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With a recess day last Friday and the President’s Day holiday on Monday, I had the opportunity to travel back home to Hastings. This gave me the time to reflect, recharge and visit my Alma Mater, St. Cecilia High School in Hastings.
While there, I enjoyed lunch with a number of class officers and student council representatives. Additionally, I took the opportunity to meet with the school administration team to discuss issues of importance to the delivery of Catholic education. In this meeting, I listened to concerns and hopes for the future of Catholic education and shared any thoughts I had on the legislative topics that were brought to my attention.
The highlight of the day was a meeting with 140 plus high school students. I shared with them my past experiences at St. Cecilia’s and offered some life advice. The meeting ended with a Q & A session delivered through a moderator.
On the legislative side, after two full days of debate we were able to advance LB62 through a first round vote with overwhelming support. The purpose of this bill is to restore the religious freedom rights of teachers. If ultimately passed, it will repeal statutes originally supported by the KKK that prohibited teachers from wearing any type of religious garb. The bill’s only opponent was Senator Ernie Chambers. LB62 would undo the ban on public schoolteachers from wearing religious dress or garb while engaged in the performance of his or her duties in the classroom.
Currently, a person found in violation of current law, as written, could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined up $100, cost of prosecution or a jail term not to exceed 30 days. Additionally, any teacher found guilty shall be suspended for a year for the first offence and permanently disqualified from teaching at that school. This antiquated law should be repealed because good Nebraskans should not have their jobs, nor their livelihood jeopardized because of simply wearing garb that is reflective of their religious beliefs. Protecting this basic right is very important.
March 4th is a “Coffee with the Senator” double-header! My first coffee meeting will be from 9:00 to 10:00am at Kitty’s Roadhouse in Hastings. Then from 2:00 -3:00pm my second coffee will be held in Doniphan at the Doniphan Area Event Center. My staff has recommended to me that I switch to decaf for the second coffee. I hope you can join me for these meetings.
On Wednesday we reached day 30 of the legislative session. Although we have been deadlocked on the adoption of Permanent Rules we did adopt a motion to extend the temporary rules until day 60 of the session. As a reminder, temporary rules are rules that the legislative body operated under during last session. By extending the temporary rules this should allow us to start debating the 110 bills that have made it out of the various Standing Committees.
Along with my fellow Senators I have been reading, researching, and actively listening to testimony on bills brought before the committees. As a result, we should be well versed and ready to debate and vote. It is my sincerest hope that in coming weeks I will be sharing with you the substantive legislative issues that impact the people of the 33rd District.
Your legislature did pass LB22 on February 13th, this bill dealt with adjustments to appropriations and re-appropriations for state operations, aid and construction programs for the current fiscal year. This bills was an interim budget bill introduced by Speaker Scheer at the request of the Governor to address the 120 million dollar budget shortfall for the balance of this biennium budget ending June 30th of this year. LB22 was passionately debated on the floor of the legislature. My office received a large amount of correspondence both from constituents and government agencies. Budget funding cuts are never easy but in a down-turn economy they are necessary. I commend the Governor, the members of Appropriation Committee and my fellow Senators for making those tough decisions. LB22 was signed by the Governor on February 15th.
While it has been a challenging session, it is not all gloom and doom. There are rays of sunshine, these happen most often when constituents travel to Lincoln to visit with us personally. On Monday I had the pleasure to attend the Tri-City Legislative Luncheon. The luncheon was sponsored by the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the Hastings Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce. Several individuals who attended the luncheon also stopped by our office to personally meet our staff. “It’s great to put a face to a name of those with who we have communicated,” said Tom Hastings, the President of Hastings Chamber of Commerce. We could not agree more! If you are in Lincoln, please drop by with your concerns or just to say hi.
Greetings from your State Capitol!
Let me first begin by thanking everyone who came out to my first “Coffee with the Senator” last Saturday at Kitty’s Roadhouse in Hastings. The place was packed! I was elated with the turn out and spirited discussion on issues that concern the people of the 33rd District. Although we might not see eye to on eye on every issue, the direct and free exchange of issues and ideas makes these meetings a powerful tool for me to feel the heartbeat of district.
I want to thank the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and the Adams County Farm Bureau Federation for sponsoring the “Coffee with the Senator” series. I am looking forward to more of these coffees as well as other upcoming town hall meetings throughout our district.
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of hosting a very community driven group, Leadership Hastings. Leadership Hastings was started in 1987 and their goal is to enhance the skills of its members so they can go out and be leaders and serve as a resource to their communities. I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with several members over a luncheon.
I also was able to co-host, with several of my fellow Senators, a group of young, aspiring leaders on Thursday. Leadership Tomorrow, which is primarily from the Grand Island area, spent time learning the fundamentals of how ‘their’ legislature works. It is always rewarding to meet with groups that are looking to better the lives of people in Nebraska.
As for the work of your legislature, the various “standing committees” are doing their work. Hundreds of bills have had their hearings and we have hundreds more that are scheduled to be heard in the coming weeks. So far, there are 87 bills that have been passed through to General File. Dismally few bills have been addressed on the floor. The session has ground to a halt over a lengthy filibuster on a “rules change”. Oddly enough, the filibuster is being conducted on a rule change proposed to require proponents and opponents of a filibuster to be on record with their vote on cloture of debate.
I feel we owe the people of Nebraska transparency in how we voted on motions of cloture to end debate and to vote on the bills advancement. My sincerest hope is that we end this filibuster, vote on the adoption of the Permanent Rules for 2017 session and get on with the business of addressing the legislative bills that have been brought to floor for us to discuss.
The majority of the legislative sessions this week focused on LB22. The bill was introduced by Speaker Scheer who is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee at the request of the Governor. LB22 addresses the Governor’s expedited Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget adjustment recommendations. The Governor along with the Appropriations Committee have done a stellar job of dealing with the critical budget the State of Nebraska is facing.
Unfortunately, a vocal small group of Senators have engaged in offering several motions and amendments to delay a vote on the bill. Even after the LB22 is voted on, assuming the bill is advanced to select file, we have another opportunity to debate the merits of the bill. Given the urgency of the situation we need to debate and vote on LB22.
This intentional “delay tactics” being employed is not only holding up the debate and voting on LB22 it is further delaying the ability of your Legislature to address all of the bills currently voted out of committee and waiting to be introduced and debated. As of Thursday February 2nd, which is the twenty-first day of Legislative Session we have 65 bills awaiting debate and we have yet to adopt permanent rules for the session. Normally a new legislative session opens under temporary rules. Temporary rules are those rules that were in place under the previous session.
The Rules Committee during the current session was elected, met and put forth several changes to rules, the legislature is then supposed to vote on the adoption of permanent rules. Currently, the rule for cloture to debate requires 33 votes to close debate. A proposed rule change would require 20 votes to continue debate. This places the responsibility upon the group who desires to obstruct voting on a motion.
A successful cloture vote ceases debate and moves the bill to the immediate vote. Cloture does respect the concerns of minority while also respecting the duty of the entire legislative body to vote on bills that will benefit the good people of Nebraska. I firmly believe the filibuster has less to do about LB22 and more to do with delaying a vote on the rule change proposed and the subsequent adoption of permanent rules for this session.
This is Senator Steve Halloran representing District 33.
Greetings from your State Capitol!
The legislative hearing process is in full swing this week. Once a bill has been introduced by a Senator on the floor of the legislature the bill is sent to Reference Committee for assignment to one of the fourteen standing committees or a Select or Special committee based on the content of Bill. Once the bill has been assigned to the appropriate committee, the committee will schedule a hearing date. The number of bills scheduled for a hearing will vary based on breadth and depth of bills. These hearings provide citizens with direct opportunity to weigh in on public policy. Unless otherwise indicated, hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. Each bill is introduced by the senator who sponsors it. After the senator finishes his or her introduction, the committee chairperson will ask proponents of the bill to come forward and state their reasons for supporting the measure. Then, the chairperson will ask opponents of the bill to state their opinions, followed by neutral testimony. So for the next several weeks I will be busy with committee hearings both listening to bills and presenting them. I serve on the Agriculture, Judiciary, and Business and Labor standing committees as well as the Special committee of Justice Reinvestment Oversight.
I have sponsored six bills for this 90 day session. LB 214 deals with the sustainability of Master Teacher Program. LB 273 addresses the calculation rounding of wages for the based period in unemployment benefits. LB274 amends the Plant Protection and Plant Pest Act to better and more efficiently implement the provisions of the Nebraska Rangeland Grasshopper Control Act, which is being repealed. LB319 provides for confidentiality of workers compensation claims. My fifth bill LB366 help properly align parole administration and the funding mechanisms needed to run that offices duties. The final bill I sponsored was LB556 which addresses the use of facsimile firearm in the commission of a felony. Now these are very simplified overviews of the bills but it does provide a glimpse at the issues I am working on your behalf.
As you are mostly likely aware, after encouragement from many of my fellow Senators, Senator Bill Kintner resigned from the legislature on Wednesday. The Senator made the right choice for himself, his family, and the good people of Nebraska. The entire situation served a major distraction to this legislative session. I am looking forward to focusing on the business at hand.
One of my goals is to add some of District 33’s common sense to the Legislative Body. As the old adage goes, common sense is a flower that doesn’t necessarily grow in everybody’s garden.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions, if you have questions pertaining on the legislative process or policy, you may speak with my Legislative Aide Drew. If you would like schedule an appointment, you may speak with Alex my Administrative Assistant. Either I or my capitol staff can be reached at the office in Lincoln at 402-471-2712. I also encourage everyone to visit the official state legislative website at Nebraskalegislature.gov and follow me on Facebook at Senator Steve Halloran.
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