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

Sarpy County Sewer Bill Advances

On Thursday April 13th we debated LB253 during the first round of consideration. LB253 is a bill I introduced to give Sarpy County and the cities within it the legal authority to work cooperatively to develop and fund a regional wastewater system. This regional sewer system will provide the infrastructure necessary to support economic development in the county as it continues to grow. One great example of the challenges our lack of existing infrastructure poses to that growth is the the newly announced Facebook project. Although we were able to bring them to Sarpy County, the development requires an expensive pumping station to pump sewage over the ridgeline and an acre for acre commitment to defer land from development because the existing sewer system north of the ridgeline is nearing capacity. A regional sewer system will ensure that more businesses and residents will be able to locate in Sarpy County and utilize land with more cost-efficient and sustainable sewage services. The county and cities have worked with HDR to develop a careful, staged plan so that the sewer system can be built in phases as development expands to maximize the ability of the sewer and development fees to cover the costs. LB253 was advanced successfully to Select File for the next round of debate. An Omaha World Herald article on LB253 can be found here.


A few of the Sarpy folks who worked hard to make LB253 successful: Mike Rodgers, Scott Bovick, Brian Zuger, Fred Uhe, and Tim Gay

Local Firearm Ordinance Bill

On Wednesday, LB68 was advanced to Select File. LB68 is a bill that would preempt local ordinances by eliminating the authority of political subdivisions to regulate firearms. When LB68 was introduced, it was portrayed as a bill that would eliminate confusion about the patchwork of regulations for those carrying concealed weapons by creating uniform regulations across the state. However, LB68 as amended, allows different rules for cities of the metropolitan class. The only metropolitan class city in the state is Omaha. As a result of these changes, residents in Bellevue will continue to face the same issues LB68 was supposed to solve whenever we drive into Omaha. The bill as it is now drafted also does not allow cities to restrict open carry guns in public places like parks and public buildings and it has a liability provision that opens cities up to expensive legal suits. Although I am opposed to LB68, especially as it now stands, I understand the concerns expressed to me about conveyance issues and I am willing to work on those issues. There is an amendment to LB68 that solves this issue that is important to gun owners across the state much more effectively. Should that amendment get adopted, I would be in support of the bill.

Senator Chambers Residency Challenge

For several months I have served on a special committee assigned to consider a formal challenge to Senator Chamber’s residency status. The rules of the legislature allow an unsuccessful candidate in a legislative race to file a challenge if they have evidence that the newly elected senator is not a legal resident of their district. According to the Nebraska Constitution, candidates for a legislative seat must meet three requirements: be at least 21 years old, be registered to vote, and be a resident of the district they’re running to represent for at least one year prior to the election date. In this case, the challenger alleged that Senator Chambers, who represents District 11 in north Omaha, was not a resident of that district.

On Friday April 7th the special committee held a public meeting to hear several hours of testimony and to consider evidence from the challenger and Senator Chambers. Only testimony from the challenger, Senator Chambers and his attorney, and other witnesses invited by the two sides was allowed; in other words, it was not a public hearing like those often held at the Capitol, where anyone is invited to testify. As in a court case, the only evidence allowed to be considered was evidence submitted by the two parties. After considering all the evidence presented to us, the committee voted unanimously to recommend dismissal of the challenge. This week the committee also voted unanimously to adopt a report that explains the legal reasoning for our decision to dismiss the challenge. In these residency challenge cases the burden of proof rests with the challenger. The report stresses that the challenger in this case was not able to produce sound admissible evidence; that the law on residency puts special emphasis on a person’s voting record and intent to return regardless of where he or she may be spending his or her time; and that Senator Chambers produced strong evidence on these fronts. The report now goes to the full Legislature, which must vote to confirm or reject our recommendation. For more coverage of this story, you can read the Journal Star’s summary here.

Tobacco Tax Poll Results

Thanks to all of you who took my informal poll about the tobacco tax! Though it’s a small sample, it’s always interesting to hear from you. Similar to the results for the Nebraska population in general, in which over 70% favor increasing this tax, over 80% of this small sample supports increasing the tobacco tax (over 70% strongly in favor and over 10% moderately in favor).

If you did not participate in the poll last week and would still like to, the link is here. For background on the topic, check out last week’s Legislative Update here.

Events This Week

This was a wonderfully full week for meeting with constituents and other Nebraskans. On Tuesday morning the Autism Society of Nebraska held their legislative breakfast, bringing together autistic Nebraskans, their families and care attendants, and senators to talk about the opportunities and challenges they experience every day. On Tuesday evening Humanities Nebraska hosted a reception. Humanities Nebraska supports artistic and cultural events throughout the state.

On Wednesday the Nebraska Association of Social Workers held its annual legislative day. Over 100 social work students, instructors, and practitioners from across the state came to the capitol. I enjoyed speaking to the group and eating lunch with a table full of Creighton social work students who are already working with hospital patients, school children, sex trafficking victims and clinic patients in our area. After lunch the chamber balcony benches were full of social workers and social work students watching the gun bill debate.

On Thursday morning a small group of AmeriCorps volunteers came to visit my office. Several of them are serving in Bellevue Public Schools with College Possible, a program that helps students prepare and succeed in college. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet with these volunteers and to hear about their work in the Bellevue schools.


Meeting with AmeriCorps students in my office

Unicameral Youth Legislature

I invite all Bellevue high schoolers to apply for the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature, which this year will run June 11-14. High school students will take on the role of state senators at the State Capitol: participants will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will get to learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff. Scholarships are available; you can get more details about the program here, or you can call the Unicameral Information Office at 402-471-2788. The deadline to register is May 15.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My 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,

Manic Monday: 3 Bills Advance to Final Reading

Monday was a big day for my 2017 legislative agenda, as three bills were advanced to the final round of debate in one day. The first, LB590, is the bill to protect our in-home daycare centers from being required to conform to non-residential building code regulations; next was LB425 (amended into Senator Blood’s LB88), which streamlines and reduces regulations for nurse practitioners; and third was my personal priority bill, LB225, which reauthorizes the Alternative Response pilot program at DHHS and includes provisions to reduce the risk of sex trafficking for our juvenile youths and to improve our ability to analyze what program work for kids across our various departments. All three of these bills improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our state laws and I am pleased the legislature has chosen to support them to Final Reading.

Where Do We Find $1 Billion?  

We entered this session with over a $900 million founding shortfall. This financial situation has loomed over the session. Whatever other bills are tackled, by the end of the session we need to close this funding shortfall. Unlike the federal government, we must balance our budget each session. We started this process with LB22, which found approximately $160 million in savings for the 2017 fiscal year. The Appropriations Committee has been hard at work for months, assessing possible budget cuts and deciding when to hold the line.

The governor’s proposal for the FY2017-18 budget seeks to close the shortfall and cut taxes, primarily through spending cuts that hit our working and low income families the hardest. Instead, we should be tackling the budget shortfall by considering both parts of the budget picture: revenue policies and spending policies.  A balanced approach to addressing the shortfall would consider both sides of the ledger.  

Efforts to close the funding shortfall need to involve efforts by both the Revenue Committee and the Appropriations Committee. Some senators have offered bills to rethink some of our tax credit, tax cut, and tax exemption policies, such as Senators Krist (LB467 and LB468), Scheer (LB63), Schumacher (LB373) and Briese (LB312 and LB313). Another proposal on the table is a bill by Senator Howard to increase the cigarette tax. This proposal would help the budget shortfall and have public health benefits. Youth are particularly sensitive to price increases and less likely to start smoking as cigarette taxes increase. Nebraska currently has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates (41st at $.64) and spends $162.3 million in Medicaid costs per year related to smoking. Recent polling data shows broad support from Nebraskans for a cigarette tax as the most popular way to reduce the budget shortfall. This support exists across party lines. Now, a cigarette tax increase will not solve the entire budget shortfall, but it would yield over $100 million a year.

How do you feel about raising taxes on cigarettes? Take the poll below or send an email to let me know what you think.

Take the poll here!

Bills of Interest This Week

The Legislature had a productive week overall, debating and advancing a number of important bills. My LB97, which would allow creation of Riverfront Development Districts in the state, was debated Wednesday and voted to the second round of debate. The bill was amended to remove any impact to the state’s revenue stream (important when we are facing such a shortfall), but should still allow cities with riverfront areas to more fully take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by our state’s many beautiful waterways.

On Tuesday we debated and advanced several other interesting bills. One, Senator Vargas’ LB427, directs schools to ensure pregnant and breastfeeding students have access to appropriate accommodations to help them continue their education. Under the best of circumstances, becoming pregnant and becoming a parent while going to school is difficult. When, as often happened, the circumstances aren’t ideal, prospective or new parents may be forced to delay their education or drop out altogether. Though many schools do an excellent job working with these students and keeping them on track to complete their degree, many schools do not have clear and consistent policies in place to support and accommodate the unique situations new or expecting student parents may encounter.

Another bill which had significant, in-depth debate was Senator Krist’s LB300. As currently written, Nebraska law requires civil suits based on alleged sexual assault of a child be brought within 12 years of the victim’s 21st birthday. LB300, as originally written, would eliminate that statute of limitations on civil action. An amendment to this bill that we debated on the floor contains a provision to retroactively revoke the statute of limitations for cases for which that time limit has already passed. That brought up important constitutional and justice questions about whether the state can retroactively open up civil liability. Clearly we cannot retroactively make an act criminal, but the questions are not as clear for civil liability. It turns out that this issue will be considered in the Doe vs McCoy case before the Nebraska Supreme Court later this month. So, a decision was made to adopt a severability clause that allows the rest of the bill to stand if one part is found unconstitutional, and to also adopt the amendment. The vote was very close though, so I expect us to continue to debate this question on the next round.  

Elementary Visitors

This week four different Bellevue schools visited the Legislature. On Monday I met with the students of Two Springs Elementary in the Supreme Court chamber, where they asked me lots of great questions, including how I got this job. They thought it was pretty weird that I knocked on strangers’ doors to ask them to vote for me day after day. I always use these opportunities to encourage the kids to look for ways that they can help in their schools and neighborhoods now and to consider being on a school board, city council, or state legislature when they are older.  


Two Springs Elementary students at the Capitol

On Friday three schools visited, but unfortunately I was tied up in meetings for the challenge to Senator Chambers’ residency almost all day. My staff met with the teachers from Betz Elementary and met and spoke with students from St. Mary’s and St. Matthew’s over the lunch hour.


St. Mary’s & St. Matthew’s 4th graders

Events with Constituents and Students

This week I was able to attend several events with constituents and others who have an interest in the Legislature. At the 2017 Sophomore Pilgrimage, which occurred on Wednesday this week, I spent lunch talking to students from Bellevue East, Bellevue West, Thayer Central, and Wilber-Claytonia at the Governor’s Residence.
Tuesday night was the annual Chiropractors’ Association legislative reception, where I enjoyed visiting with chiropractors from Bellevue and across the state. And on Thursday I participated in Creighton’s Take Back the Night event, where students rallied to support sexual assault survivors and learn about some of the policies the Unicameral is considering to assist survivors. Each of these events was filled with a diverse range of Nebraskan voices, and it was an honor to hear them all.


At Take Back the Night 2017 with a few of the student participants

Bellevue: Tree City USA

On Wednesday the City of Bellevue’s Tree Board received an award from the Tree City USA organization. The award recognized Bellevue’s commitment to planting and caring for trees in our community.

Nebraska Birthday Cards

Wake Robin Elementary School’s Kid’s Time program made cards to celebrate Nebraska’s 150th birthday over spring break and sent them to my office. I distributed the cards to my colleagues here at the Legislature, where they were very well received. Thank you to the students at Wake Robin for designing such beautiful cards!

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,

40 Bills in First Week of All-Day Debate

This week we shifted into full-day debate schedule. Most committees only meet occasionally from now on to decide on remaining bills in the committee. Our Appropriations Committee and our Revenue Committee are key exceptions; they continue to meet to hammer out a budget proposal and tax proposals, both tougher jobs in this year with a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

About 40 bills on the agenda were heard in this first week of debate. However, we ended up debating even more that that number because some of the bills have other bills amended into them. For example, a bill that we debated to increase penalties for sex trafficking now also includes provisions from a bill to improve our process for renewing protection orders, a bill to prohibit the purchase of a deadly weapon by someone subject to a domestic violence protection order, and a bill to allow the termination of parental rights of a person convicted of sexual assault to the child born out of that assault. This bill advanced to the next round after a long debate about the implications of the longer prison sentences in the underlying sex trafficking bill and discussions of language that Senators, including me, wanted to be made more precise so that the bill clearly targeted sex trafficking.

On the afternoon of Wednesday March 29th, I helped to lead extended debate on a bill that bankers have had a senator introduce over the past few sessions. The bill in its various forms seeks to ensure that in the case of a governmental bankruptcy, the bond holder would be guaranteed to be first in line. I argued that we should not put bond holders, who receive interest for their risk and tax benefits from government bonds, ahead of taxpayers, government services, government employees and retirees. The bankers are a powerful group, so they usually have many senators on their side. Our main tool to fight back on this bill has been extended debate that requires a cloture motion.

On Friday March 31st we advanced LB 75. Currently Nebraska has a two year waiting period before felons who have completed their sentences can restore their right to vote. LB75 removes this waiting period so that citizens who have served their time can participate in our democracy. The bill was introduced and prioritized by Senator Justin Wayne. He noted the symbolism of advancing this bill in this sesquicentennial year for Nebraska. A heated issue in Nebraska’s statehood was a provision that required that the state ensure the enfranchisement of its citizens regardless of race. Our state was founded on a key principle of ensuring that citizens can vote and our constitution has strong provisions to protect the right to a free and unencumbered right to vote. LB 75 strengthens our voting rights consistent with these Nebraska values.

Most states restore rights after a felon completes his or her sentence. We are one of only two states that has a waiting period for those who have paid their debt to society.

 

Bellevue Leadership Day

The annual Bellevue Leadership Day was held on Thursday March 30th, and was a great success. Members of this year’s Leadership Bellevue program, sponsored by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, spent the day in Lincoln to experience state government firsthand. The group met with Governor Ricketts and Treasurer Don Stenburg, Appellate Court Justice Riko Bishop (herself a Bellevue native), Speaker Jim Scheer, Senators Carol Blood, Jim Smith, and John Murante, and several other senators.


Leadership Bellevue participants with Governor Ricketts

Each of the officials they spoke to discussed their ideas about leadership, and were wonderfully open to answering questions about their experiences at the Capitol. Each speaker contributed something unique to the Leadership Bellevue group’s knowledge. Following the day’s program, the group moved over to the Governor’s Residence for an evening reception. I very much enjoyed speaking with the group in a more informal atmosphere. Each Leadership Day is different, and this year’s group are wonderful examples of the great people we have in Bellevue.


Speaking with the Leadership Bellevue group over lunch

The Bellevue Chamber also delivered delicious cupcakes from the Cake Specialist around the Capitol on the morning of Wednesday March 29th. These treats are always well-received by senators and legislative staff alike!


UNL Research Day

Thursday March 30th was UNL Research Day at the Capitol, an event for students in the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience (UCARE) program to share their work with senators and staff. UCARE is a great program, in which undergraduates get the opportunity to work directly with faculty on research or creative projects. One participant in this year’s Research Day was Megan Manheim, a Bellevue resident whose research with Michelle Haikalis and Dr. David DiLillo looks at the effects of alcohol intoxication and bystander training on the acceptance of the myths surrounding campus rape.


Research partners Michelle Haikalis and Megan Manheim presenting their work at the Capitol

UNMC/Army partnership event

On Monday March 27th I joined Senator Blood, Mayor Rita Sanders, and representatives of Nebraska Medicine and the US Army for the announcement of a new partnership. The Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) Program is a strategic partnership between the Army and various private and public institutions to help soldiers prepare for a career after the Army. PaYS connects service members with companies and organizations that understand the benefits veterans can bring to the table, as well as the challenges they may face transitioning back to civilian life. The Nebraska Medicine PaYS Program is an exciting development for our warriors, and an excellent opportunity for Bellevue.


L to R: Frank Venuto, Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, Antonio Johnson, Senator Blood, and Captain Renata Russo

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,

Last Week of Hearings

This week committees held their final public bill hearings for the year. Our last bill hearing in Health and Human Services was a bill sponsored by Senator John Kuehn to make important updates to our Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Senator Sara Howard, who worked tirelessly to pass a bill to establish a strong PDMP system in the state last year, has selected the bill as her priority bill. PDMP programs provide pharmacists and health care providers with access to information that helps them to identify and address opioid addiction and abuse in patients.

Starting Tuesday we will begin all-day debate. Monday will be a recess day, as Friday was; on recess days the Legislature does not convene. Especially as we get later in the legislative session, it is common for the Speaker to schedule recess days bookending the weekend like this, so that senators from the western end of the state have time to get back and spend time in their districts. Senator Tom Brewer, for example, has a 6 ½ hour drive to get home to Gordon. Even for those of us whose districts are closer to Lincoln, recess days are an opportunity to work outside the capitol. For me, they are an opportunity to meet with my students at Creighton, hold meetings in the district, and attend events around town. Hopefully I will see you around town!

Bellevue Library and Sarpy Chamber Legislative Coffees

This week I participated in two Legislative Coffee events. On Saturday the 18th I joined Senator Carol Blood at the Bellevue Public Library, and on Friday the 24th Senator Smith, Senator Clements and I attended the Sarpy County Chamber’s Legislative Coffee at CLAAS of America. We had a great crowd at the Bellevue Library Coffee on Saturday and a good number of people at the Coffee on Friday morning. I appreciate these opportunities to update people on happens in the legislature in person and to hear their questions and concerns. At the Bellevue session several people talked about the importance of protecting public education and making smart budgeting decisions.

At the Friday session, Senator Clements talked about how the Appropriations Committee process works in a year with a budget shortfall and Senator Smith discussed proposals being discussed in the Revenue Committee for tax changes. I discussed the Sarpy Sewer bill, workforce and licensure bills, and child protection bills. There were several questions about the different property tax proposals and how they would impact Sarpy and schools in Sarpy as well as questions about the Sewer bill.

Priority Bills Advanced

This was a productive week for the bills on my legislative agenda. On Tuesday LB590, which was designated an Urban Affairs Committee priority bill, advanced to the second round of debate. This bill addresses conflicts between the state building code and current regulations relating to in-home daycares and in-home care set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services. LB590 makes an exception to newer stricter requirements to allow residential day care centers to operate with twelve or fewer children as they currently do under DHHS regulations, rather than imposing strict new limits on this number as would otherwise be required by the state building code. This bill will ensure that licensed in-home daycares that provide much needed care can continue to do so under an appropriate residential classification.

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week we debated my personal priority bill, LB225. The committee amendment to the bill was adopted and LB 225 was advanced to Select File. The amendment to LB 225 contained a package of bills pertaining to our child welfare system that will work to improve our ability to collect data across departments and programs in order to make informed, evidence-based decisions to better protect children and families and strengthen the child welfare services we offer in our state.

Also on Thursday, the Legislature advanced two bills that will benefit our state’s servicemembers and veterans. LB340, introduced by Senator John Murante, will transfer responsibility for the state’s four Veterans’ Homes from the Department of Health & Human Services to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This bill will protect the residential services offered to veterans in Bellevue and across the state, while alleviating pressure on DHHS and giving an agency with more experience and expertise in veterans’ issues ultimate responsibility for our retired warriors.

The second bill, LB88, was introduced by Senator Blood. Her bill allows spouses of active duty military members stationed in Nebraska to receive temporary professional credentials if they have a licence in good standing from another state. 77% of military spouses report that they would like to be employed, but difficulties transferring existing credentials for teachers, physicians and nurses, and other professions pose a high barrier. Since military members and spouses have little say in where and when they are transferred, seeking Nebraska licensure before a move is not always possible. LB88 provides for a temporary credentialing process for these spouses, so that they can practice their trade in Nebraska while they seek a permanent state license.

My bill, LB425, also advanced as part of an amendment package to LB88. This bill is a technical follow-up to LB107 from 2015, which allowed Nurse Practitioners to practice without an integrated practice agreement and put into place a transition-to-practice protocol. LB425 includes regulatory cleanup language that is necessary to ensure the appropriate implementation of LB107, and ensure that NPs who have experience in other states prior to the passage of LB107 have that experience recognized in the application for licensure.

Finally, LB253, which is the Sarpy Sewer bill that we discussed in the update last week, was successfully voted out of committee. Senator Jim Smith, also from Sarpy, is chair of the Revenue Committee and has been a valuable ally in building support for the bill. Our next step will be meeting with senators to secure the votes needed to pass the bill on the floor.

Cornerstone Christian School Visit

4th graders from Cornerstone Christian School in Bellevue visited the Unicameral on Wednesday to take a tour and learn about our state’s unique government. It was wonderful to meet them all!


TeenPact Student Meeting

On Thursday I met with a group of bright young students who visited the Capitol as part of the TeenPact program. TeenPact is a 4-day Christian leadership program for middle- and highschool students who are homeschooled or enrolled in private parochial schools, and as part of the program students take a deep dive into the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of state government. Several of this year’s participants were from Bellevue and the surrounding areas, and it was a pleasure to spend some time discussing the bills they found particularly interesting, as well as their overall experiences in the program.


A few of the TeenPact students I spoke with: Katie Seitz, Jacob Seitz, Isaac Seitz, and TJ Wilson

Unicameral Youth Legislature

I invite all Bellevue high schoolers to apply for the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature, which this year will run June 11-14. High school students will take on the role of state senators at the State Capitol: participants will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will get to learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff. Scholarships are available; you can get more details about the program here, or you can call the Unicameral Information Office at 402-471-2788. The deadline to register is May 15.

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

  • You are welcome to come visit my Capitol office in Lincoln. My 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,

Permanent Rules Adopted

On Friday, Day 49 of this session, the Legislature finally adopted permanent rules to guide our work for the rest of this year. Ultimately, the body agreed to adopt the rules as they existed at the beginning of the year. That means the amendments we had provisionally adopted after the Rules Committee made its recommendations in January were not incorporated in the permanent rules we adopted today. Even so, having permanent rules is important to the Unicameral’s ability to function as smoothly as possible, and I am pleased that the rules we adopted do not infringe on the ability of minority coalitions in the Legislature to function.

Speaker Priority Bills Announced

On Monday Speaker Scheer announced his 25 selections for speaker priority. Two of my economic development bills were selected: LB97 which allows municipalities to create Riverfront Development Districts in order to promote development along their riverfronts, and LB253 which will allow Sarpy county and cities within the county to collaboratively establish a regional sewer system south of the ridgeline to accommodate future development and growth. Several other important bills received Speaker priority designations, including Senator Krist’s LB300, which eliminates the statute of limitations on civil action for sexual assault of a child; LB481, which allows pharmacists to approve substitutions of FDA-approved interchangeable biological products for prescribed biologics, similar to the way in which they can substitute generic medications for brand-name prescriptions; and LB323, which would adopt the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Act. You can see the full list of all priority bills this session – senators’ personal priorities, committee priorities, and Speaker priorities – here.

LD45 Town Hall

On Tuesday I hosted a town hall at the Bellevue Public Library. Town halls are an opportunity to meet and hear from constituents, share information about what’s happening in the Legislature, and answer questions about state agencies and policies.

I appreciate everyone who was able to attend on Tuesday; and if you were not able to make it, you can of course contact my office any time.

Bill Hearings This Week

This week we had the final two hearings on our bills for the year. The first, LB592, is a bill to amend the Nebraska Advantage Act (NAA) and was heard in the Revenue Committee on Thursday. The NAA allows businesses with qualifying projects and investments to receive tax incentives, which largely come in the form of tax credits that can be applied to a number of different tax liabilities, including local option sales taxes. Local option sales taxes are approved by the voters of a municipality for a variety of specific projects such as, street improvements, irrigation systems, swimming pools, and other projects the voters believe to be necessary for their communities. Municipalities across the state have reported budget and planning issues for these projects that were the result of a significant loss of their local option sales tax revenues due to refunds under NAA. I introduced LB 592 so we as a Legislature can think critically about whether or not it is appropriate for state incentives to withhold a municipalities local option sales tax revenues that were approved by the voters for a specific purpose.


Testifiers and supporters of LB592 after the hearing

The second bill hearing was held in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee on Friday. LB139 would allow the voters of a county to decide if a nonpartisan election for county officers makes more sense in their own county. The county positions that voters could decide to elect on nonpartisan ballots include: county clerk, register of deeds, county assessor, sheriff, treasurer, county attorney, public defender, clerk of the district court, and county surveyor. Currently, citizens who register as nonpartisans cannot vote in the primary phase of these partisan county officer elections, and they cannot help to narrow the candidates. In Sarpy county, that is 23% of the registered voters. When all the candidates for a position are from the same party, these elections are decided in the primary phase and this results in the registered voters of one party selecting the officer that will represent all the residents of the county. The concept of allowing counties to hold nonpartisan elections for county offices has bipartisan support, and I trust the committee will give LB139 their fullest consideration.

Unicameral Youth Legislature

I invite all Bellevue high schoolers to apply for the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature, which this year will run June 11-14. High school students will take on the role of state senators at the State Capitol: participants will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will get to learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff. Scholarships are available; you can get more details about the program here, or you can call the Unicameral Information Office at 402-471-2788. The deadline to register is May 15.

Kick Butts Day Student Meeting

On Wednesday No Limits Nebraska, an anti-tobacco organization, held its annual Kick Butts Day event here at the Capitol. As part of that event, small groups of high school students spoke to senators about their work to convince their peers not to smoke or use other tobacco products. The three students I spoke to were passionate and effective advocates for keeping tobacco out of the hands of teens, and meeting with them was a pleasure.


Avery Elementary Capitol Visit

I always enjoy speaking to 4th graders when they visit the Unicameral. On Thursday morning students from Avery Elementary took a tour and were recognized in the Chamber. It was wonderful to meet them all and welcome them to their state capitol!


St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Thursday was the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration for senators and legislative staff. These after-hours events are certainly fun, but they are also an important part of building relationships with colleagues. Spending time with other senators outside the Unicameral helps remind everyone that we have far more in common with one another than our voting records might suggest. It is much easier to work cooperatively and effectively together when those relationships exist.


At the St. Patrick’s Day celebration with Senators Matt Williams and Lynne Walz

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,

Personal Priority Bills Designated

We are nearly halfway through the legislative session. At this point in the session, debate on the floor turns to those bills that have a priority. This past week was the deadline for all priority designations and proposals. In all other states, the Speaker and the majority party decide which bills get time on the floor. In Nebraska we have a unique priority system. 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. Thursday was the deadline for both senators and committees to identify and submit their priority bills. The Speaker also gets to select 25 priority bills. Tuesday was the deadline to submit bills for the Speaker to consider as a Speaker priority bill, and he will announce his selections early next week. You can find the full list of personal and committee priority bills here; once the speaker announces his priorities on Monday, they will appear there as well.

Since all of the priority deadlines were this week, and since getting a priority designation on a bill is so important, this week was a hectic one. All of the senators were scrambling to try to get their most important bills voted out of committee before the priority deadlines so that they could propose them as Speaker priority bills or line up another Senator to make the bill his or her personal priority bill. The Speaker is unlikely to pick a bill that has not gotten out of committee, and individual Senators tend to be reluctant to pick a bill as a priority if it has not gotten out of committee by the deadline.

My priority bill this session is LB225, which extends the Alternative Response (AR) pilot in our child welfare system. AR is an innovative approach that seeks to help families and children in a more supportive way to keep them from being further involved in the child welfare system. We have seen some positive results from early AR efforts in Sarpy County, with great support coming for these families from community partners through Lift Up Sarpy County. AR was piloted in a few counties, and LB 225 allows this approach will to be implemented across the state. We are currently implementing the approach in a way that allows us to compare this alternative response with our traditional response to these families, so that we can assess which approach works better. Under LB225 we will get results from this study and then decide whether to continue this approach or not. LB225 will also incorporate an amendment that pulls in material from three other bills that were passed by the Health and Human Services Committee, with the goal of creating a package bill that strengthens our child welfare system with attention to addressing our budget shortfall.

Upcoming Town Hall Meeting

I will be hosting a town hall at the Bellevue Public Library from 6:30-7:30 pm on Tuesday March 14. The purpose of this meeting will be to update residents on the current legislative session and to provide the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

If you aren’t available to attend Tuesday night, I will be back at the library at 10:00 am on Saturday March 18th for a Legislative Coffee with Senator Carol Blood. We will discuss the session and again be available for questions.

Having two gatherings will hopefully give a wider range of people the opportunity to attend – I hope to see you all there!

USSTRATCOM Fellows Lunch

On Wednesday I had the privilege of joining members of the 2017 USSTRATCOM Strategic Leadership Fellows Program for a lunch meeting. The program is a graduate-level leadership development program based in Omaha, and is open to USSTRATCOM civilian employees who have shown proven dedication to USSTRATCOM’s mission and values. At the luncheon, the fellows met with several senators, including me, to discuss leadership at the state and federal government levels. It is always a pleasure to meet with the fellows, and I wish them all the best as they continue the program.

NEBRASKAland Statehood Day Dinner

On Saturday March 4th David and I attended the annual NEBRASKAland Statehood Day dinner. Held in the Capitol Rotunda, this event is a wonderful celebration of our state. This year’s event was particularly special because 2017 is Nebraska’s 150th anniversary of statehood. The event is also an opportunity to honor distinguished Nebraskans who have made significant contributions to our state. This year’s honorees were Judi gaiashkibos, the long-time Executive Director of the Nebraska Commision on Indian Affairs and nationally known expert on Native American issues; Robert Ripley, who has overseen conservation and repairs at the statehouse as Nebraska Capitol Administrator for 33 years; and Dayle Williamson, who has served the state both as a long-time Nebraska Army National Guard member and as director of the Natural Resources Commission for 30 years. These three individuals have dedicated their lives and careers to our state, and are absolutely deserving of this honor.

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David and me in front of the door to the George W Norris Legislative Chamber

MHEC in Minneapolis

Friday was a busy day, as I flew to Minnesota to attend a strategic planning meeting for the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC). MHEC is a collaborative interstate compact dedicated to promoting higher educational opportunities in the Midwest. For 25 years, MHEC has helped educational institutions in its 12 member states, including Nebraska, work toward greater access, affordability, and quality.

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Friday’s session brought together a small team of commissioners from MHEC member states to identify key priorities for our future efforts to help states work together to strengthen higher education in all of our states.

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,

signature

March is women’s history month, and March 8th is International Women’s Day. As such, I’d like to highlight some of the female leaders and trailblazers, past and present, who have served in Nebraska state government.

Sarah Muir, Clara Humphrey and Mabel Gillespie became the first women ever to serve in Nebraska’s legislative branch when each won election to the State Legislature in 1924. This was before Nebraska adopted Unicameralism, and the three women served in Nebraska’s House of Representatives. Representative Gillespie, who was from Gretna, represented Sarpy County for one term. After Nebraska adopted Unicameralism, the first woman to serve in the new Legislature was Senator Nell Krause, appointed to fill a vacancy in 1946. She served during a special session the Governor called in August of that year.

Leadership by women senators has deep roots in Nebraska. In 1954, Kathleen “Pat” Foote became the first woman  to run for and win a seat in the Unicameral by election. A Republican farm wife, Senator Foote successfully launched a “Keep Nebraska Beautiful” campaign through landmark legislation a decade before Lady Bird Johnson began her Keep America Beautiful campaign aimed at improving our nation’s highways. In 1972, Nebraska became the second state, after Hawaii, to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment, an effort led by Senator Fern Hubbard Orme. During her fourteen years as senator, she also led efforts to preserve the Thomas Kennard House in Lincoln and allocate funding for a women’s physical education building on UNL’s campus.

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L-R: Senators Kathleen “Pat” Foote and Fern Hubbard Orme

In 1977, Senator JoAnn Maxey of Lincoln became the first female African American state senator following her appointment to the Legislature by then-governor Jim Exon. During her two years as state senator, she successfully passed legislation over a gubernatorial veto to create funding for women who found themselves homeless or without resources due to divorce, death or separation from their spouse. Around the same time, Senator Shirley Marsh was instrumental in structural changes inside the body. She helped lead the charge to end smoking on the floor of the Legislature and help bring a women’s bathroom to the lounge outside the chamber. Before these changes, female senators relied on state troopers to guard the door to the men’s bathroom.

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L-R: Senators JoAnn Maxey and Shirley Marsh

In 1986, not one, but two, women ran for Governor of Nebraska: Republican Kay Orr and Democrat Helen Boosalis. This contest marked the first time in American history that two women faced each other as nominees from the two major parties in a Governor’s race. With her victory on election day, Governor Kay Orr set additional records, becoming the first female governor of Nebraska and the first female Republican governor in the nation.

In the 1990s, the Legislature saw a series of influential female committee chairs. Senator Ardyce Bohlke, for example, as chair of the Education Committee, used her leadership position to help increase the amount of state aid to our K-12 schools. And Senator DiAnna Schimek, who chaired the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee, was one of the driving forces behind the change to apportion Nebraska’s electoral college votes by congressional district.

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L-R: Senators Ardyce Bohlke and DiAnna Schimek

In 2008, Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council became the first African American women to win election for their seats in the Legislature. Both were deeply involved in education policy during their time in the Legislature, and Senator Cook led the charge to alleviate the “cliff effect” in the childcare assistance program.

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L-R: Senators Tanya Cook and Brenda Council

Nebraska’s first ever female US Senator, Eva Browring, was appointed and served 8 months after the death of Senator Dwight Griswold in 1954; Senator Hazel Abel then won the special election to a 60-day term that opened up after Senator Browring resigned due to an odd provision in Nebraska’s election law. Senator Abel was the first woman ever to succeed a woman in the US Senate. Most recently, former state senator Deb Fischer became Nebraska’s first female US Senator elected in a regular election, following her defeat of Bob Kerrey in 2012. Also in 2012, Senator Sara Howard was elected to the seat previously filled by her mother, Senator Gwen Howard, marking the first mother-daughter legacy in the Nebraska Unicameral.

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L-R: Senators Gwen Howard and Sara Howard

13 of the 49 state senators in the Unicameral today are women: Senators Joni Albrecht, Carol Blood, Kate Bolz, Lydia Brasch, Joni Craighead, Laura Ebke, Suzanne Geist, Sara Howard, Lou Ann Linehan, Patty Pansing Brooks, Lynne Walz, Anna Wishart, and me. My female colleagues serve in leadership positions on the Agriculture, Appropriations, Business & Labor, and Judiciary Committees. Many of the most integral positions in the offices that make the Legislature run smoothly are also held by women – in the Clerk’s Office, Transcribers, Fiscal Analysts, Accounting, Information Office, Revisor of Statutes, Legislative Research, and so many more. On this International Women’s Day, I want to thank all of them for their contributions to our great state.

Photos courtesy of the Nebraska Blue Book and Unicameral Information Office.

Bills Receive Final Approval from the Legislature

This week the Legislature made progress on advancing a number of bills, including on Final Reading. One of my bills, LB74, was approved in that round of debate Friday. Final Reading is exactly what it sounds like: it is the final time a bill is read in the Legislature, and the last round of voting before bills are presented to the Governor. A bill can’t be amended or debated on Final Reading, but can be returned to Select File for a specific amendment.

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The vote board at the Legislature when LB74 passed on Final Reading

During Final Reading debate, the Legislature is placed under call. That means all senators who are listed as present must be in their seats in the Chamber, and all non-senators including legislative staff and the media must leave the area where our desks are located. Placing the House under call ensures that senators are in their seats and ready to vote when the time comes. Each bill on Final Reading is actually read aloud, likely as a holdover from the days when senators could not simply pull up the PDF of the bill on a laptop. Nowadays the bills are read extremely quickly, and senators can vote to suspend the rules and dispense with the reading for particularly long bills. After the reading is done, the presiding officer invites the senators to vote on whether the bill should pass. In most cases, a bill must have 25 votes to pass; however, a bill with an emergency clause, meaning it goes into effect sooner than a regular bill, requires 33 votes. A proposed constitutional amendment requires 30 votes to place it on the general election ballot, and 40 to place it on a primary or special election ballot.

We passed 12 bills in total on Final Reading Friday, and they will all now go to the Governor for his signature. Under Nebraska law, the Governor has five days (not including Sunday), to decide what he’d like to do with a bill after it is presented to him. If he signs a bill or chooses not to act on it, the bill becomes state law. He can choose to veto a bill; if that happens, the bill is returned to the Legislature with an explanation of why he chose to use his veto. The Legislature can override any gubernatorial veto, although it takes a vote of 30 senators to do so.

Bill Hearings this Week

This was an extremely busy week in my office, as we had seven bill hearings in six different committees.

On Monday LB302 and LB303 had public hearings in the Appropriations Committee. Both bills come from recommendations of the Mental and Behavioral Health Task Force established by LR413 in 2016. LB302 appropriates funds to create post-graduate fellowships for physician assistants. These fellowships will prepare participants to provide advanced psychiatric and behavioral health care in rural and underserved communities, and help Nebraska expeditiously recruit, retain, and increase the competence of the psychiatric prescriber workforce. LB303 appropriates funds for master’s level internships in order to recruit, train, place and retain behavioral health professionals to work in primary care medical practices across the state, and improve access to behavioral health services in rural and underserved areas of Nebraska. Both are important bills to strengthen and broaden our mental health workforce.

On Tuesday we had two bills as well. The first, LB95, was heard in the Urban Affairs Committee. In 2016 I introduced LR439 to examine the use of TIF by municipalities for residential development; LB95 is a result of this interim study. LB95 modifies provisions in community development law related to tax-increment financing (TIF) projects in order to make various processes including auditing, public notice, reporting, records retention, and cost-benefit analyzation more transparent, and to provide for more local oversight of TIF projects

The second bill Tuesday was heard in the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee. The idea for LB587 came from a conversation I had with a constituent. During our conversation, I learned about some of the challenges faced by parents and students when it comes to getting students to school. LB587 recognizes that students in both rural and urban areas across our state face unique challenges in getting to school and school related activities. As a result, this bill would make school permits available to students who meet the age and experience qualifications already outlined in statute, without restricting it to students in rural parts of our state.

Thursday had two bills as well. In the Health and Human Services Committee, LB224 offers a step to continue to improve performance and timeliness in processing benefits for some of our most vulnerable families by eliminating asset limits for applicants. LB224 streamlines the administration of several public assistance programs, reducing paperwork and staff time spent on unnecessary verifications. Income and work requirements in these programs are sufficient to direct the assistance to those most in need. Asset limits are unnecessary and even counterproductive to our ultimate aim to encourage self-sufficiency for families who temporarily receive these benefits.

Second on Thursday was LB589, heard in the Judiciary Committee. I introduced this bill to protect children who experience the trauma of experiencing or witnessing sex abuse who have told their story on videotape with professional forensic interviewers from being interrogated about their experience again during pre-trial discovery.  Situations that can be challenging for adults can be downright frightening or trauma-inducing for children, particularly young or vulnerable children. We have a duty to be sensitive to the trauma caused by a child victim or witness continually repeating or being questioned about the traumatic event. LB589 seeks to create an environment that protects truth and accountability for defendants while also protecting our children.

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Some of the testifiers and supporters of LB589: Dan McGinn, Dr. Stephen Lazoritz, me, Senator Roy Baker, Ivy Svoboda, Erin Aliano, and Colleen Brazil

Friday had just one hearing: LB252, heard in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee. LB252 requires the reporting and disclosure of electioneering communications. It does not restrict activity, what can be said in electioneering communication, or limit free speech in any way. Instead, my bill simply provides for a reporting mechanism that creates more accountability in our state’s elections. If outside 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.

Nebraska Sesquicentennial Celebration

Wednesday was Nebraska’s sesquicentennial birthday, meaning the state was founded 150 years ago, on March 1st, 1867. The Legislature hosted a wonderful ceremony in the George W. Norris Legislative Chamber, in which we celebrated our state’s history through music, poetry, and remarks from Nebraska state leaders. It was a particular pleasure to see all of the young people who joined us, either as part of the ceremony or watching from the balconies, for this exciting day.

statehood-welcome

Hearings of Interest March 6-10

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

Monday: The Department of Correctional Services will have its public budget hearing in the Appropriations Committee.

Tuesday: The Education Committee will hear LB662, which would create a letter-based system to grade Nebraska public schools.

Wednesday: LB501 would change notice requirements for private property locations that do not allow carrying a concealed handgun. This bill will be heard in the Judiciary Committee.

Thursday: The Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee will hear LB25, which would reinstate the winner-take-all system in Nebraska for presidential electors.

Friday: The Legislature will be in recess on Friday March 10th, so there will be no hearings this day.

University of Nebraska Legislative Dinner

On Tuesday the University of Nebraska held its annual Legislative dinner. The event is a chance for senators to meet with students from all four branches of the university system (UNL, UNO, UNK, and UNMC) and discuss their experiences. I have enjoyed attending this dinner in the past, but was unable to do so this year. My staffer Christina attended in my stead, and had a wonderful evening speaking to students and University staff.

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Christina with Dr. Chris Kratochvil, friend of the office and Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research at UNMC

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,

signature

Floor Progress on Bills Picks Up

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

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

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

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

Committee Work

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

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

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

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Some of the testifiers for LB253 after the hearing

Midwestern Higher Education Compact Visit

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

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

MHEC is a collaborative interstate compact dedicated to promoting higher educational opportunities in the Midwest. For 25 years, MHEC has helped educational institutions in its 12 member states work toward greater access, affordability, and quality. MHEC administers programs such as the Midwest Student Exchange Program, in which public institutions agree to charge out-of-state students within the exchange no more than 150% of in-state resident tuition for specific programs; the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit, which works to help veterans transfer their military training and experiences into college credit and successfully pursue college credentials; and the eTranscript Initiative, which offers a simplified way for students in member states to transfer information between high schools and colleges.

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

Creighton SCSJ Visit

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

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Dinner with Nebraska Teachers

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

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Hearings of Interest February 27 – March 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska Statehood Celebration

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

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

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

All the best,

signature

A Break in the Rules Logjam

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

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

This Week’s Bill Hearings

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

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

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

Military Spouse Licensure

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

Other Upcoming Hearings February 20-24

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

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

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

Monday: The Legislature is not in session.

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership Sarpy Capitol Day

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

leadership-sarpy

Sarpy and Bellevue Chamber Events

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

legislative-coffee

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

bellevue-chamber-lunch

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.

Sen. Sue Crawford

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