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The past few months have proven to be quite busy already. With legislative tasks forces, interim studies, and legislative resolutions kicking into full gear, there are lots of things to be done in preparation for next year’s session.
Before I talk about the work I have been doing since the Legislature convened earlier this year, I’d like to acknowledge a very special occasion taking place in 2017: Nebraska’s 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial. Over 150 years ago, Nebraska was established as a territory after passage of the Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854. 13 years later, in 1867, it was admitted into the Union. This marked the beginning of a rich tradition of hard work and thriftiness. In preparation for the sesquicentennial, the Capitol Commission is expected to finish construction of the courtyard fountains later this year as part of the original blueprint designs.
The Governor encourages communities to host their own celebrations of Nebraska’s sesquicentennial next year. To help with costs of putting on these events, interested parties may apply for grants through the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission. The application process shall be open beginning on June 15th. More information on the grant program may be found on the Commission’s website. (Click here to follow link.)
As with the sesquicentennial celebrations, a lot of preparations are required to get ready for next year’s legislative session. I have been hard at work already, making frequent trips to the Capitol as part of my responsibilities with numerous special committee assignments, in addition to my responsibilities with the Appropriations Committee. These assignments include the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee, Election Technology Committee, and the Venture Development and Innovation Task Force.
As part of my responsibilities on the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee, we recently met with various stakeholders regarding improvements to ACCESSNebraska, a department underneath the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services. The CEO of Nebraska’s DHHS, Courtney Phillips, discussed the current state of ACCESSNebraska, improvements in its services to Nebraskans, and future goals moving forward. I am proud of the work that CEO Phillips has done in cutting costs for taxpayers, increasing efficiencies, and improving services for Nebraskans. For more information on these improvements, you may read about it in the Lincoln Journal Star. (Click here to follow link.)
One of my other special committee assignments is the Election Technology Committee, tasked with developing a plan to modernize the technology used in Nebraska’s federal, state, and local elections. Much of this discussion centers around the uses Election Commissioners and County Clerks apply in the ballot counting process. Modernizing election technology is a great way for Nebraska to save state taxpayer dollars and eliminate voter fraud.
I am most excited to be a part of the Venture Development and Innovation Task Force, which was created this year after the passage of LB1083: the Next Generation Business Growth Act. As part of this task force, I am part of an ongoing effort to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in Nebraska by developing a statewide strategic plan. Part of this effort includes developing an inventory of capital investiture programs available to small and growing businesses, the economic impact these businesses bring to Nebraska, comparing Nebraska to our neighboring states, and the policy options available to the Legislature.
As I travel back and forth between home and the Capitol, I am reminded of the rising water tables in Western Nebraska after a long spring of storms and melting snowcaps. I even had the pleasure of touring the Pathfinder Reservoir in Wyoming with the Board of Directors from both the Pathfinder Irrigation District and Farmers Irrigation District of Nebraska. As some of you may know, the Pathfinder Reservoir spilled over for the fourth time in 30 years. This is an extremely rare occurrence, caused by a large increase in snowmelt coming down from the mountains and is still expected to continue for a time.
As always, I remain open to your feedback on how I may address the issues that mean most to you. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions you may have over the interim. Thank you to those who have taken the time to express their views on various issues. My contact information is located on the right hand side of this webpage.