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In all of our debate on the floor this week, regardless of the subject matter, conversations included the COVID-19 virus. It was a relatively productive week, moving through quite a few bills that were on first round debate. We still have a number of major issues before us, including the budget, which was taken up on Thursday, our last day of debate for the week.
Of course, the budget must now reflect the possibility that additional funds may be required to meet whatever needs arise from the virus and the effects of it. From a purely budgetary perspective, it is nearly impossible to predict what those needs might be at this time.
A briefing was held for senators and staff early in the week, bringing together representatives from Health and Human Services, Public Health departments, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and the Nebraska Department of Education. We are fortunate here in Nebraska to have one of the top centers in the country for handling contagious disease outbreaks. That expertise has helped our state be more prepared than others. Updates and advisories do change rapidly, and if you would like to access information about COVID-19 directly, I would recommend using either the Lincoln Lancaster County Public Health site: https://lincoln.ne.gov/city/health/ or the Public Health Solutions website: https://phsneb.org/. These websites will provide access to a wide variety of links, resources and information.
In the meantime, while we stay up to date and take precautions, work continues around District 30 on a number of fronts. This week I attended a meeting on the South Beltway project. You have no doubt seen the pre-construction projects underway between Highway 77 and Highway 2. Beginning in May, work will begin in earnest and road closures will begin to ripple across the construction zones. Once again, I would direct you to an informative website, which includes maps, a time line, announcements and contact information if you need to talk with someone in person: https://dot.nebraska.gov/lincoln-south-beltway/.
We moved several bills forward that outline a series of requirements for the state’s youth treatment centers (YRTCs). The bills address medical services; sleeping space, hygiene, education, programming, treatment, recreation and visitation; gender separation, sufficient staffing and better case management. Other requirements adopted include developing a five year plan, defining emergency situations and plans, and a study of costs.
LB911 is a bill that would enable the city of Grand Island to gift the former Nebraska Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery and adjacent land to the state in order to establish a new state cemetery for veterans and apply for funding assistance from the federal government. There is no state or national veterans’ cemetery in central Nebraska, so Grand Island is a good location with some existing infrastructure. This bill has an “e clause” – emergency clause – which would make the bill effective immediately upon passage.
The Legislature instituted a number of changes to attempt to reduce the possibility of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Any change in the legislative calendar will be posted at www.nebraskalegislature.gov . However, my office will continue to be “open” every day as always, thanks to email and phone messages. My staff and I will monitor communications and we will respond accordingly, should you contact my office. firstname.lastname@example.org 402-471-2620.