Welcome

January 7th, 2015

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 45th 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. Sue Crawford

Bill introduction ends, Hearings scheduled on veterans legislation

January 23rd, 2015

My 2015 Legislative Agenda

Wednesday was the last day for senators to introduce new bills. This year, I introduced 19 bills.  To view a complete list of the legislation I introduced, click here [http://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/search_by_introducer.php].  


Introducing LB 107 to the Health and Human Services Committee this week

Several of these bills have their public hearings next week, including LB 146LB 148 and LB 272.  LB 146 was a bill idea brought to us by a constituent, Bill Henry.  Bill Henry works with the Nebraska Chapter of Missing in America Project to locate, identify and inter unclaimed cremated remains of veterans and their dependents.  Bill Henry has worked with several funeral homes to identify and inter veterans at Fort McPherson free of charge.  LB 146 establishes a process for funeral homes to work with veteran service organizations like Missing in America Project to find a final resting place for these forgotten heroes.  The hearing for LB 146 is Thursday, January 29 at 1:30 PM in front of the Health and Human Services Committee, room 1510.

LB 148 is the result of LR 533, an interim study resolution I introduced last session regarding foster youth who age out of the foster care system without reunification with their families or adoption.  Under the Affordable Care Act, former foster youth can stay on the state’s insurance plan (Medicaid) until age 26.  This mirrors the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26.  Currently, if a former foster youth ages out of the system in Iowa, Missouri or any other state and moves to Nebraska to work or attend school, they lose access to this health coverage.  LB 148 ensures all foster youth living in Nebraska who age out of the foster care system have access to health insurance.  The hearing for LB 148 is Friday, January 30 at 1:30 PM in front of the Health and Human Services Committee, room 1510.  

LB 272 creates a voluntary veterans preference in private employment.   This bill complements the work of the Legislature last year for public sector employees, allowing private sector employers to equitably compete for veteran talent.  Under the bill, businesses can elect to offer a hiring preference for veterans and spouses of 100% disabled veterans.  If adopted, Nebraska would join at least twelve states, including neighboring Iowa, who have established similar programs.  The hearing for LB 272 is Wednesday, January 28 in front of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee in room 1507.

Meet My Staff: Trevor Fitzgerald

With my election as chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, my office now houses committee staff in addition to my own personal staff.  Courtney Breitkreutz, my administrative aide, takes on the added duties of serving as committee clerk, and my office welcomed a new member, committee legal counsel Trevor Fitzgerald.

Trevor.jpg

Trevor started working in the Legislature in 2009, and is originally from Louisville, Nebraska.  Trevor earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UNL, and a law degree from Creighton University.  Prior to joining the Urban Affairs Committee as legal counsel this past September, Trevor served as legislative aide for former Senator Bob Giese of South Sioux City and Senator Heath Mello of Omaha.  More recently, Trevor also served as research analyst for the Appropriations Committee, advising the committee chair on legal, procedural, and policy issues related to the state budget process.  

In his role as legal counsel, Trevor reviews and analyzes legislation assigned to the committee, coordinates committee hearings and briefings, researches legal and policy issues for the committee, and monitors activities related to the committee’s jurisdiction.  The Urban Affairs Committee primarily deals with the statutes governing municipalities (cities and villages) in Nebraska, and also has jurisdiction over state natural gas regulation, building codes, handicap parking, and various types of special districts, including Sanitary and Improvement Districts (SIDs), Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD), mass transit authorities, housing authorities, and business improvement districts.

Trevor and his wife Bonnie, who is a history professor at Metropolitan Community College, live in the Maple Village neighborhood in Northwest Omaha with their soon-to-be 4-year-old son, Jack.  Trevor also serves as president of the Maple Village Neighborhood Association, enjoys traveling to and hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is an avid baseball fan.

This Week in Urban Affairs

Each week during committee hearings, my update will feature a preview of the issues being heard by the Urban Affairs Committee in the coming week.  The committee’s first week of hearings focused on a handful of municipal-related bills that were heard by the committee in 2014 but failed to become law due to time constraints.  This week, the committee’s hearings will shift to sanitary and improvement districts, or SIDs.

SIDs are a type of limited-purpose political subdivision that is unique to Nebraska.  First created in the late-1940s, SIDs are primarily utilized in urban areas to facilitate growth outside of city limits, with the expectation that the SID will eventually be annexed by the nearby municipality.  Of the roughly 325 SIDs statewide, more than 80% are located in either Douglas or Sarpy County.  While a helpful development tool, SIDs present a wide variety of unique challenges for residents, particularly in cases where an SID is not annexed by a city that “grows around” it.  Most SID boards provide for basic services through contract or inter local agreement, but SID residents are often unaware that they cannot access city services without paying separate fees that are not charged to city residents.  Similarly, SID residents are unable to vote in city elections since they are outside of city limits.

This week, the Urban Affairs Committee will hear four bills, three dealing with SIDs, and a fourth dealing with business improvement districts:

  • LB 168: Authorize expansion of existing business improvement districts

  • LB 116: Change election procedures and membership for certain SID boards of trustees

  • LB 131: Change provisions relating to annexation and prohibit SIDs from spending certain assets

  • LB 149: Change provisions relating to election procedures for SIDs

To watch these and all other hearings online , visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Sue in the News

Bellevue Leader Article on my priorities for this session: http://www.omaha.com/sarpy/bellevue/state-senators-list-session-s-priorities/article_dde8087f-81cc-5d05-979e-7ca4664d6a91.html

NET News article on my bill to improve campaign finance laws: http://netnebraska.org/article/news/954291/bills-eliminate-mandatory-minimum-sentences-tighten-campaign-finance-laws

Omaha World Herald article on veterans legislation this year, including my bill to exempt  military retirement pay from income tax: http://www.omaha.com/news/legislature/senator-says-bills-to-support-veterans-could-help-nebraska-keep/article_8f2ea4e4-5632-5546-ad47-3b927ed4753a.html

Lincoln Journal Star article on my bill to make sure veterans’ unclaimed remains receive a proper burial: http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/forgotten-valor-push-to-honor-veterans-unclaimed-ashes-reaches-state/article_5231aa1a-c0a8-5169-9345-4e2e919e44c6.html

Unicameral Information Office article on my bill to eliminate the practice agreement for nurse practitioners: http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=15982

Town Hall meeting

I will be holding a town hall meeting on Thursday, February 12th at 6:30 in the Symposium room in the Muller Administration Building on the Bellevue University Campus (1000 Galvin Rd. South, Bellevue, NE 68005).  Follow the signs to the Administration building, enter the glass doors, and take the elevator to the lower level.  I look forward to updating everyone on legislation introduced so far this session and addressing any questions or concerns you may have. See you there!

Legislative Update: Veterans legislation introduced, First hearings of session scheduled

January 16th, 2015

On Wednesday, I joined six of my colleagues for a press conference highlighting a legislative agenda focused on veterans and their families.  Later that morning, I introduced LB 272 , a bill authorizing the creation of a voluntary hiring preference for private companies seeking to employ veterans.  This bill complements the work of the Legislature last year for public sector employers, that established a preference for veterans.  Under the bill, businesses can elect to offer a hiring preference for veterans and spouses of 100% disabled veterans.

 

Standing with Senators: Nordquist, Morfeld, Garrett, Schnoor, Bloomfield, and Riepe at Wednesday’s press conference on veterans legislation

Other veteran initiatives highlighted at the press conference include a wage subsidy program for unemployed veterans (LB 251), tax exemptions for military retirees (LBs 20 and 267), and better recognition of military education, training and experience for professional licenses (LB 264).     

First Hearings Scheduled

Next week marks the end of bill introduction and the start of public hearings on legislation.  In Nebraska, unlike in many states, every bill receives a public hearing and anyone is allowed to testify.  Committees stay, sometimes late into the night, until all who wish to testify are heard.  Two of my bills, LB 107 and LB 163, are scheduled for public hearings next week.  LB 107, a bill I highlighted last week, eliminates the integrated practice agreement for nurse practitioners.   The hearing for LB 107 is on Thursday, January 22 at 1:30 PM in room 1510 of the State Capitol. 

LB 163 establishes an emergency management registry operated by the Nebraska EmergencyManagement Agency.  The registry is voluntary and the information provided by members of the public will be made available to 911 call centers, emergency management agencies and law enforcement.  Citizens can input a variety of information into the registry, including emergency contact information, medical conditions and allergies, location of “safe places” for hiding or sheltering in place, and primary language indicator.  This registry ensures law enforcement and other first responders have vital information at their fingertips in an emergency.  North Platte, NE is one of many communities across the country to utilize this type of registry.  The hearing for LB 163 is on Thursday, January 22 at 1:30 PM in room 1507 of the State Capitol.      

Council of State Government holds briefing on Justice Reinvestment Working Group Report

On Wednesday, members of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group held a briefing regarding the Council of State Government’s Justice Center report on Nebraska prisons.  The Council of State Governments, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, provides staff and resources to states like Nebraska who demonstrate bipartisan, interbranch support for justice reinvestment.  Nebraska is currently one of three states going through the process.  

Nebraska’s prisons are currently at 158% of capacity and are projected to grow to 170% of capacity by 2020 if no changes are made.  Nebraska law allows the Governor to declare a state of emergency once prisons reach 140% capacity.  This high rate puts our state at risk for court invention.  This growing prison population is in spite of the fact  that crime rates and arrests have declined over the past 9 years.  The report focused on 3 key challenges facing Nebraska’s criminal justice system and made a series of recommendations to address these challenges.  The challenges the report identified are:

  1. Non-violent, low-level offenses are overrepresented in our prisons.

  2. Too many people with felony convictions leave prison without supervision and without paying restitution to victims’ families.

  3. Nebraska’s parole system needs improvement.  For example, parole has not fully implemented evidence-based practices and parole officers often do not have swift and sure sanctions available to them, short of revoking parole.

Future e-newsletters will highlight more about the report’s recommendations–and legislation to address these challenges.  

Town Hall Meeting Announcement

I will be holding a town hall meeting on Thursday, February 12th at 6:30 pm at Bellevue University at the John B. Muller Administration Services Building (lower level symposium room), located at 1000 Galvin Road South.  Please join me as we discuss legislation from this year’s session and answer any questions or concerns you may have.  I also enjoy setting aside time to speak with constituents one-on-one after the main presentation. See you there!  

Meet Our Spring 2015 Interns

This session we will welcome two interns to our office.  Qingye “Isabella” Li is a senior Psychology major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with minors in Business Administration and Criminal Justice. She is from China, but came to the United States to study two years ago. She has interned for Lancaster County’s Community Corrections and Public Defender’s offices, worked on the UNL Human Trafficking Conference planning team, and currently works as a tutor at UNL Athletic Department. She hopes to attend law school or to pursue an MBA upon graduation this May.

Billy is currently a senior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln double majoring in History and Psychology. His interests include public policy, public health issues, and of course, all things history.  He is involved with student government and serves on its Government Liaison Committee, who helped to get LB740 passed (a bill granting in-state tuition to qualifying veterans and their families).  He plans on attending law school in the fall of next year.

We look forward to having Isabella and Billy join our team!  

State senators to introduce package of bill to recruit, retain and support veterans and their families

January 13th, 2015

LINCOLN— Wednesday morning, State Senator Sue Crawford will join at least four other state senators to discuss a legislative agenda focused on veterans and their families. The agenda features several workforce development initiatives including the creation of a voluntary hiring preference for private companies, a wage subsidy program for unemployed veterans, tax exemptions for military retirees, and better recognition of military education, training and experience for professional licenses. The agenda also includes legislation to create additional health care choices for Nebraska veterans.

In 2014, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Nebraska Department of Labor, Nebraska’s community colleges and several employers to create “The Good Life for Veterans” initiative. Its aim: to recruit veterans leaving the military to Nebraska as they begin their post-military careers. Since its creation, “The Good Life for Veterans” has had a presence at three career fairs at Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Carson, Colorado, reaching over 1,000 veterans and military members. What: Press conference on legislation targeting veterans and their families

What: Press conference on legislation targeting veterans and their families

Where: Nebraska State Capitol Rotunda

When: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 8:45 AM

Speakers include:
State Senator Sue Crawford (District 45)
State Senator Jeremy Nordquist (District 7)
State Senator Tommy Garrett (District 3)
State Senator Adam Morfeld (District 46)
State Senator Merv Riepe (District 12)
Jamie Karl, Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce

 

As bill introduction begins, learn how to navigate the Nebraska Legislature’s website

January 12th, 2015

104th Legislature Convenes and Bill Introduction Begins

On Wednesday, the 104th Legislature convened.  As I mentioned in previous newsletters, in Nebraska legislation must be introduced during the first ten days of session.  This year, due to the election of leadership and other agenda items, bill introduction started on Day 2 (Thursday, January 8).  

This week, I introduced several bills, including LB 107.  LB 107 is a bill to eliminate the integrative practice agreement from nurse practitioner statutes.  The bill is identical to LB 916, a bill the Legislature passed last year by an overwhelming margin of 43-0 before being vetoed by then-Governor Dave Heineman.  70% of new psychiatric nurse practitioners leave Nebraska each year, citing integrative practice agreements as a key reason for their departure.  These agreements do not improve patient safety or outcomes; however, they clearly stand in the way of recruiting and retaining the healthcare workforce we need.

How To Navigate NebraskaLegislature.gov

The Nebraska Legislature’s website has a wealth of information available for citizens interested in reading and tracking legislation.  For example, did you know that you can sign up to receive free daily alerts regarding bills of interest?  Bill Tracker (found here: http://www.nebraska.gov/billtracker/ ) allows you to track up to 15 bills and even receive daily email alerts when there is action on the bill.  

The Nebraska Legislature’s website allows you to view a variety of things from committee assignments to senators’ web pages and contact information.  It also allows you to look up legislation by bill number, senator, or subject matter.  You are also able to look up legislation from previous years based on bill number or subject matter.

To demonstrate how to navigate the website, let’s use LB 740 (2014) as an example.  Beginning on the nebraskalegislature.gov’s homepage, click on “Search Past Legislation” in the upper right hand corner.  From this next page, you can search by bill number (LB 740) or by subject term (residency veteran).  If you know the year it was introduced, you can narrow the search by year or else conduct a search for all legislative sessions. 

Once you pull up the bill page, you are able to view several things including statement of intent, fiscal note, committee statement, floor votes and transcripts from the bill hearing and floor debate.  The introducing senator must publish a statement of intent, or summary of the bill, 24 hours before the bill’s hearing.   Similarly, each bill generates a fiscal note drafted by the Legislative Fiscal Office.  Fiscal notes are published online approximately 24-48 hours before the bill’s hearing.

If a bill advances out of committee, the committee will produce a committee statement.  This document contains a list of organizations and/or individuals who testified either in support, opposition or in a neutral capacity at the bill’s hearing, as well as a summary of the bill and committee amendments, if any.  These documents are available in the right hand corner of the bill page.  

The bottom left hand corner contains links to transcripts that mention the bill in question.  Because this can include any mention of the bill, including when the bill is introduced or referred to committee, it can be helpful to check the transcript dates against the bill’s history.  This allows you to pinpoint transcripts from the day of the hearing or when the bill is first debated on General File.  Typically, bills are placed on General File several days to weeks (or longer) before appearing on an agenda for discussion.  One way to determine quickly if a transcript contains floor debate is to look for transcripts that correspond with dates in which amendments were adopted or failed.  This is not a hard and fast rule but it can help you locate relevant information quickly.  

The links to the Legislative Journal (third column under Bill History heading) are particularly helpful when you want to view floor votes.  Using LB 740 again as our example, you can view floor votes on General File and Final Reading on pages 539 and 1017 of the Legislative Journal.    Stay tuned for more how to’s this session, including how to read fiscal notes and committee statements.

Committee Assignments
On Wednesday morning, the Legislature elected the Speaker, Chairperson of the Executive Board and Chairs of the 14 standing committees.  I am honored to announce that my colleagues elected me chair of the Urban Affairs Committee.  I look forward to working with municipalities across the state, including of course, Bellevue, to ensure that state policies empower local communities to thrive.  

Members of the my staff, from left: Courtney Breitkreutz, Trevor Fitzgerald, myself, and Kaitlin Reece

Also on Wednesday, the Committee on Committees met to determine committee membership for all 49 members.  This year I will serve on Business and Labor (Monday), Urban Affairs (Tuesday) and Health and Human Services Committees (Wednesday-Thursday-Friday).  

Office Relocating
Each biennium as term-limited senators leave, new senators arrive and committee chairs are elected, offices change and relocate within the Capitol.  Legislative offices are located on the first two floors of the Capitol building.  Each of the 14 standing committees has a designated office location set by the Executive Board.  Committee chairs are the first to move offices.  Senators then select from the available offices based on length of life-time service.   This process began Wednesday afternoon following committee chair elections and finished the next day with the last freshman senators moving into their offices.  Phone numbers and PO Boxes follow the senator–or in the case of a new senator–the seat.  We can be found in the Urban Affairs Committee office, room 1212.  New room numbers for the other senators can be found here: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/pdf/senators/roster.pdf

Townhall Announcement
I will be holding a town hall meeting on Thursday, February 12th at 6:30 pm at Bellevue University at the John B. Muller Administration Services Building (lower level symposium room), located at 1000 Galvin Road South.  Please join me as we discuss legislation from this year’s session and answer any questions or concerns you may have.  I also enjoy setting aside time to speak with constituents one-on-one after the main presentation. See you there!

All my Best,

Sue

Bill to Grant Additional Oversight to Campaign Accounts Introduced

January 12th, 2015

Lincoln, NE–Today State Senator Sue Crawford (District 45, Bellevue) introduced LB 166, a bill to bring additional accountability and transparency to campaign funds.

Under the bill, each campaign committee must submit an end-of-the-year balance statement to the Accountability and Disclosure Commission.  This statement will be compared against campaign committees’ end of year statements by Accountability and Disclosure Commission staff during the auditing process.  LB 166 also prohibits loans from campaign funds, increases penalties for violations of the Accountability and Disclosure Act, and adds enforcement power for the commission to require restitution as a consequence of a violation.

“LB 166 is a bill designed to safeguard the public’s trust and confidence in government,” explained Senator Sue Crawford.  “Nebraskans trust that when they make a contribution to a candidate, candidates will not misrepresent their balance or use these funds to make personal loans.”

“What’s more, current law does not provide a second check against fraud using campaign funds.” Senator Crawford shared.  “Right now, the balance in a campaign account provided to the Accountability and Disclosure Commission is whatever the candidate committee says it is.  LB 166 provides an important tool to ensure campaign funds are used as reported by the candidates.”

“It is important that the Unicameral protects the integrity of campaign contributions.”  added Jack Gould, Issues Chair for Common Cause Nebraska. “The public can not be expected to financially support candidates for public office unless they can be sure their contributions are used for actual campaigning.”

“The Accountability and Disclosure Commission welcomes the introduction of LB 166” said Executive Director Frank Daley. “When adopted, its provisions will facilitate the efficient administration of Nebraska’s campaign finance disclosure laws.”

Senator Crawford Re-introduces Bill to Expand Access to Healthcare and Eliminate Red Tape

January 8th, 2015

Lincoln, NE: Today, State Senator Sue Crawford (District 45, Bellevue) introduced LB 107, a bill to eliminate the integrative practice agreement from nurse practitioner statutes. The bill is identical to LB 916, a bill the Legislature passed last year by an overwhelming margin of 44-0 before being vetoed by then-Governor Dave Heineman.

“Since the disappointing veto by Governor Heineman at the end of last session, I spent the summer and fall speaking with returning senators and senators-elect regarding my intent to reintroduce legislation to eliminate integrative practice agreements once and for all,” stated Senator Sue Crawford. “I am confident from those discussions we will finish what we started last year.”

“Study after study confirms that restrictions on Nurse Practitioners like our current Integrated Practice Agreement create a restriction of trade that limits competition and access to our health care system that is simply not supported by any credible evidence related to health quality or health outcomes,” Senator Crawford further explained. “This is why the Federal Trade Commission, National Governor’s Association and the Institute of Medicine have all called for the elimination of such agreements.”

“We are so pleased that Senator Crawford has agreed to reintroduce this important piece of legislation this session,” shared LaDonna Hart, President of the Nebraska Nurse Practitioners. “By removing the antiquated integrated practice agreement language, nurse practitioners across the state can focus fully on providing crucial access to cost-effective, high-quality health care services to patients and their families. The passage of this bill will not only remove “red-tape” and practice barriers for nurse practitioners currently in Nebraska, but will assist in the recruitment and retention of graduates leaving the state for more equitable practice environments. We are excited to work with Governor Ricketts, Senator Crawford and our other supporters to remove unnecessary government regulation and ensure better access to health care services for all Nebraskans.”

Interim Legislative Update: December

December 13th, 2014

What Happens the First Day of Session?

The 104th Legislature convenes on January 7, 2015. This begins the first session of a two year legislative cycle, or biennium.  Each biennium contains a long session (90 day session) and a short session (60 day session). 18 new senators, 17 of whom were elected in November will take their oath of office that morning.  The 18th senator was appointed by the Governor to replace State Senator Charlie Janssen who was elected State Auditor in November.

The first day of session will shape the committee structure for the next two years. The Legislature first elects permanent officers such as Clerk of the

Legislature and Chief Sergeant of Arms. Then, the body votes for its leadership, beginning with Speaker of the Legislature.  The Speaker sets the daily agenda and can designate up to 25 bills as Speaker priority bills. These 25 bills, along with committee and senator priority bills, receive preference over other bills for floor debate. Two of my bills, LB 368 (2013) and LB 719 (2014), received Speaker priority designations in previous years.

Following the election of Speaker, the Legislature elects chairpeople for Committee on Committees and Executive Board by secret ballot.  This unique method of electing leadership and committee chairs plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of our nonpartisan Unicameral system.  In Washington DC, and all other states, the majority party determines who serve in leadership and as committee chairs.  Unfortunately this leads, in many cases, to chairs being selected based on the amount of money that they raise for their political parties or on other political criteria instead of on whether they have the skills and experience for the position.  In Nebraska we have a strong tradition of selecting chairs of both parties with experience and expertise to run our committees well.   I am running for Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee.  I currently serve as Vice Chair for this committee.  Urban Affairs deals with policies concerning local government, some utilities, and economic development.

LR422Committee2-21-14a

Sitting on the HHS Committee last session. Photo courtesy of the Unicameral Information Office

Because of our unique nonpartisan structure, our committee assignments also do not work like Congress or any other state.  In Congress and all other states, party caucuses determine who sits on each committee.  In Nebraska, we designate a nonpartisan Committee on Committees to determine membership on each of the committees.  The Committee on Committees meets after the election of the chairs of the committees to select members of the committees.

When are Bills Introduced?

Bills can be introduced during the first ten days of session.  This year, due to the election of leadership and other agenda items on the first and second day of session, bill introduction starts on Day 3.  Bills are assigned a bill number based on the order in which they are introduced. In 2013 (the last long session), senators introduced 655 bills, compared to 460 bills introduced last year during the short session.

NewBills-2

Introducing a bill last session on the floor of the legislature. Photo courtesy of the Unicameral Information Office

What Do You Plan to Introduce Next Session?

As I mentioned earlier, to receive consideration this session, all bills must be introduced during the first 10 days of session.  Here are a few issues I plan to tackle next session. A full list of bills will follow in January.

Two of the bills I will introduce are issues I worked on last session. One eliminates the integrated practice agreement for nurse practitioners. This bill passed on a 44-0 vote last session. Despite this overwhelming support, it was vetoed by the Governor after the Unicameral adjourned which meant we were unable to override the Governor’s veto.

The second bill relates to taxation of military retirement income.  In my time in the Legislature,  I have introduced two bills on military retirement taxation (LB 238 and 902) and have worked hard to ensure that military retiree tax relief was part of the Tax Modernization Committee’s work on tax reform.  Unfortunately, the legislation that passed last year under LB 987 only included tax relief for new military retirees beginning in 2016.  Because the bill passed last year does not provide tax relief for military retirees who have already chosen to live and work here and therefore does not help us retain those retirees who have already made a commitment to our state, I will bring legislation again this year.

Last session I introduced an interim study resolution regarding unfunded mandates to counties.  One of the unfunded mandates identified involved the collection of motor vehicle sales tax by the County Treasurer’s office.  In exchange for collecting these taxes for the state, counties  receive a 2.5% commission on the first $3000 of motor vehicle sales taxes collected in the previous month.  Prior to 2002, counties also received a .5% commission on tax collections over $3000.  In many counties, the cost to collect these taxes far exceeds the current 2.5% commission.  For example, the cost to collect these taxes in Sarpy County in 2013 was approximately $104,000 while the commission they received was only $900.  This issue is one of several related to unfunded mandates I expect will be debated next session.

How Do I Stay Up to Date on What’s Happening in the Legislature?

  • Follow me on Facebook (fb.com/senatorcrawford), Twitter (@SenCrawford), or Instagram (sencrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, there is a daily “Today in the Legislature” post that will tell you issues before the Legislature and how to stream them live.
  • Newsletters, press releases, and other information can be found on my legislative blog at news.legislature.ne.gov/dist45/.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615

Interim Legislative Update: November

November 17th, 2014

Survey Results Are In

Thank you to all who took the time to take my constituent survey. We had a great response of 439 surveys. Your input will be very helpful as we begin to look to the upcoming legislative session. Below are some of the main findings:

  • Many issues saw strong support from well over a majority of those who responded, from studying how unfunded mandates affect property taxes to providing treatment to those with epilepsy with cannabidiol oil to creating more transparency in campaign finance laws.
  • Most answered that tax reform should be the legislature’s main priority for the next session. Property taxes were the greatest concern of those who responded.
  • K-12 education was the state service most valued by respondents, with roads following close behind.
  • Over three-quarters of those who responded said that reforming and streamlining DHHS was important for next session.

Urban Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Voting, Access to City Services and Code Enforcement in Sanitary Improvement Districts

On Friday, November 7 the Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing on LR 555, an interim study resolution I introduced examining issues facing citizens who live in a sanitary improvement district.  A sanitary improvement district, or SID, is a type of political subdivision unique to Nebraska.  It is used primarily in urban areas to facilitate growth outside of city limits.  Using SIDs in this manner ensures that new infrastructure development is paid for by those who will benefit from it, and that residents in the center of the town are not subsidizing growth on the outskirts.  In Sarpy County, there are 111 sanitary improvement districts.

Most SID boards contract for basic services like snow removal and garbage collection, but SID residents often don’t realize that while their street address might say Bellevue on it, they can’t access many city services such as the Bellevue Public Library or code enforcement as residents.  The hearing examined these issues (access to city services, voting) and several others facing residents of sanitary improvement districts.  I especially appreciate the hard work of committee legal counsel, Trevor Fitzgerald, in helping to organize the hearing.

Compassionate Use of CBD Oil for the Treatment of Epilepsy Discussed

Yesterday, I testified in front of the Judiciary Committee regarding LR 433, an interim study resolution I introduced to examine issues surrounding the compassionate use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil to treat patients with severe epilepsy.  CBD oil is a substance that is low in THC, a psychotropic component that in large quantities produces a high.  Research published in peer reviewed journals found that CBD oil helped minimize seizures with few side effects.  We are working on a bill for next session to allow access to CBD oil that is low in THC for patients with intractable epilepsy who are willing to participate in a research study of its effectiveness.  This is  a very narrow approach that focuses solely on low THC product that is legally equivalent to hemp by federal law.

Most importantly, the hearing allowed parents of children with severe epilepsy to share their stories with the Judiciary Committee.  I am grateful to the parents who traveled to Lincoln to participate in the hearing yesterday.  My heart goes out to these brave families who so desperately want to reduce the seizures of their children.

Today in the Legislature: A New Feature

One way I communicate with constituents is through social media.  Beginning this interim and continuing next session, our office will share an infographic with information about hearings scheduled that day and bills scheduled for floor debate along with a link to listen to the proceedings online.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to like (hyperlink to FB page) my Facebook page and follow (hyperlink to Twitter) me on Twitter.  During session, I will post a “Today in the Legislature” infographic once a day as a way for constituents and others to track what’s happening in the Legislature in almost real time.  The Nebraska Unicameral has a long tradition of transparency and open government.  I hope this feature will assist us in bringing additional transparency and accountability to the work we do in Lincoln.

Looking Ahead: 2015 Session

The 104th Legislature is scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 7th at 10:00 AM.  Due to term limits, we will have 17 new senators and a new gubernatorial administration when session commences early next year.

swearing in

Photo of me taking the oath of office in January 2013.

On the first day of session, these new senators will take their oath of office.  The Legislature will also elect a Speaker and chairs of the standing committees.  Senators will also receive their committee assignments from Committee on Committees members.

In Nebraska, senators can introduce bills during the first 10 days of session.  Executive Board committee members then reference bills to the standing committee that has subject matter jurisdiction over the bill.  In Nebraska, unlike many states, each bill receives a public hearing.  These hearings will begin in late January or early February once all bills have been referenced to their respective committees.

Stay tuned next month for a preview of my legislative agenda for next year!

Senator Crawford Invites Input through Online Survey

October 13th, 2014

State Senator Sue Crawford invites Bellevue area residents to complete an online survey to offer feedback on upcoming issues in the Nebraska Legislature. The survey asks respondents to identify priorities for state government and gathers feedback on issues that she is working on for the 2015 session.

To access the survey, click HERE