LB 122, which provides for family members to petition for visitation, was advanced to the second round of debate today. The bill was introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks, and I made it my priority bill to help insure passage this year. Pictured with me, Senator Pansing Brooks and her friend Genenne Didier, whose experiences inspired the legislation.
Legislative Update – March 27, 2017 Senator Roy Baker – District 30
Last week I asked constituents to weigh in on daylight saving time (DST). I was pleased to hear from so many District 30 residents. First the disclaimer: this was not a scientific poll. But the responses leaned more toward opting out of DST than retaining it. Comments ranged from: waste of time (no pun intended), hard to adjust, throws off sleep schedules; to those in favor saying: more daylight for children’s sports, mowing the yard, and other out-door activities. Several suggested staying on DST year round; unfortunately federal law does not allow that option.
If the DST bill does come up for debate, I intend to offer an amendment that Nebraska may only opt out of DST if three contiguous states also opt out; our Secretary of State would be responsible for verifying that three contiguous states had opted out of DST and would then declare Nebraska officially out of daylight saving time. This amendment would help alleviate the difficulty for our border towns to conduct business in surrounding states by making sure we were all on the same time.
I introduced LB 298 which builds on a bill passed last year. In 2016, LB 746 was introduced by former Senator Kathy Campbell. Her bill established a “reasonable and prudent parent” standard to allow foster parents and individuals at child care institutions to use their best judgment in making day-to-day decisions regarding what age and developmentally appropriate extra-curricular activities youth in care may participate. Normalcy for youth includes typical kids’ experiences like getting a driver license, having a part-time job, or staying overnight at a friend’s house.
My bill (LB 298) would apply this same standard to child care institutions licensed and contracted through the Department of Health and Human Services, and Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, to develop a plan to provide youth in their care with normalcy and to report annually regarding the implementation of the plan. The bill would also require the department to develop a plan for the immediate and public dissemination of a current picture and information on a child who is missing from care, while maintaining confidentiality of their status in foster care. When youth go missing from care, their chances of being subjected to sex trafficking increase. LB 298 and two other bills of similar topic were amended into LB 225 on March 23 and advanced to the next stage of debate.
Following are some of the issues debated this past week. For a fuller explanation and to learn more about these bills, I would encourage you to go to the unicameral website, nebraskalegislature.gov. LB 518 was introduced by Senator Matt Williams of Gothenburg to help create affordable housing for the rural workforce. In this bill, grant funds would be provided, as a one-time transfer of $12 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, to build workforce housing. A transfer of $1 million in both 2018 and 2019 would follow. The grants would be for owner-occupied homes and cost no more than $275,000 to construct, or for a rental housing unit that costs no more than $200,000 to construct. I support LB 518.
LB 335 would delay, and I stress delay, a rate adjustment in child care subsidies rates to providers. These subsidies provide affordable childcare to low-income families as they attempt to get off public assistance. With the tight budget constraints this year, LB 335 would freeze the current provider rates and save the state $7.4 million in 2017-18 and $1.8 in 2018-19. The Department of Health and Human Services conducts a survey to review child care rates every other year. The current rates are between 60 and 75 percent of market rates. An amendment adopted would prohibit the rates from falling below the 50th percentile. I am in support of the amendment. This bill advanced to the second stage of debate.
Senator Mike Hilgers of Lincoln offered LB 271 which would authorize the Department of Roads to conduct environmental, social and economic reviews usually done by the federal government. Allowing Nebraska’s Department of Roads to conduct the reviews will expedite the planning and development phase of a project and reduce pre-construction costs. I support this measure which also advanced.
Thursday, March 23, ended the public hearing process. Starting, Tuesday, March 28th, the Unicameral will go into full day sessions. Our day, in the Chamber, will begin around 9 am and end at approximately 5 pm. As we move into the last days of the session, we will work into the evenings, usually ending by 7 pm. In the past when the Legislature stayed in session through the evening hours, lobbyists would take turns supplying evening meals. The Speaker announced that his office would arrange for food to be brought in on those evenings, and if a senator would like to eat, he or she can ante up the few dollars for the meal. I have long thought this is the way it should work.
Your thoughts regarding legislation and your concerns are always important to me. Please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org, 402-471-2620.
The State Tribal Relations committee of the Legislature met on Tuesday. This is Senator Baker’s first year on the committee. Pictured left to right: Senators Lindstrom, Albrecht, Brewer; Judi gaiashkibos, Executive Director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs; Senators Vargas, Baker and Quick. Not pictured Sen. Brasch.
Legislative Update – March 20, 2017
Senator Roy Baker – District 30
In past newsletters, I have spoken about a conservative block of senators who wanted to control much of the session and one way would be through the rules by altering the cloture motion rule. After thirty legislative days with no compromise on the rules, the legislature imposed a temporary moratorium on the rules until Day 50, Monday, March 20. During the stay on the rules debate, the legislature began to work as it was meant to: bills were debated, bills were amended and bills were advanced, many on a non-partisan basis. On Friday, March 17, Speaker Jim Scheer stood on the floor and praised senators for this work. With no rules resolution, the Speaker asked all senators who had amendments on the rules to withdraw their amendments and vote on the rules as they occurred on January 4th, 2017. One by one, the Speaker called on each senator who had amendments on the rules and asked if he would withdraw his amendments. Each one agreed. The Legislature, on Day 49, over half way through the legislative session, adopted permanent rules.
Committees are getting close to the end of public hearings on bills and have been working in Executive Sessions to discuss bills already heard and take action including advancement, amendments, holding or killing bills. I have had a few bills in hearings where I would like to work with groups over the summer to reach a compromise. LB 474 enables beneficiaries to synchronize their medications so they could order and receive them on the same day each month, instead of having to make multiple visits to the pharmacy. This would reduce medication waste, as well as the poor healthcare outcomes that result from decreased medication adherence. The insurance industry raised concerns about the breadth of the bill without having some precautions written into the bill. I agreed to work with all interested parties during the interim.
On March 15, Senator Anna Wishart presented LB 622, the Medical Cannabis Act. The bill describes and defines the regulation of production, processing, dispensing, and qualifications for associated care givers. Places where medical cannabis can be administered are delineated, as well as places where it may not, e.g., schools, correctional facilities, and public places.
Approved forms of medical cannabis are restricted to the following forms: liquid, pills or capsules; vaporized liquid or oil, topical creams and lotions, and suppositories. Smoking would not be an approved method of delivery.
Proponents and opponents testified for more than three hours. Proponents testifying described their personal circumstances, or those of a child or other loved one, that lead them to believe medical cannabis would provide relief when no other mediation has been effective.
Testifiers talked about severe epilepsy, severe chronic pain, severe vomiting, opioid addiction, PTSD, and other diseases. The opponents were law enforcement representatives and the Department of Health and Human Services. The Judiciary Committee advanced the bill to General File and Senator Wishart has made it her priority bill.
However, LB 622 carries a significant fiscal note; there would be $963,603 of state general funds needed in 2017-18 and $873,441 in 2018-19. Given the state’s serious revenue shortfall, the passage of LB 622 appears to have an uphill battle.
In my last update I spoke about LB 666. The Judiciary Committee did advance the bill to General File and I voted in favor. To clarify, the bill applies to any person who stores and transports a firearm.
I welcome and continue to receive your messages about property tax, which is of course, an overriding concern in District 30 as well as across the state. This issue will be addressed by bills coming out of the Revenue and Appropriations Committees. With the vast number of bills addressing taxes, it makes sense to wait to discuss those in detail when we know exactly which options will be brought before the full Legislature.
Your comments about Daylight Saving Time are much appreciated. At this point, sentiment runs roughly two-thirds for staying on one time all year round; about a third of people responding like having DST.
Full days of debate begin next week, so please continue to contact me as we being the last half of the session. email@example.com 502-471-2620
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FOR MORE INFORMATION:
March 20, 2017 Heidi Uhing
Unicameral Information Office
Sen. Baker invites students to youth legislature
High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 11-14. 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.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.
Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available.
The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.
To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 15.
On March 7, the Department of Health and Human Services notified employees at the Beatrice State Developmental Center that there would be 39 employees laid off by April 1st. The agency stated it was ‘right-sizing’ the staffing needs of the facility. Currently 110 residents live on the Beatrice campus and numbers have been declining over the years. The main impetus for reductions in state institutions across the country is a United States Supreme Court decision in 1999, referred to as the Olmstead decision. This decision states that people with mental (and developmental) disabilities should be served in the least restrictive environment if the placement is appropriate and the person desires to be served in the community. The focus of care and placement has been toward community based programs. With the declining enrollment at BSDC, the Department of Health and Human Services has been evaluating staffing to meet all regulatory requirements, provide quality care but eliminate redundancy in staffing.
I have met many residents and family members of residents at BSDC. Families and residents alike appreciate and value the care provided by BSDC. They speak highly of the staff and the environment of the campus and the inclusion in activities in the community. The staff is caring and invested in providing the highest level of care to the residents.
Lay-offs are not easy, I know. When the Department contacted me, they assured me the employees would be given priority placement for other job openings, per the bargaining agreement, for placement in Beatrice and surrounding areas. As with any declining enrollment, reduction in the workforce is inevitable.
LB 666 by Senator John Lowe would clarify the correct method of transporting a concealed firearm. The bill would allow any person to transport a firearm, if unloaded and in the manufacturer’s packaging or a case designed for the storage or transport of firearms, to do so legally. The Nebraska Supreme Court found that a person is in violation of the concealed carry law if a weapon is in a person’s immediate reach, which includes a locked glove box. This bill would help ensure people are following the law. The bill is still in committee.
LB 25 was a bill before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on March 8th. The bill would re-instate the winner-take-all method of assigning electoral votes in a presidential election. Under Nebraska law, the winner of the statewide popular vote receives two Electoral College votes, the remaining three Electoral College votes are given to the popular vote within each congressional district. Senator John Murante of Gretna would like to see all five of Nebraska’s electoral votes go to the statewide popular vote winner. Nebraska changed its law in 1996 to split its electoral votes. Supporters of LB 25 stated returning to a winner-take-all gives Nebraska more influence in the national election process. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states which have a split system. Other states have considered it, but have not had the votes to change those state’s laws.
On Sunday, March 12, Nebraskans once again turned their clocks forward for the start of daylight saving time (DST). I have heard from some constituents that this ‘spring forward’ and ‘fall back’ for day-light savings is confusing, aggravating and for some, a downright waste of time. I invite you to contact me and let me know your opinion on the state’s participation in DST. LB 309 deals with this issue.
To reach me, call 402-471-2620 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My state website can be found at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.
Happy Birthday to the great state of Nebraska. 150 years ago on March 1, 1867, Nebraska became the 37th of the United States of America. So on March 1st, 2017, at 2 p.m. the Legislature, Governor, Supreme Court Justices, and the Secretary of State kicked off the sesquicentennial celebration. A ceremony held in the George W. Norris Chamber in the State Capitol was the first of many events set to occur across the state during 2017. After the presentation of colors, Hannah Huston sang the national anthem followed by Secretary of State John Gale, reading the original statehood proclamation signed by President Andrew Johnson. Governor Pete Ricketts signed a new proclamation to commemorate the sesquicentennial. Eighteen third through fifth graders sang “Happy Birthday” and an Octet from Waverly High School sang “Beautiful Nebraska”. I would encourage all Nebraska to make a trip to the Capitol sometime this year and visit this beautiful building, see the mosaics, artwork and this summer, the newly installed fountains in the center courtyards.
Legislative Resolution 1 CA (Constitutional Amendment) would make a change to the Nebraska Constitution and require a person to show a picture ID or digital image prior to casting a ballot. Senator Joh Murante of Gretna presented the bill to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee on March 2nd and said that 32 states have some form of voter ID requirement. He stated voters have a lack of confidence in the integrity of the election process. The constitutional amendment would go before Nebraska voters in general election in November, 2018. Supporters of the bill believe such a law would protect the process and people from having someone walk in to a polling place, state they are someone else and vote. Opponents of the bill cite studies where voter ID laws adversely impact minority and elderly groups. The Secretary of State has consistently reported voter fraud in Nebraska is not a problem. The resolution is being held in committee at this writing.
The Revenue Committee heard testimony on March 3rd about LB 475, introduced by Senator Paul Schumacher of Columbus, regarding the elimination of the Nebraska Job Creation and Main Street Revitalization Act. This law was enacted in 2015 with up to $15 million a year in tax credits for rehabilitation, preservation and restoration of historically significant buildings. Each project is capped at $1 million. The current law has a sunset date on December 31, 2022. The purpose of the law was to help communities throughout the state but most of the approved projects have been in Omaha. Senator Schumacher believes with the budget constraints facing the state, the grants going primarily to Omaha, and the bureaucratic red tape, the law should be rescinded. The State Historical Society who oversees this grant program, along with the Department of Revenue, opposed the bill, as did representatives from Beatrice. Trevor Jones, the director and CEO of the Historical Society, stated the application process for the credits is complex and must comply with federal standards. He stated the process is constrained by the law itself. It was also stated that Omaha developers were ready to go with projects. There were 16 applications from Omaha and 14 from the rest of the state. This bill is also still being held in committee.
The State Treasurer is in charge of receiving and attempting to find the rightful owners of unclaimed property in the state. This consists of cash and other personal assets that are considered to be lost or abandoned. Every year banks, businesses, and other organizations remit unclaimed property to the State Treasurer and he in turn attempts to locate the owners through a published newsletter. The treasurer’s website is: www.treasurer.nebraska.gov, from there you can find a link to unclaimed property. My staff recognized some names and encouraged them to visit the website to see if they have a little cash out there. Information is organized by county, then last name, on the website.
Happy 150th Birthday, Nebraska!
From left: the presentation of the colors begins the official celebration in the Legislative Chambers on March 1, 2017; the governor addresses the crowd, followed by Secretary of State John Gale reading the 1867 proclamation that made Nebraska the 37th state; the Pony Express arrives at the west side of the Capitol.
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