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

Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

On Wednesday of this week we adjourned “Sine die,” a Latin phrase that translates to “without day.” We adjourn in the regular manner at the end of each session day, but always with a specific fixed time to re-convene (either the next day, after the weekend, or whenever else the Speaker determines). Thus, when we adjourn Sine Die at the end of each session, we do so without that fixed re-convening point – literally, without a day in mind to resume our official business. Though our state constitution dictates the first day of each session – “annually, commencing at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January of each year” – it will be a different group of people, with some new senators, who convene at that time.

Though we will not know the outcome of many elections until November, we do know that there will be at least eight senators who are not returning. Senators Paul Schumacher, Lydia Brasch, Burke Harr, Jim Smith, Bob Krist, and Tyson Larson have served their full terms and are ineligible to be re-elected this cycle. Senators John Kuehn and Roy Baker have reached the end of their first 4-year term, and have decided not to run for re-election. Each of these senators has made a unique contribution to the body in the years they have served, and it has been an honor to work with all of them. I wish them well as they move back into their private lives.

Our legislative processes can seem opaque and complicated from the outside, so I want to take this opportunity to explain what it means, process-wise, to adjourn Sine Die. Because Nebraska runs on a biennial session calendar, the process is different each year. When we adjourn Sine Die at the end of a long 90-day session (which occur in odd-numbered years like last year, 2017), we essentially hit pause on everything we’re doing. Then we come back in even-numbered years (like this one) for a short 60-day session in which we pick up right where we stopped. All the bills that we introduced carry over to the same place we left them the previous year, committee assignments and leaders are the same, and we stay in our same offices.

Adjourning Sine Die at the end of short sessions, like this year, is less a pause than a full stop. Any bill that hasn’t been passed and signed by the governor is Indefinitely Postponed (IPP’d), which means it is no longer active. Come January 2019 we will start with a completely clean slate with no carry-over bills. We will elect a new Speaker and committee chairs, and can move offices within the building if we so choose. Thus, in the coming months and into the fall my office will begin to craft my final biennial legislative agenda for 2019-20, after which time I too will be term-limited out of office. There may be some bills from this just-completed session that I choose to reintroduce, and there will be some completely new proposals. As always, I am interested to hear your thoughts and ideas for legislation. Serving you all is an honor.

Capitol Renovation Plans

Speaking of moving offices, we have just over one week remaining until a decade-long HVAC renovation project of our state capitol building starts in earnest. Starting in May, 18 senators’ offices will begin the process of packing their things to move up to new space in the capitol tower on the 8th, 11th, 12th, and 13th floors. Many committee chairs are also moving, but will remain on the building’s first and second floors. Other executive and legislative offices have spent the last six months moving out of those spaces to make room, and are now located outside the building. In June, the capitol’s entire southwest quadrant will be walled off for at least 18 months so that construction teams can do their work. That work is extensive, and includes changes to our heating/cooling system, fire system updates and upgrades, window replacements, electrical work, and more. The entire project, which is split into multiple sections, is expected to take 10 years to fully complete. NET wrote a good article on this massive endeavor, which you can access here.

For visitors to the capitol, the biggest impacts will be the closure of the cafeteria over the next two years and hallway closures that may affect how you get to certain places. If you want to visit a particular senator, you will also need to check whether they’ve moved, and if so where to. The information desk in the 1st floor center lobby will be there to assist you in finding anything, and senators’ websites will be updated with their new locations. All emails, phone numbers, and mailing addresses will stay the same. My office will not be moving, so you can still find me and my staff in room 1016 for the duration of my term in office.

4th Grade Visitors

This last week of session we had three schools visit. The first, on Tuesday, was Belleaire Elementary. They also got to meet Governor Ricketts on their tour, as he happened to be passing and was kind enough to stop and speak with them.


On Wednesday we welcomed groups from Bertha Barber & Central Elementary schools.

I hope all the students had a fun time in Lincoln learning about their state government!

BPS Foundation Scholarships

Thursday was the annual Bellevue Public Schools Foundation Community Breakfast. Among the honorees at the breakfast were recipients of 2018 BPS Foundation scholarships. I knew some of these bright young stars already through their community work.


With (L-R) Courtney Owens,  Mayor Rita Sanders, and Kathryn Woerner


(L-R) Brooklyn Larimore, Eden Liebenthal, and Erin Jenkins.

Congratulations to all of these outstanding scholars!

Bellevue Events

There are two upcoming events in Bellevue to share with you. The first, which will take place next week, is a Sarpy County job skills and employment fair. It is a smaller job fair, which is done on purpose so that organizers can focus on high-quality interactions between local businesses and job-seekers. The event will take place on Wednesday April 25th, from 10:00-2:00 at First Baptist Church (112 E 23rd Ave). For more information, you can contact Erin Cooper, the event’s coordinator, at 402-934-2814.

The other event is a Mental Health Resource Expo, which will take place on Sunday May 12th from 9:00-12:00 at Thanksgiving Church in Bellevue (3702 S 370 Plz). This free event will include speakers who will discuss how to recognize and manage mental illness in yourself or in those around you, and offer a collection of resources that can help. They will also have one-on-one mental health support specialists who can offer advice and answer questions in a private setting. If you have questions, you can call 402-871-9500. Registration is not required, but will help organizers know how many people to expect. The website to register can be found here.

New Update Schedule

Now that the 2018 legislative session is complete, I want to remind you that this is our last weekly update before we switch back to our monthly schedule. After today, you can look for updates on Saturday mornings at the end of each month.

Arbor Day Closure

All state offices will be closed on Friday April 27th in observance of Arbor Day. If you need assistance that day, please send an email or leave a voicemail at my office. We will reopen on Monday April 30th.

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

All the best,

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

All the best,

Bills on the Agenda

This week the Legislature had multiple late nights and took up a number of issues that received extended debate. Two of the bills we discussed were LB 947, the governor’s tax cut bill introduced by Senator Jim Smith, and LB 989, Senator Anna Wishart’s proposal to allow autonomous vehicle testing on Nebraska roads. Both bills were taken up, debated at length, and then shelved for the time being.  In the realm of tax reform we also debated Senator Friesen’s LB 1103, which contained provisions to increase education funding in rural areas and relieve property taxes. This bill included provisions from one of Senator Briese’s bills that included multiple revenue streams to pay for more funding for education and property tax relief.  After this debate was also stalled, Speaker Scheer called on a few of the members of the legislature to come together to try to come up with a plan that could still make it through to the Governor’s desk this year. Conversations are expected to continue throughout the weekend with the goal of a new proposal making it on the agenda next week.

The HHS Committee chair’s priority bill, LB 1034, advanced from the first round of debate on Tuesday with my LB 894 amended in. LB 894 authorizes Nebraska to be a participating state in the EMS Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA). As a member state, licensed Nebraska EMS personnel will gain the ability to practice in other participating states and those licensed in other REPLICA states will be able to provide services in Nebraska. There are currently 11 states participating in the compact including three of our border states: Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.

A tax bill that we did advance this week was LB 738, a bill by Senator Brett Lindstrom to peg our state’s Social Security taxes to annual inflation rates. This will allow seniors to keep more of their Social Security checks in their own pockets as our economy changes, so that their monthly income doesn’t get continually eaten away by factors out of their control.

We also advanced LB 807, a bill originally introduced by Senator Burke Harr to switch up Nebraska’s representation in the National Capitol’s Statuary Hall. The two current statues are William Jennings Bryan and J. Sterling Morton. Under LB 807, those two statues will be returned to Nebraska and replaced with Willa Cather and Ponca Chief Standing Bear. This bill is an opportunity for Nebraska to honor two great individuals who contributed significantly to our state and national history, and to do so at no cost to taxpayers. Senator Tom Brewer, who has endeavored to highlight Standing Bear’s indispensable legacy since he was elected in 2016, worked closely with Senator Harr to get the bill advanced unanimously.

Next week we will have the final three days of substantial debate for this session. After we adjourn on Wednesday, the body will recess for a week until Wednesday the 18th. That gives the Governor the required time to review the bills we send him, so that, if needed, we can attempt veto overrides on the very last day of session. I do not know whether we will undertake any overrides this year, and we may not find out until we reconvene on the 18th.

2017-2018 Crawford Bills Passed

We have reached the point in the session when all of my priority bills have reached what is likely to be their final disposition. Over the course of the 2017-18 biennium, I introduced 45 bills (29 last session, and 16 this year). Between bills that were passed on their own, amended into other bills, and included in the budget, I got a total of 17 proposals enacted into law. I am very proud to have represented you through these proposals, from the creation of a vital south Sarpy sewer funding mechanism, to reporting requirements that will help the state better protect foster children, to needed updates to our state building codes. As we officially enter the interim period in the next few weeks, we will be shifting gears to consider the proposals and policies that we might introduce in the final two years of my term. As always, it is an honor to represent all of you.

K-12 Computer Science Education Week

While we can only introduce legislation in the first ten days of each session, we can submit legislative resolutions at any point during the session. On Wednesday I introduced LR 472, which proclaims the second week in July this year as K-12 Computer Science Education Week. This year the Computer Science Teachers Association is holding its annual conference in Omaha, which will coincide with the designated week. I look forward to welcoming teachers from across the nation to our state, as technical education is such a vital part of our modern economy.

Economic Development Task Force

If you recall from last summer and fall, I was elected Chair of the Legislature’s Economic Development Task Force. That group is designed to do most of its work in the interim rather than during session, but now the members are beginning to meet up and informally discuss the issues we want to explore in the months ahead. The Task Force is an important avenue for the Legislature to explore complex and long-term economic development issues in this era of term limits. I will keep you all updated on the Task Force’s activities once we gear up in earnest.

Sophomore Pilgrimage

On Wednesday the annual Sophomore Pilgrimage came to Lincoln to observe the Legislature and meet their representatives. I got to join the group over lunch at the Governor’s residence, and had the pleasure of talking to Laura Sheldon and Logan Stoddard, two students from Bellevue.

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

All the best,

 

Budget Bill Advances  

The mainline budget adjustment bill advanced to final reading on Wednesday night. It was unfortunate that debate of the important budget issues in this bill got sidetracked because of irresponsible and possibly unconstitutional Title X policy language that was inserted into the budget adjustment bill. A Nebraska Supreme Court case, Rein v. Johnson, 149 Neb. 67 (1947) emphasizes the importance of constitutional provisions that restrict bills to a single subject as it applies to appropriations or budget bills. The decision notes such protections seek to protect against provisions that take “advantage of the necessities of the state, force the Legislature to adopt them, or defeat the appropriation and thereby stop the entire machinery of government for want of funds to carry it on.” The budget impasse that resulted during this session illustrates this point well. Unfortunately, there was not enough support to pull the language from the bill entirely this year. However, it will be critical that Senators continue to fight against substantive language about how money is used from being added to any budget bills in the future.

The Omaha World Herald editorial published on Thursday, which you can find here, nicely summarizes the recklessness of the language that was inserted in the budget and the Governor’s resistance to efforts to address serious problems in that language that put all clinics that use the funds (and the health of those who rely on those clinics) at risk. It took two failed cloture motions and days of negotiation to just get to less reckless language that allows clinics across the state to help women who are in an emergency situation get a referral for medical help that they need.

Final Reading Bills Pass

We started Friday with a number of Final Reading bills, which will now go to the Governor for his signature. One of the bills we passed was Senator Carol Blood’s LB 685, which provides a funding priority for special-needs military dependents under the Developmental Disabilities Services Act. The bill allows Nebraska to prioritize treatment for those who need it most, but are not covered by Tricare, by specifically adding dependents of active duty military members who are severely developmentally disabled to the list of treatment priorities kept by the DHHS. This policy is a priority of the Department of Defense, and shows strong state support for Offutt’s missions. Senator Blood worked extremely hard to make sure LB 685 will not have a negative impact on others who also need DD services. Ultimately, the bill is a way to show support to our military families when they move state to state, so that they don’t have to fall to the bottom of the waiting list when stationed in Nebraska.

Senator Sara Howard’s 2018 priority bill, LB 931, was also passed on final reading Friday. The bill is another step in the fight against opioid addiction in our state. This bill came about after months of close cooperation between Senator Howard, Senator John Kuehn, Senator Brett Lindstrom, a few other senators. It serves as an example of what the Legislature can accomplish when political considerations are put aside in favor of a commitment to good policy, no matter where it originates. NET published an excellent overview of LB 931 when we debated it on General File – you can find that story here.

My LB 1078, a bill to ensure clear and timely data about sexual abuse allegations involving children who are state wards or in the state’s care, was also advanced from Final Reading. During Select File, which is the second round of debate, two other child welfare bills were amended on to this bill including my LB 1073 and Senator Bolz’s LB 411. LB 1073 calls for the Department of Health of Human Services to collect and share information with the Foster Care Review Office on whether relative and kinship foster placements are licensed, or instead, have been issued a waiver for licensing standards. It is critical that the state know how many of these homes are not meeting IV-E licensing requirements to ensure the state can maximize its drawdown of federal funds, but more importantly, to ensure the safety of our children in foster care. LB 411 clarifies that reasonable efforts should be made to place children in foster care with their siblings whether or not the siblings had a prior relationship. Additionally, LB 411 requires the department to report on efforts made by the department to locate the child’s siblings. More information on how this package will strengthen Nebraska’s child welfare system can be found in this press release by Nebraska Appleseed.

Another bill that’s worth highlighting is Senator Robert Clements’ LB 773, which updates our statutes to include text messages, social media communication, email, or other electronic messages in the current intimidation and harassment statutes. This is an important update to help control online bullying and stalking, as previously our law only covered telephone calls.

LB 1069 Pull Motion

The Legislature has an 87-page rule book that governs our work here in the Unicameral. Some of those rules come up all the time, and some are rarely if ever utilized. One of the items on the agenda Thursday was an infrequently-invoked rule usually called a “pull motion.” Technically known as a Motion to Place a Bill on General File, the motion is a way to pull a bill out of a committee without that committee’s consent – hence the nickname. Thursday was the first time we have had a pull motion in the 2018 session, and typically it only happens once or twice each year at the most. Pull motions are an allowable way to get a bill sent to the full Legislature if the committee of jurisdiction is unwilling or unable to come up with enough votes to advance it. Many senators feel, though, that short of extraordinary circumstances pull motions go around our standing committee structures and the safeguards that are built in. Thus, even senators who strongly support a bill may or may not support a pull motion if it is stuck in committee. Senator Schumacher and Senator Bolz both made very strong arguments about the critical importance of preserving pull motions for extraordinary situations. Thursday’s motion was related to LB 1069, Senator Lydia Brasch’s priority bill. The bill amends existing Americanism education and adds a requirement that students take the test that immigrants must pass to become naturalized citizens. The motion did succeed, so we will likely take this bill up further later this session.

Interim Study Resolutions

The deadline to submit interim study resolutions was Tuesday of this week. I introduced two interim studies this year. The first, LR 436, was introduced to fulfill a requirement from the Department of Defense that each state studies the effectiveness of occupational licensing programs for military spouses and transitioning service members. In 2015, Nebraska passed legislation requiring that transitioning service members receive credit towards occupational licenses based on military training, education, and experience. Over the years there have also been many efforts to simplify licensure processes for military spouses who are constantly re-certifying in new states such as the new military teaching license that was approved by the Board of Education (this effort was highlighted in my last update). LR 436 will assess the effectiveness of these efforts and work to identify areas of improvement for the state to keep workforce participation among these populations high.

My other interim study, LR 448, which I co-sponsored with Senator Linehan will examine the state’s existing Medicaid Insurance for Workers with Disabilities program (MIWD). The objective of this “buy-in” program is to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in the workforce without losing important health care coverage. We use the term “buy-in” to reflect the income-based system used to determine premium rates for participants. The Health and Human Services Committee had a hearing on a bill this session that was looking to make changes to the existing program that would increase workforce participation. LR 448 will look at some of these proposed changes along with national best practices to identify ways that the MIWD program can best serve Nebraskans with disabilities.

Leadership Bellevue Day 

Each year the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce sponsors Leadership Bellevue, a 10-month program to help Bellevue residents develop leadership skills that they can utilize in our community.

As part of the program, the group spends a day at the Unicameral hearing from representatives of all three state government branches. This year the group heard from six state senators, the Department of Economic Development and Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Judge Riko Bishop of the Nebraska Court of Appeals – a Bellevue native herself!

This year’s Leadership Bellevue group was engaged and ready to learn, which speaks well to their leadership skills now and going forward. I wish them all the best.

Veteran Farmer Conference

Saturday March 24th I drove out to Hastings to speak at the opening of the Center for Rural Affairs’ Veteran Farmer Conference. The conference helps connect current and prospective veteran farmers with information and resources that can help them succeed. I joined Senator Tom Brewer, an Army veteran who represents the 43rd Legislative District in the northwest part of the state, to give an overview of how veterans can get involved with their state government, the kinds of veteran-related legislation we have passed in recent years, and other highlights from this year’s session.

Capitol Visitors

Cornerstone Christian School visited the Capitol on Thursday, and happily I was able to stop in and meet them. Nebraska’s 4th graders have been visiting the Capitol for decades, which is a great tradition that makes a real impact on students. I’ve spoken to multiple people who remember when they came to the Capitol as 9- and 10-year-olds many years ago. It is always a pleasure to meet these bright young people.

Easter Closure

As a reminder, Legislative offices will be closed on Monday April 2nd in to give staff a break during this very busy time of year. If you need assistance on Monday, please send me an email or leave a voicemail at my office. We will return to work (and another late night!) on April 3rd.

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

All the best,

Bills This Week

This was our first week with multiple late-night sessions, when we stayed to debate bills as late as 10:00 pm several nights. Debating for almost 12 hours in a day can sometimes result in frayed tempers, but it’s important that we devote extensive time to working through as many proposals as possible during the short time we are in session.

One of the bills that came up late at night was my LB 865, which was designated a Speaker Priority bill and advanced to the second round of debate on Wednesday. Currently, cities of the first class, second class, and villages are prohibited from suspending the requirement that an ordinance be read by title on three different days for ordinances related to the annexation of territory. LB865 extends this provision to cities of the primary and metropolitan classes. LB865 also provides that cities and villages cannot suspend the requirement for three separate readings for ordinances related to the redrawing of city council or village board of trustees election district boundaries. Encouraging public participation in local government is a value we can all agree with. When city councils are allowed to make decisions about annexation or the redrawing of districts during a single meeting, it drastically impedes opportunities for members of the public to voice concerns or opposition to proposed changes. LB 865 ensures that residents in Nebraska will be given ample opportunity to address their city councils about changes regarding annexation and redistricting. I am pleased that LB 865 advanced with no dissenting votes.

The biggest issue to we discussed this week, as you may have read in the newspaper, was the budget. Like our discussion on the first round of debate last week, the two most contentious issues were funding for the University system and provisions about Title X federal funding. We discussed the first at length, after a senator introduced an amendment to strip another $17.5 million from the University system. That amendment was soundly defeated, as the vast majority of senators continue to recognize the value that our University system brings to the state. There are still conversations ongoing to resolve the current budget impasse. I am optimistic that we will get to a resolution early next week and get the budget adjustments passed.  

Teacher Spouse Rule Signing

On Monday the Governor held a ceremony to sign the revision to the Nebraska Department of Education’s Rule 21, which now enables a special military spouse teaching permit. I was proud to work towards this change with Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) and Ms. Shannon Manion, a teacher herself and wife of 55th Wing Commander Col. Michael Manion. Shannon worked extremely hard to make sure NDE’s efforts would meet the real needs of military spouses, who make extraordinary sacrifices to support their servicemember partners. To read more about the ceremony and see additional pictures, check out Offutt’s public affairs article here.


Shannon Manion (center) with Governor Pete Ricketts and Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt. Photo by Drew Nystrom, Offutt Public Affairs.

This week my friend and fellow Bellevue senator Senator Carol Blood attended a military conference in Washington DC; one of the things we are hearing from military leaders is that licensure portability will high on their list of concerns as they consider base re-alignments and mission assignments going forward. This change to NDE rules is an excellent step to make sure Nebraska is judged favorably on those criteria, but we have more work to do. The Bellevue Leader just wrote a good article about our efforts, which you can read here.

No Limits Day

On Wednesday the anti-tobacco youth movement No Limits held its annual legislative day and rally at the Capitol. In the morning a small group of students, including superstar advocate Brooklyn Larimore and a couple of her fellow students, came to my office to talk about the dangers of tobacco.

Later that day the whole group held a rally on the west side of the Capitol, where Senator Mike McDonnell and I had the honor of addressing them all and congratulating them on their hard work.

ROAR Reading

On Friday evening I participated in a Reach Out and Read (ROAR) fundraiser to benefit military families in the Bellevue community. ROAR is a program that encourages parents to read to their children, which promotes both literacy and strong families. I read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which was one of my sons’ favorite books growing up!

Capitol Visitors

AARP held its annual legislative lunch on Wednesday, and I attended along with several other senators. One of the issues we talked about is the importance of paid leave for families and caregivers, which will become ever more important as our state ages. My LB 844, the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, is unlikely to advance this year. I am committed, though, to keeping sick and safe leave in the conversation among my colleagues, and to fight for guaranteed paid leave across our state.


Senators and AARP representatives after lunch

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.

Easter Closure

Legislative offices will be closed on Friday March 30th and Monday April 2nd to give staff a break during this very busy time of year. If you need assistance on those two days, please send me an email or leave a voicemail at my office. We will return to work (and another late night!) on April 3rd.

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

All the best,

Budget Debate

This week we took up our three annual budget bills. Nebraska runs on a biennial budget cycle, which means we pass a 2-year budget in odd-numbered years. The state’s fiscal years run July-June, rather than on the calendar year January-December cycle. That means right now, for example, we are in the second year of the budget that runs June 2017 – July 2019. In the middle of each cycle, however, we can come back and make adjustments to our expenditures based on the most up-to-date fiscal information. This is one of those years, so our “budget” this year is really the process of making adjustments to the main one we passed last year. The bulk of our debate took place on Tuesday this week, and went late into the evening.

There are several important considerations when we go back and make budget adjustments. This year, the most talked-about provision was one related to how Title X federal money gets distributed to health facilities in the state. This language is similar to language that in previous years was submitted as an actual legislative bill and debated as a policy bill, where it would get full vetting and debate. Placing it in the budget both bypasses the committee of record, and requires re-debating it every two years since budget bills do not create lasting policy like a regular bill would. Last year the language was stripped, but this year it has remained in after the first round of debate.

The second major topic of public discussion was how much of a cut the University system would have to take. The Appropriations Committee chose to reduce the cuts requested by the Governor, so that our higher education system would take only a 2% cut this year and 1% next year (rather than the Governor’s proposed 2% and 4% – read more detail from the Omaha World Herald here). Those changes were not altered once the bill hit the floor, so I am hopeful that those smaller cuts will prevail.

We will have two further rounds of debate on the budget. The second round will begin first thing on Wednesday morning next week.

Floor Debate This Week

This week my priority bill, LB589, was debated for three hours.  The bill related to pre-trial discovery depositions when a child has been the alleged victim or witness to a traumatic crime.  It asks judges to consider when a forensic interview has been conducted on videotape when determining whether to order a deposition of a minor.  It also directs the judge to consider possible protections for the minor if the deposition is granted. In Sarpy County there some standard protections regularly employed such as requiring the defendant to be out of the room.  This provision and some others are listed as possibilities in the bill as options for judges to consider requiring. When the bill is scheduled for debate again, we will have up to three more hours of debate. If the debate runs that long, then I will need 33 votes to approve a cloture motion to get to votes to advance the bill to the next round.  

Consent Calendar

Consent Calendar is a unique feature of the Unicameral that allows us to move quickly on noncontroversial bills. There is a strict 15-minute limit on debate for each Consent Calendar bill, after which point a vote is automatically taken.

There are some rules for the kinds of bills that can be placed on Consent Calendar. 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 for example a bill that makes a non-controversial change to a gun law 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 opposition, and do not spend state tax dollars. This is one of the few ways for a bill to receive consideration without a formal priority designation, and is designed in part to allow seemingly minor issues, which may not rise to the level of priority compared to other bills but are still important to the state, to be dealt with.

It is up to the Speaker to decide which bills get this special designation and how many bills get this designation, as unlike priority bills there is no maximum number. Even so, any three senators who disagree with a bill’s inclusion can submit a letter to the Speaker to remove the bill from the Consent Calendar. In order for a bill to even be considered for the Consent Calendar, though, senators must send a letter to the Speaker making the case for inclusion. This year those letters were due on Tuesday March 13th, so I anticipate the Speaker will release his final list sometime next week.

Sarpy Chamber Legislative Coffee 

Friday March 16th was the final Sarpy County Chamber Legislative Coffee for the year. This month we were hosted by Bellevue University, and I was joined by my fellow Sarpy senators Carol Blood, Jim Smith, and John Murante. We had a good discussion about legislative priorities, and the issues we’ll address in our final 16 session days.

Bellevue Student Visitors

I had a chance to meet with two Bellevue school groups at the Capitol this week. The first, on Monday, I met with Logan Fontenelle Middle School’s Student Council and Diversity Club. I met them in the Warner Chamber to talk about the importance of diverse representation both in government and their own schools and communities. These budding young leaders asked great questions about the Legislature and how senators navigate the process.

On Wednesday the 4th graders of Two Springs Elementary made their annual visit and tour. We talked about the skills that are needed in order to be a good leader and senator – to be able to listen, work with other people, and talk about your ideas. The kids said (and teachers confirmed) that talking was definitely their favorite skill out of that list!

Other Capitol Visitors

Nebraska’s chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)  held its Capitol day on Wednesday. During their lunch I met with Annette Eyeman and Susan Polk, who are both Sarpy residents. We talked about the toll suicide takes on families and friends, and discussed strategies to get help and resources to those considering suicide themselves. The Contact USA website, which can be accessed here, has a host of resources for people experiencing a wide variety of challenges. I encourage you to share it with anyone you know who may be struggling. AFSP was one of two groups visiting the Capitol this week to lobby for LB998, which would use private dollars to provide additional resources to the Educational Service Unit (ESU) Coordinating Council and ESUs across the state to hire social workers help to schools better connect students in need of mental health assistance to resources across the state. I wrote extensively about LB 998 last week; you can read that update here for a refresher.


With (L-R) Senator Lynne Walz, Annette, and Susan at the AFSP lunch

Wednesday was also the annual Student Pharmacists day at the Legislature. Each year pharmacy students come to the Capitol to meet their representatives, get to know the legislative process, and learn strategies for successfully engaging with elected officials. I met with pharmacy students from Creighton and UNMC and highlighted how important it is to be informed about and engaged with the legislative process.  They were most interested in our bills related to opiate prescribing.

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

All the best,

Floor Debate

The very last bill we discussed this week, but one of the most important, was Senator Lynn Walz’s LB 998. This bill would allow the Educational Service Unit (ESU) Coordinating Council to hire a social worker to coordinate mental health connections for students in ESUs across the state. Senator Walz has been working with a private foundation who would fund the program for three years to test the program. Then, if ESUs felt it was effective, they could continue the program. If not, then at least we would be helping some of our kids and families for three years and get some plans in place to improve linkages for children to services in all of our communities across the state. When I was out knocking doors in my 2012 election campaign and again in 2016, I heard a number of heartbreaking stories from parents and teachers of kids with mental health issues who have fallen through the cracks. LB 998 will help reach more of those kids with the help they need. I have heard over and over again in my 6 years as a senator, teachers need more help and parents often don’t know where to turn. LB 998 works to improve both of those persistent challenges. We ran out of time and took no action on LB 998 on Friday, but I will continue to support Senator Walz as she works to get the bill passed. We will take LB 998 up first thing on Monday March 12th, so if you are interested in this bill you can still follow the debate and contact other senators to encourage them to support the bill.

The first bill we discussed this week was Senator Dan Watermeier’s LB 44, which would require out of state internet retailers to collect sales taxes that are already legally owed on purchases from Nebraska. This bill will help address the competitive imbalance between internet retailers and brick-and-mortar stores, like the ones in Bellevue. Current federal law, as defined in the Quill vs North Dakota precedent, does not allow a state to require a seller to collect sales taxes unless that seller has a physical presence in the state. The Supreme Court is due to hear a case from South Dakota on this very issue soon, so the collection requirement part off the bill only takes effect if the Supreme Court determines such collections are constitutionally allowable. With that safeguard in place, it is important to pass LB 44 now, rather than wait for next session, so that retailers start collecting the sales taxes the state is already owed as soon as possible if the Supreme Court makes a favorable decision.

LB 44 also has a provision to encourage out-of-state retail stories to voluntarily collect sales taxes, and to help Nebraskans comply with existing law that requires payment of sales taxes on internet purchases when the internet seller does not collect the sales tax voluntarily. Amazon is one example of an outside vendor who has voluntarily agreed to collect sales taxes for Nebraska. Unless or until the Supreme Court overturns the Quill decision, LB 44 requires those out-of-state vendors who choose not to collect sales taxes in Nebraska to report to Nebraska consumers a summary of their taxable sales for the past year. You may or may not have noticed that your state income tax form asks you to report and pay sales taxes for internet sales for which sales taxes were not collected. Currently we all owe sales taxes on these internet purchases. LB 44 seeks to improve compliance and collection. It does not impose any new taxes.

My husband looks through all of our credit card statements at the end of the year to make sure that we comply. However, I suspect that most people just estimate a number or simply ignore this requirement. If the Quill decision is overturned, then out-of-state vendors will either collect the internet sales tax from your purchases voluntarily, or send you a report letting you know the purchases that you should report from that vendor on your income tax form. This was the second round of debate on LB 44, so there will be one more Final Reading vote before it goes to the Governor.

In the middle of the week, on Wednesday, we took up Senator Sara Howard’s LB 714. This thoughtful bill was advanced to the second round of debate with no dissenting votes. Nebraska’s statutes currently give no guidance on the procedures of emancipation of a minor; most guidance resides in case law. LB 714 provides a specific path in statute for the court to follow, and allows a minor who is at least sixteen years of age to file on their own behalf, which is currently not allowed. Senator Howard shared the story of a young woman named Faith who helped inspire the bill. Faith graduated from high school in 2015 and enrolled at UNO with the expectation that she could begin a new life as an independent adult free from her mentally, physically, and emotionally abusive parents. But though she was living independently, her parents retained legal control over her affairs and proceeded to stalk, harass, and otherwise make her life unbearable. Because she was only 18, she was caught between adulthood and childhood as far as the courts were concerned, so could not find redress there. LB 714 is a vitally important bill that will help students like Faith achieve true independence away from abusive parents. It will also help the young people who are seeking emancipation because they have been on their own for a while, or because they don’t have the backing of an adult to make certain decisions that they are not allowed to make as a minor. This might be something simple like opening a checking account, or more complex like signing up for a loan to buy a car. I am proud to have supported LB 714, and will continue to do so until it becomes law.

Late Nights

This week Speaker Scheer shared his plans for our late night schedule. Friday March 9th was the 40th day of this 60-day session, so we are rapidly approaching the end of our in-session work for this year. As that last day approaches, we will begin to debate later into the evening rather than adjourning at 5:00. To allow senators to plan ahead, the Speaker usually releases a list of scheduled late nights a few weeks early. This year we have 12 late nights scheduled in March and April. Some evenings we will stay in session until 7:00 pm; some nights it may be 11:59 pm. So if you are at home in the evenings and want to see if we’re still going, you can always tune in to NET to watch!

“Zero Weeks” Film Panel

On Monday March 5th I participated in a panel hosted by UNO as part of their Women and Public Policy Week. Zero Weeks is a film that highlights the United States’ status as one of only two countries in the world that have no guaranteed minimum paid family leave. I have worked hard on paid family and sick/safe leave throughout my time in the Legislature. Too many families are forced to choose between taking time off to care for themselves or their families, or keeping their job and health insurance. The Zero Weeks screening and panel led to a great discussion with the other panelists and attendees about what we can to to make paid leave a reality in Nebraska.


With moderator Dr. Sofia Jawed-Wessel and fellow panelists (L-R) Cary Mohiuddin, Sarah Ann Kotchian, and Sophia Haorei-Martig

Chili Cook Off

Bellevue’s Boy Scout Troop 305 hosted their 7th annual Chili Cook Off on Saturday March 3rd, and I was honored to be a judge. I have been a regular judge at this annual fundraiser. It is always fun to meet the scouts and parents and the other judges. This year many of the judges were connected with the Omaha Beef arena football team.  


Enjoying the delicious fare!

Capitol Visitors

This week we had a number of visitors to the Capitol. On Tuesday students from across the University system spent time watching debate and speaking to senators about their student experiences. Two of the students I met were UNK students Austin Partridge and Ivy Prater. Austin is also a student regent. These two were knowledgeable and engaged in the policy process – a great example for other students! Then on Friday, students from the UNL student government came to visit with Senators. I enjoyed talking with several of the students about their experiences at UNL and their future plans.


With Ivy and Austin in the Capitol rotunda

On Thursday the group Moms Against Gun Violence was at the Capitol. Lisa and Sophie Mamula, my good friends from church and LD45 residents, came to visit with me as part of their Capitol visit and advocacy day.


Lisa and Sophie outside the Norris Chamber entrance

Insure Nebraska Ballot Initiative Launch

Also at the Capitol this week was the launch of the Insure Nebraska ballot initiative. After six years of failed legislative efforts to require the state of Nebraska to participate in an expansion of Medicaid that raises the income eligibility limit and allows the program to cover more working families, advocates are pushing to put the issue on the ballot. Many of the advocates who will be working hard to get the needed signatures were at the capitol today for a press conference. If you are interested in learning more about this effort or getting involved, see the Insure Nebraska website.

Staff Academic Award

My administrative aide, Christina, is currently working on a Master’s of Public Administration through UNO. Over the weekend she traveled to the University of Illinois-Chicago to participate in the NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition. This competition asked public administration students to use their skills and experience to react to a simulated public health crisis. Christina’s team was one of two champions at her site, who are now competing against 18 other site champions from around the world to name a global winner. We wish her luck, and congratulations!


Team L-R: Cristin Mathew (University of Illinois-Chicago); Christina; Amanda Eisbrenner (Wayne State University); Yash Kachhara, (University of Indiana-Bloomington); and Megan Conkle (Ohio University)

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

All the best,

Floor Debate this Week 

This week the Legislature made good progress on bills. We advanced a number of them to the next round of discussion, while a few others were debated for a time and now await continued consideration. Among the bills we did advance, I would like to highlight four that I believe are of particular importance.

The first, taken up and advanced on Monday, was Senator Sara Howard’s LB 931. This critical bill is another piece of the state’s efforts to tackle opioid addiction and abuse. Senator Howard, who has personal experience with the devastation opioid addiction can wreak on families, has led the Legislature’s efforts to control these substances for years now. Senators John Kuehn and Brett Lindstrom were also key to getting LB 931 passed without a single dissenting vote. You can listen to a great overview of the floor debate on that bill here.  

Next on Monday we took up LB 1078, which I introduced and which the Executive Board prioritized. As I discussed a few weeks ago when the bill had its committee hearing, this bill was introduced to help the Office of the Inspector General of Child Welfare (OIG) more effectively track and respond to reports of child abuse in state care. On Thursday the Omaha World Herald ran a great editorial on why LB 1078 is so important; you can read that piece here. My colleagues in the Unicameral clearly understand how important this legislation is, as it too advanced to the second round of debate without any dissenting votes.


Giving my introductory statement about LB1078. Photo courtesy Unicameral Information Office

On Wednesday we debated LB 935, which is a bill by the Legislative Performance Audit Committee to improve reporting requirements of the Nebraska Advantage Act. The Advantage Act is the single largest state business incentive program, but reports from the Department of Revenue suggest it spends more than it creates in investment (as explained further in the description of my LB 996 below). LB 935 is an important step to improve the Legislature’s ability to effectively assess the Advantage Act and its future.

Also on Wednesday we advanced Senator Carol Blood’s LB 685. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this proposal, which creates a funding priority within the Nebraska Medicaid program for military children who are severely disabled and not covered by Tricare. As military families move from state to state, LB 685 ensures that these families have timely access to critical services.

Final Committee Hearings

LB 996 – On Tuesday, I had my final bill hearing in front of the Revenue Committee. In order to gain a better understanding of the Nebraska Advantage Act (the state’s largest business incentive program), the Economic Development Task Force spent the interim meeting with the Department of Revenue, the Legislative Audit Office, Nebraska businesses currently receiving benefits under the Act, and tax incentive experts. In its 2017 report, the Task Force concluded that the Nebraska Advantage Act must be reformed or replaced before its 2020 sunset with an incentive program that includes reforms such as: increasing wage requirements; simplifying qualification standards; clarifying benchmarks for evaluation; controlling future costs; and increasing budget predictability. A Nebraska Department of Revenue analysis of the Advantage Act found that lost tax revenues have exceeded gains from the additional economic activity and will continue to do so through 2025. This net cost to the state was $50.7 million in 2017, and the annual cost is expected to grow to an estimated $81.8 million by 2025. The cumulative cost of the Advantage Act is projected to be just under $500 million by 2020. As chair of the Economic Task Force, I introduced LB 996 to start the conversation about needed changes to this program.

HHS Rules & Regs hearing

Many of the bills that we pass in the Unicameral authorize our state agencies to run programs or enforce rules. Sometimes the law also requires the agency to establish rules and regulations to provide more specific details on how the program will be run or how the rules will be enforced. An important part of our oversight role as legislators is making sure that regulations get done (“promulgated” as it’s called officially) and that they carry out legislative intent. In 2013, after challenges that the Legislature was having getting rules and regulations promulgated, we passed Senator Howard’s bill, LB 242, to require that any agency that had not promulgated regulations required by a bill within three years had to report that to the Legislature and respond in a hearing concerning why those regulations were not done. This is a critical tool to help us do this part of our job. Without this requirement, these regulations can fall through the cracks. It is a good example of how the work of a bill doesn’t end when the bill passes.

This week we held the required hearing on the June 2017 report on regulations that were not complete after three or more years since the bill passage. Unfortunately, there were several bills in the report in this status. We pushed for action and clarification on these bills and discussed some options for improving the process, including identifying bills that could be implemented without rules and regulations, but which have language requiring the promulgation of rules and regulations, to clear them out of the system.

DD Proclamation Signing

On Thursday March 1st a number of senators, advocates, and family members came together in the Capitol rotunda to honor and celebrate members of our community who live with developmental disabilities. Led by Senator Kate Bolz, we signed a legislative resolution declaring March Developmental Disabilities Awareness month. The resolution will be introduced on our next session day, which is Tuesday.


Speaking at the resolution signing ceremony

The final paragraph of the resolution reads in part: “our communities are stronger when everyone participates and encourages all citizens to support opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities that include full access to education, housing, employment and recreational activities.” We each have a role to play in supporting our friends, families, and community members with developmental disabilities, and our state is all the stronger for it.

Young Leaders at the Capitol This Week

Especially in short session years, when our schedule is compressed, there are some weeks when it seems like everyone visits the Capitol at once. This was one of those weeks, where we had a number of great groups of young people engaging with their Legislature and developing their leadership skills.

On Monday the Nebraska Association of Social Workers (NASW) held their annual student day at the Legislature. Our intern Molly Triggs, who is a social work student at UNO, took off her intern hat for the day and joined NASW for their activities along with her fellow students from across the state. I attended lunch with them, which allowed me to spend time talking to a number of future social workers, including many students from Creighton.  

Meeting with young people is one of my favorite parts of being a senator, and this week provided lots of opportunities! On Tuesday the Urban League of Nebraska organized the second annual Black & Brown Legislative Day. That event’s goal is to help empower communities of color, and to give young people an opportunity to talk with their representatives about the policies that impact them. This group was full of leaders and visionaries, and I cannot wait to see what they accomplish.

Also on Tuesday, a group of Americorps student volunteers from Peru State visited my office. These college students all work with various after-school programs in Nebraska City, focused on teaching kids good nutritional habits and how to lead an active lifestyle.


Meeting with Americorps volunteers (L-R) Brandon Sullivan, Destiny Worthey, Kaylee Gill, Spencer Kerwin and Noah Temme

Wednesday was the University of Nebraska’s annual dinner, which is attended by student leaders from across the four university campuses. They took time to tell us about their college experiences and how the University system is preparing them for careers and life after school.

On Thursday the organization College Possible hosted a breakfast to familiarize senators and staff with their work. College Possible utilizes a mix of peer support, coaching/mentoring, after-school sessions, and transition support to help low-income students reach college and succeed once they get there. One student we met was Catarina Francisco, a first-generation college student who graduated from UNO as a Buffett Scholar. The hard work of students like Catarina is a lesson on what people can achieve if they’re supported and given the opportunity to show their stuff.


Senator Sara Howard and me with Catarina

Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association of Nebraska was also in the Capitol on Thursday. I had the chance to visit with Kathie Bickerstaff, who shared her support for LB1004. That bill supports Aging and Disabled Resource Centers (ADRCs), which connect families with support & resources. Kathie will soon be awarded the Purple Profiles of Courage award for her advocacy for families dealing with Alzheimer’s. Congratulations Kathie!


With Kathie in the rotunda

Statehood Day 

Thursday March 1st was Statehood Day, when we celebrated Nebraska’s 151st birthday. Members of Calvary Community Church in Lincoln brought delicious cookies to help celebrate!


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

All the best,

 

Priority Bills Finalized

As I explained last week, one of the unique features of the Nebraska Unicameral is our priority bill process. Now that all senators and committees have designated their priority bills, and the Speaker has announced his priority list, we will shift to discussing those prioritized bills almost exclusively (find the full list here). If you look at the agenda for any given day (which you can pull up by clicking on the date you want here), you may notice the inclusion of “divisions” named after senators. This is just an easy way to group bills, and is a convention that the Legislature has used for some time. Having a division named after you is rather fun, but has no bearing on how a bill is treated.

This year I have three bills with priority status: my personal priority, LB 589; a bill designated as an Executive Board committee priority, LB 1078; and one speaker priority, LB 865. I will discuss each of those bills in more depth as they come up on the agenda.

Though we will likely debate only priority bills for the rest of this 2018 session, a bill without a priority is not necessarily dead. Other bills can get debated and passed if they are amended onto a designated priority bill. This cannot be done with speaker priorities, but if an introducer is amenable both personal and committee priority bills can serve as a vehicle for other proposals. There are a few unwritten rules for this process. First, a bill must usually have been passed by the committee to which it was referred – there will be objections if a bill is amended into a vehicle while it’s still sitting in committee. The general feeling is that such action circumvents the committee process, so it’s frowned upon (though senators do try it sometimes).

Second, bills must be about the same general subject if they’re amended together. This is known as the “germaneness” rule, and is expressed in our official Legislative rulebook (Rule 2b): “no bill shall contain more than one subject and the same shall be clearly expressed in the title.” That means a bill about about equine massage, for example, could not be amended into a bill about school funding. Similarly, even if a senator has two bills on agriculture – say, one about cattle branding and the other about industrial hemp cultivation – calling them the same subject because they’re both generally about agriculture would be too far a stretch. The germaneness standard can be subjective, though. If members of the body think an amended bill is not germane, its inclusion can be challenged. When that happens, the sponsoring senator and the challenger each have a few minutes to argue their case. Then the final decision about whether the amendment bill is germane is made by the Speaker.

One good example of a vehicle that incorporates multiple bills is LB 873, which was introduced and prioritized by the Urban Affairs Committee. LB 873 is a clean-up bill that clarifies and updates a number of statutory sections on municipalities. An amendment has been introduced to incorporate five other related bills: LB 765, LB 748, LB 854, LB 768, and LB 880. Each of those bills deals with the same general subject matter as LB 873, so amending them together makes sense. In that way, bills without a priority can still have a chance to become law.

Committee Bill Hearings

I had just one of my bills presented at a hearing this week, which is the last full week dedicated to committees. Next week we will have hearings on Monday and Tuesday, and then switch to all-day debate on Wednesday. From Wednesday until the end of session, committees will only meet sporadically if there are other issues they need to address. For example, the Health & Human Services Committee has a few noon-hour hearings scheduled in March to discuss gubernatorial appointments.

My bill hearing this week was LB 839, which was heard in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee on February 22nd. LB 839 deals with electioneering. Electioneering communications are materials targeted at the electorate of a candidate that are distributed right before an election. These communications allude to candidates without explicitly recognizing the election or their candidacy, and therefore, do not have not have to be reported. LB 839 does not restrict or limit the activity of citizen groups, what can be said in electioneering communications, or free speech in any way. Instead, LB 839 simply creates a reporting mechanism to bring more transparency and accountability to our state’s elections. If powerful groups or organizations are pouring money into Nebraska to shape campaigns in our state, the citizens and candidates have a right to know who they are.

When I am not introducing one of my own bills at a hearing, I am serving in my assigned daily committee listening to public testimony on bills. This week two of my committees (Business & Labor and Urban Affairs) had no new hearings because we finished all bill hearings last week. I did have hearings in the Executive Board: one for a bill on whether pay for senators should be increased (LR 295CA), and another to create an investigative committee to investigate Mental Health Centers and improve care for those with severe and persistent mental illness in the state (LR 296). On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we heard multiple bills in the Health and Human Services Committee. Those include bills to continue improving our prescription drug monitoring program, which has helped our state stand out as one of the states with the lowest levels of opioid deaths (LB 1057), and a bill to push the Governor and administration to allow an update in our psychology and mental health counseling practice regulations, which have been stalled for about 10 years (LB 891).

Floor Debate this Week

One of the big ideas we debated on the floor this week was occupational licensing. LB 299, introduced by Senator Laura Ebke, would create a new process to reassess the state’s many licenses. I am a strong supporter of occupational license reform, as our current framework sometimes puts up unnecessary barriers to employment and includes more red tape than is necessary to protect public safety. I am also very supportive of a section that allows those with a criminal history to petition and seek clarity on whether their convictions should truly disqualify them from a licensed profession. In fact, I have talked to Sen. Ebke about an amendment to strengthen that language to make sure we include misdemeanors that sometimes exclude people from professions.

I also, though, have concerns about other provisions of LB299, particularly as they relate to our state’s nearly 100 health care professions. The bill sets a standard that says government should not be regulating a profession for public safety unless there is evidence of present, substantiated and significant harm in Nebraska. This suggests that we cannot put professional regulations in place or keep professional regulations unless people have already been harmed – significantly – or unless those harms impact a significant number of people in Nebraska. This seems to be a dangerous standard that does not protect our citizens and consumers.

Another bill we discussed on the floor this week was LB 743, introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom. One aspect of the bill is focused on improving consumer notification related to post-loss assignments for homeowners’ insurance claims. Senator Burke Harr added an amendment to strengthen these provisions and improve consumer notification. Questions and concerns about assignments with a contractor were raised by a constituent, who came to see me in January. During that visit he brought an article about some challenges with the process, which he had been holding on to since August. Thanks to my great staff, I was able to take that concern to the floor as part of our conversation on the bill. The Department of Insurance posted a consumer alert about the post-loss assignment issue, which you can read here if you would like to know more.

Bellevue Library Legislative Coffee

This year’s Bellevue Library town hall, hosted on Saturday February 17th, was a great success. Senator Carol Blood and I had the chance to meet with a number of residents to answer their questions, hear their concerns, and discuss how the Legislature is going this year. I deeply appreciate all the people who took time out of their weekend to come to the town hall, as engaged and interested citizens are the absolute cornerstone of our Unicameral system.


Answering a constituent question with Senator Blood 

Creighton Student Advocacy

Monday February 19th was a holiday, and I spent some time visiting with students at Creighton’s Schlegel Center for Service and Justice. The students organized the gathering as a chance to learn about advocacy and public service. As part of the day, they agreed on a list of seven bills they support: LB 808, LB 922, LB 1013, LB 870, LB 875, LB 869, and LB 855. Speaking with the SCSJ’s active and engaged young students is always a wonderful experience.

Capitol Visitors

We had a number of visitors to the Capitol this week. On Tuesday February 20th I had the pleasure of speaking to the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, who asked about redistricting, paid family leave, and other legislative priorities.


Speaking to the League of Women Voters at their Legislative Day

Also on Tuesday, Heartland Family Service held its annual Legislative Advocacy Day. HFS serves Douglas and Sarpy Counties and provides financial classes, counseling services, and other important support for families in our community. Advocacy days are an important way for organizations and individuals to connect with senators’ offices and educate them about their work.


With Senator Merv Riepe (second from right) and several legislative staffers at the (very tasty!) HFS lunch

On Friday February 23rd, the Nebraska Young Democrats held their own Capitol day. In the afternoon I visited with Mina Davis and Natalie Weiss, two excellent leaders who I’ve had the pleasure to know for several years now.


Mina and Natalie in my office

Also on Friday, I had a chance to talk to students and educators with our Educational Service Units, including ESU #3 that serves our area. It was fun to see the computer and career education innovations in our ESU and in other ESUs across the state.

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

All the best,

My Bill Hearings this Week

This week we had hearings on seven different bills. It was quite a whirlwind! Next week is the final full week of hearings, followed by a final few on the 26th and 27th. I only have two bills left to present in the committees. On February 28th, we move to all-day bill debate with the full Legislature.

Our first hearing of the week, LB 1078, took place on Monday in the Executive Board. In 2017, the Nebraska Inspector General of Child Welfare (OIG) issued the Child Sexual Abuse Report. Sadly, during this investigation, the OIG identified 50 children who were victims of sexual abuse that had been substantiated by DHHS or the courts between 2013 and 2016. Of these 50 victims identified, twenty-seven were in state care at the time of their sexual abuse and 23 were sexually abused in an adoptive or guardian home in which the state had placed them. LB 1078 will allow the Department and the OIG’s office to analyze in real-time the number of sexual abuse cases being reported that involve children in the state’s care. When vulnerable children are being abused on our watch, we as a state must respond to the systemic shortcomings that allowed these tragic incidents to occur, and put safeguards in place to ensure children are better protected moving forward. I am proud to say that LB 1078 was quickly advanced to General File, and has been named a committee priority bill. It has been placed on the floor bill agenda, and I look forward to discussing it in the full Legislature soon.

The second hearing on Monday was held in the Business & Labor Committee. LB 844, the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, addresses the fact that an estimated 46.3 percent of the Nebraska workforce cannot earn a single paid sick day to use to recover from common illnesses or to seek medical care. Access to sick and safe leave is even more limited for some of our most vulnerable families, with 70% of low-wage workers not having paid sick days to care for their own health. LB 844 ensures that hard-working Nebraskans can earn up to a week of paid leave to care for themselves or a family member without having to worry about losing their jobs.

On Wednesday I had two bills in the Health & Human Services Committee. The first, LB 866, deals with Medicaid waivers. Medicaid is a program that is critical to over 300,000 adults and children in the State of Nebraska–most of whom are our most vulnerable, low-income citizens. Medicaid waivers allow states to make major change to the services provided, delivery methods, and payment requirements for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Programs. LB 866 builds on an existing statutory process in place for rules and regulations to provide a time period for legislative consideration of certain applications for Medicaid waivers before they are submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In January of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services rolled out a new health care delivery system that combines Nebraska’s physical health, behavioral health, and pharmacy programs into a single comprehensive and coordinated system for Nebraska’s Medicaid and CHIP clients. This program, Heritage Health, is managed by contracts with three private Managed Care Organizations (MCOs).Our second HHS bill, LB 867, is an attempt to resolve long-lasting issues providers have experiences with the Heritage Health MCOs. Without our Medicaid providers, there are no health care services for the most vulnerable Nebraskans. Seeing that we are now over a year in to the Heritage Health process, the MCOs need to be held to a higher standard. LB 867 puts in place provisions to start increasing accountability and encourage system improvements.

On Thursday we had three hearings, so I did a lot of racing back and forth between hearing rooms. We began with LB 926 in the Revenue Committee. In current statute, active duty members of the armed forces who are stationed in Nebraska but are a resident of another state are exempt from the motor vehicle tax imposed on motor vehicles registered for operation in Nebraska. LB 926 provides that active duty members of the armed forces who are Nebraska residents, as well as their spouses, would also qualify for this exemption. This issue was brought to me by one of my constituents who is a retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force. LB 926 is a cost-effective way to show a little extra appreciation to our Nebraska residents serving in our military.


The view from the testifier’s chair as I introduced LB 926

The next bill, LB 1055, was heard in the Appropriations Committee. It designates a funding source for the Intern Nebraska program. Since its inception 7 years ago, the Intern Nebraska Program allocated nearly $11 million to over 600 companies that facilitated 2,750 internship experiences across our state. Intern Nebraska grants can reimburse up to a 50% of an intern’s wages, up to $5,000 per internship. These internships have gone to companies both big and small. As we continue to look for innovative ways to attract and retain young professionals in our state, I believe that it is critical that we continue to fund this important program that links students and recent graduates to Nebraska businesses, especially since, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than 50% of interns become full‐time employees at their place of internship.

We wrapped up the week with LB 1117, which was back in the Revenue Committee. This bill would raise the tax rate on cigarettes, snuff, and other tobacco products. Surveys of registered voters across the state have found strong support for such increases. The benefits of LB 1117 are two-fold. First, raising the cigarette tax will improve the health of Nebraskans and help keep kids from picking up the habit. Young people are the most price-sensitive population when it comes to purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products, and studies have repeatedly shown that higher taxes do deter youths from ever starting to smoke. Second, raising our tobacco tax rates would provide an important influx to the state’s General Fund. Spending cuts are important to discuss in times of fiscal constraint, but should never be the only option on the table. LB 1117 is an important avenue to start to discuss the full range of fiscal options. It was great to have Brooklyn Larimore, a Bellevue East senior, as one of the testifiers in support of the bill. Brooklyn has been to my office before with the organization No Limits to advocate for policies to reduce tobacco use among teens. She also testified on another tobacco bill in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday (LB 1062), so her day was as busy as mine!


Some of the testifiers for LB 1117 (L-R): Chuck Cone, Loup Basin Public Health Department; Brooklyn Larimore, Bellevue East senior; me; Roger Wiese, North Central District Health Department; and Emma Schultz, UNMC Student Delegate

Priority Bill Deadline Approaching

We are reaching the halfway point of this 2018 session – we are only in session 60 days, and day 30 is on February 21st. We have already begun debating senator and committee priority bills, which senators can designate as early as they want. Each senator gets to select one bill as his or her priority. Often it will be one of a senator’s own bills, but it’s not uncommon for someone to prioritize a bill introduced by another senator. These bills get top priority for floor debate at some point before the end of the session. Each standing committee also identifies 2 priority bills. Tuesday February 20th is the deadline for both senators and committees to identify and submit their priority bills. As of Friday, 20 senators of the 49 have designated their priorities, and 8 of the 16 committees that can designate priorities have announced at least one of their two choices. I am among the senators who will announce my priority bill on Tuesday, so stay tuned!

The Speaker of the Legislature, Senator Jim Scheer, also gets to select 25 priority bills. Wednesday February 14th was the deadline to submit bills for the Speaker to consider as a Speaker priority bill, and he will announce his selections on Wednesday of this coming week. Senators who want a Speaker priority for their bill must send a letter to his office with the reasons it’s a good choice. Speaker Sheer announced this week that he received 72 requests, so obviously not all of them can be granted. Speaker priority bills have historically been reasonably non-controversial and broadly impactful, but the Speaker may choose any bills he likes from among the requests.

You can find the full list of personal and committee priority bills here; once the speaker announces his priorities on Wednesday, they will appear there as well.

Bills on the Floor

We discussed a number of bills this week during debate. One important bill that was debated and advanced was LB 874, which was introduced in response to an Auditor’s report on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program. LB 874 represents the culmination of more than six months of work by the Urban Affairs Committee to examine the findings of the Auditor’s report and a year of work prior to that to discuss ways to strengthen the accountability and transparency of TIF decisions. Over this past interim the Urban Affairs Committee held public hearings throughout the state on TIF, and ultimately put together the most significant changes to the TIF statutes since 1997. LB 874 was advanced without a single dissenting vote.

We also spent some time on Select File bills, which is the second round of debate after General File. One, my LB 78, was inspired by some of the challenges the city of Bellevue faced when trying to redevelop a relinquished section of the old Highway 75, which is now Fort Crook road. This bill helps address those problems and creates a more fair, transparent, and efficient process for all parties involved when a highway is relinquished by the state. LB 78 now moves on to the last round of debate, called Final Reading. After that, the last stop is the Governor’s desk.

We also spent some time on Confirmation Reports this week. In Nebraska, the Governor has the power to appoint leaders for many of the state agencies, boards, and commissions. Each time the Governor makes such an appointment or reappointment, the person’s application must be sent to the Legislature to be confirmed. Confirmation hearings are held by the standing committees, and follow the same process as bills: the appointee appears either in person or by phone to answer questions from senators on the committee, after which members of the public are invited to testify in support, opposition, or a neutral position on the appointment. The committee then votes on whether to send the appointment to the full Legislature, which must vote on final confirmation. Most appointments are approved with little fuss, as those appointed are generally well-qualified for their roles. Still, it is an opportunity for the Legislature to vet executive appointees and for the public to weigh in on the people who will lead the state agencies and organizations with whom they interact.

Leadership Sarpy Application

Each year the Sarpy County Chamber chooses a small group of professionals to participate in Leadership Sarpy, a year-long leadership development class. Through a number of monthly sessions, participants learn leadership skills, meet local and state representatives and businesspeople, and network with other professionals. The 2017-2018 class visited the Capitol just this week, and it was a pleasure to meet all of them. The Chamber is currently accepting applications for the 2018-2019 class. You can learn more about the program here, and if it seems like a good fit you can apply here. Contact the Sarpy Chamber at 402-339-3050 or President@SarpyChamber.org with any questions.

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

All the best,

Sen. Sue Crawford

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