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

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

This week Governor Pete Ricketts announced the release of a consolidated guide for Nebraskans in need of disaster relief resources. The guide was created as a reference for Nebraskans to utilize as a resource based on the state’s experience following historic flooding that devastated many areas of the state in March. The guide provides resource summaries, hotlines, and other contact information for more than two dozen community organizations as well as state and federal agencies involved in recovery assistance. It is available by clicking here.

Printed booklets may also be requested by sending an email to nema.jic@nebraska.gov or by calling (402) 471-7421.

Memorial Day Ceremonies

Memorial day is Monday May 27th. This event is an opportunity to remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to their country; and to thank those servicemembers and veterans who are still with us. The Bellevue community is particularly attuned to the sacrifices required by military service, as so many of our community members are serving or have served. This year there will be a number of Memorial Day events in Bellevue. Those open to the public include:

The Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home ceremony begins at 10:00 am. A “Ringing of the Bell” will honor residents of the home who died during the past year and an ensemble will perform patriotic music.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10785 will host a ceremony at 11:00 am at the Bellevue Cemetery, located on the north end of Franklin Street at East 13th Avenue. The ceremony will include a presentation of wreaths to veterans and their family members and a performance by the Sarpy Serenaders.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2280 will host another ceremony at Washington Park at 3:00 pm. It will include a reading of General John A Logan’s Memorial Day order dating from the conclusion of the Civil War, a rifle volley, and the playing of taps.

My office, along with other state and federal offices, will be closed on Monday to observe the holiday.

Tax Reform Update

Coming into the session one of the top priorities of most senators was property tax reform. Nebraska ranks very high comparatively on property taxes. Two major proposals for property tax relief were heard, but neither made it across the finish line this year. One of those, LB 289, was an ambitious bill to reform school funding, eliminate sales tax exemptions, and increase sales taxes in a bid to reduce property taxes. A “plan B” for property tax reduction was also discussed: an amendment to LB 183 that eliminated those same sales tax exemptions and pushed the money temporarily to the Property Tax Credit Fund. The intent was for that money to be used for structural educational funding reform in a future year. Overall I support the broad aims of both bills to increase education funding and reduce sales tax exemptions. I am hoping that we can continue to work on these issues over the interim and come back next year with a proposal that can command broad support.

Tax Incentive Proposal

Another major revenue project for the session has been a revision of our major business incentive program (currently the Nebraska Advantage Act). I have been impressed with the work that has been done on a new proposal (LB 720, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act) to improve transparency and reporting, improve the partnership with local governments, and to impose fiscal guardrails on the program. Some of these improvements came out of the work of the sponsor, Senator Mark Kolterman, and the Revenue Committee; some additional improvements have happened just this week. We spent nine hours this week debating the ImagiNE Act, but it ultimately died for this year on Friday when there were only 30 of the 33 votes required for cloture.

Chaplain of the Day

Each year, senators may invite pastors from their districts to visit the Capitol and serve as the chaplain of the day, delivering a morning prayer before debate begins.

On Wednesday, we welcomed Rev. Tom Jones from Bellevue’s Church of the Holy Spirit to the Capitol building. After delivering his prayer, Rev. Jones got to join a rowdy bunch of 4th graders for a building tour, which is always fun. I am so glad that Rev. Jones was able to visit us in Lincoln.

Bills on the Agenda

The Revenue Committee advanced LB 288 as a committee priority earlier this year as part of our broader discussions about tax reform in the state. The bill addresses an issue created by the federal tax cut of 2017. In our Revenue Committee discussions, we committed to creating a fiscally sustainable proposal that included military retirement tax relief. The final committee amendment, however, did not contain that military tax component nor one of the  pay-for pieces we had discussed. I think it is very important that we accomplish military tax retirement relief, and Chair Lou Ann Linehan of the Revenue Committee has agreed to hold LB 288 over the interim to work on how we can incorporate both the income tax fixes and the military retirement exemption in a responsible way.

LB 481, originally introduced by Senator Kate Bolz and selected by Speaker Scheer as his personal priority, would establish a trust fund for brain injury research and advocacy in Nebraska. The bill advanced from first round debate with an amendment this week. Under the amendment, the Brain Injury Trust Fund would be administered by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. A 12-member Brain Injury Oversight Committee that would develop criteria for expenditures from the trust fund, provide financial oversight and direction to UNMC to manage the trust fund, and represent the interests of individuals with brain injuries and their families. I am glad that we were able to pass this legislation for the 36,000 Nebraskans living with brain injuries and their families, many of whom shared their personal stories with me.

The legislature has been working on LB512 (which has been amended to include Senator Erdman’s LB482). The proposal would require county equalization boards to prorate the property values of homes destroyed by a natural disaster (such as flooding) for property tax purposes. Essentially, the valuation of a home destroyed by flooding would reflect only those days when the home was intact and still livable. This bill has an emergency clause attached and will go into effect as soon as the governor signs it in the next few days (check to make sure this happens). The counties will be responsible for putting out information about how the disaster reassessment will work. You can find the Sarpy County Assessor’s website here.

LB 436 was introduced by Senator Matt Hansen and prioritized by the Legislature’s Planning Committee. The bill will allow the Nebraska State Data Center program to form a commission that will help ensure the 2020 census reaches as many Nebraskans as possible. Having an accurate count of Nebraska residents is vitally important and this bill will enhance our state’s ability to successfully carry out the census.

Senator Mike Groene introduced LB 147. As Chair of the Education Committee, he designated the bill a committee priority; however, the bill did not have enough votes to advance from that committee to the full Legislature. This week Senator Groene made a motion to pull the bill from committee by a vote of the full Legislature instead. I have always voted against “pull motions” on principle because they override the work of a standing committee in the legislature. I did not make an exception for LB 147. The motion did pass, but since we have reached the end of session we will not debate the bill this year. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks is sponsoring an interim study to try to address some of the issues that current opponents in the committee still have with LB 147. Hopefully this study will help the body come to an agreement that allows a well-crafted intervention bill to be discussed next session.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

One important note is that as of Friday, May 17, all the state and federal Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) have closed. This includes the DRC in Bellevue. However, homeowners, renters and business owners in those counties designated for federal assistance still have until June 19 to register. If you have not yet begun the registration process, you can do so in the following ways:

  • Visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov
  • Download the FEMA app and click on “disaster resources,” then “apply for assistance online”
  • Call FEMA’s toll-free registration line at 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Telephone registration is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CDT seven days a week

I also want to again highlight important information from the Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD). When cleaning up flood damage, it is critical to use the right kind of cleaning solution to avoid the growth of dangerous mold. A fungicide and wire brushes are needed to remove mold – bleach alone is NOT effective for mold remediation because it cannot clean below the surface of porous or semi-porous materials like wood. Fungicidal disinfectant can be obtained free of charge for flood clean up at:

  • LifeSpring Church 13904 S. 36th St., Bellevue. Mon-Sat 8AM to 5PM and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

  • Fremont Mall, 860 E. 23rd St., Fremont, (between Nebraska Sport and Gordmans), Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

Homeowners still in need of clean-up assistance can call the Crisis Clean Up Hotline at 833-556-2476. In addition, homeowners can find more information at: http://www.heartlandchurchnetwork.com/flood-relief.html

Adjournment Schedule

This week the Speaker announced his intention to adjourn the Legislature a week early, on May 31st. He feels that date will give us enough time to address our remaining priority bills. While the Legislature is constitutionally limited to meeting no more than 90 days in odd-numbered years (this year that would have been June 6th), there is no set minimum number of days.

Bills on the Agenda

This week we debated several key bills on General File first-round debate. Those include:

Senator Julie Slama introduced LB 519, a bill to extend and the statutes of limitation for creation or possession of child pornography, for labor trafficking, or for sex trafficking. It eliminates altogether the statute of limitation from sex or labor trafficking of a minor. This bill was prioritized by the State Tribal Relations Committee; though sex and labor trafficking occur across the state, these crimes have a disproportionate impact on Native American populations.

We also advanced two bills dealing with the scourge of what’s known as “revenge porn.” These are situations in which a person’s private and intimate images are used against them for extortion or revenge. LB 630, introduced by Senator Adam Morfeld, makes sex extortion a criminal offense in Nebraska. LB 680, introduced by Senator Wendy DeBoer, creates civil remedies to go hand-in-hand with the criminal offenses. Unfortunately, the internet has made this kind of privacy invasion easier than ever, and it is important that Nebraska step up to ban this kind of activity.

LB 720, introduced and prioritized by Senator Mark Kolterman, would create the ImagiNE Nebraska Act. LB 720 would replace the Advantage Act, which is Nebraska’s primary business incentive program. I have worked closely with Senator Kolterman since he introduced LB 720 to address what I saw as the more concerning parts of the proposal, and am supportive of the bill. LB 720 likely has enough votes to advance, but will need to be rescheduled for further debate in the coming week before we take a vote.

Senator Anna Wishart’s priority bill this year is LB 110. The bill would legalize certain forms of medical cannabis in Nebraska. After numerous discussions with Senator Wishart spanning all of last interim, I felt comfortable enough with her proposal to support it. I believe this proposal strikes the right balance of safety and access for those who are desperately ill and could benefit from trying a medical cannabis prescription. We had three hours of debate on the bill this week, but are unlikely to have enough support among other senators to reach the point that we can vote on it.

Military Retirement and Property Tax Relief

On Thursday May 16th the Revenue Committee voted to advance LB 153, Senator Tom Brewer’s military retirement exemption bill, to the full legislature. I believe it will be next year before it moves further because it requires funding and the budget has been set for this year already.

My colleagues and I are also engaging in ongoing discussions and negotiations about property tax relief proposals. At the beginning of this session several senators, including me, had bills to raise revenue that would be directed to increased school funding. That would allow school districts to reduce their levies and lower property taxes. The bill that the Revenue Committee Chair favored for discussion was LB 289, so that proposal dominated much of the discussion over the session. That bill includes provisions of concern to larger and growing schools (like OPS and those in Sarpy county). At this point it looks like the most likely proposal to emerge this year will be one that eliminates several sales tax exemptions, increases the Earned Income Tax Credit to reduce the impact of higher sales taxes on low-income families, and puts the funds in the Property Tax Credit Fund with a provision that the Fund goes away when the state steps up and increases school funding by 125%. The idea is to work on the revenue side this year and revisit the school funding distribution next year.

Sarpy Chamber Legislative Coffee 

The Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce hosted its last Legislative Coffee for this session on Friday May 17th.

I was joined by (L-R) Senators Carol Blood, Robert Clements, Andrew La Grone, and John Arch to talk about our priority bills, the policies we’ve debated so far this session, and what we anticipate will occur in the coming days as this session winds down.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I want to pass along important information from the Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD). When cleaning up flood damage, it is critical to use the right kind of cleaning solution to avoid the growth of dangerous mold. A fungicide and wire brushes are needed to remove mold – bleach alone is NOT effective for mold remediation because it cannot clean below the surface of porous or semi-porous materials like wood.

In Nebraska, fungicidal disinfectant can be obtained free of charge for flood clean up at:

  • LifeSpring Church 13904 S. 36th St., Bellevue. Mon-Sat 8AM to 5PM and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

  • Fremont Mall, 860 E. 23rd St., Fremont, (between Nebraska Sport and Gordmans), Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

Homeowners still in need of clean-up assistance can call the Crisis Clean Up Hotline at 833-556-2476. In addition, homeowners can find more information at: http://www.heartlandchurchnetwork.com/flood-relief.html

Unicameral Youth Legislature

Each summer at the Nebraska State Capitol, the Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The registration deadline is May 15th, so register soon! High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators in the nation’s one and only unicameral by conducting committee hearings, sponsoring and debating bills and exploring the legislative process. Students who are interested in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking are encouraged to consider this program, which will be held from June 9th to the 12th. My son, Nate, participated when he was in high school and really enjoyed the experience.  

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Other $100 scholarships are also available. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program. To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call the Clerk of the Legislature’s office at (402) 471-2788.

First Round Budget Discussion

Last week the Appropriations Committee advanced their budget proposal to the full Legislature. On Wednesday May 8th we took up the budget for debate. Most of the Committee’s recommendations were advanced without significant changes. The one exception is that the body voted to put a full $51 million into the Property Tax Credit Fund, rather than sending $26 million to the fund and $25 million into the cash reserve as the Committee had recommended.

One of the key investments included in the budget is funding for a skilled nursing addition to the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home (ENVH) in Bellevue. The Department of Veterans Affairs has the opportunity to expand the ENVH by 25-30 of the skilled beds to address the waiting list for the facility. Cutting the ENVH waiting list will allow the state to serve more veterans in the skilled facilities they need.

Our budget also included $2.4 million in additional funding to expand five “problem-solving courts” for drug offenders and veterans across the state. Problem-solving courts have the potential to divert offenders from our overcrowded prison system by offering an alternative to incarceration. Problem-solving courts are meant to interrupt the cycle of addiction and criminal behavior through a proactive, cost effective alternative to traditional court procedures. Problem- solving courts bring together the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, coordinator, community supervision officer, law enforcement, and treatment provider(s), all working together to design an individualized program. Individuals involved in problem-solving courts must show compliance with their treatment plans and court orders by undergoing frequent alcohol or drug testing, close community supervision, and progress hearings with a judge. These courts, along with other alternative justice mechanisms like our Office of Dispute Resolution, are key tools to reduce the prison population and recidivism rates simultaneously.

In the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget, the Legislature provided money for the Medicaid expansion approved by the voters last year. We also included money to increase provider payment rates for Medicaid, child welfare and other Health and Human Services providers. This increase is long overdue; providers have not had regular increases in their reimbursement rates in previous budgets, to the extent that many report not being able to afford to treat Medicaid patients. Those cuts hurt both providers and patients, so I am glad the Legislature saw the wisdom in raising rates this year.

The budget will go through two more rounds of debate and voting in the coming weeks.

Consent Calendar

On Friday the Legislature took up the Consent Calendar, a unique feature of the Unicameral that allows the body to move quickly on non-controversial bills. There is a strict 15-minute limit on debate for each Consent Calendar bill, after which a vote is automatically taken. This year Speaker Jim Scheer put 30 bills on the Consent Calendar. It is up to the Speaker to decide which bills get this special designation, though any three senators who disagree with a bill’s inclusion can submit a letter to the Speaker to have the bill removed from the list.

Although the Speaker ultimately decides which bills fit on the Consent Calendar, he adheres to a few rules for the kinds of bills that can be considered. Bills must be non-controversial (which means either no opponent testifiers spoke at the public hearing, or else any opposition has been addressed by a committee amendment); the general topic must also be non-controversial (so a bill that makes a non-controversial change to a gun law, for example, would not be eligible for inclusion); the bill cannot make a lot of changes; it must have no general fund impact, but can have a cash fund appropriation; and it must have been voted out of committee, almost always unanimously. In other words, Consent Calendar is reserved for bills that are simple, unlikely to raise objections from anyone, and do not expend the state’s tax funds. This is one of the few ways for a bill to receive consideration without a formal priority designation, and is designed to allow seemingly minor issues, which may not rise to the level of priority compared to other bills but which are still important to the state, to be dealt with.

One of my bills received Consent Calendar designation this year. LB 123 fixes an issue for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. A current requirement in the Taxpayer Transparency Act requires them to publish information about their contracts with individuals receiving services online, which is in conflict with the Commission’s confidentiality policies. The Commission brought this bill to me and I was happy to introduce it for them.

All of the Consent Calendar bills we advanced are important, but I won’t deluge you with 29 more bill summaries. A few that are of particular interest, though, include:

  • Senator John McCollister’s LB 281 allows public schools in Nebraska to post in signs in English and Spanish with the state-wide toll-free number for the child abuse and neglect hotline. The school can put physical posters in the halls or post a link to the poster on its web site. LB 281 directs the Nebraska Department of Education to ensure schools’ access to a digital image of the poster, and allows them to contract with a third-party vendor to create it.
  • LB 561, introduced by Senator Suzanne Geist as Chair of the Performance Audit Committee, is a technical fix to update audit standards from 2011 to the most recent 2018 standards. The Legislative Performance Audit office, which is staffed with professional full-time auditing staff, evaluates agencies and their programs to determine how well legislative intent is being implemented. Their job is in their name – to audit agencies’ performance and check whether, and how well, they’re doing what the Legislature has asked them to. LB 561 is an important bill to ensure our performance auditors are able to do their jobs as effectively as possible.
  • Nebraksa’s statutes on marriage are out of date with current practice. Senator Machaela Cavanaugh’s LB 533 updates sections that reference “husband or wife” with “spouse” or other gender-neutral language. This is a simple but important change.

Bills on the Agenda

With the budget and other lengthy discussions on our docket this week, we got through a limited number of new bills. A couple of the key proposals, though, include:

LB 690 was introduced by Senator Cavanaugh and given a Speaker Priority. The bill prohibits an incarcerated pregnant woman from being restrained during labor, delivery, or postpartum, including during transport to a medical facility. Restraining women during childbirth is inhumane, harmful to the health of both mother and child, and entirely unnecessarily except during the rarest and most exceptional of circumstances. The bill does allow exceptions for such cases. Banning this practice is the right thing to do.

Senator Dan Quick introduced LB 424, which would amend the Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Act to allow cities across the state to create and join land banks; under current law, only municipalities in Douglas and Sarpy Counties can create land banks. The bill was prioritized by Senator John Stinner. Land banks empower cities to clean up problem properties and put homes back on our tax rolls, rather than languishing in disrepair. LB 424 did not have enough votes to support the cloture motion, which was necessary since the bill was filibustered.  It takes 33 votes to pass a cloture motion, which is tough to get. I support the concept of land banking, and know Senator Quick will work on a new proposal over the summer to bring back next session.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I would like to highlight a few key phone numbers as flood survivors continue the transition to long-term recovery and we continue to support them:

  • For property clean up, contact the Crisis Clean Up Hotline: 833-556-2476
  • For all other needs of assistance call Nebraska 211.
  • To volunteer to help, please contact the volunteer coordination line: 402-898-6050.

Final Reading Bills Passed

This week we worked through a number of bills on Final Reading and sent them to the Governor’s desk.

One of the bills that was sent to the Governor was my LB 304, a “cottage foods” bill that would allow Nebraskans to sell foods already authorized for sale at farmers’ markets to customers from their homes, at certain events, or for order and delivery online or over the phone. This bill only pertains to foods that are not time/temperature controlled for safety, including foods such as baked goods, uncut fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, and fresh or dried herbs. Hundreds of Nebraska families are already purchasing and safely consuming these locally produced products at farmers’ markets every year. This legislation makes cottage foods available throughout the year and provides access to local foods in communities that do not have farmers’ markets. It will help our local producers in both urban and rural communities to pursue entrepreneurship opportunities and supplement their incomes. The Governor signed the bill into law on Wednesday. I am grateful to Senator Ben Hansen for prioritizing this bill, and to the many constituents who have worked with us to advocate for this bill’s passage!

Another of my bills that passed on final reading was my LB 237. This bill restores a monthly commission to counties across the state for motor vehicle sales tax collections over a certain amount. LB237 addresses an under-funded mandate that the state has placed on counties to collect motor vehicle sales taxes. While the counties collect hundreds of millions in motor vehicle sales tax for the state each year, the collection process takes staff time and resources for which the counties are not currently being adequately reimbursed. Currently, each county receives only $900 for conducting this work. The bill reinstates a commission per dollar collected that was previously in place to provide counties with funding to help fund Treasurer staff who do this important work. This is part of my efforts to address unfunded mandates to counties, and supporting our counties is an important part of controlling property taxes.

As I discussed a few weeks ago, we have also been working on updates to our state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Senator Sara Howard introduced and prioritized LB 556. LB 556 is a good bill that will help the PDMP fulfil its primary purpose of informing and protecting patients.

Property Tax Package Update

This week after a few grueling sessions the Revenue Committee passed an education funding/property tax relief bill. The bill adds to state revenue to increase education spending and bring down the proportion of education spending that comes from property taxes. The revenue gained comes from a ½ cent increase in sales taxes and the elimination of many sales tax exemptions. Although there were many compromises to get to this point, and likely more that will need to be done to get an education funding/property tax bill passed, LB 289 provides an important start for that conversation on the floor. The substantive language we will be discussing is found in AM 1572, which can be found here. Debate on the bill is scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon. Two components of the bill do what I have long argued that needs to be done: 1) eliminating tax exemptions to broaden the tax base and make taxes more fair; and 2) increasing education funding to reduce our reliance on property taxes. Currently Nebraska ranks 47th in state spending on education. If LB 289 were to pass, then we would ranking in the 20’s in terms of state spending on education.

Veto Override

On April 30th the legislature voted to override the governor’s veto of Senator Myron Dorn’s sales tax bill, LB 472. LB 472 was introduced in response to the wrongful conviction of the “Beatrice Six” in Gage County and the $28.1 million dollars they were awarded by a federal judge in 2016. The “Beatrice Six” spent several years in prison for the death of 68-year-old Helen Wilson until DNA evidence exonerated them in 2008. Senator Dorn’s bill creates a funding mechanism to pay the damages by allowing a county board to pass a sales and use tax of 0.5 percent on transactions within the county, so that property taxes are not the only source of funds to make the payment. After it was initially passed on a vote of 43-6, the Governor vetoed the bill. Senator Dorn offered a motion to override that veto, which passed on a vote of 41-8 with thirty votes needed to pass the veto.

Bills on the Agenda

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh introduced, and Senator Robert Hilkeman prioritized LB 532. This critical bill clarifies the process to apply for a protection order in cases of harassment, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. These orders are often granted when people are at their most vulnerable and are a vital tool to keep Nebraskans safe. Senator Cavanaugh’s bill makes it clear what information must be included in an appilcation for a protection order, allows plaintiffs to re-file the complaint if it is initially dismissed, and requires an evidenciary hearing within 14 days if an order is rejected, so that the plaintiff has an opportunity to present additional informaiton. Recent tragic incidents in Nebraska, like the death of Janet Bohm and injury of her daughter Amanda, have made the need for these changes more clear than ever. Fittingly, the legislature advanced this bill on the last day of April, which was Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

We also discussed Senator Justin Wayne’s LB 492, an Urban Affairs Committee priority. The bill would adopt the Regional Metropolitan Transit Authority (RMTA) Act to give cities in Omaha’s vicinity the ability to create a joint RMTA. The authority would be governed by an elected board that represents all the member municipalities. This kind of board would be an important step for Belleuve and other cities in the Omaha metro area to combine resources and coordinate public transit options between municipalities. There have been several studies on the challenges of public transportation in Sarpy County. The option to join a RMTA would create one possible solution for Bellevue and other Sarpy cities to consider. We have not yet voted on LB 492, as it was held over for future discussion.

Elementary Visit

Wake Robin Elementary’s 4th graders visited their capitol on Monday April 29th. I was in a committee meeting and was unable to greet them, but my staff joined their tour and talked about how all of them can build the skills to be leaders.

Unicameral Youth Legislature

Each summer at the Nebraska State Capitol, the Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators in the nation’s one and only unicameral by conducting committee hearings, sponsoring and debating bills and exploring the legislative process. Students who are interested in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking are encouraged to consider this program, which will be held from June 9th to the 12th. The registration deadline is May 15th.

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Other $100 scholarships are also available. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program. To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call the Clerk of the Legislature’s office at (402) 471-2788.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resource Updates

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

Property Tax Proposal

At this point in the session we are past regular committee hearings, but we did hold a special hearing on Wednesday night. The hearing included members of the Revenue Committee, the Education Committee, and the Retirement Systems Committee. The purpose of the hearing was to gather input on a property tax proposal that has been developing over the session, which was submitted as an amendment to LB 289. You can access the text of the proposal here. We had a good hearing, gathering input from some 60 testifiers. There were many more opponents than proponents for the material in LB 289 at this time, and we have much more work to do. We kept working on the proposal with meetings after session on Thursday and Friday. There is a strong shared interest among members of the Revenue Committee that we get a proposal to the floor that can garner 33 votes.  

Bills on the Agenda

We continued with all-day bill debate this week. We debated and passed several bills through General File.

The Papio-Missouri River NRD is the only one in the state that has certain bonding authority to address flood protection and water quality enhancement projects. Especially in the wake of this year’s widespread flooding, that bonding authority is an important tool to protect our communities. LB 177, introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom and prioritized by the Natural Resources Committee, extends the time limit on the NRD’s bonding authority so that they can keep up with costs for important projects like the Offutt Levee extension and other flood prevention projects in Sarpy County.

Senator Matt Hansen’s LB 433 was his personal priority bill. This is a simple but important bill that shifts the onus for returning a rental security deposit from the tenant to the landlord. Under current law, a tenant must request return of their deposit in writing, which many tenants do not realize they are supposed to do. After this bill passes, landlords will be required to return the balance of a former tenant’s security deposit, minus any assessed damage charges, within 14 days. The bill also incorporates parts of Senator Matt Hansen’s LB 434, which extends the period of time a tenant has to pay rent after a notice of intent to terminate from three to seven days. This change is meant to allow for the time a notice spends in the mail, so that tenants have time to respond.

The Speaker prioritized Senator Joni Albrecht’s LB 595, which expands the use of restorative justice programs, administered through the Office of Dispute Resolution, in Nebraska. The Office’s goal is to promote problem-solving by providing mediation and dispute resolution in cases like custody cases, employer/employee disputes, or child welfare matters. Senator Albrecht’s bill expands the Office’s restorative justice program, which provides an informal opportunity for a person who causes harm to accept responsibility, and for victims to describe the impact of the harm and identify the losses incurred. Restorative justice programs are another important tool for the judicial system to balance the needs of justice for victims and programming to make offenders less likely to reoffend in the future. You can learn more about the Office of Dispute Resolution and their work here.

As a member of the Health & Human Services Committee until this year, I heard numerous stories about the challenges that health care providers faced navigating the state’s Heritage Health Managed Care Program. It was concerning, then, to know that DHHS planned to move the state’s long-term care facilities into the same program before chronic payment issues were resolved. Senator Walz’s LB 328, which was prioritized by the Health and Human Services Committee, prevents DHHS from adding skilled nursing and other nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and home and community-based services to the Heritage Health program before July 2021. The goal is to take more time to work out Heritage Health’s known issues before expanding it to these key facilities. An amendment also incorporated Senator Bolz’s LB 328 into the bill, which terminates the sunset date to allow the state’s successful family finding program to continue. Family finding is an evidence-based process to link hard-to-place young people in foster care with extended family and help them build relationships.

We also passed Senator Kate Bolz’s LB 180 on Final Reading and sent the bill to the Governor’s desk. The bill will expand the number of programs that are eligible for the community college gap assistance program. The gap assistance program provides funding assistance to students taking non-credit courses that could lead to jobs in high-need fields such as health services, transportation, and computer services. These are low-income students who would not be eligible for federal financial aid because, although they’re enrolled in college, they are not enrolled in courses for credit that lead directly to a degree. Senator Bolz’s bill expands the gap assistance program to programs that are offered for credit but are too short in terms of credit hours to be eligible for federal Pell Grants. The gap assistance program is an important workforce development tool, particularly for low-income workers. LB 180 is a common-sense addition to the program to make it even more effective and impactful.

4th Grade Visitors

Each year thousands of 4th graders from across the state come visit their capitol. This year we’ve worked through all of the “B” schools from District 45 already: Belleaire and Birchcrest Elementaries visited earlier this month, and Bertha Barber and Betz came this week! Making our way down the alphabet, Central Elementary visited this week on Monday as well. It’s always a pleasure to meet these bright young future leaders.


Students from Bertha Barber and Central listen to the tour guide on Monday…


… and Betz students talked with me about leadership on Tuesday.

Behavioral Health Resource Expo

April is quickly coming to a close and we are now nearing the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month. On April 27th the Sarpy County public defender’s office, in collaboration with Lift Up Sarpy, will sponsor a behavioral health expo to provide an opportunity for families in Sarpy County to learn about resources available in our community. The expo is free to attend and will be held at Thanksgiving Church (3702 S. 370 Plaza, Bellevue, Nebraska) this Saturday April 27th from 9am-12pm. Organizers have worked hard, as in past years, to put on an event that creates a safe space for dialogue regarding mental health and serves as a networking opportunity for people seeking help or information on the subject. If you have suggestions or resources that you would like highlighted in this area for upcoming years, please contact my office and I will forward them to the organizers of the event.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

This update is being posted on Thursday instead of Saturday morning because all legislative offices will be closed for Easter on Friday April 19th and Monday April 22nd. The Legislature is usually also closed on Arbor Day (Friday April 26th), which is a state holiday, but we will be in session until noon that day. All other state offices will be closed April 26th.

Happy Easter! I wish you and your family a blessed Easter weekend.

Flood Recovery Resource Updates

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

Crawford Bills Advance

This week two of my bills were debated and passed on the first round of debate. My personal priority bill this session is LB 323. This bill amends eligibility criteria for Nebraska’s Medicaid Insurance for Workers with Disabilities program, commonly referred to as “Medicaid Buy-In”. This program allows individuals with disabilities to pay a premium for, or “buy-in” to Medicaid coverage while working and earning an income that puts them over the traditional eligibility threshold. Current eligibility criteria is outdated and convoluted, often preventing program participants from taking a job, working more hours, or taking a pay raise. The bill passed the first round vote with an amendment we developed in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services and disability advocates. The amended version of the bill streamlines eligibility criteria so that individuals who want to work, work more, or take a promotion can do so while reducing estimated costs resulting from the original version of the bill.

LB 237 was designated a Speaker Priority. This bill restores a monthly commission to counties across the state for motor vehicle sales tax collections over a certain amount. LB237 addresses an under-funded mandate that the state has placed on counties to collect motor vehicle sales taxes. While the counties collect hundreds of millions in motor vehicle sales tax for the state each year, the collection process takes staff time and resources for which the counties are not currently being adequately reimbursed. Currently, each county receives only $900 for conducting this work. The bill reinstates a commission per dollar collected that was previously in place to provide counties with funding to help fund Treasurer staff who do this important work. This is part of my efforts to address unfunded mandates to counties. Supporting our counties is an important part of controlling property taxes.

Property Tax Relief Proposal

The property tax proposal hearing, which I reported on last week, was originally scheduled for Thursday April 18th. It has been rescheduled to 4:00pm on Wednesday April 24th. The proposal the hearing will be about has been submitted as an amendment to LB 289, which you can access here. If you would like to come testify at that hearing, it will take place in room 1510. If you would like to submit written testimony, it must be submitted by 5:00 PM on Tuesday April 23rd to the Revenue Committee Chair, Senator Lou Ann Linehan (llinehan@leg.ne.gov). You can also watch a live stream of the hearing on NET’s website here.

The property tax proposal posted as an amendment to LB 289 is largely the work of Senator Mike Groene and Senator Linehan. The Revenue Committee members, including me, all agree with the general principle of shifting more spending to education to reduce property taxes. Our state ranks near the bottom in state funding for schools, which helps to explain why we rank near the top in property tax burden. However, several members of the Revenue Committee, including me, still have concerns with the LB 289 proposal and are looking forward to further work by the committee to address those concerns.

Specifically, I am concerned about new lids on educational spending, particularly if they do not have exceptions for special needs students. I am also concerned about the provisions in the current bill that pull down agriculture valuations from 75% to 65% and residential and commercial valuations from 100% to 90%. This pulls down revenue to all political subdivisions, when we are only pushing state funding to schools. There are ways to adjust the proposal so that it pulls down levies for school funding without impacting the revenues for cities and counties and other political subdivisions.

Finally, it is critical if we raise sales taxes to reduce property taxes that we do something to blunt the impact of higher sales taxes, particularly on low-income families who do not own property and will not benefit from the property tax reductions. There are ways to address this issue through a renter’s tax credit or increasing our Earned Income Tax Credit, which returns a tax credit to low-income workers. If you share any of these concerns, or if you have other concerns or feedback for the plan laid out in the LB 289 amendment, I encourage you to submit written testimony or come and testify to share your concerns with the Revenue Committee.

Belleaire Elementary Visit 

The 4th graders of Belleaire Elementary visited on Wednesday April 17th. We talked about the legislative process and how people from all different backgrounds can be elected to public service.

Bills on the Agenda

We continued with all-day bill debate this week. Some of the bills we addressed on the first round of debate include:

Senator Carol Blood introduced and prioritized LB 138, which allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to design and issue specialty license plates honoring those who served in the armed forces in Iran, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf War, the Vietnam War, and the Global War on Terror. Support Our Troops license plates will also be available. A portion of the revenue generated by the Support Our Troops license plate sales will be deposited into the Veterans Employment Program Fund, which will be overseen by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and will help the state recruit and educate veterans who are newly separated from military service about the opportunities Nebraska has for them. The DMV expects to begin offering these plates to the public by January 1, 2021.

LB 693 is a bill that attempts to address those exceedingly annoying spam calls we all get on our cell phones. Introduced and prioritized by Senator Steve Halloran, the bill authorizes the Nebraska Attorney General’s office to investigate telemarketers who knowingly manipulate caller ID information to make it appear as though phone calls are from a trusted number, commonly known as “spoofing.” Tackling this issue is difficult, as many of these calls are generated overseas by bad actors who don’t care whether they break the law. We know that this bill alone will not stop all of the calls, which is why the federal government is also working on national solutions. LB 693 does give Nebraska greater enforcement powers, however, and is a step in the right direction.

College affordability has been a concern for Nebraskans for a long time, and saving for education after high school is an important topic. LB 610, which Senator Brett Lindstrom introduced and prioritized, combines two good bills to help Nebraska students start saving early. First, it creates the College Savings Incentive Cash Fund. Under that program, employers can match employee contribution to their child’s 529 college savings plan and get a 25% refund, capped at $2000 per employee. In other words, if an employee contributes $100 and the employer matches it with their own $100 contribution, the employer will receive $25 back from the cash fund. The other program is the College Savings Plan Matching Grant Program, under which every child whose family income is between 200-250% of the federal poverty level can apply for a dollar-for-dollar match from the state on their 529 contributions, up to $1000 per child. Families under 200% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for a 2-for-1 dollar match. The state contribution for each program is capped at $250,000 annually, and the intention is to not use state general funds. Both programs start January 1 2022.

In addition to our first-round debates, we spent time Thursday on Final Reading and got 14 bills across the finish line and to the Governor’s desk. Three important bills, which I talked about in previous weeks, include: LB 316, which prohibits gag clauses that restrict pharmacies from volunteering full pricing information to patients, like when there may be a cheaper prescription available outside of their insurance coverage; LB 713, which provides for the creation of long-term analyses from the Legislative Fiscal Office; and LB 390, an important measure to both keep our schools safe and ensure that school resource officers are equipped to appropriately respond to the unique situations that may arise in a school setting.

UNL Research Fair 

On Tuesday students representing more than 25 research teams, comprised of University of Nebraska students who are engaged in research under the guidance of a faculty mentor, presented their research.

I enjoyed the opportunity to see the exciting research done by UNL students, including by Chris Wiseman from Bellevue. His research, which tests the impact of a sophisticated technique that he helped to develop, promises to dramatically improve wound care for patients with diabetes.

Behavioral Health Resource Expo

April is quickly coming to a close and we are now nearing the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month. On April 27th the Sarpy County public defender’s office, in collaboration with Lift Up Sarpy, will sponsor a behavioral health expo to provide an opportunity for families in Sarpy County to learn about resources available in our community. The expo is free to attend and will be held at Thanksgiving Church (3702 S. 370 Plaza, Bellevue, Nebraska) this Saturday April 27th from 9am-12pm. Organizers have worked hard, as in past years, to put on an event that creates a safe space for dialogue regarding mental health and serves as a networking opportunity for people seeking help or information on the subject. If you have suggestions or resources that you would like highlighted in this area for upcoming years, please contact my office and I will forward them to the organizers of the event.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resource Updates

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I do want to highlight one new resource that will be available next week. The Department of Labor will be bringing a Mobile Workforce Center to Bellevue and other flood-impacted communities next week. This mobile computer lab will be available next week for workers impacted by the flooding. The State of Kansas has donated its KANSASWORKS Mobile Workforce Center for stops in Bellevue, Fremont, Valley and Plattsmouth April 16-19. Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL) unemployment insurance claims specialists and employment specialists will be stationed in the workforce center at each location to assist with claims for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and job searching. The unit will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.  Individuals should look for a bus displaying the KANSASWORKS logo. The bus will visit the following locations:

Location 1
Bellevue, Twin Creek
Address: 3802 Raynor Parkway, Suite 201
Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location 2
Fremont Learning Center
Address: 130 E. 9th Street
Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location 3
Valley, American Legion Post 58
Address: 111 E. Front Street
Date: Thursday, April 18, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location 4
Plattsmouth Community Center
Address: 308 S. 18th Street
Date: Friday, April 19, 2019
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Workers in Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington counties have until April 26 to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Workers in Boone, Buffalo, Custer, Knox, Richardson and Thurston counties and the Santee Sioux Nation have until May 3 to apply.  Workers in Antelope, Boyd, Burt, Cuming, Hall, Howard, Madison, Nance, Pierce, Platte, Saline, and Stanton counties have until May 13 to apply.

Property Tax Proposal Hearing

This year I am a member of the Revenue Committee, and we have been working for months to put together a comprehensive, statewide property tax relief proposal. The state government does not collect property taxes but has been under pressure for years to help lower them indirectly. We held bill hearings on a large number of bills to that effect, all of which proposed different ideas and approaches to provide some relief to property taxpayers, especially ag landowners, without shifting that burden too far in another direction and creating a whole new problem.

Next week there will be a hearing on one more proposal that directs funding to education and changes the education formula to pull down property tax rates. This bill includes a new cap on school spending and it pulls down agriculture property valuations from 75% to 65% and other valuations from 100% to 90%. Since this new package has not had a hearing as a bill before the Revenue Committee we will be having a special hearing on the bill. I have concerns about the complexity of this plan and the impact of the new spending restriction on schools. It has some components that move in the right direction, but I think we will still be tinkering to pull together a plan over the next two to three weeks. The hearing for the new package is Thursday May 18th at 1:00 pm. That will be a special joint hearing between the Revenue, Education, and Retirement Systems Committees. If you would like to come testify at that hearing, it will take place in room 1510. You can also watch a live stream of the hearing on the NET website here.

Birchcrest Elementary Visit

The 4th graders of Birchcrest Elementary visited their state capitol on Tuesday April 9th.

Like 4th graders across the state, they have been learning about our unique Unicameral system and had a great time coming to watch the process in action. It was a joy to meet them all and talk to them about how they can be leaders in our great state.

Medicaid Expansion Briefing

On Thursday April 11th the Health & Human Services and Appropriations Committees held a joint hearing for the Department of Health and Human Services to give an update on Medicaid expansion implementation. Members of both committees expressed significant concerns about the implementation plan that DHHS released recently. You can read more about the plan and the hearing in the World Herald here. My primary concerns are about the planned delay in implementation and the confusing two-tiered system with work requirements, which may create more administrative expense and bureaucratic red tape for citizens. I will continue to be involved in asking DHHS to rethink their proposal and move forward with a plan that is more in line with what the successful 2018 Medicaid expansion ballot initiative promised.

Bills on the Agenda

Senator Sara Howard introduced and prioritized LB 556, which amends Nebraska statutes surrounding the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The PDMP, an electronic database that tracks the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances, was created in 2011. This bill creates a line of communication between states in case a person is trying to fill a single prescription in multiple states, allows highly regulated sharing of de-identified prescription data for research purposes, and adds requirements for prescription and identifying data to be collected to aid in patient matching and medication reconciliation. LB 556 as amended will contribute to the PDMP’s primary purpose: informing and protecting patients.

LB 570, sponsored and prioritized by Senator Lynne Walz, would establish a comprehensive Olmstead Plan to meet the integration mandate under the Americans with Disabilities Act. An Olmstead Plan is essentially a roadmap detailing programs and services for people with disabilities within the state. Nebraska is one of six states that does not have a current plan to address this issue, which creates complications for disabled people trying to integrate into communities, educational institutions, and professional environments. This bill seeks to remedy that absence. DHHS is in full agreement that this bill will prompt continued and purposeful dialogue on how to best serve disabled Nebraskans, with a strategic plan that parallels those already passed in most other states.

Senator Joni Albrecht introduced LB 222, which makes changes to the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act. The bill was given a Speaker Priority designation. Many small towns rely on volunteer emergency responders to keep them safe, and those volunteers contribute not just their time but also often money through training fees and equipment purchases. The Act is meant to give a small tax credit to these volunteer emergency responders to both encourage more people to volunteer and reward those who already give of their time. Confusion among municipalities and counties, however, has in some cases resulted in information being filed with the state incorrectly or not at all. LB 222 streamlines the procedure to administer the tax credit so it can be more effective and avoid unintended penalties against those who are qualified to claim it.

As demonstrated by month’s flood disaster, Nebraska’s 211 Resource Hotline has never been more important. In addition to providing referrals to disaster relief services, the 211 hotline can direct people to local shelter and food resources, employment support, health services, community engagement opportunities, and other assistance. Senator Mike McDonnell introduced and prioritized LB 641 to increase funding to Heartland United Way, which runs 211, so that the organization can keep the phone lines open 24-7. The bill passed on the first round, but with the agreement that Senator McDonnell would work to find a different funding source instead of the Health Care Cash Fund. You can learn more about 211 here.  

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I do want to highlight one new resource that will be available this weekend: a Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) will be open on April 7th and April 8th. It will offer impacted residents additional aid and resources, including financial assistance for those who qualify, from multiple relief agencies. The MARC brings relief resources and offers residents convenient access to agencies in one central location. The American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Salvation Army and the Nebraska Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are just a few of the organizations that will be available at the MARC. Full details on open hours and location are on the flyer below.

Bills on the Agenda

Since committee bill hearings are finished, this week the Legislature began all-day debate. Some of the bills we addressed on the first round of debate this week include:

Senator Carol Blood’s LB 15 received a Speaker Priority. The bill creates the Children of Nebraska Hearing Aid Act and would make it easier for parents to get necessary hearing aids for their children. LB 15 requires health insurance companies to cover hearing aids in certain circumstances, making these key devices more accessible to families. This is a critical bill to help children whose hearing impairments can be addressed by hearing aids, as hearing plays such a crucial role in a child’s language development and learning and early intervention is key for those children to receive the greatest benefit. Working hand-in-hand with investments in sign language instruction and other adaptations to help those for whom a hearing aid would be ineffective or undesirable, LB 15 will result in good things for Nebraska’s children.

LB 472, sponsored and prioritized by Senator Myron Dorn, was introduced in response to the $28.1 million legal judgement leveled against Gage County in the “Beatrice Six” wrongful conviction case. LB 472 allows the county to impose a half-cent sales tax to pay the judgment so that they are not reliant on just a huge increase in property taxes. There is no perfect way for Gage County to pay this judgment. Certainly, the vast majority of the property owners and county residents who will ultimately pay the judgment through their taxes had nothing to do with the botched investigation that led to the judgment; by that same measure, though, those who were wrongfully convicted had nothing to do with the crime they spent years in prison for. LB 472 is a reasonable approach for Gage County, in that it spreads the payment more evenly among residents, businesses, and visitors who spend in the county.

Senator Adam Morfeld introduced and prioritized LB 352, a bill to adjust how the justice system works with jailhouse informants. Jailhouse witnesses can be an important source of evidence in criminal trials, but that kind of testimony has also been implicated in a large number of wrongful conviction cases nationwide. LB 352 requires that prosecutors keep track of the details of any jailhouse informant testimony they collect if that testimony is used in their prosecution. The bill also requires that a defendant’s lawyers receive notice of what testimony a jailhouse witness gave, whether the witness has ever submitted such testimony before in other cases, and information about any benefits the jailhouse witness may receive in exchange for their testimony. The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, The Innocence Project, and the County Attorneys all agreed on the final language of the amended bill. LB 352 is an important measure to protect due process for defendants without unduly limiting prosecutors in their work.

LB 512 is a cleanup bill from the Revenue Committee. We spent the most time discussing AM 1217 which incorporates Senator Erdman’s LB 482 into the bill. LB 482 creates a mechanism to reassess property values outside of usual timelines in cases where a property has been destroyed by a natural disaster. When this bill was introduced in January, no one knew that it would be relevant to so many Nebraskans so quickly. There are still important process questions to work out before the next round of debate, but I think the intent of the bill is good. I am supportive of the bill, though we did not get to a vote on it this week. If the bill does advance, I will work with Senator Erdman to try to find a workable solution to help those who face property destruction from natural disasters far beyond their control.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

On Thursday April 4th Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, sexual assault survivors, other supoprtive senators, and advocates came together for a press conference to announce April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Nebraska. Senator Cavanaugh plans to introduce a Legislative Resolution to bring attention to the issue of sexual assault and rape and pledge the state to keep taking steps toward prevention. The theme of this month is “I Ask,” to recognize the importance of normalizing affirmative consent conversations. The goal is to change how we talk about sexual assault and rape to make it clear that those who survive such attacks are not at fault for their experiences.

Several bills to address the sexual assault problem in Nebraska, such as Senator Wendy DeBoer’s LB 141 and Senator Tom Brewer’s LB 154, have already been enacted into law. Others, like Senator Patty Pansing Brooks’ LB 173, Senator Julie Slama’s LB 519, and Senator Cavanaugh’s LB 534, are still working through the legislative process. It is important that the Legislature continue to work on this critical issue: to help survivors, but also to create policies and support societal norms that will prevent assaults from ever occurring in the first place.

Capitol Construction Update 

With the end of bill hearings, the construction crew working on the capitol have blocked off the west hallway to work on hearing rooms 1524 and 1525 and the other rooms in that hall. That means navigating the 1st floor has changed again: you can still enter the capitol from the west side, but once inside you have to walk up and around past my office in the northwest quadrant. You can no longer get directly from the west entrance to the central information desk and stairs.

SCSJ Visit

Five students from Creighton’s Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ) visited the capitol with SCSJ Associate Director Kelly Tadeo-Orbik on Friday April 5th. The SCSJ engages students in community service, reflection and action on behalf of justice and sustainability as they progress through their education at Creighton.


L-R: Me, Tyler Wikoff, Rebekah O’Donnell, Quinn Hardy, Katie Ruane, Alyssa Beasley, Senator Pansing Brooks, and Kelly Tadeo Orbik

The group at the capitol spent the morning watching debate and talking to senators.  Senator Patty Pansing Brooks has introduced several bills of interest to the students, so they spent time in her office discussing juvenile justice and sex trafficking issues. I had the privilege to join the students for lunch and conversation about what they learned. This is a group of dedicated, intelligent young people and it was a pleasure to have them at the capitol.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flood Recovery Resources

My office is maintaining a post on my website with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that page here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

I do want to highlight one resource that’s coming to Bellevue this week: Nebraska Total Care will be providing free vision services for the community in Bellevue on Monday, April 1 as part of their flood relief efforts. The event will take place at OneWorld Bellevue (2207 Georgia Avenue) from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. The Envolve Vision Van will provide services and vision screenings on a first-come, first-serve basis. Free reading glasses and sunglasses will be available onsite. If it is determined that new glasses are needed, patients may choose frames on-site and glasses will be shipped within a month. Prescription glasses are available in single vision or line bifocals only.

Capitol Visitor – Chaplain of the Day

On Monday March 25th the Chaplain of the Day was from District 45. Bishop Evan Clark, from the Bellevue First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, joined the Legislature to give the morning invocation.

Bishop Clark’s wife Rachel and children Erin and Malachi were also at the capitol to hear the prayer and watch debate. It was a pleasure to meet Bishop Clark and his family and host them at the capitol!

Bills on the Agenda

This week the Legislature spent the beginning of the week on General File debate, which means we took up a number of bills for the first time this session and advanced them to the second round. Some of the highlights include:

Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced and prioritized LB 390, which requires additional training for school resource officers. The bill still allows schools to continue utilizing school resource officers in their buildings to protect teachers and students. LB 390 requires schools to create a memorandum of understanding between the district and law enforcement with a clear statement of the school resource officer’s role and responsibilities in the school. School resource officers will also need to undergo training on the specific issues they are likely to deal with in a school setting. This bill is an important measure to both keep our schools safe and ensure that school resource officers are equipped to appropriately respond to the unique situations that may arise in a school setting.

The Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee prioritized Senator Mark Kolterman’s LB 316. The bill provides protections for pharmacies to disclose information regarding drug prices and prohibits insurers from charging covered individuals in excess of certain amounts. Under current law, agreements that restrict pharmacies from sharing pricing information with patients are allowable; under such an agreement, a pharmacist cannot volunteer information to a patient that there may be a cheaper prescription available outside of their insurance coverage. The pharmacist can only tell a patient about the cheaper option for their prescription if the patient specifically asks the pharmacist for it. Many patients, however, do not know to ask. This bill would make such gag clauses illegal, enabling pharmacists in the state to proactively share that information with their patients and inform them if it is cheaper to pay for a prescription out of pocket, rather than through their insurance copay. This bill is important to provide for greater transparency and to help lower consumer healthcare costs.

LB 713, introduced by Senator Tony Vargas and prioritized by the Executive Board, provides for the creation of long-term analyses from the Legislative Fiscal Office. Senator Vargas is Chair of the Legislature’s Planning Committee, which as the name suggests is focused on long-term state planning and data collection. Our fiscal office currently creates fiscal impact statements for all bills, but the Legislature does not have as many long-range financial reports to rely on for extended projections. LB 713 directs the Fiscal office to create and publish a joint revenue volatility report in even-numbered years, and conduct a budget stress test in odd-numbered years. These reports will be extremely valuable for legislators as well as other state agencies and members of the public.

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh’s LB 59 makes key adjustments to the Children’s Residential Facilities and Placing Licensure Act, which governs out-of-home placements for children involved in the state child welfare system. LB 59 clarifies the kinds of complaints that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) must investigate and codifies their required timeline to do so. This is key to protecting the children who are under state care. The bill also provides more information to the Legislature by requiring timely reports when DHHS conducts an investigation.

This week the committees wrapped up the last of their bill hearings. Monday April 1st is a recess day; starting Tuesday April 2nd we will move into all-day debate with the full Legislature.

Unicameral Youth Legislature

Each summer at the Nebraska State Capitol, the Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators in the nation’s one and only unicameral by conducting committee hearings, sponsoring and debating bills and exploring the legislative process. Students who are interested in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking are encouraged to consider this program, which will be held from June 9th to the 12th. The registration deadline is May 15th.

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Other $100 scholarships are also available. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program. To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call the Clerk of the Legislature’s office at (402) 471-2788.

Unclaimed Property

The 2019 State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Report has been published, which is a good reminder to check if the state is holding any money in your name. The printed publication, which is available as a PDF here, represents the $19,835,822 in new unclaimed property reported just since last year’s publication. Individuals, businesses, colleges, institutions and governmental entities may all have unclaimed property. The searchable database of all unclaimed property can be accessed at https://treasurer.nebraska.gov/up/

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov or (402)471-2615.

All the best,

Flooding Resources

Earlier this week I sent out a special update with information about flooding assistance resources and key contacts. You can find that special update here. My office will continue to update that page with additional information as it becomes available.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Discussion

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week we debated LB 311, my bill to create the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act. The bill was prioritized by Senator Machaela Cavanaugh. Supporters made a strong case for this bill, but it was filibustered and does have enough votes to advance. While this result is disappointing, I am committed to continuing to work towards a solution. PFML has broad support among Nebraskans and is increasingly emerging as a bipartisan area of agreement. We will continue to work for a comprehensive PFML system in our state, even if it doesn’t happen this year.

Priority Bills

As of Wednesday this week we have the final list of bills that have been prioritized. If you missed my explanation of the priority bill process last week, you can find it here.

My priority bill this session is LB 323. This bill amends eligibility criteria for Nebraska’s Medicaid Insurance for Workers with Disabilities (MIWD) program. This program allows individuals with disabilities to pay a premium for, or “buy-in” to, Medicaid coverage while working and earning an income that puts them over the traditional eligibility threshold. Current eligibility criteria is outdated and prevents persons who should otherwise qualify from participating in the program. After the hearing I worked with both the Department of Health and Human Services and disability advocates to create an amendment that offers the greatest possible coverage under this program in a fiscally responsible way.

In addition to LB 323, I had three other bills prioritized this session:

  • Senator Ben Hansen prioritized my LB 304, a “cottage foods” bill that would allow Nebraskans to sell foods already authorized for sale at farmers’ markets to customers from their homes, at certain events, or for order and delivery online or over the phone. This bill only pertains to foods that are not time/temperature controlled for safety, including foods such as baked goods, uncut fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, and fresh or dried herbs. Hundreds of Nebraska families are already purchasing and safely consuming these locally produced products at farmers’ markets. This legislation makes cottage foods available throughout the year and provides access to local foods in communities that do not have farmers’ markets.
  • LB 237 was given a Speaker Priority. This bill restores a monthly commission to counties across the state for motor vehicle sales tax collections over a certain amount. We worked with a Speaker to develop an amendment that ensures no counties will lose money under this bill. This is part of my efforts to address unfunded mandates to counties, and supporting our counties is an important part of the property tax equation.
  • Finally, Senator Cavanaugh prioritized LB 311, discussed above.

You can find the full list of all designated priority bills here. They cover topics ranging from military honor license plates to tenant rights to ag land valuation.

There were 107 bills given either a personal, committee, or speaker priority this session. Those bills, plus the state budget, will make up the bulk of the bills we discuss for the rest of the session. Any bill that was not prioritized can still be amended into another priority bill, or it can be included on the Consent Calendar if it is eligible (for a summary of how Consent Calendar works, see my explanation in a previous update here). Aside from those avenues, a bill with no priority is unlikely to be debated this session even if it is advanced out of committee. Bills will carry over to the next year of this biennium, though, and there will be an opportunity at the beginning of the 2020 session to take some of those bills up on worksheet order. I have had a number of bills pass that way in my legislative career.

Bills on the Agenda

On our floor agenda this week were a number of important bills. Some of the highlights include:

Senator Tom Brewer’s LB 511 is a simple but impactful bill would authorize state employees to request a work hours adjustment so they can participate in an approved youth mentoring program. Organizations like TeamMates and Big Brothers Big Sisters rely on a network of volunteers to give their time to mentor young people in Nebraska. This bill makes it explicitly clear that state employees can request a schedule adjustment to participate in these important programs. LB 511 was advanced to Select File, the second round of debate, unanimously.

We took up two different bills relating to Nebraska ground conditions. The first, LB 130, was introduced by Senator Wendy DeBoer. It implements the recommendations published by the Radon Resistant New Construction Task Force in 2018. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas with known carcinogenic effects. Nebraska has the 3rd highest concentration of radon in the United States, so addressing its presence in people’s homes is important to protect health and welfare. LB 130 will ensure that new residences constructed in Nebraska are more resistant to radon’s harmful effects. The second bill is LB 243, which was introduced and prioritized by Senator Tim Gragert. LB 243 creates the Healthy Soils Task Force, made up of ag experts and scientists. The goal of the bill is to promote more widespread use of healthy soil practices among farm and ranch landowners and operators in Nebraska in order to improve the health, yield, and profitability of the soil, increase its carbon sequestration capacity, and improve water quality. Both LB 130 and LB 243 were advanced to Select File.

We spent significant time discussing Senator Megan Hunt’s LB 169, a bill to restore SNAP eligibility for those convicted of drug felonies once they have completed their custodial sentence. Our current system is unnecessarily punitive and increases the risk of recidivism for this population. The bill was filibustered and did not come to a vote this week; I anticipate that it will be scheduled for further debate at a later date.

Kick Butts Day

Wednesday March 20th was No Limits Nebraska’s Kick Butts Day, an annual event that brings young people to the capitol to advocate against tobacco use and for policies to keep kids from picking up the habit. LD 45 resident Brooklyn Larimore has been active in this organization for years, and it’s always a pleasure to see her! This year Brooklyn was joined by high school student Jasmine Snyder to share information about tobacco prevention strategies.

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 1012, 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 scrawford@leg.ne.gov 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
Email: scrawford@leg.ne.gov
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