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My 2015 Legislative Agenda
Wednesday was the last day for senators to introduce new bills. This year, I introduced 19 bills. To view a complete list of the legislation I introduced, click here [http://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/search_by_introducer.php].
Introducing LB 107 to the Health and Human Services Committee this week
Several of these bills have their public hearings next week, including LB 146, LB 148 and LB 272. LB 146 was a bill idea brought to us by a constituent, Bill Henry. Bill Henry works with the Nebraska Chapter of Missing in America Project to locate, identify and inter unclaimed cremated remains of veterans and their dependents. Bill Henry has worked with several funeral homes to identify and inter veterans at Fort McPherson free of charge. LB 146 establishes a process for funeral homes to work with veteran service organizations like Missing in America Project to find a final resting place for these forgotten heroes. The hearing for LB 146 is Thursday, January 29 at 1:30 PM in front of the Health and Human Services Committee, room 1510.
LB 148 is the result of LR 533, an interim study resolution I introduced last session regarding foster youth who age out of the foster care system without reunification with their families or adoption. Under the Affordable Care Act, former foster youth can stay on the state’s insurance plan (Medicaid) until age 26. This mirrors the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26. Currently, if a former foster youth ages out of the system in Iowa, Missouri or any other state and moves to Nebraska to work or attend school, they lose access to this health coverage. LB 148 ensures all foster youth living in Nebraska who age out of the foster care system have access to health insurance. The hearing for LB 148 is Friday, January 30 at 1:30 PM in front of the Health and Human Services Committee, room 1510.
LB 272 creates a voluntary veterans preference in private employment. This bill complements the work of the Legislature last year for public sector employees, allowing private sector employers to equitably compete for veteran talent. Under the bill, businesses can elect to offer a hiring preference for veterans and spouses of 100% disabled veterans. If adopted, Nebraska would join at least twelve states, including neighboring Iowa, who have established similar programs. The hearing for LB 272 is Wednesday, January 28 in front of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee in room 1507.
Meet My Staff: Trevor Fitzgerald
With my election as chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, my office now houses committee staff in addition to my own personal staff. Courtney Breitkreutz, my administrative aide, takes on the added duties of serving as committee clerk, and my office welcomed a new member, committee legal counsel Trevor Fitzgerald.
Trevor started working in the Legislature in 2009, and is originally from Louisville, Nebraska. Trevor earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UNL, and a law degree from Creighton University. Prior to joining the Urban Affairs Committee as legal counsel this past September, Trevor served as legislative aide for former Senator Bob Giese of South Sioux City and Senator Heath Mello of Omaha. More recently, Trevor also served as research analyst for the Appropriations Committee, advising the committee chair on legal, procedural, and policy issues related to the state budget process.
In his role as legal counsel, Trevor reviews and analyzes legislation assigned to the committee, coordinates committee hearings and briefings, researches legal and policy issues for the committee, and monitors activities related to the committee’s jurisdiction. The Urban Affairs Committee primarily deals with the statutes governing municipalities (cities and villages) in Nebraska, and also has jurisdiction over state natural gas regulation, building codes, handicap parking, and various types of special districts, including Sanitary and Improvement Districts (SIDs), Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD), mass transit authorities, housing authorities, and business improvement districts.
Trevor and his wife Bonnie, who is a history professor at Metropolitan Community College, live in the Maple Village neighborhood in Northwest Omaha with their soon-to-be 4-year-old son, Jack. Trevor also serves as president of the Maple Village Neighborhood Association, enjoys traveling to and hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is an avid baseball fan.
This Week in Urban Affairs
Each week during committee hearings, my update will feature a preview of the issues being heard by the Urban Affairs Committee in the coming week. The committee’s first week of hearings focused on a handful of municipal-related bills that were heard by the committee in 2014 but failed to become law due to time constraints. This week, the committee’s hearings will shift to sanitary and improvement districts, or SIDs.
SIDs are a type of limited-purpose political subdivision that is unique to Nebraska. First created in the late-1940s, SIDs are primarily utilized in urban areas to facilitate growth outside of city limits, with the expectation that the SID will eventually be annexed by the nearby municipality. Of the roughly 325 SIDs statewide, more than 80% are located in either Douglas or Sarpy County. While a helpful development tool, SIDs present a wide variety of unique challenges for residents, particularly in cases where an SID is not annexed by a city that “grows around” it. Most SID boards provide for basic services through contract or inter local agreement, but SID residents are often unaware that they cannot access city services without paying separate fees that are not charged to city residents. Similarly, SID residents are unable to vote in city elections since they are outside of city limits.
This week, the Urban Affairs Committee will hear four bills, three dealing with SIDs, and a fourth dealing with business improvement districts:
LB 168: Authorize expansion of existing business improvement districts
LB 116: Change election procedures and membership for certain SID boards of trustees
LB 131: Change provisions relating to annexation and prohibit SIDs from spending certain assets
LB 149: Change provisions relating to election procedures for SIDs
To watch these and all other hearings online , visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government
Sue in the News
Bellevue Leader Article on my priorities for this session: http://www.omaha.com/sarpy/bellevue/state-senators-list-session-s-priorities/article_dde8087f-81cc-5d05-979e-7ca4664d6a91.html
NET News article on my bill to improve campaign finance laws: http://netnebraska.org/article/news/954291/bills-eliminate-mandatory-minimum-sentences-tighten-campaign-finance-laws
Omaha World Herald article on veterans legislation this year, including my bill to exempt military retirement pay from income tax: http://www.omaha.com/news/legislature/senator-says-bills-to-support-veterans-could-help-nebraska-keep/article_8f2ea4e4-5632-5546-ad47-3b927ed4753a.html
Lincoln Journal Star article on my bill to make sure veterans’ unclaimed remains receive a proper burial: http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/forgotten-valor-push-to-honor-veterans-unclaimed-ashes-reaches-state/article_5231aa1a-c0a8-5169-9345-4e2e919e44c6.html
Unicameral Information Office article on my bill to eliminate the practice agreement for nurse practitioners: http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=15982
Town Hall meeting
I will be holding a town hall meeting on Thursday, February 12th at 6:30 in the Symposium room in the Muller Administration Building on the Bellevue University Campus (1000 Galvin Rd. South, Bellevue, NE 68005). Follow the signs to the Administration building, enter the glass doors, and take the elevator to the lower level. I look forward to updating everyone on legislation introduced so far this session and addressing any questions or concerns you may have. See you there!