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Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45

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Final Session Week Schedule

Our Legislature’s rulebook lays out the requirements for discussing bills, so in the dwindling days of session we are limited in what we can reasonably take up. Bills passed on General File have to wait until at least the following day for Select File debate; bills passed on Select File must be laid over (or not scheduled for debate) for at least one day before coming up for Final Reading. These rules allow senators time to think about bills before they come back up for the next round, and just as importantly allow our bill drafters to comb through all legislation for technical errors. Because of this rule and our schedule in the coming week (more on that below), all bills with any chance of passage had to be advanced from General File no later than Monday, and from Select File no later than Tuesday. Those Tuesday bills were laid over on Wednesday of this week, while we debated another set of Final Reading bills that had been passed earlier in the session. The Tuesday bills from this week will be up for a Final Reading vote on Wednesday April 18th, which is our next and final scheduled session day.

Between this Wednesday and April 18th, the Speaker scheduled four recess days (Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday). This gives Governor Ricketts the required time to issue any vetoes if he chooses to do so. Then, when we come back back next week Wednesday, we can make the decision about whether to attempt veto overrides if necessary. Bills that are passed on Final Reading next Wednesday (the Tuesday bills as I called them above) will not have the option to override vetoes, as we will no longer be in session by the time the Governor is required to make his decisions.

When we come back next week we will adjourn Sine Die, or with finality for the biennium. Next week I’ll give you the inside scoop on what all that means for senators, bills, and everything else, so check back then!

Bills This Week

In our shortened 3-day schedule this week we debated a large number of bills. A few of the highlights were:

  • LB 258, which expands a pilot program in Lancaster County that allows inmates to get a state ID card or renew their driver’s license before they are discharged from the correctional center. This bill, introduced by Senator Matt Hansen, helps former inmates integrate back into the community more easily, and gives them a better chance of finding a job and other activities that we know reduce the risk of recidivism. LB 258 was passed and presented to the Governor this week.
  • LR 296 directs the Legislature to appoint a special oversight committee on state-licensed care facilities. A number of tragedies like the death of a resident at Life Quest in Palmer in 2017, and other evidence about the often inadequate if not downright squalid conditions in some care homes, indicate that the Department of Health and Human Services needs additional oversight. LR 296, introduced by Senator Lynn Walz, is a mechanism for the Legislature to take a close look at these facilities, which receive state funds, and determine if legislative changes are needed to improve the homes’ management and the lives of those who live there. Legislative resolutions like LR 296 require only one vote for passage rather than the normal three, which we took and achieved this week. Resolutions are also not subject to gubernatorial veto power.
  • LB 299, introduced by Senator Laura Ebke, is a bill to provide a mechanism for a review of state licenses every five years with an emphasis on determining that the state’s employment licenses are not overly burdensome. I worked closely with Senator Ebke on this bill, as in its original form I was concerned that it would result in lower standards for healthcare professions, in particular, that might harm Nebraskans. With the changes Senator Ebke agreed to, the bill stresses allowing people to obtain meaningful employment while still recognizing the importance of protecting the public, patients and consumers. This is one of the bills that we advanced this week and will take up for final passage on the 18th.
  • LB 496 is an update to the Community Development Law, introduced by Senator John Stinner. The bill allows Tax Increment Financing to be used for workforce housing development in rural communities or extremely blighted urban areas. This will help communities that have struggled to build enough housing for their workers, which we know is one of the major impediments to grown in many places.

Our last official business on Wednesday was to take up a few changes to our permanent legislative rulebook. The first clarified that our rules have to be approved only at the start of each two-year session, rather than every single year. The second codified the internal rules for legislative qualification challenges that go with LB 744, which we adopted back in February after the challenge to Senator Ernie Chambers’ residency in 2017 (find a recap of what happened during that process here). Both of these are good rule changes, and will make the legislature more effective going forward.

Special Session Request

Perhaps the most widely publicized news this week is that 13 senators submitted a request for a special legislative session dealing with property tax reform. A special session can be called in one of two ways: either by decree from the Governor, or with the support of at least 33 senators. In this case the main sponsor of the request, Senator Tom Brewer, is pursuing the latter option.

The Secretary of State is responsible for organizing a poll to determine how many senators support the special session call. Each senator has received a letter from the Secretary of State’s office, with a special form we can turn back in listing our vote (yes or no). Senators can also elect to give no response if they choose. These voting forms are due back to the Secretary of State by April 23rd. If enough senators do support the special session, the Speaker anticipates that, due to constitutional guidelines on timing, the session would start sometime in the last few days of April. I will keep all of you up to date on what is happening with the special session request in the next few weeks.

4th Grade Visitors

We had two days of visitors this week. On Wednesday Birchcrest Elementary had their Legislative day:

St. Mary’s and St. Matthew’s visited on Friday:

My staff met with both groups to talk about what it means to be a leader in their schools and communities, and encourage them to be good students and true friends to their classmates. I hope their visit was enjoyable!

UNL Poster Session

Tuesday was UNL Research Day at the Capitol, an event for students in the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience (UCARE) program to share their work with senators and staff. UCARE is a great program, in which undergraduates get the opportunity to work directly with faculty on research or creative projects. I talked to several students about their projects, which ranged from the impacts of teacher diversity to zika virus. These bright young scholars are a credit to their university.

Listening to students explain their UCARE research

Crete Political Brew

Senator Ebke has hosted a series of informal town hall-style gatherings in Crete this session, where she invites senators of varying political persuasions to come talk about their bills and discuss the legislative session. I attended the third and final gathering along with Senator Matt Hansen. Crete is a lovely town, and it was fun to visit with some of the residents there!

Me, Senator Hansen, and Senator Ebke at The Brew House in Crete

Post-Session Fun

It’s always nice to be able to spend time with my fellow senators away from the policy arena. After session adjourned on Wednesday we got to spend some time outside the Capitol together. It’s a great reminder of how many of my fellow senators, from all different backgrounds, quickly passed beyond being just colleagues – we are friends as well. As we bid farewell over the coming months to our colleagues who are term limited or have chosen not to run again, and prepare to welcome in a new class of senators in January, the recognition of that personal bond is more important than ever.

Students Invited – Unicameral Youth Legislature

Registration is now open for the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature, which this year will run June 10-13. High school students will take on the role of state senators at the State Capitol: sponsoring bills, conducting committee hearings, debating legislation, and discovering 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 402-471-2420. The deadline to register is May 15.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My 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).
  • 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 or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45
Room #1012
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2615
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