NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at scrawford@leg.ne.gov

Floor Progress on Bills Picks Up

This week the Legislature pushed ahead with debate on many bills on the floor.  Once a bill is out of committee, it sits in line (called Worksheet order) to wait its turn for floor debate.  The Speaker usually puts bills on the floor in this order until we get to late February or early March when we switch to Priority bills. Floor debate and votes for bills includes three rounds.  The most extensive debate generally occurs on the first round, General File.  

This week we debated 17 bills from the Worksheet order and two Committee Priority bills. Among the 17 bills that passed the first round were: a bill to update our dental practice laws; a bill to remove from statute a prohibition on teachers in public school wearing “religious garb” that was put into law as part of an unfortunate anti-Catholic historical period; a bill to prohibit someone with existing unpaid campaign violation fines from filing to run for office again; and a bill to require someone who leaves employment without cause to requalify for unemployment insurance by working to earn a set amount that contributes back into the unemployment system.  We ended debate on Friday in the middle of a discussion of a bill to allow a “Choose Life” license plate in the state with funds going to a child abuse prevention fund.  One bill, a Keno bill, was Indefinitely Postponed on the floor, which is a polite way to say that it was killed for the session.  

The second round of debate is Select File.  Sometime during debate in the first round, a senator raises concerns about a need for an amendment, and then the amendment gets worked out and is debated as part of the Select File debate.  This week, we debated and passed an amendment that I asked for to an Egg bill (LB 134 by Senator Brasch) out of the Agriculture Committee.  During General File debate, I raised the concern that the bill as written would apply regulations to people who give eggs to their friends and neighbors. I asked that we add an amendment that clarified that the regulations only applied to those who sell eggs in the state. Senator Brasch agreed to bring an amendment to the bill when it came up on Select File. We passed that amendment on the floor on Thursday and then voted to advance the bill on to Final Reading (the third round of debate).  One of my friends who likes to give away eggs delivered some free eggs to my office after that vote with a nice note.  This example illustrates how important it is to read the bills and to work to clarify laws so that they don’t create unneeded regulations.  

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We debated two Priority bills on Friday.  I expect most of our floor debate will now turn to Priority bills.  Unlike any other state, Nebraska allows each senator to pick one priority bill.  Each committee picks two priority bills and the Speaker picks 25.  These bills get prioritized for floor debate, so instead of following Worksheet order, priority bills get scheduled by the Speaker for floor debate.

Committee Work

Most of my committee work this week was listening to hearings of other senator’s bills and asking questions.  We only had two of our bills in hearings, both on Friday: one each in the Health & Human Services and Revenue Committees.

First was LB588, which provides that individuals engaged in the practice of reflexology, and whose services are not designated or implied to be massage or massage therapy, are not required to hold a license under the Massage Therapy Practice Act.

The second bill was LB253, which I introduced on behalf of Sarpy County.  This bill amends the 1994 Industrial Construction Sewer Act, sponsored by Senator Paul Hartnett, that was vital for the northern part of Sarpy County to build sews and grow without using property tax dollars.  This sewer bill in the 1990’s was key to Sarpy County’s growth.  Now we face a new sewer challenge and LB 253 provides a way for Sarpy County to negotiate an agreement with Sarpy cities and S.I.D’s to build sewer capacity for the rest of the county.  Commissioner Don Kelley came to testify in support of the bill and said that it was the most important economic development bill for Sarpy County this year.  County and city leaders have been working on plans for this sewer challenge for about 10 years.  LB 253 creates a framework for the next steps to move forward.  The authority in the bill also has important environmental implications.  Regional sewer services can help counties avoid the proliferation of individual or community septic systems as they expand and develop areas with minimal sewer infrastructure. It just so happened that today was a day when the Utility Construction Association was at the capitol for their legislative day.  I talked with them during their breakfast and one of their members from Wayne Nebraska testified in a neutral capacity for the bill.  He stressed the value of regional sewer agreements to reduce reliance on septic systems to protect the environment.  

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Some of the testifiers for LB253 after the hearing

Midwestern Higher Education Compact Visit

On Thursday and Friday a delegation from the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) visited Nebraska for their annual state visit. In addition to meeting with legislative leadership and sitting in on morning debate, they hosted a dinner in Lincoln. It was a great opportunity to familiarize attending senators with MHEC’s mission, and to meet with people on the front line of Nebraska’s higher educational institutions.

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Meeting with MHEC President Larry Isaak and Vice President Dick Short at the Capitol

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 work toward greater access, affordability, and quality. MHEC administers programs such as the Midwest Student Exchange Program, in which public institutions agree to charge out-of-state students within the exchange no more than 150% of in-state resident tuition for specific programs; the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit, which works to help veterans transfer their military training and experiences into college credit and successfully pursue college credentials; and the eTranscript Initiative, which offers a simplified way for students in member states to transfer information between high schools and colleges.

I serve as one of five MHEC Commissioners from Nebraska; I am also a member of the Executive Board and serve on the Strategic Planning Committee. It is always a pleasure to have MHEC visit our state, and I look forward to continued work with them on higher education issues.

Creighton SCSJ Visit

On Monday I met with a group of ten students at the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ) at Creighton. These bright young people were interested in discussing mental health policy, immigration, environmental justice issues, and many other topics. It was a pleasure to join them and discuss these important issues, and wonderful to meet such promising young people.

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Dinner with Nebraska Teachers

On Wednesday the Nebraska State Education Association held its legislative dinner, giving senators the chance to meet with educators at all levels from across the state.

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Hearings of Interest February 27 – March 3

The Legislature’s 14 standing committees hold public hearings on dozens of bills each week. Next week we have seven bills up for hearings.  You can access the full hearing schedule for the next two weeks here, but I’d like to highlight a few from among the committees that you may find particularly interesting for the coming week.

Monday: The Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the University of Nebraska System’s budget request. With the state facing a budget crunch, this hearing will allow the Appropriations Committee to speak with representatives from the University and members of the public about proposed appropriations and cuts. The committee’s full budget recommendations can be found here. Also on Monday, my LB302 and LB303, to appropriate funds for mental and behavioral health fellowships, will have their public hearing in that committee.

Tuesday: The Transportation & Telecommunications Committee will hear LB627, which relates to the operation of autonomous motor vehicles on Nebraska’s roads.

Wednesday: LB504, which will be heard in the Natural Resources Committee, would place a moratorium on industrial development of wind energy projects in the Sand Hills region, and create a task force to study future development prospects.

Thursday: The Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee will hear LR1CA, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to present government-issued ID when voting.

Friday:  I will present LB252 before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. LB 252 requires that groups who specifically target a candidate with ads to voters in that jurisdiction in the 30 days before an election follow reporting requirements to provide transparency and accountability for these ads. A current loophole allows groups to avoid this reporting if they claim that the ads are information ads instead of campaign ads.  

Nebraska Statehood Celebration

All of Nebraska is cordially invited to celebrate Nebraska’s Sesquicentennial Statehood Day at the Capitol on Wednesday March 1st. The event is free and open to the public; the full program can be found here, but highlights will include musical performances in the Capitol Rotunda, and a ceremony in the George W. Norris Chamber. Come join the celebration!

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day.
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

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A Break in the Rules Logjam

On Wednesday, at the Speaker’s request, the Legislature agreed to postpone debate on the rules to focus on debating bills before the body. The Speaker proposed the postponement and asked for our support of the motion and our efforts to work collegially on several bills before us. On Thursday we turned to other bills and one of my bills, LB74, was the first bill to pass in this window. We had productive debate on several bills from the Urban Affairs Committee and all of them passed the first round (General File). We turn to more bills on Tuesday.

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In addition to opening a window for several of these bills to get passed, this strategy of postponing rules debate also provides an opportunity for the new members of the Unicameral to build working relationships with Senators from across the state. One of the important dynamics of the Unicameral in the past has been that the coalitions of support vary from bill to bill. So, someone who argues passionately against you on one bill may be a key supporter on your next bill. This dynamic has fostered more civil and productive debate in the Unicameral in the past, even as legislatures all around us (and in DC) became more polarized and dysfunctional. Hopefully these relationships will develop as we work through bills over the next 20-30 legislative days before we return to the rules question in April.

This Week’s Bill Hearings

My office had three bill hearings this week, all on Monday and Tuesday. First was LB254, which was heard in the General Affairs Committee. LB254 was introduced on behalf of homebrewers from across Nebraska. The goal is to provide clarification in existing home brew statute on making beer, mead, perry, and products made with honey. It also seeks to allow the thousands of homebrewers across our state to participate in festivals and other events in a regulated manner in order to fine tune their skills and compete to represent our state on the national level. Lastly, LB 254 provides statutory clarity on how homebrew clubs and groups can operate in our state.

On Tuesday we began with LB97 in the Urban Affairs Committee. LB 97 would adopt the Riverfront Development District Act. This gives municipalities the ability to create a Riverfront Development District along with a Riverfront Development Authority to oversee and manage the district. Riverfront Development Districts, or RDDs, are a tool that can be used by municipalities across the state to effectively fund, manage, and promote economic development and tourism efforts on riverfronts. The Urban Affairs Committee has already advanced the bill to the full Legislature, to I look forward to the chance to discuss RDDs with all my colleagues.

The third and final bill hearing this week was LB96. Heard in the Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee, LB96 gives public and private sector initiatives to improve the military value of military installations the opportunity to access financial assistance through the The Department of Economic Development’s Site and Building Development Fund. LB 96 will allow the public and private sectors to proactively improve the military value of our military installations across the state, including Offutt. I was pleased that the committee advanced the bill to the full Legislature almost immediately after the public hearing.

Military Spouse Licensure

One of my priorities in the legislature has been advocating for policies that help our military families who come to Bellevue, including working to help spouses of military members complete their degrees and gain employment. This week in Health and Human Services, we held our hearing on a bill from our newest Bellevue Senator, Senator Carol Blood. She introduced LB88, to make it possible for military spouses with career licences from another state with similar requirements to obtain temporary career licences so that they can begin work right away while they complete the steps to get their Nebraska licence. LB 88 applies to many of our health related careers. The bill had strong support from a wide variety of groups and professions across the state. I look forward to working to get the bill supported by the committee and to the floor. She has another bill, LB109, that addresses this issue for teachers, which was heard in the Education Committee on January 23rd.

Other Upcoming Hearings February 20-24

The Legislature’s 14 standing committees hold public hearings on dozens of bills each week. You can access the full hearing schedule for the next two weeks here, but I’d like to highlight a few that you may find particularly interesting for the coming week.

The committee process is vital, as it allows stakeholders and interested citizens to provide input on bills that might directly impact them or their communities. Having a wide variety of input allows the committees to consider both opportunities and challenges that the bill’s introducer may not have thought of. Even the most well-researched and carefully crafted bills sometimes need amending before they are ready to be debated by the full Legislature.

Citizens can testify at these hearings or send a letter to the chair of the committee before the hearing and ask that your letter be submitted as testimony in the hearing. If you send a letter, indicate clearly whether your testimony is in support or opposition or if it is neutral. NET allows viewers to live stream hearings here. Hearings begin at 1:30 each day.

Monday: The Legislature is not in session.

Tuesday: The Agriculture Committee will spend Tuesday discussing LB617, a bill to legalize the production and sale of industrial hemp in Nebraska.

Wednesday: The Natural Resources Committee will hear LB610, a bill on community solar projects and the funding sources that would be available to them.

Thursday: The Judiciary Committee will hold public hearings on four bills that would increase protections for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Those bills are LB289, LB191, LB178, and LB394.

Friday: The Appropriations Committee will begin public hearings for their biennial budget process. Beginning Monday, each portion of their proposed budget will be open for public comment. These hearings are sorted by agency, and Friday’s hearing will include the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Department of Labor.

If you ever have questions or comments about these or any other bills, please feel free to email or call my office.

Leadership Sarpy Capitol Day

Each year the Sarpy County Chamber sponsors a Leadership Sarpy class, aimed at fostering emerging leaders in our community. Leadership Sarpy participants engage in sessions to strengthen their leadership skills and lead projects that benefit the community. As part of the program, this year’s Leadership Sarpy class visited the Capitol and I had the pleasure of joining them for lunch at the Governor’s Residence. I wish the 2017 class all the best as they continue to develop their leadership skills!

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Sarpy and Bellevue Chamber Events

Friday was the first recess day of the 2017 session. I got an early start at the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Coffee. I joined my friend and colleague Senator Blood and our newest Senator, Senator Rob Clements to talk to Chamber members about our legislative agendas and how things are going at the Capitol more generally.

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Friday afternoon Senator Blood and I joined the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce for their Legislative Luncheon. It was a pleasure to meet with businesses and members of the public from Bellevue and South Omaha to discuss the legislature and answer questions.

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Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day.
  • You can watch legislative debate and committee hearings live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

Legislative Committees 101

During this part of the session we are in the Chamber for floor debate in the morning and then in committees for hearings every afternoon.  Although floor debate in the mornings has been stuck on a debate over permanent rules for several days, we continue to work through bills in the committees.  

Committee work on a bill starts with hearings.  The senator who sponsors a bill introduces the bill before the committee to which the bill has been assigned.  Then proponents, opponents, and neutral testifiers speak.  Each of the Senators (except the Speaker) has a committee assignment for each day of the week.  We spend most of our time during this part of the session hearing testimony on bills.  We often hear powerful testimony from individuals across the state who come to talk about how the bills would impact their lives.  Yesterday we heard several powerful stories from parents of children with developmental disabilities about the difference that having key services made and conversely the hardships and missed opportunities that result when those services do not exist.  One young man with developmental disabilities came with his guardian to tell his own story about how he struggled until he got the right supports to allow him to be a productive working adult.  Every bill in Nebraska gets a hearing and anyone can come to testify or submit testimony.  So, you are welcome to participate in this part of this process.

About once a week most committees meet to discuss the bills heard, to decide what additional changes may be needed, and to vote bills that are ready for floor debate out of the committee.  Five of our bills have been successfully voted out of committee so far.  We are still working with committees on 10 other bills that have already had a hearing and we have 14 more bills that have not yet had their hearing.   

Meeting on Highway 75 Construction

Many residents from the Normandy area came to a meeting that I hosted with the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) to discuss construction in south Sarpy County. Thanks to the residents who attended on February 7th, asked questions, and made suggestions.

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Thank you to Tim Weander & Sarah Kugler (NDOR) for the update and for taking questions and suggestions. Thank you to Commissioner Kelly for providing an update on Sarpy County work to address some of the concerns, and thanks also to Commissioner Zuger and to Sen. Blood’s aide Oliver VanDervoort for attending.

7 Hearings Make a Week

This week was an extraordinarily busy one in my office, as we had seven bill hearings between Monday and Thursday in four different standing committees.  

Monday’s bills were heard in the Business and Labor Committee. The first bill, LB305, which is known as the Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) Insurance Act, establishes a partnership between the State of Nebraska, employers and employees to provide job protections and partial wage replacement to workers who need to take time off to take care of themselves or a loved one.  The state provides the infrastructure for the program, the employees make small contributions to pay for the program, and the employer makes sure that the employee can leave and return. As Nebraskans we value hard work and we value our family responsibilities. Nebraska has the chance to be on the competitive cutting edge by moving forward with a strong state PFML Act that protects families and simultaneously provides competitive benefits to help address our state’s workforce shortage.

The second bill I presented on Monday was LB372. Caregivers in Nebraska play a vital role in ensuring that our older population can continue to live at home longer. These caregivers also provide important financial support to aging Nebraskans. LB372 creates protections for caregivers by adding family care responsibilities as a protected class under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act to ensure all Nebraskans, including caregivers, have a fair chance at obtaining and holding employment without discrimination

On Tuesday I had two bills in the Urban Affairs Committee. The first, LB590, works to address 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.  

My second  bill on Tuesday was LB591. This bill is the result of stories the Urban Affairs Committee heard from homeowners whose homes were not built to state and local building codes or the Nebraska Energy code. LB591 creates a mechanism to supplement our existing local code enforcement by providing a provision that would remove a contractor who willfully violates codes from the state Contract Registry if all other local and state efforts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful.

The Judiciary Committee held hearings on two of my bills on Wednesday. We started with LB108, which creates protections for children during the arrest, booking, sentencing and incarceration of a parent or guardian in order to reduce the long-term effects of trauma to the child. LB108 requires police departments to create and adopt policies to mitigate that trauma, allows custodial parents or guardians two phone calls to arrange for the care of their children, adds proximity to children to the list of factors the Department of Corrections considers when making a correctional facility placement; and provides that the Department of Corrections adopt policies for age-appropriate physical contact throughout visitations for children.

The second Judiciary bill this week was LB107, which addresses an issue relating to sexual abuse of minors in our state. When this issue was first brought to my attention by Bellevue Police Chief Mark Elbert, I was shocked to learn of a very problematic gap that currently exists in our sexual assault statutes. LB 107 ensures that minors between the age of 16-18 are protected if they are sexually assaulted by an adult who holds a position of special power or trust in their lives, such as their health care professional, educator, or youth facility supervisor. In Nebraska, we hold these professionals to high standards and we trust them to serve, educate, and protect our children, therefore, adults who hold influencing positions of trust with our children should be held accountable if they violate this trust.

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LB107 testifiers: Bellevue PD Sgt. Andy Jashinske and Lt. Tim Melvin 

Thursday was our final bill hearing for the week, which took place in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee. LB280 amends the Address Confidentiality program. The current program provides victims of abuse, stalking, and sexual assault with a substitute address to ensuring they can fill out any necessary applications with government departments, register to vote, and receive mail without fear that their address will become searchable to the public as well as  their abuser. LB 280 provides that victims of human trafficking, including those who are victims of debt bondage and labor trafficking, can also utilize the address confidentiality program.

Tips for Testifying at the Capitol

You are warmly welcome to testify on any bill before the Legislature this year. Hearing notices are published as they become available, and can be viewed at one of the following links:

  • If you are looking for information on a specific bill and you know the bill number, use the Search By Number feature here. That will bring up the bill’s dedicated webpage, which has information about hearing dates, bill language and amendments, and lots of other information. If you only know the bill’s introducer or the committee it was sent to, you can search for those criteria. Finally, you can search for bills by keyword at the bottom of the page.
  • If you are curious about which bills will be heard on a particular date, you can check the legislative calendar here.
  • A schedule of upcoming hearings, which is updated weekly, can be found here. This page also allows you to search for all hearings within a set date range.

If you find a bill of interest and would like to express your opinions about it during the public hearing process, here are a few tips as you prepare your testimony:

  • All bills in the Nebraska Legislature receive a public hearing, and absolutely anyone is welcome to testify.
  • Personal stories are often the most powerful. If you or someone you know is impacted by a bill and you feel comfortable sharing your experiences, tell the personal story.
  • Committees often ask testifiers to keep their comments under 5 minutes. Make sure your key points fit within five minutes. Start to speak as soon as you are recognized to get the full time window.
  • Bring 15 copies of your testimony if possible.
  • During the hearing, you may see senators come and go during testimony. This is not because they do not care about the testimony offered; rather, it means they need to present one of their bills to another hearing during that time.
  • If you want to share your thoughts on a bill but cannot attend the hearing in person, you can submit written testimony. Letters and email testimony are typically addressed to the Chairperson of the committee that will hear the bill, so a list of committees and chairs can be found here. If you do submit a letter or email, make sure to request that your testimony be included in the public record for the bill. It is also helpful to send a copy of your written testimony to the bill’s sponsor.
  • If you need an auxiliary aid or other accommodation, please call the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271. Translators and interpreters are also available through the Ombudsman’s Office at (402) 471-2035. Please note that a week’s notice is requested for translators and interpreters.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • Newsletters, press releases, and other information can be found on my legislative blog at news.legislature.ne.gov/dist45/.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

signature

Deficit Recommendations Advanced

This week the full Legislature had the chance to review and debate the Appropriations Committee’s recommendations to address Nebraska’s budget deficit. In a typical odd-numbered year, the Legislature advances a biennial budget covering the next two fiscal years. With the state facing a $900 million shortfall this year, however, the Appropriations Committee first crafted a proposal to make immediate cuts and shrink the budget gap. On Friday the Legislature advanced that bill, LB 22, on a 46-1 vote. The Governor proposed the original strategy for the cuts, including a 1% withholding of appropriations for most agencies each quarter that equals a 4% across the board cut. LB 22 made some adjustments to the Governor’s proposal, particularly to reduce cuts to our Justice Reinvestment efforts and the University of Nebraska, and to shore up funding to our providers of Developmental Disability services. Their rated had been cut nearly in half recently because of an issue with DHHS reimbursement practices in the last administration.

Bill Hearings This Week

This week four of my bills had public hearings. The first, LB 78, was heard on Monday in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. The idea for LB 78 came from a conversation I had at the door with a former Bellevue City Council member. During our conversation, I learned of some of the challenges the city of Bellevue faced when trying to redevelop a relinquished section of the old Highway 75, which is now Fort Crook road. This bill helps address those problems and creates a more fair, transparent, and efficient process for all parties involved when a highway is relinquished by the state.

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Testifiers from Bellevue at the LB 78 hearing: (L-R) Steve Knutson, City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli, and Public Works Director Jeff Roberts

Second was LB 304, which was referred to the Urban Affairs Committee and had its hearing on Tuesday. LB 304 is a follow-up to LR 489, an interim study I introduced in 2016 to examine issues related to Nebraska housing authorities. Over 100 Public Housing Authorities across our state, serving over 25,000 households and over 55,000 people, work in communities to address housing needs. LB 304 would implement several of the changes identified in the LR 489 study, and will allow city and county housing agencies to continue to carry out their responsibilities in the most efficient and effective way.

There were two hearings on Wednesday. The first, LB 225, was held in the Health and Human Services Committee and addresses the Alternative Response (AR) pilot program. AR was first created in 2014 by LB 853, and the goal of the AR program is to provide early intervention and services to at-risk families in order to prevent them from entering the child welfare system. LB 225 would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to continue the AR pilot program. Overall, we’ve seen promising initial results with the AR pilot program and it is important that we continue to determine the best way to serve families in our state.

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Some of the advocates who spoke in favor of LB 225 – (L-R) Ivy Svoboda, Jamie Vetter, and Erin Aliano

Last was LB 371, referred to the Judiciary Committee. It is a simple bill that clarifies the role of the State Fire Marshal in condemning properties. This bill will uphold citizen safety while avoiding cumbersome, duplicative procedures that can result in a large cost to a city or village

Nomination to lead Military and Veterans Commission

This week the Nebraska Department of Veteran’s Affairs announced their selection to lead the Commision on Military and Veterans Affairs. I am hopeful that Phillip O’Donnell, who I met along with Veteran’s Affairs Director John Hilgert on Tuesday, will prove to be an effective partner and advocate in his position as Military Affairs Liaison.

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L-R: Director John Hilgert, Phillip O’Donnell, and me

Highway 75 Meeting

I will be hosting an information session on Tuesday February 7th at Tregaron Golf Course. The purpose of the gathering is to give residents impacted by construction in the Normandy Hills and Fairview Road area the chance to meet with a representative from the Nebraska Department of Roads. The meeting will begin at 7:00 pm. Please feel free to share this information with anyone you know who might be interested in attending.

Legislative Advocacy Days

Throughout the legislative session, groups host Capitol Days to get their members involved in the legislative process. Groups as diverse as nurses, Girl Scouts, and county officials (among many others) organize gatherings at the Capitol, which gives senators the chance hear a wide range of experiences and meet people they otherwise might not. On most days, especially early in session, there are one or two of these gatherings per day. On Wednesday night I attended a reception to meet National Guard members, and from there attended an event with dentists from across the state. At the Dental Association reception I had a chance to meet a young woman named Hannah who is finishing her residency and coming soon to practice in Bellevue as pediatric dentist.

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On Thursday this week the Nebraska Physical Therapy Association held their legislative day, and I was able to meet practitioners, students, and others involved in the physical therapy world. Here I met (L-R) physical therapy students Nick Kreuger, Brandon Barber, and Thomas Myers, plus Creighton Physical Therapy Professor Kirk Peck and NPTA President Julie Peterson.

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Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

signature

Continued Rules Debate

This year has been unprecedented in many ways, one of which has been protracted debate over the rules of the legislature at the beginning of the session. I noted last week that usually by that time we would have already approved the rules. Today, after much deliberation, we extended the temporary rules again to a week from Tuesday. This basically means that we continue to function under the rules that were in place last session. We will turn our attention Monday to immediate budget adjustments that need to be made this year to address funding shortfalls, then return back to a discussion of any changes in rules after we take care of that immediate fiscal business.

Right now we have debated and adopted all of the rules changes that were approved by the Rules Committee. I was hoping that we would adopt the rules as amended by committee action and move on to our other matters. However, there has been pressure by some Republicans to get the body to accept other changes that were not approved by the Rules Committee process. There was negotiation throughout the morning and early afternoon on Friday to see if we could get agreement to move forward, but at 1:30, when it was time for hearings, we voted to extend the temporary rules, go to our hearings, and come back to the issue of adopting the permanent rules later next week.

Supporting Domestic Violence and Trafficking Survivors

I was proud to stand with fellow senators in support of a package of bills to prevent sexual assault and protect survivors on Wednesday. In the aftermath of outrage over inappropriate actions by a state senator, we gathered to push for policies to prevent sexual assaults and protect victims.

The package of bills addresses protections for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and increased penalties for human traffickers. The bills include:

  • LB 107 to protect children, patients, and students from sexual assault
  • LB 188 to ensure victims of a sexual assault in which a child was conceived as a result of such a crime have a pathway to protected parental rights
  • LB 178 to allow protection orders for individuals who have been the victim of sexual assault
  • LB 191 to provide protection for victims of domestic violence when protection orders expire after one year
  • LB 289 to increase penalties for human trafficking in Nebraska

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From left to right: Senators Morfeld, Walz, Vargas, Hansen, Blood, Pansing Brooks, Crawford, Howard, Bolz, and McDonnell

I look forward to helping these bills advance through the full legislative process, and will continue to work with and advocate for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking.

Bill Hearings This Week

On Thursday the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee held a public hearing on my LB 255. The Dialysis Patient Care Technician Registration Act is a bill to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the public by providing for the safe and cost-effective utilization of dialysis patient care technicians in the administration of hemodialysis.

On Friday the public hearing for LB 425 took place, also in the HHS Committee. This bill is a follow-up to my LB 107 from 2015, which gave Nurse Practitioners the ability to practice without a practice agreement with a specific physician. LB 425 updates education requirements for APRN-NPs, clarifies the transition-to-practice requirement of new graduates, and simplifies licensure requirements for experienced APRN-NPs moving to Nebraska from other states. These updates will allow the Nebraska APRN Board to proceed with the rules and regulation process for LB 107

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Meeting with LB425 testifiers after the bill hearing

Information Session on Highway 75 Construction

I will be hosting an information session on Tuesday February 7th at Tregaron Golf Course. The purpose of the gathering is to give residents impacted by construction in the Normandy Hills and Fairview Road area the chance to meet with a representative from the Nebraska Department of Roads. The meeting will begin at 7:00 pm. Please feel free to share this information with anyone you know who might be interested in attending.

Hillcrest Caregiver Support Group and BHECN Mentorship Dinner

This week I attended two evening events to support some of the excellent organizations in our community. On Tuesday I joined the Hillcrest Caregiver Support Group, which meets monthly and offers an opportunity to meet with other family caregivers for education and support. Family caregivers are an enormously important part of our healthcare system, but too often their contributions are overlooked. It was an honor to join the support group this month and meet some of the dedicated caregivers who call our community home.

On Wednesday I attended a Mentorship Dinner with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN). This dinner connected students from various high schools and universities in the metro area (including Creighton and UNMC) who are in behavioral health and medical education programs with professionals in those fields. It is an excellent opportunity for aspiring practitioners to learn from professionals who have been through the same experiences. I wish those young people all the best as they finish their studies and set out into their professional fields.

Meet our Intern: Macy Lloyd

I would like to introduce you to my intern for this 2017 legislative session, Macy Lloyd. Macy is currently finishing up her last semester at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and plans to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She also has minors in Communications Studies and Global Studies. Previously Macy worked as a communications intern with the ACLU of Nebraska and as a field intern with Nebraska Appleseed. For the past year and a half she also worked for the Education Abroad Office at UNL. After graduation she hopes to get her master’s in Public Health with an emphasis on public health policy.

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In her spare time Macy teaches dance classes at Hart Dance Academy and is on the leadership team for UNL’s show choir group, Big Red Singers. Her sorority, Chi Omega, is also a big part of her life.

Macy’s responsibilities include helping with administrative tasks as well as sitting in on committee hearings and assisting Christina and Shayna with projects. We’re excited to have her assistance this session!

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

signature

Last Days of Bill Introduction

Bill introduction ended on Wednesday of this short week. Over the first ten days, senators introduced 667 bills and 6 resolutions to create task forces or suggest constitutional amendments. Each of those 673 proposals will receive a public committee hearing in the coming months, where citizens can make their voices heard in support or opposition. On day 10 I introduced my final six bills for this session. You can find the full list of my introduced bills and resolutions here. If you ever have questions about my bills, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Chaplain of the Day

On Wednesday my office had the honor of sponsoring Captain Mil Yi as the Legislature’s Chaplain of the Day. Captain Yi is the Command Chaplain for the US Strategic Command mission at Offutt AFB.

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Accompanying Captain Yi were his wife, Nan, and daughters Candice and Catherine. It was an absolute pleasure to meet them all and welcome them to the Capitol.

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Committee Hearings Begin

This week we had four days of committee hearings. Two of my bills, LB 74 and LB 77, were heard in the Urban Affairs and Revenue Committees respectively. Both of these bills are examples of simple, but important changes in the law. LB 74 updates and clarifies several parts of our municipal law that distinguish different rules for the unique situations of a large growing county, like Sarpy, by establishing that those rules apply in counties with populations up to 250,000. Some of those areas of statute currently apply to counties with populations up to 200,000. The changes in LB 74 ensure that these rules continue to apply for Sarpy cities as Sarpy grows.

LB 77 came out of conversations between the Tax Commissioner and representatives of Sarpy cities to make a process work more efficiently for both sides. The bill provides language that allows the Department of Revenue to get sales tax reports to cities who participate in one of their economic development incentive programs in a secure electronic manner. The current law requires that they information can only be accessed if someone from the city drives to Lincoln and views the information in the Department office.

State of the Judiciary

On Thursday morning Chief Justice Michael Heavican of the Nebraska Supreme Court visited the Legislature to deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address. He stressed the important reforms and improvements that we have seen over the past few years in our judicial system and raised concerns about the importance of maintaining our investments in these reforms, even in a tough budget year.

Rule Change Debate

The Rules Committee advanced four proposed changes to the Legislature’s permanent operating rules, which the full Legislature debated on Thursday and Friday.

The first rule change allows the Legislature’s Planning Committee, which focuses on long-term trends and data, to designate one priority bill each session. Priority bills are precisely what they sound like: they receive consideration before other bills once passed out of committee, and are therefore far more likely to be debated among the hundreds of bills introduced. Each Senator may designate one personal priority bill; standing committees have two priority designations each; certain special committees can choose one bill each; and the Speaker of the Legislature may designate 25 bills. The priority bill process does not guarantee a bill will be passed, but does allow senators and committees to identify the bills they consider most important, and these bills get priority in terms of time for debate.

The second approved rule change is to adopt a formal technology policy. Previously, the Legislature’s technology policy was informal and produced by the Legislature’s Executive Board. If the technology policy is in the Legislature’s formal rulebook, it will be both more accessible and easier to enforce when needed.

The third rule change we debated relates to the legislative fiscal note process. The Legislature’s Fiscal Office is an independent office within the Legislature, and the excellent analysts in that office are responsible for determining the future fiscal impact of all bills in a document called a fiscal note. We gave preliminary approval to a rule that allows senators and committees the opportunity to request one fiscal note during the summer and fall months, when the legislature is not in session and the bill has not yet been formally introduced. This rule will give senators the chance to plan ahead and better assess the monetary impact of their bills. Finally, we began debate on a fourth rule to change when fiscal notes are available for introduced bills. Currently, fiscal notes are published at least 24 hours before each bill’s hearing. Under the new rule proposal, that lead time would be increased to 48 hours. We will return to debate on this fourth rule change recommended by the Rules Committee next week.

Usually by now permanent rules have been adopted, but this has not been a usual year. On Friday temporary rules were extended so that we could continue debate. Although changes to secret ballot rules and cloture rules were proposed and discussed in the Rules Committee last week, none of those changes were advanced to the full Legislature for consideration. However, it is possible for an individual Senator to propose these rules on the floor, even though they were not approved by the committee. Our existing rules on leadership selection and cloture have played a critical role in protecting nonpartisan dynamics in the Legislature, and so I will defend their importance if any such amendments are proposed to change them.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you know of anyone else who would like to receive my e-newsletter, they can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

signature

Bill Introduction

The Legislature had five more days of bill introduction this week. At the end of the day Friday, members had introduced 430 bills and a number of resolutions.

On Monday, day 4 of this 90-day legislative session, I introduced LB 139. This proposal would give registered voters in a county the ability to petition for a question on the ballot to make county official elections nonpartisan races.

On day 5 I introduced two bills. LB 224 will mirror the asset limit eligibility requirements for the SNAP and TANF programs with the new regulations for the Child Care Subsidy program recently signed by the Governor. I also introduced LB 225, which gives the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to extend the Alternative Response Pilot in order to finish their evaluation period and gather further analysis on the challenges, barriers, and opportunities of making the program permanent.

On day 6 I introduced a number of bills. LB 252 will increase transparency and accountability in Nebraska elections by requiring the reporting of electioneering materials that are directed at a specific candidate. LB 253 paves the way for greater cooperation on sewer construction for economic development in Sarpy County. LB 254 would allow for those making home brewed alcohol to serve samples at festivals, club meetings, tastings, and competitions without a permit, so long as they are not selling the samples and the event is legally conducted under the Nebraska Liquor Control Act. LB 255 calls for the registration of Dialysis Patient Care Technicians (PCTs). The idea of creating a registration process for PCTs was the result of a 407 technical committee, and was determined to be the most safe and efficient way to allow PCTs to continue performing non-complex nursing interventions tasks as delegated by RNs without creation of a licensure procedure. Finally I introduced LB 280, which will allow victims of human trafficking to participate in our state’s Address Confidentiality Program. The program currently provides victims of sexual assault and domestic violence with an alternate address to use on documents that are public record, in order to keep their whereabouts confidential.

On day 7 I introduced four proposals. LB 302 and LB 303 provide resources to the University of Nebraska to create fellowship and internship programs that will recruit, retain, and increase the competency of students studying behavioral and mental health professions. These bills will help address our state’s behavioral and mental health workforce shortage, and students in these programs will work in rural and underserved communities. Next, over the interim I met with several Public Housing Authorities, including the Bellevue Housing Authority, to discuss any needed updates in our Public Housing statutes. LB 304 is an update bill that came out of those conversations, Finally I introduced LB 305, a bill that would create a statewide Paid Family and Medical leave insurance program. Under this program, covered employees would have access to 6 weeks of leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition or 12 weeks of leave to address one’s own serious health condition or to care for a new child.Various changes have been made from the 2016 version I introduced in order to substantially reduce the program’s startup cost.

On day 8 I introduced three bills: LB 371 to remove the State Fire Marshal’s role in condemning buildings (at their request), LB 372 to establish employment protections for family caregivers, and LB 425 to make changes in the nurse practitioner statutes requested by the Board of Health.

There will be two more days of bill introduction on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Senators must introduce all bills they want considered this year by day 10 of the legislative session, though congratulatory and study resolutions can be introduced at any time during session. I will talk more about some of my bills as we present them at hearings, which begin next week. If you are interested in testifying on any of bills above, or if you want more information, please let us know.  

State of the State Address

Governor Pete Ricketts visited the Legislature on Thursday to give his annual State of the State address. The Governor highlighted some of the unique things about Nebraska in this sesquicentennial year, as the state turns 150 years old in March. The state will be celebrating this milestone throughout the year with public events, educational programs, and other initiatives. You can learn more about the many opportunities to participate here.

One of the unique aspects lauded by the Governor is the way Nebraska has historically paid its bills and passed a balanced budget. This is particularly important this year, as the state is facing a $900 million budget shortfall. I look forward to working with the Governor, the Appropriations Committee, and the rest of my legislative colleagues to find solutions for the budget gap that will not put the state’s future at risk but that will at the same time maintain important commitments to the health and safety of our citizens.

Committee assignments and schedule

Last week each senator’s committee assignments for the 2017-2018 biennium were finalized. The committee process is unique in Nebraska, in that every bill that is introduced has a public hearing. In other states and at the federal level, whether a bill gets a hearing can depend on the whims of partisan leadership and the politics of the day. In Nebraska, citizens have the opportunity to make their support or concerns known on every bill introduced each year. I highly encourage you to reach out to the committees if you want to make your thoughts known on any bill, either by speaking in person at bill hearings or by submitting written testimony before the hearing date. Committees must give 7 calendar days’ notice before they hold bill hearings, which will begin next week. The calendar for all scheduled committee hearings can be found here. It is updated daily to reflect newly scheduled hearings.

My standing committee assignments this biennium have not changed from last year. I am still a member of the Business & Labor Committee, which meets on Mondays; the Urban Affairs Committee, which meets on Tuesdays; and the Health and Human Services Committee, which meets Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. All senators’ standing committee assignments have to add up to the full five days. For the nine members of the Appropriations committee, which meets Monday through Friday, that means they serve on no other committees; most senators, however, serve on multiple committees that meet either one, two, or three days per week. Information about the standing committees can be found here.

In addition to the 14 standing committees, the Legislature has a variety of special and select committees. These committees do not count towards a senator’s 5-day schedule, so senators may be members on several of them. For example, I am a member of the Executive Board, which has responsibility for legislative services and employees. Assignments for other special and select committees should be finalized by the middle of next week. A full list of those committees can be found here.


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It was my privilege to deliver the Legislature’s opening prayer on Friday, asking for wisdom and thoughtfulness as we do our work.


Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These updates go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

signature

Last week on Wednesday the 1st Session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature began. We will be meeting in the Legislative Chamber or in committee hearings for most of the day on most weekdays from now until early June. While we are in session, I intend to send these Unicameral Updates each week to give you an inside look at what is happening and to help you get involved on those issues that matter most to you and your family.

Day 1: Swearing In and Leadership Selection

The first day of each session begins with the newly elected Senators signing an Oath of Office with the Secretary of State. Three copies of this Oath are filed with the Secretary of State and the Senator keeps a copy. One important part of the Oath is a statement in which newly elected Senators affirm that they have not accepted or received “any money or other valuable thing from any corporation, company or person, or any promise of office, for any official act or influence.” I keep a copy of this Oath in my desk drawer on the Chamber floor. It not only reminds me daily of this important trust, but it also makes it easy to reference when necessary in a floor debate if it appears that what is happening on the floor starts to violate these principles.

For first-time Senators, this signing in ceremony provides an opportunity to get pictures with family and relish the honor of being elected to serve in the Unicameral.

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At my first swearing in ceremony in 2013, surrounded by family. Photo courtesy of the Unicameral Information Office.

For those of us returning, most sign the Oath at the back of the Chamber with little ceremony. The day begins with families on the floor for the first day ceremonies that include the formal swearing in by the Chief Justice. The newly elected and re-elected Senators all stand in the front, raise our right hands, and swear or affirm to the Oath of Office. I am glad that David and Philip were able to join me this year.

 
With my family at this year’s swearing in ceremonies.

After these ceremonies, the families leave the floor, and attention turns to the selection of leadership for the session. Before that happens, rules have to be adopted for those votes; typically a motion is made to accept the rules from last year for just the one day. Those rules, which were adopted, include secret ballot voting for the Speaker and for chairs of committees.

As you have probably seen in the news, a conservative coalition dominated in the leadership races from top to bottom. Well, almost: the Chair of Enrollment & Review Committee is traditionally the youngest member of the body and that tradition did stand, as Senator Anna Wishart was elected to serve as the Chair of Enrollment & Review. This Chair introduces motions for amendments that make technical and grammatical corrections to bills. It is an important part of the bill process, but one that gets tedious and takes a lot of floor time for this member. Last session Senator Matt Hansen had the honor.

Other leadership selection traditions did not fare so well. In an unprecedented move, the conservative coalition encouraged three newly elected freshman Senators to announce their candidacy for committee chair positions on this first day and rallied the votes to elect them all to committee chairs. Freshman Senators in the past were discouraged from running for Committee Chair positions, and would not win if they did. Moreover, usually Senators announce their expectation to run for a Chair position with a letter to other Senators well before the first day so that Senators can talk to the candidates for the leadership positions. This provides an opportunity for the candidates for the Chair positions to find out about the concerns and issues of other Senators.

I was one of two sitting committee chairs running for re-election who was targeted by the coalition-sponsored freshman tactic, so I will no longer be serving as Chair of Urban Affairs and these Updates will no longer have an Urban Affairs Column. Senator Justin Wayne will serve as Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee. Thankfully, Senator Wayne, even as a freshman, was wise enough to realize the importance of hiring Trevor Fitzgerald to continue to serve as Committee Counsel, and I am grateful to Trevor that he is continuing to serve in that role for our state. This is also good news because it supports another important Unicameral tradition of maintaining Committee staff through Chair transitions. Particularly with term limits, maintaining expertise in the laws and agencies within a Committee’s jurisdiction through continuity of staff is critically important.  Unfortunately, this tradition of maintaining committee staff through transitions of chairs has begun to erode in our more partisan environment.

Our greatest treasure trove of committee experience sits in the Banking Commerce and Insurance Committee office on the North side of the building.  Bill Marienau and Janice Foster, pictured here with new Banking, Commerce & Insurance (BCI) Chair Senator Lindstrom, are two of the longest-serving staffers in the Capitol. Bill has served as legal counsel for BCI for  31 years and Jan has served as committee clerk for 29 years.  They both have even more years of experience in the Unicameral.  Senator Lindstrom has just been selected as chair of the committee, but he has 60 years of great experience and expertise behind him.

Day 2 & 3: Committee Assignments & Bill Introduction

On Day 2 the Committee on Committees finalized the committee assignments for members and on Day 3 the full legislature voted to approve those assignments. For the next two years I will stay on the same committees: Business & Labor, Urban Affairs, and Health and Human Services.

On Day 2 we also began bill introduction. Senators bring three paper copies of the bills that they wish to introduce and submit them the Clerk. Often Senators can be seen walking around asking other Senators for co-sponsorship signatures during this window. If you tuned in to our live webcast during the mornings of Day 2 and 3, turning in bills and talking to possible co-sponsors was the main floor action.

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Turning in a bill at the beginning of the 2013 legislative session. Photo courtesy of the Unicameral Information Office.

On Day 2, I introduced four Economic Development Bills. LB 96, my Site and Building Development Bill, will make loans, grants and other financial assistance offered by the Department of Economic Development  available to public and private initiatives to improve the value of military installations across our state. My state highway relinquishment bill gives municipalities the ability to negotiate the terms with the state when acquiring a relinquished state highway for development purposes. The idea for this bill came from a conversation I had going door to door during the campaign.  One of our former city councilmen talked about the challenges that Bellevue faced when trying to develop around Fort Crook Road because of restrictions that Bellevue still has to follow even though the Nebraska Department of Roads relinquished the road to the city. The third bill creates a Riverfront Development tool for municipalities and the fourth makes it easier for cities to get the information that they need from the Department of Revenue to administer their part of economic development incentives.  

On Day 3 I introduced two bills relating to the safety and protection of children. The first bill, LB 108, provides protections for children whose parents have been arrested. The bill works to reduce the amount of trauma a child might experience during the arrest, ensure that whenever appropriate the child can be placed in the care of other family members, and establishes visitation guidelines that afford young children the bonding experiences they need for proper development during their parent’s incarceration. My other bill introduced on Day 3, LB 107, will close a gap in our state’s current sexual assault statute. This bill will ensure protections for children over the age of 15 who are assaulted by an adult age 19-25 who holds a position of special trust in the child’s life (such as a school employee or healthcare provider).

More Swearing In

On the afternoon of Day 2 the Legislature hosted the inauguration and swearing in of newly elected Regents, State Board of Education members, and the Supreme Court Justices. Senator Carol Blood and I enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the beginning of Lisa Fricke’s term as a new member of the State Board of Education. She is a retired teacher with more than 30 years of public education experience, and I look forward to seeing how her leadership influences education policy in the state.

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From left to right: me, Lisa Fricke, & Senator Blood

Bellevue News

The first bill that I submitted this year was a resolution co-sponsored with Senator Blood to recognize the Bellevue West Football Team for their Championship Season. The resolution, known as LR 2,is available to read here. It will be formally approved by the full legislature next week. Congratulations Bellevue West!

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My new office is room 1016, and can be found on the first floor in the northwest corner of the building.
  • If you would like to receive my e-newsletter, you can sign up here. These updates go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day. You can also watch the Legislature live on NET Television or find NET’s live stream here.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

signature

Interim Comes to a Close, Preparations for the 2017 Session Begin

The 105th Legislature convenes on January 4, 2017. This begins the first session of a two year legislative cycle, or biennium. Each biennium contains a long session (90 days) and a short session (60 days). The oath of office will be taken by 17 new senators elected in November, along with the eight senators re-elected for a second term, including me.

The first day of session will shape the committee structure for the next two years. The Legislature first elects permanent officers such as Clerk of the Legislature and Chief Sergeant-at-Arms. Next the body votes for its leadership, beginning with Speaker of the Legislature. The Speaker sets the daily agenda and can designate up to 25 bills as Speaker priority bills. These 25 bills, along with committee and senator priority bills, receive preference over other bills for floor debate during the second half of the session. Three of my bills, LB 368 (2013), LB 719 (2014), and LB 540 (2015), received Speaker priority designations in previous years.

Following the election of Speaker, the Legislature elects chairpeople for its fourteen Standing Committees and the Executive Board by secret ballot. This unique method of electing leadership and committee chairs plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of our nonpartisan Unicameral system. In Washington DC and other states, the majority party determines who serves in leadership and as committee chairs. Unfortunately this leads, in many cases, to chairs being selected based on the amount of money that they raise for their political parties or on their favor with party leaders instead of whether they have the skills and experience for the position. In Nebraska we have a strong tradition of selecting chairs of both parties, based on who has the experience and expertise to run our committees well. I currently serve as Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, and am seeking re-election to this position. If re-elected, I hope to continue working with municipalities across the state, including, of course, Bellevue, to ensure that state policies empower local communities to thrive.

Because of our unique nonpartisan structure, our committee assignments also do not work like Congress or any other state. In Congress and all other states, party caucuses determine who sits on each committee. In Nebraska, we designate a nonpartisan Committee on Committees to determine each senator’s committee membership. The Committee on Committees meets after the election of standing committee chairs to select the remaining membership of each committee.

2017 Bill Introduction

Bills are introduced during the first ten days of session. This year, due to the election of leadership and other agenda items on the first day of session, bill introduction will begin on Day 2 (January 5th). Each of those bills will receive a public hearing in the relevant committee; those hearings will take place in the second half of January, throughout February, and sometimes into March. The official legislative calendar, which lists the daily agenda, hearing schedules, and other information, can be found here.

Our office has been hard at work on several bills to introduce in the first 10 days. Several of the bills come from concerns raised from constituents and from issues facing Bellevue and Sarpy County. Some of the bills are necessary updates to existing programs and laws. My responsibilities on the Behavioral and Mental Health Task Force over the interim includes work on a few bills related to the recommendations of that report. Our weekly updates will discuss these bills as they are introduced and discussed in the Legislature.

One bill that I will introduce has already received press attention. This bill will provide additional transparency and accountability in campaign spending. It closes a loophole that allows outside groups to purchase ads that clearly target a candidate during a campaign without disclosure. The bill would require groups to report spending for “electioneering communications” that exceed $250, with electioneering communications being defined as communications that refer to a candidate and are distributed to his/her electorate 30 days or less before the election. Currently, these electioneering communications (sometimes referred to as “issue ads”) are not required to be reported because they do not explicitly mention that the individual featured in the ad is a candidate or direct voters to vote for or against the individual. The bill would provide protections for issue education efforts such as voter guides, communications to group members, and discussions of pending legislation. The bill does not restrict what outside groups can spend or say during a campaign, but it provides important transparency and accountability protections for elections in our state.

State Auditor Releases Report on TIF Projects

Earlier this month, State Auditor Charlie Janssen issued a report on a handful of tax-increment financing (TIF) projects by Nebraska municipalities that were audited by his office. While I am pleased that these audits did not find any instances of expenditures that were not allowable, the report did identify some vulnerabilities in current statutes and processes. After reviewing the report, it appears that these vulnerabilities can be addressed with changes that can improve local oversight for these TIF projects. Our office had already been engaged in discussions with municipalities, counties, and school officials about common sense improvements to TIF over the interim as part of the LR 439 interim study. My office has been developing a package of reforms to the TIF statutes that will provide for greater local oversight and record-keeping, increased transparency, and improved communication between municipalities and other political subdivisions. This bill addresses issues raised in our interim study conversations and the Auditor’s report. TIF is the most important economic development tool available to municipalities in Nebraska, and ensuring that it works well in our communities is an important responsibility of the Urban Affairs committee and the Legislature.

National Guard Celebrates 380th Birthday

The National Guard celebrated its 380th birthday on December 13th, and I was honored to join Governor Ricketts, Major General Daryl Bohac, and members of the Nebraska National Guard for a ceremony at the Capitol. During that ceremony we were also treated to a performance by the 43rd Army Band, which does an excellent job representing the Nebraska National Guard throughout the state. The ceremony was a chance to honor and remember all the men and women who have served since even before this country’s founding, and to thank those currently serving for their commitment and dedication.

Stay Up to Date with What’s Happening in the Legislature

  • When the session begins in January we will return to our weekly Update schedule. If you know of anyone else who would like to receive my e-newsletter, they can sign up here. These go out weekly on Saturday mornings during session, and monthly during the interim.
  • You can also follow me on Facebook (here) or Twitter (@SenCrawford). In addition to keeping followers up to date on my work in the legislature, we also regularly post a “Today in the Legislature” feature that lists some of the issues before the Legislature that day and links to stream them live.
  • Newsletters, press releases, and other information can be found on my legislative blog at news.legislature.ne.gov/dist45/.
  • You can always contact my office directly with questions or concerns at scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

I look forward to all that we can do together to support and strengthen our families and communities in 2017. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

All the best,

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Welcome

January 3rd, 2017

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 45th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45
Room #1016
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2615
Email: scrawford@leg.ne.gov
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