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This week marked another week of floor debate and committee briefings. With all day debate in full swing, the Legislature addressed issues as varied as land banks, the learning community and supports for small businesses on the floor.
On Tuesday morning, the Legislature voted to advance LB 205 to Select File. LB 205 is a Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee priority bill. I strongly supported the bill in committee and on the floor because of the tool it provides to entrepreneurs who want to start small businesses. The majority of new jobs are created by small businesses. This bill allows small businesses to access capital to expand their business, upgrade their infrastructure or hire new employees with no cost to Nebraska taxpayers. I am grateful to Senator Schumacher for bringing this legislation to the body this session and look forward to discussing it again on the floor soon.
Photo Credit: Nebraska Unicameral Information Office
On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the Legislature discussed the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties. LB 585, introduced by fellow Sarpy County Senator Jim Smith, addresses concerns raised by several school districts, including Bellevue, regarding transportation costs within the Learning Community. These changes bring savings to member schools. LB 585 also makes additional funds available for early childhood education programming in local schools. I joined my colleagues to advance the bill to Select File on a 42-0 vote.
On Monday morning, the Health and Human Services Committee held a briefing on ACCESS Nebraska and some of the challenges Nebraskans have experienced with the program. Senator Annette Dubas has taken the lead for a study of ACCESS Nebraska over the interim this summer and fall. If you or someone you know has a story to share about your experience with ACCESS Nebraska, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stories can also be sent directly to James Goddard at Nebraska Appleseed, who is assisting us in this study. James can be reached at (402) 438-8853, telephone extension 108.
Now that the Legislature has begun full day sessions, the body recesses for an hour and a half over the lunch hour. This allows senators time to visit with constituents and elected officials who are visiting the Capitol, as well as work with staff on bill preparation and so forth. On Tuesday, I attended lunch with mayors from across the state to discuss issues important to their local communities.
On Wednesday, I met with several students from the Lincoln area who participate in Nebraska 4-H’s Robotics program. This year, the students worked with senior citizens to develop robotic solutions to problems facing aging Nebraskans. It was great to see so many young scientists engaged in math and science problems while having fun!
Visiting 4-H students with Senator Rick Kolowski
In the District
On Tuesday evening, I enjoyed meeting with local officials and residents at a Sarpy County Republican Women reception held in Bellevue. On Friday evening, I attended the Sarpy County Democrats Legacy Dinner at Embassy Suites La Vista. It was great to see so many familiar faces at both events.
Social Media Update
Social media platforms continue to make connecting with your representatives easier and easier. This week I became the first state senator to use ‘Vine’ to share short video clips. These clips are very short in length and operate similar to tweets. I look forward to showing you around the building, my office and events in the district. The first video takes you on a quick walk from my office to the Legislature floor for debate on Tuesday afternoon. To watch the video, click here.
Other ways to stay connected include Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SenatorCrawford), Twitter (@SenCrawford) and Instagram (SenCrawford). I look forward to connecting with you through social media moving forward.
Mail, phone and email still remain ways to contact me. Whatever the method, I encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am here to serve you in the Nebraska Unicameral.
All my best,
Due to the Legislature’s holiday break last weekend, this legislative update will focus on events from the weeks of March 25-29th and April 1-5th. Last week the body adjourned on Thursday afternoon and returned Tuesday which allowed senators to travel home and spend Easter weekend with their families. We began again in earnest Tuesday morning and learned from the Speaker that debate will continue until 6:30 PM–or later–until adjournment in June. This will allow for time to consider more of the 200 or so bills still remaining on the agenda.
LB 429 Advances
I am happy to report that my personal priority bill this session, LB 429, advanced to Final Reading Friday morning. If passed, the bill requires all state agencies and boards to post current contracts online on one website in a format that is easily viewable and searchable. Currently these contracts are largely unavailable on line or if they are available, they are not easily accessible to the public. There will be one more round of voting before LB 429 is sent to the Governor for his signature.
Last week we had several visitors in the Capitol, including Avery Elementary School, community leaders as part of Bellevue Leadership’s Legislative Day and many guests who attended the Bellevue reception at the Governor’s Mansion. This week it was good to see Mayor Sanders, Phil Davidson and Abby Highland who were in Lincoln to discuss Community Development Block Grants.
Throughout the year, the Capitol hosts school groups of all ages. We often have fourth grade students visiting as part of their Nebraska history curriculum. So far this session, two schools from the district, St. Mary’s School and Avery Elementary, have visited the Capitol. I also visited with Logan Fontenelle Middle School students during their visit earlier this session. I enjoyed meeting with all of the students and hope to meet with many more students in the weeks ahead.
On Wednesday, I attended a luncheon with social work students and their professors. It was great to see fellow Blue Jays and several students from the district who attend Nebraska Wesleyan and UNO.
Last Wednesday, we hosted Bellevue Leadership’s Legislative Day. The group, which includes local business and community leaders, met with Governor Heineman, Treasurer Stenberg, Speaker Adams and others before attending an evening reception in the Governor’s Residence. I was able to speak to the group briefly over the lunch hour and enjoyed getting to visit with them more at the reception. Thank you to the Bellevue Chamber for helping to organize the event and to all of the Bellevue Leadership participants for spending the day with us!
During the first months of the legislative session, committees meet each afternoon for hearings. All bills get a hearing and anyone who wishes can speak during the hearing. This is one example of the ways in which the Unicameral is structured to encourage the people of Nebraska to serve as the “second house.”
In March all committees finished all hearings on bills. Committees now only meet occasionally for other committee business. Our work in the Health and Human Services committee for the rest of the session includes our responsibility to review recent child welfare system changes and make recommendations. If you have experience with the child welfare system, please contact me if you have input to share as we evaluate these recent reforms.
As the body continues full day floor debate, we are continuing to work on our bills that advanced out of committee thus far, including LB 429 and LB 368. We are hopeful that our bills will be discussed on the floor again soon.
If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to like my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SenatorCrawford) and follow me on Twitter (@SenCrawford). We often post photos and other updates–like when our bills are scheduled for debate–as they happen. These social media tools are another great way to stay connected during the session.
You can also watch floor debate live on NET across the state as well as online here.
All my best,
Speaker Priority Bill Selected
Last week, I wrote about the priority bill process and discussed my personal priority bill for this session. This week I am happy to report that Speaker Adams chose LB 368 as one of his 25 Speaker priority bills as well. LB 368 creates job opportunities for 200 low-income Nebraskans and encourages job growth by minimizing risks involved in hiring new employees. I look forward to sharing this innovative program with my colleagues on the floor soon.
State-Local Commitments and Property Taxes
On Wednesday, I presented LB 581 to the Revenue Committee. LB 581 restores a previous commitment to Nebraska counties who collect motor vehicle sales taxes for the state. Sarpy Treasurer Rich James traveled to Lincoln to testify in support for the legislation and indicated it could bring as much as $100,000 back to Sarpy County in compensation for the work they do in collecting these taxes.
LB 581 is part of a larger personal commitment to restore balance and financial integrity in our relationships with county and city governments and school districts. When the state fails to fairly compensate local governments for tasks that they do for the state, the cost shift creates additional burden on property taxes.
Last Public Hearings of the Session
Wednesday also marked the last of the public hearings on bills I introduced this session. Many other committees have begun wrapping up this phase of the legislative session. For example, the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee held its final public hearing last week while the Health and Human Services Committee had its final hearing on Thursday afternoon.
Next Wednesday afternoon will begin a new phase of the session: all-day floor debate. This will allow the Legislature time to debate and consider the several hundred bills before the body, as well as the state’s budget, before adjournment in June.
In the District
On Friday, I, along with the other Sarpy county Senators, met with Sarpy Chamber of Commerce members, at Bellevue City Hall as part of the Sarpy Chamber’s Legislative Forum series.
(Speaking in the Bellevue City Council Chamber on Friday morning)
Friday’s meeting was the third of the session and the first held in Bellevue. The meeting generated some great discussion with those present. I am grateful to the City of Bellevue for hosting and to Sarpy Chamber for organizing the event!
Next Wednesday, the Bellevue Chamber Leadership Class will visit the Capitol as part of Bellevue Chamber’s Legislative Day. The day will begin with meetings with state senators and other elected officials and end with a reception in the Governor’s Mansion. I look forward to joining the group for lunch and hope they enjoy their time in Lincoln!
The Nebraska Department of Labor is organizing an employment workshop for veterans and their spouses on Wednesday, March 27 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at the Lincoln Career Center, 1010 N Street, Lincoln NE. The workshop is in preparation for the ‘Hiring our Heroes’ fair on Tuesday, April 2nd at the Lancaster County Event Center.
Legislative Update, March 15
This week, senators and committees selected their priority bills for the session. Each Senator has the ability to select one bill each session as a priority bill. Committees choose two bills from the various bills discussed in their specific committees this session as their priority bills. The deadline for these selections was Friday at 12:00 PM.
The Speaker of the Legislature will also select 25 bills as Speaker priority bills. These final selections will be made in the next few weeks. Priority bills, whether they are introduced by a senator, committee or Speaker Adams, receive priority consideration when scheduled for floor debate. A list of priority bills can be found at http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/session/priority.php.
Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee Priority Bills
Among those bills prioritized this week, the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee introduced LB 205 and LB 568 as Committee priority bills this session.
LB 205 was one of several bills I discussed in last week’s update. This bill allows small businesses and entrepreneurs access to start up capital and could be used by businesses as varied as community grocery stores and local co-ops. LB 568 establishes a process for the Department of Insurance to license and monitor insurance navigators created by the Affordable Care Act.
Health and Human Services Priority Bills
The Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee introduced LB 216 as one of their Committee priority bills this session. LB 216 would help former foster care youth as they age out of the system. The bill would provide voluntary services for these young adults up to age 21 as they transition to adulthood and learn the skills necessary to be independent and self-sufficient members of society.
The other priority bill introduced by the HHS Committee this session is LB 269. LB 269 continues the child welfare and juvenile justice reform efforts in the state of Nebraska. This review includes securing a policy analyst to help the Nebraska Children’s Commission analyze state policy in these areas.
LB 429 Debated on the Floor
I reported last week in the weekly update that I selected LB 429 as my personal priority bill this session. LB 429 provides that all contracts that are a basis of state funds shall be posted on the Department of Administrative Services website in a user-friendly format. Citizens already have the ability to review state expenditures through a website operated by the State Treasurer’s office, www.NebraskaSpending.gov.
On Thursday, the bill came up on General File and the body debated the bill on the floor for the first time. Happily, the bill advanced to Select FIle with a 37-0 vote. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to bringing meaningful transparency to state contracts.
Next week marks our last public hearing for bills I introduced this session. On Wednesday, March 20 I will present LB 581 to the Revenue Committee. LB 581 changes state laws relating to motor vehicle sales tax collection. Nebraskan counties collect these taxes for the state and keep a small percentage as a commission for this collection. LB 581 increases the amount of the commission counties are permitted to collect, which will better reflect the cost to counties in collecting these taxes.
Friday began a two-day recess in the Legislature, which allowed me the opportunity to schedule several meetings in and around the district and catch up on other work as well as spend time with my family. Yesterday morning, I met with the Sarpy County judges and received a tour of the probation office and facilities.
On Tuesday, I presented two of the bills in front of the Health and Human Services Committee. LBs 430 and 368 had been rescheduled due to our snow day two weeks ago. It was my first time presenting in front of the Health and Human Services Committee and I enjoyed the opportunity to sit on the other side of the table. Both bills generated great discussion from the committee and from testifiers.
LB 368 utilizes existing rainy day funds to create a wage subsidy pilot program that would allow small businesses to hire low-income Nebraskans who are looking for work at prevailing wages. The program would fully subsidize the wages of these workers for the first two months and then slowly decrease the subsidy so that by the end of six months, the employer has fully absorbed the cost of the employee’s wages. This type of program has been very successful in other states like Hawaii, Washington and Minnesota and could provide as many as 200 jobs for unemployed Nebraskans. I look forward to working with the committee on this bill and hope to be able to discuss it on the floor with all of my colleagues soon.
This week the Banking,Commerce and Insurance Committee voted out a small business development bill. LB 205 will make it easier for entrepreneurs and local communities to recruit investors to commit to projects under $250,000 such as business starts and community grocery stores. The committee unanimously voted to report the bill to General File for full consideration by the body.
Priority Bill Selected
On Thursday, I submitted a priority motion for LB 429. Each Senator has the ability to select one bill each session as a priority bill. These bills will receive priority consideration when scheduled for floor debate. LB 429 expands the Taxpayer Transparency Act to include state contracts and if passed, will require all state agencies and boards to post current contracts online in a format that is easily viewable and searchable. This week an Omaha World Herald editorial featured this bill as an important step in improving transparency in Nebraska. To read the editorial, please click here. I anticipate that floor debate on this bill will be scheduled soon.
Weekends in the District
Work in the Legislature and in the district often does not end on Friday afternoon. Last Friday, for example, I visited the Kroc Center and enjoyed the fish fry there with my family. I was very impressed with their facilities, especially their indoor water park and pottery room.
The next day, I had the opportunity to visit with local Girls Scouts and Boys Scouts troops. During my meeting with the Girl Scouts, we discussed women in leadership and I encouraged the girls to consider running for office someday. I also received my first Girl Scout badge!
Later that afternoon, I had the privilege of judging a chili cook-off with Boy Scouts Troop 305 at St. Mary’s School. All of the chili was delicious but unfortunately I could only pick one winner: Green with Envy.
Neighborhood Associations in Bellevue?
Join me and others in attending a meeting to discuss the potential of neighborhood associations in Bellevue. The meeting begins at 1:30 PM at Bellevue Public Library and includes a discussion with Mike Battershell, President of the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance. The intent of the meeting is to begin a conversation about how neighborhood organizations might work in Bellevue. The meeting is open to the public. Come be a part of the discussion!
As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve as your State Senator. I hope that your weekend is full of family, friends and relaxation.
Until next time,
This legislative week ended on Thursday. Friday and Monday are legislative recess days that give Senators a chance to get back to our districts and catch up with our families and other jobs. I have a few meetings in the district and the metro area over the recess, but I am spending most of the recess at Creighton and with my family.
By the end of this week we passed 16 bills including the OPS board-restructuring bill. The legislature created the OPS board with 12 members back in 1915. State statutes determine the size of boards of each school classification size. Changing the statute for OPS to 9 in state statute fits within this state legislative role. The Douglas County court case that threatened to trigger special elections added extra impetus to make the change early this session.
Legislative Days/Citizen Receptions
From January to mid-March the Unicameral meets in the chamber to discuss and vote on bills in the morning and meets in hearings to hear citizen testimony on bills in the afternoons. Many groups come to Lincoln for a Legislative Day during this part of the session. Senators get a chance to meet with citizens and organizations from our own district and across the state at receptions held at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Among those who visited last week were the voluntary fire fighters, the Area Agencies on Aging, Papio Valley Preservation Society, bankers, nurses, and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers. I appreciate the chance to meet people from the district at these events as well as the opportunity to learn about how policy plays out in other parts of the state. If your group has a Legislative Day – come see me!
Next week I introduce three of my bills in committee hearings. I present LB 321 in front of the Retirement Systems Committee on Wednesday the 20th. LB 321 strikes language in state law that now requires cities to spend down police officers’ sick leave and vacation leave if they are temporarily disabled. An officer hurt on the job could come back to work with no sick leave to take care of herself or someone in her family who gets ill before she has time to accumulate more sick time.
LB 368 and LB 430 will be heard on Thursday the 21st in the Health and Human Services Committee. LB368 creates an employment pilot program to encourage businesses to hire new workers who are struggling to find jobs, while LB 430 streamlines the asset limitation rules for several assistance programs including the child-care subsidy.
Town Hall – Feb. 26th
I hope to see you at our Town Hall Meeting at 7:00 on the 26th of February at the Bellevue Public Library. If you have any questions, please contact my office at (402) 471-2615 or email me at email@example.com. Please invite anyone that you think would be interested. All are welcome, and I look forward to answering your questions.
Headlines from the Legislature this week were dominated by the introduction of LB 405 and LB 406 to the Revenue Committee. These bills were introduced by my colleagues Senator McCoy and Senator Ashford at the request of Governor Dave Heineman. Debate on LB 405 continued well into the late evening, adjourning at 11:07 P.M. Many constituents have contacted me regarding this legislation, both in opposition, and in support. I appreciate this feedback. I look forward to seeing what tax reform measures are advanced from the Revenue Committee to the full body for debate. I will be watching for the impact of any of these reform ideas on working families, retirees, and economic development.
This week I testified on my bill, LB 429, which would increase transparency of awarded government contracts. Under this legislation, agencies and divisions would be required to post an electronic copy of all current contracts on the Department of Administrative Services website. These contacts would be searchable by dollar amount, agency/department, and by vendor. This bill was heard today in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Bill Avery.
This week on the floor we discussed educational opportunities for dependents of deceased or disabled veterans (LB 180 by Senator Adams). I voted with many of my colleagues to advance this legislation. In Health and Human Services Committee, we discussed portability of career licenses for military spouses and veterans (LB 421 and LB 422). These bills were introduced by Senator Amanda McGill, and I am honored to be a cosponsor of both.
On the evening of Tuesday, February 26th at 7:00 P.M. I will be holding a town hall meeting at the Bellevue Public Library. I will briefly talk about the session thus far, legislation I have introduced, as well as issues that are being considered by my two committee assignments. There will also be time for you to ask any questions you may have. I hope that you and your family are able to join us on the 26th.
If you have any questions, please contact my office at (402) 471-2615 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to continuing to keep you updated on this session, and hope to see you at the town hall meeting, if not sooner!
Last week was a busy week of committee hearings, floor debate, and meetings with constituents.
This session I serve on two committees: Banking, Commerce and Insurance as well as Health and Human Services. There are hearings on three to four bills each day, along with several floor votes every day. This update highlights a few from last week.
Last Tuesday, the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee held a public hearing on LB 147, the Health Carrier External Review Act. This consumer protection bill will allow citizens to appeal denials of coverage for health procedures to an independent review organization. Today I voted, along with my colleagues, to advance the bill to the next round of debate.
On Thursday, we discussed another issue facing many foster care youth across the state of Nebraska: aging out of the foster care system. LB 216 would help these young people by providing a continuum of services until they reach age 21.
Earlier last week, I introduced LB 238 to the Revenue Committee. LB 238 would exempt military pensions, Social Security and other types of retirement pay provided individuals make other income in the state of Nebraska. This provision will provide for retiree tax relief while ensuring that we are able to keep our commitments to schools and families.
I am grateful to Bellevue Chamber President Jim Ristow for traveling to Lincoln and joining me to testify.
Last Wednesday, I voted with my colleagues to advance LB 112, which would streamline financial reporting work in the city of Bellevue and other communities across the state. Bellevue City Clerk Kay Dammast testified in support of this bill last week and I was happy to join her, and others, in supporting the bill.
In the District
On Thursday night, I enjoyed some pizza with members of Bellevue Chamber’s Government Affairs Council at That’s Amore in Old Towne Bellevue. Together we discussed some of the issues facing the Bellevue community and how to strengthen cooperation between city, county and state government.
Last month, I introduced LB 429, a bill that will add transparency and accountability to awarded state contracts. This Friday, February 8th I will appear before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to discuss the legislation.
As always, please contact me at (402) 471-2615 or email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
In your continued service,
Senator Sue Crawford
Lincoln, NE: Earlier today, State Senator Sue Crawford (District 45, Bellevue and Sarpy County) introduced LB 429, a bill to expand the Taxpayer Transparency Act to include transparency for government contracts. Nebraska already requires all spending and taxes to be publicly available and searchable.
“There is a quote above the north entrance to the State Capitol which states, ‘The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.’ This bill will provide citizens an additional tool for that vigilance. Citizens will be able to monitor and review state contracts from any computer or mobile device with internet access.
“LB 429 allows citizens to see how their money is spent when government contracts with other parties to do the work. The public posting of contracts will allow citizens to really see how the money is spent, who gets the contracts and what they are asked to do with the money.
“This legislation requires meaningful transparency, the website NebraskaSpending.gov provides an effective tool to access the information. Under the leadership of Treasurer Don Stenberg, our state’s transparency score has improved from a D to a B grade, according to the latest ratings released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
“I strongly support this legislation. Obtaining copies of state contracts today is a difficult, bureaucratic process for our citizens. We have the technology to make these contracts easily accessible online so that Nebraska taxpayers can easily see exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. This legislation will make sure that that will happen,” State Treasurer Don Stenberg said.
“This bill is a major step toward greater transparency in the operation of state government. With passage of the bill, Nebraska taxpayers will have ready access to web-based copies of all contracts involving tax expenditures.” Said Senator Bill Avery (District 28, Lincoln), a co-sponsor of the bill.
“As a co-sponsor of the original Taxpayer Transparency Act, I am fully supportive of the proposed expansion to include state contracts,” said Senator Health Mello (District 5, South Omaha), Chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. “With more than $2 billion being spent on state contracts annually, Nebraskans need to be able to check for themselves that their tax dollars are being spent wisely. LB 429 is a logical step to make this information readily available to the public.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 23, 2012
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Senator Sue Crawford, (402) 471-2615
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