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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.
Sen. Sue Crawford
Parts of Bellevue were among the wide swathes of the state hit by devastating flooding in March 2019. Thanks to the quick actions of impacted residents and first responders, there were no deaths reported in Bellevue. We mourn deeply for those who lost their lives across our state and in Iowa.
This update is to share information about short-term emergency assistance available, options to volunteer and donate in our community, and information about long-term recovery efforts. Please share this information with anyone you know who may find it useful. My office will continue to update this page with new information as it becomes available.
[Updated 5/24/19] Governor Pete Ricketts announced the release of a consolidated guide for Nebraskans in need of disaster relief resources. The guide was created as a reference for Nebraskans to utilize as a resource based on the state’s experience following historic flooding that devastated many areas of the state in March. The guide provides resource summaries, hotlines, and other contact information for more than two dozen community organizations as well as state and federal agencies involved in recovery assistance. It is available by clicking here. Printed booklets may also be requested by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (402) 471-7421.
The disaster relief guide is a comprehensive list of available resources, but I still want to highlight some of the key places you can contact to find assistance:
Caring for your mental and emotional health in the wake of a disaster is also critical. The federal government operates a Disaster Distress Hotline, which you can contact by calling 1-800-985-5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746. The CDC’s website has additional information about coping in the wake of a disaster HERE. Nebraska also operates the 24-hour Family Helpline at 1-888-866-8660 if you have a child who is having a hard time coping with the flood’s impact on their lives or has other behavioral health needs. The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, which specializes in helping rural residents who are feeling overwhelmed with stress, depression, or other mental health issues, can be reached at 1-800-262-0258.
[Updated 6/6/19] Following the passage of LB512, property owners who suffer significant property damage from a natural calamity, such as this spring’s flooding, may be eligible for property tax relief. A calamity is defined as a disastrous event, including, but not limited to, a fire, an earthquake, a flood, a tornado, or other natural event which significantly affects the assessed value of the property. Destroyed real property does not include property suffering significant property damage that is caused by the owner of the property.
The deadline to apply for destroyed property tax relief is July 15th, so you will need to act expeditiously to turn it in. The Sarpy County Assessor has posted the form that needs to be filled out, along with additional information, here: https://www.sarpy.com/offices/assessor
The form on the Sarpy County Assessor’s at the link above is the same for all Nebraskans with damaged real property, but you’ll need to turn the form in to the assessor with jurisdiction over the county in which your property is located. If you have questions about the process, contact your County Assessor’s office.
Organizations affiliated with the Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD), such as Great Plains United Methodist, Southern Baptist and Team Rubicon, have been working for weeks to clear out mud, debris and flood damaged materials in affected homes. These groups advocate using proper cleaning materials and techniques for effective mold removal.
Mold is a common problem after flooding and can cause serious health issues for people living in proximity to it, according to the St. Bernard Project Mold Remediation Guide which is available online at http://sbpusa.org/public/uploads/pdfs/SBP_MoldRemediationGuide_20180927.pdf. Molds are naturally occurring species of fungus that grows best in warm, damp conditions – conditions exactly like those commonly found in flooded homes. Mold reproduces by means of tiny spores that can float through the air and are typically green or black in color. Molds have tiny branches and roots, so they grow both on top of and into materials like wood.
A fungicide and wire brushes are needed to remove mold.
In Nebraska, fungicidal disinfectant can be obtained free of charge for flood clean up at:
Homeowners still in need of clean-up assistance can call the Crisis Clean Up Hotline at 833-556-2476. In addition, homeowners can find more information at: http://www.heartlandchurchnetwork.com/flood-relief.html
“Improper cleaning can result in mold resurfacing after the homeowner has spent a great deal of time and money to rebuild, said Mark Coffin of Omaha Habitat for Humanity. “We don’t want people to have to tear out drywall a second time.”
According to Coffin, mold must be effectively cleared before rebuilding can begin. Representatives of NEVOAD recommend the following mold removal tips:
“A pressure-wash with a 3000 psi pressure washer is the fastest, most efficient way to do the manual cleaning step,” Cumpton said. “Then, push excess water to the drain or sump pump. Apply sanitizer while wood is still wet.”
Do not restore drywall until all materials have dried completely. Drying of all affected areas is necessary before restoration. More information can be found in the Texas A&M Extension article, “Controlling Mold Growth After the Storm” at https://texashelp.tamu.edu/controlling-mold-growth-after-the-storm/
A moisture meter can be used to test the moisture content of studs and sheathing before replacing insulation. Wood products specialists recommend that wood have no more than 14 to 15 percent moisture by weight before closing a wall.
[Information updated 6/27/19] June 19th was the deadline for homeowners, renters and business owners in counties designated for federal assistance to register for Individual Assistance. As long as you registered your household by that date, however, you can still submit claims for damage after June 19th. If you have questions about the process, contact FEMA via one of the avenues listed below.
Counties that qualify for Individual Assistance are: Antelope, Boone, Boyd, Buffalo, Burt, Butler, Cass, Colfax, Cuming, Custer, Dodge, Douglas, Hall, Holt, Howard, Knox, Madison, Nance, Nemaha, Pierce, Platte, Richardson, Saline, Santee Indian Reservation, Sarpy, Saunders, Stanton, Thurston, Washington. Individual assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Information about the Individual Assistance program can be found at HERE that answers some common questions. or by calling 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7:00am to 10:00pm CT seven days a week until further notice. FEMA also has a FAQ posted
** One important message about securing FEMA funds: make sure to thoroughly document your home’s flood damage with pictures BEFORE you begin the cleanup process. You will need proof that the damage was caused by the flood. Sarpyflood.org posted the graphic below (found under the “Documenting Contents” tab) with a list of the kinds of pictures you should think about taking.
The NEMA representative my office spoke to said that a state Long-Term Recovery Group of businesses, non-profits, and government entities are often the ones providing the most direct rebuilding relief after emergencies. The 211 network will also be involved in referring individuals to those long-term recovery efforts once they are organized. I therefore encourage everyone who is affected by these floods to keep in touch with 211 for the most up-to-date list of available assistance, even as you begin the process of determining whether you are eligible for FEMA’s direct assistance.
Veterans and their dependents may be eligible for Nebraska Veterans Aid for expenses incurred due to the flooding. This includes food, clothing, emergency housing such as hotel accommodations, and replacement of eligible flood-damaged items necessary for life safety. You can find more information about that program at the Nebraska VA’s website HERE. Applications must be filled out through your county Veteran Service Office. Sarpy County’s VSO can be reached at 402-593-2203 or email@example.com. You can look up information for all of the county VSOs HERE.
[Information added 3/28/19] The Internal Revenue Service has announced that individuals who reside or have a business in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington counties may qualify for tax deadline relief. You can find the IRS news release with full details about the disaster tax deadline extension HERE; if you have questions, I encourage you to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227 or your tax preparer if you have one. Certain deadlines falling on or after March 9, 2019 and before July 31, 2019, are granted additional time to file through July 31, 2019. This includes 2018 individual income tax returns and payments normally due on April 15, 2019. It also includes the quarterly estimated income tax payments due on April 15, 2019 and June 17, 2019. Eligible taxpayers will also have until July 31, 2019 to make 2018 IRA contributions. In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after March 9, 2019, and before March 25, 2019, will be abated as long as the deposits were made by March 25, 2019.
In conjunction with the IRS relief announcement, the Nebraska Tax Commissioner announced a similar extension. You can find more information and resources from the Department of Revenue (DOR) HERE. DOR granted the extension and a waiver of penalties and interest for late returns or payments of individual, corporate, and estate and trust income taxes, and also for partnership and S corporation returns until July 31, 2019. This relief will be automatically granted solely to taxpayers whose business or primary residential location is in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington counties and was subject to mandatory or optional evacuation due to the natural disaster and only applies to taxes administered by the DOR. DOR will work with businesses and individuals regarding any tax returns and taxes due. For more information or if you have questions, you can contact DOR at 800-742-7474 (NE and IA) or 402-471-5729 or visit the DOR website linked above.
Legal Aid of Nebraska is operating a Disaster Relief Project. If you are in need of legal assistance related to the flooding, you can apply online by going to lawhelpne.legalaidofnebraska.org or by calling the Disaster Relief Hotline at 1-844-268-5627. If you are an attorney and want to volunteer to help disaster survivors, please apply HERE. Common legal issues that may arise during or after a disaster include: insurance issues (submitting claims, avoiding public adjuster fraud, negotiating insurance settlements, and filing an appeal); government benefits (applying for benefits and/or filing an appeal for denial of benefits, benefit award disagreement, or overpayment notices); housing for renters (identifying your rights as a renter of a damaged unit, facilitating communication with your landlord, negotiating early termination of a lease, resolving issues with renter’s insurance claims, and recovering personal items from damaged rental units; housing for owners (negotiating payments, understanding your options in real estate contracts, and obtaining disaster assistance); contractor fraud issues (hiring a contractor and avoiding fraud, reviewing work contracts/estimates, obtaining proper work permits for repairs, passing city inspection, and recognizing and preventing predatory lending); or document recovery (replacing lost documents like driver’s licenses, SS cards, EBT cards, etc. and replacing immigration documents). You can find Legal Aid’s Disaster Relief Project website HERE.
The US Chamber of Commerce is operating a Disaster Help Desk for Business at 1-888-692-4943. You can find more about the Disaster Help Desk at the Chamber’s website HERE.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) offers recovery loans. Businesses of any size and private, nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. These loans cover losses that are not fully covered by insurance or other recoveries. For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.
Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information, and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call 800-877-8339.
The deadline to apply for property damage is June 19, 2019. The deadline to apply for economic injury is Dec. 23, 2019.
If you want to help our Bellevue community with donations of time or money, I know of two primary resources tracking those opportunities. You can check the sarpyflood.org website mentioned above. Second, the Bellevue First organization has created a map of local shelters, donation centers, and meal services. You can find that map HERE. That map is being continually updated, but I recommend you call ahead to make sure that the organization is open and accepting donations. Various organizations may also be in need of different items or kinds of assistance, so if you call they can direct you to what they need most. I understand that Bellevue Christian Center is the main collection and distribution site for relief donations in Bellevue and Sarpy County. They have been updating their Facebook page with their most (and least) needed items.
For those outside of Bellevue, 211 can direct you to local organizations providing assistance. Many communities have also created Facebook pages or other central information points you may be able to check. You can check the Governor’s Nebraska Strong website for statewide volunteer opportunities, and the Journal Star has collected a list of statewide assistance and recovery organizations that are accepting donations HERE.
These floods have caused untold damage and suffering, and I will do all I can to assist in the recovery efforts. Bellevue, Sarpy, and the state of Nebraska are full of strong and resilient people. We also have untold numbers of people who have given so much of themselves to help others. Recovery will not be easy, and it is up to all of us to put our best efforts toward rebuilding our communities and supporting our neighbors.
All the best,
Supporting Survivors Luncheon
I was happy to attend the Supporting Survivors Luncheon this week, hosted by Senator Robert Hilkemann, Survivors Rising, the Women’s Fund of Omaha, and the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska. This was a great opportunity to show our support of survivors of trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence and encourge their continued advocacy in the Legislature.
Week 3 Bill Introduction
This week I introduced one more bill for a total of 10, not including carryover bills. LB 1061, introduced Tuesday, is about the alternative response program and non-court cases within the child welfare system. Over half of our child welfare cases in Nebraska are now non-court involved cases. LB 1061 would set statutory parameters for those cases to ensure that children are safe. You can see the full list of my bills for this biennium here. If you would like more information on any of these proposals please contact my office.
Public Hearings This Week
This week marked the end of bill introduction and the start of public hearings on legislation. Two of my bills, LB 871 and LB 841, were presented this week in the Judiciary and Revenue committees respectively. LB 871 creates a mechanism for the Attorney General to take action against companies suspected of engaging in unfair pricing. LB 841 would allow permanently disabled veterans to verify their disability status just once, instead of having to verify their disability status on an ongoing basis.
Public Hearings Next Week
Next week four more of my bills will have hearings: LB 983, 842, 870 and 1061.
LB 983 eliminates the current provision that one point be issued against a driver’s license for any speeding violation up to five miles per hour. The hearing on LB 983 is on Monday before the Revenue committee.
LB 842 relates to motor vehicle taxes imposed on military service members. This bill provides that active duty members of the armed forces who are Nebraska residents, as well as their spouses, can qualify for a motor vehicle tax exemption.
LB 870 is a bill that allows cities to directly borrow funds from a bank to supply infrastructure and services following a natural disaster such as a flood. With this in place, communities impacted by natural disasters can quickly obtain the funding they need to provide essential resources like water to their residents. This bill will be heard by the Urban Affairs committee next Tuesday.
LB 1061 makes a number of changes to Nebraska’s Child Protection and Family Safety Act which will protect and provide greater clarity for parents, children and caregivers involved in Nebraska’s child welfare system. Several of these changes to alternative response include clearer definitions of response pathways for reports of child abuse and neglect and the establishment of an advisory group under the Nebraska Children’s Commission. Changes to non-court involved cases include the requirement for a temporary delegation of parental authority when a child is placed out of the home and notification of rights for the parent and/or caregiver. LB 1061 will be heard by the Health and Human Services committee next Friday.
The schedule for bill hearings can be found here. If you have any interest in testifying at a public hearing, please contact me or my staff at 402-471-2615.
State of the Judiciary Address
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Mike Heavican delivered the annual State of the Judiciary Address to the body. He discussed the Supreme Court’s Language Access Program, child welfare in the courts and the expansion of services and programing within the Judicial Branch despite challenges like the flooding last spring. I was especially glad to hear about the outreach programs across our state that work to improve the juvenile court system and hope to see those programs expand and improve once again this year.
Nebraska Volunteer Firefighter Association Breakfast
Early this week I joined the Nebraska Volunteer Firefighters Association for their annual breakfast for elected officials. The breakfast is always well-attended and offers a chance to show our appreciation for these volunteers.
YRTC Health and Human Services Briefing
In August, members of the Health and Human Services Committee learned of improper living conditions and problems caused by understaffing at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs) in Geneva and Kearney. These centers serve youth ages fourteen to nineteen in the state’s juvenile justice system and are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services. The HHS Committee held public hearings, tours of the facilities and interviews with stakeholders over the interim to determine how to best approach the problem. On Wednesday, Senator Howard held a briefing about the Committee’s recommendations and the six bills they will introduce this session in response to the situation. I am hopeful that these pieces of legislation will improve the environment of the YRTCs and create a supportive framework for the treatment programs they provide.
Nebraska Conservation Breakfast
On Thursday I attended the Nebraska Conservation Roundtable Breakfast. The Nebraska Conservation Roundtable serves as a resource for Senators in the Legislature as they approach sustainability issues in our state. At the breakfast we discussed the impact of climate change on agriculture and possible agricultural legislative changes to address climate change such as support for ground cover crops.
Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature
All the best,
Week 2 Bill Introduction
This week we had four full days of bill introduction. By the end of the day Thursday 314 bills and 18 resolutions had been introduced this year. I introduced 3 bills this week. They are:
LB 948 requires that insurance companies offer coverage at no cost for more intensive breast cancer screening services for women with dense breasts or at higher risk of cancer. The bill also requires that MRIs be covered by insurance for these women. This bill ensures that women at higher risk of cancer get the coverage they need and are not stuck with surprise medical bills due to their intensive testing needs.
LB 983 eliminates the current provision that requires 1 point be issued against a driver’s license for any speeding violation up to 5 miles per hour. Nebraska’s point system is stricter than surrounding states and a small speeding violation can increase insurance costs.
LB 1001 requires that the Suicide Hotline number be printed on public school student IDs. The bill brings awareness to suicide prevention and encourages struggling students to access the suicide hotlines if they are in crisis.
Bills on the Agenda
This week we debated several key bills on General File first-round debate. Those include two of my own, LB 305 and LB 322.
LB 305 creates the “Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act” and requires employers with four or more employees to provide employees with one hour of “sick and safe” leave for every thirty hours worked. Safe leave can be used by employees experiencing domestic violence or stalking. The discussion on LB 305 will continue next week.
LB 322 deals with tobacco compliance checks performed by law enforcement and tobacco prevention coalitions and establishes a uniform process for those checks state-wide. Compliance checks allow law enforcement and tobacco prevention coalitions to work with young people to test whether retailers are selling tobacco products to minors. The bill advanced to the Enrollment and Review stage with unanimous support from the body.
Suicide Prevention Press Conference
Senator John McCollister and I held a press conference on Wednesday morning to bring awareness to the suicide prevention legislation that is being brought forth by each of our offices this session. My bill, LB 1001, would require that public schools print the Suicide Hotline number on student ID badges. Senator McCollister’s bill, LB 816, would put a 48-hour waiting period on purchasing a semi automatic rifle or shotgun so local law enforcement can conduct a background check. His bill also requires that suicide prevention material be provided with certification and a background check when purchasing a firearm at a gun show.
The statistics regarding teen suicide are sobering to say the least. LB 1001 is one small step we can take toward reducing teen suicide. I appreciate Channel 3 News covering this story and have linked their article here for those who would like more information on the subject.
Bill Hearings Begin Next Week
Next week will mark the start of public bill hearings. I have two bills scheduled for hearings next week: LBs 871, my bill about price gouging, and 841, my bill about veterans’ disability status and certification. You can find the schedule for bill hearings here. Committees must give at least one week’s notice to the public before a hearing, so the schedule will continue to be updated as the session progresses.
Bill Tracker Tool
My colleagues and I have introduced 314 bills this year. If there are particular bills in that collection that you want to keep track of, our bill tracking tool is a great way to do so! You can sign up for the bill tracker here.
The Bill Tracker tool allows you to receive updates on up to 15 bills at a time for free or to sign up for a premium account to track an unlimited number of bills. If you check the box to receive email updates you will be sent a notification when a bill you selected is scheduled for a public hearing and when it is advanced through each round of debate.
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All the best,
106th Legislature, Second Session Convenes
Wednesday, January 8th was the first day of the second session of the 106th Legislature. I look forward to a productive session serving you all alongside my 48 fellow senators. Please feel free to reach out to Hanna Murdoch, my legislative aide, or Lillian Butler-Hale, my administrative aide, with questions. Our office phone number is 402-471-2615 or you can send me an email at email@example.com.
Week 1 Bill Introduction
Our primary business this week was the introduction of new bills. Because this is not the beginning of a new biennium, some bills from last session carry over. I will give a more in-depth description of my bills as they come up for public hearings in the next few months. Briefly, however, my newly introduced bills this week are:
LB 833 provides that Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE Programs, are exempt from state licensure requirements. Currently, these programs are subject to four separate state facility licensing requirements, which are duplicative of existing federal requirements
LB 841 is a bill relating to certain certifications for homestead exemptions. If enacted, this bill would allow permanently disabled veterans to verify their disability status just once with the county assessor or Tax Commissioner, instead of having to verify their disability status and provide certification on an ongoing basis.
LB 842 changes provisions relating to motor vehicle taxes imposed on military service members. This bill provides that active duty members of the armed forces who are Nebraska residents, as well as their spouses, can qualify for a motor vehicle tax exemption.
LB 870 is a bill that would allow cities to directly borrow funds from a bank to supply infrastructure and services following a natural disaster, such as a flood. This will allow communities impacted by disasters to more quickly obtain the funding they need to provide essential resources like water to their residents.
LB 871 amends Nebraska’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act to define an “unconscionable” pricing. This bill would create a mechanism for the Attorney General to take action against companies suspected of engaging in unfair pricing.
LB 933 changes provisions relating to the discontinuation of utility services. The intent is to prevent tragedies resulting from customers with medical needs being disconnected from their utilities. This provision already exists, but utility companies aren’t required to grant the postponement of the shutoff.
Climate Crisis Press Conference
Yesterday I joined several of my colleagues for a press conference for a climate change resolution , introduced this year by Senator Kolowski and cosigned by me. Students at Prairie Hill Learning Center wrote the resolution this interim to bring awareness to climate change and how it impacts Nebraska youth. I am impressed with the commitment of these young people to taking care of the planet and was happy to join the press conference to bring more attention to the resolution.
Policy Breakfast with Senator Blood
This week Senator Carol Blood hosted a breakfast meeting to deliver an update on the Veterans’ Bill of Rights legislation that she is introducing this session. I have cosponsored it and look forward to working with her on this important legislation.
Judiciary Committee Brieifing
On Thursday, Judge Doyle delivered a briefing about problem solving and mental health courts. The briefing reviewed the growth of problem-solving courts in Nebraska and evidence of their effectiveness. Problem solving courts, like our Veterans courts and Sarpy’s DUI court, allow an intensive supervision alternative to traditional courts to help those who most need services to turn their lives around. I appreciate Senator Lathrop inviting members of the body to be a part of this important conversation.
OpenSky Legislative Symposium
The OpenSky Policy Institute had its first of their annual symposiums on Thursday. The symposium included conversations about current proposals to address property taxes. It also featured a presentation from Jeff Chapman, Director of The Pew Charitable Trust’s State Fiscal Health Initiative, who discussed revenue volatility and projections. Overall, the symposium stressed the need to carefully consider budget sustainability issues as we decide what to do with our current annual budget.
Much like the beginning of last year, there is a construction crew working here at the Capitol to allow for updates to the HVAC systems in select offices. My office location has not changed since the last session and is easily accessible from the north or west doors. If you are trying to reach the information desk, it is still accessible from all four directions.
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All the best,
Vaping Prevention Retreat
On December 10th I attended a Vaping Prevention Retreat with Tobacco Education and Advocacy of the Midlands (T.E.A.M.). This retreat brought together researchers, stakeholders, middle and high school personnel to share their thoughts and experiences with youth vaping. Many of my constituents have reached out this interim with their concerns about the popularity of vaping products among our youth. I share those concerns and am glad to see coalitions like T.E.A.M. reaching out to the Nebraska Legislature to pass along helpful information about vaping and the possible consequences.
Platte Institute Cottage Food Guide
The Platte Institute has published a directory of the 67 newly-registered cottage food producers who run home-based businesses due to provisions from my bill from last session, LB 304. The guide is available here and includes name, address, phone number and email. Thank you to the Platte Institute for this helpful publication and I wish all of Nebraska’s home bakers a successful rest of their holiday seasons!
Commander’s Holiday Reception
I was happy to attend the Commander’s Holiday Reception this year. The reception is a nice opportunity to look back at the year with great company.
USSTRATCOM C2F Tour
This month I attended a tour of Offutt’s new Command and Control Facility (C2F). The opening of the C2F is a testament to the modernization and progress at Offutt. I look forward to all that will be accomplished in the coming years with these new systems.
Traumatic brain injury round table
Senator Myron Dorn hosted a brainstorming session this month to discuss ways for people to access training and recognize symptoms of traumatic brain injuries. I applaud Senator Dorn for sharing this important message.
Session Begins January 8th
This will be my last monthly update during the interim – the next time you hear from me will be at the end of the week that the second session of the 106th Legislature convenes on January 8th. On the first day of session, the Legislature will hold its opening ceremonies. On Day 2, senators will begin to introduce bills. I will also be attending a briefing from the Judiciary Committee on mental health courts on Day 2 of session. On January 10th, Day 3, our only formal business is typically new bill introduction. Speaker Jim Scheer will then finalize the (now tentative) legislative calendar for 2019. You can find the current proposed calendar here. I look forward to joining my colleagues in January and having a productive 2020 session.
New Year’s Day Office Closure
Next month, all state offices, including my own, will be closed on Wednesday, January 1st in observance of New Year’s Day. Happy New Year!
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All the best,
NFWL Women of Excellence Conference
On the 18th and 19th this month I joined a group of women legislators in San Antonio for the National Foundation of Women Legislators (NFWL) Conference. The conference covered various policy topics such as drug prices, elder abuse, and insurance reform. On the first night I was honored to represent Nebraska as a winner of their national “Women of Excellence” award.
MAPA Open House in Sarpy County
This month I attended a community outreach event hosted by the Metro-Area Planning Agency. I was joined by county board members, mayors, town councils and other officials to discuss current and future MAPA projects in the region.
Dark Money Panel
On November 4th I sat on a panel to discuss dark money with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The panel was also sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. Other panelists included former senators Al Davis, Jerry Johnson and Joe Jordon. This was a great opportunity to discuss current challenges with campaign financing and how the Unicameral could change Nebraska’s campaign finance laws through policies such as LB 210, that I introduced last year. LB 210 requires that spending on “electioneering” be reported like spending on other election advertisements. Electioneering communications target a campaign or ballot issue near an election, but fail to specifically say “vote for” or “vote against” a candidate and so they fall into a loophole that does not require disclosure of spending. LB 210 would require that spending on these electioneering communications be reported. After being heard in the 2019 legislative session, LB 210 is currently in the Government, Military, & Veterans Affairs Committee. It would require the support of the majority of the committee’s 8 members to be sent to the floor for debate and a vote by the full body. The bill does not appear to have enough support to get out of committee at this time.
Each year the Sarpy County Attorney and Sarpy County Teen Court hold a Law Academy for junior high and high school students in the Omaha, Papillion, Bellevue, and Millard areas. These students, who are often interested in public service careers and want to learn more about government, heard from a variety of speakers over four sessions. Speakers included judges, military officers, public officials and lawyers. I spoke to the group on November 5th about the Legislature and my role in the legal process. The students were great listeners and I was happy to be able to help them understand some of the intricacies of our Unicameral system.
1115 Waiver Proposal Briefing
Late last month, the Department of Health and Human Services released their draft 1115 waiver for Medicaid expansion implementation. On November 8th, I attended one of four hearings held across the state to gather comments on the proposed waiver. I spoke in opposition to the proposed waiver. The proposed waiver complicates the Medicaid Expansion process. We could already be offering these needed services, but instead the Department of Health and Human Services has created a two tier system for benefits that adds substantial administrative cost and delays the benefit of Medicaid Expansion until October 1, 2020. This two tier process requires special federal approval (hence the need for a waiver). If we drop the waiver proposal, we could begin to offer the Medicaid Expansion benefits immediately. Moreover, the proposed waiver directly violates two components of the Medicaid Expansion statute passed by the voters. All of the 24 people who commented on the waiver at the hearing spoke in opposition to the waiver and urged the Department to move forward with Expansion without the waiver.
Veterans Day Parade
I enjoyed being a part of the Veterans Day Parade in Bellevue on November 9th. As always, it was a great success! The parade is in its 19th year and provides an opportunity for generations of Nebraska families to celebrate and honor those who have served. Many thanks to the Bellevue Chamber for putting together such a wonderful event.
Kearney PFML Listening Session
Throughout the fall Senator Cavanaugh and I have been meeting with business leaders across the state to talk about Paid Family and Medical Leave. This month we traveled out to Kearney to meet with a group of small business owners to hear their views on how we can move forward in ways to increase worker access to paid family and medical leave.
NSEA Senator’s Dinner
On November 14th, the Nebraska State Education Association held its annual metro-area legislative dinner. The dinner gives senators and teachers the chance to meet and discuss what policy issues are impactful to them. I was glad to get the chance to sit with teachers from Bellevue and Omaha Public Schools and hear about their experiences and their perspectives. One of the teachers at my table had spent some time in Oklahoma and warned us of the challenges that charter schools there had posed to her public school classroom in terms of higher class room sizes and dealing with students who had been dismissed from the charter school and returned to the public school. We also discussed the challenge of safety for those students who walk to Wake Robin Elementary School. As part of the program that night we all filled out forms identifying areas of future improvement for schools in our area. I appreciate all that our teachers do inside and outside the classroom for our kids.
Legislative Council Meeting
On the 21st and 22nd, several of my colleagues and I met in Nebraska City for the annual Legislative Council meeting. This gathering provides an opportunity for senators to discuss their priorities, policy ideas and expectations for the next session in a casual setting. It is like a pre-session retreat. We discussed the logistics of the first several days of session and heard updates about Health and Human Services from Senator Sara Howard, Corrections from Senator Steve Lathrop, and the aftermath of the flooding from Bryan Tuma (Deputy Director of NEMA). We also had discussions about property tax reform and the budget. In the interim, our schedules differ greatly from one another, so it’s beneficial to have this time to catch up with one another and get ready for the upcoming session.
Christmas Day Office Closure
Next month, all state offices, including mine, will be closed on Wednesday, December 25th so that employees can spend time with their families. Warm wishes to you and yours this holiday season!
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All the best,
Urban Affairs Hearings
My colleagues and I on the Urban Affairs Committee have held several interim hearings this month in Lincoln, Omaha and Sioux City to discuss a handful of interim studies. These studies cover a range of topics, including emergency medical services (LR 165, introduced by Senator Mike McDonnell), the regulation of solar energy (LR 131, introduced by Senator Justin Wayne) and issues related to plumbing codes (LR 132, also introduced by Senator Wayne).
On October 18th, the Rules Committee heard LRs 159 and 217. LR 159 is my interim study regarding the rules on information that is required to be included in committee statements. Right now there is no recognition of letters for the record so that Senators can easily see who wrote letters for a particular bill. The initial question of the study was whether information about letters for the record should be on committee statements that Senators see for each bill that comes out of committee. After more conversation and study, it appears that there might be other solutions that will work better. I will be following up with the Executive Committee and IT to see what next steps make the most sense to better recognize those who take the time to write letters for the record for particular bills. LR 217, introduced by Senator Tony Vargas, examines the possibility of incorporating racial impact statements with certain pieces of legislation. We currently have fiscal impact statements for every bill. Senator Vargas’s study asks if we should also have racial impact statements for bills that relate to criminal justice and juvenile justice.
Paid Family Medical Leave Discussions
This month, Senator Cavanaugh and I held discussion groups with local employers in both Lincoln and Omaha to determine how paid family leave would affect their businesses. These forums provided us with additional perspectives about incorporating paid leave into an employee’s benefit package. Next month we will travel to Kearney to hear the opinions of business leaders and employees there. I appreciate the help of the Lincoln and Omaha Chambers for helping coordinate the meetings with the employers and look forward to further discussing ways in which we can make paid family leave work for both the employer and the employee.
Surprise Medical Bill
Have you or a loved one been impacted by a “surprise” medical bill after receiving care at a hospital from a provider that was not in your insurance network even though the hospital was in your network? Or have you received an unexpected bill specifically for a mammography procedure follow up? We’re interested in hearing your story. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at my office phone number: 402-471-2615.
Sarpy Chamber Annual Awards
It was my pleasure to join the Sarpy Chamber at their annual awards dinner on October 8th. I was joined by many business and community leaders who work to make Sarpy County better each year. Thank you to the Sarpy Chamber for their work to make the celebration special, and congratulations to all the award winners!
On October 15th, I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Missouri River Levee System. Upgrades to the levee system were federally mandated and part of an eight year long project to protect property and increase public safety. The flooding this past March proved that flood risk mitigation structures are critical to keeping Offutt and surrounding areas safe in the future. I was happy to see that the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District had a great amount of support in completing the new structure and securing a funding mechanism for it.
Facebook Community Safety Event
On October 23rd, I spoke at the Facebook Community Safety Event in Bellevue. Facebook is collaborating with the National PTA to conduct these events which help families address tech-related challenges like online safety concerns or cyberbullying. With the help of the Youth and Media Team at Harvard University, Facebook has created training programs that will promote awareness and safety for children and teens who have access to the internet and social media.
Holland Honor Roll Awards
David and I had a wonderful time at the Holland Honor Roll Awards on the 24th. This annual event celebrates the progress made by stakeholders and legislators last session in support of children and families. 23 Nebraska Senators received a 100% on the Holland Children’s Movement’s Legislative Scorecard. I am glad to see that our combined efforts are making a difference for Nebraska’s young population.
Veterans Day Office Closure
All state offices, including mine, will be closed on Monday, November 11th in observance of Veterans Day. Thank you to all of our veterans for their service.
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All the best,
LB 390 – CBD Oil Pilot Research Study
LB 390 was my personal priority bill in 2015. The bill created the Medical Cannabidiol Pilot Study for four years of study within the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UMNC) for patients who suffer from intractable epileptic seizures. It allowed families to access low-THC cannabidiol oil (CBD) for patients under the supervision of a UNMC neurologist, which wasn’t legally available otherwise in the state. Annual reports over the duration of the study confirmed that a majority of patients enrolled saw benefits after taking Epidiolex (the CBD product used in the study). This month UNMC submitted its final report as it wraps up this study.
In 2018 the FDA announced its intention to approve Epidiolex, a cannabidiol oil therapy. As part of the approval process, Epidiolex was rescheduled by the DEA so it was no longer a Schedule I drug. This reduced the availability of the drug for experimental studies like the LB 390 study but made the drug available without the need for participation in the study. I am grateful to UNMC for their excellent work in conducting the study and providing this important access to a number of our families while Epidiolex was not available through other methods.
Much of our time during the interim gets spent on researching bill ideas and holding meetings to determine key needs for bills and to determine who to shape bills to gain support from stakeholders. For example, I met with leaders in the Bellevue Police Department recently. One of their key concerns was distracted driving. They have seen a major increase in fatalities and consider distracted driving to be one of the factors behind these tragedies and many other more minor accidents. It happens that Sen. Hilkeman will be bringing a bill next session to address distracted driving, so I look forward to supporting that bill. As another example Senator Cavenaugh and I met with representatives of various Chamber of Commerce groups to discuss possible next steps to move forward on paid family and medical leave. We are now setting up meetings with various businesses across the state over October and November.
During the interim committees and special committees also meet. The Revenue Committee continues to meet nearly every week to continue to tackle property tax reform and business incentives. This month the special committee to consider the Legislature committee structure, which I chair met to discuss the possibility of adding a new committee to specialize in economic development and tourism. Our discussions of this issue, and other issues related to the committee structure will continue over the interim.
OpenSky Policy Symposium
The OpenSky Policy Symposium is an annual fall event that allows policymakers to get together and discuss key issues for Nebraska. This year the symposium featured a presentation by Dr. Ken Poole of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness regarding a 2018 study the group conducted for the Legislature’s Economic Development Task Force when I served as the chair. The study provides a comprehensive analysis of the state’s economic development landscape and contains specific recommendations for Nebraska. The symposium also included a couple of panels with speakers discussing economic development challenges and successes in Nebraska.
Touring ENCOR’s HUB
This month I toured ENCOR’s “HUB” in Bellevue. ENCOR is a nonprofit that I had the privilege of learning about this past July when they opened up a new Endeavors facility in Omaha. The Endeavors facility helps individuals with disabilities work and volunteer in the community. The location in Bellevue is called the HUB, and focuses on community inclusion by partnering with groups like the Bellevue Food Bank and local churches. It was great to see how far they’ve come and I know they will continue to be an empowering force in the community. For more information about their history and services, click here.
USSTRATCOM Birthday Ball
The 17th annual USSTRATCOM Birthday Ball took place on September 13th. Its an honor to attend this annual event to celebrate USSTRATCOM and the men and women who work there.
Columbus Day Office Closure
All state offices, including my own, will be closed on Monday, October 14th in observance of Columbus Day. Wishing everyone a wonderful long weekend.
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All the best,
On August 22nd, I joined the Greater Bellevue Area Chamber for a business lunch and briefing on STRATCOM from Chief Master Sergeant Patrick F. McMahon. He reiterated how valuable community support in Bellevue is for the success of the STRATCOM mission. I often hear this message from military leaders in STRATCOM and Offutt. Thanks for all that you do to make this community support a reality.
LR 87 Committee Work
This interim, I am leading a special committee comprised of the Rules Committee members along with 6 additional appointed members. Our task is to assess the committee structure of the Legislature and recommend any needed changes. We’re digging into the workloads and topics of each committee to determine what changes, if any, are needed. We are also considering whether any new committees are warranted. The LR 87 select committee had its first meeting in the middle of August and will meet three more times before the session begins.
Cottage Law Goes into Effect
LB304, my cottage foods bill, went into effect on August 29th. Under this law, Nebraskans will be allowed to sell the same foods currently allowed for sale at farmers markets directly to consumers from their home, at events, or for pick up or delivery. Producers are subject to several requirements, such as registration with the Department of Agriculture, completion of a food safety and handling course, and proper labeling of food. My office has been collaborating with the Department of Agriculture to ensure that all producers are aware of these requirements. If you would like a copy of our informational flyer, please send me an email at email@example.com. Information about the new law and registration forms will be available through the Department’s Food Safety & Consumer Protection Division at http://www.nda.nebraska.gov/fscp/index.html#. Specific questions about provisions or requirements of the law should be directed to the Department’s Food Safety & Consumer Protection Division at 402-471-3422.
RiverFest and Arrows to Aerospace Days
In the middle of the month it was great to celebrate RiverFest and Arrows to Aerospace Days. I appreciate all of the friendly shouts, applause and waves during the parade. It was fun to have Phil and a couple of his friends from UNL home for the weekend to help with the parade. The night before the parade I joined other volunteers to help take money at the gate for RiverFest. It was great to see so many people come out to enjoy the fun.
UNO Data Conference
On August 14, I attended the UNO Data Conference in Omaha. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the latest data from the Census Bureau and plans for the 2020 Census. We also had conversations about state and local population trends. The population trends show Sarpy continuing to grow, but also show that we have challenges with losing too many of our college graduates and we have upcoming challenges with the aging of our population.
BPS Mission 150 Event and Proclamation Ceremony
During Arrows to Aerospace Days, the BPS Alumni Association celebrated the 150th anniversary of Bellevue’s first school, Mission Middle School. Staff, parents, teachers, former students and other members of the Offutt/Bellevue community stopped by the adult social Friday and the parade on Saturday morning. During the official program at Mission Middle School, I was honored to present a celebratory proclamation passed by the Legislature last session, LR 185. Mission Middle School has been an amazing institution for learning in the past 150 years (including for our family) and I am excited to see what is still in store.
Labor Day Office Closure
All state offices, including my own, will be closed on Monday, September 2nd in observance of Labor Day. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Labor Day weekend.
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All the best,
Disaster Assistance Now Available to Private Nonprofit Organizations in Additional Areas
Low-interest federal disaster loans are now available to certain private nonprofit organizations in Sarpy County. SBA may lend private nonprofits up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets, and can also lend additional funds to help with the cost of improvements to protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future. In addition, private nonprofits of any size may apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. “Economic Injury Disaster Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The deadline to apply for economic injury is Jan. 6, 2020. Applicants may apply online and receive additional disaster assistance information here.
Cottage Law Update – Implementation
LB304, my cottage foods bill, will go into effect soon. It will take the standard effective date, which is 90 days following the final legislative session day which is August 29 this year. Under the new law, Nebraskans will be allowed to sell the same foods currently allowed for sale at farmers markets directly to consumers from the producer’s home, at certain events, or for pick up or delivery. There are a few requirements for producers including registration with the Department of Agriculture, completion of a food safety and handling education course, testing of well water if used in food production, and proper signage and labeling. My office has produced an informational flyer with more details about these requirements. If you would like a copy, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Details of LB 304 implementation are under the purview of the Department of Agriculture, so specific questions about provisions or requirements of the law should be directed to the Department at email@example.com or 402-471-2341.
Economic Development Summit
On July 17th I attended the Governor’s Economic Development Summit. The summit brought together economic development experts, policymakers, business people, and other stakeholders to discuss Nebraska’s economic strengths, as well as areas for improvement. Several of the important topics we discussed were housing and talent recruitment.
Interim Committee Work
The interim is a great time to hold collaborative meetings and focus on in-depth studies to address issues that we do not have time to fully explore during the session. It provides us with time to discuss and adapt bills from the past session for success in the coming session, as well as contemplate new bill ideas. For example, we met with the Governor’s staff to discuss possible changes to LB 323 to make it more likely to get full support and a good fiscal note. LB 323 would make it easier for people with disabilities to work and make more money while still having access to Medicaid benefits. During the interim, committees meet to discuss various topics raised by interim study resolutions. You can find more information about those study resolutions here. This month, the Revenue Committee continued the conversation about property tax reform and reviewed sales tax exemptions. In August and September more of my committees will start meeting to tackle interim study issues. One of the other tasks that our office works on over the interim is going over emails that have come to our office with ideas for new bills. During the session we accumulate these emails and letters and take time to return to them during the interim. If you have a bill idea, now is a good time to send it our way so we have some time to research and consider it.
Bellevue Farmers Market
I had a great time meeting everyone at the Bellevue Farmers Market this year. I am proud to sponsor it each year. It will run until September, so there is still plenty of time to enjoy all of the booths. Specific information about vendors and products is available here.
Endeavors Ribbon Cutting
On July 18th I had the pleasure of attending a ribbon cutting for a new Endeavors facility for ENCOR. ENCOR provides services for individuals with developmental disabilities. The new Endeavor site and programming helps individuals with disabilities work and volunteer in the community. A new Endeavor facility is coming to Bellevue soon. It was good to see state dollars at work empowering individuals with disabilities.
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All the best,