step to enhancing our community’s general health and ability to control the spread of COVID. To read the letter, click here.
Frontline Worker Safety
Additionally, we’ve sent a letter to Governor Ricketts outlining suggestions for how we can utilize state government resources to help essential workers. This included adding grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, and food production workers the state definition of essential workers.
The past week, we’ve seen this crisis explode at food production sites, and these employees need the same protections that we’ve given to other industries of essential workers. Doing this is critical to the safety of employees, but also to maintain food security statewide.
We’ve also requested that where possible, state employees work remotely and the state expand social distancing at workplaces where remote work is not possible. If you’d like to read the full letter, you can do so here.
Because of the high number of unemployment claims that have been filed with the Nebraska Department of Labor, some claims have taken a long time to be processed. If you’ve waited a significant amount of time for unemployment payments to begin, please reach out to me at email@example.com, and we can work with the Department of Labor to see when you can expect payments to begin.
Recently, the Nebraska Department of Insurance issued guidance to insurance companies, clarifying that they are allowed to relax notice of loss requirements, premium payment provisions, and cancelation for non-renewal in response to COVID-19, as long as these policies are standardized and applied on a fair and consistent basis across all policies. Each insurance company is responding to consumer challenges meeting policy payments individually, but if you have questions about this, you should contact your insurance company directly.
Furthermore, the federal government offers the following information for individuals with lapsed coverage and those whose insurance is provided through the Marketplace at https://www.healthcare.gov/apply-and-enroll/health-insurance-grace-period/
Today I’ve released “COVID-19 and State Government Services: Questions and Answers for Nebraskans” The document contains fifty frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and state government services, along with answers and resources.
This guide is a resource for Nebraskans seeking information about state government services and COVID-19. We are grateful to the state employees and agencies working to serve Nebraskans at this difficult time. This guide provides simple answers to questions we’ve received in our office and resources for people in District #29 and across the state.
Click here to access COVID-19 and State Government Services: Questions and Answers for Nebraskans
Attached are a list of local, state and national crisis response resources for COVID-19. I’ll continue to update my legislative blog as additional resources are made available. If you have any questions or need assistance during this time, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and my office will be happy to assist you.
Crisis Response Resources for COVID-19
Includes local, state, and national informational resources and guidelines
We’ll be out celebrating Independence Day this weekend and my office will be closed on Friday, July 5th.
I’ll be in the district on Friday, if you need to reach me, you can call directly at 402-802-8312. You can also leave my office a voicemail at 402-471-2734 and we will return your call on Monday.
On Tuesday, May 28 at 6:00 PM, I’ll be part of a Southeast Lincoln Listening Session at the Union College Krueger Center Lang Amphitheater. At the listening session, myself, LPS Board Member Don Mayhew, Lincoln City Council Member Jane Raybould and Lancaster County Commissioner Roma Amundson will be discussing city, state, and local topics relevant to Southeast Lincoln. We will also be having time for a question and answer session. To RSVP to the listening session, click here.
For a map of Union College’s campus, click here. The Krueger Center is building #7.
We hope to see you on May 28!
I’ll be holding open office hours in the afternoon on Thursday, May 16. 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 schedule a time, you can call or email my administrative aid Sam at 402-471-2734 or email@example.com, and he can help with scheduling a time. My office is located on the northwest corner of the first floor, in room 1015. Parking is available on the west and south sides of the building.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 email@example.com, 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.
Lancaster County recently released their new preliminary property values report, which will be the basis for property tax bills in 2020. Because of increasing home values, many residents of LD29 will see an increase in home valuation, and subsequent property tax bill. In order to see your new assessed value, you can visit the Lancaster County Assessor’s website at http://lancaster.ne.gov/assessor/2019Values.htm
On March 25, the finalized valuation changes will be posted on the Lancaster County Assessor website. At this point, if you feel that your protest was not properly evaluated, there is a formal appeals process through the Nebraska Tax Equalization and Review Commission that is outlined in this document.
The timeline for the appeals process is listed here and the formal complaint must be filed by June 1. You can also contact the Tax Equalization and Review Commission directly at (402) 471-2842 if you have specific questions about this process. As always, you can contact my office at (402) 471-2734 for other questions.
One of my goals while in the legislature has been to shape our state’s tax discussion to include the effect that property taxes have on residential property taxpayers. As a member of the appropriations committee, I have supported increases in the Property Tax Cash Fund, a dedicated fund that directly reduces the property taxes you pay. Additionally, this year I’ve introduced legislation, LB420, to create a property tax “circuit breaker” which provides a tax credit in the event that property taxes increase significantly compared to a person’s income. The bill will have a hearing on Thursday, February 21 at 1:30 in the Revenue Committee.
On Monday, November 12, I’ll be available from 9am to noon for open office hours.
If you have the day off in observance of Veterans Day and would like to meet with me to discuss potential legislation, policy issues, casework or anything else that may be on your mind, you can schedule a time by calling my office at 402-471-2734, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re unavailable on November 12, but would still like to discuss upcoming policy issues, please feel free to email me at email@example.com, or call at 402-471-2734.
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