Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 30th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Roy Baker
The 2017 Nebraska Legislature opened on January 4. We are seeing the full impact of term limits in the Unicameral. Seventeen new Senators were sworn in, joining the eighteen of us who entered two years ago. Of the 49 Senators, only 14 have four or more years of experience in the Legislature.
Nebraska’s single-house nonpartisan Legislature is unique among the states. George W. Norris successfully led the campaign in 1934 leading to Nebraska voters approving the Unicameral. The nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature has served our state well for 80 years. This year, a crack has appeared in George Norris’ legacy. It appears that twenty seven “like-minded” Senators held private meetings prior to the session for the purpose of creating a bloc of votes. I am told that the bloc coordinated voting instructions for the new Senators who were part of the group, with a predetermined slate for each leadership position. Several of my fellow Republican Senators and I were not part of the voting bloc.
George Norris advocated nonpartisanship, believing that such a body would allow Senators to concentrate on State interests without being duly influenced by party lines. Nonpartisanship would allow Nebraska Senators to base their actions on the needs of the districts they represent and their own convictions, rather than on party platforms. Norris believed bicameralism in state government led to election of legislators on a partisan basis, and facilitated manipulation by lobbyists.
Our congress in Washington D.C. seems to function not as citizen representatives together solving the country’s problems, but as an ongoing battle between the political parties. It is my fond hope that the Nebraska Legislature will not fall into the same pattern.
The 2017 Legislative session has already been marked by the organized takeover of leadership positions. The session will be further defined by the need to overcome a projected $900 million revenue shortfall. There have already been a variety of proposals introduced as bills to address tax relief. Some target property taxes, and some are seeking reductions in income taxes. The voting bloc may unravel on those tax-related issues, as urban interests often differ from rural interests.
The first 10 days of the session are for the most part dedicated to the introduction of bills, with hearings generally beginning on the 11th day. This year, I am serving on the Judiciary Committee and the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee. The B, C, and I Committee hearings will be on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and the Judiciary Committee hearings on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons. I will be paying particular attention to the bills referenced to my committees, and to Education Committee bills.
Please contact me at with your concerns at 402-471-2620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The number of meetings, events, and activities are picking up as the 2017 Legislative session draws nearer. The ninety-day session begins on Wednesday, January 4 and will conclude around the end of May. Due to term limits, there will be a minimum of twelve new senators, and, pending election results, as many as fifteen or sixteen.
It appears we will be faced with revenue shortfalls. This will certainly not be the first time that has happened in this State. It will be challenging to accomplish any significant tax relief. There will be a look at eliminating some sales tax exemptions in order to alleviate property and/or income tax burdens. I have attended numerous events, including the State Chamber of Commerce meetings, that focused on economic development and tax reform. There are many ideas out there.
During the summer and fall months, I have been involved in hearings on interim studies related to the Education, and Health and Human Services Committees. There may or may not be bills introduced pursuant to the matters explored in the interim studies. One topic explored could lead to a Silver Alert system for vulnerable adults who go missing, similar to the Amber Alert for children.
The Developmentally Disabled Special Investigative Committee met on October 19 to gather information about the circumstances that have the Federal Government calling for Nebraska to refund around $32,000,000. Since the new guidelines implemented in 2014, some agencies incorrectly billed separately and additionally for services the Feds now say were included in the basic daily billing. None of that has anything to do with the future of Beatrice State Developmental Center. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is to complete a report to be delivered in the fall of 2017.
I attended an event hosted by the Community Alliance in Omaha, titled “Breaking the Silence.” Tom Arnold was the keynote speaker. The mission of the Community Alliance is to help men and women who experience a major mental illness to live, work, learn, and contribute within the community. The purpose of the event was to increase public awareness of mental illness, and to move toward ending the stigma and stereotypes that surround mental illness. Hope and recovery are possible.
In September, I was part of a contingent that travelled to Whiteclay, NE, which is on the South Dakota border and just outside the Pine Ridge Reservation. The problems at Whiteclay are well documented. Some 10,000 cans of beer are sold daily from the four off sale beer establishments in Whiteclay. The Reservation is dry, yet the common belief is that the beer sold in Whiteclay is being consumed by residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. The rate of alcoholism among the residents is high, and one out of four children born suffer from irreversible fetal alcohol syndrome. The matter of beer sales in Whiteclay may well be addressed in legislation. Most recently, the Nebraska Liquor Commission is going to take a hard look at the licenses of those four establishments in the unincorporated town of 14. One of the stipulations for granting a license normally is the assurance of the presence of law enforcement. Sheridan County officials state they are unable to provide that needed law enforcement.
Scott Harrington’s Norris High School government class came to the Capitol and my staff and I helped show them around. The class is a semester class, so they were not able to see the Legislature in session, but it did afford an opportunity for the students to look around inside the Legislative Chamber.
When the 2017 Legislative Session begins, Doug Kennedy of KWBE will again interview me each week, with the programs airing Friday mornings. My staff and I will also be resuming our weekly newspaper columns which are printed in the Voice News and Beatrice Daily Sun.
“Stories of Champions” at NET Television on Sept 14th celebrated individuals and non-profit organizations dedicated to helping youth stay on track to graduate from high school.
Among the honorees were Tom and Nancy Osborne, co-founders of TeamMates.
Previous honorees also received plaques, including retired Crete Superintendent Kyle McGowan.
Nice hot weather for the dedication of the new splash pad in Firth on Saturday. Jill Hoefler addressed the crowd. Great community involvement!
The family and friends of Vonnie Higgins, long time Beatrice Hospital employee and volunteer, gather on what would have been her 81st birthday, to dedicate a bronze sculpture placed in the Exmark Healing Garden at BCH, July 15th. Artist Sondra Jonson of Cambridge, NE (holding blue umbrella) was also present for the dedication, sponsored by the Beatrice Hospital Foundation.
New Nebraska brand: Nebraska. Good Life. Great Opportunity.
With my former Norris fellow administrators Galen Boldt (just retired from Wahoo), and Matt Rice, and Beatrice’s Pat Nauroth at the annual Nebraska Council of School Administrators -NCSA golf event at Yankee Hill CC. We took 2nd place in the 2nd flight.
Today (June 13/14) I am on the Nebraska Natural Resources District Blue River Basin Tour. First stop: Upper Blue NRD Recharge Lake near York. 2nd: farm with wetlands near Giltner. 3rd: City of Hastings, heard how they are partnering with NRD to address challenges over nitrate pollution, 4th: seeing water remediation project on the grounds of the WWII Naval Ammunition Depot. This morning we were welcomed at the NRD by the York Ambassadors.
The 2016 Cattlemen’s Ball, bringing thousands of people to District 30, will be held at the Lienemann’s on Highway 77 north of Cortland, on Saturday, June 4. For a complete schedule including Friday night events at Nebraska Innovation Campus and special activities in District 30, a chance to stay at the Governor’s Mansion, the Clint Black concert, ticket information for both days and all the details about this benefit for cancer research follow the link to the website: https://cattlemensball.com/
The One-Hundredth and Fourth Legislature by the numbers.
Sixty days does not seem like a long time for the legislature to meet. Yet there were days where debates dragged on for hours on seemingly inconsequential issues and then days where the pace of voting was swift and sure. This year there were 24 filibusters compared to only 14 last year.
In this short session, 446 bills were introduced; and 664 bills were introduced in 2015, for a total of 1110 bills. Of these, 210 bills were passed into law this year along with 243 bills from last year. With all the filibusters, only those bills with priority designations were heard in the last three or four weeks of the session. 107 bills were designated as priorities and eventually 78 of those priority bills were passed by the Unicameral.
Eleven senators are term-limited out of office this year. Senators Bloomfield, Campbell, Coash, Cook, Gloor, Haar, Hadley, McCoy, Mello, Schilz and Sullivan have served their two term limit. Five of these senators are chairpersons of a committee and one is the Speaker. They leave with a great deal of knowledge on issues and a passion to work hard for the citizens of this state. They will be missed.
April 20th was the sixtieth and final day of this session. Vetoes made by the governor were taken up that day. Three appropriation bills had line item vetoes (the bills passed but only after the Governor made selective cuts in these spending bills). The Governor vetoed several bills, but LB 947, allowing immigrants with lawful presence in the United States to apply for professional licenses, received two hours of debate before senators overrode the gubernatorial veto with 31 ayes, 13 nays, and 5 present and not voting.
The Governor made closing statements to the Legislature. Senators indefinitely postponed (killed) all bills not enacted this session according to the rules, so those issues will need to be introduced again in the future to be acted upon. Other motions were made regarding directives to the Clerk of the Legislature for the final postings of the Legislative Journal – and with that a final motion was made to adjourn sine die which formally ended the session.
The lights in the chamber were turned off, desks cleared, and senators headed home. The interim months of 2016 begin the work of researching potential legislation, working on interim studies and constituent issues.
I would like to make the constituents of District 30 aware of opportunities available to youth and adults alike. The Unicameral Youth Legislature is an opportunity for high school students to attend a four-day camp, June 5-8. Held at the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. Senators’ staff take an active role in the camp and work as advisors to the student senators. More information can be found at: www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788.
For the adults in the district, the Governor is always looking for good people to fill vacancies on various boards and commission. To see positions available, follow this link:
www.governor.nebraska.gov/board-comm-req. Applications can be filled out on-line.
Please continue to contact me at any time throughout the interim with any issues that concern you. email@example.com or 402-471-2620.