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Session is short this year but we have a full docket of legislative items to accomplish. Public hearings finished this week and we move on to all-day debate. Things will pick up speed as we proceed to late night session beginning on March 12th.
This year I’ve introduced 7 bills. 2 of those to-date have been advanced out of committee. That brings my total to 14 introduced since last year, excluding budget bills and one which was withdrawn. In all, 5 have passed outright or by amendment, 1 is on the last round of debate, 2 on the second round, 1 on the first round, and 5 held in committee.
So far the Legislature has passed one of my carryover bills, LB100, which standardizes proof of evidence needed in restoral of rights revoked by mental health boards. Thanks to the important work of Dr. Thomas Perkins from Scottsbluff and Jerry Ostdiek from Gering on mental health issues, this legislation was made possible.
LB775 sits on the last round of debate, Final Reading. I introduced it this year to adopt the State Park System Construction Alternatives Act, which allows Game & Parks to use design build as a cost effective and efficient construction alternative. Design build works by allowing the State to contract a project out to one managing entity versus contracting with each individual subcontractor.
LB611 and LB496 have both made it to the second round of debate, Select File. I introduced LB611 last year in partnership with the Platte Institute, an organization that advocates for tax and regulatory reform. It would have required state agencies to provide a detailed inventory of federal funds including contingency plans in the event of a drawback in funding. Unfortunately, it has been held back procedurally due to a state agency’s fiscal note.
LB496 also sits on Select File, which would allow the use of tax increment financing for the construction of workforce housing. It was debated last year, but fell just one vote short of passing a filibuster. I am grateful that my friend and colleague, Sen. Matt Williams, used his Senator designation priority to give it the time needed to address concerns and work with our fellow Senators.
LB803 was recently advanced to the first round of debate, General File, and given a Speaker priority designation. With the amendment, it would give the Education Department authority to provide a waiver on early childhood education certification requirements. As part of the Buffett Institute’s Early Childhood Workforce Commission, I want to ensure our families have access to early childhood education programs by addressing workforce shortages in rural areas and maintain quality.
This year I introduced LB801, the Panhandle Beginnings Act, which would fund an innovative day school/day treatment pilot project to address mental health issues for school-aged children in the Panhandle. With all the tragic mental health issues experienced across the country, a comprehensive program capable of reintegration can get to the problem early on.
Thank you to Educational Services Unit 13 Administrator Jeff West, his staff, and Region 1 Behavioral Health Authority Administrator Barbara Vogel for all their hard work on LB801. I’d also like to thank Scottsbluff Public Schools Superintendent Rick Myles and all 21 school superintendents from the Panhandle for their support, as well as support from the Scottsbluff City Council, Scottsbluff Police Chief Kevin Spencer, and many others in the community.
Lastly, I used my Senator designation priority to support the passage of LB98, introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen to extend the sunset on Natural Resources Districts’ 3¢ levy authority, which is restricted to groundwater projects. Nebraska has a tradition of responsible water management, and this levy authority is a crucial tool to allow our NRDs to address the Department of Natural Resource’s second increment.
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. 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.