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With the 2016 legislative session now behind us, I thought I would share an overview of our work this session – both what was accomplished and what I hope to continue working on next session. Our office had a very productive session – I led 13 bills to passage, which is an impressive total during a “short” session. Nine of these bills were ones that I introduced, and another 4 were Urban Affairs Committee bills that I led as chair of the committee. Of these 13 bills, just one required additional state spending.
LR 413 Task Force Begins Work
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.
At the end of this session, I was selected as one of seven members of the Task Force on Behavioral and Mental Health, which was created with the passage of LR 413. Over the next few months, the LR 413 Task Force will be conducting a detailed examination of Nebraska’s behavioral and mental health care systems. Topics being studied by the task force include ways to reduce gaps in behavioral and mental health care services, the efficacy and availability of services provided through the Behavioral Health Regions, and the level of progress being made by the Division of Behavioral Health in the development of a strategic plan, adequate behavioral health workforce, and data collection initiatives.
The LR 413 Task Force is one of a number of special committees created during the past session. Other special committees created this session include the the Election Technology Committee (LR 403), the ACCESSNebraska Oversight Committee (LR 418), the Tribal Economic Development Committee (LR 547), the Venture Development and Innovation Task Force (LB 1083), and the Bioscience Steering Committee (LB 1093).
Urban Affairs Committee Interim Studies
There were 111 interim study resolutions introduced during the First Session of the 104th Legislature, of which nine were referred to the Urban Affairs Committee. This number ties last session’s record for interim studies referred to the committee, so it’s going to be another busy interim in Urban Affairs this year! A full listing of the interim studies referred to the Urban Affairs Committee, listed in order of committee priority, is below:
|LR 490 (Crawford)||Interim study to examine the enforcement of state and local building codes|
|LR 439 (Crawford)||Interim study to examine the use of tax-increment financing by municipalities for residential development|
|LR 526 (Hansen)||Interim study to examine municipal classifications|
|LR 489 (Crawford)||Interim study to examine issues relating to housing authorities|
|LR 464 (Groene)||Interim study to examine the effects of the use of tax-increment financing by municipalities|
|LR 605 (Mello)||Interim study to examine issues relating to urban redevelopment|
|LR 565 (Pansing Brooks)||Interim study to examine land acquisition within municipalities for educational purposes|
|LR 495 (Urban Affairs Committee)||Interim study to examine state law governing cities of the second class and villages in Chapter 17 of the Nebraska statutes|
|LR 496 (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 current municipal classification thresholds, local building code adoptions, and the Nebraska Housing Agency Act.
Farewell Wishes to Chris
Friday, May 13th was Chris’s last day with our office as he recently accepted another position within the Legislature as Legislative Aide for Senator Pansing-Brooks. Our office recently hired a new administrative aide/committee clerk. Stay tuned for more information about our new hire in next month’s newsletter!
While Chris was only with us for one session, during his short time in our office, he helped us pass employment protections for National Guard members deployed by other states but employed in Nebraska. He also coordinated a successful Bellevue Leadership Day at the Capitol. He was an energetic and vital member of my staff who will be greatly missed. Many thanks to Chris for his service to District 45 and the State of Nebraska!
Events in the District
Each Saturday morning over the summer, vendors will set up in Washington Park for the Bellevue Farmer’s Market. This offers a great chance to purchase fresh produce, baked goods and crafts from local artisans. I am a local sponsor of the Farmer’s Market again this year. I enjoyed the chance to talk with folks who came by my table on the opening Saturday, May 14th. I will also be in the park with a table after the Arrows to Aerospace parade to answer questions about last session and to take suggestions about future legislation.
One of the great privileges of being an elected official is the opportunity to represent the people of the State of Nebraska in honoring those who have served our country. Each year there are moving ceremonies at the Offutt Ceremony and at the Eastern Nebraska Veteran’s Home that I attend to represent you in honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I encourage you to join me at Bellevue’s Annual Memorial Day Ceremony at 11:00 AM at the Bellevue Cemetery (Franklin St. & 13th Ave.) this Monday, May 30th. It is a wonderful way that our community comes together to honor those who have served. Many thanks to Bill O’Donnell and VFW Post 10785 who sponsor and lead the event with participation from VFW Post 2280, Boy Scout Troop 499 and Cub Scout Pack 457. Sarpy Serenaders perform patriotic songs during the ceremony. The event lasts about an hour, so you may want to bring a chair with you. The ceremony is a moving tribute to those who have served in all of our armed forces – come be a part of it!
All my best,