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Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45

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Hearing on ACCESSNebraska Held

On Friday July 17, the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee held its first hearing.  I am one of seven members of this committee.  The hearing two weeks ago provided an opportunity for Department of Health and Human Services CEO Courtney Phillips to lay out her plans to improve ACCESSNebraska as well as hear testimony about the program’s challenges from providers and advocates who work with clients served by ACCESSNebraska.  

ACCESSNebraska is Nebraska’s public assistance benefits delivery system.  Created 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 continue to plague the new system. Critical help for elderly and vulnerable individuals gets denied and delayed when this assistance is most needed. However, there have been efforts to improve the transparency, effectiveness and responsiveness of the program since the beginning of Ms. Phillips’ tenure as CEO of the Department earlier this year.  For example, citizens can now view monthly dashboards for both Medicaid and Economic Assistance programs (the Department split ACCESSNebraska into two programs in 2013) with key measures such as call wait times and timeliness in processing applications.   To view this month’s dashboard, click here.

This session, the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee is one of two created during the past session.  The other committee is the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee, created by LR 34.  This committee is charged with examining availability and adequacy of programming and mental health treatment of inmates, the use of solitary confinement and administration of good time laws, among other topics.

Special investigative committees are one tool the Legislature uses to conduct legislative oversight over critical issues facing the state. 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.

Opportunities for Working Families Forum

This summer I had the privilege of attending a forum on opportunities for working families in tight budget times, sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Each participating state brings a team to work on an action plan for the state.

Other members of the Nebraska team were Sen. John McCollister, Sen. John Stinner, Liz Hruska from the fiscal office and Joselyn Luedke, legal counsel for the Health and Human Services Committee.  Priority issues of our Nebraska team included workforce development, healthcare, and performance metrics. We have a follow up meeting planned in August to begin work on our action plan.

One of the financial literacy programs highlighted at the forum was the Nebraska Save to Win program. Save to Win, passed in 2011, resulted from the work of a Nebraska team who attended an earlier Working Families Forum. As of July 2014, nearly 1,500 people collectively saved over $2 million through Save to Win programs in 11 credit unions. This year we passed a bill to extend the program to banks as well. You can learn more about Nebraska’s involvement in the Working Families Forum and the Save to Win program here.

Interim Study Hearings Scheduled

There were 129 interim study resolutions introduced during the First Session of the 104th Legislature, of which nine were referred to the Urban Affairs Committee.  Over the past decade, the previous record for interim studies referred to the committee was eight, so it’s going to be a busy interim in Urban Affairs this year!

As Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, part of my duties are to prioritize interim studies that are referred to the committee and schedule interim hearings.  A full listing of the interim studies referred to the Urban Affairs Committee, listed in order of committee priority, is below:

Resolution No.


LR 155 (Urban Affairs Committee)

Interim study to examine current and potential economic development tools available to municipalities in Nebraska

LR 174 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine issues surrounding the Nebraska Energy Code

LR 152 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act

LR 278 (Pansing-Brooks)

Interim study to examine existing resources and the need for additional tools for municipalities to further encourage revitalization of neighborhoods

LR 273 (Davis)

Interim study to examine the current practices of municipalities using tax-increment financing under the Community Development Law

LR 159 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine issues surrounding handicapped parking

LR 280 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine municipal bankruptcy

LR 240 (Urban Affairs Committee)

Interim study to examine state law governing cities of the first class in Chapter 16 of the Nebraska statutes

LR 156 (Urban Affairs Committee)

Interim study to examine issues under the jurisdiction of the Urban Affairs Committee

Unlike bills heard during session, not all interim study resolutions will have a public hearing.  Often the “heavy lifting” of interim studies is done by committee staff during the summer months, and committee legal counsel Trevor Fitzgerald is already hard at work researching a variety of topics, including handicapped parking statutes, energy codes, and the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (commonly referred to as LB 840).

Earlier this month, the Urban Affairs Committee officially scheduled its initial interim study hearings to be held this fall.  On September 25th, the committee will hold a hearing on two economic development-related interim studies – LR 155 & LR 152.  On October 23rd, the committee will hold hearings on LR 278, dealing with neighborhood revitalization, and LR 174, which examines the Nebraska Energy Code.  Both sets of Friday hearings will be held in the State Capitol in Room 1510, and will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Constituent Meet and Greets at the Bellevue Farmers’ Market

farmers market3.JPG

In June and July, I was able to meet with constituents one Saturday a month at the Bellevue Farmers’ Market. Thank you to all who were able to make it out to chat with me. I will have a table in the park after the Arrows to Aerospace parade onAugust 15th. Hope to see you there!

All my best,

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45
Room #1012
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2615
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