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Veteran Bridge Programs in Nebraska
On July 18, our office called a meeting with colleges, universities and other stakeholders to discuss veteran bridge programs and transitions from military service to civilian employment. Veteran bridge programs are designed to help veterans obtain a higher education degree or a career license or credential through a path that gives them some credit for their military training and experience (for example, military medic to paramedic/EMT). This allows the veteran to save time and money, getting them back into our workforce quickly, and often in areas where we have workforce shortages, such as healthcare. In our meeting we discussed the potential role that strong bridge programs could play in recruiting veterans to come and to stay in the state.
Leading a discussion of veteran bridge programs at the Capitol
Our office also participated in a conference call with the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Governors Association, which recently released areport detailing how six states completed demonstration projects to tackle this challenge.
In 2015, I cosponsored legislation to direct state licensing boards in health professions to review military experience and training and give credit where appropriate (LB 264, Morfeld). There is more work to be done, especially around the area of programs to bridge or cover gaps in training between military and civilian healthcare (for example: an Army military medic may be well versed in trauma, but may lack experience and skills in care during pregnancy or delivery). I look forward to continued work on this important issue.
Update on LR 544 and Alternative Response
At the end of session, our office introduced LR 544, an interim study resolution to examine alternative response in child welfare. In 2014, the Legislature approved a pilot program within the Child and Family Services Division to model a third way to respond to a family in crisis following a call to the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect hotline.
At least 30 other states offer this third option, often referred to as alternative response or differential response. This policy approach connects parents in crisis with services and support as opposed to a traditional investigation model if they are designed to be low risk cases. One of the goals of alternative response is to keep families together, prevent subsequent removals, and reduce the trauma to children associated with out-of-home placement and deeper involvement in the child welfare system.
In Nebraska, alternative response sites include Sarpy, Lancaster, Dodge, Hall, and Scotts Bluff counties, with a Douglas County site launching soon. Our office has met with stakeholders twice to discuss the interim study and look forward to continued conversations and a possible legislative briefing for committee members later this interim. I look forward to working with the Department and my colleagues to continue to monitor and improve this innovative solution for our at-risk families.
Urban Affairs Committee Going on the Road
The Urban Affairs Committee has scheduled its first interim study hearing for the year, and will be taking a “road trip” to Aurora on August 18th. Legislative committees often travel outside of the Capitol during the interim, and this will be the second consecutive year that the Urban Affairs Committee is going on the road.
At the hearing in Aurora, the committee will hold the first of two planned hearings on LR 490, an interim study to examine the enforcement of state and local building codes in Nebraska. Urban Affairs has jurisdiction over most state and local building codes, and since 2007 has heard bills dealing with a wide variety of codes, including building codes, energy codes, and plumbing codes.
Enforcement of building codes largely falls to political subdivisions (municipalities and counties), as there is no state agency that handles code enforcement, except in a few cases. LR 490 will take a comprehensive look at code enforcement in Nebraska, and is designed to: 1) examine the role of the state in enforcing the state building code and state energy code; 2) review the number of political subdivisions that have adopted local building or energy codes or are enforcing state building or energy codes; and 3) consider the remedies available to property owners when their home or business is not built to meet the applicable building or energy code.
Governor’s Summit on Economic Development
On July 12 I attended the Governor’s Summit on Economic Development in Lincoln. The summit brought together economic development experts, policymakers, businesspeople, and other stakeholders to discuss Nebraska’s economic strengths, as well as areas we can improve.
A report by research institute SRI International, which was released at the summit, focused on several key issues. It highlighted Nebraska’s shortage of skilled workers, especially in IT and STEM, and suggested that the state make investments to help college students graduate on time and stay in the state. The report also noted that relatively low wages, especially outside the Omaha area, can make retaining skilled employees difficult for some businesses. Additionally, it discussed the need to support business innovation in order to create and retain high skill, high wage jobs. You can read the full report here.
Nebraska’s economy is strong, and we have the chance to turn these challenges into opportunities to grow and diversify our state and its people. I am eager to work with the Governor and my legislative colleagues to achieve those goals.
Visit from the Bellevue Senior Community Center
It was my pleasure to welcome visitors from the Bellevue Senior Community Center to the Capitol on July 12th. To learn about and sign up for their future trips around Omaha and the surrounding areas, visit their website.
Visitors from the Bellevue Senior Community Center in the Capitol rotunda
Page Applications Now Being Accepted
Do you know anyone interested in serving as a page for the 2017 legislative session? Pages are college students who assist senators and the Clerk of the Legislature with various tasks, such as running errands for senators during the legislative session, assisting the Presiding Officer, and setting up and staffing committee hearings. The Page Program is open to high school graduates who are currently enrolled in a Nebraska college or trade school, and is an excellent opportunity to learn the basics of state government. It is a paid position, and many students receive college internship credit.
The deadline for applications is Monday October 3rd. Those interested should contact the Clerk of the Legislature’s office at (402) 471-2271 or email Kitty Kearns at firstname.lastname@example.org for an application.
Events in Sarpy County
The Omaha National Cemetery will have its formal dedication on August 5 at 10:00 am. The ceremony is open to the public, and will be held at the SumTur Amphitheater in Papillion. The event will include remarks from VA and elected officials, the unveiling of the dedication plaque, and military honors. It will be an honor to attend the ceremony and help dedicate this final resting place for our state’s veterans.
The 2016 Sarpy County Fair will be held August 3-7 in Springfield. The fair will feature 4H exhibits, carnival rides, rodeo and auto events, and of course food. The fair is a great opportunity to celebrate Sarpy County with the whole family. For the full fair schedule, check their website.
The Sarpy County Museum will hold its annual fundraising dinner on August 6 at 5:00 pm. The theme is “Save the Newspapers,” and presentations will focus on the museum’s plans to preserve and digitize over 100 years of county newspapers. Ticket information can be found here.
Finally, Arrows to Aerospace 2016, sponsored by the Bellevue-Offutt Kiwanis, will be held August 20 in Washington Park. The event will offer plenty of activities for everyone, including a parade at 10:00 am. After the parade I will have a table in the park to meet people and answer questions about last session, as well as take suggestions about future legislation. I hope to see you there!
All the best,