NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45

Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

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

Permanent Rules Adopted

On Friday, Day 49 of this session, the Legislature finally adopted permanent rules to guide our work for the rest of this year. Ultimately, the body agreed to adopt the rules as they existed at the beginning of the year. That means the amendments we had provisionally adopted after the Rules Committee made its recommendations in January were not incorporated in the permanent rules we adopted today. Even so, having permanent rules is important to the Unicameral’s ability to function as smoothly as possible, and I am pleased that the rules we adopted do not infringe on the ability of minority coalitions in the Legislature to function.

Speaker Priority Bills Announced

On Monday Speaker Scheer announced his 25 selections for speaker priority. Two of my economic development bills were selected: LB97 which allows municipalities to create Riverfront Development Districts in order to promote development along their riverfronts, and LB253 which will allow Sarpy county and cities within the county to collaboratively establish a regional sewer system south of the ridgeline to accommodate future development and growth. Several other important bills received Speaker priority designations, including Senator Krist’s LB300, which eliminates the statute of limitations on civil action for sexual assault of a child; LB481, which allows pharmacists to approve substitutions of FDA-approved interchangeable biological products for prescribed biologics, similar to the way in which they can substitute generic medications for brand-name prescriptions; and LB323, which would adopt the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Act. You can see the full list of all priority bills this session – senators’ personal priorities, committee priorities, and Speaker priorities – here.

LD45 Town Hall

On Tuesday I hosted a town hall at the Bellevue Public Library. Town halls are an opportunity to meet and hear from constituents, share information about what’s happening in the Legislature, and answer questions about state agencies and policies.

I appreciate everyone who was able to attend on Tuesday; and if you were not able to make it, you can of course contact my office any time.

Bill Hearings This Week

This week we had the final two hearings on our bills for the year. The first, LB592, is a bill to amend the Nebraska Advantage Act (NAA) and was heard in the Revenue Committee on Thursday. The NAA allows businesses with qualifying projects and investments to receive tax incentives, which largely come in the form of tax credits that can be applied to a number of different tax liabilities, including local option sales taxes. Local option sales taxes are approved by the voters of a municipality for a variety of specific projects such as, street improvements, irrigation systems, swimming pools, and other projects the voters believe to be necessary for their communities. Municipalities across the state have reported budget and planning issues for these projects that were the result of a significant loss of their local option sales tax revenues due to refunds under NAA. I introduced LB 592 so we as a Legislature can think critically about whether or not it is appropriate for state incentives to withhold a municipalities local option sales tax revenues that were approved by the voters for a specific purpose.


Testifiers and supporters of LB592 after the hearing

The second bill hearing was held in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee on Friday. LB139 would allow the voters of a county to decide if a nonpartisan election for county officers makes more sense in their own county. The county positions that voters could decide to elect on nonpartisan ballots include: county clerk, register of deeds, county assessor, sheriff, treasurer, county attorney, public defender, clerk of the district court, and county surveyor. Currently, citizens who register as nonpartisans cannot vote in the primary phase of these partisan county officer elections, and they cannot help to narrow the candidates. In Sarpy county, that is 23% of the registered voters. When all the candidates for a position are from the same party, these elections are decided in the primary phase and this results in the registered voters of one party selecting the officer that will represent all the residents of the county. The concept of allowing counties to hold nonpartisan elections for county offices has bipartisan support, and I trust the committee will give LB139 their fullest consideration.

Unicameral Youth Legislature

I invite all Bellevue high schoolers to apply for the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature, which this year will run June 11-14. High school students will take on the role of state senators at the State Capitol: participants will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will get to learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff. Scholarships are available; you can get more details about the program here, or you can call the Unicameral Information Office at 402-471-2788. The deadline to register is May 15.

Kick Butts Day Student Meeting

On Wednesday No Limits Nebraska, an anti-tobacco organization, held its annual Kick Butts Day event here at the Capitol. As part of that event, small groups of high school students spoke to senators about their work to convince their peers not to smoke or use other tobacco products. The three students I spoke to were passionate and effective advocates for keeping tobacco out of the hands of teens, and meeting with them was a pleasure.


Avery Elementary Capitol Visit

I always enjoy speaking to 4th graders when they visit the Unicameral. On Thursday morning students from Avery Elementary took a tour and were recognized in the Chamber. It was wonderful to meet them all and welcome them to their state capitol!


St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Thursday was the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration for senators and legislative staff. These after-hours events are certainly fun, but they are also an important part of building relationships with colleagues. Spending time with other senators outside the Unicameral helps remind everyone that we have far more in common with one another than our voting records might suggest. It is much easier to work cooperatively and effectively together when those relationships exist.


At the St. Patrick’s Day celebration with Senators Matt Williams and Lynne Walz

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day.
  • 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,

Personal Priority Bills Designated

We are nearly halfway through the legislative session. At this point in the session, debate on the floor turns to those bills that have a priority. This past week was the deadline for all priority designations and proposals. In all other states, the Speaker and the majority party decide which bills get time on the floor. In Nebraska we have a unique priority system. Each Senator gets to select one bill as his or her priority. Often it will be one of a senator’s own bills, but it’s not uncommon for someone to prioritize a bill introduced by another senator. These bills get top priority for floor debate at some point before the end of the session. Each standing committee also identifies 2 priority bills. Thursday was the deadline for both senators and committees to identify and submit their priority bills. The Speaker also gets to select 25 priority bills. Tuesday was the deadline to submit bills for the Speaker to consider as a Speaker priority bill, and he will announce his selections early next week. You can find the full list of personal and committee priority bills here; once the speaker announces his priorities on Monday, they will appear there as well.

Since all of the priority deadlines were this week, and since getting a priority designation on a bill is so important, this week was a hectic one. All of the senators were scrambling to try to get their most important bills voted out of committee before the priority deadlines so that they could propose them as Speaker priority bills or line up another Senator to make the bill his or her personal priority bill. The Speaker is unlikely to pick a bill that has not gotten out of committee, and individual Senators tend to be reluctant to pick a bill as a priority if it has not gotten out of committee by the deadline.

My priority bill this session is LB225, which extends the Alternative Response (AR) pilot in our child welfare system. AR is an innovative approach that seeks to help families and children in a more supportive way to keep them from being further involved in the child welfare system. We have seen some positive results from early AR efforts in Sarpy County, with great support coming for these families from community partners through Lift Up Sarpy County. AR was piloted in a few counties, and LB 225 allows this approach will to be implemented across the state. We are currently implementing the approach in a way that allows us to compare this alternative response with our traditional response to these families, so that we can assess which approach works better. Under LB225 we will get results from this study and then decide whether to continue this approach or not. LB225 will also incorporate an amendment that pulls in material from three other bills that were passed by the Health and Human Services Committee, with the goal of creating a package bill that strengthens our child welfare system with attention to addressing our budget shortfall.

Upcoming Town Hall Meeting

I will be hosting a town hall at the Bellevue Public Library from 6:30-7:30 pm on Tuesday March 14. The purpose of this meeting will be to update residents on the current legislative session and to provide the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

If you aren’t available to attend Tuesday night, I will be back at the library at 10:00 am on Saturday March 18th for a Legislative Coffee with Senator Carol Blood. We will discuss the session and again be available for questions.

Having two gatherings will hopefully give a wider range of people the opportunity to attend – I hope to see you all there!

USSTRATCOM Fellows Lunch

On Wednesday I had the privilege of joining members of the 2017 USSTRATCOM Strategic Leadership Fellows Program for a lunch meeting. The program is a graduate-level leadership development program based in Omaha, and is open to USSTRATCOM civilian employees who have shown proven dedication to USSTRATCOM’s mission and values. At the luncheon, the fellows met with several senators, including me, to discuss leadership at the state and federal government levels. It is always a pleasure to meet with the fellows, and I wish them all the best as they continue the program.

NEBRASKAland Statehood Day Dinner

On Saturday March 4th David and I attended the annual NEBRASKAland Statehood Day dinner. Held in the Capitol Rotunda, this event is a wonderful celebration of our state. This year’s event was particularly special because 2017 is Nebraska’s 150th anniversary of statehood. The event is also an opportunity to honor distinguished Nebraskans who have made significant contributions to our state. This year’s honorees were Judi gaiashkibos, the long-time Executive Director of the Nebraska Commision on Indian Affairs and nationally known expert on Native American issues; Robert Ripley, who has overseen conservation and repairs at the statehouse as Nebraska Capitol Administrator for 33 years; and Dayle Williamson, who has served the state both as a long-time Nebraska Army National Guard member and as director of the Natural Resources Commission for 30 years. These three individuals have dedicated their lives and careers to our state, and are absolutely deserving of this honor.

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David and me in front of the door to the George W Norris Legislative Chamber

MHEC in Minneapolis

Friday was a busy day, as I flew to Minnesota to attend a strategic planning meeting for the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC). MHEC is a collaborative interstate compact dedicated to promoting higher educational opportunities in the Midwest. For 25 years, MHEC has helped educational institutions in its 12 member states, including Nebraska, work toward greater access, affordability, and quality.

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Friday’s session brought together a small team of commissioners from MHEC member states to identify key priorities for our future efforts to help states work together to strengthen higher education in all of our states.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day.
  • 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,

signature

March is women’s history month, and March 8th is International Women’s Day. As such, I’d like to highlight some of the female leaders and trailblazers, past and present, who have served in Nebraska state government.

Sarah Muir, Clara Humphrey and Mabel Gillespie became the first women ever to serve in Nebraska’s legislative branch when each won election to the State Legislature in 1924. This was before Nebraska adopted Unicameralism, and the three women served in Nebraska’s House of Representatives. Representative Gillespie, who was from Gretna, represented Sarpy County for one term. After Nebraska adopted Unicameralism, the first woman to serve in the new Legislature was Senator Nell Krause, appointed to fill a vacancy in 1946. She served during a special session the Governor called in August of that year.

Leadership by women senators has deep roots in Nebraska. In 1954, Kathleen “Pat” Foote became the first woman  to run for and win a seat in the Unicameral by election. A Republican farm wife, Senator Foote successfully launched a “Keep Nebraska Beautiful” campaign through landmark legislation a decade before Lady Bird Johnson began her Keep America Beautiful campaign aimed at improving our nation’s highways. In 1972, Nebraska became the second state, after Hawaii, to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment, an effort led by Senator Fern Hubbard Orme. During her fourteen years as senator, she also led efforts to preserve the Thomas Kennard House in Lincoln and allocate funding for a women’s physical education building on UNL’s campus.

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L-R: Senators Kathleen “Pat” Foote and Fern Hubbard Orme

In 1977, Senator JoAnn Maxey of Lincoln became the first female African American state senator following her appointment to the Legislature by then-governor Jim Exon. During her two years as state senator, she successfully passed legislation over a gubernatorial veto to create funding for women who found themselves homeless or without resources due to divorce, death or separation from their spouse. Around the same time, Senator Shirley Marsh was instrumental in structural changes inside the body. She helped lead the charge to end smoking on the floor of the Legislature and help bring a women’s bathroom to the lounge outside the chamber. Before these changes, female senators relied on state troopers to guard the door to the men’s bathroom.

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L-R: Senators JoAnn Maxey and Shirley Marsh

In 1986, not one, but two, women ran for Governor of Nebraska: Republican Kay Orr and Democrat Helen Boosalis. This contest marked the first time in American history that two women faced each other as nominees from the two major parties in a Governor’s race. With her victory on election day, Governor Kay Orr set additional records, becoming the first female governor of Nebraska and the first female Republican governor in the nation.

In the 1990s, the Legislature saw a series of influential female committee chairs. Senator Ardyce Bohlke, for example, as chair of the Education Committee, used her leadership position to help increase the amount of state aid to our K-12 schools. And Senator DiAnna Schimek, who chaired the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee, was one of the driving forces behind the change to apportion Nebraska’s electoral college votes by congressional district.

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L-R: Senators Ardyce Bohlke and DiAnna Schimek

In 2008, Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council became the first African American women to win election for their seats in the Legislature. Both were deeply involved in education policy during their time in the Legislature, and Senator Cook led the charge to alleviate the “cliff effect” in the childcare assistance program.

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L-R: Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council

Nebraska’s first ever female US Senator, Eva Browring, was appointed and served 8 months after the death of Senator Dwight Griswold in 1954; Senator Hazel Abel then won the special election to a 60-day term that opened up after Senator Browring resigned due to an odd provision in Nebraska’s election law. Senator Abel was the first woman ever to succeed a woman in the US Senate. Most recently, former state senator Deb Fischer became Nebraska’s first female US Senator elected in a regular election, following her defeat of Bob Kerrey in 2012. Also in 2012, Senator Sara Howard was elected to the seat previously filled by her mother, Senator Gwen Howard, marking the first mother-daughter legacy in the Nebraska Unicameral.

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L-R: Senators Gwen Howard and Sara Howard

13 of the 49 state senators in the Unicameral today are women: Senators Joni Albrecht, Carol Blood, Kate Bolz, Lydia Brasch, Joni Craighead, Laura Ebke, Suzanne Geist, Sara Howard, Lou Ann Linehan, Patty Pansing Brooks, Lynne Walz, Anna Wishart, and me. My female colleagues serve in leadership positions on the Agriculture, Appropriations, Business & Labor, and Judiciary Committees. Many of the most integral positions in the offices that make the Legislature run smoothly are also held by women – in the Clerk’s Office, Transcribers, Fiscal Analysts, Accounting, Information Office, Revisor of Statutes, Legislative Research, and so many more. On this International Women’s Day, I want to thank all of them for their contributions to our great state.

Photos courtesy of the Nebraska Blue Book and Unicameral Information Office.

Bills Receive Final Approval from the Legislature

This week the Legislature made progress on advancing a number of bills, including on Final Reading. One of my bills, LB74, was approved in that round of debate Friday. Final Reading is exactly what it sounds like: it is the final time a bill is read in the Legislature, and the last round of voting before bills are presented to the Governor. A bill can’t be amended or debated on Final Reading, but can be returned to Select File for a specific amendment.

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The vote board at the Legislature when LB74 passed on Final Reading

During Final Reading debate, the Legislature is placed under call. That means all senators who are listed as present must be in their seats in the Chamber, and all non-senators including legislative staff and the media must leave the area where our desks are located. Placing the House under call ensures that senators are in their seats and ready to vote when the time comes. Each bill on Final Reading is actually read aloud, likely as a holdover from the days when senators could not simply pull up the PDF of the bill on a laptop. Nowadays the bills are read extremely quickly, and senators can vote to suspend the rules and dispense with the reading for particularly long bills. After the reading is done, the presiding officer invites the senators to vote on whether the bill should pass. In most cases, a bill must have 25 votes to pass; however, a bill with an emergency clause, meaning it goes into effect sooner than a regular bill, requires 33 votes. A proposed constitutional amendment requires 30 votes to place it on the general election ballot, and 40 to place it on a primary or special election ballot.

We passed 12 bills in total on Final Reading Friday, and they will all now go to the Governor for his signature. Under Nebraska law, the Governor has five days (not including Sunday), to decide what he’d like to do with a bill after it is presented to him. If he signs a bill or chooses not to act on it, the bill becomes state law. He can choose to veto a bill; if that happens, the bill is returned to the Legislature with an explanation of why he chose to use his veto. The Legislature can override any gubernatorial veto, although it takes a vote of 30 senators to do so.

Bill Hearings this Week

This was an extremely busy week in my office, as we had seven bill hearings in six different committees.

On Monday LB302 and LB303 had public hearings in the Appropriations Committee. Both bills come from recommendations of the Mental and Behavioral Health Task Force established by LR413 in 2016. LB302 appropriates funds to create post-graduate fellowships for physician assistants. These fellowships will prepare participants to provide advanced psychiatric and behavioral health care in rural and underserved communities, and help Nebraska expeditiously recruit, retain, and increase the competence of the psychiatric prescriber workforce. LB303 appropriates funds for master’s level internships in order to recruit, train, place and retain behavioral health professionals to work in primary care medical practices across the state, and improve access to behavioral health services in rural and underserved areas of Nebraska. Both are important bills to strengthen and broaden our mental health workforce.

On Tuesday we had two bills as well. The first, LB95, was heard in the Urban Affairs Committee. In 2016 I introduced LR439 to examine the use of TIF by municipalities for residential development; LB95 is a result of this interim study. LB95 modifies provisions in community development law related to tax-increment financing (TIF) projects in order to make various processes including auditing, public notice, reporting, records retention, and cost-benefit analyzation more transparent, and to provide for more local oversight of TIF projects

The second bill Tuesday was heard in the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee. The idea for LB587 came from a conversation I had with a constituent. During our conversation, I learned about some of the challenges faced by parents and students when it comes to getting students to school. LB587 recognizes that students in both rural and urban areas across our state face unique challenges in getting to school and school related activities. As a result, this bill would make school permits available to students who meet the age and experience qualifications already outlined in statute, without restricting it to students in rural parts of our state.

Thursday had two bills as well. In the Health and Human Services Committee, LB224 offers a step to continue to improve performance and timeliness in processing benefits for some of our most vulnerable families by eliminating asset limits for applicants. LB224 streamlines the administration of several public assistance programs, reducing paperwork and staff time spent on unnecessary verifications. Income and work requirements in these programs are sufficient to direct the assistance to those most in need. Asset limits are unnecessary and even counterproductive to our ultimate aim to encourage self-sufficiency for families who temporarily receive these benefits.

Second on Thursday was LB589, heard in the Judiciary Committee. I introduced this bill to protect children who experience the trauma of experiencing or witnessing sex abuse who have told their story on videotape with professional forensic interviewers from being interrogated about their experience again during pre-trial discovery.  Situations that can be challenging for adults can be downright frightening or trauma-inducing for children, particularly young or vulnerable children. We have a duty to be sensitive to the trauma caused by a child victim or witness continually repeating or being questioned about the traumatic event. LB589 seeks to create an environment that protects truth and accountability for defendants while also protecting our children.

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Some of the testifiers and supporters of LB589: Dan McGinn, Dr. Stephen Lazoritz, me, Senator Roy Baker, Ivy Svoboda, Erin Aliano, and Colleen Brazil

Friday had just one hearing: LB252, heard in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee. LB252 requires the reporting and disclosure of electioneering communications. It does not restrict activity, what can be said in electioneering communication, or limit free speech in any way. Instead, my bill simply provides for a reporting mechanism that creates more accountability in our state’s elections. If outside groups or organizations are pouring money into Nebraska to shape campaigns in our state, the citizens and candidates have a right to know who they are.

Nebraska Sesquicentennial Celebration

Wednesday was Nebraska’s sesquicentennial birthday, meaning the state was founded 150 years ago, on March 1st, 1867. The Legislature hosted a wonderful ceremony in the George W. Norris Legislative Chamber, in which we celebrated our state’s history through music, poetry, and remarks from Nebraska state leaders. It was a particular pleasure to see all of the young people who joined us, either as part of the ceremony or watching from the balconies, for this exciting day.

statehood-welcome

Hearings of Interest March 6-10

The Legislature’s 14 standing committees hold public hearings on dozens of bills each week. Next week we have seven bills up for hearings.  You can access the full hearing schedule for the next two weeks here, but I’d like to highlight a few from among the committees that you may find particularly interesting for the coming week.

Monday: The Department of Correctional Services will have its public budget hearing in the Appropriations Committee.

Tuesday: The Education Committee will hear LB662, which would create a letter-based system to grade Nebraska public schools.

Wednesday: LB501 would change notice requirements for private property locations that do not allow carrying a concealed handgun. This bill will be heard in the Judiciary Committee.

Thursday: The Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee will hear LB25, which would reinstate the winner-take-all system in Nebraska for presidential electors.

Friday: The Legislature will be in recess on Friday March 10th, so there will be no hearings this day.

University of Nebraska Legislative Dinner

On Tuesday the University of Nebraska held its annual Legislative dinner. The event is a chance for senators to meet with students from all four branches of the university system (UNL, UNO, UNK, and UNMC) and discuss their experiences. I have enjoyed attending this dinner in the past, but was unable to do so this year. My staffer Christina attended in my stead, and had a wonderful evening speaking to students and University staff.

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Christina with Dr. Chris Kratochvil, friend of the office and Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research at UNMC

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day.
  • 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,

signature

Floor Progress on Bills Picks Up

This week the Legislature pushed ahead with debate on many bills on the floor.  Once a bill is out of committee, it sits in line (called Worksheet order) to wait its turn for floor debate.  The Speaker usually puts bills on the floor in this order until we get to late February or early March when we switch to Priority bills. Floor debate and votes for bills includes three rounds.  The most extensive debate generally occurs on the first round, General File.  

This week we debated 17 bills from the Worksheet order and two Committee Priority bills. Among the 17 bills that passed the first round were: a bill to update our dental practice laws; a bill to remove from statute a prohibition on teachers in public school wearing “religious garb” that was put into law as part of an unfortunate anti-Catholic historical period; a bill to prohibit someone with existing unpaid campaign violation fines from filing to run for office again; and a bill to require someone who leaves employment without cause to requalify for unemployment insurance by working to earn a set amount that contributes back into the unemployment system.  We ended debate on Friday in the middle of a discussion of a bill to allow a “Choose Life” license plate in the state with funds going to a child abuse prevention fund.  One bill, a Keno bill, was Indefinitely Postponed on the floor, which is a polite way to say that it was killed for the session.  

The second round of debate is Select File.  Sometime during debate in the first round, a senator raises concerns about a need for an amendment, and then the amendment gets worked out and is debated as part of the Select File debate.  This week, we debated and passed an amendment that I asked for to an Egg bill (LB 134 by Senator Brasch) out of the Agriculture Committee.  During General File debate, I raised the concern that the bill as written would apply regulations to people who give eggs to their friends and neighbors. I asked that we add an amendment that clarified that the regulations only applied to those who sell eggs in the state. Senator Brasch agreed to bring an amendment to the bill when it came up on Select File. We passed that amendment on the floor on Thursday and then voted to advance the bill on to Final Reading (the third round of debate).  One of my friends who likes to give away eggs delivered some free eggs to my office after that vote with a nice note.  This example illustrates how important it is to read the bills and to work to clarify laws so that they don’t create unneeded regulations.  

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We debated two Priority bills on Friday.  I expect most of our floor debate will now turn to Priority bills.  Unlike any other state, Nebraska allows each senator to pick one priority bill.  Each committee picks two priority bills and the Speaker picks 25.  These bills get prioritized for floor debate, so instead of following Worksheet order, priority bills get scheduled by the Speaker for floor debate.

Committee Work

Most of my committee work this week was listening to hearings of other senator’s bills and asking questions.  We only had two of our bills in hearings, both on Friday: one each in the Health & Human Services and Revenue Committees.

First was LB588, which provides that individuals engaged in the practice of reflexology, and whose services are not designated or implied to be massage or massage therapy, are not required to hold a license under the Massage Therapy Practice Act.

The second bill was LB253, which I introduced on behalf of Sarpy County.  This bill amends the 1994 Industrial Construction Sewer Act, sponsored by Senator Paul Hartnett, that was vital for the northern part of Sarpy County to build sews and grow without using property tax dollars.  This sewer bill in the 1990’s was key to Sarpy County’s growth.  Now we face a new sewer challenge and LB 253 provides a way for Sarpy County to negotiate an agreement with Sarpy cities and S.I.D’s to build sewer capacity for the rest of the county.  Commissioner Don Kelley came to testify in support of the bill and said that it was the most important economic development bill for Sarpy County this year.  County and city leaders have been working on plans for this sewer challenge for about 10 years.  LB 253 creates a framework for the next steps to move forward.  The authority in the bill also has important environmental implications.  Regional sewer services can help counties avoid the proliferation of individual or community septic systems as they expand and develop areas with minimal sewer infrastructure. It just so happened that today was a day when the Utility Construction Association was at the capitol for their legislative day.  I talked with them during their breakfast and one of their members from Wayne Nebraska testified in a neutral capacity for the bill.  He stressed the value of regional sewer agreements to reduce reliance on septic systems to protect the environment.  

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Some of the testifiers for LB253 after the hearing

Midwestern Higher Education Compact Visit

On Thursday and Friday a delegation from the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) visited Nebraska for their annual state visit. In addition to meeting with legislative leadership and sitting in on morning debate, they hosted a dinner in Lincoln. It was a great opportunity to familiarize attending senators with MHEC’s mission, and to meet with people on the front line of Nebraska’s higher educational institutions.

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Meeting with MHEC President Larry Isaak and Vice President Dick Short at the Capitol

MHEC is a collaborative interstate compact dedicated to promoting higher educational opportunities in the Midwest. For 25 years, MHEC has helped educational institutions in its 12 member states work toward greater access, affordability, and quality. MHEC administers programs such as the Midwest Student Exchange Program, in which public institutions agree to charge out-of-state students within the exchange no more than 150% of in-state resident tuition for specific programs; the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit, which works to help veterans transfer their military training and experiences into college credit and successfully pursue college credentials; and the eTranscript Initiative, which offers a simplified way for students in member states to transfer information between high schools and colleges.

I serve as one of five MHEC Commissioners from Nebraska; I am also a member of the Executive Board and serve on the Strategic Planning Committee. It is always a pleasure to have MHEC visit our state, and I look forward to continued work with them on higher education issues.

Creighton SCSJ Visit

On Monday I met with a group of ten students at the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ) at Creighton. These bright young people were interested in discussing mental health policy, immigration, environmental justice issues, and many other topics. It was a pleasure to join them and discuss these important issues, and wonderful to meet such promising young people.

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Dinner with Nebraska Teachers

On Wednesday the Nebraska State Education Association held its legislative dinner, giving senators the chance to meet with educators at all levels from across the state.

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Hearings of Interest February 27 – March 3

The Legislature’s 14 standing committees hold public hearings on dozens of bills each week. Next week we have seven bills up for hearings.  You can access the full hearing schedule for the next two weeks here, but I’d like to highlight a few from among the committees that you may find particularly interesting for the coming week.

Monday: The Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the University of Nebraska System’s budget request. With the state facing a budget crunch, this hearing will allow the Appropriations Committee to speak with representatives from the University and members of the public about proposed appropriations and cuts. The committee’s full budget recommendations can be found here. Also on Monday, my LB302 and LB303, to appropriate funds for mental and behavioral health fellowships, will have their public hearing in that committee.

Tuesday: The Transportation & Telecommunications Committee will hear LB627, which relates to the operation of autonomous motor vehicles on Nebraska’s roads.

Wednesday: LB504, which will be heard in the Natural Resources Committee, would place a moratorium on industrial development of wind energy projects in the Sand Hills region, and create a task force to study future development prospects.

Thursday: The Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee will hear LR1CA, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to present government-issued ID when voting.

Friday:  I will present LB252 before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. LB 252 requires that groups who specifically target a candidate with ads to voters in that jurisdiction in the 30 days before an election follow reporting requirements to provide transparency and accountability for these ads. A current loophole allows groups to avoid this reporting if they claim that the ads are information ads instead of campaign ads.  

Nebraska Statehood Celebration

All of Nebraska is cordially invited to celebrate Nebraska’s Sesquicentennial Statehood Day at the Capitol on Wednesday March 1st. The event is free and open to the public; the full program can be found here, but highlights will include musical performances in the Capitol Rotunda, and a ceremony in the George W. Norris Chamber. Come join the celebration!

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day.
  • 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,

signature

A Break in the Rules Logjam

On Wednesday, at the Speaker’s request, the Legislature agreed to postpone debate on the rules to focus on debating bills before the body. The Speaker proposed the postponement and asked for our support of the motion and our efforts to work collegially on several bills before us. On Thursday we turned to other bills and one of my bills, LB74, was the first bill to pass in this window. We had productive debate on several bills from the Urban Affairs Committee and all of them passed the first round (General File). We turn to more bills on Tuesday.

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In addition to opening a window for several of these bills to get passed, this strategy of postponing rules debate also provides an opportunity for the new members of the Unicameral to build working relationships with Senators from across the state. One of the important dynamics of the Unicameral in the past has been that the coalitions of support vary from bill to bill. So, someone who argues passionately against you on one bill may be a key supporter on your next bill. This dynamic has fostered more civil and productive debate in the Unicameral in the past, even as legislatures all around us (and in DC) became more polarized and dysfunctional. Hopefully these relationships will develop as we work through bills over the next 20-30 legislative days before we return to the rules question in April.

This Week’s Bill Hearings

My office had three bill hearings this week, all on Monday and Tuesday. First was LB254, which was heard in the General Affairs Committee. LB254 was introduced on behalf of homebrewers from across Nebraska. The goal is to provide clarification in existing home brew statute on making beer, mead, perry, and products made with honey. It also seeks to allow the thousands of homebrewers across our state to participate in festivals and other events in a regulated manner in order to fine tune their skills and compete to represent our state on the national level. Lastly, LB 254 provides statutory clarity on how homebrew clubs and groups can operate in our state.

On Tuesday we began with LB97 in the Urban Affairs Committee. LB 97 would adopt the Riverfront Development District Act. This gives municipalities the ability to create a Riverfront Development District along with a Riverfront Development Authority to oversee and manage the district. Riverfront Development Districts, or RDDs, are a tool that can be used by municipalities across the state to effectively fund, manage, and promote economic development and tourism efforts on riverfronts. The Urban Affairs Committee has already advanced the bill to the full Legislature, to I look forward to the chance to discuss RDDs with all my colleagues.

The third and final bill hearing this week was LB96. Heard in the Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee, LB96 gives public and private sector initiatives to improve the military value of military installations the opportunity to access financial assistance through the The Department of Economic Development’s Site and Building Development Fund. LB 96 will allow the public and private sectors to proactively improve the military value of our military installations across the state, including Offutt. I was pleased that the committee advanced the bill to the full Legislature almost immediately after the public hearing.

Military Spouse Licensure

One of my priorities in the legislature has been advocating for policies that help our military families who come to Bellevue, including working to help spouses of military members complete their degrees and gain employment. This week in Health and Human Services, we held our hearing on a bill from our newest Bellevue Senator, Senator Carol Blood. She introduced LB88, to make it possible for military spouses with career licences from another state with similar requirements to obtain temporary career licences so that they can begin work right away while they complete the steps to get their Nebraska licence. LB 88 applies to many of our health related careers. The bill had strong support from a wide variety of groups and professions across the state. I look forward to working to get the bill supported by the committee and to the floor. She has another bill, LB109, that addresses this issue for teachers, which was heard in the Education Committee on January 23rd.

Other Upcoming Hearings February 20-24

The Legislature’s 14 standing committees hold public hearings on dozens of bills each week. You can access the full hearing schedule for the next two weeks here, but I’d like to highlight a few that you may find particularly interesting for the coming week.

The committee process is vital, as it allows stakeholders and interested citizens to provide input on bills that might directly impact them or their communities. Having a wide variety of input allows the committees to consider both opportunities and challenges that the bill’s introducer may not have thought of. Even the most well-researched and carefully crafted bills sometimes need amending before they are ready to be debated by the full Legislature.

Citizens can testify at these hearings or send a letter to the chair of the committee before the hearing and ask that your letter be submitted as testimony in the hearing. If you send a letter, indicate clearly whether your testimony is in support or opposition or if it is neutral. NET allows viewers to live stream hearings here. Hearings begin at 1:30 each day.

Monday: The Legislature is not in session.

Tuesday: The Agriculture Committee will spend Tuesday discussing LB617, a bill to legalize the production and sale of industrial hemp in Nebraska.

Wednesday: The Natural Resources Committee will hear LB610, a bill on community solar projects and the funding sources that would be available to them.

Thursday: The Judiciary Committee will hold public hearings on four bills that would increase protections for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Those bills are LB289, LB191, LB178, and LB394.

Friday: The Appropriations Committee will begin public hearings for their biennial budget process. Beginning Monday, each portion of their proposed budget will be open for public comment. These hearings are sorted by agency, and Friday’s hearing will include the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Department of Labor.

If you ever have questions or comments about these or any other bills, please feel free to email or call my office.

Leadership Sarpy Capitol Day

Each year the Sarpy County Chamber sponsors a Leadership Sarpy class, aimed at fostering emerging leaders in our community. Leadership Sarpy participants engage in sessions to strengthen their leadership skills and lead projects that benefit the community. As part of the program, this year’s Leadership Sarpy class visited the Capitol and I had the pleasure of joining them for lunch at the Governor’s Residence. I wish the 2017 class all the best as they continue to develop their leadership skills!

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Sarpy and Bellevue Chamber Events

Friday was the first recess day of the 2017 session. I got an early start at the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Coffee. I joined my friend and colleague Senator Blood and our newest Senator, Senator Rob Clements to talk to Chamber members about our legislative agendas and how things are going at the Capitol more generally.

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Friday afternoon Senator Blood and I joined the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce for their Legislative Luncheon. It was a pleasure to meet with businesses and members of the public from Bellevue and South Omaha to discuss the legislature and answer questions.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day.
  • 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.

Legislative Committees 101

During this part of the session we are in the Chamber for floor debate in the morning and then in committees for hearings every afternoon.  Although floor debate in the mornings has been stuck on a debate over permanent rules for several days, we continue to work through bills in the committees.  

Committee work on a bill starts with hearings.  The senator who sponsors a bill introduces the bill before the committee to which the bill has been assigned.  Then proponents, opponents, and neutral testifiers speak.  Each of the Senators (except the Speaker) has a committee assignment for each day of the week.  We spend most of our time during this part of the session hearing testimony on bills.  We often hear powerful testimony from individuals across the state who come to talk about how the bills would impact their lives.  Yesterday we heard several powerful stories from parents of children with developmental disabilities about the difference that having key services made and conversely the hardships and missed opportunities that result when those services do not exist.  One young man with developmental disabilities came with his guardian to tell his own story about how he struggled until he got the right supports to allow him to be a productive working adult.  Every bill in Nebraska gets a hearing and anyone can come to testify or submit testimony.  So, you are welcome to participate in this part of this process.

About once a week most committees meet to discuss the bills heard, to decide what additional changes may be needed, and to vote bills that are ready for floor debate out of the committee.  Five of our bills have been successfully voted out of committee so far.  We are still working with committees on 10 other bills that have already had a hearing and we have 14 more bills that have not yet had their hearing.   

Meeting on Highway 75 Construction

Many residents from the Normandy area came to a meeting that I hosted with the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) to discuss construction in south Sarpy County. Thanks to the residents who attended on February 7th, asked questions, and made suggestions.

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Thank you to Tim Weander & Sarah Kugler (NDOR) for the update and for taking questions and suggestions. Thank you to Commissioner Kelly for providing an update on Sarpy County work to address some of the concerns, and thanks also to Commissioner Zuger and to Sen. Blood’s aide Oliver VanDervoort for attending.

7 Hearings Make a Week

This week was an extraordinarily busy one in my office, as we had seven bill hearings between Monday and Thursday in four different standing committees.  

Monday’s bills were heard in the Business and Labor Committee. The first bill, LB305, which is known as the Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) Insurance Act, establishes a partnership between the State of Nebraska, employers and employees to provide job protections and partial wage replacement to workers who need to take time off to take care of themselves or a loved one.  The state provides the infrastructure for the program, the employees make small contributions to pay for the program, and the employer makes sure that the employee can leave and return. As Nebraskans we value hard work and we value our family responsibilities. Nebraska has the chance to be on the competitive cutting edge by moving forward with a strong state PFML Act that protects families and simultaneously provides competitive benefits to help address our state’s workforce shortage.

The second bill I presented on Monday was LB372. Caregivers in Nebraska play a vital role in ensuring that our older population can continue to live at home longer. These caregivers also provide important financial support to aging Nebraskans. LB372 creates protections for caregivers by adding family care responsibilities as a protected class under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act to ensure all Nebraskans, including caregivers, have a fair chance at obtaining and holding employment without discrimination

On Tuesday I had two bills in the Urban Affairs Committee. The first, LB590, works to address conflicts between the state building code and current regulations relating to in-home daycares and in-home care set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services. LB590 makes an exception to newer stricter requirements to allow residential day care centers to operate with twelve or fewer children as they currently do under DHHS regulations, rather than imposing strict new limits on this number as would otherwise be required by the state building code.  

My second  bill on Tuesday was LB591. This bill is the result of stories the Urban Affairs Committee heard from homeowners whose homes were not built to state and local building codes or the Nebraska Energy code. LB591 creates a mechanism to supplement our existing local code enforcement by providing a provision that would remove a contractor who willfully violates codes from the state Contract Registry if all other local and state efforts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful.

The Judiciary Committee held hearings on two of my bills on Wednesday. We started with LB108, which creates protections for children during the arrest, booking, sentencing and incarceration of a parent or guardian in order to reduce the long-term effects of trauma to the child. LB108 requires police departments to create and adopt policies to mitigate that trauma, allows custodial parents or guardians two phone calls to arrange for the care of their children, adds proximity to children to the list of factors the Department of Corrections considers when making a correctional facility placement; and provides that the Department of Corrections adopt policies for age-appropriate physical contact throughout visitations for children.

The second Judiciary bill this week was LB107, which addresses an issue relating to sexual abuse of minors in our state. When this issue was first brought to my attention by Bellevue Police Chief Mark Elbert, I was shocked to learn of a very problematic gap that currently exists in our sexual assault statutes. LB 107 ensures that minors between the age of 16-18 are protected if they are sexually assaulted by an adult who holds a position of special power or trust in their lives, such as their health care professional, educator, or youth facility supervisor. In Nebraska, we hold these professionals to high standards and we trust them to serve, educate, and protect our children, therefore, adults who hold influencing positions of trust with our children should be held accountable if they violate this trust.

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LB107 testifiers: Bellevue PD Sgt. Andy Jashinske and Lt. Tim Melvin 

Thursday was our final bill hearing for the week, which took place in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee. LB280 amends the Address Confidentiality program. The current program provides victims of abuse, stalking, and sexual assault with a substitute address to ensuring they can fill out any necessary applications with government departments, register to vote, and receive mail without fear that their address will become searchable to the public as well as  their abuser. LB 280 provides that victims of human trafficking, including those who are victims of debt bondage and labor trafficking, can also utilize the address confidentiality program.

Tips for Testifying at the Capitol

You are warmly welcome to testify on any bill before the Legislature this year. Hearing notices are published as they become available, and can be viewed at one of the following links:

  • If you are looking for information on a specific bill and you know the bill number, use the Search By Number feature here. That will bring up the bill’s dedicated webpage, which has information about hearing dates, bill language and amendments, and lots of other information. If you only know the bill’s introducer or the committee it was sent to, you can search for those criteria. Finally, you can search for bills by keyword at the bottom of the page.
  • If you are curious about which bills will be heard on a particular date, you can check the legislative calendar here.
  • A schedule of upcoming hearings, which is updated weekly, can be found here. This page also allows you to search for all hearings within a set date range.

If you find a bill of interest and would like to express your opinions about it during the public hearing process, here are a few tips as you prepare your testimony:

  • All bills in the Nebraska Legislature receive a public hearing, and absolutely anyone is welcome to testify.
  • Personal stories are often the most powerful. If you or someone you know is impacted by a bill and you feel comfortable sharing your experiences, tell the personal story.
  • Committees often ask testifiers to keep their comments under 5 minutes. Make sure your key points fit within five minutes. Start to speak as soon as you are recognized to get the full time window.
  • Bring 15 copies of your testimony if possible.
  • During the hearing, you may see senators come and go during testimony. This is not because they do not care about the testimony offered; rather, it means they need to present one of their bills to another hearing during that time.
  • If you want to share your thoughts on a bill but cannot attend the hearing in person, you can submit written testimony. Letters and email testimony are typically addressed to the Chairperson of the committee that will hear the bill, so a list of committees and chairs can be found here. If you do submit a letter or email, make sure to request that your testimony be included in the public record for the bill. It is also helpful to send a copy of your written testimony to the bill’s sponsor.
  • If you need an auxiliary aid or other accommodation, please call the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271. Translators and interpreters are also available through the Ombudsman’s Office at (402) 471-2035. Please note that a week’s notice is requested for translators and interpreters.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • Newsletters, press releases, and other information can be found on my legislative blog at news.legislature.ne.gov/dist45/.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

signature

Deficit Recommendations Advanced

This week the full Legislature had the chance to review and debate the Appropriations Committee’s recommendations to address Nebraska’s budget deficit. In a typical odd-numbered year, the Legislature advances a biennial budget covering the next two fiscal years. With the state facing a $900 million shortfall this year, however, the Appropriations Committee first crafted a proposal to make immediate cuts and shrink the budget gap. On Friday the Legislature advanced that bill, LB 22, on a 46-1 vote. The Governor proposed the original strategy for the cuts, including a 1% withholding of appropriations for most agencies each quarter that equals a 4% across the board cut. LB 22 made some adjustments to the Governor’s proposal, particularly to reduce cuts to our Justice Reinvestment efforts and the University of Nebraska, and to shore up funding to our providers of Developmental Disability services. Their rated had been cut nearly in half recently because of an issue with DHHS reimbursement practices in the last administration.

Bill Hearings This Week

This week four of my bills had public hearings. The first, LB 78, was heard on Monday in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. The idea for LB 78 came from a conversation I had at the door with a former Bellevue City Council member. During our conversation, I learned of some of the challenges the city of Bellevue faced when trying to redevelop a relinquished section of the old Highway 75, which is now Fort Crook road. This bill helps address those problems and creates a more fair, transparent, and efficient process for all parties involved when a highway is relinquished by the state.

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Testifiers from Bellevue at the LB 78 hearing: (L-R) Steve Knutson, City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli, and Public Works Director Jeff Roberts

Second was LB 304, which was referred to the Urban Affairs Committee and had its hearing on Tuesday. LB 304 is a follow-up to LR 489, an interim study I introduced in 2016 to examine issues related to Nebraska housing authorities. Over 100 Public Housing Authorities across our state, serving over 25,000 households and over 55,000 people, work in communities to address housing needs. LB 304 would implement several of the changes identified in the LR 489 study, and will allow city and county housing agencies to continue to carry out their responsibilities in the most efficient and effective way.

There were two hearings on Wednesday. The first, LB 225, was held in the Health and Human Services Committee and addresses the Alternative Response (AR) pilot program. AR was first created in 2014 by LB 853, and the goal of the AR program is to provide early intervention and services to at-risk families in order to prevent them from entering the child welfare system. LB 225 would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to continue the AR pilot program. Overall, we’ve seen promising initial results with the AR pilot program and it is important that we continue to determine the best way to serve families in our state.

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Some of the advocates who spoke in favor of LB 225 – (L-R) Ivy Svoboda, Jamie Vetter, and Erin Aliano

Last was LB 371, referred to the Judiciary Committee. It is a simple bill that clarifies the role of the State Fire Marshal in condemning properties. This bill will uphold citizen safety while avoiding cumbersome, duplicative procedures that can result in a large cost to a city or village

Nomination to lead Military and Veterans Commission

This week the Nebraska Department of Veteran’s Affairs announced their selection to lead the Commision on Military and Veterans Affairs. I am hopeful that Phillip O’Donnell, who I met along with Veteran’s Affairs Director John Hilgert on Tuesday, will prove to be an effective partner and advocate in his position as Military Affairs Liaison.

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L-R: Director John Hilgert, Phillip O’Donnell, and me

Highway 75 Meeting

I will be hosting an information session on Tuesday February 7th at Tregaron Golf Course. The purpose of the gathering is to give residents impacted by construction in the Normandy Hills and Fairview Road area the chance to meet with a representative from the Nebraska Department of Roads. The meeting will begin at 7:00 pm. Please feel free to share this information with anyone you know who might be interested in attending.

Legislative Advocacy Days

Throughout the legislative session, groups host Capitol Days to get their members involved in the legislative process. Groups as diverse as nurses, Girl Scouts, and county officials (among many others) organize gatherings at the Capitol, which gives senators the chance hear a wide range of experiences and meet people they otherwise might not. On most days, especially early in session, there are one or two of these gatherings per day. On Wednesday night I attended a reception to meet National Guard members, and from there attended an event with dentists from across the state. At the Dental Association reception I had a chance to meet a young woman named Hannah who is finishing her residency and coming soon to practice in Bellevue as pediatric dentist.

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On Thursday this week the Nebraska Physical Therapy Association held their legislative day, and I was able to meet practitioners, students, and others involved in the physical therapy world. Here I met (L-R) physical therapy students Nick Kreuger, Brandon Barber, and Thomas Myers, plus Creighton Physical Therapy Professor Kirk Peck and NPTA President Julie Peterson.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature 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,

signature

Continued Rules Debate

This year has been unprecedented in many ways, one of which has been protracted debate over the rules of the legislature at the beginning of the session. I noted last week that usually by that time we would have already approved the rules. Today, after much deliberation, we extended the temporary rules again to a week from Tuesday. This basically means that we continue to function under the rules that were in place last session. We will turn our attention Monday to immediate budget adjustments that need to be made this year to address funding shortfalls, then return back to a discussion of any changes in rules after we take care of that immediate fiscal business.

Right now we have debated and adopted all of the rules changes that were approved by the Rules Committee. I was hoping that we would adopt the rules as amended by committee action and move on to our other matters. However, there has been pressure by some Republicans to get the body to accept other changes that were not approved by the Rules Committee process. There was negotiation throughout the morning and early afternoon on Friday to see if we could get agreement to move forward, but at 1:30, when it was time for hearings, we voted to extend the temporary rules, go to our hearings, and come back to the issue of adopting the permanent rules later next week.

Supporting Domestic Violence and Trafficking Survivors

I was proud to stand with fellow senators in support of a package of bills to prevent sexual assault and protect survivors on Wednesday. In the aftermath of outrage over inappropriate actions by a state senator, we gathered to push for policies to prevent sexual assaults and protect victims.

The package of bills addresses protections for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and increased penalties for human traffickers. The bills include:

  • LB 107 to protect children, patients, and students from sexual assault
  • LB 188 to ensure victims of a sexual assault in which a child was conceived as a result of such a crime have a pathway to protected parental rights
  • LB 178 to allow protection orders for individuals who have been the victim of sexual assault
  • LB 191 to provide protection for victims of domestic violence when protection orders expire after one year
  • LB 289 to increase penalties for human trafficking in Nebraska

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From left to right: Senators Morfeld, Walz, Vargas, Hansen, Blood, Pansing Brooks, Crawford, Howard, Bolz, and McDonnell

I look forward to helping these bills advance through the full legislative process, and will continue to work with and advocate for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking.

Bill Hearings This Week

On Thursday the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee held a public hearing on my LB 255. The Dialysis Patient Care Technician Registration Act is a bill to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the public by providing for the safe and cost-effective utilization of dialysis patient care technicians in the administration of hemodialysis.

On Friday the public hearing for LB 425 took place, also in the HHS Committee. This bill is a follow-up to my LB 107 from 2015, which gave Nurse Practitioners the ability to practice without a practice agreement with a specific physician. LB 425 updates education requirements for APRN-NPs, clarifies the transition-to-practice requirement of new graduates, and simplifies licensure requirements for experienced APRN-NPs moving to Nebraska from other states. These updates will allow the Nebraska APRN Board to proceed with the rules and regulation process for LB 107

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Meeting with LB425 testifiers after the bill hearing

Information Session on Highway 75 Construction

I will be hosting an information session on Tuesday February 7th at Tregaron Golf Course. The purpose of the gathering is to give residents impacted by construction in the Normandy Hills and Fairview Road area the chance to meet with a representative from the Nebraska Department of Roads. The meeting will begin at 7:00 pm. Please feel free to share this information with anyone you know who might be interested in attending.

Hillcrest Caregiver Support Group and BHECN Mentorship Dinner

This week I attended two evening events to support some of the excellent organizations in our community. On Tuesday I joined the Hillcrest Caregiver Support Group, which meets monthly and offers an opportunity to meet with other family caregivers for education and support. Family caregivers are an enormously important part of our healthcare system, but too often their contributions are overlooked. It was an honor to join the support group this month and meet some of the dedicated caregivers who call our community home.

On Wednesday I attended a Mentorship Dinner with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN). This dinner connected students from various high schools and universities in the metro area (including Creighton and UNMC) who are in behavioral health and medical education programs with professionals in those fields. It is an excellent opportunity for aspiring practitioners to learn from professionals who have been through the same experiences. I wish those young people all the best as they finish their studies and set out into their professional fields.

Meet our Intern: Macy Lloyd

I would like to introduce you to my intern for this 2017 legislative session, Macy Lloyd. Macy is currently finishing up her last semester at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and plans to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She also has minors in Communications Studies and Global Studies. Previously Macy worked as a communications intern with the ACLU of Nebraska and as a field intern with Nebraska Appleseed. For the past year and a half she also worked for the Education Abroad Office at UNL. After graduation she hopes to get her master’s in Public Health with an emphasis on public health policy.

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In her spare time Macy teaches dance classes at Hart Dance Academy and is on the leadership team for UNL’s show choir group, Big Red Singers. Her sorority, Chi Omega, is also a big part of her life.

Macy’s responsibilities include helping with administrative tasks as well as sitting in on committee hearings and assisting Christina and Shayna with projects. We’re excited to have her assistance this session!

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature 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,

signature

Last Days of Bill Introduction

Bill introduction ended on Wednesday of this short week. Over the first ten days, senators introduced 667 bills and 6 resolutions to create task forces or suggest constitutional amendments. Each of those 673 proposals will receive a public committee hearing in the coming months, where citizens can make their voices heard in support or opposition. On day 10 I introduced my final six bills for this session. You can find the full list of my introduced bills and resolutions here. If you ever have questions about my bills, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Chaplain of the Day

On Wednesday my office had the honor of sponsoring Captain Mil Yi as the Legislature’s Chaplain of the Day. Captain Yi is the Command Chaplain for the US Strategic Command mission at Offutt AFB.

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Accompanying Captain Yi were his wife, Nan, and daughters Candice and Catherine. It was an absolute pleasure to meet them all and welcome them to the Capitol.

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Committee Hearings Begin

This week we had four days of committee hearings. Two of my bills, LB 74 and LB 77, were heard in the Urban Affairs and Revenue Committees respectively. Both of these bills are examples of simple, but important changes in the law. LB 74 updates and clarifies several parts of our municipal law that distinguish different rules for the unique situations of a large growing county, like Sarpy, by establishing that those rules apply in counties with populations up to 250,000. Some of those areas of statute currently apply to counties with populations up to 200,000. The changes in LB 74 ensure that these rules continue to apply for Sarpy cities as Sarpy grows.

LB 77 came out of conversations between the Tax Commissioner and representatives of Sarpy cities to make a process work more efficiently for both sides. The bill provides language that allows the Department of Revenue to get sales tax reports to cities who participate in one of their economic development incentive programs in a secure electronic manner. The current law requires that they information can only be accessed if someone from the city drives to Lincoln and views the information in the Department office.

State of the Judiciary

On Thursday morning Chief Justice Michael Heavican of the Nebraska Supreme Court visited the Legislature to deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address. He stressed the important reforms and improvements that we have seen over the past few years in our judicial system and raised concerns about the importance of maintaining our investments in these reforms, even in a tough budget year.

Rule Change Debate

The Rules Committee advanced four proposed changes to the Legislature’s permanent operating rules, which the full Legislature debated on Thursday and Friday.

The first rule change allows the Legislature’s Planning Committee, which focuses on long-term trends and data, to designate one priority bill each session. Priority bills are precisely what they sound like: they receive consideration before other bills once passed out of committee, and are therefore far more likely to be debated among the hundreds of bills introduced. Each Senator may designate one personal priority bill; standing committees have two priority designations each; certain special committees can choose one bill each; and the Speaker of the Legislature may designate 25 bills. The priority bill process does not guarantee a bill will be passed, but does allow senators and committees to identify the bills they consider most important, and these bills get priority in terms of time for debate.

The second approved rule change is to adopt a formal technology policy. Previously, the Legislature’s technology policy was informal and produced by the Legislature’s Executive Board. If the technology policy is in the Legislature’s formal rulebook, it will be both more accessible and easier to enforce when needed.

The third rule change we debated relates to the legislative fiscal note process. The Legislature’s Fiscal Office is an independent office within the Legislature, and the excellent analysts in that office are responsible for determining the future fiscal impact of all bills in a document called a fiscal note. We gave preliminary approval to a rule that allows senators and committees the opportunity to request one fiscal note during the summer and fall months, when the legislature is not in session and the bill has not yet been formally introduced. This rule will give senators the chance to plan ahead and better assess the monetary impact of their bills. Finally, we began debate on a fourth rule to change when fiscal notes are available for introduced bills. Currently, fiscal notes are published at least 24 hours before each bill’s hearing. Under the new rule proposal, that lead time would be increased to 48 hours. We will return to debate on this fourth rule change recommended by the Rules Committee next week.

Usually by now permanent rules have been adopted, but this has not been a usual year. On Friday temporary rules were extended so that we could continue debate. Although changes to secret ballot rules and cloture rules were proposed and discussed in the Rules Committee last week, none of those changes were advanced to the full Legislature for consideration. However, it is possible for an individual Senator to propose these rules on the floor, even though they were not approved by the committee. Our existing rules on leadership selection and cloture have played a critical role in protecting nonpartisan dynamics in the Legislature, and so I will defend their importance if any such amendments are proposed to change them.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you know of anyone else who would like to receive my e-newsletter, they 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). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature 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,

signature

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45
Room #1016
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2615
Email: scrawford@leg.ne.gov
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