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I’d like to introduce myself. I am Senator Tim Gragert, newly elected to represent District 40 in the Nebraska Legislature. District 40 consists of Boyd, Cedar, Dixon, Holt, Knox, and Rock counties. I am a lifelong resident of Creighton and recently retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Army National Guard. My wife, Donna, and I have three children and three grandchildren. I am honored to serve the residents of northeast Nebraska in the Legislature.
The One Hundred Sixth Legislature began on Wednesday, January 9. Thirteen newly elected senators joined thirteen re-elected senators in taking the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican. Of the thirteen newly elected senators, one returned after sitting out four years due to term limits. Two of the thirteen newly elected senators were appointed by the Governor, following the resignation of the current senators due to election to a different office.
Following the ceremonial activities, in which my family joined me, senators got right to work with elections for the speaker and chairs of the committees. Every senator is assigned committees to serve on. I was selected for the Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee, which meets on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and the Natural Resources Committee, which meets on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. Committee hearings will begin later this month and continue through the end of March. In the Nebraska Legislature, every bill (except revisor bills which are purely technical in nature) is referenced to a committee based on the subject matter and is guaranteed a hearing, allowing the public to testify in support or opposition to the legislation. The Legislature will meet as a body in the mornings during the public hearing process and in all-day session beginning in April.
Bill introduction is allowed for the first ten days of the legislative session. Typically, approximately 700 bills are introduced during the 90-day session. The Legislature is predicted to discuss a wide range of issues including property tax relief, the school finance formula, and the implementation of Medicaid expansion, which was recently approved by voters.
My first few days have been eventful. I spent the first day in the office of former Senator Tyson Larson. The second day began in a hearing room before I was assigned to the 11th floor, along with five other newly elected senators. Due to the Heating, Air Conditioning, and Renovation Project (also known as the HVAC project) at the Capitol, which is expected to take approximately 8 years, one quadrant of the Capitol is off-limits. Divisions of the Legislature that were housed in the tower were moved off-site, so that all the senators could remain in the building. However, it will be more difficult for visitors to the Capitol to see their state senator. Since the offices in the tower are only accessible to senators and staff, visitors will have to use the telephones at the information area on the first floor to call their senator’s office. Staff will come down and escort visitors up the elevators. Although this will be an inconvenience, the HVAC project is sorely needed to replace an outdated system.
This year the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on June 6. During the legislative session, I will be in Lincoln during the week and drive home to Creighton on the weekends. If I am not in my office, my staff will be able to assist you. My administrative assistant is Alex Brechbill and my legislative aide is Kim Davis. Alex will answer the phone and is responsible for my schedule and Kim will work on legislation and constituent issues.
I would like to inform you of the Legislature’s website at NebraskaLegislature.gov, which contains a wealth of information. Viewers can read the text of bills introduced, search state statutes, e-mail senators, view the agenda for the day, read the Unicameral Update online, and even watch the Unicameral live.
As my first legislative session gets underway, I invite you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions on legislation that is before us. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. My State Capitol telephone number is (402) 471-2801 and my mailing address is: Senator Tim Gragert, District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.