NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Roy Baker

Sen. Roy Baker

District 30

Welcome

January 6th, 2016

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.

Sincerely,
Sen. Roy Baker

Difficult Decisions

February 9th, 2016

District 30 Update

The Nebraska Unicameral, like our federal government and like Nebraska local governmental subdivisions, operates as a representative democracy.  As your elected representative, I appreciate hearing from the constituents of District 30 as well as from citizens from other areas of the state. It is my duty to be as well informed as possible on each issue and to carefully consider the impact of any legislation on the lives of people in District 30 and across our state.

No senator spent more time thinking about LB176 than I. That bill was the Competitive Livestock Markets Act and provisions relating to contract swine operations.  Dozens of people spoke to me in person, called or sent emails.  I listened to hours of floor debate, and dialoged with individual fellow senators.  People on both sides of the issue made arguments with merit, and spoke with a lot of passion.

From the start, I was 50/50 on this issue.  In my own thought process, I was sometimes 52/48 or 48/52.  Rural senators were split the same way on LB 176.  Ultimately, I had to make a decision. I voted for cloture and for LB 176. This decision was not made without pain.

The most important factors for me were:  1) LB 176 was supported by the Nebraska Pork Producers, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Corn Growers; 2) general public policy preference for less government regulation – erring on the side of limited government; 3) evidence that independent producers still raise significant numbers of hogs in states such as Iowa, where packers can own the animals; and 4) the Governor requested my support of LB 176 .  The final vote tally was 34-14-1.

Property tax issues are prominent this legislative session. Solutions have proven to be elusive. The introduction of LB 958 resulted in hours and hours of public testimony before the Revenue Committee this week.  The best outcome would be for Nebraska’s economy to grow.

The Health Committee heard testimony on LB 1033 introduced by Senator Campbell, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for placing a person with disabilities in the most integrated settings based on the Olmstead decision by the United States Supreme Court.  This will include consideration of the placing and housing of people at Beatrice State Developmental Center.  The report is due on December 15th, 2016.  In addition a bill by Senator Colby Coash, LB 859, requires the Nebraska DHHS Division of Developmental Disabilities to develop a plan and report regarding Beatrice State Development Services (BSDC) and the Bridges Program in Hastings. This report is due in November.  I will be involved with both bills.

I have also been working on my bill for surgical first assistants, LB 721, to receive licensure from the state.  These individuals are vital to helping surgeons in the operating room.  I am working with DHHS and supporters to draft appropriate language.  Also, LB 722 would enact a Stroke Hospital designation which would list hospitals with various expertise levels in dealing with stroke patients.  Time is essential when a person has a stroke and taking the person to the most appropriate and well-equipped facility is imperative.

Senator Roy Baker  rbaker@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620

 

Lincoln — Governor Pete Ricketts, at the request of Senator Roy Baker, has proclaimed Wednesday, February 10th, as Alex Gordon Day in Nebraska.

 

Lincoln native Alex Gordon was born February 10, 1984 and graduated from Southeast High School.  He played college baseball at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where he won the Brooks Wallace Award, Dick Howser Trophy, Golden Spikes Award and the ABCA Rawlings Player of the year in 2005. Alex was also a member of the 2004 U.S. National Team and helped lead Team USA to a winning 18-7 record.

 

Selected as the second overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft in 2005, Alex made his opening debut with the Kansas City Royals in 2007. He has displayed his diverse athletic skill on the field by playing as a leftfielder, third baseman and first baseman. He was the 2014 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year. A three-time all-star, Alex became the first Royals outfielder named to consecutive American League All-Star teams since Willie Wilson in 1982 and 1983.  He was named the American League’s Platinum Glove winner, becoming the first outfielder to win that award; and won his fourth-consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove in 2014, joining Frank White (1977-82) as the only other Royal to win at least four in a row. Alex is the first American League outfielder to win four-straight Gold Gloves since Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki both won eight-straight.

 

Kansas City Royals fans and Nebraska supporters watched Alex hit an exciting ninth inning home run in the first game of the World Series. His exemplary play for the Royals continued, culminating with winning the Series in five games.

 

Senator Baker commends Alex for his role on the teams of which he has been a part, and for his philanthropic work in the community. Throughout his career with the Royals Alex has joined Royals Charities to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). The organization is dedicated to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes, treatments and cures.

 

 

Alex and his wife Jamie, reside in Lincoln during the off season with their son Max. The son of Leslie and Mike Gordon, both his father (Nebraska), older brother (Eric, Nebraska-Omaha) and younger brothers (Brett and Derek, Park University) played or play college baseball, while his grandfather (Charlie) was the long-time coach at Lincoln Southeast.

 

“Alex Gordon is an excellent ambassador for Nebraska and we are proud of way he represents our state,” said Baker.  “It seems fitting to thank him for his contributions with this gubernatorial proclamation on his birthday.”

 

 

esidents of Panama dedicated their new community building on Sunday, February 7th. Pictured with Sen. Baker is Jim Craig, village board chairman.

esidents of Panama dedicated their new community building on Sunday, February 7th. Pictured with Sen. Baker is Jim Craig, village board chairman.

Consistency and Safety

February 1st, 2016

Several of the major bills facing the Legislature this session have strong opinions and arguments on both sides. It takes time to examine the facts and make sure everyone is heard. That includes you as a constituent, you are always welcome and encouraged to contact my office with your views, and to provide any information that will help me during debate.

With that in mind, I would like to address LB 289. I know many gun owners are anxious to clarify the gun laws in Nebraska. This is such a crucial issue, it is especially important to get it right.

I am in support of LB 289 in its overall concept.  However, the devil, as they say, is in the detail. When the Legislature adjourned on Tuesday, it was my understanding a compromise was in the works to allow larger cities like Lincoln and Omaha to tailor their laws to provide for law enforcement issues specific to metropolitan areas which do not normally occur in rural communities.  I thought this was appropriate and wanted to see this added.

However, the sponsor of the bill was unwilling to allow any amendments to be added to her bill on Wednesday after all.  Without the compromise, I felt LB289 left cities like Omaha and Lincoln in a precarious position.

We need consistent gun laws that constitute good, statewide policy. Laws that will protect valid gun owners from unintentionally violating a law in a different jurisdiction and guarantee freedom of movement. I also want to see protection for the most vulnerable in our society. As a former school administrator, I am highly sensitive to the tragedies across the nation in recent years.

Second Amendment rights must be preserved and defended for all responsible gun owners — but like you, I believe we should work hard to keep weapons out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill for the well-being of us all. It may seem unfair for law abiding citizens to wait, but as I said, a law of this magnitude needs to be done right.

I am already working on clear language to introduce in the next session.  It is my intent to work with Senator Ebke (the introducer of LB 289) and Senator Morfeld (who suggested an exception for Lincoln and Omaha) over the interim to develop a bill that will ensure consistency and protection for lawful gun owners across the state and address law enforcement and public safety issues, particularly in our two largest cities.

rbaker@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2620

 

Public Hearings Underway

January 28th, 2016

District 30 Update — With the start of the second year of a two year cycle, senators jump right in to floor debate.  Many bills left over from last session are scheduled right away.  The first few on this list resulted in long hours of discussion and some of those required a cloture vote to cease debate before a final vote could be taken.

 

With that in mind, what do flying sky lanterns, donating one’s organs, poker, and pigs have in common?  Obviously, debate on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature.  In the past several days senators have discussed banning sky lanterns due to the potential, and in some instances, realized fire risk.  LB 18 by Senator Johnson advanced.  Senator Watermeir had a bill that would require a person to indicate if they would like to have their name placed on an organ donation list. The bill is on second round of debate. Is poker a game of skill or a game of chance thus making it gambling?  LB 619 was filibustered and a motion for cloture (to cease all debate) failed.  This moves it to the bottom of the bill list.  It most likely will not come back up for debate.

 

January 20th, we began debate on LB 176.  This bill, by Senator Ken Schilz, would remove the restriction of packers owning hogs from farrow to finish and processing. This issue has two clearly divided lines.  Smaller, independent hog owners want to keep the protection in place which prevents packers from owning hogs.  Their argument against the bill is eventually independent producers will be shut out of the open market with no place to sell their hogs because the packers will only use hogs produced by their contracted farmers.  Those in support argue that Nebraska is the last state to prohibit packers from owning hogs. This group states that Nebraska hog production is flat while surrounding states have seen double and triple growth in hog production; and that raising contracted hogs provides a safety net to producers. I have heard from both sides, those strongly supporting and opposing the issue. I listened carefully to the debate on the floor of the legislature.  Great arguments were made for and against.  The preponderance of the calls and emails received favored rejection of LB 176. Ultimately, that was the deciding factor for my decision to vote against LB 176.  The bill did advance.  There will be further debate.

 

On January 22 I introduced my first two bills for this session before committee.  LB 721 would create a licensure process in the Department of Health and Human Services for surgical first assistants.  These are people who help the surgeon and are directed by the surgeon before, during and after the surgery.  The second bill, LB 722, creates the Stroke System of Care Act to improve the overall outcomes of stroke patients. It would designate hospitals as a Comprehensive Stroke center, a Primary Stroke Center or an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital; and emergency medical service protocols would be developed to assure consistent care across the state.

 

I always welcome your communication:  402-471-2620    rbaker@leg.ne.gov

Beginning Again

January 19th, 2016

District 30 Update

Lincoln — And so it begins.  On January 8th, 2016, the One Hundred and Fourth Legislature, Second Session convened.  The first day we elected a new chairperson for the Nebraska Retirement Committee, Senator Mark Kolterman.  Senator Jeremy Nordquist resigned, leaving that chairmanship position open. Replacing Sen.  Nordquist to represent District 7 in Omaha, is Senator Nicole Fox.

During the first three days of the session, senators began the process of introducing more bills.  On Monday, the 4th day of session, Speaker Hadley scheduled debate of proposed rules changes.  There was one proposal which garnered a great deal of debate. It was a proposal to require the senators to have an open ballot when electing leadership positions.  Many senators felt this could impact senators’ ability to work with one another and allow partisan politics into our non-partisan legislature. The proposal was defeated.

On Tuesday of this week we started full day debate on bills held over from last session. First up was Senator Dan Watermeier’s bill, LB 47 which would require an applicant for a driver license or identification card to answer a question regarding whether to place his or her name on the Donor Registry to donate their organs and tissues at the time of death. Currently, this question is optional. After six hours of debate, the bill did advance.

On Wednesday we began debate on carry over bill  LB 619, as introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson, which would give a special designation to poker as a game of skill rather than as a game of chance.

I have introduced five bills.  LB 721 would create licensure for Surgical First Assistant Practice, LB 722 creates the Stroke System of Care Act; LB 899 changes the lead free definition for drinking water to mirror the federal definition; LB 903 is a 73 page bill that re-writes portions of Learning Community statutes.  This bill has agreement from the superintendents of all 11 schools districts that are part of the learning community in Omaha and the surrounding areas; LB 904 would allow school districts in the learning community to opt out of a learning community if the population of the school district is below 12,000 residents.

Finally, I would like to let you know how you can stay informed on legislative proceedings.  The Nebraska Legislature’s website is the best place to start. www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Among the many features on this site you can access information on legislative bills, the hearing schedule for those bills, information on senators, and read the Unicameral Update.

The Unicameral Update publication is an excellent source of information and provides articles on various bills either in committee or discussed in the chamber, the hearing schedule and more.

As always, you can contact my office and speak to Barb Dorn, my Administrative Assistant who manages my schedule.  Janet Anderson is my Legislative Aide and she handles legislative issues and constituent services.  My office phone number is 402-471-2620 and my email address is rbaker@leg.ne.gov.

 

 

January 2016

January 6th, 2016
Pastor Darin Bentzinger of the Panama Presbyterian Church says "a pic with my favorite Nebraskan while at the capitol. Thanks to Roy Baker for signing me up for Chaplain of the Day at the legislature. It was enjoyable!"

Pastor Darin Bentzinger of the Panama Presbyterian Church says “a pic with my favorite Nebraskan while at the capitol. Thanks to Roy Baker for signing me up for Chaplain of the Day at the legislature. It was enjoyable!”

 

Another early start to the day for the Senators in January!

Another early start to the day for the Senators in January!

 

 

In committee hearing.

In committee hearing.

Committee hearings began January 19. Sen. Baker serves on the Education and Health & Human Services committees.

Committee hearings began January 19. Sen. Baker serves on the Education and Health & Human Services committees.

 

Photo credit - Journal Star Newspaper.

Photo credit – Journal Star Newspaper.

 

Governor Rickets talking with Sen. Baker as he leaves the Legislative Chamber after the State of the State address on January 14, 2016.

Governor Rickets talking with Sen. Baker as he leaves the Legislative Chamber after the State of the State address on January 14, 2016.

 

 

Governor Ricketts enters the Legislative Chamber to deliver his State of the State address on January 14, 2016

Governor Ricketts enters the Legislative Chamber to deliver his State of the State address on January 14, 2016

 

District 30's two class B schools met on the basketball court on Tuesday, January 5th.

District 30’s two class B schools met on the basketball court on Tuesday, January 5th.

Senator Baker and colleagues prepare for the opening of the second session of the 104th Legislature.

Senator Baker and colleagues prepare for the opening of the second session of the 104th Legislature.

December 29th, 2015

Nebraska Unicameral Update

Sen. Roy Baker – District 30

 

PROPERTY TAXES.  The first recommendation of the 2013 Tax Modernization Committee regarding property taxes was to increase the state aid commitment to schools to offset property tax use and reduce property taxes as a share of total state and local taxes.  To that end, the Revenue and Education Committees conducted a series of joint meetings to explore possibilities.

 

The final meeting was held on November 30.  No legislative bill will be introduced by the joint committee.  It is likely there will be several bills brought forward by individual state senators.  The intent of those bills will likely center on some of the concepts discussed by the joint committee, including but not limited to the following:

 

  1. Increase the current Property Tax Credit Fund. Currently, over $400 million in property tax credits will be provided during this biennium.  However, with the current economic forecasts, the State revenues will not likely be sufficient to add to the current total. Concern was expressed that many taxpayers are not aware of the property tax relief measures that have been put into place since 2007.
  2. Change the assessment practices for agricultural land. Within this category ideas include: capping annual growth for all property;  one-year freeze in values; decreasing ag land valuation for purposes of the school state aid formula; and a implementing a circuit breaker for ag land when property taxes exceed X % of gross income.
  3. Increasing current tax sources: increasing sales taxes, increasing income taxes, broadening the tax base (eliminating exemptions), and in turn requiring lower property taxes.  Any proposal to increase income and sales tax rates is likely to receive significant opposition.
  4. Modifying school district budget and/or levy limits. The charge of the joint committee was to decrease overreliance on local property taxes.  Nebraska schools rely on local property taxes more than 48 other states.  The downside to reducing overall school district funding would be underfunding current education programs, possibly eliminating some.

 

A contributing factor to the current imbalance in property taxes resulted from rapidly escalating land values over the past several years, while residential valuations decreased following the housing bubble burst.  Recent information shows that residential valuations are now increasing again while ag land values have plateaued or even decreased in some areas.  Over time, the current imbalance will self-correct to some extent, though not likely fast enough to suit many.

Beatrice State Developmental Center.  Legislative Resolution 32, passed by the 2015 Legislature, provides for the continuation of the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative Committee. The Committee has been in place to provide ongoing oversight of the placement and care of the developmentally disabled in Nebraska since 2008, following the temporary de-certification of the BSDC.  I serve as the vice-chairman of the committee.  We held a joint hearing with the Health and Human Services Committee on December 17.  We heard extensive testimony from Courtney Miller, recently appointed Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Ms. Miller also serves as the interim director of the BSDC.

 

There is a strong trend nationally not to place developmentally disabled persons in institutions.  With the goal in mind of placing individuals in the least restrictive environment, more people are being served in home and community based programs, with proper support.  The trend does not take the BSDC off the table – there are some residents for which the BSDC likely is the least restrictive environment.  Director Miller stated that she and her DD staff will be working with the Executive Branch over the next year to develop a plan for what the BSDC should look like and be like in the future.   We anticipate receiving the report of that study in December, 2016.

 

As always, I welcome your communication.  Feel free to contact me on these matters, or any other subject related to the Legislature.  Please join our email list to receive the monthly District 30 newsletter. My Capitol office telephone number is 402-471-2620; the email address is rbaker@leg.ne.gov.  The website is http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist30/ and we are also on Facebook, search for Roy Baker.

The Holidays are Here!

November 23rd, 2015
Senators representing Lancaster county were hosted by Lincoln Mayor Beutler and his staff on December 17.

Senators representing Lancaster county were hosted by Lincoln Mayor Beutler and his staff on December 17.

 

Coby Mach at the annual legislative update of LIBA, Lincoln Independent Business Association on December 21.

Coby Mach at the annual legislative update of LIBA, Lincoln Independent Business Association on December 21.

 

Sen. Roy Baker spoke at the December 9 NCSA Legislative Preview Conference at the Cornhusker. Pictured with Jason Buckingham, Executive Director of Fiscal Affairs for the Ralston Public Schools.

Sen. Roy Baker spoke at the December 9 NCSA Legislative Preview Conference at the Cornhusker.
Pictured with Jason Buckingham, Executive Director of Fiscal Affairs for the Ralston Public Schools.

 

Sen. Baker with teachers from Norris and Beatrice schools at the Capitol District meeting of the NSEA on 12/7/15.

Sen. Baker with teachers from Norris and Beatrice schools at the Capitol District meeting of the NSEA on 12/7/15.

 

Wreaths Across America presented a Christmas wreath in honor of all U.S. Veterans today at the Capitol. Lt. Gov. Mike Foley spoke at the ceremony in the Warner Chamber. Sen. Matt Hansen accepted the wreath on behalf of the Legislature. Pictured with the wreath, left to right: Sen. Hansen; Diane Bartles, US Air Force Association Lincoln Chapter; Ralph Bierman, US Army; Lt. Gov. Foley.

Wreaths Across America presented a Christmas wreath in honor of all U.S. Veterans today at the Capitol. Lt. Gov. Mike Foley spoke at the ceremony in the Warner Chamber. Sen. Matt Hansen accepted the wreath on behalf of the Legislature. Pictured with the wreath, left to right: Sen. Hansen; Diane Bartles, US Air Force Association Lincoln Chapter; Ralph Bierman, US Army; Lt. Gov. Foley.

Roy wreath

 

Roy gas 2

The range of gas prices from Clear Lake, IA (Casey's) to Omaha and Lincoln.

The range of gas prices from Clear Lake, IA (Casey’s) to Omaha and Lincoln.

 

The holiday lights are ON, on the Gage County Courthouse, Nov. 22, 2015

The holiday lights are ON, on the Gage County Courthouse, Nov. 22, 2015, with great music from the Homestead Harmonizers to warm the crowd during the ceremony!

 

Roy lighting 3 Roy lighting 4 Roy lighting

 

 

Congratulations to Ben Rice of Firth, NE; recognized by the Nebraska Department of Education, Commissioner's Recognition for Student Excellence in Career Education, Agricultural Proficiency Award Program in Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management. Ben is the son of Dan and Brenda Rice.

Congratulations to Ben Rice of Firth, NE; recognized by the Nebraska Department of Education, Commissioner’s Recognition for Student Excellence in Career Education, Agricultural Proficiency Award Program in Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management. Ben is the son of Dan and Brenda Rice.

Sen. Roy Baker

District 30
Room #1522
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2620
Email: rbaker@leg.ne.gov
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