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Since the 2017 Legislature sine die I have been spending my time traveling throughout the 44th legislative district and one of the most frequently asked questions I have received is what the senator’s do during the interim. Although we are not spending our time debating on the legislative floor, I can assure you we are still hard at work. Our typical day consists of everything from speaking engagements, meetings with constituents in our districts, representing our districts at fairs and in parades, interim hearings and studies, to meeting with groups that have ideas for potential legislation.
During the month of June, I spent a lot of my time speaking at different events in the district. My first stop was in the City of Alma for an Open House and Dedication of the Alma Municipal Airport Terminal Building. That weekend I walked in the Palisade Pioneer Days Parade and kicked off a busy week by meeting with the Red Willow County Commissioners. The next day I traveled to McCook for a town talk over breakfast at Sehnert’s with the chamber followed by coffee with a cop and then wrapped up the day by meeting with the Furnas County Commissioners. I then started my weekend by walking in the Medicine Creek Days parade. Toward the end of June the LR 127 committee kicked off its correctional facility tours.
The first few weeks of July I have been spending time at my family farm harvesting which has taken up the majority of my days. Over the fourth of July, I stopped at the Culbertson celebration for breakfast and then went to Arapahoe for their annual parade. After a few days off, I traveled back to Arapahoe to speak at the Nebraska Health Care Central District meeting. I also joined Governor Ricketts this past week on a tour of the American Agricultural Lab Ag Testing facility. The rest of the month I will be busy attending parades and fairs in Dundy County and Perkins County, as well as, the Gosper County Fair in Elwood and others in the district.
At the beginning of August I will begin to spend more time in Lincoln for the LR 127 Committee Tour’s. During this time in Lincoln I have many appointments scheduled with different groups and lobbyists that want to discuss potential legislation.
These past few weeks I have spent some time traveling around the district. I first stopped in Alma and spoke at the open house/dedication of the Alma Municipal Airport Terminal Building. While I was in McCook I spoke with the Chamber for a town talk over breakfast and stopped by the Coffee with a Cop to speak with constituents. I then had the opportunity to meet with the County Commissioners from two different counties in my district; Red Willow and Furnas. If you would like me to speak at a town hall feel free to contact my office to arrange a time.
The interim is a good time for senators to look deeper into issues that need to be addressed. Next week a few of the legislative committees will begin to hold interim briefings. On Tuesday, June 27 the Health and Human Services Committee will hold two briefings, which are open to the public or you can watch them on NET livestream. The briefings held in the Health and Human Services Committee will be on rate methodology for dual-eligible and a quarterly briefing on Heritage Health. The majority of the other interim hearings will begin in late summer. I will try to keep you updated on hearings that may be of interest to the 44th legislative district.
I mentioned in my last article that I am a member of the LR 127 committee (Nebraska Justice System Special Investigative Committee) besides this committee a number of senators will be looking into issues which also affect our correctional system. LR 114 is an interim study to examine Nebraska’s statutes relating to geriatric or compassionate release laws for elderly inmates. LR 191 Interim study to examine possible legislative reforms to Nebraska’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws. LR 221 Interim study to examine possible reforms to Nebraska’s sentencing laws to accommodate an option of deferred judgment probation. Addressing the issues with corrections is not a simple process, there are a lot of different things that affect the system as a whole and we must not only identify the issues within the facilities but we need to find ways to reduce the recidivism rate and keep people from coming back.
In 2016 the legislature created the Transportation Innovation Act. Created through this act is the County Bridge Match Program, this program targets $40 million to replace or repair structurally deficient county bridges. This program provides financial assistance to counties for construction costs. The first year 68 bridges were selected and of those 6 are in the 44th legislative district. Safe and dependable roads are vital to rural communities.
We have started all day debate and even though this session got off to a slow start we’re starting to get a lot of bills moving. This past week my bill LB 182 was debated on the floor of the legislature. This bill would clarify the qualifications for a program that provides financial assistance to cities and rural water districts to build safe drinking water projects. Also this week the legislature heard two more of my bills, LB 535 and LB 317. LB 535 provides an exception for filing a statement with the register of deeds when recording an oil, gas, or mineral lease. LB 317 provides for a re-levy or reassessment of a special assessment for cities of the second class or village. All of these bills were advanced to select file.
This week, the Natural Resources Committee’s two priority bills advanced to the next stage of debate. LB 566, which would enter Nebraska into the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact and strengthen penalties for Game Law violations, and LB 182, which helps cities and natural resource districts that run public water systems to qualify for funding and loan forgiveness from the state’s drinking water loan fund. The bill did not add new funds, it just clarified that NRDs are eligible for the available federal funding. Both of these laws will help Nebraska by providing additional tools to keep bad actors from hunting here, and by ensuring public water systems, and the NRDs who run them, are able to use federal funds available for their upkeep.
Another bill to help NRDs did not fare as well this week. Sen. Friesen’s LB 98 would extend the sunset date of the law that allows a three cent levy authority for districts that are fully or over appropriated until 2026. The levy can only be used for groundwater management and integrated management activities. The bill was filibustered by senators who do not understand the value of helping NRDs fund the water management tasks that are needed to help them out of their appropriation statuses. This is an important tool to generate matching funds revenue to access the state’s Water Sustainability Fund.
I had the opportunity this week to take some of my staff along with me to Imperial for a portion of the Upper Republican NRD’s water conference. While it was a long time in the car on one day, I was pleased that we were able to travel through the district, so my staff could see the area I proudly represent.