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In this devastating time of the Coronavirus pandemic there are many sources of information. One that I recommend is the daily 2 p.m. governor’s press conference that can be viewed by going to nebraskalegislature.gov and selecting the NET logo and the corresponding link for the Governor’s press conference. There is also a very good document from the Legislative Research office about Covid 19 and the outlook for Nebraska. It can be found under Reports – General Research.
Of course cdc.gov and your county/district health department webpages are excellent resources for information.
Above all please abide by the public health suggestions of hand washing, cleaning high touch areas and social distancing – and take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Responding to the 2020 Census is safe, important, and easier than ever! Visit my2020census.gov to respond online.
Be on the lookout: Invitations to respond to the 2020 Census will start hitting mailboxes in our State on March 12. For the first time, Nebraskans will have the opportunity to fill out their census forms online in addition to completing the form by phone or mail.
Completing the 2020 Census is a critically important civic duty that determines federal funding for public safety, schools, housing, health care and other essential services. It shapes our representation in Congress, and much more. It’s important everyone in Douglas County and in Nebraska be counted because census numbers affect everyone from seniors to students, kids and parents, businesses and communities.
Remember, being counted in the census is as important as voting is to our democracy and is part of our responsibility as residents of the United States. To learn more about the 2020 Census, visit: https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond.html]
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH LEGISLATURE
Introduced by Senator Rick Kolowski
WHEREAS, according to a warning published on November 5, 2019, about the effects of climate change, signed and supported by over eleven thousand scientists, the climate crisis “is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.” Later on in the statement the
scientists wrote that “climate change reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable” and that because of the climate crisis, humanity could face “untold suffering”; and WHEREAS, the United States Environmental Protection Agency states that intense weather phenomena, including large storms and heat waves, are likely to
occur more frequently because of the climate and ecological crisis. Major storms can lead to loss of property and both storms and heat waves can cause death; and
WHEREAS, the Fourth National Climate Assessment says that over time these heat waves increase drought and wildfire risks. Heat waves and droughts have depleted water supplies, which has contributed to over ten billion dollars in losses for the agriculture sector; and
WHEREAS, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, many forests are burning because of changes in temperature, precipitation levels, and soil moisture due to global warming. Hotter temperatures in the spring and summer, and the fact that snow is melting earlier in the spring, are likely to cause a longer wildfire season and cause wildfires to be more intense and burn for longer; and
WHEREAS, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were eleven major wildfires between 2000 and 2017 in the United States of America. In that eighteen-year period, both the number of deaths and the financial damage caused by each wildfire dramatically increased. In the first wildfire of 2000, no one died, and the cost was $1.6 billion. In the last wildfire of 2017, fifty-four people died, and the cost was $18.7 billion; and
WHEREAS, the Fourth National Climate Assessment also states that flooding might increase across the United States of America, including in areas where precipitation is expected to decrease. All flood types, including flash flooding, urban flooding, river flooding, and coastal flooding are, to different degrees, affected by the climate. The risks from future floods are very major; and
WHEREAS, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sea levels are rising at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year. The two major causes of rising global sea levels are oceanic expansions due to the warming of oceans and increased melting of glaciers and ice sheets. The oceans are absorbing about ninety percent of the increased atmospheric heat that results from human emissions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration goes on to state that “with continued ocean and atmospheric warming, sea levels will likely rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century”; and
WHEREAS, higher sea levels cause deadly and destructive storm surges to push farther inland, which means there will be more nuisance flooding, which is estimated to be three hundred to nine hundred percent more frequent in United States coastal communities than it was fifty years ago. Nearly forty percent of the United States’ population lives in such coastal communities. Eight out of the ten largest cities in the world are close to a coast according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans; and
WHEREAS, according to a 2014 report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, animals have an increased risk of extinction because of the climate crisis; and
WHEREAS, a report done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln concluded that disruptions in the climate have decreased agricultural yields in Nebraska over the last forty years and are predicted to decrease agricultural yields significantly over the next twenty-five years; and
WHEREAS, the State of Nebraska has contributed to the climate crisis but has done little to nothing to slow the effects.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE MEMBERS OF THE ONE HUNDRED SIXTH
LEGISLATURE OF NEBRASKA, SECOND SESSION:
Senator Rick Kolowski is among the honorees of the Holland Children’s Movement. “As a father, a high school principal and now as a grandfather, I have always worked for the safety and health of all children. It is imperative that our state policies and budget reflect strong support for the needs of our children,” Senator Kolowski stated. “I want to thank the Holland Children’s Movement for their work on behalf of children and for recognizing the contributions of policy makers.”
Senator Kolowski and his aide, Margaret, met with members of Students for Sustainability to talk about renewable energy standards. The discussion was enlightening and the breakfast at La Peeps was delicious. The students are so informed and so full of passion!! From left to right are: Corah Johnson, Cate Kelly, T.J. Pfannenstiel, Senator Rick Kolowski, Libby Dogger, Margaret Buck.
Senator Rick Kolowski
2019 Session Summary
Three of the bills I introduced passed:
LB 619 – private insurance coverage of mental health services provided in a school
LB 409 – design and building standards for health care facilities updated to 2018 standards (from 2001 standards) with an exemption for remodeling of nursing homes
LB 733 – accessibility standards at polling places
Status of my other bills:
LB 140 – to prohibit tanning before the age of 19. Held in committee.
LB 410 – sales tax holiday for back to school shopping. Held in committee.
LB 620 – to make texting while driving a primary offense. Held in committee.
LB 621 – To prohibit Homeowners Associations from banning solar power. Held in Committee.
LB 147 – restraint bill for schools/students
Chairman Groene’s pull motion was successful. The bill (without being amended) is on General File and will be addressed next year. The amendment remains pending.
LB 670 – Private school scholarships and tax credit program
The filibuster was successful, the bill was stopped.
Major legislative action in 2019:
LB 294 – Budget
$49 million for new max security prison beds
Increased behavioral health provider rates in Medicaid
Court system – more $ for problem solving courts
Property tax credit fund – added $51 M for total of $275 M
Medicaid Expansion – This budget includes funding for the first 9 months of Medicaid expansion. However, the Governor has chosen to apply for what’s called an“1115” state plan waiver. The proposal includes the addition of more eligibility requirements on Nebraskans and making it more difficult to qualify. An 1115 waiver would apply to even those currently on Medicaid. This was unnecessary. He could have implemented a “1332” waiver in 2019 through the Affordable Care Act for just the expansion population. Although the Legislature was disappointed with this, we had no legal way to force the administration to implement in a certain way.
LB 183 – DID NOT PASS – Revenue/tax package to try to shift tax burden from property to sales tax by removing exemptions for Pet related veterinary, Storage facility rental, Moving services, Hair care, nail, spa and beauty services, Tattoos, Maintenance on single family housing remodeling and repair, Interior design, Limousine, Taxi and Ride share, Lawn care, garden, landscape, Parking, Swimming pool, Dating, Telefloral
LB 289 – DID NOT PASS – Revenue/tax package to do the same as 183 but with a rewrite of TEOSSA, school funding.
LB 720 – DID NOT PASS – Business tax incentive program: Would give more transparency for cities so they know what tax deferrals they have to budget for. Some rural Senators opposed it on the basis of too little property tax relief.
Other items that took legislative time:
LB 155 – Eminent domain. Passed. Landowners now have a rebuttable presumption basis to challenge a utilities use of eminent domain for transmission lines.
LB 373 – Bill to require county zoning laws that include create a 3-mile set-back for wind generation, noise thresholds and decommissioning regulation. Held in Committee.
Gubernatorial vetoes/override attempts:
LB 472 – Allows a county board to institute a ½ percent county wide sales tax to help pay a federal judgement. This is specific to Gage County’s federal judgment in the case of six people wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Override attempt: successful.
LB 492 – Expanding the regional metropolitan transit authority to provide more public transportation in Omaha. Override attempt: successful.
LB 533 – Updating state statutes to be consistent with federal law by using gender neutral terminology of “spouse” to replace “husband and wife” in statute and on marriage licenses and certificates. Vetoed. Override motion made and withdrawn.
LB 470 – Created a program to allow employers to make a contribution to the 529 College Savings Plan of an employees’ family member and to exempt military housing from property tax in exchange for payments in lieu of taxes by developers. Passed. Vetoed after the Legislature had adjourned for the year.
LB 436 – Complete Count Committee to encourage people to respond to census requests. Passed the Legislature, vetoed after session adjourned sine die.
In support of a bill to help keep harmful drugs out of the hands of our children, Senator Kolowski made the following speech on the floor that is worth reading:
SENATOR KOLOWSKI: Thank you, Mr. President. Good morning, Senators, and good morning, students, glad to see you here. I want to thank Senator Ashford for his comments concerning this bill and Senator McCoy for bringing this forward. I speak as a former high school principal, with my last 15 years at Millard West High School. I had a file on my desk that I’ll tell you about very briefly, but it was related to the number of student funerals I attended over my 15 years as principal. Auto accidents, alcohol, drug situations, depression, and suicides were part of the reality of life of any high school administrator when you’re dealing with large numbers of students and the issues that we face in our world today. Tomorrow morning I’ll be going to the…to visit with the Catholic Charities program in Omaha that I’m the administrator of record for, and that’s the Journeys program, where 16 students are in a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week drug/alcohol program for the difficulties they’re facing in their lives. I wish I could take every senator from this hall to meet and listen to these students. And in most cases you would not believe the students’ stories, what’s going on in their lives, and what they’ve faced and what they are facing at the current time. The need for problem solving, decision making skills on the part of these students, how to fight peer pressure, to set and make personal goals in their lives are extremely important, and they have great difficulties trying to overcome those things that they had been facing. Those stories those kids would tell you are true. I meet with them every month, a number of hours. And I work with these students, hopefully, trying to get them to a place where they can be released back to their homes, back to their schools, and hopefully will lead a clean life as they move on from the program. We need this bill. We need this bill to pass. It’s a reality that surrounds us in every community, in every town, in every school in this state, and we would be burying our heads in the sand if we would ignore that.
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