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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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. Myron Dorn
The main focus of the week at the Legislature was debate on the state’s budget. As the budget package moved through the required steps for passage, we used the intervening time to advance a number of other measures.
LB 41, a bill I introduced to add townships to the list of political subdivisions who are entitled to receive a monthly payment of their funds from the county treasurer, passed on Final Reading this week with a vote of 46-0. I appreciate Gage County treasurer Laurie Wollenburg bringing this to my attention. Once it is signed by the Governor, it will become law three calendar month days after the end of the session.
Discussions about the budget were very different than we once feared, especially with the effect of Covid. About 18 months ago, revenue started to come in ahead of forecast. When covid hit a year ago, our numbers were still very strong. Revenues took a dip for about two to three months, then once stimulus programs began and our economy picked back up, the revenue numbers went back up. This is partly because Nebraska’s economy is somewhat shielded, since we are not dependent on tourism or oil and gas, and have a strong agriculture influence on the economy. Despite the pandemic, by January of this year we were back to a normal revenue stream. At the state level, the economy stayed strong.
Most would agree that CARES and ARP stimulus funding have also played a part in strengthening our state economy. In the Appropriations committee, we continue to examine where we will be three to five years from now without stimulus money coming in. While we are having those discussions, we are thankful to be in the situation we are today, instead of having decreased revenue and being forced to look at budget cuts.
I would encourage you to read the entire budget on the legislative website by clicking on the link: Appropriations Committee Proposed Budget (4/1/2021). This includes an explanation of each expenditure, which is a little easier to read than the actual bill.
Much of our debate about budget bill LB 383 focused on the state’s corrections system: programming for inmates, mental health, overcrowding, and the proposal to build a new prison. The Appropriations committee set aside $115 million in a Capital construction fund earmarked for a proposed 1500 bed prison. We did not give approval for the allocation (spending) of any of those funds. However, amendments divided that sum into: $18 million for use at the Lincoln Correctional Facility, $14.9 million for acquiring easements on property and design for a proposed prison, and gave the appropriation for those two projects. Another amendment introduced by Senator Wayne set aside $15 million to be used for programming for those already incarcerated. This was put into a separate fund with only $200,000 allocated. So of the original $115 million set aside, $62 million remains in sequestered funds to be used if a prison is built, and if not used, returned to the general fund.
Some senators felt LB383 meant a new prison would be automatic but it really just puts some procedures in place to be ready if a new facility is built in the future. Nebraska received a federal grant for a study of the prison population, facilities and sentencing reform which will be done by next year. The goal was to do a few things right now, like at the Lincoln center; but we are not going ahead with the okay to build a new prison until the report is done. The study and the advance planning work will help answer some questions.
On Thursday I had a good conversation with Larry Kahl, the COO for Health and Human Services. In the ongoing study that includes the Beatrice State Developmental Center (BSDC), he reported the stakeholder meetings have wrapped up. They did conduct a separate meeting with Trevor Lee, director of NGage, and Angie Bruna with the Beatrice Chamber and appreciated that input. I have offered to be involved in every step of the process, and reiterated that in addition to the facilities at BSDC, our greatest asset is the dedicated staff and the love and care they show for the individuals who live there, especially during covid.
One bill generating a lot of interest this past week was LB 271, offered by Sen. Adam Morfeld. This bill was requested by the Lancaster county attorney’s office, and is structured after an effective program in South Dakota. It allows qualified individuals with a ticket for a DUI to be able to continue to drive to work, if they agree to participate in a very restrictive program that requires being tested every 12 hours or using a continuous alcohol monitoring device. Failing a test would result in some strict penalties, additional fines, or possible imprisonment and so on.
The benefit of the 24/7 sobriety program is that instead of holding someone in jail for a month or two until trial, they have the option of getting back to work in that time period. It is designed to help those people who are productive employees, who want to change what they did and what happened. It also helps them remain in the workforce and have some financial resources in place to get through this. The program is designed to keep people sober, as opposed to just stopping them from driving drunk like other programs or devices do. The start up costs of about $100,000 will be completely funded by Lancaster county. The bill advanced on a 34-4 vote.
We deal with many more bills and topics each week than we can cover here. So we welcome your questions and input. Contact me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620.
Discussion of the state’s biennial budget started this week. In past updates, I have talked about the process, attention and time that goes into developing the budget proposals before they are taken up on the floor. That work was completed and Chairman Stinner introduced the package of bills that comprise the budget on Thursday.
The first step is to move some of the bills that have to do with the mechanics of state business. These include LBs 379, 381, 382 and 384, which cover administrative costs of the Legislature, salaries for constitutional officers, the transfer of funds by the State Treasurer to make them available and the Cash Reserve. The mainline budget bill, LB 380, is where the most discussion takes place, and rightfully so. We heard some good remarks by a number of senators and a few amendments were offered as well. This bill advanced on Thursday on a 42-0 vote.
On Friday we began debate on LB 383, which is the Appropriations bill for capital construction. This legislation includes financing of correctional facilities and generated a great deal of discussion.
I would like to point out that we had about $215M available for senator’s bills outside of the main budget, this is often referred to as “money for the floor”. The Legislature’s Fiscal Office keeps track of spending that has passed the general or select file by keeping a tally of how much money would remain if all the bills being debated were to pass. The total for the floor of $215 million was already down to $174 million by Friday morning.
In other floor action, Sen. Hunt introduced LB260 to expand unemployment benefits to those caring for a family member with a serious health condition to the Nebraska Employment Security Law. The pandemic brought this to the forefront, but I have some first hand knowledge of this from the past few years with my in-laws. My wife and sister in law have full time jobs; as a farmer, I was able to have a little flexibility to help out from time to time. I experienced how hard it is for working people to care for elderly parents. Most employees would have been paying into the state fund from their paychecks, so they would be able to utilize part of their contributions this way.
We continue to get a lot of news and feedback from the past year’s elections. Two bills, introduced by Sen. Slama were: LR3CA which requires voter identification and LB76 a “winner take all” mode for the electoral college. Both of those bills are still held in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
On a local level, I have always been very proud of how Dawn Hill and her staff handled elections in Gage county. Gage county was one of the first counties that bought new vote counting machines. We have many safeguards in place to lend confidence to our election process being very safe.
We need to encourage a strong voter turnout and should not do anything to keep people from being able to vote. In 2020, over 70% of ballots were mailed-in ballots. I recently spoke with someone who heard that exit polling in last week’s Lancaster county election was difficult because not many people were voting in person. Mail-in ballots continue to be highly utilized, especially during the pandemic.
Another issue generating communication is the “30 x 30” federal executive order. We are trying to gather as much information as we can about the 2030 environmental goals President Biden has outlined and what all is being included. Looking at the information we have received so far, I believe it deals with carbon credits, fossil fuels and climate change; one section has more to do with trees, forests and fires. The information we have been looking at says most federal departments have to start to develop plans for their departments in the next two months. These include agriculture, transportation, energy, interior, labor, and others.
Could this order affect us? Yes. How much? I don’t have an answer for that. I plan to get a better understanding of this as it plays out. We do need to protect our land so future generations can still be farming and supporting their families for a long time to come.
I appreciate hearing from you, with your questions and concerns and opinions. Call any time to 402-471-2620 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we celebrate the Easter holiday, the signs of spring are everywhere. Field work, baby calves, and baseball’s opening day, there is always something good about the change of seasons.
By law, the only required duty of the Legislature is passing the state’s biennial budget. The Appropriations Committee moved the mainline budget bill, LB 380, along with several others, out of committee last week. The entire budget was distributed to each senator on Thursday in a booklet totaling 270 pages, giving senators and staff the long Easter weekend to read it over.
Two years ago, we waited for the April forecast board report to finalize the budget. This year we worked at a quicker pace due to concerns that the pandemic could force the Legislature into an extended recess similar to what occurred last spring. Speaker Hilgers has scheduled discussion to begin next Thursday and he hopes to have the package completed by the following week.
This will be the budget for the next two years, although we can make some adjustments during the short session next year. I think the effort and attention of the Appropriations Committee resulted in a good budget, and it came out of committee on a 9-0 vote. It takes a lot of work to get it done, but I feel we do a good job. I also appreciate that on the floor, anyone can pull out anything as an amendment and discuss it.
In this budget, we left room for $211 million for other appropriations. This is really important, there are lots of bills being brought forward for funding, including my LB 103. Last year, the speaker said not to bother to even bring a bill to the floor that needed funding because there wasn’t any. We’ve had that perspective for the past two years, and now we have built up demand and a lot of requests for specific projects and programs to consider.
LB 103 is my priority bill, it would allocate $2 million, for each of the next two years, to any county meeting the requirements in statute of paying off a federal judgment. The Appropriations Committee added an amendment to raise that amount to $5 million per year.
Once the mainline budget is passed, the following couple of weeks will be devoted to taking up those bills that require an appropriation of state funds. As a result, I expect to see LB 103 come to the floor for discussion sometime after April 19th. I continue talking with all of my colleagues about the background of the “Beatrice Six” issue and the great need for their support, and will use this time to make my case for the passage of LB 103.
Bills on “consent calendar” must have had no opposition in hearings, and are allowed just 15 minutes of debate on the floor. I introduced LB 41 to help townships receive their monthly funds, and it was placed on the consent calendar earlier this week.
In Nebraska, there are 22 counties with townships. A year ago it was brought to my attention that a township had to submit a paper warrant every time they wanted funds transferred from the county to the township. These dollars are already township funds, so LB 41 simply streamlines this process and allows the county treasurer to transfer their monthly allotments on or before the 15th of each month, like the other entities listed in the statute such as fire and school districts.
I didn’t expect much discussion on this bill, but Sen. Erdman brought up the purpose of having townships and questioned if having counties in charge would be more cost effective. I was glad to have the discussion. In Gage county, we have always had strong support for townships; and it would require a vote of the people to eliminate them. The county board has discussed the cost of road graders and personnel, but also considered that especially during a snowstorm, a township can get to the roads in their area so much faster than if a county had to disperse the graders from a central barn. Residents appreciate having someone local to visit with when they have an issue with the roads. LB 41 advanced on a 43-0 vote.
We often hear the word “fireworks” to describe some of the floor debate, but this past week it was true. Sen. Slama’s LB 152 would change certain classifications of fireworks to match federal definitions and broaden sales in Nebraska by changing the definition of “consumer fireworks” to include any device that meets the federal requirements for 1.4G fireworks. This bill also would allow the State Fire Marshal to test and deem fireworks unsafe in response to complaints. This bill doesn’t affect dates or curfew times in counties or cities and the fire marshal will still be checking for compliance. I encourage everyone to be responsible when they purchase fireworks, and stay mindful of their neighbors and nearby pets and livestock. An amendment to the bill would add the “E” clause, so if the bill passes, it would be in effect for the coming 4th of July holiday.
I welcome your calls and emails to my office. Contact me at any time at 402-471-2620 or email@example.com.
An F6F-5 Hellcat fighter plane from World War II, along with a P51 Mustang, flew into the Beatrice Airport on Sunday, March 28. Flying Ace pilot Don McPherson of Adams, NE was the honored guest. Adams Village Board Chairman Chris Schiebur (left) and Sen. Dorn (right) joined in the festivities. Thank you so much Don, for your service!
Thankful for some good rains across the district as we head into the planting season. Nebraska has been at the forefront of studying drought and ways to lessen the impact of dry spells for 25 years now through the Drought Mitigation Center, and has become known internationally for that work. You have probably seen the drought maps in the media; find more information at https://drought.unl.edu/.
Another Nebraska research facility has led the way in the pandemic, our own University of Nebraska Medical Center. After tackling Ebola a few years ago, UNMC was a natural choice for Covid-19 research as well. Senators and staff receive regular updates, and they advised again this week that we all continue to follow the guidelines for masking, hand washing and distancing as variants of the virus are cropping up in multiple states. However, they are guardedly optimistic about vaccine production and the valiant efforts of our public health system in Nebraska to distribute the shots to all who want them, and keep us from another wave like Europe is now experiencing.
In the past few weeks, I have participated in listening sessions being conducted by Myers and Stauffer, a firm hired by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, to conduct an Adult Facilities Evaluation Project that includes BSDC in Beatrice, and the Norfolk and Lincoln Regional Centers, which are all state operated facilities. The firm specializes in audits and evaluations of health care and social services.
There is at least one intermediate care facility (ICF) for individuals with intellectual disabilities in every state. States also serve these individuals in home and community based settings. The listening sessions collected feedback from stakeholders on the delivery of care, their perspectives on administration, and how to determine the quality of services at BSDC.
The population at BSDC has gradually decreased over the years from over a thousand, to less than 90 today. For some of the residents, it has been their only home for decades. With the importance of BSDC to the area and to the parents and guardians of those who reside there, we have had area leaders and local government officials, guardians, parents and advocates for the developmentally disabled all join the online meetings to voice their concerns. I do want the residents of our district to be aware of this study, and watch for the report, which is scheduled to be completed this fall.
Debate this week at the Unicameral again covered a wide range of topics. Juvenile justice, railroads, cattle brands, lotteries and education funding, ethanol and landlord-tenant relations were among those getting attention.
LB 529 came out of the Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lynn Walz of Fremont. Every five years a study looks at the distribution of lottery proceeds to education. A number of recommendations were included in the bill from that study. After paying out for prizes and gambling addiction programs, 44.5% of the remaining lottery revenue is used for education funds. The current allocation of specific funds sunsets at the end of 2021 and the bill would extend and create programs going forward. These include the Nebraska Opportunity Grant Fund, Access College scholarship fund, Behavioral Training, Career Mentoring, Career Readiness and Dual-Credit Education, College Testing, Community College Assistance, Door to College Fund, Excellence in Teaching, Expanded Learning, Mental Health Training, Education Improvement, and programs at the State Department of Education.
Several amendments to LB 529 were debated at length, some dealing with the ability of teachers to use physical interventions to protect students and themselves. Training on the use of restraints would be funded with lottery revenue, so the amendment was germane. Similar bills have been introduced in recent years dealing with physical restraint, but have not been advanced. The amendment offered by Sen. Murman was determined, in a lengthy discussion of the rules, to be nearly line for line a duplicate of a bill sitting in committee. As a result, the Speaker ruled it would require 30 votes instead of the usual 25, to be amended into the bill; and Sen. Murman eventually withdrew his amendment. This is a complicated issue that generated considerable discussion and will probably come up again in the next round of debate.
LB 507, introduced by Sen. Bostelman, was also advanced this week. He brought this bill after hearing many concerns from residents around Mead about the environmental hazards and odor issues from ethanol production at a facility that was using treated corn seed. The residue of certain pesticides used to treat seed corn was found in the waste and by-products at the Mead plant, which was unsafe and potentially harmful to livestock and farm land under EPA and State standards. LB 507 would prohibit the use of treated corn seed in the production of ethanol. The bill has an emergency clause, and will go into effect when signed by the Governor if passed.
If you have any questions about legislation or any issues of concern, please contact my office at 402-471-2620 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find information about bills and the agenda at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.
Many days, debate about legislation here at the Unicameral deals with “everyday” topics like locksmiths, bridges, school lunches and distributing funds to townships. But other days we deal with the major issues of our time, such as free speech, gambling regulations, health care and juvenile justice. This is a small sampling of bills that are on the agenda.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, our main concern is the budget. The impact of state funding reaches far beyond dollar amounts as it touches our lives on a daily basis, affecting everything from individual citizens to our state infrastructure and vital services. We take our job in committee very seriously, studying each request and weighing that against the financial health of our state. We have just a few days left to finish our work before presenting a completed budget to the full legislative body for consideration.
My priority bill, LB 103, has been advanced out of the Appropriations Committee with Amendment 588. AM588 would increase the appropriation to $5 million per year, for each of the next two years, to counties paying on a federal judgment; and direct the appropriation to the State Treasurer for dispersal. A county is eligible if it: (1) has a judgment against it from a federal court in excess of $25 million, if the total cost of the judgment exceeds 20% of the county’s annual budget; and (2) has set its property tax levy at the maximum for each year it receives aid. Aid can be used only for payment of the judgment. Gage county meets these requirements. I will be talking with my fellow senators to answer any questions they may have about the legislation and impacts felt by Gage county, before it comes up on the agenda for debate.
Bills discussed this week included a couple of gambling issues. Sen. Ray Aguilar, who represents the city of Grand Island, brought LB 371. Historically, the Legislature has permitted forms of gaming as they have been authorized, including bingo, lotteries, raffles, pari-mutuel betting, and pickle cards. However, the law does not permit games of chance to be conducted at or near an enclosure where a fair is occurring. There are three fairs in Nebraska which are held at licensed racetracks, including the state fair grounds in Grand Island, and in Columbus and Hastings. If these racetracks choose to construct a casino, current statute would dictate that they must stop their gaming operations for the duration of the fair, or the fair must identify a new venue. LB371 would authorize games of chance but would not authorize any party besides the licensed gaming operator. The bill would not intertwine a fair and a casino but would allow both to operate parallel to each other. It advanced with a 38 to 5 vote.
The other issue pertaining to gambling, LB 561 by Sen. Tom Briese, was discussed at length on the floor and had four amendments. This bill would merge racing and gaming into one commission to regulate games of chance and wagering on horse racing. Amendments dealt with the addition of sports betting, keno and payment options, and the composition and appointment of the commission. After several hours of deliberation, the bill passed to the next round on a vote of 37 to 5. Because sports betting and keno were new issues, a public hearing will be held in the next couple of weeks on those amendments. There are several more bills regarding gambling yet to come, as a result of the passage of ballot initiatives last fall.
Early in the pandemic last year, a bottleneck formed in the meatpacking industry. Beef producers in particular, were left scrambling to find ways to process and sell cattle that were ready for market. LB324, introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt, makes it easier for the consumer to purchase individual packages of meat directly from the producer or processor. The bill allows the producer and consumer more flexibility when deciding where their meat is processed. It also creates the Independent Processor Assistance Program which provides a roadmap for increasing local processing capacity and expanding market access for small producers. This bill advanced to the next round of debate without any dissenting votes.
Rounding out the “everyday” topics this week, a bill dealing with Daylight Saving Time has been designated a speaker priority bill, ensuring some floor debate on the issue. As written, it will require Congress to allow it first, and that neighboring states also adopt it.
We will be in floor debate all day now through the end of the session. My staff is always available to talk with you, and I check my emails throughout the day. email@example.com 402-471-2620
No need to check the calendar this time of year in Nebraska – you know it is March when there is a snow storm in the west and thunderstorms in the east. Hopefully, precipitation will fall where needed. This week has also brought more news regarding Gage County.
I started last summer visiting many times with county supervisors, Chairman Erich Thiemann and former board member John Hill, about new legislation regarding the “Beatrice Six” case. I also talked with the entire board and those newly elected before the session began, discussing the process here in the Legislature and possible outcomes. The result was my introduction of LB 103, which would take $2 million per year from the general fund in each of the next two years, to help a county pay a federal judgement greater than 20% of their annual budget.
During the hearing for this bill before the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Erdman asked several questions and commented that the state should be liable for all of the judgment against Gage County. In later conversations with Sen. Erdman, we discussed the history behind the bill and how Gage County is paying off the judgment through a combination of property tax, sales tax and the insurance judgement. Sen. Erdman offered an amendment in committee to my bill, to raise the level of support to $5 million each year, for a total of $10M. Sen. Clements added the stipulation that the county must tax at their maximum levy of 50 cents, which Gage County has already done. I agreed with these changes to my bill.
The Legislative Fiscal Office is now writing the language to incorporate these amendments; and LB 103 came out of committee with a vote of 9-0. I am very pleased and happy, and really thankful for what the Appropriations Committee has done.
This is, however, just the first step. LB 103 will need to pass three rounds of debate on the floor with the full legislature, and be signed into law by the Governor, to take effect. So we still have a lot of work to do, and we have a period of time before we will know if it is successful.
Quite honestly, a big impact on the success of getting LB 103 out of committee in this form, is the revenue coming into the state. A lower cash reserve, poor revenue growth during the pandemic, or a less positive revenue forecast would have prevented LB 103 from gaining this amount of traction. I am very grateful to the committee, their support has been very positive.
I have designated LB 103 as my personal priority bill, so it should come up in the next few weeks for debate. We are already starting to take up some of the other priority bills, so I am hopeful that discussion by the whole legislature will happen relatively soon.
Other issues discussed this week included a voting bill brought by Sen. Bostar. The bill would make it automatic to register to vote when you get a driver’s license. If you don’t want to register to vote at that time, you would simply opt out of that. That is the opposite of how it is presently, where you need to opt in to get registered. The part of his bill that I do not support is making election day a holiday. Citizens have ample opportunities to vote. If a holiday was the only possible way to vote, I could see it. But we are able to request mail in ballots and vote early in person at the clerk’s office; we have many ways to vote outside of just election day. In addition, there is a cost to making this a holiday; the government and many businesses would still be paying for this. I support covering the cost of elections but not making it a holiday.
Another bill garnering attention this week was Sen. Wishart’s LB 474 for medical cannabis. Senator Wishart has brought this bill before, and has been working with the medical community on this bill. They were working on a bill last session that the medical community could come out as neutral on. However, that bill was filibustered and did not pass. Then a petition to put medical cannabis on the ballot in the general election was thrown out for not meeting the ‘one issue’ standard. I would be okay with LB 474 the way it is written now. I have heard from so many people with seizures and other medical conditions who find some relief from cannabis use, however many people fear this is the first step that will lead to recreational marijuana being passed. I would not be for recreational marijuana, I’d vote against that. But if we have the proper bill for medical use only – and I think we have come a long way from when it was first introduced – I would keep an open mind and could support it. We will need to see how the debate goes and if any amendments are offered.
Next week, we will be moving to all-day debate on the floor. You can always contact me through my email at firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to my staff at 402-471-2620. I always appreciate hearing from you.
Tax season, calving season, basketball season; whatever keeps you busy at this time of year, I hope you are also following the activity here at the Nebraska Legislature. The workload for the Appropriations Committee reaches its maximum at this point in the session. We finished reviewing state agency and program requests this week. Next week, we will meet in executive session on all the bills heard by our committee, and vote to advance those to the floor for debate, or hold them in committee.
Last week we received a positive forecast from the Economic Advisory Board, which increased revenue for the next year by about $204 million. This increase in revenue reflects not only state revenue but also the impact CARES act funding and stimulus package dollars flowing into the state have had. I am thankful our economy is as strong as it is, but much goes into creating the budget. Not only do we consider agency requests, direct funding requests in bills, but also other bills that have a cost, and the Governor’s proposals. Appropriation Committee Chairman Stinner is keeping to a firm deadline for having the budget out by March 25th.
Senator Vargas from Omaha introduced LB 637, which provides Local Public Health Departments clear authority over the spread of contagious diseases and other public health related issues and gives those departments the ability to issue necessary Directed Health Measures (DHMs) for their communities. We had laws on the books dealing with emergencies that functioned well, but until you get into an event like the pandemic, you don’t always see how those will work out. That resulted in questions. For example, most Public Health Departments did not have authority to issue mask mandates. It took some time but it was determined that cities such as Beatrice had the ability to issue mask requirements, not Public Health Departments.
Early on in the pandemic, in visiting with Kim Showalter, director of Public Health Solutions for Gage county, I learned the steps they were working through, and how quickly things were changing, sometimes hourly. Also, a public health dept in western Nebraska could face entirely different situations than Beatrice or Lincoln. Being on the front line, the health departments are aware of the conditions affecting their specific regions.
Senator Walz introduced LB 539 before the Transportation committee to restrict the length of trains to 8,500 feet. This mirrors what surrounding states have enacted. There have been concerns at times with 15,000 foot trains, blocking crossings for too long of a time period. Both Burlington (BNSF) and Union Pacific were both opposed to this bill. We do need to be mindful about the important role of rail transportation in our state’s economy, moving grain and other products we produce in Nebraska. Efficiencies do come with having unit trains of specific lengths to meet capacities of cargo ships, for example. However, safety is a critical component as well. One thing about any bill that comes before the Legislature, there are proponents and opponents, lobbyists for both sides of an issue, committees, staff and senators who all consider the contents of the bill. So if it does get through the process and becomes a law, it has usually been well vetted for soundness with a consideration of the pros and cons.
With 52 days left in the session, there is plenty of work yet to be done. Please continue to contact me with any questions or concerns. email@example.com 402-471-2620
Every Nebraskan knows how quickly our weather changes, and I am grateful for recent days of sunshine and warmer temperatures. The Legislature is also moving quickly, with over one third of the session completed and public hearings on all 684 bills wrapping up in the next two weeks.
In Appropriations, we have concluded hearing all our bills and reports from state agencies. Now the detailed work begins for our committee as we hammer out the state budget. The goal is to have that ready to present to the full legislative body by mid to late March.
The Nebraska Economic Forecast Advisory Board met on Friday and raised the revenue forecast by $204 million for the current fiscal year FY2020-21, $165 million for fiscal year FY2021-22, and $93 million for FY2022-23. We will proceed with as much confidence in the numbers as we can, remembering full well what happened in 2019 and in 2020. The best predictions cannot always account for floods or pandemics.
That said, given this latest report, the state revenue picture continues to be better than one might expect. While individuals, families and businesses have most definitely had their struggles in the past couple of years, the overall economy of Nebraska has been consistently strong. This could allow for some new projects and some enhancement of existing programs, a welcome change to looking for places to cut the budget.
I had three bills heard in committee this week. LB102 provides a local option for consolidation of duties when a vacancy occurs in the Office of an elected Clerk of the District Court or when an incumbent Clerk of the District Court does not seek re-election. The bill gives local control to the county board and permits it to make the decision to either keep or eliminate the office of the elected Clerk of the District Court.
I introduced this bill because it makes sense to me to put the oversight for courts under the judicial branch. It would make services more efficient and it would save counties money, which would help with property tax relief.
LB 462 would provide a 3% rate increase for behavioral health providers for the next two fiscal years in Department of Health and Human Services programs. The Appropriations Committee heard this bill on Thursday. We had support from the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations and several members spoke about the increased demand for their services due to the pandemic. Mental health continues to be an issue across so many segments of our community, and is having a negative effect on our correctional system. I hope we can enhance and support this vital form of assistance.
My final bill was also heard by the Appropriations Committee. LB 42 appropriates $10,000 from the General Fund to the Hall of Fame Trust Fund each year to help pay for statues and pedestals that are allowed and are on display in the Capital. Induction to the Hall is quite an honor, but it can also be quite the economic burden to the descendants of the honoree. I encourage you to come to the Capitol and see the tributes to those who have contributed so much to the history and growth of our state. Find more information at https://history.nebraska.gov/nebraska-hall-fame.
Senators receive regular reports from the Nebraska Department of Labor about unemployment, claims and CARES Act funds coming into the state. In the past 10 months, between regular unemployment insurance, pandemic unemployment assistance, federal pandemic unemployment, pandemic emergency compensation, and the lost wages assistance program, $1,269,548,180 has been paid out in Nebraska. This becomes part of the revenue stream for our state. While we would have had more in actual wages without the pandemic and the funds do not make up for all losses, at least we have not lost all these dollars. That is an obvious benefit to both individuals and the state as a whole.
In addition, the Governor recently announced another $200M in program dollars for rental assistance, which will be coordinated by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority (NIFA) . The funds are targeted towards landlords and renters, and represent another source of aid coming to Nebraska. Find the guidelines for the rental assistance program and more information at https://coronavirus.nebraska.gov .
If you have any questions or concerns, I welcome your emails and calls. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 402-471-2620. Stay safe!