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Sen. Crawford speaking to the Nebraska Chamber’s Public Affairs Council last week. Photo courtesy of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce
Learning Community to be Discussed Next Week
On Tuesday afternoon, the Education Committee will conduct public hearings for several bills related to the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy County. These hearings include a bill I introduced this session, LB 392.
LB 392 addresses one of the most significant issues facing economic development and growth in Bellevue and Sarpy County: school district boundaries. As the fastest growing county in Nebraska, Sarpy County needs flexibility as it grows and develops. The bill creates a process if negotiations over agricultural land transfers between the Learning Community schools break down. My hope is that school districts are able to work out this transfer without the process created in LB 392; however a process is important to ensure these disputes do not drag out indefinitely. LB 392 also eliminates the common levy for Learning Community schools and restores Educational Service Unit funding to schools in Douglas and Sarpy County schools. The Education hearings will begin at 1:30 PM in room 1525 in the State Capitol.
Asset Limit hearing held
Yesterday, I presented LB 147 to the Health and Human Services Committee. LB 147 is one step the Legislature can take to address some of the challenges plaguing ACCESSNebraska. The bill streamlines the administration of several public assistance programs under the purview of ACCESSNebraska, reducing unnecessary 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.
Veteran Preference Bill Passes First Round
On Friday morning, LB 272, my bill to provide for a voluntary veterans preference in hiring passed General File, the first of three rounds of votes on a bill. Under the bill, businesses can elect to offer a hiring preference for veterans and spouses of 100% disabled veterans or those killed in action. If LB 272 passes, private companies across Nebraska can establish hiring preferences for veterans and veteran spouses that clearly comply with federal civil rights laws.
This Week in Urban Affairs
Of the twenty bills that were referenced to the Urban Affairs Committee this legislative session, six have already been advanced to the floor of the Legislature by the committee. Among those bills is LB 168, a bill that updates and modernizes Nebraska’s statutes governing business improvement districts (BIDs).
BIDs are special-purpose districts created by a municipality to help fund improvements and developments within an established business area. While the use of BIDs has increased in recent years, the statutes governing them have remained largely unchanged since the 1980s. Under LB 168, the cumbersome process of creating a BID would be streamlined to provide affected businesses with clearer information about the proposed district.
LB 168 would also create a process to allow the expansion of an existing BID. Currently, if additional businesses would like to receive the benefits of the BID, there is no process in statute to expand the current boundaries. As a result, several communities have been forced to create new BIDs adjacent to the existing ones, which causes unnecessary duplication. The process to expand an existing BID would mirror the process for creating one under current law.
This week’s Urban Affairs Committee will be returning to the topic of sanitary and improvement districts (SIDs), hearing four bills on the subject:
LB 197: Provide additional powers to certain SIDs
LB 420: Require acknowledgments from purchasers of real estate in a SID
LB 300: Change provisions relating to enforcement of ordinances by SIDs
LB 324: Provide authority to SIDs to contract for solid waste collection services
Looking Ahead: The Priority Bill Process
Beginning on Monday, February 23, senators and committees can begin designating priority bills. In Nebraska, each senator has the opportunity to designate one personal priority bill while each committee can designate up to two committee priority bills. In addition, the Speaker of the Legislature can designate up to 25 Speaker priority bills. Bills with these three types of priority designations receive preference for scheduling floor debate. In the past two years, I selected LB 429 (2013) and LB 740 (2014) as my personal priority bills. LB 429 created a website to bring greater transparency and accountability to state contracts. The website can be found here: https://statecontracts.nebraska.gov/ LB 740 granted in-state tuition for veterans who left active duty within the past two years as well as their spouses and dependents. I will select my personal priority bill for this year in the next few weeks.
Two of my bills, LB 368 (2013) and LB 719 (2014), received Speaker priority designations in previous years. LB 368 created a subsidized employment pilot program for low-income workers. GoodHire, a program operated by Goodwill Industries, is the result of this legislation. The program launched earlier this year. LB 719 brings greater transparency, efficiency and accountability to the rulemaking process. It provides additional tools for senators to assess and evaluate regulations, including a process to challenge a rule or regulation that creates an undue burden that significantly outweighs its benefit to the public or circumstances have changed since the passage of the statute which the rule implements.
Sue in the News
WOWT story on LB146, my bill to establish a process for funeral homes to work with veterans organizations to find a final resting place for veterans’ unclaimed remains:http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/In-Depth-Help-for-Unclaimed-Ashes-of-Veterans-290647651.html
Unicameral Update article on LB148, my bill which would ensure that all foster youth living in Nebraska who age out of foster care have access to health insurance: http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=16187
Omaha World Herald article on LB267, my bill which would provide tax exemptions for military retirees: http://www.omaha.com/news/legislature/retirees-veterans-appeal-to-lawmakers-for-larger-tax-incentives/article_aca6e722-0f1c-59c7-b2d4-9efbb6d5150d.html
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!