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I look forward to full day floor debate, which begins next week
LB 719 Selected As Speaker Priority Bill
Last Friday, Speaker Greg Adams selected one of our bills, LB 719, as one of his twenty five Speaker priority bills. LB 719 is part of the larger Responsive Regulations package I introduced this session to bring greater transparency, accountability and efficiency to the rulemaking process. The other two bills in this package, LB 718 and LB 720, advanced from committee and currently sit on General File.
LB 719 requires agencies to prepare a report for all proposed rules and regulations following a public hearing. The report includes a summary of comments raised during the hearing through oral or written testimony and includes a response from the agencies to these summarized comments. The current process for rulemaking hearings makes it difficult for citizens, the Governor and legislators to assess the responsiveness of agencies to citizen and legislative comments on proposed changes to regulations. LB 719 provides a tool for senators and the Governor to use to assess the justifications behind the agency’s response–or failure to respond–to the concerns raised. It does so without an impact to the state’s General Fund. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this bill with my colleagues later this session.
While elected officials meet and make decisions in Lincoln, Bellevue, and Washington DC, making policies work for our families in Nebraska often involves negotiation and collaboration of government officials from different governments. Political scientists call this “intergovernmental relations.”
Just a few examples illustrate how your elected and appointed officials work together across levels and types of governments to serve Bellevue. Cindy Copich (school board legislative liaison) regularly informs me of Bellevue Public School concerns and current educational research relevant to educational policy decisions. Dr. Frank Harwood regularly comes to testify to let state senators know how various bills will impact Bellevue Public Schools. Councilwoman Carol Blood and Councilwoman Kathy Saniuk have contacted me and testified on bills important to the city of Bellevue related to addressing vacant properties and school boundaries. Assistant City Manager Larry Burkes and City Clerk Kay Dammast have worked with me to reduce state regulations on city operations to save money and allow cities to operate more efficiently. I have been working with county commissioners and the county treasurer to allow the county to be reimbursed for the work that we do at the county level to collect millions of dollars of highway funding and to ensure that county concerns are considered in our state juvenile justice reforms.
FEMA’s reclassification of the levees last year created an issue that requires a great deal of intergovernmental collaboration to meet the new criteria. John Winkler, manager of Papio Missouri River NRD, has been proactive in briefing officials at all levels of government. He has worked with me to engage state officials including the Governor and other senators. We have worked together on briefings for Offutt leadership. Mayor Sanders has worked to get MAPA (Metropolitan Area Planning Agency – another intergovernmental collaboration) involved and to shore up support of our federal elected officials to get their help in addressing the issue. U.S Senator Deb Fischer has successfully pushed for an amendment to a federal water bill to address the issue that is now sitting in conference committee. We will continue to work with other state senators and leaders from all governments to make sure that we do all that we need to do to protect Bellevue, the base, and new economic development in Sarpy County with careful attention to the costs to taxpayers.
Town Hall Meeting Held
On Tuesday night, approximately 25 people braved the cold weather to join me for a town hall meeting at Richmont Village. Thanks to the staff of Richmont Village, and to Mayor Rita Sanders and her husband Rick, for opening up their business–and in the case of residents–their home, to us for the meeting.
Constituents gather at Richmont Village for last week’s town hall meeting
The evening began with opening remarks followed by a question and answer period. Military and veteran issues, the Learning Community, taxation of military retirement income and the status of levees surrounding Bellevue and Offutt were among the topics discussed during the town hall meeting.
We intend to have another town hall meeting in late April following the end of session. Stay tuned for more information as the date approaches.
Friday marked the last day of committee hearings this session. In Nebraska, every bill receives a public hearing in front of one of our 14 standing committees or one of our special committees. This means that for the first half of session, we debate bills as a body in the morning and attend committee hearings in the afternoon.
On Monday, we begin full day debate, which will continue until the Legislature adjourns on April 17. In the next 24 legislative days, the Legislature will debate many key issues including prison reform, water funding, Medicaid expansion, and tax reform. Stay tuned for more information about these bills, and others, that will be debated between now and April 17.