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Legislative Update – January 19, 2018 Senator Roy Baker – District 30
At of the close of session on Thursday, January 18, which was the last day for bill introduction, senators had introduced 468 new bills. After a bill is introduced, the Reference Committee (basically the Executive Board of the Legislature) meets and decides which committee will hear each bill based on the most appropriate area of jurisdiction. On January 16th, hearings began. During a public hearing, some bills are short and simple and can take minutes, other bills that are more complex or controversial can take hours. But every bill receives a public hearing – a feature unique to our Nebraska Unicameral and just a half dozen other states.
Each senator is assigned a full five day schedule of hearings. I currently serve on the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee which meets on Monday and Tuesday and will hear 33 bills. I am also on the Judiciary Committee which meets on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. This year, a record number of bills, 143, or 30% of all bills introduced, have been referred to this one committee. This means the Judiciary Committee will need to hear eight or nine bills each day the committee meets.
If a recess day falls on Monday or Friday, the committee does not meet on those days. So Chairwoman Ebke has taken the unusual step of scheduling hearings on a recess day in order to accommodate the large number of bills before the Judiciary Committee.
This session, I introduced seven bills, four requested by constituents, one by the Lancaster Public Defender, another by an association and one I felt was good public policy. I will address each in future updates, as they come up for hearings.
During floor debate this past week we discussed LB 469 brought by Senator Tyson Larsen last year which requires fantasy contest operators to be licensed. Senator Larson presented this bill as a consumer protection bill, however many senators saw this a form of expanded gambling. The bill was discussed for three hours and I doubt Senator Larsen has 33 votes to force the end of debate, so I believe the bill should be done for this session.
Another bill by Senator Larsen debated later in the week was LR18CA. This is a constitutional amendment to allow those who meet the federal voting age, currently set at 18, to be eligible to run for, or be appointed to, elected office. Under the existing law, a person must be 21 years old to be eligible for the legislature, age 30 for Governor or Lieutenant Governor, Supreme Court Justice or Judge on the Supreme Court. Senator Chambers, along with others, opposed the idea stating that this age group does not have the experience and knowledge to appropriately serve in these offices. In addition, if we tie the voting age to the federal level, and by chance the federal government lowers the age or raises it, our constitution would be tied to that age. No vote has been taken yet on this issue.
Now that hearings have begun, committees will start advancing new bills to the floor and the Speaker will then set the agenda for floor debate of these new bills, beginning about January 29th. Senators will also begin to prioritize their issues which will take precedence for scheduling floor debate.
A good source for all things pertaining to the legislature is the website: www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Posted on this site will be the daily agendas, hearing schedules, information on bills, and a link to the Unicameral Update publication which reports on many of the bills being discussed. From this site, you can also connect directly to my official web page. I also post news on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to receive this update via email, contact my office to be added to the list. Constituents are always welcome to call, write or email my office. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the office number is 402-471-2620.
Legislative Update – January 12, 2018
Senator Roy Baker – District 30
The second session of the 105th Legislature started smoothly. The first three days of session only had bill introduction, which continues for the first ten days. On January 8th, the Speaker scheduled floor debate on bills held over from last year. I have introduced six new bills to date, and will have no more. In this 60-day session, any bill that does not receive a Senator’s or Committee’s priority designation likely will not make it to the floor. The other possibility is if a bill is noncontroversial and unopposed, it may be passed on the consent agenda.
My bills are:
LB709 to change archaic provisions relating to plumbing boards – their terms of office, meetings, penalties, etc. This bill was introduced at the request of the City of Beatrice and supported by other cities and villages.
LB710 is an act relating to civil lawsuits, changing provisions relating to costs, interest, and attorney fees, when the civil claim is $4,000 or less. This was introduced upon request by a District 30 business owner.
LB711 would change requirements for use of occupant protection systems. Currently, proper seat belt use is required only for front seat passengers. LB711 would require each occupant in the motor vehicle to wear occupant protection systems, with the exceptions already in statute including taxi cabs, emergency vehicles, parade vehicles, and rural letter carriers. Child passenger restraint requirements remain as they are. Seat belt use would continue to be a secondary offense which carries a $25 fine.
LB907 clarifies sales tax exemptions for agriculture machinery and equipment, specifically equipment used for the health and welfare of cattle, swine, and poultry. This bill was also introduced at the request of a business in the district.
LB908 would provide a tire disposal exemption for use in a building system. A constituent requested this legislation.
LB 981 is a juvenile justice bill and allows a Juvenile Court to retain jurisdiction of a juvenile until the age of 21 for purposes of enforcing the court order, if the juvenile and their legal counsel consent.
In addition to these bills, I am considering signing on as a co-sponsor to a couple of other issues. I will outline those in future updates.
Key votes to date in this session first occurred on January 8 with the adoption of the permanent rules. Last session we spent over thirty days debating the rules. The timeliness in which the rules were adopted this year is more reminiscent of past Legislatures with the acceptance of legislative rules.
The next key vote occurred on debate of a bill. Senator Bob Krist declared his priority bill early this year, LB 368 which was introduced last year by Senator John Lowe. The bill would have repealed the motorcycle helmet law. After at least six hours of debate, a cloture motion to cease any further debate may be offered. In 2017, a cloture vote on the bill failed by one vote. On January 10, the cloture motion to end debate and go to a vote on the bill failed by three votes. The matter will not come up again this session. I voted against cloture. I have heard passionate pleas from constituents both for and against repeal. It was a matter of considering civil liberties vis a vis safety and people’s lives, and ultimately the latter prevailed. This outcome was a bit of a surprise, as proponents of LB 368 thought they had the 33 votes necessary.
Public hearings for new bills begin on Tuesday, January 16th. Contact my office with any questions or comments you may have. I welcome your communication as we work through the issues. email@example.com or 402-471-2620.
2017 is winding down, and 2018 will be upon us in a matter of days. The second session of the 105th Nebraska Unicameral Legislature will begin on Wednesday, January 3. This is a 60-day session which will end in mid-April.
The Speaker of the Legislature has notified us that any proposals for changes in rules under which the Legislature operates must be submitted before the session starts. The Rules Committee will consider and vote on any proposals by the second day. During the 2017 session, many days were taken up discussing rules changes. There was no resolution, and finally we continued under temporary rules, those under which we had operated in 2016.
A coalition of Senators who sought to control the Legislature had argued for the extended debate, aka filibuster, rules to change. Current rules require 33 of the 49 votes to end extended debate. The coalition sought to lower the number of votes required to end debate and bring their agenda items to a vote. As I am not part of the “gang of 27”, I am not inclined to vote for changing the rules. Committee chairs and committee assignments remain the same in this second year of the 2017-18 biennium.
Nebraska’s revenue shortfall has been well publicized. Normally the biennial budget adopted in the 2017 session would not need to be revisited in 2018. However, the current 2018 revenue estimate is projected to be around $175 million short, so steps must be taken. We will receive updated revenue forecasts before the sixty day session comes to an end.
Other important areas will continue to be part of the focus for 2018: tax reform/tax relief; public school funding; overcrowded prisons and other correction system issues; physical and mental health care; and school choice, to name a few.
This will be my final year as a Nebraska State Senator. It has been an honor to serve District 30, and I plan to make the most out of my remaining time. Thank you.
To contact Senator Baker: Phone: 402-471-2620 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Webpage: http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist30/
I spoke to the Nebraska Council of School Administrators meeting in Lincoln on December 6th. Sens. Kolterman, Bolz, and Schumacher also addressed the group. Here is “Professor” Schumacher.
Maria Talero, president of the Norris FFA chapter, addressed the Farm City Breakfast of the Kiwanis Club on November 21.
State senators were together at the annual Legislative Council on November 16-17, held this year on UNL East Campus; learning more about issues we will face in the upcoming session.
On November 8th, my staff attended the IANR Fall Summit which focused on building partnerships to find sustainable and creative solutions to critical issues in Nebraska.
LINCOLN SOUTH BELTWAY
The Department of Transportation shared the latest plans for the south beltway at a public hearing on October 3. The beltway will be an eleven-mile freeway, connecting US-77 on the west and Highway 2 on the east, with five interchanges.
Planning began in the 1960s for a beltway loop around Lincoln. The project was ready to go in the early 2000s, but was put on hold due to lack of funding. Now funds from the Build Nebraska Act have been earmarked for the project, supplemented with contributions from the City of Lincoln. At present, the plan is to begin the construction of the south beltway in 2020, with an estimated completion date around 2025 to 2027. Between now and 2020, the Nebraska Department of Transportation will consider further public input, make refinements, and begin acquiring the necessary properties.
The south beltway will enable some of the through traffic to avoid passing through the City of Lincoln as well as facilitating east-west traffic within the City. In the future, it is likely that beltway loop will be completed with the construction of the east beltway, connecting the south beltway eastern terminus with Interstate 80.
The City of Lincoln has continued to grow and expand in all directions. Completion of the south beltway could accelerate Lincoln’s growth to the south. Commercial development may well crop up around the beltway interchanges, including gas stations, restaurants, retail, and other. The beltway, once completed, is likely to have a significant impact on the growth of Hickman and other communities in Legislative District 30.
The south beltway somewhat follows the half mile line between Saltillo and Bennet Roads. In the present plan, interchanges will be developed at Highway 77, near 27th Street, at 68th and 82nd Streets, and approximately west of 120th Street.
As one of the speakers at the Homestead National Monument on Eclipse Day, August 21st, I talked with Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
Official proclamation for the eclipse, visible in much of Nebraska and especially District 30, on Monday, August 21st. Lora Young, director of the Beatrice Chamber of Commerce joined me as Lt. Gov. Foley presented the documents.
The Lincoln, Omaha and Nebraska State Chambers of Commerce sponsored their annual Federal Legislative Summit on August 9th at the SAC Museum. Congressmen Smith and Fortenberry, and Senators Fisher and Sasse addressed the gathering.
Legislative Update – May 24, 2017
Senator Roy Baker – District 30
As we wrap up the work of the First Session of the 105th Legislature, I would like to announce that I do not plan to run for re-election to my District 30 seat in the Nebraska Legislature.
It has always been my wife’s and my intent, following my retirement, to relocate to be closer to our family. When I retired as Superintendent of the Norris School District in 2010, my wife and I deemed it important to remain in the area to help look after Paula’s aging parents, who were in the mid-80s and still living in their own home. Both passed away during my first year in the Legislature.
Upon completion of my legislative term in 2018, we will be moving from our current home and establishing residences in Minnesota and Arizona to be near our sons, daughter-in-law, and our young grandchildren.
I am making my announcement now to allow interested District 30 citizens in Lancaster and Gage counties time to consider their candidacy and begin the planning necessary to carry out a campaign.
It has been an honor to serve District 30 residents as their State Senator the past three years, and I will continue to carry out my duties to the best of my ability during the remainder of my term.
I have appreciated the emails, letters and phone calls to the office and the sharing of opinions, ideas, and concerns. Your communication during the interim is equally important and I look forward to hearing from you. 402-471-2620 email@example.com
Legislative Update – May 19, 2017
Senator Roy Baker – District 30
Much of the time in the waning hours of the 2017 Legislative session was been given to discussions of the budget. On May 15, Governor Ricketts announced $56.5 million in line-item reductions in the budget adopted by the Legislature. Included in the reductions:
Various motions were submitted on May 17 to override the line-item reductions for the four DHHS programs. We heard from a large number of providers from District 30, who are deeply concerned about what those provider rate cuts might mean for their rest homes, the Developmentally Disabled services, Child Welfare, and Behavioral Health providers. Most of the motions ended with 26 or 27 yes votes, short of the 30 needed to override the Governor.
In other actions in the final five days, several bills passed on final reading without controversy, including LB289, that greatly increases the penalties for sex trafficking. Increased rates were authorized for ground emergency medical transport. One additional juvenile court judge was authorized, and judges’ salaries were approved.
LB496, the Community Development Law, received 31 votes on a cloture vote, short of the 33 needed, and is done for this session. This bill would have extended workforce housing funds to rural areas.
Sen. Mike Hilgers’ gun bill, LB68, was scheduled to come up on Select File, but he pulled his bill from the agenda. He stated that he wants to work on the language over the summer and bring LB68 back in 2018.
In 2016, LB 895 was passed by the legislature calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a detailed analysis of the Beatrice State Developmental Center and the Bridges program. Senators raised concerns when the reported costs of serving an individual at BSDC was approximately $450,000 per individual per year and the population was declining. After more discussion, senators also wanted an analysis of the aging buildings on the campus, compliance with the Olmstead decision (a U.S. Supreme Court Case) and how BSDC fits into the service array for all individuals with developmental disabilities.
First I would like to compliment Courtney Miller and her staff for conducting a very thorough and compassionate review of the future of BSDC and the impact any changes to the program would have on the residents. I think they did a very good job of balancing the needs of the residents, the needs of the campus and the needs of the DD community as a whole.
The report is due by June 1, 2017 to the legislature with the findings and the future vision of BSDC and the Bridges program. On May 9th the department held a public hearing on the initial findings. A number of potential recommendations were put forward but the preliminary recommendation the department deemed most appropriate was a combined service array for BSDC. The proposal would have BSDC continue to support the 109 individuals currently living at the facility. They recognized these individuals call BSDC home. Considering the average length of stay at BSDC is 47 years and the average age of the residents is 67, moving these clients out of the only home many have known for the vast majority of their life would be cruel. The recommendation also would have BSDC provide: respite services, crisis intervention support and consultative assessment services, and acute crisis stabilization as an intermediate care facility (which would be time limited service).
As for the Bridges program in Hastings, it was originally designed for high risk, behaviorally challenged individuals with developmental disabilities. However the program cannot remain in compliance with federal Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waiver regulations. The department has moved the six residents at this facility into community based services and has closed Bridges.
I think the report is the best outcome for BSDC, its residents and the Beatrice community which for decades has embraced the facility and the residents.
The last day of the current session is Tuesday, May 23rd. The agenda will include mostly housekeeping items to wrap up the business of the Legislature as we move into the interim months. As always, your communication about areas of concern is important whether we are in session or back at work in the district. 402-471-2620; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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