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Next week, I’ll be holding open office hours from noon to 5pm on Friday, January 3. With the 2020 legislative session starting on January 8, if there are any state issues or legislative ideas you’d like to share with me before the session starts, 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. My office is located on the northwest corner of the first floor of the state capitol, in room 1015. Parking is available on the west and south sides of the building.
The following op-ed, submitted by Senator Gragert and I, appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star on December 4.
Water is the lifeblood of Nebraska. It fuels our economy and sustains our quality of life.
Despite floods, droughts, pests and economic challenges, our valuable water resources and their effective management have made Nebraska a global leader in agriculture. In fact, we have more irrigated acres than any other state, including California.
Yet even as Nebraska has maintained its water resources, food and water insecurity is becoming an increasingly urgent global challenge. Almost 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night – making this both a quality of life and international security issue.
Closer to home, this year’s devastating floods across Nebraska are a powerful reminder of the importance of effective water management, particularly in the face of an unpredictable climate.
As the Appropriations Committee heard in a recent hearing on water research at our university, the people of our state are fortunate that our University of Nebraska is leading the way in developing solutions.
This year the university is celebrating 150 years of research and education. Since the beginning, the university has focused on water, agriculture and the management of critical resources. Researchers and students have a rich history of working closely with our farmers, ranchers and resource managers to develop new technology and find better ways of managing water to achieve maximum production, without over-using this precious resource.
We deepened our investment over a decade ago when a founding gift from the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation helped create the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, a system-wide effort to bring the talents and expertise of faculty across the campuses to address the enormous challenge of achieving water and food security for our growing world.
In just 10 years, the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute has developed a reputation as the go-to resource for water and agriculture productivity innovations. Senators heard just a few examples of the interconnected issues our university tackles on a daily basis, including drought, floods and other weather extremes; water and soil contamination; changing diets and demands for more water-intensive foods; economic disparities and conflict; and the infrastructure needed for sustainable agricultural production and effective water management.
We’re already seeing new innovations borne of partnerships between the university and farmers and ranchers. For example, many Nebraska farmers are now using drones to keep an eye on their fields and see the pockets of crops that need water. They use soil moisture probes that send data to satellites and accessed by smartphone. They have specialized meters attached to their wells, measuring the energy used to pump water for irrigation.
Our ranchers are also doing remarkable work with the university, implementing new practices for producing beef, chicken and dairy products that are served at Michelin star restaurants around the world – but with significantly less water than it took 25 years ago.
We have much to be proud of in our agricultural heritage, but Nebraska’s continued global leadership will require more work and more investment. All of us should have a goal to make certain families have dinner on the table every night. That’s a future we think we can achieve – through continued support of University of Nebraska research and with the engagement of Nebraskans who have made our agriculture and natural resources management so successful.
Senator Kate Bolz represents District 29. Senator Tim Gragert Represents District 40.
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.
Thank you for all of your support this session. I’ve worked hard to represent your interests and implement good policy for the people of Nebraska.
My priorities continue to include the best interests of kids, workforce education, and promoting access to health care.
I want to share with you a few highlights from this session and note projects and priorities for next year.
First, I’m pleased that we passed a number of bills this session. A few of my favorites include:
LB 174: doubling funding for violence prevention in Nebraska
LB 180: expanding access to community college scholarships
LB 181: developing strategic research and plans to promote access to nursing facilities in Nebraska
LB 330: making the Nebraska Children’s Commission permanent
LB 327: improved reimbursement rates for behavioral health providers
LB 332: expanding access to the Bridge to Independence program to individuals who have experience in the child welfare system but age out of the foster care system
LB 481: creating the Brain Injury Trust fund
LB 564: increasing access to grants for communities building public spaces and multiuse facilities
LB 565: protecting spouse’s rights to retirement funds
The Nebraska State Budget also included a number of priorities, while keeping spending growth to 3% – less than the Governor’s proposed budget. One of the largest increases was to the Property Tax Credit Program. Another increase for property tax payers was in the Homestead Exemption for low and moderate income homeowners. The budget also achieved the following goals of:
In the future, we plan to work on a number of priorities, including promoting the rights of survivors of sexual assault, increasing investments in workforce development, promoting scholarship funds, and ensuring resources for K-12 education.
It’s an honor to serve you. If you have other ideas or issues for our office to consider, please give us a call at (402) 802-8312 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Sam Huppert, my Administrative Aide at email@example.com, to participate in our next open office hours on Thursday, July 18.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Senator Kate Bolz, (402) 802-8312, email@example.com
Senator Bolz Statement on the Department of Correctional Services Committee on Industrial Relations Hearing Outcome
March 1, 2019 (Lincoln, NE) — In response to today’s CIR hearing, Senator Kate Bolz released the following statement:
“We are disappointed there was no increase in corrections staff wages following this week’s Committee on Industrial Relations hearing. We stand with the Department of Corrections staffers and continue to work diligently to pass LB109, which would recognize skill and experience of employees through a longevity pay plan.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Senator Kate Bolz, (402) 802-8312, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Bill Works to Solve Corrections Staffing Crisis by Providing Wages Based on Skill and Experience
February 14, 2019 (Lincoln, NE) — Today, Senator Kate Bolz introduced legislation to improve retention for frontline employees at the Nebraska Department of Corrections. The bill, LB109, will be heard today in the Government Committee and creates new pay structures that rewards experience and skills gained while working for the Department.
Currently, employees are not guaranteed wages that reflect experience on the job.
“It’s clear that to solve our prison staffing crisis and cut long-term training costs to the state, we must do more to keep the employees we’ve already invested in” said Senator Kate Bolz.
LB109 requires that beginning in 2021/2022 must create three tiers of experience with increasing pay structures for corrections corporals, sergeants and unit caseworkers, respectively.
The Department of Corrections has suffered from staffing vacancies and high turnover for much of the decade. A 2016 workplace culture study commissioned by the Department showed experience was of high value to operations. The same report mentioned the necessity of employee retention in maintaining secure facilities, “Keeping quality, trained staff is important for maintaining safe and secure prisons in Nebraska. Not only are staff responsible for keeping offenders and the public safe, they play a vital role in the rehabilitative process for offenders, assisting with their successful reentry into our communities upon release.”
“By introducing new staffing wage tiers, we can recognize the most experienced and highly trained Department of Corrections employees and incentivize them to stay with the Department throughout their careers,” said Senator Bolz.
Senator Kate Bolz of Lincoln represents District #29 in the Nebraska Legislature
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.