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Last Week of Hearings
This week committees held their final public bill hearings for the year. Our last bill hearing in Health and Human Services was a bill sponsored by Senator John Kuehn to make important updates to our Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Senator Sara Howard, who worked tirelessly to pass a bill to establish a strong PDMP system in the state last year, has selected the bill as her priority bill. PDMP programs provide pharmacists and health care providers with access to information that helps them to identify and address opioid addiction and abuse in patients.
Starting Tuesday we will begin all-day debate. Monday will be a recess day, as Friday was; on recess days the Legislature does not convene. Especially as we get later in the legislative session, it is common for the Speaker to schedule recess days bookending the weekend like this, so that senators from the western end of the state have time to get back and spend time in their districts. Senator Tom Brewer, for example, has a 6 ½ hour drive to get home to Gordon. Even for those of us whose districts are closer to Lincoln, recess days are an opportunity to work outside the capitol. For me, they are an opportunity to meet with my students at Creighton, hold meetings in the district, and attend events around town. Hopefully I will see you around town!
Bellevue Library and Sarpy Chamber Legislative Coffees
This week I participated in two Legislative Coffee events. On Saturday the 18th I joined Senator Carol Blood at the Bellevue Public Library, and on Friday the 24th Senator Smith, Senator Clements and I attended the Sarpy County Chamber’s Legislative Coffee at CLAAS of America. We had a great crowd at the Bellevue Library Coffee on Saturday and a good number of people at the Coffee on Friday morning. I appreciate these opportunities to update people on happens in the legislature in person and to hear their questions and concerns. At the Bellevue session several people talked about the importance of protecting public education and making smart budgeting decisions.
At the Friday session, Senator Clements talked about how the Appropriations Committee process works in a year with a budget shortfall and Senator Smith discussed proposals being discussed in the Revenue Committee for tax changes. I discussed the Sarpy Sewer bill, workforce and licensure bills, and child protection bills. There were several questions about the different property tax proposals and how they would impact Sarpy and schools in Sarpy as well as questions about the Sewer bill.
Priority Bills Advanced
This was a productive week for the bills on my legislative agenda. On Tuesday LB590, which was designated an Urban Affairs Committee priority bill, advanced to the second round of debate. This bill addresses conflicts between the state building code and current regulations relating to in-home daycares and in-home care set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services. LB590 makes an exception to newer stricter requirements to allow residential day care centers to operate with twelve or fewer children as they currently do under DHHS regulations, rather than imposing strict new limits on this number as would otherwise be required by the state building code. This bill will ensure that licensed in-home daycares that provide much needed care can continue to do so under an appropriate residential classification.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week we debated my personal priority bill, LB225. The committee amendment to the bill was adopted and LB 225 was advanced to Select File. The amendment to LB 225 contained a package of bills pertaining to our child welfare system that will work to improve our ability to collect data across departments and programs in order to make informed, evidence-based decisions to better protect children and families and strengthen the child welfare services we offer in our state.
Also on Thursday, the Legislature advanced two bills that will benefit our state’s servicemembers and veterans. LB340, introduced by Senator John Murante, will transfer responsibility for the state’s four Veterans’ Homes from the Department of Health & Human Services to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This bill will protect the residential services offered to veterans in Bellevue and across the state, while alleviating pressure on DHHS and giving an agency with more experience and expertise in veterans’ issues ultimate responsibility for our retired warriors.
The second bill, LB88, was introduced by Senator Blood. Her bill allows spouses of active duty military members stationed in Nebraska to receive temporary professional credentials if they have a licence in good standing from another state. 77% of military spouses report that they would like to be employed, but difficulties transferring existing credentials for teachers, physicians and nurses, and other professions pose a high barrier. Since military members and spouses have little say in where and when they are transferred, seeking Nebraska licensure before a move is not always possible. LB88 provides for a temporary credentialing process for these spouses, so that they can practice their trade in Nebraska while they seek a permanent state license.
My bill, LB425, also advanced as part of an amendment package to LB88. This bill is a technical follow-up to LB107 from 2015, which allowed Nurse Practitioners to practice without an integrated practice agreement and put into place a transition-to-practice protocol. LB425 includes regulatory cleanup language that is necessary to ensure the appropriate implementation of LB107, and ensure that NPs who have experience in other states prior to the passage of LB107 have that experience recognized in the application for licensure.
Finally, LB253, which is the Sarpy Sewer bill that we discussed in the update last week, was successfully voted out of committee. Senator Jim Smith, also from Sarpy, is chair of the Revenue Committee and has been a valuable ally in building support for the bill. Our next step will be meeting with senators to secure the votes needed to pass the bill on the floor.
Cornerstone Christian School Visit
4th graders from Cornerstone Christian School in Bellevue visited the Unicameral on Wednesday to take a tour and learn about our state’s unique government. It was wonderful to meet them all!
TeenPact Student Meeting
On Thursday I met with a group of bright young students who visited the Capitol as part of the TeenPact program. TeenPact is a 4-day Christian leadership program for middle- and highschool students who are homeschooled or enrolled in private parochial schools, and as part of the program students take a deep dive into the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of state government. Several of this year’s participants were from Bellevue and the surrounding areas, and it was a pleasure to spend some time discussing the bills they found particularly interesting, as well as their overall experiences in the program.
Unicameral Youth Legislature
I invite all Bellevue high schoolers to apply for the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature, which this year will run June 11-14. High school students will take on the role of state senators at the State Capitol: participants will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will get to learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff. Scholarships are available; you can get more details about the program here, or you can call the Unicameral Information Office at 402-471-2788. The deadline to register is May 15.
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All the best,