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WISHING YOU A JOYOUS CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Alice and I would like to wish you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season this year! We hope your next year is filled with many blessings.
NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE HEARING
In addition to gearing up for the start of the 106th Legislative Session, I have had the opportunity to continue to participate in interim committee hearings since the last session adjourned in April.
On Friday, November 30, the Natural Resources Committee met in Omaha to discuss LR464, Sen. Justin Wayne’s interim study to review public power.
Prior to the hearing, the members of the Natural Resources Committee were given a tour of the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) Energy Plaza in Omaha. As you may know, I worked for the Grand Island Utilities Department at Platte Generating Station for 28 years before retiring to serve as a state senator, and I appreciated the opportunity to learn from OPPD about their current practices. It was a nice chance for other members of the committee to learn more about public power as well.
That afternoon, we then heard testimony on Sen. Wayne’s LR464. I’m thankful to all who came out to discuss the current state of public power in Nebraska.
MIPRC AMTRAK VISITS
Derrick James, a regional official for Amtrak, visited Nebraska this month to meet with state and local officials to discuss Nebraska’s membership in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC).
I currently serve as one of two legislative commissioners for MIPRC, which brings together state leaders in the Midwest to advocate for passenger rail improvements.
I joined Mr. James for many of his meetings. We met with Sen. Mike Hilgers, who represents District 21; Sen. Suzanne Geist, who represents District 25; Mayor Corey Stutte of Hastings; and Mayor Doug Young of Holdrege. Mr. James also had meetings with Sen. Dan Hughes, who represents District 44 in southwest Nebraska, and Mayor Mike Gonzalez of McCook.
It was nice to speak to so many individuals across Nebraska about developing and improving passenger rail systems in the state.
THANK YOU, SARAH!
On Wednesday, December 19, I got to show Sarah, my Legislative Aide, around the district in Grand Island and meet with folks at Grand Island Public Schools, the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Heartland United Way. I’m glad she could see what makes Grand Island so special and discuss policies that can benefit the district and the state!
LEGISLATIVE SESSION STRUCTURE
One of my main goals for my monthly update is to help my constituents feel more connected to the Nebraska Legislature and make it more accessible to understand how the lawmaking process works in the state. So, this month I’d like to take the opportunity to explain the structure of the legislative session itself and how bills become laws in Nebraska.
This year, the 106th Legislature begins on January 9, 2019. Bills can be introduced by state senators or by committees during the first 10 working days of the session, so this year all bills must be introduced by January 23.
After being introduced, all bills are then assigned to a committee and given a public hearing. Based on the testimony given during the hearing, committee members debate the bill and either vote to advance the bill to General File with or without amendments, to indefinitely postpone the bill, or to take no action on it.
If a bill makes it out of committee, it must then go through two rounds of debate and be voted on three times.
The first time the full Legislature debates and votes on a bill is called General File. The second time is called Select File. During the two rounds of debate, state senators can propose amendments to the bill. The last round of votes is called Final Reading, and during this stage a bill cannot be debated or amended.
If a bill is advanced from Final Reading, it is given to the Governor, who has five days either to sign it into law, to decline to act on it (in which case it also becomes a law), or to veto the bill.
THANK YOU, VETERANS!
On Thursday, November 8, I was honored to speak to the veterans in our community for the 20th annual Veterans Day program at the Grand Island Veterans Home. It is the responsibility of all Americans to recognize and to honor veterans’ service to our country and the sacrifices they have made and to help those with struggles heal after they return to civilian life. Thank you for your service to our country.
GRAND ISLAND SENIOR HIGH CAPITOL TOUR & LUNCH
On Tuesday, November 13, I had the pleasure to tour the Capitol with a small group of students and faculty from Grand Island Senior High (GISH). I especially appreciated hearing about their experiences at GISH and learning their thoughts on other topics over lunch. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet them!
For years, manufacturing has been a major industry here in Grand Island. To celebrate 2018 Manufacturing Month, the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Dream It. Do It. Nebraska held tours of two businesses to learn about the products and objects being manufactured right here in our community.
Two businesses were chosen by the Chamber to highlight this year. On Thursday, October 25, I toured Chief Fabrication, and on Thursday, November 1, I toured Penrose Machining.
These tours were a great opportunity for me to learn about what manufacturing businesses in our community are currently doing and to gain further insight into their plans for the future. I am thankful to the local workers and business leaders who helped with the tours and to the Grand Island Chamber Commerce and Dream It. Do It. Nebraska for planning them.
CONGRATULATIONS, GISH FOOTBALL!
Congratulations to the Grand Island Senior High (GISH) football team for a great season. I enjoyed attending and watching our team play in the Nov. 19 Class A State Championship game along with Dr. Grover, parents, friends, and students who cheered them on. They played with heart, determination, and impressive teamwork which allowed them to lead for most of the game. We are all proud of you and congratulations again on your second place finish and winning season.
During the last session, the legislature voted on and passed LR296.
This resolution created a special committee to look at assisted living facilities that provide mental health care. LR296 states how the committee shall be composed and provides a guideline of the actions the committee can take in order to thoroughly investigate state-licensed care facilities. This resolution also states the committee will release a report with its recommendations and findings before December 15, 2018.
We had meetings early in the process with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) which provided us with information about facility inspections and the inspection process. We also heard from advocates for residents who live at some of the facilities about the issues they face. The committee proceeded by requesting further information from DHHS, meeting with an individual from the Ombudsman’s office, and doing site visits to facilities throughout the state. I was also able to go along with a surveyor for a site visit to an assisted living facility to watch an inspection.
What I have learned from my visits so far has been invaluable. Because the funding source from residents is Social Security and Medicaid, the costs to provide the type of care most residents need is greater than the funding provided. The lack of funding presents a problem to the provider based on what services and how much care they can provide for the residents. These are individuals who suffer from mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive behavior, post traumatic stress disorder, and others. These illnesses require a special care, including programming, counseling, and treatment through medications, but this is difficult to provide with a lack of funding.
What I have witnessed while touring facilities is that most are doing their best to provide the needed care, programming, and living facilities for the residents. However, some facilities are only doing the least amount required, which places the resident in a bad situation of not having the care or programming they need, and unhealthy living conditions. The challenge for the LR296 Committee is to find a solution for facilities so they can best help their residents.
MEDICAID EXPANSION INITIATIVE 427
With the Medicaid expansion measure on the ballot this year, I wanted to express my thoughts on why I am in favor of Initiative 427.
If passed, Medicaid expansion will provide coverage for 90,000 hardworking Nebraskans. Those who would be covered work at jobs that come without health care coverage and have annual incomes of $16,753 for an individual and $34,638 for a household of four.
They are our family members, friends, and neighbors who live in both rural and urban areas. They work jobs in restaurants and shops, in home health care, on construction sites, on farms and ranches, and more.
The problems for people who can’t afford health care include severe illness or even death from treatable illnesses, loss of a job, bankruptcy, homelessness, and legal problems.
Those of us who can afford health insurance or have coverage through an employer understand how important preventative health care can be. For many who do not have health insurance and are struggling to make day to day financial decisions, preventative care can take a back seat. This means that many can’t afford a doctor’s visit for an illness, yearly checkups, or cancer screenings. Illnesses go undiscovered or are ignored until they are so sick that the emergency room is the first care they receive.
Preventative health care is essential whether you have insurance or not and has a major effect on the cost of health care as well as insurance premiums. Our fellow Americans who live in states that have expanded Medicaid use preventative services more than low-income individuals who live in states like Nebraska which haven’t yet expanded Medicaid.
The expansion of Medicaid will not only benefit individuals and families but also will provide economic growth with the dollars that will be spent for needed health care. A recent report from researchers at the University of Nebraska at Kearney shows that the federal funds received from expanding Medicaid will flow from the health sector into supporting services and Nebraska’s economy, touching all Nebraskans.
The report also shows that expanding Medicaid will reduce uncompensated care and will help protect the health infrastructure necessary for a strong local economy, particularly in rural areas.
In 33 other states, Medicaid expansion has improved the health and lives of low-income Americans through increased access to primary care and preventative care. It’s time to pass Initiative 427 and expand health care for our 90,000 Nebraskan neighbors who need it, while growing our economy with the federal tax dollars we all have paid.
Note: This opinion was also published in The Grand Island Independent on October 26, 2018.
CONGRATULATIONS TO GRAND ISLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS!
Grand Island Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Grover and me at the GEAR UP announcement on October 15.
On Monday, October 15, I attended the Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS) announcement that they won a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) seven-year federal matching grant for a new college readiness program. Only 24 GEAR UP grants were awarded in the country, and this was the only GEAR UP grant awarded in the state. I am incredibly proud of the hard work and effort put in by both GIPS and members of the community not only to win this grant but also to earn the in-kind contributions and partner matches for a total impact of over $13 million! I look forward to seeing GEAR UP implemented in the coming years to benefit students in our community and prepare them with the skills to attend post-secondary education.
MIDWEST INTERSTATE PASSENGER RAIL COMMISSION (MIPRC) ANNUAL MEETING
All of us on Milwaukee’s new streetcar, The Hop, during the MIPRC annual meeting.
On October 3-5, I joined 53 others to attend annual meeting of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) in Milwaukee, WI. During the meeting, I toured the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, which recently gained a new passenger concourse, and the maintenance facility for Milwaukee’s streetcar system, known as “The Hop,” which is scheduled to begin next month. This new system will provide increased access to parts of Milwaukee for its residents and visitors. I also attended presentations on a wide variety of topics related to passenger rail systems, including recent states’ developments and updates from the region.
I appreciated the opportunity to meet with so many individuals interested in developing passenger rail systems in the Midwest. When looking for new locations, many businesses are interested in seeing what types of public transportation we offer in the community or state, and I am also excited to explore the ways this can benefit Nebraska’s tourism industry.
HOLLAND CHILDREN’S MOVEMENT HONOR ROLL AWARDS
I attended the Holland Children’s Movement Honor Roll Awards on Thursday, October 18. I was recognized alongside 19 other state senators for receiving an “A” grade for standing up for children and working families in the Nebraska Legislature. I am very grateful to the Holland Children’s Movement for recognizing me, and I plan to continue fighting for children and families in our community and in our state.
KENYA TRADE DELEGATION TRIP
A photo from my visit to a Kenyan coffee farm. Kenyan coffee is considered by many to be among the best coffee in the world.
A county government official talking with me during a visit to a coffee farm outside of Nairobi.
County officials and me taking a photo after a meeting to discuss their county’s efforts to benefit farmers in the area.
From Friday, August 17, to Sunday, August 26, I participated in a local trade delegation to Kenya through the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corporation (GIAEDC) to discuss making Grand Island a distribution hub of Kenyan coffee in the United States and to explore opportunities to export goods and services from Nebraska to Kenya. We also shared ideas on how to improve agricultural practices in Kenya.
During the week, I met with coffee farmers and their families, county governors, members of parliament, the Minister of Agriculture, and the Deputy President. I also toured a coffee processing facility. Although I am not usually much of a coffee drinker, I enjoyed trying many delicious cups of coffee.
Kenyan coffee is considered by many to be among the best coffee in the world, and Kenya’s climate contributes to the flavorful beans grown in the country.
Our effort is to help the farmer sell directly to Nebraska and the U.S. market. This will benefit the farmer by allowing him to receive a better price for his produce, and it will benefit Nebraskans by providing an opportunity to buy and consume the best coffee in the world.
I am thankful for all of the people I met in Kenya for treating us like we were a part of their families, and I look forward to continuing discussions going forward.
Even though the 105th Legislature-Second Session adjourned for the year in April, my office has continued to stay busy by conducting research for interim studies, attending meetings, and preparing for committee hearings.
Urban Affairs Hearings
On August 28, the Urban Affairs Committee met in Omaha to hear four resolutions. We heard testimony on LR 398, Sen. Justin Wayne’s interim study to examine the impact on sanitary and improvement districts upon annexations by municipalities; LR 392, Sen. Matt Hansen’s interim study to examine neighborhood issues and potential neighborhood improvement tools; LR 397, Sen. Wayne’s interim study to examine the statutory authority for municipalities to establish port authorities; and LR 399, Sen. Wayne’s interim study to examine issues related to metropolitan transit authorities. Further hearings for LR 398 and LR 399 were held in Bellevue on September 4.
On September 25, we met here in Grand Island to hear three resolutions. We heard testimony on LR 319, my interim study to determine a sustainable revenue source for the Nebraska Main Street Network; LR 400, my interim study to examine issues related to the Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Act; and LR 433, Sen. Hansen’s interim study to evaluate the availability of affordable housing in Nebraska municipalities with an emphasis on rental housing. That afternoon, we met in Ord to hear further testimony on LR 400 and LR 433. I appreciated hearing from all who took the time to share their expertise or experiences with the committee, but I am especially thankful to those who took the time to speak on my interim studies.
Natural Resources Hearings
On August 31, the Natural Resources Committee met in Lincoln to discuss LR 387, Sen. Dan Hughes’s interim study to examine issues relating to the spread of Eastern Red Cedar trees. There was a very good turnout for this hearing, with many Nebraskans sharing their views on this invasive species affecting many in rural communities.
Farewell wishes to Katie Chatters & Craig Breunig…
Katie Chatters and Craig Breunig both served in my office since I was elected in 2016. Katie left as my Administrative Assistant to move to Pennsylvania with her family, and Craig retired as my Legislative Aide after working with the Legislature for 19 years. Please join me in thanking Katie and Craig for their dedication to District 35 and to the State of Nebraska.
…and welcome to Conner Kozisek & Sarah Wagelie!
Two new legislative staffers started in my office this summer. My new Legislative Aide is Sarah Wagelie (Left) and my new Administrative Assistant is Conner Kozisek (Right).
Conner Kozisek started as my new Administrative Assistant on August 20. He is from Ainsworth and recently received a B.A. in political science and Spanish from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Outside of the office, Conner enjoys watching and discussing films and visiting coffee shops with friends or a good book. His responsibilities include scheduling meetings for the office, helping me communicate with constituents, and assisting constituents with any problems they might have with the state. He is happy to answer any questions you may have at 402-471-2617 or at email@example.com.
Sarah Wagelie began as my new Legislative Aide on September 10. She is from Omaha and received her B.A. in political science from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2016. She has experience working in the legislature, previously serving as the Administrative Assistant for Senator Matt Hansen’s office. In her free time, Sarah enjoys to stay involved with local politics and spend quality time with her cat, Oakley. Her responsibilities include assisting in legislative research for bills, resolutions, and interim studies, and drafting and advising legislation. She looks forward to answering your questions at 402-471-2617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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