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Personal Priority Bills Designated
We are nearly halfway through the legislative session. At this point in the session, debate on the floor turns to those bills that have a priority. This past week was the deadline for all priority designations and proposals. In all other states, the Speaker and the majority party decide which bills get time on the floor. In Nebraska we have a unique priority system. Each Senator gets to select one bill as his or her priority. Often it will be one of a senator’s own bills, but it’s not uncommon for someone to prioritize a bill introduced by another senator. These bills get top priority for floor debate at some point before the end of the session. Each standing committee also identifies 2 priority bills. Thursday was the deadline for both senators and committees to identify and submit their priority bills. The Speaker also gets to select 25 priority bills. Tuesday was the deadline to submit bills for the Speaker to consider as a Speaker priority bill, and he will announce his selections early next week. You can find the full list of personal and committee priority bills here; once the speaker announces his priorities on Monday, they will appear there as well.
Since all of the priority deadlines were this week, and since getting a priority designation on a bill is so important, this week was a hectic one. All of the senators were scrambling to try to get their most important bills voted out of committee before the priority deadlines so that they could propose them as Speaker priority bills or line up another Senator to make the bill his or her personal priority bill. The Speaker is unlikely to pick a bill that has not gotten out of committee, and individual Senators tend to be reluctant to pick a bill as a priority if it has not gotten out of committee by the deadline.
My priority bill this session is LB225, which extends the Alternative Response (AR) pilot in our child welfare system. AR is an innovative approach that seeks to help families and children in a more supportive way to keep them from being further involved in the child welfare system. We have seen some positive results from early AR efforts in Sarpy County, with great support coming for these families from community partners through Lift Up Sarpy County. AR was piloted in a few counties, and LB 225 allows this approach will to be implemented across the state. We are currently implementing the approach in a way that allows us to compare this alternative response with our traditional response to these families, so that we can assess which approach works better. Under LB225 we will get results from this study and then decide whether to continue this approach or not. LB225 will also incorporate an amendment that pulls in material from three other bills that were passed by the Health and Human Services Committee, with the goal of creating a package bill that strengthens our child welfare system with attention to addressing our budget shortfall.
Upcoming Town Hall Meeting
I will be hosting a town hall at the Bellevue Public Library from 6:30-7:30 pm on Tuesday March 14. The purpose of this meeting will be to update residents on the current legislative session and to provide the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
If you aren’t available to attend Tuesday night, I will be back at the library at 10:00 am on Saturday March 18th for a Legislative Coffee with Senator Carol Blood. We will discuss the session and again be available for questions.
Having two gatherings will hopefully give a wider range of people the opportunity to attend – I hope to see you all there!
USSTRATCOM Fellows Lunch
On Wednesday I had the privilege of joining members of the 2017 USSTRATCOM Strategic Leadership Fellows Program for a lunch meeting. The program is a graduate-level leadership development program based in Omaha, and is open to USSTRATCOM civilian employees who have shown proven dedication to USSTRATCOM’s mission and values. At the luncheon, the fellows met with several senators, including me, to discuss leadership at the state and federal government levels. It is always a pleasure to meet with the fellows, and I wish them all the best as they continue the program.
NEBRASKAland Statehood Day Dinner
On Saturday March 4th David and I attended the annual NEBRASKAland Statehood Day dinner. Held in the Capitol Rotunda, this event is a wonderful celebration of our state. This year’s event was particularly special because 2017 is Nebraska’s 150th anniversary of statehood. The event is also an opportunity to honor distinguished Nebraskans who have made significant contributions to our state. This year’s honorees were Judi gaiashkibos, the long-time Executive Director of the Nebraska Commision on Indian Affairs and nationally known expert on Native American issues; Robert Ripley, who has overseen conservation and repairs at the statehouse as Nebraska Capitol Administrator for 33 years; and Dayle Williamson, who has served the state both as a long-time Nebraska Army National Guard member and as director of the Natural Resources Commission for 30 years. These three individuals have dedicated their lives and careers to our state, and are absolutely deserving of this honor.
MHEC in Minneapolis
Friday was a busy day, as I flew to Minnesota to attend a strategic planning meeting for the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC). MHEC is a collaborative interstate compact dedicated to promoting higher educational opportunities in the Midwest. For 25 years, MHEC has helped educational institutions in its 12 member states, including Nebraska, work toward greater access, affordability, and quality.
Friday’s session brought together a small team of commissioners from MHEC member states to identify key priorities for our future efforts to help states work together to strengthen higher education in all of our states.
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All the best,