Welcome

January 8th, 2014

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 44th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Mark Christensen

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home 4-18-2014

April 18th, 2014

Senator Mark Christensen
Letter Back Home
4-18-2014

Well, eight Legislative Sessions have come and gone since I’ve been writing these letters back home for District 44. In some ways, it has seemed quick and in some ways it has seemed long, but I have truly enjoyed the time serving District 44 in Lincoln. It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the great people of Southwest Nebraska, which I proudly call my home. Thank you!

Over, the next several weeks I will continue to write letters to wrap up the 2014 Session. This week I wanted to touch on some of my bills that were passed and signed into law.

Eight bills I introduced have passed the Legislature. Three of the eight were passed as their own bills, while the other five were amended into other bills that were passed.

LB390 was my priority bill that removed the authority of the Governor during a time of emergency to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of firearms. This will make it clear that every resident has a right to defend themselves, especially during a time of emergency.

LB798 allows a power district whose only wholesale customer is a city or village to use the same fiscal year as the city or village. This was helpful legislation for the City of Imperial.

LB687 was a bill that made changes to criminal background checks when applying for a real estate license.

The last five bills were amended into two different bills. Legislative bills 686, 710, and 723 were water related bills amended into LB1098. LB686 changed the opt-out date for the irrigation occupation tax from March 1 to June 1, giving more flexibility to producers. LB710 makes a requirement for Natural Resources Districts have public hearings before entering into groundwater augmentation projects. The last bill amended into LB1098 was LB723. It requires county assessors, if the information is available, to consider whether the price of irrigated cropland was affected by government regulation on the amount of water available or well capacity.

Finally, Legislative Bills 688 and 993 were amended into LB700 dealing with insurance issues. LB688 removed a requirement for a hearing on cease and desist orders unless either party requests it, and LB993 clarified in law regarding what healthcare sharing ministries are and how they operate.

Again, I am thankful for these successes and others, and look forward to seeing you all back home in the district.

If you have any questions or comments, contact my office. Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, 402-471-2805 or mchristensen@leg.ne.gov.

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home 3-27-2014

March 29th, 2014

Senator Mark Christensen
Letter Back Home
3-27-2014

Only nine legislative days left in the 2014 Legislative Session. We finished day 51 of the 60-day short session. Moreover, several bills hit the floor of the Unicameral for their first round of debate. So, this week I would like to touch on the status of some of those bills, along with sharing a great opportunity for high school juniors and seniors.

The opportunity I would like to call your attention to is a program taking place from July 7th to July 11th this year. The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute is a five day conference, happening on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus, for high school juniors and seniors to learn about career opportunities within agriculture.

This educational experience includes engaging speakers, workshops and panels, agriculture education, professional development, and leadership experience. There will also be opportunities to network with peers, meet with industry leaders, and make new friends. I would encourage young people who are interested in agriculture to attend this conference. Thanks to generous sponsors, attendance is free of charge.

You can apply online at www.nda.nebraska.gov. You can also find the conference on twitter at @The_NAYC or on Facebook at facebook.com/NebraskaAgYouthInstitute. Applications are due April 15th.

Back to what happened in the Legislature this last week. Both LB907 and LB999 were introduced as bills that sought reform in our Nebraska correctional system. Through the deliberations in the Judiciary Committee, each bill was changed to focus more narrowly on prison overcrowding and the mental health issues within our correctional system.

LB907 will now provide for the creation of the Nebraska Justice Reinvestment Working Group to work with the Council of State Governments Justice Center and assist the center as the center utilizes its process to study and provide potential legislative solutions for prison overcrowding in Nebraska.

In addition, LB907 changes the name of the “Legal Education for Public Service Loan Repayment Fund” to the “Legal Education for Public Service and Rural Practice Loan Repayment Assistance Fund” and provides loan repayment assistance to incentivize lawyers to set up rural practices. There is $500,000 from the General Fund currently provided in the bill.

The bill will also address several reentry issues, along with requiring that personal inmate mental and behavioral health plans be finished by the time 80 percent of their sentence is completed.

There are several other provisions in the bill that I do not have space to cover, but you can find the amendments and committee statements online at NebraskaLegislature.gov.

The second bill, LB999, was changed by AM2530. The bill authorizes the Division of Behavioral Health of the Department of Health and Human Services to study the feasibility of the establishment of a Hastings Correctional Behavioral Health Treatment Center at the Hastings Regional Center. The plan is to provide one or two buildings for up to 200 mentally ill inmates and those dealing with substance abuse.

I supported both of these bills, and believe we are heading in the right direction to provide solutions for our prison overcrowding and inmate reentry and mental health issues.

If you have any questions or comments, contact my office. Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, 402-471-2805 or mchristensen@leg.ne.gov.

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home 2-1-13

February 5th, 2013

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home

February 1, 2013

The Legislature finished the 17th Legislative Day last Friday. We have, so far, debated and advanced 22 bills to Select File, the second round of debate. One of those bills advancing to the second round of debate is my LB16, which adds a reversion clause to the transfer of Champion Mill from the Game and Parks Commission to Chase County. This will allow them to move forward with the transfer.

LB16 may be up for debate on Select File Wednesday of this week.

Last Friday, my LB185, which would provide a $40 million loan to finish the augmentation project in southern Lincoln County, had a very good hearing in the Appropriations Committee. We had many testifying in favor of the bill, with only a couple written opposition testimonies.

As with any appropriations in the Legislature, it is usually not a smooth or easy process, but I am confident that we can help people to understand the potential bad consequences to the State for waiting until the Natural Resources Districts can bond again after the current lawsuit is over, which could be several years. Without the construction of this stream-flow enhancement project, and if 2013 is another drought year, 2014 could be a very painful year of small irrigation allocations or shut-offs.

I was very thankful for the great discussion by members of the Appropriations Committee. All of them engaged in the discussion with pros and cons, and treated this as an important state issue. I was very thankful for their efforts to understand the issue and why we believe it is essential. I was also thankful for Sen. Tom Hanson and Sen. Tom Carlson for taking time out of their committees to testify and attend the hearing.

If you wish to contact the Appropriation Committee and its members regarding this issue, please be sure to thank them for allowing an early hearing for LB185.

This week my bills LB315, LB524, LB521, and LB313 will have their public hearings. LB315 and LB524 will be heard in the Health and Human Services Committee, Room 1510 on Wednesday the 6, at 1:30 pm. Also this Wednesday, LB521 will be heard in the Government, Military, Veterans Affairs Committee, Room 1507. On Thursday, February 7, LB313 will be heard in the Judiciary Committee, Room 1113, at 1:30 pm.

Remember, please do not hesitate to contact myself or my staff if you have any comments, questions or concerns. Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. 402-471-2805 or mchristensen@leg.ne.gov.

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home 1-25-13

February 5th, 2013

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home

January 25, 2013

The Legislature finished its first week of public hearings on bills introduced for this session on Friday the 25th. Monday the 28th will be the first day of debate on the floor of the Legislature. We will be debating bills in the mornings and hearing testimony on bills in committees in the afternoon on into March.

I had two bills up for their public hearing this last week, LB16 and LB52; both hearings went well. LB16, which adds language to last year’s bill, will allow Champion Mill Lake and Park to revert back to the Game and Parks Commission from Chase County if extenuating circumstances should arise in the future. It was voted out of committee. LB52, which will allow the Department of Correctional Services to enter into arrangement with non-profit groups for labor services from facilities like McCook’s Work Ethic Camp, will most likely get out of committee with a few clarifying amendments.

This week three of my bills are up for their public hearing, LB186, LB353, and LB185.

LB186 would prohibit Natural Resources Districts from creating rules and regulations requiring irrigated acres to apply manure, or affluent. I introduced this bill because of an issue in the Lower Loop NRD where they created a rule to stop dry-land producers from running their livestock hydrant to continuously fill their livestock lagoons and pump it through their pivot as “affluent” to get around the NRD’s limit on irrigated acres, in effect expanding irrigated acres.

My concerns are two fold. First, they are allowing producers to apply the manure by a honey-wagon, which spreads the nutrients less evenly compared to a pivot system. This increases the chances of groundwater contamination. Secondly, if the Department of Environmental Quality chooses to lower the concentration of manure per acre, such a requirement for irrigated acres then you would need more acres to apply manure, which may be very difficult find, or force livestock operators to decrease their numbers.

I understand the Lower Loops desire to keep from being declared a fully appropriated river basin, but I think there is a better way to handle the issue than to enter into the Department of Environmental Quality’s area of authority. I will be working with the Lower Loop and the Natural Resources Committee to resolve the issue.

In addition, I introduced LB353. This bill would prohibit a NRD from requiring irrigation use on certified groundwater acres or lose your allocation of water for those acres. This addresses an issue in the Central Platte NRD where they have made a rule that you have to use your water allocation two out ten years to keep your irrigated status, even on pivot corners.

I know the Central Platte NRD needs to retire irrigated acres for the cooperative agreement, but I believe it is a little heavy handed to force producers to inefficiently irrigate pivot corners to keep their base water allocation or forfeit those irrigated acres. I want to make sure farmers are being justly compensated for retiring their irrigated acres.

Finally, LB185 would appropriate a $40 million loan for the completion of the augmentation project in Lincoln County that has stalled due to a lawsuit filed by the Frenchman Irrigation District and the Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation District. I believe that without the completion of this project to increase stream-flows in the Republican River we could be in trouble with compact compliance come 2014.

Yet, at the same time, I understand one of the irrigation districts complaints that they will not be able to use any of that water because it will be passed through and not stored for surface water users. Moreover, they won’t be compensated for it.

That’s why I also introduced LB522 to address this important policy issue. Are we as a state going to take water from producers for compliance reasons without compensation? Or, are we going to compensate producers for not irrigating? I believe this needs to be discussed and settled. It is difficult for any business to predict the effect of government intervention, and the economic impacts of those actions.

This week LB186 and LB353 will be heard in the Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday the 30, at 1:30 pm. On Friday, February 1, LB185 will be heard in the Appropriations Committee, Room 1003, at 1:30 pm.

Remember, please do not hesitate to contact myself or my staff if you have any comments, questions or concerns. Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. 402-471-2805 or mchristensen@leg.ne.gov.

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home 1-18-13

February 5th, 2013

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home

January 18, 2013

Well the Legislature is back to work, and we are starting a new two year biennial session. The 1st Session of the 103rd Legislature will be a long 90 day session that is scheduled to end Wednesday June 5.

As of writing, we just finished our 8th Legislative Day with 401 bills introduced so far. Bills can be introduced until Wednesday January 23, the 10th Legislative Day. During these eight days we also elected Speaker Greg Adams from York, Ne and chairs for all of the committees. I will be serving as Vice Chair of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee and sitting on both the Executive Board and the Judiciary Committees.

As you may have heard, Governor Heineman gave his State of the State speech to the Legislature and has proposed an overhaul of Nebraska’s tax structure, eliminating income tax and getting rid of sales tax exemptions on everything except food. Though it will be a very tough topic, I am glad we are taking a hard look at reforming our tax structure, Nebraskans deserve a serious debate on the issue. Please let me know your thoughts on this important issue.

Chief Justice Michael Heavican of the Nebraska Supreme Court, also addressed the Legislature this week updating us on our Judicial Branch and the initiatives they are involved in to improve our justice system.

This week we will be starting public hearings for every bill, which normally runs into March. I will have two bills up this coming week, LB16 and LB52.

LB16 is a bill I am running for Chase County regarding Champion Mill Lake and Park. Last year we passed a bill that transferred the properties from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to Chase County. This year Chase County asked for addition language to insert a contingency clause.

LB52 is a bill I am running for some constituents in McCook, who want to allow offenders from the Work Ethic Camp to work for non-profit organizations, which had been done in the past, but stopped due to the interpretation of the law. This would allow the Department of Correction to enter into agreements with non-profit organizations if the labor was primarily for a public purpose.

Over the next several weeks I will discuss other bills I have introduced and any major topics that might interest the people of Disctrict 44.

Thank you for your trust as I serve in Lincoln, and would appreciate your prayers I as seek to make good choices for our District 44.

Remember, please do not hesitate to contact myself or my staff if you have any questions or concerns. Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. 402-471-2805 or mchristensen@leg.ne.gov.

Letter Back Home

February 17th, 2012

Senator Mark R. Christensen

Letter Back Home

2-10-12

The 2012 Legislative session is nearly half over and the Speaker of the Legislature has asked for priority bills to be submitted. The deadline is by adjournment Thursday. This past week Legislative Bill 540 was debated and advanced on the floor and I would like to focus my letter back home on this bill.

 

LB 540 was advanced with Amendment 1729 to select file for further debate this past week. LB 540 is a bill that the Health and Human Services Committee introduced, if passed, it would require the Department of Health and Human Services to apply for a Medicaid waiver to extend family planning services to Nebraska Medicaid recipients whose income is above the current eligibility qualifications.

The HHS committee introduced this bill in light of several other states that have applied for a Medicaid waiver and claim a significant cost savings to their States budget. It is believed that such a waiver leads to the state paying for less unplanned births and prenatal care, in turn the savings being put towards Family Planning Care. In looking to provide solutions to Nebraska’s budget, many supporters contend that this will maximize family planning for women in Nebraska and decrease pregnancies and abortions. However, another concern is that such a bill would allow more funding for clinics that promote abortions.

 

I am not supportive of the original bill but I supported the attached amendment. Amendment 1729, introduced by Senator Tony Fulton, that was added to the bill and ensures that any funds received shall not be used or spent in any way to contract with any entity that performs or promotes elective abortions. Any organization that makes an overwhelmingly majority of their profits off of procedures that degrade the sanctity of life, I do not support and I will not support a bill that allows increased funding to such an entity.

 

I look forward to future floor debate with my bill LB 786, which is scheduled for debate sometime this week. LB 786, is a bill that will change forfeiture of office provisions for city council members in cities with city managers form of government. Other upcoming hearings for bills that I introduced include:

  • LB 950, which Changes crediting provisions relating to reimbursement of certain assistance to natural resources districts as prescribed on February 15th.

  • LB1126 – Provides and change extraterritorial jurisdiction of a village on February 14th.

  • LB1125 – Changes provisions relating to natural resources district occupation tax on February 15th.

  • LB1127 – Changes provisions and penalties relating to issuing or passing a bad check or issuing a no-account check on February 16th.

Questions or Comments? Contact myself or my staff at Senator Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604,Lincoln, Nebraska 68509, 402-471-2805.

 

February 10th, 2012

 Senator Mark R. Christensen

Letter Back Home

2-3-12

On Thursday, February 2, 2012 Speaker Mike Flood of the Nebraska Legislature announced that Session would end early on Friday the 3rd, due to the upcoming threat of extreme weather conditions. Hearings that were to be heard that afternoon have been rescheduled to have their hearings on Monday February 13, at 9:30 a.m. If you are ever planning on attending a hearing or an event at the Legislature, I encourage you to check the legislative schedule for any changes or cancellations. This week I would like to touch on two bills that deal with tweaking Nebraska Statute revolving around healthcare services, LB 646 and LB 677.

A bill I introduced, LB 646, was debated and passed on Monday, February 6th. LB 646, is a health care related bill that changes the definition of emergency medical service from “immediate medical care” to “ medical care”. Currently Emergency Medical Service is defined as a an organization responding to a perceived individual need for medical care in order to prevent loss of life or aggravation of physiological or psychological illness or injury. Removing the word immediate will better reflect what they are doing now, which includes non-emergency settings. There are many instances when volunteer and paid EMS worker’s are on duty or on call at sporting events, hospital/nursing home transfers etc… and are ‘technically’ not responding to someone that may need “immediate medical care.” My bill would remedy the use of ‘immediate’ and prevent a EMS worker from potential liability.

LB 677 is a bill Senator Steve Lathrop has introduced and was debated on the floor this past week as well as advanced to select file. LB 677, in accordance with the Judiciary Committee amendment AM 1704, increases penalties for assault on a healthcare professionals while the health care professional is engaged in the performance of is or her official duties. AM 1704 redefines Health Care professional as “a physician or other healthcare practitioner who is licensed, certified, or registered to perform specified health services constant with state law who is practicing at a house or health clinic.” A sign requirements is also provided which warns of mandatory imprisonment upon an assault of healthcare professional while performing his or her official duties. Despite the invigorating floor debate regarding the imperfections of the bill, it does seem to hold some validity in protecting healthcare professionals that may be harmed by not only patients but family and friends in a health service setting. I intend on supporting this bill and look forward to the future debate of the bill.

Questions or Comments? Contact myself or my office at, Senator Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, 402-471-2805.

Letter Back Home 1-20-12

January 25th, 2012

This past week has been consumed with the first half of the day in session and the second half of the day involved in Committee Hearings. Amongst all the hustle and bustle of the Legislature, I have managed to introduce twelve new bills in addition to my carry over bills from the 2011 session. In the letter this week, I will focus on three bills that I have introduced on behalf of District 44 constituents.

Legislative Bill 739 will authorize the Game and Parks Commission to transfer property to Chase County. I introduced this bill on behalf of the Chase County Commissioners and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Over the year’s the Nebraska Game and Parks has seen budget cuts, which has limited the number of employees that they can hire to take care of the smaller recreation areas. In order to preserve the Champion State Historical Mill Park and Recreation Area’s rich history, the Game and Parks reached out to the Chase County Commissioners. It was agreed upon that the park would be better tended for, financially and physically, under the care of the County. A hearing has been set for January 25th, in the Natural Resources Committee.

Recently, LB 786 was successfully heard before the Urban Affairs Committee. Due to the current statute, Section 19-613, the McCook City Council found itself in a quandary. Currently, the statute affecting only the city management form of government, states that a city council member “convicted of a crime” while in office shall forfeit the office. In order to prevent future predicaments affecting individuals that hold an office, I have amended the statute to clarify that a council member forfeits the office if convicted of a “felony or of any public offense involving the oath of office of the incumbent,” which is the standard for all other elected officials.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge LB 1126 which will provide and change extraterritorial jurisdiction of a village. While in the process updating zoning maps for a county in the district, a Zoning Administrator discovered that villages were not included in the current statute allowing changes to extraterritorial jurisdictions. My bill amends villages into the language and if passed will allow by majority of the vote its members the ability to request a cede and transfer of extraterritorial jurisdiction over land out to the next quarter section line. This bill is simple and straight forward and I have high hopes for it.

Please contact myself or my office if you have any questions, concerns or comments regarding any bills their hearings or their status. Senator Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, 402-471-2805, mchristense@leg.ne.gov.

Senator Christensen Letter Back Home 1-13-12

January 20th, 2012

It is that time of year again! The 2nd Session of the 102nd Legislature has had its first full week of session with committee hearings set to begin the week of January 16th. It has been a slow start to the session, therefore I am looking forward to what the upcoming weeks will hold. I am happy to be back in Lincoln and look forward to representing my constituents in the 44th District.

Last week the Nebraska Legislature had the privilege of listening to Governor Heineman’s State of the State address. Among the Governor’s many challenges this year, he has proposed to focus some attention on fixing the child reform issue that has plagued our State for several years. As many of you know, my family has personally experienced the downward spiral of the state’s child welfare system with its move toward privatization. I was pleased to hear Governor Heineman acknowledge his interests in improving a system which has long had problems in the State of Nebraska. Improving the child welfare system in Nebraska should be a priority.

In addition, Governor Heineman has proposed several tax cut measures for Nebraska citizens, one of them being a cut on the inheritance tax. From what I’ve seen so far the tax cuts look like positive steps forward for Nebraskans.

Lastly, I would like to reflect on Senator Carlson’s Legislative amendment that he introduced, LR 358 CA, this amendment would allow Senator’s to serve three consecutive four year terms instead of two. I look forward to debating this amendment when it reaches the floor. Over the last five years I have recognized the extensive amount of time and experience one needs in order to tackle the important issues that need to be addressed. Two terms does not appear to be an effective amount of time for a senator to get the experience needed in order to pass quality legislation and make positive changes for the citizens of our state. Please let me know your thoughts on this issue.

I look forward to sharing my carry over and newly introduced bills in future letters and remember to contact myself or my staff if you have any questions or concerns. Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. 402-471-2805 or mchristensen@leg.ne.gov.