NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at scrawford@leg.ne.gov

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.

Recovery Assistance Contacts

[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 nema.jic@nebraska.gov 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:

  • NEMA recommends that all individuals and businesses affected by the floods dial 211 for assistance. That is the central information point for assistance at this time, and they will be able to direct you to local relief options. If you have difficulty reaching 211 or if you are not in Nebraska, dial 866-813-1731.
  • NEMA also has a hotline for questions about flood recovery efforts at 402-817-1551.
  • For information on debris cleanup, contact the Crisis Cleanup Hotline at 402-556-2476.
  • For Sarpy County residents: a number of churches, nonprofit organizations, and neighborhood groups have joined with the Sarpy County Emergency Manager to create sarpyflood.org, a centralized website for local resources. This website also has information about flood safety and other important topics.
  • Affected farmers should contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency. For Douglas and Sarpy Counties, that number is 402-896-0121. If you live in another county you can look up your local FSA office HERE.
  • On March 21st the Governor announced the creation of a centralized Nebraska Strong website – http://www.nebraska.gov/nebraska-strong/ . This website is intended to connect Nebraskans with opportunities to both request and provide relief. 

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.

Property Tax Relief for Destroyed Property

[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.

Flood Cleanup Information

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:

  • Fremont Mall, 860 E. 23rd St., Fremont, (between Nebraska Sport and Gordmans). By appointment only; call 402-620-8716 to arrange a pick-up time.
  • LifeSpring Church 13904 S. 36th St., Bellevue. Mon-Sat 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday 1:00 to 5:00 pm

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:

  • Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered fungicide for mold remediation. Fungicides are cleaning agents specifically intended for killing mold and other fungi, both on and below the surface of contaminated materials. Mold remediation formulas are also designed to help prevent future mold growth. Common brands are Concrobium Mold Control and Fiberlock Shockwave.
  • Bleach is NOT effective for mold remediation because it cannot clean below the surface of porous or semi-porous materials like wood. Because it cannot kill mold roots, mold can and will regrow. While bleach is convenient as a cleaner and stain remover for hard, non-porous items, it has distinct drawbacks when cleaning flood impacted buildings. Many types of bleach are not EPA-registered as a disinfectant. Further, its effectiveness in killing bacteria and mold is significantly reduced when it comes in contact with residual dirt, which is often present in flooded homes. Also, if bleach water comes into contact with electrical components and other metal parts of mechanical systems it can cause corrosion. Bleach water can also compromise the effectiveness of termite treatments in the soil surrounding the building.
  • Use a wire brush to scrub all wood surfaces in multiple directions–up and down, side to side, circularly and diagonally. This helps remove mold and open up wood fibers for fungicide penetration.
  • Fold shop towels into sixths to prep for wiping down. Use a permanent marker to mark an “X” on the stud once fully scrubbed to track work progress. Apply fungicide to all wood marked with an “X” according to product instructions (when recommended, spray application is often easiest). Wipe down sprayed areas with a shop towel. Flip towel to a different clean face each time it becomes dirty; once all towel faces have been used, discard and replace with a new, clean towel Do not re-use dirty towels or re-dip dirty towels into fungicide. When stud is wiped down on all sides, circle the “X” with permanent marker.

“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.

FEMA Individual Assistance

[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 www.disasterassistance.gov, by downloading FEMA’s mobile app (click on “disaster resources,” then “apply for assistance online”), 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 HERE that  answers some common questions.

** 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.

State Government Recovery Resources

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 veterans@sarpy.com. You can look up information for all of the county VSOs HERE.

Extended Tax Deadline Information

[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.

Private/Nonprofit Recovery Resources

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.

Business Recovery Resources

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 disastercustomerservice@sba.gov 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.

Donations and Volunteering

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,

Welcome
January 9th, 2019

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

Damaged Property – Tax Relief Program

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. The deadline to apply for property tax relief on destroyed property is July 15th – that’s just over 2 weeks away, so if you think you may be eligible be sure to apply soon.

The Sarpy County Assessor has the form that needs to be filled out and additional information here: https://www.sarpy.com/offices/assessor . The form must be turned in to the County Assessor of the county in which the property is located. If you have questions about the process, contact your County Assessor’s office.

Bellevue Farmers Market

I am proud to be a sponsor of the Bellevue Farmer’s Market and will have a booth at the market on July 20th from 8am to noon. You are most welcome to find me there to ask questions, talk about the legislative session, propose ideas for next session or just chat. The market takes place in Washington Park runs from late May through mid-September. You can learn more about the market’s many products and vendors here.

Offutt Change of Command 

My husband David and I attended a Change of Command Ceremony at Offutt on June 14th, during which Colonel Michael H. Manion relinquished command to Colonel Gavin P. Marks. It has been an honor to work with Colonel Manion during his time at Offutt. His care and respect for the soldiers under his command, and his unfailing sense of duty to our nation, have always driven his leadership. I also had the pleasure of working with his wife Shannon on military spouse issues; her strong advocacy on behalf of military families has been an immeasurable asset to our state. I look forward to an equally fruitful relationship with Colonel Marks, and wish him the best as he assumes command.

LB 235 Home Brew Law Implementation

Since LB 235, my bill expanding opportunities for home brewers to share their craft with the public at certain events, passed this year, home brewers around the state are eagerly awaiting the new law to take effect. The bill will take the “standard effective date”, which is 90 days following the adjournment of session. Since our final session day was May 31, LB235 will become law on August 29.

This week my Legislative Aide Hanna attended a meeting with Hobert Rupe, Executive Director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, and representatives of home brewing clubs to hear home brewers’ questions and learn about specifics of how the Commission will be interpreting and enforcing the new law. Homebrewers will be allowed to offer their products for sampling at festivals, tastings, nonprofit fundraisers, and competitions under the provisions of the law. The key takeaways are: 1) Home brewers must present themselves as such, and not as commercial or craft breweries – which require licensing and inspection by the Commission. This is an important distinction for the Commission to enforce the law properly. 2) Home brewers are only allowed to share their products for tasting and not for sale at applicable events under the new law. That is, home brewers cannot receive monetary compensation in exchange for their beer. 

The Liquor Control Commission will be uploading an “FAQ” section about the new law on their website soon, and specific questions about LB 235 can be directed to the LCC: https://lcc.nebraska.gov/contact-us

Staff Change – Administrative Aide

My Administrative Aide, Christina, has been with my office for three years. Next week she will be leaving for Wisconsin with her husband Jacob, who is enrolling at Marquette Law, and their two cats. I wish both of them all the best in their next adventure! 

Joining the office as the new AA on July 2nd will be Lillian Butler-Hale, who served as our intern this session. Lillian will graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in August, where she studied Sociology through the Pre-Law program. In her free time, she loves to volunteer, watch movies and spend time with family.

Lillian’s responsibilities will include helping us communicate with constituents and helping constituents with any problems they might have with the state. Since she has already spent months working in our office, we will have a smooth transition She would be happy to talk with you! She is always available to answer questions – you can email the office at scrawford@leg.ne.gov, or call us at (402) 471-2615.

Early Childhood Leadership Summit

I attended the 2019 Early Childhood Leadership Summit in New Orleans from June 24-25 as a guest of The Hunt Institute. The Summit brought together senior elected officials, gubernatorial staff and early childhood system leaders for presentations by some of the nation’s leading childhood experts.

In attendance from Nebraska were two of my colleagues, Senators Carol Blood and Robert Hilkemann as well as employees of First Five Nebraska, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.

While in New Orleans, I also had the chance to explore the city and hear some great jazz.

Hawkins Construction Tour

On Wednesday, several of my colleagues and I attended a job site tour hosted by Hawkins Construction of Omaha. I joined Senators John Arch, Curt Friesen, Mike Hilgers, Brett Lindstrom, Lou Ann Linehan, Mike McDonnell, and Tony Vargas.

Hawkins showed us around their shop and took us on a job site visit to the I-680/W Center Bridge repair. The tour provided an opportunity to see state dollars at work and I am excited to see their continued work on the project.

July 4th Closure

All state offices, including my own, will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in observance of Independence Day. If you need assistance that day, please send me an email or call my office and leave a voicemail.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

FEMA Individual Assistance Deadline 

The deadline for homeowners, renters and business owners to register for FEMA Individual Assistance is June 19.  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.

Individuals and businesses who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.disasterassistance.gov, by downloading FEMA’s mobile app (click on “disaster resources,” then “apply for assistance online”), 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 has an application checklist HERE to help you gather everything you will need to start the assistance process. FEMA also has a FAQ posted HERE that  answers some common questions.

SBA Business Loan Deadline

The deadline to apply for property damage assistance from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) is also June 19th, so you must apply soon if you think you may be eligible for this assistance. The deadline to apply for economic injury is Dec. 23, 2019. 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 disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call 800-877-8339.

Sine Die Adjournment

On Friday May 31st we adjourned “Sine die,” a Latin phrase that translates to “without day.” We adjourn in the regular manner at the end of each session day, but always with a specific fixed time to re-convene (either the next day, after the weekend, or whenever else the Speaker determines). Thus, when we adjourn Sine Die at the end of each session, we do so without that fixed re-convening point – literally, without a day in mind to resume our official business. Technically, of course, we know that our state constitution dictates the first day of each session – “annually, commencing at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January of each year.”

The Governor came to speak to the Legislature on the last day of session as usual. In reflection of the importance of the separation of branches in Nebraska government, members of other branches of government can only enter the chamber if they are invited by the Legislature and escorted into the chamber. So, when the Governor or the Supreme Court Justices, or members of the State Board of Education or the University Regents visit the chamber to speak or to be sworn into their offices, the Speaker appoints a committee to escort the guests into the chamber. I was a part of the committee this week that escorted in the Governor for his parting remarks. After the Governor’s remarks, the Speaker gave his parting remarks.

Our last business was to vote on the final motions required to approve the Legislative Journals and to indefinitely postpone (IPP) the bills that were already adopted as amendments to other bills. The bills that were not passed, adopted as amendments to other bills or IPP’d in committee will still be in play as we move into the next session. We will begin debate next session on those bills that advanced out of committee on to General File this year, but did not get to the floor before the priority bill deadline – officially those bills are on what’s known as worksheet order, which I explained in a previous update here. There will be the usual ten days to introduce new bills at the start of the 2020 session, and all new bills must go through the committee public hearing process before they can advance to the floor. We can debate the holdover worksheet order bills that advanced in 2019 right away, even during this first 10 day bill introduction window.

Veto Override Motions

In addition to the closing ceremonies on the agenda, the full body did take up some substantive business on Friday. We convened at 9:00 to pass a final few bills on Final Reading, and we also took up two veto override motions. The first was for Senator Justin Wayne’s LB 492, which creates the Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority (RMTA) Act to give cities in Omaha’s vicinity the ability to create a joint RMTA. The authority would be governed by an elected board that represents all the member municipalities. This kind of board would be an important step for Belleuve and other cities in the Omaha metro area to combine resources and coordinate public transit options between municipalities. There have been several studies on the challenges of public transportation in Sarpy County. The option to join a RMTA would create one possible solution for Bellevue and other Sarpy cities to consider. The governor vetoed the bill, but the override motion was successful so it will become law nonetheless.

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh also made a motion to override the governor’s veto of her LB 533. Nebraksa’s statutes on marriage are out of date with current practice. The bill would have updated sections that reference “husband or wife” with “spouse” or other gender-neutral language. This is a simple but important change; the governor vetoed the bill, but it did spur him to issue an executive order that takes a step toward gender-neutral applications statewide. Senator Cavanaugh chose to withdraw her veto override motion, so we did not vote on it.

Final Status of 2019 Crawford Bills

Bills that Passed

This session I introduced a total of 22 bills. Eight of those bills have been signed into law:

  • LB 121 addresses the limits on borrowing from banks by cities or municipalities. It specifies that loans are repaid in installments for a period of up to seven years and extends the limitations on borrowing for second-class cities.
  • LB 122 brings Nebraska into legal compliance with recent federal policy changes by providing that veterans receiving vocational rehabilitation & education services through the VA will receive in-state resident tuition rates as long as they’re living in the state.
  • LB 123 exempts the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired from a requirement to publish information about contracts with individuals receiving services online. The current requirement, part of the Taxpayer Transparency Act, is in conflict with the Commission’s confidentiality policies.
  • LB 124 clarifies that municipalities can jointly administer a clean energy assessment district under the Property Assessment Clean Energy Act, or PACE program. This was a “cleanup” bill that clarifies language to reflect the original intent of the bill.
  • LB 235 allows for those making home brewed alcohol to serve samples at festivals and fundraisers without a permit, as long as they are not selling the samples and the event is legally conducted under the Nebraska Liquor Control Act.
  • LB 237 restores a monthly commission to counties across the state for motor vehicle sales tax collections over a certain amount. It addresses an under-funded mandate that the state has placed on counties to collect motor vehicle sales taxes. This is part of my efforts to address unfunded mandates to counties, and supporting our counties is an important part of controlling property taxes.
  • LB 304 is a “cottage foods” bill that will allow Nebraskans to sell foods already authorized for sale at farmers’ markets to customers from their homes, at certain events, or for order and delivery online or over the phone.
  • LB 566 requires that the Legislature’s Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee hold a public hearing on any proposed 1332 Medicaid waiver that would allow the state to deviate from the requirements of federal law. 1332 waivers allow states to manipulate the types of plans featured on their Health Insurance Marketplace. My bill passed after being amended into Senator Lynne Walz’s LB 468.

Active Bills

We have four bills that are still active on the floor – they came out of committee and are sitting on worksheet order to be debated next session if we have time before we begin priority bills.  

  • LB 236 – Allows for municipalities who have adopted the Nebraska Advantage Transformational Tourism and Redevelopment Act to receive applicable retailers’ sales and use tax information via secure electronic means. Currently, staff are required to travel to the Department of Revenue and copy the information down.
  • 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.
  • LB 322 deals with tobacco compliance checks performed by law enforcement and tobacco prevention coalitions and establishes a uniform process for those checks statewide. Compliance checks allow law enforcement and tobacco prevention coalitions to work with young people to test whether retailers are selling tobacco products to under-18s.
  • LB323 was my priority bill this session. It streamlines the eligibility process for Nebraska’s Medicaid Insurance for Workers with Disabilities, or “Medicaid Buy-In” program, to help Nebraskans with disabilities who are already Medicaid eligible to work more hours or receive a pay raise while paying a premium to retain crucial Medicaid coverage. It passed the first two rounds of voting with solid support. Since it has a budget impact which involves a general fund expense and we have already passed the budget, it will wait on Final Reading (the 3rd round of voting) until next year when we can try to find the funding to carry out the bill. I will be working with DHHS and my colleagues on Appropriations to see what can be done so that it can pass with needed funding next year.

Bills Still in Committee

Ten bills that I introduced last year remain in committee. Over the interim we will revisit these bills to determine which ones we may still be able to get out of committee, which ones need to be reintroduced in a different form, and which ones we are not likely to continue to pursue next session.

Barreras Family Farm Visit

On Saturday May 25th my husband David and I visited the Barreras Family Farm in Blair. Anthony and Mariel Barreras run a family operation raising chickens, goats, bees, pigs, and other livestock. Anthony is also an active duty Army officer, so the farm participates in the Homegrown By Heroes program.


L-R: Anthony, baby McKenzie and Mariel Barreras, me and David

With their location near Omaha, they also offer educational programs and farm field trips to teach kids about farming practices. We had a great time meeting the Barreras family, learning about their operation, and feeding some truly adorable baby goats. Many thanks to Anthony and Mariel for their hospitality!

Bellevue Farmers Market

I am proud to be a sponsor of our Bellevue Farmers Market. The market began last Saturday May 25th and will run every Saturday through mid-September. The market takes place in Washington Park. You can learn more about the market’s many products and vendors here.


Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Farmers Market
Facebook page

Governor’s Youth Advisory Council

Last week, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that he is seeking applicants for the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council (GYAC). GYAC provides an opportunity for young people ages 14-19 to explore the legislative process and the role of the executive branch. The governor discusses issues impacting Nebraska’s young people with his council, meeting quarterly and attending an annual luncheon with State Senators during the session. Interested individuals should apply at https://www.projecteverlast.org/councils/gyac.html. Applications are accepted any time and are reviewed on a quarterly basis.

Update Schedule Changing

We will shift to our interim schedule for future legislative updates. Until the Legislative session begins again next January, legislative updates will come out once per month. We will continue to feature events in the district, information about town hall events and interim studies. We will send our next update at the end of June.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

This week 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 nema.jic@nebraska.gov or by calling (402) 471-7421.

Memorial Day Ceremonies

Memorial day is Monday May 27th. This event is an opportunity to remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to their country; and to thank those servicemembers and veterans who are still with us. The Bellevue community is particularly attuned to the sacrifices required by military service, as so many of our community members are serving or have served. This year there will be a number of Memorial Day events in Bellevue. Those open to the public include:

The Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home ceremony begins at 10:00 am. A “Ringing of the Bell” will honor residents of the home who died during the past year and an ensemble will perform patriotic music.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10785 will host a ceremony at 11:00 am at the Bellevue Cemetery, located on the north end of Franklin Street at East 13th Avenue. The ceremony will include a presentation of wreaths to veterans and their family members and a performance by the Sarpy Serenaders.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2280 will host another ceremony at Washington Park at 3:00 pm. It will include a reading of General John A Logan’s Memorial Day order dating from the conclusion of the Civil War, a rifle volley, and the playing of taps.

My office, along with other state and federal offices, will be closed on Monday to observe the holiday.

Tax Reform Update

Coming into the session one of the top priorities of most senators was property tax reform. Nebraska ranks very high comparatively on property taxes. Two major proposals for property tax relief were heard, but neither made it across the finish line this year. One of those, LB 289, was an ambitious bill to reform school funding, eliminate sales tax exemptions, and increase sales taxes in a bid to reduce property taxes. A “plan B” for property tax reduction was also discussed: an amendment to LB 183 that eliminated those same sales tax exemptions and pushed the money temporarily to the Property Tax Credit Fund. The intent was for that money to be used for structural educational funding reform in a future year. Overall I support the broad aims of both bills to increase education funding and reduce sales tax exemptions. I am hoping that we can continue to work on these issues over the interim and come back next year with a proposal that can command broad support.

Tax Incentive Proposal

Another major revenue project for the session has been a revision of our major business incentive program (currently the Nebraska Advantage Act). I have been impressed with the work that has been done on a new proposal (LB 720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act) to improve transparency and reporting, improve the partnership with local governments, and to impose fiscal guardrails on the program. Some of these improvements came out of the work of the sponsor, Senator Mark Kolterman, and the Revenue Committee; some additional improvements have happened just this week. We spent nine hours this week debating the ImagiNE Act, but it ultimately died for this year on Friday when there were only 30 of the 33 votes required for cloture.

Chaplain of the Day

Each year, senators may invite pastors from their districts to visit the Capitol and serve as the chaplain of the day, delivering a morning prayer before debate begins.

On Wednesday, we welcomed Rev. Tom Jones from Bellevue’s Church of the Holy Spirit to the Capitol building. After delivering his prayer, Rev. Jones got to join a rowdy bunch of 4th graders for a building tour, which is always fun. I am so glad that Rev. Jones was able to visit us in Lincoln.

Bills on the Agenda

The Revenue Committee advanced LB 288 as a committee priority earlier this year as part of our broader discussions about tax reform in the state. The bill addresses an issue created by the federal tax cut of 2017. In our Revenue Committee discussions, we committed to creating a fiscally sustainable proposal that included military retirement tax relief. The final committee amendment, however, did not contain that military tax component nor one of the  pay-for pieces we had discussed. I think it is very important that we accomplish military tax retirement relief, and Chair Lou Ann Linehan of the Revenue Committee has agreed to hold LB 288 over the interim to work on how we can incorporate both the income tax fixes and the military retirement exemption in a responsible way.

LB 481, originally introduced by Senator Kate Bolz and selected by Speaker Scheer as his personal priority, would establish a trust fund for brain injury research and advocacy in Nebraska. The bill advanced from first round debate with an amendment this week. Under the amendment, the Brain Injury Trust Fund would be administered by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. A 12-member Brain Injury Oversight Committee that would develop criteria for expenditures from the trust fund, provide financial oversight and direction to UNMC to manage the trust fund, and represent the interests of individuals with brain injuries and their families. I am glad that we were able to pass this legislation for the 36,000 Nebraskans living with brain injuries and their families, many of whom shared their personal stories with me.

The legislature has been working on LB512 (which has been amended to include Senator Erdman’s LB482). The proposal would require county equalization boards to prorate the property values of homes destroyed by a natural disaster (such as flooding) for property tax purposes. Essentially, the valuation of a home destroyed by flooding would reflect only those days when the home was intact and still livable. This bill has an emergency clause attached and will go into effect as soon as the governor signs it in the next few days (check to make sure this happens). The counties will be responsible for putting out information about how the disaster reassessment will work. You can find the Sarpy County Assessor’s website here.

LB 436 was introduced by Senator Matt Hansen and prioritized by the Legislature’s Planning Committee. The bill will allow the Nebraska State Data Center program to form a commission that will help ensure the 2020 census reaches as many Nebraskans as possible. Having an accurate count of Nebraska residents is vitally important and this bill will enhance our state’s ability to successfully carry out the census.

Senator Mike Groene introduced LB 147. As Chair of the Education Committee, he designated the bill a committee priority; however, the bill did not have enough votes to advance from that committee to the full Legislature. This week Senator Groene made a motion to pull the bill from committee by a vote of the full Legislature instead. I have always voted against “pull motions” on principle because they override the work of a standing committee in the legislature. I did not make an exception for LB 147. The motion did pass, but since we have reached the end of session we will not debate the bill this year. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks is sponsoring an interim study to try to address some of the issues that current opponents in the committee still have with LB 147. Hopefully this study will help the body come to an agreement that allows a well-crafted intervention bill to be discussed next session.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

One important note is that as of Friday, May 17, all the state and federal Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) have closed. This includes the DRC in Bellevue. However, homeowners, renters and business owners in those counties designated for federal assistance still have until June 19 to register. If you have not yet begun the registration process, you can do so in the following ways:

  • Visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov
  • Download the FEMA app and click on “disaster resources,” then “apply for assistance online”
  • Call FEMA’s toll-free registration line at 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Telephone registration is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CDT seven days a week

I also want to again highlight important information from the Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD). When cleaning up flood damage, it is critical to use the right kind of cleaning solution to avoid the growth of dangerous mold. A fungicide and wire brushes are needed to remove mold – bleach alone is NOT effective for mold remediation because it cannot clean below the surface of porous or semi-porous materials like wood. Fungicidal disinfectant can be obtained free of charge for flood clean up at:

  • LifeSpring Church 13904 S. 36th St., Bellevue. Mon-Sat 8AM to 5PM and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

  • Fremont Mall, 860 E. 23rd St., Fremont, (between Nebraska Sport and Gordmans), Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

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

Adjournment Schedule

This week the Speaker announced his intention to adjourn the Legislature a week early, on May 31st. He feels that date will give us enough time to address our remaining priority bills. While the Legislature is constitutionally limited to meeting no more than 90 days in odd-numbered years (this year that would have been June 6th), there is no set minimum number of days.

Bills on the Agenda

This week we debated several key bills on General File first-round debate. Those include:

Senator Julie Slama introduced LB 519, a bill to extend and the statutes of limitation for creation or possession of child pornography, for labor trafficking, or for sex trafficking. It eliminates altogether the statute of limitation from sex or labor trafficking of a minor. This bill was prioritized by the State Tribal Relations Committee; though sex and labor trafficking occur across the state, these crimes have a disproportionate impact on Native American populations.

We also advanced two bills dealing with the scourge of what’s known as “revenge porn.” These are situations in which a person’s private and intimate images are used against them for extortion or revenge. LB 630, introduced by Senator Adam Morfeld, makes sex extortion a criminal offense in Nebraska. LB 680, introduced by Senator Wendy DeBoer, creates civil remedies to go hand-in-hand with the criminal offenses. Unfortunately, the internet has made this kind of privacy invasion easier than ever, and it is important that Nebraska step up to ban this kind of activity.

LB 720, introduced and prioritized by Senator Mark Kolterman, would create the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. LB 720 would replace the Advantage Act, which is Nebraska’s primary business incentive program. I have worked closely with Senator Kolterman since he introduced LB 720 to address what I saw as the more concerning parts of the proposal, and am supportive of the bill. LB 720 likely has enough votes to advance, but will need to be rescheduled for further debate in the coming week before we take a vote.

Senator Anna Wishart’s priority bill this year is LB 110. The bill would legalize certain forms of medical cannabis in Nebraska. After numerous discussions with Senator Wishart spanning all of last interim, I felt comfortable enough with her proposal to support it. I believe this proposal strikes the right balance of safety and access for those who are desperately ill and could benefit from trying a medical cannabis prescription. We had three hours of debate on the bill this week, but are unlikely to have enough support among other senators to reach the point that we can vote on it.

Military Retirement and Property Tax Relief

On Thursday May 16th the Revenue Committee voted to advance LB 153, Senator Tom Brewer’s military retirement exemption bill, to the full legislature. I believe it will be next year before it moves further because it requires funding and the budget has been set for this year already.

My colleagues and I are also engaging in ongoing discussions and negotiations about property tax relief proposals. At the beginning of this session several senators, including me, had bills to raise revenue that would be directed to increased school funding. That would allow school districts to reduce their levies and lower property taxes. The bill that the Revenue Committee Chair favored for discussion was LB 289, so that proposal dominated much of the discussion over the session. That bill includes provisions of concern to larger and growing schools (like OPS and those in Sarpy county). At this point it looks like the most likely proposal to emerge this year will be one that eliminates several sales tax exemptions, increases the Earned Income Tax Credit to reduce the impact of higher sales taxes on low-income families, and puts the funds in the Property Tax Credit Fund with a provision that the Fund goes away when the state steps up and increases school funding by 125%. The idea is to work on the revenue side this year and revisit the school funding distribution next year.

Sarpy Chamber Legislative Coffee 

The Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce hosted its last Legislative Coffee for this session on Friday May 17th.

I was joined by (L-R) Senators Carol Blood, Robert Clements, Andrew La Grone, and John Arch to talk about our priority bills, the policies we’ve debated so far this session, and what we anticipate will occur in the coming days as this session winds down.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. We will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I want to pass along important information from the Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD). When cleaning up flood damage, it is critical to use the right kind of cleaning solution to avoid the growth of dangerous mold. A fungicide and wire brushes are needed to remove mold – bleach alone is NOT effective for mold remediation because it cannot clean below the surface of porous or semi-porous materials like wood.

In Nebraska, fungicidal disinfectant can be obtained free of charge for flood clean up at:

  • LifeSpring Church 13904 S. 36th St., Bellevue. Mon-Sat 8AM to 5PM and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.
  • Fremont Mall, 860 E. 23rd St., Fremont, (between Nebraska Sport and Gordmans), Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

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

Unicameral Youth Legislature

Each summer at the Nebraska State Capitol, the Clerk of the Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The registration deadline is May 15th, so register soon! High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators in the nation’s one and only unicameral by conducting committee hearings, sponsoring and debating bills, and exploring the legislative process. Students who are interested in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate, or public speaking are encouraged to consider this program, which will be held from June 9th to the 12th. My son, Nate, participated when he was in high school and really enjoyed the experience.  

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Other $100 scholarships are also available. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program. To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call the Clerk of the Legislature’s office at (402) 471-2788.

First Round Budget Discussion

Last week the Appropriations Committee advanced their budget proposal to the full Legislature. On Wednesday May 8th we took up the budget for debate. Most of the Committee’s recommendations were advanced without significant changes. The one exception is that the body voted to put a full $51 million into the Property Tax Credit Fund, rather than sending $26 million to the fund and $25 million into the cash reserve as the Committee had recommended.

One of the key investments included in the budget is funding for a skilled nursing addition to the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home (ENVH) in Bellevue. The Department of Veterans Affairs has the opportunity to expand the ENVH by 25-30 of the skilled beds to address the waiting list at the facility. Cutting the ENVH waiting list will allow the state to serve more veterans in the skilled facilities they need.

Our budget also included $2.4 million in additional funding to expand five “problem-solving courts” for drug offenders and veterans across the state. Problem-solving courts have the potential to divert offenders from our overcrowded prison system by offering an alternative to incarceration. Problem-solving courts are meant to interrupt the cycle of addiction and criminal behavior through a proactive, cost effective alternative to traditional court procedures. Problem- solving courts bring together the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, coordinator, community supervision officer, law enforcement, and treatment provider(s), all working together to design an individualized program. Individuals involved in problem-solving courts must show compliance with their treatment plans and court orders by undergoing frequent alcohol or drug testing, close community supervision, and progress hearings with a judge. These courts, along with other alternative justice mechanisms like our Office of Dispute Resolution, are key tools to reduce the prison population and recidivism rates simultaneously.

In the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget, the Legislature provided money for the Medicaid expansion approved by the voters last year. We also included money to increase provider payment rates for Medicaid, child welfare and other Health and Human Services providers. This increase is long overdue; providers have not had regular increases in their reimbursement rates in previous budgets, to the extent that many report not being able to afford to treat Medicaid patients. Those cuts hurt both providers and patients, so I am glad the Legislature saw the wisdom in raising rates this year.

The budget will go through two more rounds of debate and voting in the coming weeks.

Consent Calendar

On Friday the Legislature took up Consent Calendar, a unique feature of the Unicameral that allows the body to move quickly on non-controversial bills. There is a strict 15-minute limit on debate for each Consent Calendar bill, after which a vote is automatically taken. This year Speaker Jim Scheer put 30 bills on the Consent Calendar. It is up to the Speaker to decide which bills get this special designation, though any three senators who disagree with a bill’s inclusion can submit a letter to the Speaker to have the bill removed from the list.

Although the Speaker ultimately decides which bills fit on the Consent Calendar, he adheres to a few rules for the kinds of bills that can be considered. Bills must be non-controversial (which means either no opponent testifiers spoke at the public hearing, or else any opposition has been addressed by a committee amendment); the general topic must also be non-controversial (so a bill that makes a non-controversial change to a gun law, for example, would not be eligible for inclusion); the bill cannot make a lot of changes; it must have no general fund impact, but can have a cash fund appropriation; and it must have been voted out of committee, almost always unanimously. In other words, Consent Calendar is reserved for bills that are simple, unlikely to raise objections from anyone, and do not expend the state’s tax funds. This is one of the few ways for a bill to receive consideration without a formal priority designation, and is designed to allow seemingly minor issues, which may not rise to the level of priority compared to other bills but which are still important to the state, to be dealt with.

One of my bills received Consent Calendar designation this year. LB 123 fixes an issue for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. A current requirement in the Taxpayer Transparency Act requires them to publish information about their contracts with individuals receiving services online, which is in conflict with the Commission’s confidentiality policies. The Commission brought this bill to me and I was happy to introduce it for them.

All of the Consent Calendar bills we advanced are important, but I won’t deluge you with 29 more bill summaries. A few that are of particular interest, though, include:

  • Senator John McCollister’s LB 281 allows public schools in Nebraska to post signs in English and Spanish with the state-wide toll-free number for the child abuse and neglect hotline. The school can put physical posters in the halls or post a link to the poster on its web site. LB 281 directs the Nebraska Department of Education to ensure schools’ access to a digital image of the poster, and allows them to contract with a third-party vendor to create it.
  • LB 561, introduced by Senator Suzanne Geist as Chair of the Performance Audit Committee, is a technical fix to update audit standards from 2011 to the most recent 2018 standards. The Legislative Performance Audit office, which is staffed with professional full-time auditing staff, evaluates agencies and their programs to determine how well legislative intent is being implemented. Their job is in their name – to audit agencies’ performance and check whether, and how well, they’re doing what the Legislature has asked them to. LB 561 is an important bill to ensure our performance auditors are able to do their jobs as effectively as possible.
  • Nebraksa’s statutes on marriage are out of date with current practice. Senator Machaela Cavanaugh’s LB 533 updates sections that reference “husband or wife” with “spouse” or other gender-neutral language. This is a simple but important change.

Bills on the Agenda

With the budget and other lengthy discussions on our docket this week, we got through a limited number of new bills. A couple of those key proposals include:

LB 690 was introduced by Senator Cavanaugh and given a Speaker Priority. The bill prohibits an incarcerated pregnant woman from being restrained during labor and delivery or postpartum, including during transport to a medical facility. Restraining women during childbirth is inhumane, harmful to the health of both mother and child, and entirely unnecessarily except during the rarest and most exceptional of circumstances. The bill does allow exceptions for such cases. Banning this practice is the right thing to do.

Senator Dan Quick introduced LB 424, which would amend the Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Act to allow cities across the state to create and join land banks; under current law, only municipalities in Douglas and Sarpy Counties can create land banks. The bill was prioritized by Senator John Stinner. Land banks empower cities to clean up problem properties and put homes back on our tax rolls, rather than languishing in disrepair. LB 424 did not have enough votes to support the cloture motion, which was necessary since the bill was filibustered.  It takes 33 votes to pass a cloture motion, which is tough to get. I support the concept of land banking, and know Senator Quick will work on a new proposal over the summer to bring back next session.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I would like to highlight a few key phone numbers as flood survivors continue the transition to long-term recovery and we continue to support them:

  • For property clean up, contact the Crisis Clean Up Hotline: 833-556-2476
  • For all other needs of assistance call Nebraska 211.
  • To volunteer to help, please contact the volunteer coordination line: 402-898-6050.

Final Reading Bills Passed

This week we worked through a number of bills on Final Reading and sent them to the Governor’s desk.

One of the bills that was sent to the Governor was my LB 304, a “cottage foods” bill that would allow Nebraskans to sell foods already authorized for sale at farmers’ markets to customers from their homes, at certain events, or for order and delivery online or over the phone. This bill only pertains to foods that are not time/temperature controlled for safety, including foods such as baked goods, uncut fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, and fresh or dried herbs. Hundreds of Nebraska families are already purchasing and safely consuming these locally produced products at farmers’ markets every year. This legislation makes cottage foods available throughout the year and provides access to local foods in communities that do not have farmers’ markets. It will help our local producers in both urban and rural communities to pursue entrepreneurship opportunities and supplement their incomes. The Governor signed the bill into law on Wednesday. I am grateful to Senator Ben Hansen for prioritizing this bill, and to the many constituents who have worked with us to advocate for this bill’s passage!

Another of my bills that passed on final reading was my LB 237. This bill restores a monthly commission to counties across the state for motor vehicle sales tax collections over a certain amount. LB237 addresses an under-funded mandate that the state has placed on counties to collect motor vehicle sales taxes. While the counties collect hundreds of millions in motor vehicle sales tax for the state each year, the collection process takes staff time and resources for which the counties are not currently being adequately reimbursed. Currently, each county receives only $900 for conducting this work. The bill reinstates a commission per dollar collected that was previously in place to provide counties with funding to help fund Treasurer staff who do this important work. This is part of my efforts to address unfunded mandates to counties, and supporting our counties is an important part of controlling property taxes.

As I discussed a few weeks ago, we have also been working on updates to our state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Senator Sara Howard introduced and prioritized LB 556. LB 556 is a good bill that will help the PDMP fulfil its primary purpose of informing and protecting patients.

Property Tax Package Update

This week after a few grueling sessions the Revenue Committee passed an education funding/property tax relief bill. The bill adds to state revenue to increase education spending and bring down the proportion of education spending that comes from property taxes. The revenue gained comes from a ½ cent increase in sales taxes and the elimination of many sales tax exemptions. Although there were many compromises to get to this point, and likely more that will need to be done to get an education funding/property tax bill passed, LB 289 provides an important start for that conversation on the floor. The substantive language we will be discussing is found in AM 1572, which can be found here. Debate on the bill is scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon. Two components of the bill do what I have long argued that needs to be done: 1) eliminating tax exemptions to broaden the tax base and make taxes more fair; and 2) increasing education funding to reduce our reliance on property taxes. Currently Nebraska ranks 47th in state spending on education. If LB 289 were to pass, then we would ranking in the 20’s in terms of state spending on education.

Veto Override

On April 30th the legislature voted to override the governor’s veto of Senator Myron Dorn’s sales tax bill, LB 472. LB 472 was introduced in response to the wrongful conviction of the “Beatrice Six” in Gage County and the $28.1 million dollars they were awarded by a federal judge in 2016. The “Beatrice Six” spent several years in prison for the death of 68-year-old Helen Wilson until DNA evidence exonerated them in 2008. Senator Dorn’s bill creates a funding mechanism to pay the damages by allowing a county board to pass a sales and use tax of 0.5 percent on transactions within the county, so that property taxes are not the only source of funds to make the payment. After it was initially passed on a vote of 43-6, the Governor vetoed the bill. Senator Dorn offered a motion to override that veto, which passed on a vote of 41-8 with thirty votes needed to pass the veto.

Bills on the Agenda

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh introduced, and Senator Robert Hilkeman prioritized LB 532. This critical bill clarifies the process to apply for a protection order in cases of harassment, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. These orders are often granted when people are at their most vulnerable and are a vital tool to keep Nebraskans safe. Senator Cavanaugh’s bill makes it clear what information must be included in an appilcation for a protection order, allows plaintiffs to re-file the complaint if it is initially dismissed, and requires an evidenciary hearing within 14 days if an order is rejected, so that the plaintiff has an opportunity to present additional informaiton. Recent tragic incidents in Nebraska, like the death of Janet Bohm and injury of her daughter Amanda, have made the need for these changes more clear than ever. Fittingly, the legislature advanced this bill on the last day of April, which was Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

We also discussed Senator Justin Wayne’s LB 492, an Urban Affairs Committee priority. The bill would adopt the Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority (RMTA) Act to give cities in Omaha’s vicinity the ability to create a joint RMTA. The authority would be governed by an elected board that represents all the member municipalities. This kind of board would be an important step for Belleuve and other cities in the Omaha metro area to combine resources and coordinate public transit options between municipalities. There have been several studies on the challenges of public transportation in Sarpy County. The option to join a RMTA would create one possible solution for Bellevue and other Sarpy cities to consider. We have not yet voted on LB 492, as it was held over for future discussion.

Elementary Visit

Wake Robin Elementary’s 4th graders visited their capitol on Monday April 29th. I was in a committee meeting and was unable to greet them, but my staff joined their tour and talked about how all of them can build the skills to be leaders.

Unicameral Youth Legislature

Each summer at the Nebraska State Capitol, the Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators in the nation’s one and only unicameral by conducting committee hearings, sponsoring and debating bills and exploring the legislative process. Students who are interested in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking are encouraged to consider this program, which will be held from June 9th to the 12th. The registration deadline is May 15th.

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Other $100 scholarships are also available. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program. To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call the Clerk of the Legislature’s office at (402) 471-2788.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resource Updates

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

Property Tax Proposal

At this point in the session we are past regular committee hearings, but we did hold a special hearing on Wednesday night. The hearing included members of the Revenue Committee, the Education Committee, and the Retirement Systems Committee. The purpose of the hearing was to gather input on a property tax proposal that has been developing over the session, which was submitted as an amendment to LB 289. You can access the text of the proposal here. We had a good hearing, gathering input from some 60 testifiers. There were many more opponents than proponents for the material in LB 289 at this time, and we have much more work to do. We kept working on the proposal with meetings after session on Thursday and Friday. There is a strong shared interest among members of the Revenue Committee that we get a proposal to the floor that can garner 33 votes.  

Bills on the Agenda

We continued with all-day bill debate this week. We debated and passed several bills through General File.

The Papio-Missouri River NRD is the only one in the state that has certain bonding authority to address flood protection and water quality enhancement projects. Especially in the wake of this year’s widespread flooding, that bonding authority is an important tool to protect our communities. LB 177, introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom and prioritized by the Natural Resources Committee, extends the time limit on the NRD’s bonding authority so that they can keep up with costs for important projects like the Offutt Levee extension and other flood prevention projects in Sarpy County.

Senator Matt Hansen’s LB 433 was his personal priority bill. This is a simple but important bill that shifts the onus for returning a rental security deposit from the tenant to the landlord. Under current law, a tenant must request return of their deposit in writing, which many tenants do not realize they are supposed to do. After this bill passes, landlords will be required to return the balance of a former tenant’s security deposit, minus any assessed damage charges, within 14 days. The bill also incorporates parts of Senator Matt Hansen’s LB 434, which extends the period of time a tenant has to pay rent after a notice of intent to terminate from three to seven days. This change is meant to allow for the time a notice spends in the mail, so that tenants have time to respond.

The Speaker prioritized Senator Joni Albrecht’s LB 595, which expands the use of restorative justice programs, administered through the Office of Dispute Resolution, in Nebraska. The Office’s goal is to promote problem-solving by providing mediation and dispute resolution in cases like custody cases, employer/employee disputes, or child welfare matters. Senator Albrecht’s bill expands the Office’s restorative justice program, which provides an informal opportunity for a person who causes harm to accept responsibility, and for victims to describe the impact of the harm and identify the losses incurred. Restorative justice programs are another important tool for the judicial system to balance the needs of justice for victims and programming to make offenders less likely to reoffend in the future. You can learn more about the Office of Dispute Resolution and their work here.

As a member of the Health & Human Services Committee until this year, I heard numerous stories about the challenges that health care providers faced navigating the state’s Heritage Health Managed Care Program. It was concerning, then, to know that DHHS planned to move the state’s long-term care facilities into the same program before chronic payment issues were resolved. Senator Walz’s LB 328, which was prioritized by the Health and Human Services Committee, prevents DHHS from adding skilled nursing and other nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and home and community-based services to the Heritage Health program before July 2021. The goal is to take more time to work out Heritage Health’s known issues before expanding it to these key facilities. An amendment also incorporated Senator Bolz’s LB 328 into the bill, which terminates the sunset date to allow the state’s successful family finding program to continue. Family finding is an evidence-based process to link hard-to-place young people in foster care with extended family and help them build relationships.

We also passed Senator Kate Bolz’s LB 180 on Final Reading and sent the bill to the Governor’s desk. The bill will expand the number of programs that are eligible for the community college gap assistance program. The gap assistance program provides funding assistance to students taking non-credit courses that could lead to jobs in high-need fields such as health services, transportation, and computer services. These are low-income students who would not be eligible for federal financial aid because, although they’re enrolled in college, they are not enrolled in courses for credit that lead directly to a degree. Senator Bolz’s bill expands the gap assistance program to programs that are offered for credit but are too short in terms of credit hours to be eligible for federal Pell Grants. The gap assistance program is an important workforce development tool, particularly for low-income workers. LB 180 is a common-sense addition to the program to make it even more effective and impactful.

4th Grade Visitors

Each year thousands of 4th graders from across the state come visit their capitol. This year we’ve worked through all of the “B” schools from District 45 already: Belleaire and Birchcrest Elementaries visited earlier this month, and Bertha Barber and Betz came this week! Making our way down the alphabet, Central Elementary visited this week on Monday as well. It’s always a pleasure to meet these bright young future leaders.


Students from Bertha Barber and Central listen to the tour guide on Monday…


… and Betz students talked with me about leadership on Tuesday.

Behavioral Health Resource Expo

April is quickly coming to a close and we are now nearing the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month. On April 27th the Sarpy County public defender’s office, in collaboration with Lift Up Sarpy, will sponsor a behavioral health expo to provide an opportunity for families in Sarpy County to learn about resources available in our community. The expo is free to attend and will be held at Thanksgiving Church (3702 S. 370 Plaza, Bellevue, Nebraska) this Saturday April 27th from 9am-12pm. Organizers have worked hard, as in past years, to put on an event that creates a safe space for dialogue regarding mental health and serves as a networking opportunity for people seeking help or information on the subject. If you have suggestions or resources that you would like highlighted in this area for upcoming years, please contact my office and I will forward them to the organizers of the event.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

This update is being posted on Thursday instead of Saturday morning because all legislative offices will be closed for Easter on Friday April 19th and Monday April 22nd. The Legislature is usually also closed on Arbor Day (Friday April 26th), which is a state holiday, but we will be in session until noon that day. All other state offices will be closed April 26th.

Happy Easter! I wish you and your family a blessed Easter weekend.

Flood Recovery Resource Updates

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

Crawford Bills Advance

This week two of my bills were debated and passed on the first round of debate. My personal priority bill this session is LB 323. This bill amends eligibility criteria for Nebraska’s Medicaid Insurance for Workers with Disabilities program, commonly referred to as “Medicaid Buy-In”. This program allows individuals with disabilities to pay a premium for, or “buy-in” to Medicaid coverage while working and earning an income that puts them over the traditional eligibility threshold. Current eligibility criteria is outdated and convoluted, often preventing program participants from taking a job, working more hours, or taking a pay raise. The bill passed the first round vote with an amendment we developed in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services and disability advocates. The amended version of the bill streamlines eligibility criteria so that individuals who want to work, work more, or take a promotion can do so while reducing estimated costs resulting from the original version of the bill.

LB 237 was designated a Speaker Priority. This bill restores a monthly commission to counties across the state for motor vehicle sales tax collections over a certain amount. LB237 addresses an under-funded mandate that the state has placed on counties to collect motor vehicle sales taxes. While the counties collect hundreds of millions in motor vehicle sales tax for the state each year, the collection process takes staff time and resources for which the counties are not currently being adequately reimbursed. Currently, each county receives only $900 for conducting this work. The bill reinstates a commission per dollar collected that was previously in place to provide counties with funding to help fund Treasurer staff who do this important work. This is part of my efforts to address unfunded mandates to counties. Supporting our counties is an important part of controlling property taxes.

Property Tax Relief Proposal

The property tax proposal hearing, which I reported on last week, was originally scheduled for Thursday April 18th. It has been rescheduled to 4:00pm on Wednesday April 24th. The proposal the hearing will be about has been submitted as an amendment to LB 289, which you can access here. If you would like to come testify at that hearing, it will take place in room 1510. If you would like to submit written testimony, it must be submitted by 5:00 PM on Tuesday April 23rd to the Revenue Committee Chair, Senator Lou Ann Linehan (llinehan@leg.ne.gov). You can also watch a live stream of the hearing on NET’s website here.

The property tax proposal posted as an amendment to LB 289 is largely the work of Senator Mike Groene and Senator Linehan. The Revenue Committee members, including me, all agree with the general principle of shifting more spending to education to reduce property taxes. Our state ranks near the bottom in state funding for schools, which helps to explain why we rank near the top in property tax burden. However, several members of the Revenue Committee, including me, still have concerns with the LB 289 proposal and are looking forward to further work by the committee to address those concerns.

Specifically, I am concerned about new lids on educational spending, particularly if they do not have exceptions for special needs students. I am also concerned about the provisions in the current bill that pull down agriculture valuations from 75% to 65% and residential and commercial valuations from 100% to 90%. This pulls down revenue to all political subdivisions, when we are only pushing state funding to schools. There are ways to adjust the proposal so that it pulls down levies for school funding without impacting the revenues for cities and counties and other political subdivisions.

Finally, it is critical if we raise sales taxes to reduce property taxes that we do something to blunt the impact of higher sales taxes, particularly on low-income families who do not own property and will not benefit from the property tax reductions. There are ways to address this issue through a renter’s tax credit or increasing our Earned Income Tax Credit, which returns a tax credit to low-income workers. If you share any of these concerns, or if you have other concerns or feedback for the plan laid out in the LB 289 amendment, I encourage you to submit written testimony or come and testify to share your concerns with the Revenue Committee.

Belleaire Elementary Visit 

The 4th graders of Belleaire Elementary visited on Wednesday April 17th. We talked about the legislative process and how people from all different backgrounds can be elected to public service.

Bills on the Agenda

We continued with all-day bill debate this week. Some of the bills we addressed on the first round of debate include:

Senator Carol Blood introduced and prioritized LB 138, which allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to design and issue specialty license plates honoring those who served in the armed forces in Iran, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf War, the Vietnam War, and the Global War on Terror. Support Our Troops license plates will also be available. A portion of the revenue generated by the Support Our Troops license plate sales will be deposited into the Veterans Employment Program Fund, which will be overseen by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and will help the state recruit and educate veterans who are newly separated from military service about the opportunities Nebraska has for them. The DMV expects to begin offering these plates to the public by January 1, 2021.

LB 693 is a bill that attempts to address those exceedingly annoying spam calls we all get on our cell phones. Introduced and prioritized by Senator Steve Halloran, the bill authorizes the Nebraska Attorney General’s office to investigate telemarketers who knowingly manipulate caller ID information to make it appear as though phone calls are from a trusted number, commonly known as “spoofing.” Tackling this issue is difficult, as many of these calls are generated overseas by bad actors who don’t care whether they break the law. We know that this bill alone will not stop all of the calls, which is why the federal government is also working on national solutions. LB 693 does give Nebraska greater enforcement powers, however, and is a step in the right direction.

College affordability has been a concern for Nebraskans for a long time, and saving for education after high school is an important topic. LB 610, which Senator Brett Lindstrom introduced and prioritized, combines two good bills to help Nebraska students start saving early. First, it creates the College Savings Incentive Cash Fund. Under that program, employers can match employee contribution to their child’s 529 college savings plan and get a 25% refund, capped at $2000 per employee. In other words, if an employee contributes $100 and the employer matches it with their own $100 contribution, the employer will receive $25 back from the cash fund. The other program is the College Savings Plan Matching Grant Program, under which every child whose family income is between 200-250% of the federal poverty level can apply for a dollar-for-dollar match from the state on their 529 contributions, up to $1000 per child. Families under 200% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for a 2-for-1 dollar match. The state contribution for each program is capped at $250,000 annually, and the intention is to not use state general funds. Both programs start January 1 2022.

In addition to our first-round debates, we spent time Thursday on Final Reading and got 14 bills across the finish line and to the Governor’s desk. Three important bills, which I talked about in previous weeks, include: LB 316, which prohibits gag clauses that restrict pharmacies from volunteering full pricing information to patients, like when there may be a cheaper prescription available outside of their insurance coverage; LB 713, which provides for the creation of long-term analyses from the Legislative Fiscal Office; and LB 390, an important measure to both keep our schools safe and ensure that school resource officers are equipped to appropriately respond to the unique situations that may arise in a school setting.

UNL Research Fair 

On Tuesday students representing more than 25 research teams, comprised of University of Nebraska students who are engaged in research under the guidance of a faculty mentor, presented their research.

I enjoyed the opportunity to see the exciting research done by UNL students, including by Chris Wiseman from Bellevue. His research, which tests the impact of a sophisticated technique that he helped to develop, promises to dramatically improve wound care for patients with diabetes.

Behavioral Health Resource Expo

April is quickly coming to a close and we are now nearing the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month. On April 27th the Sarpy County public defender’s office, in collaboration with Lift Up Sarpy, will sponsor a behavioral health expo to provide an opportunity for families in Sarpy County to learn about resources available in our community. The expo is free to attend and will be held at Thanksgiving Church (3702 S. 370 Plaza, Bellevue, Nebraska) this Saturday April 27th from 9am-12pm. Organizers have worked hard, as in past years, to put on an event that creates a safe space for dialogue regarding mental health and serves as a networking opportunity for people seeking help or information on the subject. If you have suggestions or resources that you would like highlighted in this area for upcoming years, please contact my office and I will forward them to the organizers of the event.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resource Updates

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I do want to highlight one new resource that will be available next week. The Department of Labor will be bringing a Mobile Workforce Center to Bellevue and other flood-impacted communities next week. This mobile computer lab will be available next week for workers impacted by the flooding. The State of Kansas has donated its KANSASWORKS Mobile Workforce Center for stops in Bellevue, Fremont, Valley and Plattsmouth April 16-19. Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) unemployment insurance claims specialists and employment specialists will be stationed in the workforce center at each location to assist with claims for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and job searching. The unit will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.  Individuals should look for a bus displaying the KANSASWORKS logo. The bus will visit the following locations:

Location 1
Bellevue, Twin Creek
Address: 3802 Raynor Parkway, Suite 201
Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location 2
Fremont Learning Center
Address: 130 E. 9th Street
Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location 3
Valley, American Legion Post 58
Address: 111 E. Front Street
Date: Thursday, April 18, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location 4
Plattsmouth Community Center
Address: 308 S. 18th Street
Date: Friday, April 19, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Workers in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington counties have until April 26 to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Workers in Boone, Buffalo, Custer, Knox, Richardson and Thurston counties and the Santee Sioux Nation have until May 3 to apply.  Workers in Antelope, Boyd, Burt, Cuming, Hall, Howard, Madison, Nance, Pierce, Platte, Saline, and Stanton counties have until May 13 to apply.

Property Tax Proposal Hearing

This year I am a member of the Revenue Committee, and we have been working for months to put together a comprehensive, statewide property tax relief proposal. The state government does not collect property taxes but has been under pressure for years to help lower them indirectly. We held bill hearings on a large number of bills to that effect, all of which proposed different ideas and approaches to provide some relief to property taxpayers, especially ag landowners, without shifting that burden too far in another direction and creating a whole new problem.

Next week there will be a hearing on one more proposal that directs funding to education and changes the education formula to pull down property tax rates. This bill includes a new cap on school spending and it pulls down agriculture property valuations from 75% to 65% and other valuations from 100% to 90%. Since this new package has not had a hearing as a bill before the Revenue Committee we will be having a special hearing on the bill. I have concerns about the complexity of this plan and the impact of the new spending restriction on schools. It has some components that move in the right direction, but I think we will still be tinkering to pull together a plan over the next two to three weeks. The hearing for the new package is Thursday May 18th at 1:00 pm. That will be a special joint hearing between the Revenue, Education, and Retirement Systems Committees. If you would like to come testify at that hearing, it will take place in room 1510. You can also watch a live stream of the hearing on the NET website here.

Birchcrest Elementary Visit

The 4th graders of Birchcrest Elementary visited their state capitol on Tuesday April 9th.

Like 4th graders across the state, they have been learning about our unique Unicameral system and had a great time coming to watch the process in action. It was a joy to meet them all and talk to them about how they can be leaders in our great state.

Medicaid Expansion Briefing

On Thursday April 11th the Health & Human Services and Appropriations Committees held a joint hearing for the Department of Health and Human Services to give an update on Medicaid expansion implementation. Members of both committees expressed significant concerns about the implementation plan that DHHS released recently. You can read more about the plan and the hearing in the World Herald here. My primary concerns are about the planned delay in implementation and the confusing two-tiered system with work requirements, which may create more administrative expense and bureaucratic red tape for citizens. I will continue to be involved in asking DHHS to rethink their proposal and move forward with a plan that is more in line with what the successful 2018 Medicaid expansion ballot initiative promised.

Bills on the Agenda

Senator Sara Howard introduced and prioritized LB 556, which amends Nebraska statutes surrounding the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The PDMP, an electronic database that tracks the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances, was created in 2011. This bill creates a line of communication between states in case a person is trying to fill a single prescription in multiple states, allows highly regulated sharing of de-identified prescription data for research purposes, and adds requirements for prescription and identifying data to be collected to aid in patient matching and medication reconciliation. LB 556 as amended will contribute to the PDMP’s primary purpose: informing and protecting patients.

LB 570, sponsored and prioritized by Senator Lynne Walz, would establish a comprehensive Olmstead Plan to meet the integration mandate under the Americans with Disabilities Act. An Olmstead Plan is essentially a roadmap detailing programs and services for people with disabilities within the state. Nebraska is one of six states that does not have a current plan to address this issue, which creates complications for disabled people trying to integrate into communities, educational institutions, and professional environments. This bill seeks to remedy that absence. DHHS is in full agreement that this bill will prompt continued and purposeful dialogue on how to best serve disabled Nebraskans, with a strategic plan that parallels those already passed in most other states.

Senator Joni Albrecht introduced LB 222, which makes changes to the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act. The bill was given a Speaker Priority designation. Many small towns rely on volunteer emergency responders to keep them safe, and those volunteers contribute not just their time but also often money through training fees and equipment purchases. The Act is meant to give a small tax credit to these volunteer emergency responders to both encourage more people to volunteer and reward those who already give of their time. Confusion among municipalities and counties, however, has in some cases resulted in information being filed with the state incorrectly or not at all. LB 222 streamlines the procedure to administer the tax credit so it can be more effective and avoid unintended penalties against those who are qualified to claim it.

As demonstrated by month’s flood disaster, Nebraska’s 211 Resource Hotline has never been more important. In addition to providing referrals to disaster relief services, the 211 hotline can direct people to local shelter and food resources, employment support, health services, community engagement opportunities, and other assistance. Senator Mike McDonnell introduced and prioritized LB 641 to increase funding to Heartland United Way, which runs 211, so that the organization can keep the phone lines open 24-7. The bill passed on the first round, but with the agreement that Senator McDonnell would work to find a different funding source instead of the Health Care Cash Fund. You can learn more about 211 here.  

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I do want to highlight one new resource that will be available this weekend: a Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) will be open on April 7th and April 8th. It will offer impacted residents additional aid and resources, including financial assistance for those who qualify, from multiple relief agencies. The MARC brings relief resources and offers residents convenient access to agencies in one central location. The American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Salvation Army and the Nebraska Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are just a few of the organizations that will be available at the MARC. Full details on open hours and location are on the flyer below.

Bills on the Agenda

Since committee bill hearings are finished, this week the Legislature began all-day debate. Some of the bills we addressed on the first round of debate this week include:

Senator Carol Blood’s LB 15 received a Speaker Priority. The bill creates the Children of Nebraska Hearing Aid Act and would make it easier for parents to get necessary hearing aids for their children. LB 15 requires health insurance companies to cover hearing aids in certain circumstances, making these key devices more accessible to families. This is a critical bill to help children whose hearing impairments can be addressed by hearing aids, as hearing plays such a crucial role in a child’s language development and learning and early intervention is key for those children to receive the greatest benefit. Working hand-in-hand with investments in sign language instruction and other adaptations to help those for whom a hearing aid would be ineffective or undesirable, LB 15 will result in good things for Nebraska’s children.

LB 472, sponsored and prioritized by Senator Myron Dorn, was introduced in response to the $28.1 million legal judgement leveled against Gage County in the “Beatrice Six” wrongful conviction case. LB 472 allows the county to impose a half-cent sales tax to pay the judgment so that they are not reliant on just a huge increase in property taxes. There is no perfect way for Gage County to pay this judgment. Certainly, the vast majority of the property owners and county residents who will ultimately pay the judgment through their taxes had nothing to do with the botched investigation that led to the judgment; by that same measure, though, those who were wrongfully convicted had nothing to do with the crime they spent years in prison for. LB 472 is a reasonable approach for Gage County, in that it spreads the payment more evenly among residents, businesses, and visitors who spend in the county.

Senator Adam Morfeld introduced and prioritized LB 352, a bill to adjust how the justice system works with jailhouse informants. Jailhouse witnesses can be an important source of evidence in criminal trials, but that kind of testimony has also been implicated in a large number of wrongful conviction cases nationwide. LB 352 requires that prosecutors keep track of the details of any jailhouse informant testimony they collect if that testimony is used in their prosecution. The bill also requires that a defendant’s lawyers receive notice of what testimony a jailhouse witness gave, whether the witness has ever submitted such testimony before in other cases, and information about any benefits the jailhouse witness may receive in exchange for their testimony. The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, The Innocence Project, and the County Attorneys all agreed on the final language of the amended bill. LB 352 is an important measure to protect due process for defendants without unduly limiting prosecutors in their work.

LB 512 is a cleanup bill from the Revenue Committee. We spent the most time discussing AM 1217 which incorporates Senator Erdman’s LB 482 into the bill. LB 482 creates a mechanism to reassess property values outside of usual timelines in cases where a property has been destroyed by a natural disaster. When this bill was introduced in January, no one knew that it would be relevant to so many Nebraskans so quickly. There are still important process questions to work out before the next round of debate, but I think the intent of the bill is good. I am supportive of the bill, though we did not get to a vote on it this week. If the bill does advance, I will work with Senator Erdman to try to find a workable solution to help those who face property destruction from natural disasters far beyond their control.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

On Thursday April 4th Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, sexual assault survivors, other supoprtive senators, and advocates came together for a press conference to announce April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Nebraska. Senator Cavanaugh plans to introduce a Legislative Resolution to bring attention to the issue of sexual assault and rape and pledge the state to keep taking steps toward prevention. The theme of this month is “I Ask,” to recognize the importance of normalizing affirmative consent conversations. The goal is to change how we talk about sexual assault and rape to make it clear that those who survive such attacks are not at fault for their experiences.

Several bills to address the sexual assault problem in Nebraska, such as Senator Wendy DeBoer’s LB 141 and Senator Tom Brewer’s LB 154, have already been enacted into law. Others, like Senator Patty Pansing Brooks’ LB 173, Senator Julie Slama’s LB 519, and Senator Cavanaugh’s LB 534, are still working through the legislative process. It is important that the Legislature continue to work on this critical issue: to help survivors, but also to create policies and support societal norms that will prevent assaults from ever occurring in the first place.

Capitol Construction Update 

With the end of bill hearings, the construction crew working on the capitol have blocked off the west hallway to work on hearing rooms 1524 and 1525 and the other rooms in that hall. That means navigating the 1st floor has changed again: you can still enter the capitol from the west side, but once inside you have to walk up and around past my office in the northwest quadrant. You can no longer get directly from the west entrance to the central information desk and stairs.

SCSJ Visit

Five students from Creighton’s Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ) visited the capitol with SCSJ Associate Director Kelly Tadeo-Orbik on Friday April 5th. The SCSJ engages students in community service, reflection and action on behalf of justice and sustainability as they progress through their education at Creighton.


L-R: Me, Tyler Wikoff, Rebekah O’Donnell, Quinn Hardy, Katie Ruane, Alyssa Beasley, Senator Pansing Brooks, and Kelly Tadeo Orbik

The group at the capitol spent the morning watching debate and talking to senators.  Senator Patty Pansing Brooks has introduced several bills of interest to the students, so they spent time in her office discussing juvenile justice and sex trafficking issues. I had the privilege to join the students for lunch and conversation about what they learned. This is a group of dedicated, intelligent young people and it was a pleasure to have them at the capitol.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 1012, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford).
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45
Room #1012
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2615
Email: scrawford@leg.ne.gov
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