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We enjoyed a typical July in Nebraska – temperatures hovering near 100, kids on detassling crews and other summer jobs, community celebrations and county fair activities. At the Capitol, we used this time to take a close look at the issues, find new solutions and prepare for next year’s session. That includes everything from attending national conferences to small group meetings in the office.
In late June I traveled to Washington DC to a Budget and Tax Academy, sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). This was an intense program with many good speakers; and state senators and representatives from across the country. It was interesting to find that many states are encountering the same problems that we have in Nebraska. Property taxes are a common issue – even in states with lower rates than we have here. Many states are dealing with expanded Medicaid. In the case of medical marijuana and gambling, some states have seen a degree of success while others seem to wish they had not taken a similar route. I appreciated the opportunity to learn as much as I could from the presenters and meet fellow legislators from across the nation.
Also in June I toured the Sheldon power plant at Hallam along with Sen. Brandt of District 32. Just to the south of the Sheldon plant, the new Monolith facility is under construction, which will be making carbon black. Senator Brandt and I were given an overview of the progress and a timeline for starting operations.
I had the privilege of attending a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the Homestead National Monument in June. In addition, I have written in support of changing the name of this fine landmark to simply Homestead National Park, which more clearly represents the park’s attractions.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of the Nebraska Investment Council. Two of my fellow Appropriations Committee members were there, as well as the chair of the Retirement Committee. The program was enlightening and educational regarding the state’s investment funds, how they invest and the financial condition of the state program.
Along with Sen. DeBoer of Omaha, I participated in a listening session in Lincoln to gather input on taxation and spending. Many discussions and meetings are taking place concerning property taxes during these interim months between sessions. We will meet next week to summarize what we learned and talk about any possible legislation that could be developed as a result.
My staff and I have met with several individuals who have concerns about distracted driving and recent motor vehicle accidents in the district. As many of you are aware, distracted driving has increased as cell phone use has increased. There are several bills that will carry over to next year’s session which could help address this matter.
While on the topic of transportation, I was able to meet with our area district engineer Tom Goodbarn, and Erich Strach from the state Department of Transportation office recently in Adams. We looked at ongoing and future projects and discussed the roads and bridges in District 30, including the south beltway project.
On June 17th, the Governor held his annual economic development conference in Lincoln. The main speaker was Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton. Many state senators were there and the speakers focused on being economically successful. The Governor also talked about Nebraska’s success the past several years, noting that the state has been awarded the national Governor’s Cup for the most economic development projects per capita of any state for three years in a row.
Mike Boehm, vice chancellor of the University’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), met me in Adams for lunch late in July. We discussed ways the ag college impacts our state, not just in District 30 but from border to border. This week I met with interim university president Dr. Susan Fritz. It was good to get her take on the overall status of the university system, and the search for a new president.
Another important meeting was held with Tom Bliss of the Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD). This organization is working hard to connect needs with the right resources for the good of our part of the state.
County fair season is in full swing in the area and I enjoyed the annual agriculture appreciation barbecue at the Gage County fair in July and the chance to talk with so many acquaintances and fellow local producers. I attended a luncheon this week at the Lancaster County fair to learn more about the Event Center and Ag Society, and observed some of the exhibits designed to connect urban and rural residents in the county.
This month I will convene a working group studying ways to improve the funding stream for the SIM-NE program. This is the educational equipment and staff that travels from the University’s med center, UNMC, out to local EMTs and emergency rooms in small hospitals, providing hands-on realistic training. As an EMT myself, I consider this a vital program for health and quality of life in rural areas.
I have invited several Omaha area senators to visit in the next couple of months. Learning more about the similarities and the differences between our districts will go a long way in the coming session. We have a lot to show them in District 30!
Contact me through the same channels as during the legislative session – by email or phone. email@example.com or 402-471-2620.