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On Monday, I presented LB 752 to the Education Committee. LB 752 creates the Adult Career Pathways Task Force to identify and study student transitions from adult basic education, English language learner, and general educational development (GED) programs to career pathways. Bridging the divide from our wide variety of adult education programs to post-secondary degrees and credentials poses a win-win for our state: it will help address a critical skills gap in our workforce while also helping lift more Nebraskans out of poverty. A third of all Nebraskans lack a postsecondary degree while 12.5% of all Nebraskans ages 18 to 64 do not have a high school degree or equivalent. What’s more, 36% of Nebraskans are at or below basic literacy levels.
Career pathways are sequence of courses, job experiences and credentialing exams in different employment clusters that allow individuals to move from credential to credential, increasing earning potential as they progress through the pathway. For example, someone in the healthcare sector might begin with coursework to become a medication aide. Through a career pathway, he or she could progress, later obtaining a licensed practical nurse (LPN) credential and later a registered nurse (RN) credential.
Addressing workforce shortages and developing a comprehensive strategy for tackling these shortages requires cooperation across state government agencies, the Legislature, and partnerships with nonprofit organizations and employers. LB 752 pulls together these various groups in an intentional process to work toward a common goal: ensuring more adult learners complete the education and training to contribute to the workforce and advance along a career path with more experience and education.
Bill to Address Prescription Drug Abuse Advances
On Wednesday, I was pleased to join 46 of my colleagues in advancing LB 471 (Howard) to strengthen our prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). This is one of the most important pieces of legislation before the Unicameral this year. Nebraska’s current PDMP has serious deficiencies lacking. Reporting is not mandatory, patients can opt out of the system and patients who pay in cash are not recorded. Often, drug seekers and drug dealers use cash to conceal their behavior. LB 471 addresses all of these issues. What’s more, the Department of Health and Human Services secured $750,000 over four years to fund the changes in LB 471. I am grateful for Senator Howard’s leadership on this issue and look forward to working with her and other stakeholders this session and in years to come as we continue to combat the issue of opioid abuse.
The Worksheet: What is It?
On Wednesday, the Legislature returned to bills on worksheet order. The worksheet is a fluid document, updated daily, that reports the status of all bills before the Legislature. A copy can be found here: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/WorkSheet/r2day15.pdf
In general, bills on General File that appear first on the worksheet will be scheduled ahead of bills that appear later. This changes once floor debate on priority bills starts. The worksheet becomes very important during the first weeks of a short session where carry over bills on the worksheet will be scheduled and debated first. This short session is a bit unique. Speaker Hadley moved up the priority designation deadline and allowed bills from last session with a priority designation on General File to have a “carry over” priority. Because of this, we had fewer worksheet order bills debated in the early weeks than in other short sessions. However, we have reached a point in the session where few 2016 priority bills are ready for floor debate (e.g. on General File) so we return to worksheet order until there are new priority bills that advance from committee to trump these worksheet bills.
One of the “worksheet” bills we debated this week was LB 131, an Urban Affairs Committee carry over bill from last session. LB 131, which was introduced by Senator Joni Craighead, deals with issues that come up when a municipality attempts to annex a sanitary and improvement district (SID). As amended, the bill would place reasonable restrictions on an SID’s ability to spend assets during a 90-day window following receipt of a notice of potential annexation from a municipality.
This Week in Urban Affairs
In December, the Urban Affairs Committee published an interim study report on LR 155, which took a comprehensive look at the economic development tools that are currently available to municipalities in Nebraska, as well as tools that are available to municipalities in other states. Part of that report compiled ideas for changes to strengthen current tools, and the report has already begun to serve as a roadmap for the Legislature as we continue to evaluate local economic development tools.
Two ideas that were suggested as part of the LR 155 process are the subject of bills that will be heard by the Urban Affairs Committee next week. Both deal with the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, commonly referred to as LB 840 One, LB 860 adds workforce housing as a qualifying use of LB 840 funds. The other (LB 808) allows municipalities to amend LB 840 plans more easily. LB 840 allows municipalities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes, if approved by local voters. There are approximately 70 municipalities which have voted to create an LB 840 program, including the City of Bellevue. A map of those programs is shown below.
This week’s Urban Affairs hearings are being rescheduled due to the weather.
Meet our Intern, Aaron!
This spring, we are pleased to have Aaron Hoagland join our office as an intern. Aaron is currently a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln double majoring in Economics and Political Science with minors in Mathematics and International Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. He has interned for the Office of Congressman Brad Ashford in Washington D.C. and the Nebraska Democratic Party. He leads a UNICEF campus initiative at the University highlighting his interest in international relations. Aaron plans on continuing his education once he graduates.
All my best,