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High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 5-8. At the State Capitol, student senators 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 learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.
Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Speaker Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available.
The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.
To learn more about the program, go to www.nebraskalegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2420. The deadline for registration is May 15.
A new forecast of the State’s revenue was completed on Friday. The forecasting board raised its revenue forecast by $30 million for the two-year budget period that ends on June 30, 2017. By law, $17 million forecasted for the current cycle must go into the cash reserve, or rainy day fund. The remaining $13 million can be utilized for priority bills that have appropriation requests or revenue reductions. The Chairman of the Appropriations Committee had stated early this session that it would be our goal to leave $10 million for this purpose. The Appropriations Committee can now finalize our mid-biennium budget, with floor debate beginning March 9.
Individual and Committee priority designations were due on February 19, with Speaker priority designation being announced February 22. Individual Senators get one designation, Committees get two and the Speaker gets 25. Priority bills and consent calendar bills will be the only bills heard on the Floor for the rest of the session so selection of which bill to prioritize is really significant and can be a real balancing act between other bills of importance.
My priority bill is LB 1082. LB 1082, introduced by Senator Ken Schilz, is a bill to change certain provisions related to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. It is a culmination of hearings, fireside chats, town hall meetings, fall hearings by the Natural Resources Committee, and attendance at an EPA review session and States First review. The bill would revise the policy and purpose of the Commission, eliminating the encouragement that it promote the industry, and replacing it with language that supports development of the industry in a responsible manner while promoting health, safety and the environment. The bill would require that notice of an application for a commercial underground injection well be provided to the affected local governing body and the NRD where the well would be located; require Class II injection well operators to sample and analyze fluids injected at least once annually and provide data to the Commission; and require operators to keep bonds current. The bill would authorize the Commission to conduct periodic sampling and reporting of injection fluids; certify and monitor produced water transporters; conduct periodic evaluations of financial assurance requirements; and to require public information meetings and forums for public interaction on permit applications.
Not all of the concerns expressed during the process are included in this bill because they were out of the scope of the Commission, and may be within the purview of the Department of Roads or Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. However, I believe the people of western Nebraska were heard loud and clear relative to this matter.
The Legislature is almost half way through the 2016 session. We have debated several bills thus far, and many more issues are still waiting to be debated, including Medicaid expansion, prison reform, cigarette taxes, property tax cuts, as well as debate on the budget.
Last week, I had hearings on three of my bills. LB 713 is a bill that provides funding for the Access College Early Scholarship Program. The ACE Scholarship Program and the Nebraska Opportunity Grant Program are the only programs that provide grants solely to Nebraska high school students with significant financial need. Low-income students who have access to dual-credit options while in high school would be the benefactors of LB 713. Dual-credit courses provide college-level, advanced skills training in career academies focused on the needs of local industries, most often provided by the community colleges, whose graduates are more likely to stay and work in their community. According to the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, the percentage of students participating in dual-credit courses not identified as being eligible for free and reduced lunch, a common indicator for poverty, is approximately 9.3% The percentage of students who do qualify for free and reduced lunch participating in dual-credit courses is only 6.8% The intent of LB 713 is to provide additional funding to the Access College Early Scholarship Program so that the percentage of students in poverty who have access to dual-credit options while in high school will be comparable to those students who are non-poverty students.
LB 923 is a bill that would appropriate funds for federally qualified health centers. Nebraska’s federally qualified health centers are local, non-profit community based health providers that serve low income Nebraskans and medically underserved communities. The centers provide quality, affordable, integrated primary care and preventative services including medical, dental and behavioral health services. There are seven centers located throughout Nebraska. The health centers receive federal and some state funding. They also charge individuals with no access to public or private health coverage on a sliding fee scale dependent on their income. These centers can turn no one away. Now, more than ever, our uninsured numbers are skyrocketing, and we must help support the centers to fill a vital role. New funding through this legislation will allow centers to serve another 12,000 Nebraskans statewide. Investing our dollars in health care will allow these people to continue to work, support their families and participate in their communities. The additional funding that would be provided in this bill would not solve all the problems of the uninsured, but it begins to reach out to more families so they can get the care they need. I want to thank Jeff Tracy from CAPWN for traveling to Lincoln to testify in favor of LB 923.
Finally, LB 715 would continue funding of the Nebraska Cultural Preservation Endowment Fund beginning on December 31, 2017, continuing through December 31, 2026. The Nebraska Cultural Preservation Endowment Fund was created in 1998 to provide stabilization of arts organizations, fund arts education programs that have significant statewide impact, and advocate for the importance of the arts to our economy, education and quality of life. The Cultural Endowment Funds have been spread throughout the entire State in the form of grants. These funds not only improve the quality of life within Nebraska communities, but are an economic tool to attract and retain a quality workforce and maintain a tax base we so desperately need for our infrastructure support.
The 104th Legislature, 2nd Session is underway and we have just completed the first ten days. Bill introduction is complete and hearings on all introduced bills have begun. We have started debate on last year’s carryover priority bills. Extended debate has occurred on anatomical donations, poker, co-payments for inmates, and meningitis vaccinations. Many more contentious issues will be coming up and I expect thorough debate on each bill. We have until February 19 to declare our priority bill. This is significant because in a short session, only priority bills and consent calendar bills (non-controversial bills advanced out of committee with no dissenting votes) will be debated.
Major issues for our legislative session appear to be rebalancing the budget, property tax relief, school financing, Medicaid expansion, and a highway funding bill brought by Senator Smith. This highway funding bill, also called the Transportation Infrastructure Bank, is of great interest to me as it has implications for the Heartland Expressway, and is an initiative put forth by Governor Ricketts.
I have introduced nine bills this year. Along with those nine bills, an amended Oil and Gas Commission bill, this year introduced by Senator Schilz, will be presented to the Natural Resources Committee. This bill reflects proposed changes to the Commission commensurate with the discussions, meetings, public comments and concerns expressed throughout the year. I do want to thank Senator Schilz and the Committee for their diligence in this matter.
One of my bills, LB 773, is on early childhood development and establishes a task force to study local needs regarding the early childhood workforce, the ability of the current state systems to meet the needs identified, and an agreement on the competencies necessary to close the achievement gap for children at risk of failing in school. Findings and recommendations are to be reported to the Legislature no later than December 1, 2017. I am passionate about this area because I see the direct linkage with children entering kindergarten ready to learn and reducing special education costs, reducing behavioral problems, reducing dropout rates and teen pregnancies, and ultimately reducing crime and the cost of corrections. This bill has already had a hearing before the Education Committee where it had 12 testifiers in support.
As always, I welcome your comments and input, and I encourage you to telephone my office or email me.
The 104th Legislature, 2nd Session, is set to convene on January 6, 2016. This session is our short, 60 day session. I am looking forward to continuing my work on behalf of the citizens of District 48.
This session we welcome new Senator, Nicole Fox, who represents District 7. Senator Fox was appointed to the Legislature by the Governor after the resignation of Senator Jeremy Nordquist. I look forward to working with Senator Fox and welcome her to the Legislature.
During this short session, there will be many issues that will be discussed. Several issues from last session will be up for debate right away, along with new legislation that will be introduced. This year I anticipate there will be between 400 and 600 bills introduced in the first 10 days of session. In addition to these new bills, several key pieces of legislation from last session will be discussed again, or re-introduced in a different form. Corrections and prison reform, expansion of Medicaid, medical marijuana, Oil and Gas Commission and wastewater, mountain lions, school funding, and property tax relief are just some of the topics I anticipate will be discussed, all while being cognizant that the State faces a $110 million budget shortfall.
In order to keep myself informed and on top of the issues, and to prepare myself for my second year in office, I had a very busy interim. Along with various conferences, committee meetings and hearings, I held many meetings with community leaders in the District. Discussion at these meetings focused on issues I anticipate will come up this Session, as well as various bills that were passed last session and how those new laws are affecting the community. These meetings were very informative and provided me valuable information that will help me make informed decisions during this upcoming session.
In addition to the meetings with community leaders, I held town hall meetings across the District. I want to thank all of those who came and participated. The discussions I had during those meetings proved to be very beneficial. I always enjoy hearing from community members and getting a better idea of where you stand on the issues. It is the people of District 48 that I work so diligently for, and I am proud to be your voice at the State Capitol. As always, I encourage you to contact me with any questions, concerns or issues you may have.
As the new session quickly approaches, I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues to make Nebraska the best it can be for all its citizens.
Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as a panelist at the 2015 Platte Institute Legislative Summit. Our panel was entitled “Grow Nebraska with Tax Reform.” Governor Ricketts has indicated he would introduce a tax reform plan that offers broad based relief on both property and income tax in the near future.
First, I want to say that I highly endorse periodic efforts to review and debate our state’s tax posture as to “fairness” and “competitiveness.” I applaud the Governor for his leadership role in this effort.
I believe that the people of Nebraska expect government to be efficient, effective and accountable. Those three elements are my guiding principles when reviewing budgetary issues. When the Governor talks about limiting the size and scope of government, I think that really resonates with all of us.
I am curious to see if we, as a state, can limit the growth of government spending to 2% to 3% in light of what I see as historic challenges over the last 20 years. For example, corrections and the court system have grown at 5.9% and 7.7%, and we still have considerable issues to confront. Aid to individuals, which includes Medicaid, has been increasing at 6.1% annually, with major cost drivers such as aging, developmental disabilities and increasing demand for mental health. I believe these issues must be addressed in a comprehensive way inclusive of utilizing a 4.75% average annual growth factor in light of what appears to be a long term pattern of slow growth and low inflation.
Lastly, the state’s cash reserve, referred to as the rainy day fund, serves as a stabilizer for unforeseen economic events. It is essential that as we add risk to our model, the size and use of this fund should also be a subject for discussion.
In light of the current projected revenue shortfall, efforts in broad based tax reform may be delayed. However, I am excited to see what the Governor’s plan entails and to see what is possible to help grow Nebraska.
Hello from the Capitol! I want to thank you again for your confidence in me as your State Senator. I have been very busy over the interim learning about all the issues facing the citizens of Nebraska, as well as learning about how other states handle these same issues.
In June I was invited to Denver, Colorado, to participate in the National Conference of State Legislature’s forum on working families. This forum focused on training and workforce development, child care, asset development and legislative tools to ensure effective use of tax dollars. The information provided at this forum resulted in a working committee to formulate a strategic plan for Nebraska. We are in the initial stages of our work and I anticipate many beneficial things will come from our research.
In July, I attended the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual meeting in San Diego, California, and a regional Council of State Governments conference in Bismarck, North Dakota. These meetings covered a wide variety of topics in the form of policy workshops providing me detailed information that I hope to be able to put to use during my time in the Legislature.
I was appointed to the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee. This Committee is charged with providing ongoing oversight of the ACCESSNebraska system. ACCESSNebraska provides the citizens of Nebraska a way to apply for Medicaid and economic assistance programs online. The first hearing for the Committee was held in July. A tour of the Lincoln facility was also conducted in July. Two more tours are planned in September for the facility in Lexington and the facility in Scottsbluff. The Committee is required to brief the Health and Human Service Committee by December 15, 2015 on its findings.
During the summer, I participated in two fireside chats regarding commercial wastewater wells. I heard from many of my constituents on this matter, and I thank you for your participation in these gatherings. I am working diligently to get prepared for the hearing on the interim study I introduced. That interim study hearing will take place on September 22 in Sidney, with another hearing sometime in November in Lincoln.
The Intergenerational Poverty Task Force was created by LB 607 this session. This Task Force is charged with gathering information and data regarding children who are at risk of continuing the cycle of poverty. As a member of this Task Force, we had our first meeting on September 4 where we reviewed applicants in order to select the advisory committee of the Task Force. Our preliminary report to the Legislature and Governor is due December 15, 1015, and our final report on our findings will be due on December 15, 2016.
The interim has been a busy one for me. Again, it’s a time for me to learn about the important topics affecting the citizens of Nebraska. The knowledge I’m gaining by participating in these meetings, committees and task forces is invaluable and only helps me to represent you, the citizens of District 48, much better. I encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have, as well as any topics that would interest you. My contact information is: Senator John Stinner, District 48, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509, (402) 471-2802. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 104th Legislature, 1st Session, adjourned Sine Die on Friday, May 29, 2015. I worked hard to absorb and learn as much as I could this first year, including getting to know my colleagues, learning the budget, learning the rules of the Legislature, as well as the process. It has truly been an honor to represent the people of District 48.
Below is a summary of the legislation I introduced this session, along with the status of each bill as of May 29, 2015. Over the interim, I plan to attend various conferences, participate in various meetings on the Committees I have been appointed to, and do research for possible legislation next year. As always, I encourage you to contact me with any concerns, questions or legislation ideas you may have.
LB 156 – Change the amount of credits allowed and reporting requirements under the Angel Investment Tax Credit Act
LB 156 raises the aggregate amount of refundable tax credits available for qualified investors or qualified funds from $3 million to $5 million per calendar year. The qualified investors, or qualified funds, must invest in qualified small businesses in a qualified high-technology field. In addition, the small business must have 25 or fewer employees and have at least half of its payroll in Nebraska. Approved by Governor 5-27-15
LB 241 – Change provisions relating to conveyances of cemetery lots
LB 241 repeals a requirement to record a deed at a County Register of Deeds office to cemetery lots issued by a city of the primary class, a city of the first class, a city or village, or a cemetery association formed by a city or village. This bill allows cemeteries within the State of Nebraska to bypass the Register of Deeds office in issuing cemetery deeds or certificates, and instead use their own record keeping systems to track who the lots are owned by, as well as who is buried in those lots. If cemeteries do not have a record keeping system of their own, LB 241 allows these cemeteries to continue to record those deeds or certificates in the same way they have been done for years. In addition, the individual receiving the deed could still bring the original deed into the Register of Deeds office for recording. Approved by Governor 3-5-15
LB 242 – Change provisions of the Dry Bean Resources Act
LB 242 makes the following changes to the Dry Bean Act:
Approved by Governor 4-13-15
LB 485 – State intent relating to appropriations for child welfare
LB 485 provides funding for a service mandated by State law but not funded by State appropriations. Section 28-728 R.R.S. 2008 requires “each county attorney or county attorney representing a contiguous group of counties is responsible for convening a child abuse and neglect investigation team and ensuring that protocols are established and implemented. … Each team must have protocols which, at a minimum, shall include procedures for: (iii) Arranging for video-recorded forensic interview at a child advocacy center for children who are three to eighteen years of age and alleged to be victims of sexual abuse or serious physical abuse or neglect, have witnessed a violent crime, are found in a drug-endangered environment, or have been recovered from a kidnapping.” LB 485 will provide funding for child advocacy centers to operate accredited satellite offices so that video-recorded forensic interviews will be provided that are accessible to children, their families and law enforcement. This funding will allow child advocacy centers to fulfill their two-fold mission to help heal children who have experienced a traumatic event, and to hold perpetrators accountable. Amended into LB 657 (Com AM829), and was approved by the Governor on 5-20-15
LB 512 – Provide powers and duties to the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regarding certain wastewater and change an assessment for certain costs
LB 512 is intended to do the following: (1) Make it absolutely clear that the Nebraska Oil and Gas Commission has authority to monitor and regulate the disposal of water produced from the extraction of oil or gas production in other states that is injected into a commercial disposal well in Nebraska. (2) Make such produced water subject to an assessment of twenty cents per forty-two gallon barrel to be used for the following purposes:
This bill currently sits in the Natural Resources Committee.
LB 533 – Appropriate funds to the University of Nebraska
LB 533, the Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning, is a foundational component of the programmatic change in the way experiential learning can enhance the skill and performance competency of healthcare students and providers. The Global Center will position UNMC as the global leader in the delivery of highly integrated learning for the health sciences, through immersive virtual reality and other methods. This will improve health care provider performance, recruit the best and brightest students and faculty, lower costs, and, most importantly, improve patient outcomes.
LB 533 appropriates $1.5 million from the General Fund for FY 2015-16 and $3 million from the General Fund for FY 2016-17 to the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska for the startup of operations of the Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning at University of Nebraska Medical Center. LB 533 states that it is the intent of the Legislature to provide $5 million from the General Fund for both FY-2017-18 and FY 2018-19 for the operations of the center. Portions of LB 533 amended into LB 657 (ComAM829) and LB 662 (Com AM1246). Both bills were approved by the Governor on 5-20-15.
LB 561 – Name the Irrigation District Act and change election provisions for irrigation districts
LB 561 updates laws governing the election procedures provided for irrigation districts organized and governed by the provisions of Chapter 46, Article 1. LB 561 provides specific statutory language to allow recognition of modern land ownership choices used today thus granting the “electors” of irrigation districts the appropriate rights to vote in matters for which the irrigation districts laws provide for elections. LB561 also provides that irrigation districts may, at their discretion, provide for the conduct of elections in an irrigation district by the use of mail balloting to make such elections more convenient for electors and encourage greater participation in such irrigation district voting. Approved by Governor 5-13-15
LB 633 – Appropriate funds for state aid to municipalities and counties
LB 633 is intended to restore some of the direct state aid to municipalities and counties in the amount of $40 million of General Funds, beginning in FY 2015-16. Direct state aid to municipalities and counties was totally eliminated in 2011 with the passage of LB 383. LB 633 would provide $20 million in state aid to municipalities and $20 million to counties. These funds could be used by municipalities and counties only for public infrastructure projects as defined in section 77-27,142. This bill currently sits in the Appropriations Committee.
LR 154 – Interim study regarding the authority of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and its role in decisions regarding the disposal of salt wastewater into dry wells.
Referred to the Natural Resources Committee. Hearings – early summer.
This has been a year for me as a newly elected representative to learn about the Legislature as an institution. I ran for office to represent you and to make a difference for the better. My goal is to earn your trust. Even though we may not agree on everything, I will do my best to communicate my positions and what I stand for. I am working hard to do what is in the best interests of the people of District 48 and the State of Nebraska. I do want to thank those people who have contacted me during the session and would continue to ask for your input.
The Appropriations Committee is a good fit for my talents. As a person who has worked with accounting, numbers, finance and budgets, the assignment to the Appropriations Committee has placed me in a position to make a difference and contribute. After the third time through the budget, working with the experts on the Legislature’s Fiscal Staff, and asking many questions, I have gained a great deal of knowledge about what makes state government work. The current Chair, Senator Heath Mello, is a master of compromise to get a budget that the entire nine member committee can all support given their different priorities. Governor Ricketts found the Appropriations Committee’s budget consistent with his goals making vetoes unnecessary. My goal is to continue to expand my knowledge on the state’s budget and work to match funding to priorities to build a better Nebraska in the future. With this experience I can be a strong voice for western Nebraska priorities.
The following is a summary of this year’s actions on the $8.7 billion state budget:
Personal property tax relief was provided by LB 259. LB 259 was separate from the budget, but also provides significant tax relief of about $20 million per year. It provides businesses and farmers an exemption on the first $10,000 in value of farm equipment and other taxable personal property they own. Railroad and pipeline companies, which also have taxable personal property, get a proportional tax break.
Passing legislation to meet the needs of the people and the businesses of District 48:
As a representative of District 48, I see my role as that of an advocate for needs of Scotts Bluff County and the North Platte Valley. In my first year, I focused on bills that will assist the District.
Dry editable beans are a major cash crop to Agriculture in the District: As a person who helps finance agricultural production in the Valley, I know the importance of the sale of dry editable beans. In 2013 the sale of these beans brought in $117,700,000, and they were grown on 117,000 acres. The State of Nebraska has established a commission to promote the profitability, sale, export and research of the production of dry editable beans. The Dry Bean Growers Association asked me to introduce LB 242. LB 242 increases the amount producers and first purchasers pay per cwt to promote the sale of these beans and to conduct research. The Panhandle Research Center conducts the research, works to improve yields and the quality of the beans.
After some extended debate, the bill passed. Effective August 1, the assessment per cwt increases from 10 cents to 15 cents. Authority is provided for the Dry Bean Commission to increase the assessment to 24 cents cwt if needed in the future.
Surface Water Irrigation Districts Law was amended to address operational issues: Another bill that I introduced and made a priority for the District was LB 561. LB 561 updates the law governing irrigation districts. These surface water districts date back to the beginning of irrigation in the District. Many provisions of this law had not be updated since 1943.
Oil and Gas Waste Water Disposal: My colleagues and I became involved in the disposal of oil and gas wastewater at the beginning of the session and will continue to work on the issues as they are studied this summer. As Senators, we received concerned communications about this proposal before the Nebraska Oil and Gas Commission. Residents raised concerns about the specter of contamination of water for drinking, irrigation and livestock, as well as heavy truck traffic damaging Nebraska’s road ways. Since the route goes by schools and towns, residents raised concerns that the truck traffic posed a highway safety problem.
Stimulating investment in new high technology small businesses and creating new higher paying jobs: Senator Hilkemann designated LB 156 a Senator priority bill so that it could be considered this year. What LB 156 does is add another $1 million of funding to the current $3 million allotted to the Angel Investment Tax Credit Act. Under this Act, investors or groups of Nebraska investors must invest in small businesses in Nebraska in a qualified high-technology field. The small business must have 25 or fewer employees and have at least half of its payroll in Nebraska.
Eliminating unnecessary government paperwork: LB 241 is the bill I introduced to change a provision of law requiring cities that operate cemeteries to file deeds to cemetery lots with the County Register of Deeds. The statewide Organization for County Register of Deeds identified this as an unnecessary requirement. The records of the city cemeteries were more accurate. City cemeteries records not only reflect ownership, but also recorded the person who was interned in the plot. No real purpose was served by a duplicate recording of only the ownership with the County Register of Deeds. This bill was passed early in the session and provided me with my first opportunity to speak on and process a bill.
Addressing Nebraska’s road and bridge infrastructure needs: Nebraska should address its needs to replace aging roads and bridges. A 2014 report by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation group, found that Nebraska’s bridges are in seventh worst condition in the nation. As validated by a study conducted by the Legislature, 3,279 of the 11,763 state and county bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. On behalf of cities and counties, I introduced LB 633 that would have appropriated $40 million for road and bridge infrastructure repair and construction. The $40 million would be divided into $20 million for the cities and $20 million for the counties.
LB 610, introduced by Senator Smith, phases in a 6-cent increase in the fuel tax. Over four years the tax will increase 1.5 cents per year and will generate $75 million in additional funding for roads infrastructure. The funding is divided equally by the state, cities and counties. Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill. My position was to support the override of this veto. I joined 29 other Senators on this override vote. The following are the points that I considered:
Reforms to the Corrections System: In January when the session began, one of the biggest issues on the agenda was correction reforms. The talk around the State Capitol was that it would take $33 million to fund the reforms necessary. The following are bills that were passed or debated on corrections reform:
More will need to be done to improve programing so the criminals can be rehabilitated and placed on parole. The 11.2% ($20.3 million) increase in the budget for the Department of Correctional Services is somewhat misleading. Almost half of this amount is related to inmate medical costs. Health care costs have increased significantly during recent years because of a larger population, an aging inmate population, inflation and the new Hepatitis C treatment. The budget includes $2.5 million for 59 additional security staff and $1.2 million each year for behavioral health staff.
Driver’s licenses for children of illegal aliens is authorized. I am proud to be from Scotts Bluff County with our strong Hispanic population, and I strongly supported LB 623. These Hispanic people, who I have come to know, are honest, hardworking, church going, family oriented people. These people are not looking for a handout. They are filling jobs that we desperately need to sustain and grow our local economy. I do not look at this as an immigration bill, but as a jobs and economic development bill. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that one of our major priorities should be to secure our borders for national security reasons, but we cannot confuse the children of immigrant’s needs for a productive future on the failure on the part of our federal government. As expected, Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill and, as expected, the Legislature voted to override his veto on a vote of 34 in favor, 10 against.
LB 268-The repeal of the death penalty is passed over the Governor’s veto. After 40 years of effort, Senator Chambers finally secured passage of the repeal of the death penalty over the Governor’s veto. The debate of this issue was the most emotional and heated of the year. This was probably the most difficult vote of the year for me. After reviewing the information both pro and con, I was conflicted.
It was my position that this decision should have been presented to the voters on the ballot. Our office received volumes of calls on both sides of the issue. In the end I voted against the repeal of the death penalty. As promised, the Governor vetoed the bill and pressed hard get Senators to uphold his action. The override of the veto received just enough votes to pass.
This is but a summary of what I believe were the major issues of interest to you. Thank you for contacting me with your concerns, problems, and positions. Your input keeps me grounded in District 48 and what I need to do to represent your interests in Lincoln and the Legislature. I look forward to being home in the District over the summer and fall and meeting with you.
With less than 25 working days remaining in this year’s session, my rookie session has gone fast and well. The following is a status report:
LB 156 which allocates an additional million dollars of funding to the Angel Tax Investment Credit Act, moved to the second round of debate. This program is creating new high tech jobs in Nebraska and keeping investment dollars in Nebraska. If passed and signed by the Governor, this program will have a total of four million dollars in funding.
LB 242, the bill to raise additional funds for the promotion of dry beans, was signed by the Governor. Dry beans are a major cash crop in the Valley and, like any product, research, development and marketing promotions are critical. In addition, the local Panhandle Research Station will have the funding it needs to improve bean production.
LB 561 will accomplish a long overdue revision to the laws concerning surface irrigation districts. This bill advanced to the second stage of debate. LB 561 will streamline the operation of these water districts and provides voting by mail so they can operate more efficiently and continue to provide the irrigation water that is the life blood of agriculture in the Valley.
In the budget bill, Child Advocacy Centers will receive $500,000 for the next two years. The funding will provide statewide access to services to children who are alleged victims of sexual abuse, or serious physical abuse or neglect, have witnessed violent crime, are found in a drug endangered environment or have been recovered from a kidnapping. Such Centers provide expert forensic interviews to help heal the child and hold perpetrators accountable.
And finally, the provisions of LB 533 are also in the budget package. It will provide funding for the new medical practice simulation center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center with Scottsbluff as its first satellite site.
I introduced LB 512 as a place holder for possible revisions to the current Oil and Gas laws. I introduced this bill in response to concerns about the application for approval of an oil and gas waste water disposal well in Sioux County. The issues were discussed again this week as a part of the confirmation process for the Governor’s new appointment to this Commission. The Confirmation Report was accepted, but with concerns about the Commission’s process for reviewing applications.
It is my position that this pending disposal well proceeding must be done correctly and must consider all of the relevant factors. Because the hearing testimony was conflicting, I have asked for a comprehensive study to be done over the summer involving the public, the Oil and Gas Commission, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Natural Resource Districts. The Natural Resources Committee has the jurisdiction to conduct this study.
Other issues considered this week of interest to the District include:
The increase in the tax on gasoline advanced but faces a promised veto by the Governor. The bill, LB 610, which would raise the gas tax six cents over four years and is billed as a way to generate money for bridge and road work, advanced on a 27-14 vote. Less than two hours later Governor Ricketts formally announced that, if the bill passed, he would veto it. With Monday’s vote, the Legislature avoided one telling test of the measure’s support and whether enough political will would exist to override Ricketts’ veto, if necessary. The bill advanced without the need for a motion to stop debate, or a closure motion, that requires 33 votes. I continue to believe our roads infrastructure needs additional funding, and a majority of the contacts from District constituents support this position.
Criminal justice debate dominated the week. Speaker Hadley scheduled the package of bills intended to address Nebraska’s correctional problems this week. The goal of LB 605 is to start the State down the road to the enhanced use of probation for non-violent offenders.
Despite all work that was done over the summer, criminal prosecutors expressed strong objections to several of the provisions of LB 605, the first bill of the package. The bill advanced, but only after assurances that the remaining issues will be addressed by the parties before the bill is addressed on the second round of debate.
A second bill of the package, LB 598, also was advanced. This bill is intended to address the rules for how and for what reasons prisoners are segregated, established an independent Office of Inspector General and established the process for removing the administration of parole out of the Corrections Department.
The third bill that is being discussed primarily addresses issues concerning what makes a criminal a habitual criminal. LB 173, sponsored by Senator Chambers, also advanced to the second stage of debate. LB173 would amend the “habitual criminal” statute, so it applies only to “violent offenses.” LB173 would also eliminate the mandatory minimum sentence for a habitual criminal enhancement. The minimum penalty would be 10 years, instead of a 10 or 25 year mandatory minimum. The next issue on the agenda will be the debate on the repeal of the death penalty.
As always I would appreciate any thoughts and inputs. My contact information is: Senator John Stinner, District 48, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509, Phone (402) 471-2802. My email address is email@example.com