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Visit to the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home
On August 16th I toured the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home in Bellevue, one of four veterans’ homes in the state. While there I met with DHHS Division of Veterans’ Homes Director John Hilgert, facility director Tammy Weston, and other staff to discuss several issues relating to veteran care. We reviewed how the wait list works, and discussed the quality of care that veterans are receiving at Bellevue and across the state. Additionally, we talked about the workforce challenges facing our veterans’ homes and many other healthcare sectors across the state. Nebraska’s veterans have protected us through their service, and it is an honor to work to ensure that they are taken care of as they age. I will continue to work with Director Hilgert and DHHS to help our veterans receive the best care possible.
Urban Affairs Committee Holds Interim Hearing, Stakeholder Meeting in Aurora
On August 18th, the Urban Affairs Committee held its first interim study hearing of the year, a “road” hearing in Aurora, Nebraska. The hearing was the first of two planned hearings on LR 490, an interim study to examine the enforcement of state and local building codes in Nebraska. The Urban Affairs Committee 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.
Hearings like the one in Aurora provide an opportunity for committee members to receive testimony from Nebraskans who might not otherwise have the ability to travel to Lincoln for legislative hearings. At the hearing, committee members heard from various city and county officials from multiple communities in Central Nebraska. The enforcement of building codes largely falls to political subdivisions in Nebraska, as there is no state agency that handles code enforcement, except in a few cases.
Giving opening remarks to Urban Affairs Committee members at the LR 490 public hearing
Prior to the interim study hearing, my office also hosted a stakeholder meeting in Aurora on LR 439, my interim study to examine the use of tax-increment financing (TIF) for residential development. In addition to Urban Affairs Committee members, the stakeholder meeting brought together city, county, and school district officials from throughout the state, as well as local developers who have worked on residential projects in the area. Topics discussed at the hearing included the current housing crisis in rural Nebraska, the lack of tools available to municipalities for residential development, existing notice requirements for TIF projects to counties, school districts, and other political subdivisions, and the importance of early and ongoing communication between municipalities, counties, and school districts regarding proposed TIF projects.
Platte Institute Tax Reform Summit
The 2016 Platte Institute Tax Reform Summit was held on August 17th in Lincoln. The main presentation, from the Tax Foundation, highlighted the fact that many of Nebraska’s tax statutes were written almost 50 years ago, and that our state should now pursue reforms that embrace the new, dynamic business models of the internet era. The Tax Foundation report also suggested changes to the sales and income tax systems, as well as corporate taxation. The Summit also heard from a panel of state senators, who discussed the legislature’s past work on tax reform. I look forward to working with my colleagues on meaningful, responsible tax reform in the upcoming legislative session.
Sarpy Chamber 2016 Economic Outlook
The Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce hosted an event on August 9th to discuss economic issues relating to Sarpy County, the metro area, and the state as a whole. Presenters from Metro Community College, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Business Development Center, and others came together to discuss the state’s economic strengths and challenges. We examined the state’s tax policies and how they impact the local community, and heard an analysis of some of the workforce development initiatives in the metro area. Sustaining strong state and local economies requires input from many different sectors, and the Sarpy Chamber event was an excellent opportunity to bring those diverse groups together. I will continue to work with those groups to cultivate economic opportunities for Nebraskans in the future.
Page Application Process Still Open
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
This year is the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and there will be several remembrance events taking place in Sarpy County. HyVee in Papillion is partnering with local first responders groups for a 30-minute ceremony at 7:30 am to remember victims and honor first responders, who are welcome to stop by all morning long for a free breakfast. That event will be held in the Papillion HyVee parking lot.
The Kiwanis Club of Bellevue will continue their proud tradition of sponsoring a tribute to honor and remember September 11th again this year. At 6:00 pm, an hour-long memorial ceremony will be held in American Hero’s Park. This annual event includes several moving tributes honoring our military and first responders, including a roll call of the fallen. The evening also includes swearing in of new citizens. I encourage you to come out to honor our heroes and welcome our newest citizens.
Photo from a previous Bellevue Kiwanis September 11th ceremony, courtesy Bill O’Donnell
In association with the Nebraska Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), I will be hosting a presentation entitled “Choosing the Right Part D Drug Plan” on September 20th at Heritage Ridge. The event will run from 1:00-2:00 pm, and will help attendees learn to pick the right Medicare Part D plan for their needs. The presentation and Q&A will be led by a certified Medicare counselor, and is free and open to the public. No reservation or RSVP is required to attend.
The Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska is hosting a retreat for women caring for a warrior of any conflict on September 23-25. The retreat will be held in Aurora (about two hours west of Bellevue), and will educate, encourage and empower women who care for military members or retirees. There is a $50 fee, which covers the three-day retreat (Friday evening to Sunday noon), two nights of lodging, pampering sessions and all meals. The goal of the retreat is to bring women together for hope, healing and restoration. You can learn more and register here.
Best wishes for a wonderful Labor Day weekend!
All the best,