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

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,

Crawford Hearings

This week I had two bill hearings – a nice slow week.  Next week we have six!  My staff and I are working hard to prepare for these hearings and for bills that are on the floor for debates and votes.

Our bill hearings this week started with LB 1020 in the Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday. This bill clarifies provisions relating to direct borrowing from a financial institution by cities and villages.  In 2015 the Urban Affairs committee passed a bill (LB 152) to allow municipalities to borrow money directly from banks for purchases of items that would not be appropriate to bond. The bill clarified that most cities could only borrow up to 10% of their budget for certain kinds of purchases. As banks and cities began to use the authority in the bill, it became clear that the bill as written appears to mean that all loans must be smaller than 10% of a single year budget.  However, a city could take out that size of loan year after year and the bill clearly states that loans can be over multiple years. So LB 1020 clarifies that the debt load to be paid in any single year would need to be under 10% of the budget for a single year, and that loans can not exceed seven years.

On Thursday we had our hearing for LB 1073 in the Health and Human Services Committee. LB 1073 calls for the Department of Health of Human Services to include in their existing weekly report to the Foster Care Review Office information on whether relative and kinship foster placements are licensed, or instead, have been issued a waiver for licensing standards. LB 1073 is a simple, budget neutral way to gather critical data about our foster care placements. As we work to increase licensure among relative and kinship placements for both safety and budget reasons, real-time data will help the state track progress on this important measure.

Committee Bill Work

We will have two more full weeks of hearings for this session, and then a half-week on the 26th and 27th to wrap up for those committees that need the time. Once committees finish their work and have held public hearings on every bill, we will move to all-day debate with the full Legislature. Thus, committees are working hard to make sure they give time to each proposal.

On Monday the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee spent time talking about rural broadband (LB 994) and our state’s 911 system (LB 993). Particularly as cell phones increasingly phase out landlines, those are important discussions to have. In another future-focused hearing, the Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee heard LB 987, the Uniform Regulation of Virtual-Currency Businesses Act, on Tuesday. That bill opens the conversation about digital currencies such as Bitcoin, and how businesses and regulators might deal with them as they become more common.

The HHS Committee considered several important bills this week. On Wednesday we took up LB 770, which would address the “cliff effect” for families receiving SNAP benefits in Nebraska. The cliff effect refers to the situation when families suddenly face a situation where any small increase in their incomes produces a major drop in their ability to support themselves because they lose critical assistance.  A few years ago we addressed the cliff effect in child care subsidies by tapering off the subsidies as a family incomes increase.  LB 770, proposed by Senator John McCollister, would allow families that have higher childcare or medical expenses to earn more money and still qualify for SNAP food benefits. The bill allows a family’s gross income to go up to a higher bar as long as their net income remains at 100% of the poverty line.

LB 1046, also heard in the HHS Committee on Thursday, addresses the chronic issue of caseloads in DHHS. The Department has been out of compliance for years now with caseload ratios that we have established in our Nebraska law based on best practices. LB 1046 requires the Governor to declare a state of emergency when caseloads are out of compliance for two consecutive quarters, and requires a 90 day correction plan to be put in place. Heavy caseloads exacerbate staff turnover, which then makes it harder to meet caseloads, and high caseloads make it harder for the workers to do all that is required to help the child. Meanwhile, our kids suffer when they get moved from caseworker to caseworker. As Senator Sara Howard noted at the hearing, we do not expect an agency to come back year after year to report on why they are out of compliance. As Senator Steve Erdman said more bluntly, we don’t want to have to come back next year and be in this same situation. Unfortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services has been in this non-compliant state for several years. Our new DHHS director, Courtney Phillips, appears committed to bringing the caseloads into compliance and has put some workforce and workload reforms in place that have shown some early signs of success. Workforce shortages that plague other industries across the state also make it more difficult for us to meet these caseload ratios. So while our vacancy rates are going down, we still need more workers across the state to meet the needs of our most vulnerable children.

On Thursday the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee considered two bills related to voter registration and identification: LB 1064, which requires the Secretary of State to check the citizenship status of all registered voters in our records at a cost of over $1.5 million; and LB 1066, which would require a photo identification to vote. The Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, discussed a proposal for a constitutional amendment on medical cannabis (LR 293CA). If LR 293CA passes, then the question of whether to put the following language in our constitution would be on the ballot in 2018:  

The people of Nebraska have the right to use or consume medical cannabis products, regardless of form, to treat or relieve any medical condition or illness, subject only to laws, rules and regulations regarding the authority of medical professional to recommend and dispense medical cannabis, so long as such laws, rules, or regulations preserve or facilitate the right to use or consume medical cannabis.  

In an unusual move, the Judiciary Committee also held hearings all day Friday, which was a recess day when the full Legislature did not meet. The Judiciary Committee was assigned an extremely large number of bills this year, so adding a day outside the usual calendar allowed them to give full consideration to each of them. On Friday a range of bills were considered, including LB 930, which addresses the admissibility of confessions made by juveniles in custodial interrogation admissible without the presence of their parent, guardian, or custodian; and LB 988, which proposes an affirmative sexual consent standard for the state.

As always, the Legislature discussed many other interesting, important bills aside from what I am able to list here. For a full picture of what was discussed each day, check the Legislature’s committee calendar here.

Bellevue Library Coffee – February 17

You are all cordially invited to attend the Bellevue Public Library’s first Legislative Coffee event of 2017, which will begin at 10:00 am on February 17th. Senator Carol Blood and I will be there to talk about the legislative session and our bills, and to answer any questions attendees may have. I hope to see you there!

Veteran Farmer Conference

On March 24th the Center for Rural Affairs and Legal Aid of Nebraska are sponsoring Answering the Call, a free conference for military veteran farmers who are currently farming or want to begin farming. Farmers looking to transition operations to veteran farmers, or who are willing to mentor are also encouraged to attend. The conference will cover topics such as farming, diversified agriculture, conservation, and agritourism.

This is the second year that this event has been held, and will take place Saturday March 24, 9:00-4:30, at Central Community College in Hastings. Conference attendance is free, but pre-registration is required by Friday, March 16. You can register at www.cfra.org/AnsweringTheCall

If you would like more information, check out the website above or contact Cora Fox at coraf@cfra.org or 402-687-2100 ext 1012.

Thanks to the Nebraska Veterans Coalition for helping get the word out about this awesome event!

LD45 Student Visitor

On Monday representatives from Nebraska’s career and technical student organizations visited the Capitol to talk about the importance of the programs they take part in. Bellevue East’s own Adrianna McKing, who participates in DECA, spent some time in my office to talk about their work. It was a pleasure to meet such an outstanding young woman!


Adrianna and I in my Capitol office

Sarpy Chamber Legislative Coffee

Friday morning was the second Legislative Coffee event of 2018, sponsored by the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Black Hills Energy. Senator Robert Clements and I were there to talk about our bills, how the session is going overall, and answer questions. We got to have a good debate about constitutional amendments, as well as several other important issues before the body.

Senator Clements is on the Appropriations Committee, so he discussed the challenges of finding $200 million dollars of cuts in the budget. I noted that two tax policy changes would get us very close to closing that gap. Namely, an $1.50 increase in cigarette tax would bring in about $105 million, and changing our S-Corp tax policy to match that found in other states would bring in an additional $87 million. These two policies are part of a larger tax policy bill, LB 1084 brought by Senator Briese, that also includes increases in the income tax going to education, some curbs on property tax growth, reductions in sales tax exemptions, additions of sales taxes on new services, and an increase in the sales tax rate among other changes (the bill is over 70 pages!). His emphasis in the bill is to fund education and put more resources to bringing down property tax loads across the state. I briefly discussed this bill and the Governor’s and Senator Smith’s LB 947 as the two major tax bills that I expect to get the most attention this session.

I also discussed two of our bills that passed final reading on Thursday. LB 304, which updates our Public Housing laws and includes changes brought by the Bellevue Housing Authority, and LB 96, which adds collaboration on military installations as a possible use of our popular Site and Building Development Fund economic program.  

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,

Crawford Bill Hearings

My first bill hearing of the week took place on Wednesday in the Health and Human Services committee. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are an integral part of our healthcare system. Attorneys brought to my attention that there are some courts where the expert medical opinion of a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant is not accepted as a medical opinion, even when he or she was the one providing the relevant medical care in the case. We introduced LB 979, as a possible solution to this problem. As conversations continued before and after the hearing, we have discovered that we need to take a different strategy for the bill. The committee process exists so that every bill gets scrutiny, and talking about the advantages and disadvantages of each bill is an important part of the process.

On Thursday my LB 973 had a hearing in front of the Executive Board. The Exec Board, as it’s usually called, is responsible for supervising all legislative services and employees, and hears bills related to the legislature’s internal workings and processes. LB973 would require that the Legislature’s in-house, state-issued redistricting software be used to create any map that is part of the decennial redistricting process. LB973 will strengthen and codify guidelines that have been used in the past into state statute, and will ensure all maps that are debated on the floor have undergone the expertise and scrutiny of the Legislative Research Office (LRO) to ensure they are in compliance with state and constitutional standards.

Meet Our Intern – Molly Triggs

Our intern this session is Molly Triggs, a 20 year-old Junior at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She was born in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota and was raised by her parents (Adam Triggs and Melanie Schur) and grandmother (Marsha Congdon) alongside her three younger sisters (Rhiannon, Jocelyn, and Isabelle). Molly was also raised alongside countless chickens, several goats, and a very fat Weimaraner.  

Molly is currently studying social work with a minor in women and genders studies. She is hoping to continue her education and study law or public administration. Molly currently works as a job coach for adults with intellectual disabilities, a speech and debate coach at Millard North High School, and as an administrative assistant/property manager. Her responsibilities at the Legislature include helping with administrative tasks and working on policy research projects, as well as sitting in on committee hearings.

In her free time Molly loves to read books, write poetry, and keep caught up with Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. She says she is extremely thrilled to be learning more about the legislative process and the wonderful state of Nebraska – and we are equally thrilled to have her in the office helping us out!

Childhood Health and Welfare Briefings

Tuesday marked the release of Voices for Children in Nebraska’s annual Kids Count Report, which collects and analyzes data on our state’s children on a range of metrics. The Kids Count project monitors issues related to health, welfare, education, juvenile justice, and economic stability. This data is a reminder that there are many vulnerable children among us who need their community to speak up on their behalf – 9% of the kids in Sarpy County were in poverty in 2017. I will continue to work for these kids and their families, so that they can have the best chance possible to lead healthy, productive lives in our great state.

Action for Healthy Kids, a nonprofit dedicated to tackling both obesity and hunger among children, hosted a presentation on Friday about their work in Nebraska. Together with representatives from the Army National Guard and other local nonprofit groups, they highlighted the many ways in which childhood hunger and obesity are linked. They also outlined how the obesity epidemic in our country, which typically starts during childhood, has resulted in a national security threat as the Armed Services continue to struggle with large numbers of recruits being disqualified from service due to weight. We know that hungry kids have a harder time staying focused and engaged at school, and that healthy foods and activities are beneficial to all students. This presentation was an important reminder of the many challenges facing students in our state, but also of the many efforts being made to support them.

Session and Committee Work

This was another full week of debate. We began the week with my LB 589 (which you can read about in last week’s update here), and spent several hours discussing it. I anticipate that LB 589 will return to the agenda in the next week or so for further first round debate. We also took up other important bills that were not prioritized last year, but are nonetheless good policy: for example, LB 480, which would prohibit termination of a private health insurance policy solely because the policyholder is in jail; and LB 256, which gives municipalities another tool to deal with vacant properties. Friday we also began debate on LB 211, which would raise Nebraska’s tipped minimum wage, but due to time constraints were not able to get much into the discussion.

Committees were equally busy. On Tuesday, the Urban Affairs Committee had a full day of bills related to Tax Increment Financing (TIF). LB 874, which makes many substantive changes to TIF statutes, has been designated as one of the Urban Affairs Committee priority bills for 2018. Each committee can select two bills to prioritize each session. The Judiciary Committee spent Wednesday discussing bills related to the State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies. On Thursday the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee took up bills related to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission (NADC). And on Friday the Health & Human Services Committee heard from a number of testifiers on a bill to change licensure requirements for barbers, cosmetologists, cosmetology instructors, and cosmetology-barber dual licensing programs.

As always, the Legislature discussed many other interesting, important bills aside from what I am able to list here. For a full picture of what was discussed each day, check the Legislature’s committee calendar here.

State Historical Society Foundation Event

On Friday the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation hosted a lunch at the Capitol. As part of that event, we had the chance to interact with some very cool items: the gavel that Senator George W Norris used to open the first unicameral legislative session on January 5, 1937; a pair of spurs worn by Nebraska Pony Express rider David McLaughlin; and the WWI aviation helmet of 1st Lt. Jarvis Offutt, who was killed in France in 1921 and after whom our own Offutt AFB is named.

These physical objects help us stay in touch with our history, and learn from those who came before us. Thanks to the NSHS for all their work to preserve objects like these for many years to come!

BHECN Mentorship Dinner

On Wednesday I attended a Mentorship Dinner with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN). This dinner, which is held annually, connects students from various high schools and universities in the metro area (including Creighton and UNMC) who are in behavioral health and medical education programs with specialists in those fields. The dinner provides an opportunity for aspiring practitioners to learn from professionals in a more personal setting. I wish those young people all the best as they finish their studies and set out to start their careers.

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 Debated and Advanced

This was a productive week in the Legislature. While the committees work to discuss and advance new 2018 bills in the afternoons, we have been able to use the mornings to debate a number of bills that were not given priority status last year, but which are still important to consider. This is known as taking up bills on “worksheet order”, which means we discuss them in the same chronological order that they are approved by committees. As senators and committees begin to designate 2018 priorities, we will have less time to discuss worksheet order bills.

One of my bills, LB 78, was advanced to the second round of debate on Tuesday; LB 304 and LB 96, another two of my proposals, were advanced to the final round of debate on Friday.

We also spent some time discussing my bill LB 589. The intent of this legislation is to provide child victims and witnesses in a felony cases with additional protections from pre-trial depositions if a videotaped forensic interview has been conducted by a professional with specialized training at a nationally accredited child advocacy center. With 73% of child victims in Nebraska being 12 years of age or younger, we have a duty to be sensitive to the trauma caused by these children continually repeating or being questioned about a traumatic event central to a criminal case. Some of my colleagues raised concerns about the burden of proof this bill would put on the defense to access depositions. I worked with my colleagues on an amendment that addresses some of these concerns while still protecting our most vulnerable children. This bill will be back on the agenda for Tuesday morning debate and it is my hope that we can advance an amended version of the bill to the next round of debate.

Workforce Development Meeting

On Friday, I joined the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska, the ACLU, the Holland Children’s Movement as well as my colleagues Senator Laura Ebke and Senator John McCollister to talk about workforce development in the state. In order to grow Nebraska’s economy and give workers the opportunity to thrive, we have to think critically about how to support workers and help them develop their skills.

During this meeting we discussed my bill, LB 844, which provides employees who work for an employer with four or more employees with up to one week of sick and safe leave every year. Nearly half of Nebraska workers do not have access to paid sick leave.

Worker access to paid leave benefits Nebraska and our workforce by: enhancing public health with less people going to work with contagious illnesses; helping family caregivers to balance family and work responsibilities; and enhancing productivity and reducing turnover at businesses.


With Sarah Ann Kotchian, Vice President of Public Policy at the Holland Children’s Institute

Crawford Bill Hearings

This week I had two bill hearings. The first, on Tuesday, was on LB 764 in the Agriculture Committee. I do not have many bills referred to that committee, so it was an enjoyable change from my usual routine! The Legislature has been working hard to remove barriers to employment through occupational licensing reform. It is critical that the state continue to pursue innovative approaches that allow all Nebraskans to earn an income. LB 764 is a “cottage food law” that would allow Nebraskans to sell foods already authorized for sale at farmers’ markets to customers from their homes. It only seems logical that consumers be allowed to buy these same foods, produced in the same conditions and with the same labels from their neighbors at any time of the year.

The second hearing this week was back in the Health and Human Services Committee. LB 894 would bring Nebraska into the Recognition of EMS Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA). Like other compacts, LB 849 eliminates red tape and allows licensed and qualified EMS personnel to provide care in another member state under certain circumstances without having to obtain additional licenses. REPLICA also validates our commitment to veterans and their spouses by creating an expedited pathway to licensure in member states.

The committees have so far taken no action on LB 764 and LB 894, but you can check back on the bill webpages any time for updates.

Committee Bill Work

As I mentioned above, the Committees are still hard at work. On Monday, the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee heard a LB 683 which allows for active duty military members and/or their spouses to be licensed realtors in Nebraska without having to pay the licensing fee, provided they have a valid realtor’s license in another state. This is one of many bills that was introduced this session to eliminate barriers for military families to enter the Nebraska workforce.

On Tuesday the Urban Affairs hearing discussed a bill to allow any municipality to create a land bank, rather than just municipalities in Douglas and Sarpy counties as current law requires (LB 854). My office studied the issue of land banks and abandoned property over the 2017 interim, so it was good to see this issue addressed. The Committee advanced the bill to the full legislature on a unanimous vote at the end of the week. Tuesday also marked the beginning of public hearings for the Appropriations Committee, which will consider budget requests and recommendations for every state agency between now and mid-February before making their final budget proposal to the full Legislature.

On Wednesday the Judiciary Committee had a long day discussing bills related to juvenile justice. The bills they heard addressed issues such as rules for juvenile room confinement in a custody (LB 870) and what the membership makeup of the Nebraska Coalition for Juvenile Justice should be (LB 670).

Thursday’s biggest draw was LB 829, which would bring major changes to property taxes in Nebraska. The Revenue Committee heard several hours of testimony, both from those who feel property tax relief must be prioritized above all else, and from those who are deeply concerned about how such drastic reform would impact state budgets and potentially cause tax increases in other areas. You can read more about the arguments for both sides in the Journal Star here.

The Health and Human Services Committee on Friday had a public health focus. Among other issues, we talked about whether under-18s should be permitted to visit tanning salons (LB 838) and how the state can better train child care providers and others who care for small children about safe sleep and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (LB 717). In addition to public hearings, the Health and Human Services committee had several briefings this week on issues related to Child Welfare including case loads and workforce training for Child Welfare workers. These front line workers are critical to protecting child safety.   

As always, the Committees heard about far more interesting, important bills than I am able to discuss here. For a full picture of what was discussed each day, check the Legislature’s committee calendar here.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My office is room 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 Introduced This Week

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week were the final days to introduce bills for the 2018 session. In total, there were 467 bills and 16 substantive resolutions (plus 19 resolutions to express congratulations or sympathy) introduced in the second half of this 105th Legislature.

The bills I introduced this week are:

LB 1020 – This bill clarifies a policy that we passed last year on how and when municipalities can directly borrow from banks for purchases. The bill clarifies that a city can borrow for up to a seven-year window, and clarifies the cap on the amount that can be borrowed in this manner.

LB 1055 – The Intern Nebraska program provides grants to reimburse Nebraska businesses that create paid internship positions for high school students, college students, and recent graduates.LB1055 is an effort to ensure that funding for this important program is available in years to come. Considering more than half of young people who participate in an internship become full-time employees where they intern, financing this program in a sustainable way will help ensure that young people studying in Nebraska will continue to be connected with and employed by local businesses.

LB 1073 – This bill calls for The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  to include in their weekly report to the Foster Care Review Office information on whether relative and kinship foster placements are licensed or have been issued a waiver for licensing standards. In order to maximize federal IV-E foster care payments under federal law, it is critical that the state know how many of these homes are meeting IV-E licensing requirements before our CMS waiver that allows these homes to receive payments without licensure expires in 2019.

LB 1078 –  This bills calls for DHHS to report to the Health and Human Services Committee of the Legislature any sexual abuse allegations, screenings, and substantiations concerning state wards and youth at residential facilities in the state. Allegations of sexual abuse of a state ward, juvenile probationer, juvenile in detention, and juvenile in a residential child-caring agency would also have to be reported to the Office of the Inspector General for Child Welfare (OIG). This bill came as recommendation from the 2017 Child Sexual Abuse Report issued by the OIG that was rejected by DHHS. You can read the full OIG report here.

LB 1117 – This bill would increase Nebraska’s tax on cigarettes by $1.50, from its current $0.64 to $2.14. It would also increase the tax on snuff and other tobacco products. Particularly as we enter the second consecutive year of fiscal shortfall, it is critical that we consider additional sources of revenue. Raising the cigarette tax has broad support among Nebraska residents, and 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. Cuts can only go so far before we risk hurting Nebraskans and the state’s growth. LB 1117 offers a sensible alternative.

State of the Judiciary

On Wednesday the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, Michael Heavican, attended the Legislature to give his annual State of the Judiciary address. One of his key points was to highlight the initial work of Nebraska’s new problem-solving courts (such as drug courts and veterans’ courts). He also discussed the serious problems the court system will face if they experience drastic cuts this session as the state tries to balance its budget. The court system is not alone in that concern, which is why bills like my LB1117 on the tobacco tax, and other creative sources of revenue, are so important to the discussion.

Public HHS Briefings

The Health and Human Services committee, of which I am a member, held a series of public briefings this week on a range of DHHS issues. Our briefings this week included ways the Division of Public Health and Division of Behavioral Health have attempted to address the opioid epidemic, and a discussion of the Developmental Disability waiver process. These briefings are a helpful avenue to check in with the leadership in DHHS’ various departments, and to bring up any concerns we have with the department or its programs.

Next week there will be three more briefings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which you can watch live here; each will begin at 1:00 pm. The topics will be: the Office of the Inspector General for Child Welfare’s recent report on sexual abuse of youth in state care, which I linked to above, on Wednesday January 24th; a discussion of DHHS caseworker caseloads on Thursday January 25th; and an update on healthcare workforce initiatives on Friday January 26th. While we will not be taking public testimony during these briefings, I encourage you to send any comments or questions you may have to my office so that I can review them and, if appropriate, bring them up during the briefings.

Committees Begin

On Tuesday we had our first public bill hearing of the year. One of my bills, LB 865, was on the agenda in the Urban Affairs Committee. I discussed LB 865 last week (read that update here if you need a refresher), and am proud to say that the Urban Affairs committee advanced it to the full Legislature on a unanimous vote that very same day. We also discussed bills about AirBnB and other short-term rentals (LB 756), municipal student loan support (LB 719), and other issues.

We also heard a variety of bills in the HHS Committee. Those included a measure by Senator Carol Blood to adopt the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact, which would help military families and others to practice more easily, but still safely, in Nebraska (LB 687); bills to allow for mobile cosmetology and nail salons (LB 790) and change training requirements for estheticians (LB 705) and electrologists (LB 706); and a proposal to require healthcare professionals to take continuing education courses on opiates (LB 788).

Other committees were just as busy. On Tuesday the Education Committee heard a bill to provide low-income students with free meals at school (LB 771). The Judiciary Committee spent Wednesday talking about Corrections, including prison overcrowding (LB 675 and LB 841) and staffing (LB 692). The Revenue Committee considered two bills related to the inheritance tax on Thursday (LB 881 and LB 882), and on Friday took up two suggestions to change the process of protesting property tax assessments (LB 885 and LB 905).

The sheer variety of bills that have hearings on any given day shows just how many ideas and proposals senators introduce each year. Because we cannot be experts on every topic under the sun, it is vital for interested citizens and organizations to share their experiences and knowledge with us at these public bill hearings. To see the full list of which bills the Committees are hearing each day, check the Legislature’s calendar here.   

BPSF Soup Cook-Off

The 6th Annual Bellevue Public Safety Foundation Soup Cook-Off will take place from 5:00-8:00 pm on January 26th. Head over to the Bellevue Volunteer Firefighters’ Hall to try tasty soups and vote for who takes home the coveted Golden Ladle Award! Check out the Bellevue Leader’s article about this year’s event for admission details and other information.

Bellevue Library Legislative Coffee – February 17th

Please also mark your calendars for 10:00 am on February 17th, when the Bellevue Public Library will host its first Legislative Coffee event of 2017. Senator Blood and I will be there to talk about the legislative session and our bills, and to answer any questions attendees may have. I hope to see you there!

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 Introduced This Week

This week was Day 4 through 7 of the 2018 session. Since this is the second year of the session, we have bills carried over from last year to debate during the first 10 days of bill introduction. I introduced five new bills this week. Next week we have three more days to file any remaining legislation to be considered for the year. Expect a flurry of new bills towards the end of the week! Senators sometimes save bills that they do not want to get as much attention for Day 10, so it is fun to see what bills Senators drop on the last day.

My new bills are:

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. All participating states are required to meet background check and safety standards to ensure quality care. There are currently 11 states participating in the compact including three of our border states: Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.

LB 926 extends the military vehicle registration exemption currently in place for out-of-state activity duty military to Nebraska residents who are currently on active duty and spouses.

LB 973 requires that maps that become part of legislative debates for drawing election district lines only use state-issued computer software. This is one small step to reduce partisan consultant influence by making it more difficult for partisan consultants to use mapping to create partisan advantages and get those maps introduced in the legislature. In 2021, with information from the 2020 Census, state legislatures across the nation will draw new state legislative districts and Congressional districts. In Nebraska we also draw the lines for the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, Public Power districts, and the State Board of Education. Unfortunately, partisan majorities in state legislatures can draw these lines to create unfair advantages for candidates of their party, often called gerrymandering. The process for drawing these district lines can influence whether the elections will be competitive and fair. LB 973 is just one of multiple bills introduced this session to shape this process. I hope that we get some of our other redistricting bills to pass (LB974 — Sen. Vargas [adds criteria for the existing process]; LB975 — Sen. Howard; LB216 — Sen. Harr; LB653 – Sen. Murante) but LB 973 provides at least one step that we could get into statutes regardless of other changes in the redistricting process.


Senator Vargas, Senator Howard and I preparing to introduce our redistricting bills

LB 979 establishes that Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners can provide expert medical testimony on issues related to their expertise (scope of practice in state policy terms).

LB 996 proposes four changes in our largest tax incentive act (the Nebraska Advantage Act). Most of the changes seek to ensure that jobs created by these tax incentives are good-paying ones. The bill requires that the jobs created to earn the benefits must be full-time jobs that each pay above the county average wage. The bill also seeks to control the long-term cost of the incentive by phasing out one of the benefits designed to be an important early benefit for recipients. Currently, this benefit continues as other earned benefits kick in. The bill proposes that this early benefit (the ability of the company to keep the state income tax withholding for new employees) remains in place for three years and then phases out by the end of five years.

Motorcycle Helmet Repeal & Other Bills Debated

This week my colleagues and I were able to make good progress on bills that were passed out of committee last year, but which did not make it on the agenda due to time constraints. Since we have not begun the committee process to approve this year’s bills, the first two weeks of session are an opportunity to spend time on a few of those carry-over proposals.

On Tuesday my LB 304, which updates our state Public Housing Authority rules, was advanced to the second round of legislative debate, known as Select File.

On Wednesday the Legislature engaged in extended debate on LB 368, a bill to repeal Nebraska’s mandatory helmet laws for all motorcycle riders. The bill failed to pass the first round of debate as supporters were unable to garner 33 votes to end debate.

Human Trafficking Prevention

Human trafficking is a serious issue in Nebraska, which the Legislature has worked with the Attorney General’s office to address. On Friday dozens of senators, Governor Ricketts, the AG, and other stakeholders joined together at the Capitol to announce the Demand an End initiative, a public awareness campaign to address sex trafficking of minors in our state. An important part of the initiative is a “Buyer Beware” focus on cracking down on the buyers in sex trafficking.


Standing with other Senators as Attorney General Doug Peterson the Demand an End campaign

Hearings Begin Next Week

As a reminder, committee bill hearings begin on Tuesday January 16th. In Nebraska every bill introduced receives a public hearing in one of the Legislature’s 14 standing committees. Anyone can come to testify during these hearings. The introducer of the bill speaks first to explain the bill. Committee members then have a chance to ask questions of the introducer. Then, those who wish to support the bill have time to speak, followed by those who wish to speak against the bill. Finally, those who wish to speak in a neutral capacity speak. In most committees testifiers have three or five minutes to testify. Committee members may ask questions of testifiers as well. The introducer gets a chance after all testifiers are finished to “close on the bill,” which provides an opportunity to respond to the testimony and make a final case for the bill to committee members. In most cases five to ten testifiers speak. However, an important Nebraska tradition is to let anyone come to testify and to do our best to accommodate everyone who wishes to speak by staying as late as necessary to accommodate those who come.

I have my first bill hearing on our first day of hearings, on Tuesdayafternoon. I will present LB865, which forbids cities from waiving second and third readings for ordinances dealing with annexation and redistricting, but instead requires that these ordinances have all three readings on three different days (for most ordinances, state law allows a city council can waive the second and third readings of ordinances by a supermajority vote of the council members). Requiring all three readings ensures that citizens have the full opportunity to participate in the debate on these critical ordinances that impact elections in our cities. The idea for this bill came from the experience of one of my friends, Autumn Sky Burns, who spent much of last year preparing to run for a Papillion City Council seat. In early December she learned that new districts were passed in one city council meeting, as the members voted to waive the second and third readings to pass the new districts in a single meeting. These new district lines put her in a different district. The city leaders wanted to act quickly to get a newly annexed area into districts for the next round of elections. Under LB 865 the city would be required to hold three different readings of the bill on different days, but the council could set special meetings to get the three readings in quickly. This bill builds on a law passed in 1994, which was introduced by Senator Paul Hartnett. That bill established restrictions on cities across the state (except Lincoln and Omaha) against waiving second and third readings of annexation ordinances.

Hearings typically begin at 1:30 pm each day that the legislature is in session, and will run through the end of February. Usually a committee will hold hearings on 4-6 bills each afternoon.

You can browse the hearing schedule and check out daily legislative agendas here. Live streams of all debate and committee hearings are available through NET’s online service here.

Chief Standing Bear Sculpture at the Captiol

The Ponca Chief Standing Bear was a Nebraska icon who fought for Native Americans to be treated equally under the law. This fall, a larger-than-life statue to Chief Standing Bear was unveiled to complete the renovated Centennial Mall in Lincoln. You can learn more about the statue and its unveiling from the Lincoln Journal Starhere. It is a fitting tribute to a extraordinary man, who was unfailing in his pursuit of justice for his people in the face of staunch resistance and intense personal loss.

This week on Wednesday, a small ceremony and reception were held at the Capitol to welcome a miniature version of the statue for temporary display. If you happen to be at the Capitol before January 23rd, I invite you to visit this smaller version in the cafeteria to learn about a great Nebraskan. The Centennial Mall statue is a permanent fixture, which you can visit any time.


(L-R) Senators Halloran and Linehan, me, Senator Pansing Brooks, Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs Executive Director Judi gaiashkibos, and Senators Brewer, Lowe, and Erdman

Sarpy Chamber Legislative Coffee

On Friday, which was our first recess day of the session, I joined the Sarpy County Chamber for their inaugural 2018 Legislative Coffee. These events are always an enjoyable way to engage with Sarpy businesses and residents about the legislative session and our priorities, and receive feedback in return.


Speaking to attendees at the legislative coffee

Sarpy County Election Commission Swearing-In Ceremony

Also on Friday, I attend the ceremony at which Michelle Andahl was sworn in as the new Sarpy County Election Commissioner and Deb Davis as the returning Chief Deputy Election Commissioner. I look forward to working with both of them!


Michelle Andahl takes the oath of office


Deb Davis takes her oath of office

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,

Legislative Session Begins

The 2nd Session of the 105th Legislature formally convened on Wednesday of this week. We began with a few opening formalities, including the swearing-in of a new Chief Sergeant at Arms, Jim Doggett. We also welcomed a new colleague to the body: Senator Theresa Thibodeau, who was appointed in October to fill former Senator Joni Craighead’s seat.  

Though there are fewer big opening events for short sessions, many senators invite friends, family, or other guests to the Capitol for the first day. This year my husband and both sons were able to join me. Their support has been invaluable as I enter my sixth year of legislative service.


In the Capitol rotunda with my sons Nate (L) and Phil (R), and husband David

Time Change for Military Spouse Teacher Licensure Hearing

The December update included information about a Department of Education hearing on military spouse licensure (full details here). That hearing will take place on January 25th, but the time has now been changed – the hearing will take place at 1:00 pm rather than 10:00 am. I still encourage anyone interested to attend, and wanted to make sure you know about the time change.

Crawford Bills Introduced

The three session days this week were devoted just to introducing bills. During that time I introduced six bills. I will elaborate about each of my bills as they come up for public hearing, but to give you a preview:

LB 764 allows Nebraskans to sell many of the items that they can already sell at farmers’ markets to customers from their homes if they do not make more than $25,000 a year on these sales.  

LB 839 expands state disclosure rules for organizations that spend money on ads that specifically target a candidate in the 60 days prior to an election. This requires reporting for election-related materials that would not be covered under our current reporting requirements. If groups are pouring money into Nebraska campaigns, our citizens and candidates have a right to know who they are.

LB 844 requires employers to allow employees to earn paid sick leave to take care of themselves or a family member if the employer doesn’t already provide sick leave or paid time off. In a recent survey, over ¾ of Nebraskans favor policies that expand paid sick leave. (Nebraska Values Project, Holland Children’s Institute, 2017).

LB 865 – prevents municipalities from waiving second and third readings of ordinances by vote if the ordinance concerns redistricting or annexation. Currently, state law prohibits cities of the first class (like Bellevue and most Sarpy cities) and smaller cities from waiving the second and third readings for annexation ordinances. The bill makes sure that on these major city issues citizens will be able to know that a second and third reading will occur if they wish to be present.

LB 866 – provides a mechanism that ensures that the Health and Human Services Committee of the Legislature is informed in a timely manner when the Department of Health and Human Service makes major changes to our Medicaid program through waivers. This notification ensures that the Legislature can respond if necessary before the waiver goes into effect. Waivers are special agreements with the federal government that can change who qualifies or what services are provided. Recent federal changes have opened up greater possibilities for waivers that might have major impacts on our programs.  

Finally, I introduced LB 867 to increase accountability and performance in DHHS’ three Medicaid managed care organizations, collectively known as Heritage Health.  The bill addresses a couple of issues that have repeatedly been raised in our oversight hearings.


Turning in my first bill of 2018 to the Clerk of the Legislature

Senators have ten working days total to introduce bills at the start of each session, which means new proposals may be introduced through January 18th this year. However, our deadline to submit bill drafts is January 12th, so most bills are already in progress. You can find out the status of any bill by searching for it at nebraskalegislature.gov. You can look at the full list of the bills introduced this session here.

Legislative Procedures and Schedule

Starting on Monday of next week, we will begin debating a motion to adopt permanent rules to govern the 2018 session. It is my hope that this debate will be a short one, so that we can move on to the business of the bills before us for the session.

Committee bill hearings will begin the afternoon of Tuesday January 16th (Monday the 15th is a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day). Except in rare circumstances, committees must post notice of all bill hearings no later than 7 days before the scheduled date. Thus, the first hearing notices should be posted no later than Tuesday January 9th. Hearings typically begin at 1:30 pm each day that the legislature is in session, and will run through the end of February.

You can browse the hearing schedule and check out daily legislative agendas here. Live streams of all debate and committee hearings are available through NET’s online service here.

Economic Development Task Force

Friday morning the Economic Development Task Force invited all senators to discuss our 2017 report (read the report here). This informal meeting was an opportunity to talk about the report and its recommendations with senators outside the Task Force. We will continue those conversations in 2018, and expect to begin taking up our 2017 recommendations, as well as exploring new economic development avenues, this summer after the 2018 session adjourns.

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,

Legislature Resumes January 3rd

The 2nd session of the 105th Legislature will begin next week on January 3rd. As in all even-numbered years, the upcoming session will be sixty days long (you can see the tentative 2018 calendar here). This email also marks the last monthly newsletter before we transition back to sending out updates on a weekly basis, so that you can receive the latest news about what is happening in committee hearings and on the legislative floor.

We’ve been working over the interim on several bills that we will discuss in our updates next session as we introduce them. The topics include: protecting our children from sex abuse; allowing entrepreneurs to sell food from their home that they can currently sell at farmers’ markets; expanding opportunities for our best and brightest to work in internships in Nebraska; allowing workers with no paid time off or sick time from their employer to be able to earn sick leave time to take care of themselves and their family; bills to strengthen accountability measures to help us continue to push our new Medicaid system (Heritage Health) to improve; bills to protect our children in our child welfare system; and bills to reduce licensure barriers to careers in the state (while still protecting public safety). Of course, I will also be working with my colleagues on bills that will be good for our district and the state, and fighting against bills that threaten our future. I look forward to another session of working for you!

Teacher Licensing for Military Spouses

Spouses of active duty military members face a number of unique challenges, and in my time in the Legislature it has been one of my priorities to support policies that alleviate those challenges. One such example affects spouses who are teachers. Moving frequently from base to base can make it extremely difficult to obtain or retain a teaching license, since many states have disparate requirements and not all of them recognize existing licenses from other states. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) recently announced that they have finalized and given initial approval to a rule change to help military spouses past that barrier.

The draft rule change, which would create a special class of licence known as the Military Teaching permit, can be found here (the relevant section begins on page 20). NDE will hold a public hearing on this proposed rule Thursday January 25th at 10:00 am, at the NDE’s offices in the State Office Building in Lincoln – 301 Centennial Mall South. If you are able to attend and would like to comment on the proposal, I encourage you to attend.

This proposed rule change has come about thanks to the hard work of several individuals, particularly Shannon Chandler Manion, wife of 55th Wing Commander Col. Michael Manion, who dedicated a great deal of her personal time to the effort. NDE has also been a helpful and responsive partner, without whose cooperation and active investment the change would not have moved forward. Senator Carol Blood has also been a consistent voice for policies like this one that help military families live the most normal lives possible while their loved ones serve.

Protecting our Kids

Project Harmony is a Child Advocacy Center with a mission to end the cycle of child abuse and neglect. Project Harmony supports child abuse victims and collaborates with law enforcement, social services, and medical professionals to work for the best outcomes for survivors. On December 7th I toured their Omaha offices, which serve Douglas and Sarpy Counties and a portion of western Iowa. I look forward to working with these dedicated individuals to advance child welfare in our state.


Meeting with several Project Harmony staffers at their Omaha offices

Protecting our children is a critical obligation for all of us. I have two bills from last session that I will continue to push in 2018. One protects 16- and 17-year-old kids from sexual abuse from persons of authority, such as teachers, coaches, and foster parents. The bill stipulates that consent is not a defense in this situation. Currently Nebraska children of this age do not have this protection. The other bill protects children who have suffered abuse, and have told their story to a trained forensic interviewer on tape, from additional pre-trial deposition questioning unless the defendant can make the case that it is essential for their defense. This change does not take away the rights of the accused during trial, but protects these children from the trauma of retelling their story unnecessarily and having their story questioned by a defense attorney before the trial without a judge present. The child advocates at Project Harmony, the Nebraska Alliance of Child Advocacy Centers, and the Nebraska CASA Association all supported this bill last session.

We have a special obligation to protect the children who are under our care in our foster care system. Unfortunately, we learned with two reports near the end of the year that we have much work left to do to protect these kids in Nebraska. I have been working with Senator Bolz, Senator Howard, and child advocates from across the state to identify some bills that could help strengthen our child welfare system. We plan to meet with other senators from both parties in the first week of the new year to build a coalition of senators who will take on some important changes in the system.

Hwy 75 Farm Implement Meeting

If you’ve been south of Bellevue on Highway 75, you’ve seen all the construction underway. After the construction is done, Hwy 75 will be a freeway through that area. One of the consequences of the freeway designation is that farm implements would normally not be allowed onto the road. However, since Hwy 75 is the only crossing over the Platte River for several miles, we have been talking with the Department of Transportation about the need to make allowances for farm equipment in the area.

On December 13th, we worked with the Nebraska Farm Bureau to organize a meeting to allow farmers and implement dealers in the area to provide input on a draft plan to allow farm equipment to be on Hwy 75 for a short span with permit. Thanks to The Lodge for hosting us! The draft of the permit rules are available here; comments and suggestions can be sent to our office. I am happy to forward your comments to the Department of Transportation.

Economic Development Task Force

The Economic Development Task Force spent six months exploring existing research and hearing from state economic development experts, businesspeople, education specialists, and others. Our goal was to formulate a better understanding of what Nebraska’s economic landscape looks like now, and what the state’s priorities should be to foster more effective development in the future.

From that work, the Task Force created a report for 2017 that must be submitted to the Legislature. Once it is publicly posted – which should be January 2nd – the report will be available here under the “Select/Special Committees” tab. I welcome any feedback you may have.

We’ve been working on bills to tackle some of the key priorities of the report, including attracting and retaining our best and brightest and improving our economic development incentive programs to strengthen their effectiveness and to protect our other budget priorities. More on these bills in the new year updates!

Operation Holiday Cheer

Each year the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and Bellevue Economic Enhancement Foundation coordinate Operation Holiday Cheer, which provides hundreds of airmen at Offutt with bags of goodies for the holiday season. Operation Holiday Cheer is a way to show the Bellevue Community’s support for our locally stationed troops.

On December 5th dozens of people came together to stuff the bags and pack them up to be distributed. Thanks to all those who volunteered their time or resources to help make Operation Holiday Cheer successful for another year.

Independent Cattlemen Event in Valentine

On December 16th several other Senators and I flew up to Valentine to attend the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) annual gathering. We discussed property tax challenges facing Cattlemen and other issues that we will be discussing in the next session.


Panelists L-R: Senator Anna Wishart, me, Senator Bob Krist, Senator John Lowe, and Senator Mike McDonnell

Holiday Office Closure

The Legislature will be closed this Monday January 1st. We will return on January 2nd, ready to begin the 2018 session! I wish you all a very happy New Year’s.

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

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

All the best,

Legislature Resumes January 3rd

The 2nd session of the 105th Legislature will begin on January 3rd. As in all even-numbered years, the upcoming session will be sixty days long (you can see the tentative 2018 calendar here). The start of session also means that I will transition back to sending out my email updates on a weekly basis rather than monthly, so that you can receive the latest news about what is happening in committee hearings and on the legislative floor.

Economic Development Taskforce

The Economic Development Taskforce met on November 3rd to hold our final public hearing for 2017. The meeting began with a panel discussion on Tax Increment Financing (TIF), focusing on the opportunities and challenges of using that tool. A panel discussion with City of Lincoln Director of Urban Development Dave Landis, Open Sky Policy Institute Director Renee Fry, and Plattsmouth City Administrator Erv Portis addressed a number of issues including transparency and evaluating return on investment. After the panel, Department of Economic Development Director Courtney Dentlinger and Department of Labor Commissioner John Albin joined us for a broader review of the topics covered by the Taskforce this summer and fall.

The Taskforce is required by statute to produce a report outlining economic development priorities by the end of this year. In December, Taskforce members will meet to discuss the report draft. Once it has been approved, the report will be available here under “Select/Special Committees.”

Federal Child Welfare Report

This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services completed a multi-phased review of the child and family services provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Similar reviews were conducted in 2002 and 2008. These reviews allow the state to identify areas of improvement and growth, specifically in the areas of safety and performance. A final report on this review was just released, and my office will be going through the report thoroughly to understand our state’s performance and what actions the Legislature may need to take to support the Department as they work to fulfill the recommendations made. The final report can be found here.

Legislative Council Meeting

On November 16th and 17th the full Legislature met at UNL’s East Campus to talk about the upcoming session and some of the issues that we will likely address in 2018. The Legislative Council provides a forum for us to discuss issues that we will be addressing in the next session without the focus on debating a particular bill or amendment.  We had briefings on the budget shortfall, the justice oversight committee (their report will be out in December), the economic development task force, the legislative performance audit analysis of our Advantage Act tax incentives, water issues, and demographic trends that we need to consider as we plan for our future.  

2018 Bill Meetings

With the 2018 session nearly here, my office spent much of November meeting with stakeholders to discuss bills in the draft process. Before a bill is introduced, I try to meet with key groups that will be impacted by the bill or who have a part to play in carrying out the bill to get their suggestions and feedback.  This week I met with the Human Resources Association of the Midlands to discuss the potential administrative implications of one of the bills that I am planning to introduce. This feedback allows me to make changes to the legislation before it is introduced so that it functions more effectively on the ground if it is passed.

Sarpy Chamber Award

This year I was honored to be named the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce’s Elected Official of the Year. It was a pleasure to join the Sarpy Chamber at their annual awards dinner on November 14th, and to celebrate the business and community leaders who do so much work to make Sarpy County a wonderful place to live and work. Congratulations to all the other awardees, and thanks to the Sarpy Chamber for their work!


Fellow Sarpy Chamber honorees and Chamber staff: (back row) Tim Conrad, Maury Salz, Jim Masters, Mark Vanderheiden, Karen Gibler, (front row) Travis Castle, Shelby Rust, me, Joanne Carlberg, and Gina Vanderheiden

MHEC Annual Commission Meeting

November 12th-14th I travelled to Kansas City for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact’s Annual Commission Meeting. MHEC is a collaborative interstate compact dedicated to promoting higher educational opportunities in the Midwest. The annual meeting brings together representatives from all 12 member states to discuss what their educational strategies and some of the challenges they face. Gathering everyone together allows state representatives to share ideas and information to help advance educational excellence across MHEC members.

Bellevue Veterans Parade 

Nebraska’s Official Veterans Parade was held on November 11th, and as usual it was a wonderful event. It was wonderful to walk with our 2017 Grand Marshall, Corporal Robert D Holts, and honor all the other veterans in our community.

Holiday Office Closures

The Legislature will be closed on December 25th (Christmas Day) and January 1st (New Year’s Day). Warmest wishes to you all!

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

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

All the best,

Sen. Sue Crawford

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

You are currently browsing the archives for the Uncategorized category.

Committee Assignments
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
Find Your Senator
>