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Looking back over the 2014 year and forward to 2015
I am truly honored to serve another year as your state senator.
My staff and I developed a mission statement that we strive to follow on a daily basis:
“Our office operates with the traditional openness and progressive attitude upon which the Nebraska Unicameral was founded. We strive to be non-partisan, efficient and accountable to the public we serve in District 31 and to the great State of Nebraska”.
Looking back over 2014 and the 103rd Legislative Session:
When it comes to the budget, 2014 was a bipartisan year. The cash reserve was held to a reasonable level (slightly under $700 million), a reserve that has proven in the past and will prove in the future to be an invaluable resource during recessions.
My colleagues and I advanced a tax relief package that added up to relief of $412 million over five years. We also made long-¬term investments in Nebraska’s future. Your future. Included in these investments were: $31 million in both one time and ongoing funding to ensure that Nebraska’s water resources are not depleted; $28 million to start reform of the state’s prison system by reinvesting in lower cost alternatives to building a new prison; $880 million for state aid to education; $200 million in special education aid; extension of the Nebraska Advantage programs to help businesses expand and grow; and $3.7 million for early childhood education.
In 2014 I introduced 12 bills that tackled issues ranging from school security, college savings, property tax relief, special education, smoke¬-free daycares and many more. Four of my bills advanced with overwhelming support from my colleagues.
• LB 276: Changes the Medicaid in Public Schools (MIPs) reimbursement formula to bring an estimated $20 million additional federal dollars into Nebraska to pay for special education services in our schools.
• LB 546: Creates greater efficiencies for post¬secondary education capital construction projects.
• LB 732 (amended into LB 359): Removes college savings accounts and education income (internships, work study, scholarships) from counting against a person being eligible for certain public assistance programs.
• LB 872 (amended into LB 923): Reinstates the position of Statewide School Security Director within the Department of Education to develop minimum standards for school safety and security and to help schools achieve those standards.
Three bills I introduced in 2014 were brought to me by constituents, and I am currently working on another piece of legislation brought to me by a constituent that supports victims of theft who find their stolen property in a pawn shop. I want to encourage more citizens to collaborate with me on legislation.
Over the interim I introduced five interim studies, several of which have led to legislation in 2015. The topics ranged from local food, forensic science, and expanded learning opportunities.
This past interim the Education Committee underwent a statewide visioning process that sought public input to design goals and objectives that will improve the quality of education in our state and will help current and future policy makers identify priorities for education in our state. We will be putting this vision into law this session.
Looking forward to 2015 and the 104th Legislative Session:
I am proud have been elected this year as Vice Chair of the Legislature’s Education Committee. Supporting high quality education is a priority of mine at the legislature as it has been a mission of mine for over 41 years as an educator and the founding principal of Millard West High School.
I am also proud to serve on the Natural Resources and Nebraska Retirement Systems Committees and as an appointed member of the Water Sustainability Task Force and the Midwestern Higher Education Compact.
This session I will also be introducing legislation on college savings, property tax relief, domestic violence, educational rigor and accountability, bicycle safety, local food and allowing sixteen-year-olds to register to vote so they are better prepared to take part in this important civic duty at age 18.
My priority legislation this coming session is to establish the Career and College Readiness Fund. This fund reimburses school districts for increasing the rigor and relevancy in their schools through Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, career education and dual enrollment courses, so that we adequately prepare our students for postsecondary education and careers.
I am looking forward to the 2015 session and getting to know 18 new state senators and getting to help them find their way around the halls of our great State Capitol.
Senator Rick Kolowski