The 104th Legislature convenes on January 7, 2015. This begins the first session of a two year legislative cycle, or biennium. Each biennium contains a long session (90 day session) and a short session (60 day session). 18 new senators, 17 of whom were elected in November will take their oath of office that morning. The 18th senator was appointed by the Governor to replace State Senator Charlie Janssen who was elected State Auditor in November.
The first day of session will shape the committee structure for the next two years. The Legislature first elects permanent officers such as Clerk of the
Legislature and Chief Sergeant of Arms. Then, the body votes for its leadership, beginning with Speaker of the Legislature. The Speaker sets the daily agenda and can designate up to 25 bills as Speaker priority bills. These 25 bills, along with committee and senator priority bills, receive preference over other bills for floor debate. Two of my bills, LB 368 (2013) and LB 719 (2014), received Speaker priority designations in previous years.
Following the election of Speaker, the Legislature elects chairpeople for Committee on Committees and Executive Board by secret ballot. This unique method of electing leadership and committee chairs plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of our nonpartisan Unicameral system. In Washington DC, and all other states, the majority party determines who serve in leadership and as committee chairs. Unfortunately this leads, in many cases, to chairs being selected based on the amount of money that they raise for their political parties or on other political criteria instead of on whether they have the skills and experience for the position. In Nebraska we have a strong tradition of selecting chairs of both parties with experience and expertise to run our committees well. I am running for Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee. I currently serve as Vice Chair for this committee. Urban Affairs deals with policies concerning local government, some utilities, and economic development.
Because of our unique nonpartisan structure, our committee assignments also do not work like Congress or any other state. In Congress and all other states, party caucuses determine who sits on each committee. In Nebraska, we designate a nonpartisan Committee on Committees to determine membership on each of the committees. The Committee on Committees meets after the election of the chairs of the committees to select members of the committees.
Bills can be introduced during the first ten days of session. This year, due to the election of leadership and other agenda items on the first and second day of session, bill introduction starts on Day 3. Bills are assigned a bill number based on the order in which they are introduced. In 2013 (the last long session), senators introduced 655 bills, compared to 460 bills introduced last year during the short session.
What Do You Plan to Introduce Next Session?
As I mentioned earlier, to receive consideration this session, all bills must be introduced during the first 10 days of session. Here are a few issues I plan to tackle next session. A full list of bills will follow in January.
Two of the bills I will introduce are issues I worked on last session. One eliminates the integrated practice agreement for nurse practitioners. This bill passed on a 44-0 vote last session. Despite this overwhelming support, it was vetoed by the Governor after the Unicameral adjourned which meant we were unable to override the Governor’s veto.
The second bill relates to taxation of military retirement income. In my time in the Legislature, I have introduced two bills on military retirement taxation (LB 238 and 902) and have worked hard to ensure that military retiree tax relief was part of the Tax Modernization Committee’s work on tax reform. Unfortunately, the legislation that passed last year under LB 987 only included tax relief for new military retirees beginning in 2016. Because the bill passed last year does not provide tax relief for military retirees who have already chosen to live and work here and therefore does not help us retain those retirees who have already made a commitment to our state, I will bring legislation again this year.
Last session I introduced an interim study resolution regarding unfunded mandates to counties. One of the unfunded mandates identified involved the collection of motor vehicle sales tax by the County Treasurer’s office. In exchange for collecting these taxes for the state, counties receive a 2.5% commission on the first $3000 of motor vehicle sales taxes collected in the previous month. Prior to 2002, counties also received a .5% commission on tax collections over $3000. In many counties, the cost to collect these taxes far exceeds the current 2.5% commission. For example, the cost to collect these taxes in Sarpy County in 2013 was approximately $104,000 while the commission they received was only $900. This issue is one of several related to unfunded mandates I expect will be debated next session.
Survey Results Are In
Thank you to all who took the time to take my constituent survey. We had a great response of 439 surveys. Your input will be very helpful as we begin to look to the upcoming legislative session. Below are some of the main findings:
Urban Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Voting, Access to City Services and Code Enforcement in Sanitary Improvement Districts
On Friday, November 7 the Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing on LR 555, an interim study resolution I introduced examining issues facing citizens who live in a sanitary improvement district. A sanitary improvement district, or SID, is a type of political subdivision unique to Nebraska. It is used primarily in urban areas to facilitate growth outside of city limits. Using SIDs in this manner ensures that new infrastructure development is paid for by those who will benefit from it, and that residents in the center of the town are not subsidizing growth on the outskirts. In Sarpy County, there are 111 sanitary improvement districts.
Most SID boards contract for basic services like snow removal and garbage collection, but SID residents often don’t realize that while their street address might say Bellevue on it, they can’t access many city services such as the Bellevue Public Library or code enforcement as residents. The hearing examined these issues (access to city services, voting) and several others facing residents of sanitary improvement districts. I especially appreciate the hard work of committee legal counsel, Trevor Fitzgerald, in helping to organize the hearing.
Compassionate Use of CBD Oil for the Treatment of Epilepsy Discussed
Yesterday, I testified in front of the Judiciary Committee regarding LR 433, an interim study resolution I introduced to examine issues surrounding the compassionate use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil to treat patients with severe epilepsy. CBD oil is a substance that is low in THC, a psychotropic component that in large quantities produces a high. Research published in peer reviewed journals found that CBD oil helped minimize seizures with few side effects. We are working on a bill for next session to allow access to CBD oil that is low in THC for patients with intractable epilepsy who are willing to participate in a research study of its effectiveness. This is a very narrow approach that focuses solely on low THC product that is legally equivalent to hemp by federal law.
Most importantly, the hearing allowed parents of children with severe epilepsy to share their stories with the Judiciary Committee. I am grateful to the parents who traveled to Lincoln to participate in the hearing yesterday. My heart goes out to these brave families who so desperately want to reduce the seizures of their children.
Today in the Legislature: A New Feature
One way I communicate with constituents is through social media. Beginning this interim and continuing next session, our office will share an infographic with information about hearings scheduled that day and bills scheduled for floor debate along with a link to listen to the proceedings online. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to like (hyperlink to FB page) my Facebook page and follow (hyperlink to Twitter) me on Twitter. During session, I will post a “Today in the Legislature” infographic once a day as a way for constituents and others to track what’s happening in the Legislature in almost real time. The Nebraska Unicameral has a long tradition of transparency and open government. I hope this feature will assist us in bringing additional transparency and accountability to the work we do in Lincoln.
Looking Ahead: 2015 Session
The 104th Legislature is scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 7th at 10:00 AM. Due to term limits, we will have 17 new senators and a new gubernatorial administration when session commences early next year.
Photo of me taking the oath of office in January 2013.
On the first day of session, these new senators will take their oath of office. The Legislature will also elect a Speaker and chairs of the standing committees. Senators will also receive their committee assignments from Committee on Committees members.
In Nebraska, senators can introduce bills during the first 10 days of session. Executive Board committee members then reference bills to the standing committee that has subject matter jurisdiction over the bill. In Nebraska, unlike many states, each bill receives a public hearing. These hearings will begin in late January or early February once all bills have been referenced to their respective committees.
Stay tuned next month for a preview of my legislative agenda for next year!
State Senator Sue Crawford invites Bellevue area residents to complete an online survey to offer feedback on upcoming issues in the Nebraska Legislature. The survey asks respondents to identify priorities for state government and gathers feedback on issues that she is working on for the 2015 session.
Interim Study Hearings Scheduled
Last session, I introduced six interim study resolutions. Of these, four will receive public hearings in their respective committees this fall.
The first of these hearings is scheduled for Friday, October 24th. In the morning, I will present the findings from interim study LR 583 to the Health and Human Services committee. LR 583 examines the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ policies around Medicaid eligibility for former foster youth who were not adopted or under a legal guardianship when they became an adult. Under the Affordable Care Act, former foster youth are eligible for Medicaid until age 26. This pathway to insurance mirrors a similar pathway for other youth adults who are eligible to remain on a parent or guardian’s health insurance plan until age 26. Prior to our study, the state was interpreting this policy to apply only to former foster youth who aged out at 19. Our study revealed that this left out more former foster youth than it included since so many leave the system at 18. I am happy to report that the state will now cover former foster youth who leave at age 18 as well.
Insurance coverage for this population is very important for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that former foster care youth are more likely than their peers to suffer from a chronic physical or mental health condition. If you know of former foster youth who could benefit, please encourage them to apply here by clicking on the Healthcare/Medicaid Application button.
In the afternoon, I will present the results of our interim study regarding unfunded mandates to counties, LR 582. Earlier this summer, our office, in cooperation with the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and the Nebraska Association of County Officials, held a series of conference calls with county officials regarding unfunded mandates and their impact on property taxes. These calls helped us identify a number of unfunded mandates to counties, including those which are particularly burdensome for counties. We will present a full list of these unfunded mandates at the hearing. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee will also hold a hearing on unfunded mandates on Wednesday, October 29th in South Sioux City.
In November, we will present the results of two additional interim studies. On Friday, November 7th, I will testify in front of the Urban Affairs Committee regarding how cities and villages provide services to residents who live in a sanitary improvement district. On Friday, November 14th, I will appear before the Judiciary Committee to examine issues surrounding compassionate waivers for the use of CBD oil for treatment of children with epilepsy whose seizures are not adequately treated by current available drugs.
For more information on other interim study hearings scheduled this fall, please visit: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Hearings/ihearings.pdf
South Sarpy Development Discussion Held
A few weeks ago, I organized a meeting at The Lodge regarding economic development in South Sarpy County. Approximately 30 residents and business owners came out on a stormy Tuesday afternoon to hear about future development plans from the City of Bellevue, Sarpy County, Nebraska Department of Roads, Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, Burlington Northern Railroad, and the Missouri Papio NRD, to name a few. Topics of discussion included levee improvements to comply with new FEMA standards, the closure of LaPlatte Road, and the elevation of Highway 34 given flooding in the area in 2011. I appreciate the willingness of so many public officials to be there to talk about future plans for the area and to answer questions. We are planning a discussion with the Nebraska Department of Roads regarding road work on Fairview Road later this fall. If you live or work in the South Sarpy area and would like to be notified of future meetings, please contact our office to get on a mailing list.
Veterans Roundtable Convened
Last Thursday, I hosted a veterans roundtable discussion at Creighton University’s Werner Institute. The discussion was facilitated by Palma Strand, a colleague of mine and professor at Creighton University School of Law. The roundtable focused on state policy options to support active duty military and veterans in our state including child custody arrangements during deployment, transitional assistance for recent veterans including career licensing and family supports, access to state and federal veterans benefits, and tax policy.
It was a very informative discussion and I appreciate the attendees’ thoughtful feedback on the issues we brought before them. Many of the attendees are veterans who continue to serve their communities and their fellow veterans in their roles as county veteran service officers, service providers, and advocates. I am grateful for their continued service.
Mark your Calendars! Putting Family First: A Breakfast Panel Discussion on Paid Family Leave
On Tuesday, October 21st, I will serve as a panelist at Putting Family First: How Paid Leave Helps Families Succeed. The event will take place from 8:30-10:30 AM at the Kroc Center, 2825 Y Street, Omaha. Ellen Bravo, a national expert from Family Values@Work, will join me and other local panelists to discuss the current challenges Nebraska families face and how we can better ensure that workers are able to put family first during significant life events. The event is free and breakfast will be provided, however registration is required. To register, please visit: http://voicesforchildren.com/2014/10/register/. I hope you can join us!
In the District: Proposition 1 Discussion
In 1991, the Legislature created an economic development tool for cities. City residents must vote to approve use of this tool. Proposition 1 on the ballot this November asks Bellevue voters to approve use of the tool to develop the new Highway 34 corridor. Come learn about the proposal October 14th from 6:30-8:00 PM at Bellevue University’s Hitchcock Humanities Center in the Criss Auditorium.
ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee Begins Work
One tool the Legislature uses to conduct legislative oversight over critical issues facing the state is through the use of special investigative committees. These committees are created through legislation passed during the session, and unlike many other committees or working groups formed through legislation, are solely comprised of senators who are selected by the Executive Board of the Legislature. In general, these special investigative committees exist for a short period of time, usually between sessions.
This session, the Legislature created three special investigative committees to examine a variety of issues including tax incentive evaluations (LR 444), ACCESSNebraska (LR 400) , as well as policies and procedures of the Nebraska Department of Corrections as they apply to the Nikko Jenkins case (LR 424). I serve as a member of the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee.
In 2009, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services launched ACCESSNebraska in an attempt to modernize and streamline our public assistance application process. The system changed how the Department processes applications for programs including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid and heating assistance for elderly. ACCESSNebraska replaced a face-to-face application process with a system based around phone and online applications.
Unfortunately, the system has not worked as intended. Long wait times, busy signals and lost documentation have plagued the new system. Critical help for elderly and vulnerable individuals gets denied and delayed when this assistance is most needed. A 2013 Legislative Audit report found that between 2012 and 2013, the average wait time increased more than 50%, with an average wait time of 45 minutes in August 2013. The report also found that the Department failed to implement LB 825 (Law 2012), a bill that provided for local office assistance and dedicated caseworkers to help ameliorate some of challenges facing the ACCESSNebraska system.
In response to this report, the Legislature adopted LR 400, creating a special investigative committee to provide additional oversight and monitoring.
Since session ended in April, the ACCESSNebraska Committee has met twice to begin work on this issue. Next month, I and other committee members will visit the six ACCESSNebraska call center and document processing sites. If you or someone you know has a personal story to share regarding their experience with ACCESSNebraska, please contact me at (402) 471-2615 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Discussions on Unfunded Mandates
One of the interim studies I introduced last session focuses on unfunded and underfunded mandates to counties and the impact these mandates have on property tax rates. The Omaha World-Herald recently published an editorial regarding unfunded mandates, a copy of which can be found here: http://www.omaha.com/opinion/world-herald-editorial-big-pressure-on-counties/article_8ba671c6-4b55-5580-9855-e8216d38f9e8.html
Earlier this summer we met with Fred Uhe and Sarpy County officials to better understand the specific challenges facing Sarpy County. With the assistance of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and the Nebraska Association of County Officials, we will hold a series of conference calls with county officials across the state later this month. We are especially interested in learning from the discussion which of the unfunded mandates are the most burdensome and suggestions on addressing the mandates and alleviating pressure on property taxes.
New Website Shines Light on Contracts
Last week, the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) introduced a new website to bring greater transparency and accountability to state contracts. The website can be found at https://statecontracts.nebraska.gov/
With its launch, citizens are able to monitor and review state contracts from any computer or mobile device with internet access free of charge. Nebraskans are now able to search contracts by vendor, agency, and dollar amount. This website was created as a result of legislation I introduced, and the Legislature passed, during the 2013 session.
I appreciate the diligent work of Bo Botelho and his colleagues at DAS and the cooperation of all the state agencies that makes this new level of transparency possible. It will be up to citizens, journalists, business owners, and fellow lawmakers to use that information well.
A copy of the Omaha World-Herald story regarding the new website can be found here:
Preparation for Subsidized Employment Program Continues
During the 2013 legislative session, the Legislature passed LB 368, a bill I introduced to establish a subsidized employment pilot program for low-income workers. LB 368 creates new job opportunities for low-income Nebraskans and allows businesses, particularly small businesses, to expand while minimizing risks involved in hiring and training new employees.
Subsidized employment programs in other states have increased earning potential of program participants, encouraged long-term employment and decreased reliance on public assistance. In Washington, for example, the average income of former participants rose 60% during their first two years in the workforce, which represented a 148% increase in income compared to pre-participation income. In Mississippi, subsidized employment programs created eighteen hundred (1800) new jobs with an average wage of $8.65 an hour.* A study of Philadelphia’s subsidized employment program found statistically significant decreases in receipt of TANF payments and TANF assistance overall among program participants, performing much better than the control group and individuals who received pre-employment services.*
Experience in other states also shows that these programs help small businesses. In a survey of employers who participated in subsidized employment programs, 6 out of 10 indicated the subsidy encouraged them to create new positions within their company.
LB 368 allowed the Department to contract with a non-profit organization to administer the program. Recently, the Department issued an “intent to contract” statement naming Goodwill as their non-profit partner in this program. This week I met with Goodwill employees who will help administer the program. I am excited about the potential this program offers to both the employer and employee and look forward to sharing some initial outcomes later in the months ahead.
Second Interim Intern Hired
This week, we hired a second legislative intern, Erika Roan, for a legislative research internship. Erika joins our other intern, Addison, this summer. Together they will assist our office with research on our interim studies and potential legislation for next session.
Erika will be entering her second year at the University of Chicago this fall, majoring in Environmental Studies. She is originally from Humphrey, NE where she graduated from Humphrey High School in 2012. There, she was involved in the National Honors Society, Student Council, band, volleyball and FFA. At UChicago, she is an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, the UChicago Body Project, and SAGE (Sustainable Acts for a Greener Earth). Her plans after graduation in the Spring of 2017 are still undecided; she looks forward to gaining valuable experience this summer working as a legislative research intern in order to help her decide post-graduation plans.
All the best,
*Stimulating Opportunity: An Evaluation of ARRA-Funded Subsidized Employment Programs.” Economic Mobility Corporation September 2013.
**Bloom, Dan. “Alternative Welfare-to-Work Strategies for the Hard-to-Employ TANF Recipients.” MDRC. APPAM Annual Research Conference Presentation. November 2008.
Today, the State of Nebraska introduced a new website to bring greater transparency and accountability to state contracts. With its launch, citizens are able to monitor and review state contracts from any computer or mobile device with internet access free of charge. Nebraskans are now able to search contracts by vendor, agency, and dollar amount.
NebraskaSpending.gov currently provides a checkbook of all state expenditures, providing meaningful transparency to the state’s checkbook. The new website, operated by the Department of Administrative Services, expands on this work by bringing transparency to state contracts, which comprise a large portion of the state’s debits. The website provides links to contracts as well as amendments to those contracts.
“Contracts comprise a major part of our spending and our delegation of government authority,” explained Senator Sue Crawford (District 45, Bellevue) who introduced LB 429 (2013), creating the contract transparency website. “Furthermore, contracts are public information. This website makes that public information truly publicly available.”
“I appreciate the diligent work of Bo Botelho and his colleagues at the Department of Administrative Services and the cooperation of all the state agencies that makes this new level of transparency possible. It will be up to citizens, journalists, business owners, and fellow lawmakers to use that information well.”
“I applaud Senator Crawford for her work with the Department of Administrative Services on their effort to bring transparency to state government contracts through the implementation of LB 429,” said Senator Heath Mello, a co-sponsor of the original legislation. “When public officials talk about government data, it is important to remember that the data doesn’t belong to any one agency or any one branch of government because government data is the people’s data.”
“I want to thank Sen. Crawford for securing passage of this legislation. I was proud to be an active supporter of the legislation as it moved forward. I continue to be strongly committed to making as much state financial information as possible available to Nebraska taxpayers,” State Treasurer Don Stenberg said.
The new website is available online at https://statecontracts.nebraska.gov/
Committees Prioritize Interim Study Resolutions
Earlier this month, committees published their lists of prioritized interim study resolutions under their jurisdiction. A copy of this list can be found in the Interim Study Resolutions report, beginning on page 12: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/pdf/reports/interim/2014_interim_study.pdf
As mentioned in previous updates, interim study resolutions are a type of legislative resolution introduced during session. Interim study resolutions are in-depth policy analyses conducted by senators and legislative staff. The format of these resolutions can vary depending on the topic and the introducing senator; however, at a minimum they include meetings with interested parties and can result in hearings in the fall. Committee staff can also submit reports on the resolutions to the Clerk’s office at the end of the year.
It is common for the interim study discussions to lead to bills that get introduced in the next legislative session. For example, last year the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on LR 201, an interim study resolution I introduced during the 2013 session to examine policy options available to Nebraska to support our military installations as well as our military members, veterans, and their families. Out of this interim study came three bills I introduced during this past session related to military and veteran issues: LB 740, LB 769 and LB 902.
This year our interim studies are:
LR 433: Examine issues surrounding compassionate waivers for the use of CBD oil for treatment of children with epilepsy whose seizures are not treated by current available drugs.
LR 533: Investigate health insurance eligibility for former foster youth who were not adopted or under a legal guardianship when they became an adult.
LR 555: Examine how cities and villages provide services to residents located in sanitary improvement districts of cities.
LR 582: Study of unfunded and underfunded mandates to Nebraska counties and their impact on property tax rates
LR 583: Assess the behavioral health and mental health needs of K-12 students and available resources to meet those needs.
Several of my interim studies received a high priority on the committee’s ranking. These include LR 582, LR 533, and LR 555. I anticipate hearings in the fall for several, if not all, of these priority resolutions. More details to follow later this summer as hearings are scheduled.
Effective, Engaged, and Evidence-Driven: A Vision for Our Work
In May my office spent a day evaluating last session and discussing ideas to strengthen our work as well as planning for the future. One result of this discussion was a statement of our focus to be effective, engaged and evidence driven. I am grateful for the hard work of my staff that helps us to meet these goals and for the openness of so many in the community that makes being engaged enjoyable and productive.
Already preparing for the next legislative session at an office workday at Fontenelle Forest.
Part of our newsletters over the next few months will focus on my values and perspective as state senator as well as the responsibilities and roles I see as fundamental to my service as a state senator. This month, our newsletter will focus on engagement.
In a representative democracy like ours, it is extremely important that citizens engage in the legislative process. This engagement can occur in a variety of ways–voting, contacting an elected official about an issue important to you, providing written or oral testimony at a bill or regulation hearing, and staying up-to-date on the issues at the city, county, state and federal level.
As a senator, I so appreciate the personal stories from those impacted by the legislation. As we draft policy, it is important to consider how the bills we pass here in Lincoln will work on the ground in communities across Nebraska. These personal stories help us when considering different policy options and weigh the consequences for passing–or failing to pass–legislation.
Engagement is a two-way street, however. As important as it is for citizens to engage in the legislative process, it is equally important for senators to engage and interact with their constituents. Our office strives to engage constituents in a variety of formats, including school visits, town halls, our e-newsletter, mailings, social media and email. I also try to attend as many community events in Bellevue as I can and am always happy to answer questions about the legislative process.
Ways to Connect, Engage with Our Office
I always appreciate and welcome hearing from constituents and fellow Nebraskans. There are many ways to contact my office if you have a question, concern, or comment. Of course, you can always call my office at (402)471-2615 or email me at email@example.com.
I also engage with the community through town hall meetings. Here, I update attendees on what’s happening in the legislature and then set aside time for meeting with constituents one-on-one. This past year, we held town hall meetings at Bellevue University’s Military Veterans Services Center, Richmont Village, and Mission Middle School. Stay tuned for information about my next town hall meeting later this summer.
One of my favorite ways to connect with the community is by visiting classrooms throughout the district to help teach students about the Legislature. I usually open with a short introduction then allow time for questions from students. The Unicameral Information Office also offers many resources for teachers and students that I would be happy to connect you with. Contact Courtney in my office at (402)471-2615 to schedule a school visit or to take advantage of these materials.
Another option to stay up to date is to follow me on social media. You can “like” my facebook page at fb.com/SenatorCrawford and follow me on Twitter @SenCrawford and Instagram at instagram.com/sencrawford. I also post often to my senate website at news.legislature.ne.gov/dist45. The website includes copies of my e-newsletters, as well as press releases, and other updates about the Legislature.
Interim Intern Hired
This summer, we hired a legislative research intern to assist with research on our interim studies and potential legislation for next session.
Addison Fairchild will be a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying Political Science and Public Policy. She was raised in Lincoln where she attended Lincoln Southwest. There, she participated in Student Council, National Honor Society and music. At the University, she is a member of the Honors program and Kappa Alpha Theta. Upon graduation in the Spring of 2016, she hopes to have made a decision whether to attend law school or to pursue a Masters in Public Administration. She looks forward to her time spent working as a research intern this summer and is excited to see what the 2015 session holds.
While the internship is for the summer months, our intention is that Addison attend bill hearings, meet with stakeholders and follow floor debate next session as the research she works on becomes legislation introduced next session. While she lives in Lincoln, this internship is also a good fit for students in Sarpy or Douglas County because many of the tasks can be completed remotely.
We will begin the hiring process for next session’s interns in November or December. If you know someone who is interested in an internship with our office for next session or next summer, please contact Courtney in my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vets4Vets Creative Workshop
Join Vets4Vets in June and July for a series of creative workshops at Bellevue University’s Military Veterans Service Center. Vets4Vets, part of the At Ease program, is a peer support group open to all active and former military members and their loved ones. The workshops will run on Wednesday nights from 6:00-9:00 PM and include the following topics:
June 11-Design your own wearable “tattoo” design shirt
June 18- Abstract painting bootcamp
June 25-Playwriting for stage or screen
July 2-Drum Circle
July 16-Draw and bring to life your own 3-D minature character with plaster gauze and acrylic paint
July 23-Dada art madness
To register, please visit https://v4vworkshops.eventbrite.com. For more information, please contact Evan Downey at (402) 292-9105.
All the best,
Thank you to all who attended my town hall meeting on Thursday afternoon at Mission Middle School. I am looking forward to hosting my next town hall meeting sometime this summer. Stay tuned for the time and place.
Prison Reform, Autism Coverage, Water Funding Among Key Issues Passed This Session
Despite a short, 60 day session and a large number of filibusters this session, the Legislature still managed to pass several meaningful pieces of legislation on key issues including juvenile justice reform, prison reform, insurance coverage for autism treatment, water funding, and more. Here is a short synopsis of the work we accomplished this year–and the work still left to do.
✓ Autism insurance coverage (LB 505, passed as LB 254): An estimated 1,000 Nebraskans will
receive insurance coverage for applied behavioral therapies used to treat autism.
✓ Coverage for oral anticancer medication (LB 883, passed as LB 254): Eliminates the
termination date for coverage, allowing cancer patients to continue to receive oral anticancer
medication instead of intravenous medication.
✓ Juvenile Justice Reform (LB 464): Cases where youth commit lower level offenses will begin in
juvenile, rather than adult court. Makes changes to Nebraska’s truancy law, involving the school,
parents, and child earlier in the process before referring these kids to the county attorney.
✓ Prison Reform (LB 907): Makes key changes to Nebraska’s criminal justice system including a
task force to study the issue of prison overcrowding, “ban the box” provisions to help ex-inmates
find gainful employment and avoid recidivism.
✓ Mental Health Programming for Prisoners (LB 999): Requires the Department of Behavioral
Health to conduct an assessment regarding whether a correctional behavioral health treatment
center could be incorporated into services offered by the Hastings Regional Center.
✓ Property Tax Relief (LB 200): This year’s budget bills included a $25 million appropriation to the
Property Tax Relief fund.
✓ Income Tax Relief (LB 987): Indexes income tax brackets for inflation and also exempts social
security benefits from state income tax for Nebraskans who earn less than $58,000 for married
couples filing jointly and $43,000 for individuals filing any other return.
✓ Military Retirement Income Pay (LB 75, passed as LB 987): Provides a modest tax credit for
new military retirees beginning in 2015. I am disappointed that LB 987 does not provide tax relief
for those military retirees who have already made a commitment to our state and our communities.
✓ Homestead Exemption (LB 986 and 1087): LB 986 expands the homestead exemption program
to include more families, including families with a child or close relative who have a developmental
disability. LB 1087 grants homestead exemptions to veterans who are 100% disabled due to a service
connected disability. LB 1087 also applies to widows or widowers of such a veteran.
✓ Accountability for Struggling Schools (LB 438): Creates priority school process and intervention
teams to help improve struggling school districts.
✓ Training for teachers and staff on school security and suicide awareness and prevention (LB
Military and Veteran Issues:
✓ In-state tuition for Veterans (LB 740): Grants immediate in-state tuition for veterans who have left
active duty for two years or less and their families. Veterans and their families will be able to qualify for
in-state tuition and start using their educational benefits right away.
✓ Military Honor Plates (LB 383): Creates 6 Military Honor Plates for veterans and active duty personnel
who served in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force or National Guard.
✓ Employment Preference for Disabled Veterans’ Spouses (LB 588): Extends a veterans preference in
hiring for the spouse of a veteran with a 100% permanent disability. Adds a hiring preference for all
veterans, regardless of disability status.
✓ Limited Tax Exemption on Military Retirement Pay (LB 75; passed as LB 987)
Governor Vetoes Bipartisan, No-Cost Option to Expand Healthcare Access in Nebraska Over a 43-0 Vote
On Tuesday, Governor Heineman vetoed LB 916 despite the fact that the bill received overwhelming support by the Legislature. I am extremely disappointed that Governor Heineman chose to veto a bill that garnered such strong support by members of the Legislature and the many Nebraskans who contacted my office on this issue. In the days since the veto, I continue to receive emails telling stories of nurse practitioners across Nebraska–particularly in rural areas–who cannot find a physician in their area willing to sign their integrated practice agreement or cannot afford the cost, sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars, to secure such an agreement. These nurse practitioners want to work as nurse practitioners and serve their rural communities. However, the Governor’s veto leaves them without a viable option to practice short of moving to another area.
Despite my disappointment with the Governor’s decision, I am encouraged by the strong vote the bill received on Final Reading last week. No senators voted against the bill in committee or on Final Reading. It is clear that the Legislature is ready to lead on this issue. I intend to introduce a bill next year to finish what we started, reducing unnecessary government regulation and allowing Nebraska to recruit and retain nurse practitioners in the state.
Interim Work Begins
With session ending last week, we now move into the interim. Much of this time will be spent researching bill ideas and completing research on our interim studies. A listing of all interim studies can be found at the following link: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/session/interim.php. If there is an interim study resolution of interest to you, I encourage you to contact the introducing senator. The summer and fall are great times to engage with senators if you want to be involved in shaping bills and policy before bill introduction in January. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in working on any of my interim studies or if you have ideas for legislation for next year.
In honor of ServeNebraska week, I spent time visiting with students at Central Elementary and Belleaire Elementary in Bellevue.
My staff, Kaitlin and Courtney, and I enjoyed volunteering at Youth Emergency Services for ServeNebraska week, an Americorps program designed to encourage volunteering in your community. We organized all the items people have donated for homeless mothers at the Maternity Home in Bellevue.
On Wednesday, April 22 Governor Dave Heineman vetoed LB 916, a bill the Legislature passed on a 43-0 vote last Thursday. LB 916, introduced by Senator Sue Crawford (District 45, Bellevue) and prioritized by Senator Dan Watermeier (District 1, Syracuse), eliminates the integrated practice agreement from nurse practitioner statutes.
“I am extremely disappointed that Governor Heineman vetoed LB 916,” Senator Crawford expressed. “By vetoing LB 916, Governor Heineman squandered an opportunity to expand healthcare access in Nebraska through legislation that received overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans and had no fiscal impact to the state. What’s more, this veto is out of step with recommendations from the National Governor’s Association, the Institute of Medicine, the Federal Trade Commission, and Veteran’s Administration that all call for the elimination of integrated practice agreements.”
“As the priority sponsor of LB 916, I am very discouraged and disappointed by the Governor’s decision to veto this legislation,” shared Senator Dan Watermeier. “I prioritized LB 916 because of its promise to cut red tape and reduce government regulation that currently undermine Nebraska’s ability to recruit and retain nurse practitioners. This is why both the Technical Review Board and Board of Health voted to approve this change during the 407 review process. LB 916 was a fiscally prudent approach to addressing the needs of our most underserved populations and in medical specialty areas, like mental health and primary care. I appreciate the support of many of my colleagues who share this fiscally responsible approach to addressing healthcare shortages in Nebraska. Because of its strong support by members of the Legislature and many Nebraskans across the state, I fully anticipate we will eliminate this barrier to health care access in the next legislative session.”
“On behalf of the Nebraska Nurse Practitioners and our members, we echo Senator Crawford’s disappointment regarding the outcome of LB 916,” shared Ladonna Hart, ARPN-NP and president of Nebraska Nurse Practitioners. “This proposal presented a no-cost solution to addressing critical workforce shortage areas across the state and increased access to primary and mental health care for all Nebraskans. Despite the final decision of the Governor to veto this bill, we are thankful for the strong bipartisan vote LB 916 received and we are grateful for the vote of 44 legislators who stood in support of this important legislation.”
Senator Crawford concluded her comments saying, “Despite my disappointment with the Governor’s decision, I was encouraged by the strong vote the bill received on Final Reading last week. It is clear that the Legislature is ready to lead on this issue. I intend to introduce a bill eliminating this restriction of trade early next session and look forward to working with my colleagues and the next Governor to finish what we started.
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