NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Julie Slama

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1

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 jslama@leg.ne.gov

Week of August 24th
September 21st, 2020

2020 Legislative Session Wrap-Up, Part 3 of 3

This week’s column will end the three-part series covering the resumption of the 108th Nebraska Legislature Second Session by highlighting a few more bills that will have a positive impact on Southeast Nebraska.

LB 153 was a strong step towards making Nebraska a more veteran-friendly state. Thanks to the passage of LB 153, beginning January 1, 2022, individuals may exclude half of their military retirement benefit pay from state income tax. LB 153 passed on a vote of 46-0. There is still far more to be done to make Nebraska a veteran-friendly state, and I look forward to supporting additional legislation that benefits all veterans.

LB 814 was one of the most important pro-life bills to pass in the last decade. LB 814 bans the barbaric practice of dismembering a living baby while still in the womb. Dismemberment abortion is the procedure of a person purposely dismembers and extracts a living fetus from the uterus using clamps, forceps, or similar instruments. Nebraska is a pro-life state and it is an honor to defend preborn life in the Legislature. 

LB 226 was signed into law and will allow self-employed child care providers to apply for a state income tax credit. Childcare options can be limited in rural areas and LB 226 will allow self-employed child care providers to be added to the 2016 School Readiness Tax Credit Act under the definition of eligible staff members. This credit will open the door to more child care options in our state.

The Nebraska Legislature also passed several bills to help our first responders. LB 963, introduced by Senator Brewer, will provide first responders with opportunities to receive resilience training to help prevent or mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. These mental health interventions will save lives. LB 1002 clarifies and streamlines language in our EMS statutes, including adding community care paramedic and critical care paramedic as EMS providers and allows the restocking of prescription drugs by a hospital for an emergency medical service if EMS transports a patient to the hospital and the drugs were used for the patient prior to or during transportation. 

These last three weeks have provided a brief summary of a productive biennium in the Nebraska Legislature. Any bill introduced in this biennium can be looked up on the Legislature’s official website: www.nebraskalegislature.gov.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov .

Week of August 17th
September 21st, 2020

Rural Access to Broadband: Another Win for Southeast Nebraska

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the need for reliable internet service. Thousands of jobs in Nebraska now have options to “work from home,” while many classrooms have been moved online. Remote workers are looking to leave the close confines of urban living, free from the potential constraints of a long commute. Having access to broadband isn’t just a recruitment tool for rural areas- it’s a necessity to thrive in a digital world. Our rural communities need reliable broadband access more than ever, and your Nebraska Legislature has recognized that necessity by passing LB 992 and LB 996 in 2020

LB 992, introduced by Senator Friesen, adopts the Broadband Internet Service Infrastructure Act. This bill also provides certain broadband and internet-related services. LB 992 would allow public power entities to utilize existing easements for the deployment of broadband infrastructure.  

LB 996 is also a win for internet access in Southeast Nebraska. LB 996 provides for a government internet network use policy for the Legislature and creates the Broadband Data Improvement Program. This ensures the State of Nebraska is accurately represented in federal broadband grant programs. These grant programs include grants from the federal Universal Service Fund. The purpose of the Broadband Data Improvement Program is to allocate resources to areas of the state where public feedback, crowdsourcing, or other evidence suggests that the federal broadband data may be inaccurate, develop a statewide outreach plan to promote citizen participation in a state or federal broadband data crowdsource program and more. 

Governor Ricketts also allocated $40 million to rural broadband remote access grant programs from CARES Act funding, spurring investment in state-of-the-art fiber infrastructure. 

The $40 million in CARES Act funding, LB 992, and LB 996 will each improve broadband access in rural Nebraska. This is a win for rural Nebraska, especially in our corner of the state where hills limit access to line-of-sight towers. We must invest in strong internet infrastructure to cover our entire state, and these three initiatives are massive steps in the right direction.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov .

Week of August 10th
September 21st, 2020

Sine Die

The 106th Nebraska Legislature Second Session has adjourned sine die, meaning that the Legislature has adjourned until January. If you had the chance to tune in during the final 17 days of session, you may have witnessed some dysfunction first hand. There was an absurd amount of shouting and crying on the floor during debate (District 1, you’ll be happy to know that your senator did not participate in that kind of behavior). Behind the scenes of the drama, however, was a level-headed group of senators negotiating the biggest compromises of this session. Cooler heads prevailed, with the last few days featuring compromise legislation passing on each of the biggest goals of this biennium. Over the next few columns, I’ll summarize a few of the most important bills passed in 2020.

The biggest victory from this Legislature was the passage of the “Grand Bargain,” LB 1107. This package was a step in the right direction for achieving meaningful property tax relief, though structural reform in our tax code still needs to be addressed in 2021. LB 1107 more than doubles the size of the Property Tax Credit Fund, which is direct relief to property taxpayers. The state will increase that fund, which is currently $275 million, to $400 million in the first year and eventually to $650 million in state-funded property tax relief. LB 1107 also includes the new business tax incentive program funding that would begin at $25 million annually for the first two years and gradually increase to $150 million in the fifth year. The new business incentives program also includes more incentives for small businesses and better transparency measures. Finally, LB 1107 includes a commitment to provide funds for a federal project at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that could bring thousands of jobs to Nebraska.

We also updated the budget for this biennium. The budget bill includes $50 million in flood recovery funding and a transfer of $10 million in general funds to the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Fund. These are impressive wins for Southeast Nebraska and our rural communities. It also provides a $3.7 million increase in developmental disability provider rates, adds an additional $1.5 million to aid local public health departments, adds $250,000 in general funds to the Nebraska State Patrol Crime lab to support testing sexual assault kits, and also adds $458,000 over two years to the Nebraska Supreme Court to increase staffing for youth problem solving courts. The budget also requires any funds that were not allocated and unexpended from COVID-19 to be reoffered through a grant process for unmet needs. This could include rental and food assistance, small business and livestock stabilization, broadband, workforce retraining and child care. Extra funds may also be transferred to the Rainy Day Fund. The bill took effect immediately when passed with a vote of 43-3. 

District 1, these past two years have been marked by unprecedented events, including the floods of 2019 and COVID-19. Nebraska’s Legislature has risen to the occasion, leading to several accomplishments that will benefit those in Southeast Nebraska and also across the state. 

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov .

Week of August 3rd
September 21st, 2020

“Grand Bargain” for Property Tax Relief

Last week served as the culmination of two years of negotiations and was the most productive week yet of the resumed session. Property tax relief is my top legislative priority while in office, and a $375 million, minimum, property tax relief bill was finally given the green light by most of the Legislature. Last Wednesday evening, the Legislature gave first-round approval, 43-2, to the “Grand Bargain,” LB 1107.

LB 1107 is the vehicle bill for property tax relief, business incentives, and funding for a project at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. After months of negotiations, the proposal includes a refundable income tax credit applied against a taxpayer’s school property taxes to the $275 million in current state property tax credits. The state commits an increase of that fund of $125 million in the first year and would rise to $375 million by the fifth year. This would total to $650 million in state-funded property tax relief. That figure could rise, as revenues from any potential legalization of gambling in Nebraska (which will be on the November 3 ballot) are also earmarked for property tax relief. This is a great start, but there is still a need for structural property tax reform to provide long-term relief.

The new business tax incentive program funding would begin at $25 million annually for the first two years and rise to $150 million in the fifth year. 

The Legislature also had a huge accomplishment on Wednesday with the passage of LB 814 on the first round to end the horrific practice of dismemberment abortion. The bill prohibits the procedure generally known as dilation and evacuation, D & E, which is when a fetus is ripped apart limb by limb while still alive in the womb. The bill received 34 votes which is one more than needed to stop a filibuster and put it to a vote. 

The Nebraska Legislature had a defining week as we near the end of the second session. We’ll know by this Thursday, the final day of session, if the necessary 33 votes can stick together for final passage of both LB 1107 and LB 814.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Week of July 27th
August 3rd, 2020

Levees and Leverage: A Win for Southeast Nebraska

Life in Southeast Nebraska was turned upside down one year ago as levees were decimated and thousands of acres of land were inundated with floodwaters for months. As Southeast Nebraskans always do, we stood strong and refused to accept anything besides a full recovery for our region. One of the biggest, and most expensive, hurdles faced by District 1 was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s inability to repair the Missouri River levee at Peru. We needed assistance from our federal representatives to repair the levee. Last week, Southeast Nebraska got the outcome it needed in Washington, D.C., thanks to Congressman Adrian Smith.

When the Peru levee failed in March 2019, the Corps refused to repair the levee because it had recently fallen to “inactive” status. Statutory language tied the hands of the Corps, preventing them from starting the repair project. This left our area holding the bag on a multi-million dollar repair to protect critical infrastructure for Northeast Nemaha County. My office and Peru residents explored all options for the levee repair, and we concluded that adjusting language in federal statutes to permit repair of inactive levees by the Corps was the only realistic solution. We reached out to Congressman Adrian Smith for his help. 

Congressman Smith listened to the concerns of our region and took the time to tour flood damage in Southeast Nebraska. On that visit, our message to Congressman Smith was clear: we needed his help to repair Peru’s levee. Congressman Smith’s office drafted language permitting inactive levees to become eligible for Corps repair if they paid for the repairs necessary to bring the levee up to “active” status prior to the flooding. This language was included in the 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is a biennial bill to authorize funding for infrastructure investments. 2020’s WRDA bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 29. 

What does this mean for Southeast Nebraska in layman’s terms? WRDA’s passage is a big step in the right direction to repairing Peru’s levee. This new language means the Corps is now able to repair the Peru levee if certain conditions are met. There are still many steps left before bulldozers appear to break ground, but for the first time in a long time, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that the Peru levee will be repaired. Last week’s victory was a team effort between Congressman Smith and state and local officials. The tenacity of Southeast Nebraskans is paying dividends for our region on the federal level.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov .

Week of July 20th
July 27th, 2020

Property Tax Relief & Business Incentives: Grand Compromise Ahead?

There are now less than a dozen days left in the 2020 legislative session. It has become abundantly clear during the last week of debate that compromise will be the only path to success for big-ticket items of this session.

On Wednesday, July 22nd, the property tax relief bill (LB 1106) was debated for the maximum time allowed and now most show support from 33 of Nebraska’s 49 senators to return for a vote.

The new business incentives bill (LB 720) was also debated on Wednesday. The current incentives program, Nebraska Advantage Act, sunsets this year, leaving our state without a business incentives program unless a replacement is passed in this session. Many of you have contacted my office expressing your concerns with passing a corporate incentive bill before property tax relief. You can rest assured that I will not vote for LB 720 before property tax relief is achieved with LB 1106.

Neither LB 1106 or LB 720 has the votes to advance as standalone bills. Rural senators, including me, have stood firmly in support of property tax relief. Urban senators have leaned in favor of business incentives. Neither side has the 33 votes necessary to break the stalemate. We must form a compromise, which may include combining LB 1106 and LB 720. Whatever compromise is brokered will likely be debated in the coming week. I’m standing strong for property tax relief with my fellow rural senators.

Tensions have been high on the floor of the Legislature. You may have heard that Senator Chambers threw me into the mix by speaking about raping and enslaving me during debate on Monday. Those comments have done nothing to distract me from my priorities of property tax relief, better rural internet access and roads, and COVID-19 and flood recovery.  

There are 12 days of session left. A new poll indicates 77% of Nebraskans support the current property tax relief bill, LB 1106. Outside “noise” of feuds and bickering in the Legislature are just that: noise distracting from the true task at hand. 

If Chambers wants to go after me, it doesn’t matter. There’s no amount of hateful language he can use that will distract me from serving District 1. 

Commodity prices are low and property taxes are at record highs. Words spouted on the floor don’t get me fired up, but 40 years of failed tax policy do. 

Passing LB 1106 would be a strong step to easing the burden on our property taxpayers and improving funding for our rural schools.

Enough talk. Enough noise. Let’s get this done.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov .

Week of July 13th
July 20th, 2020

Everyday Heroes in Southeast Nebraska

The 24-hour news cycle can lend itself to an emphasis on negative news stories. COVID-19 has only brought this into sharper focus, as some journalists clamor to get the latest confirmed case numbers and mortality rates. Constant consumption of these stories can have a negative impact on your mental health. This week, I’m going to flip the script and look to the positive happening right in our backyards. 

Auburn resident Marvin Behrends is a decorated WWII veteran who earned a Purple Heart and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. Upon his return in 1945, there were no ticker tape parades or photo ops with dignitaries- Marvin got right to work to provide for his family. Time treated him well, and he celebrated his 100th birthday on July 17. COVID-19 stood in the way of an open house to greet family and friends, so a family friend reached out to my office to see if we could send Marvin a card. That idea turned into throwing a card shower, which led to Marvin’s card shower being promoted on Facebook. 

Marvin went “viral,” as the kids would say. The original post to invite community members to send birthday cards reached over 25,000 people- not bad at all for a centenarian. Messages of gratitude, offers to send gifts, and stacks of cards came pouring in. Nebraska City’s chapter of Blue Star Mothers even gave Marvin a Quilt of Valor in a special ceremony. Most of the responses came from complete strangers who just wanted to make a hometown hero’s birthday a little bit brighter. Thanks to their kindness, Marvin had a birthday celebration that he and those close to him will always cherish.

These stories aren’t uncommon in Southeast Nebraska and get right to the core about what makes our corner of the state unique. Everywhere you look in District 1, you’ll see neighbors going above and beyond to help each other. There’s no CNN camera crews filming these moments or monetary incentive involved, just everyday heroes doing good for their community. In a time where it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in bad news in our country, don’t forget to appreciate the good that’s happening in your own hometown. 

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov .

Week of July 6th
July 13th, 2020

A Penny for Your Thoughts?

As we near the restart of the legislative session on July 20, I wanted to remind you that my office is open during usual business hours and always happy to help. Please do not hesitate to call with any questions or concerns you may have, especially as the final 17 days of the session approach. One concern that has been raised several times over the past week is the coin shortage our country is facing, leading some retailers to ask for exact change or decline cash payments altogether. This week’s column will dig into the reasons behind the coin shortage and what you can do to help.

Like the other shortages we’ve faced over the last few months, the lack of coins in our country can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are three different factors contributing to the shortage. First, brick and mortar business closures during the pandemic led to more people shopping online, cutting cash transactions and disrupting normal circulation patterns for coins. Next, many banks closed their lobbies and coin collection machines were shut down, limiting options for those who wanted to deposit their spare change. Finally, the U.S. Mint’s coin production has been slashed due to measures meant to protect its employees from COVID-19. This triad has created the perfect storm for a coin shortage that has left banks and other businesses scrambling.

The Federal Reserve is working to address the low inventories by rationing coins sent to banks, encouraging consumers to bring in their spare change, ramping up productivity in the U.S. Mint, and creating the U.S. Coin Task Force to address the issue. Yes, the federal government has created a task force to tell us what we already know: we need more coins. Who would have thought that a “penny for your thoughts” would have to go through so much bureaucratic red tape?

Although the Federal Reserve is confident that this coin shortage issue will be resolved once the economy returns to normal operations, there are still things you can do to help. Now is a great time to break open the piggy bank to cash in your spare change. Our society has moved towards digital transactions with debit and credit cards in the last two generations, but the security of cash transactions can never be rendered obsolete. Cash and coins must be maintained as legal tender in our society, both for financial and national security.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov 

Week of June 29th
July 13th, 2020

Session is Right Around the Corner

We are less than two weeks away from reconvening the 106th Second Legislative Session. The Capitol staff has been working hard to ensure the Chamber follows guidelines of local health officials and senators remain healthy. There is a packed to-do list in the last 17 days of session, and property tax relief is still my top priority.

While session has been suspended, the Revenue Committee has worked hard to find a compromise for property tax relief between the rural and urban senators. Though it’s an annual struggle to get the necessary 33 votes from 49 senators on a major relief package, I remain hopeful that we can come together and get relief for Nebraskans whose bottom lines suffer due to high property taxes. Our homeowners, farmers, and small business owners are facing the most uncertain times in a generation. There is little that the Legislature can do to steady the ship of our national economy, but we can take a solid step in the right direction in Nebraska by focusing on property tax relief.

When session was suspended in March, the 2020 statewide budget adjustment was not yet finalized and had passed through the first round of debate. This delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as our state will likely face a revenue shortfall due to COVID-19. We will need to trim the budget where we can, just like any other budget put under pressure during tough financial times. Passing a balanced budget will be the first major item on the agenda to ensure that important projects like funding for flood recovery are approved in a timely manner. Other major initiatives that will be discussed in the remainder of session include rural broadband access, business incentives, and providing tax cuts on military retirement pay.

While these 17 days may not look like a typical session and tensions will be running high, my focus will remain where it has been from day one: serving you and working to grow Southeast Nebraska. On July 20, you can count on me to effectively advocate for those who call our wonderful corner of the state home. 

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov 

Week of June 22nd
June 29th, 2020

This week’s column will focus upon the prison overcrowding emergency that will be declared in Nebraska on July 1. On that date, our state’s prison population will be in excess of a threshold (140%) for design capacity set by a law passed in 2015. Since Nebraska’s prison population is above that percentage, an emergency will be declared. The only required action as a result of the declaration is a review of all parole-eligible inmates, including reconsideration of those that have already been denied parole. This does not change the criteria for parole eligibility and will not lead to a mass release of inmates.

The current overcrowding statistic is based on a measurement of “design capacity,” which is the capacity estimated by the original architects of the prisons. Many other states gauge their prison capacity by “operational capacity,” which is the functional capacity of the prison based on current standards. Nebraska’s prison population currently stands at 158% of design capacity; however, our current population is at 116% of operational capacity.

Many of you have contacted my office concerned about what this means for our state and what’s next. There seems to be two sides to this debate: expand capacity (i.e. build a new prison) or lower the population (i.e. release prisoners and offer less harsh sentences for crimes). This will likely be a major subject of debate in the 2021 session. I support expanding capacity for a few reasons. Nebraska has one of the lowest per capita rates of imprisonment in the Midwest, yet one of the highest overcrowding rates due to a decades-long failure to invest in new facilities. Our state already attempted sentencing reform with LB 605 in 2015, which was projected by national outlets to drop our prison population by 1,000 inmates. Five years later, no such drop has occurred. Our state cannot sacrifice safety by releasing dangerous inmates early. We need to invest in a new facility.

“What about releasing all of the non-violent drug offenders?” This has been another common question fielded by my office. Nebraska simply does not have a pool of low-level offenders to release, due to the high bar for imprisonment in our state. 14% of Nebraska’s prison population has a drug crime as their most serious offense. The average number of prior convictions amongst that population: 20. Inmates who have a drug crime as their most serious offense have an average of 20 prior convictions. The pool of imprisoned low-level drug offenders simply doesn’t exist in Nebraska.

I hope this can provide some clarity to a complex issue facing our state. The safety of District 1 and our staff members at Tecumseh State Correctional Facility will remain at the forefront of my attention throughout this process.  

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; telephone 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov 

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1
Room 11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2733
Email: jslama@leg.ne.gov
Search Senator Page:
Topics
Archives

You are currently browsing the District 01 blog archives for the year 2020.

Committee Assignments
    Banking, Commerce and Insurance
    Executive Board
    Judiciary
    Nebraska Retirement Systems
    Reference
Search Current Bills
Search Laws
Live Video Streaming
Find Your Senator