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 email@example.com
Hello – Please share your thoughts with me about our policy priorities for District #29. Thank you for your time and input.
A Note from Kate
The 2014 Legislative Session wrapped up on April 17th. Thank you all for your input and support this year. It was a successful session for many of the legislative issues that are important to District #29 residents; including education, tax policy, human services, and more. I am honored to continue to serve your interests in the Nebraska Unicameral.
Sincerely, Senator Kate Bolz
2014 Session Highlights
These are just a few of the highlights that I found important in the 2014 session.
The Nebraska Unicameral continued its commitment to early childhood education this year; including passage of my bill, LB 944, which provides technical assistance to early childhood settings serving children with high behavioral needs. Other education related legislation included:
LB 483: This bill creates a “troubleshooting team” for struggling schools.
LB 1103: Education Committee Chairwoman Kate Sullivan promoted this bill to create a statewide strategic plan for education in Nebraska. We will share more information about opportunities to provide your input as they become available.
As a member of the Tax Modernization Committee, I am pleased to report that several of our recommendations moved forward this session. This balanced, moderate set of proposals makes good fiscal sense for individual taxpayers and for our economy:
LB 986: Expansion of the homestead exemption program to include more modest income seniors and Nebraskans with disabilities.
Budget Bill: An additional $25 million dollars was added to the Property Tax Credit Fund.
LB 987: Indexing of individual income tax brackets for inflation, as well as expansion of the tax exemption of Social Security Benefits for moderate income Nebraskans and certain military retirement income.
I am glad to report that my priority bill, LB 690, passed the Unicameral this session. This bill will improve long-term strategies for assisting senior citizens with staying in their homes as they age, the preference of many Nebraskans. Further, LB 690 creates an aging task force to plan for the future. Other initiatives that I supported include:
Budget Bill: Additional funding for the developmental disabilities waiting list.
LB 901: Legislation training educators and community members regarding suicide prevention.
Are you looking for details about a particular bill? Do you want to learn more about the critical issues addressed this session? Visit the Unicameral update to learn more:
Thank you for your interest in YOUR Nebraska Unicameral!
COFFEE WITH KATE
Please join Senator Kate Bolz for a meeting with constituents on Tuesday, March 11th, 2014. It will take place at the Clark Jeary Retirement Community, 8401 South 33rd Street.
Senator Bolz is look forward to meeting with you and hearing your concerns and ideas for the district. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402 – 471 – 2734.
The 103rd legislature, 2nd Session is officially underway and there are many important issues to address. This session will be just 60 days in length, ending in early April, and will require focus on the parts of Nebraska’s senators to afford each issue adequate consideration.
The session began on January 8, 2014. Each senator has the opportunity to introduce new bills for the first 10 days of session. As was the case last year, my priorities rest with those issues concerning your District: care of our children, education at all levels, the long-term care needs of our seniors, ensuring the safety of our communities, and monitoring the fiscal responsibilities of our state. I have introduced several bills on these issues, here are four of my top priorities this year:
LB 1026: This bill creates the Educational Trust Fund, which will assist with deficits in state aid to education when there is a significant decline in income and sales tax revenue.
LB 689: LB 689 provides more sustainable resources for Area Agencies on Aging, which provide a safety net for our aging Nebraskans. Services provided include personal care, meals and nutrition, chores and minor home repairs, transportation, care coordination, family caregiver supports and respite, senior center programming, and many more.
LB 691: This bill increases the child care tax credit currently available to Nebraskans by 3%.
LB 936: LB 936 creates the State Ward Permanency Pilot Program, which will provide developmental disabilities services to foster children in need of these services as they move towards a reunification with their families or a permanent home.
It is very important to me to know your thoughts on the bills I have researched and developed on your behalf. My office is always open! We will work diligently to find a time to discuss your ideas on these and other issues.
2013 Consumer Presentation: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByIRL2Ddsdo5dU8zVlFwUDZOZ0k/edit?usp=sharing
Priority Bill – LB 507 – Quality Child Care
LB 507, my 2013 priority bill, was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Dave Heineman. LB 507, introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, will require a five-step quality rating and improvement system for child care centers with children whose parents qualify for assistance and a voluntary system for others. This legislation will help working parents access high-quality child care that promotes education and safety for kids.
LB 507 requires child care centers to participate in the five-step quality rating system if they receive state assistance on behalf of low-income working parents. Other child care providers may voluntarily participate in the program if they so choose. The bill phases in the participation requirements over a three year period, beginning in 2014, depending on the amount of subsidy the center receives. Child care programs would be rated based on curriculum, health and safety, professional staff development and outreach to families. These ratings will be published online starting in 2017. Participating programs that meet certain quality standards would earn bonuses and increased subsidy rates.
The cost of child care for an infant is approximately $7,600 per year. In 2012, the State of Nebraska paid $95 million to assist low-income working parents pay for child care. Until the passage of LB 507, there were no minimum standards of quality for these child care facilities.
Nebraska ranks second in the nation for the number of working parents. Parents deserve a system in which they can easily compare the quality of available child care. The first three years of life are the most crucial in the development of our children. I am pleased that this bill will improve the overall quality of child care in the state, help parents in all income levels to compare child care centers, and ensure that our tax dollars are subsidizing good, quality programs for our children.
My bill related to family re-entry programs for incarcerated parents, LB 483, passed on final reading today. It designates $500,000 to the Department of Corrections to establish a two-year pilot program to help children and families by teaching relationship and parenting skills.
When the legislative session began, I had no plans of introducing a bill that would fund programs in Nebraska’s correctional facilities. When the ideas found in LB 483 were presented to me, however, I became convinced that this bill is a very worthy and cost-effective measure.
Men and women who commit crimes should be punished. As a social worker, however, I can see the effects of separation on family members – especially the children. Children want to spend time with their parents. Many additional hardships are created for the remaining family members when a loved one is incarcerated. According to the 2008 Bureau of Justice Statistics Report, 90% of the children in foster care today are growing up without their biological fathers playing a role in their lives. Children who have incarcerated parents are six times more likely than other children to be incarcerated at some point in their lives.
Christian Heritage, a non-profit group, has developed a series of programs that are offered at Nebraska correctional facilities today. They received a federal grant in 2009 to create and offer programs that encourage parents to be involved in the lives of their spouses and children. Since these programs began, 407 inmates have completed the programs and reentered society. Only 31 of the 407 participants have re-offended, which is a rate of 7.6%. This number is much lower than the average 25% of general population inmates who are released, then commit crimes and return to the correctional system.
Successful programs, like the ones developed by Christian Heritage, help save taxpayer dollars. The Nebraska Department of Corrections estimates the average yearly cost of incarcerating one inmate is $28,179. Christian Heritage believes they have helped taxpayers save approximately $950,000 by lowering the recidivism rate of those who have participated in these programs.
Federal grant money is no longer available for these programs to continue in Nebraska. The bill would allow the Department of Corrections to either establish the programs on their own, or offer competitive bids allowing another entity to offer evidence-based programming and collect outcome data.
The Nebraska Department of Corrections has the following mission statement: “To serve and protect the public by providing control, humane care and program opportunities for those individuals placed in its custody and supervision, thereby facilitating their return to society as responsible persons.” LB 483 helps the Department of Corrections achieve their mission, saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the recidivism rate, and allows children and spouses to bond with family members.
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 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.
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 email@example.com. We’ll keep working hard for our kids!