NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Julie Slama

Sen. Julie Slama

District 1

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National Farmers Day
October 18th, 2021

On October 12, our country celebrated National Farmers Day– a day to honor all of the hardworking farmers across our nation.  The holiday is always celebrated in the midst of fall harvest. As Harvest 2021 rolls forward, this week’s column will salute our state’s farmers and ranchers.

Our state’s economy runs on agriculture. For every dollar in agricultural exports, $1.28 is generated in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing, and production. Nebraska’s $5.8 billion in agricultural exports in 2019 translates to an additional $7.4 billion in additional economic activity. Nebraska generated around $21.4 billion in agricultural cash receipts in 2019, which was 8.8% of the state’s GDP.

One out of every four jobs in our state is related to agriculture. Farmers are some of the hardest-working people in our state, and our policymakers should recognize them as such. Over the last two decades, high property taxes have stunted economic growth in agriculture and put our rural schools at a clear disadvantage in funding. 

Rural senators in our Legislature are fighting to provide property tax relief. This past session, we passed a state budget that put a record $1.7 billion towards property tax relief in this biennium. We also saw legislation passed that addressed structural issues in our property tax system.  LB 2, introduced by Senator Briese, changed the valuation of ag land for the purposes of school district taxes levied to pay school bonds. Also, Senator Ben Hansen introduced a “truth in taxation” bill, LB 644, which will require certain political subdivisions to hold a joint public hearing before increasing their property tax requests and notify residents about when these hearings will take place. It’s a good start, but progress can’t stop there. We need sweeping, systemic changes in our property tax system. As harvest draws to a close, take some time to thank a farmer and their families. Policymakers must go beyond words and provide substantive support to those who keep food on our tables.

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

Redistricting Reflections
October 14th, 2021

On September 30th, Nebraska Legislature adjourned until January 2022 after successfully completing the Redistricting Special Session. Our Legislature completed its Constitutional duty of redrawing the boundaries of  79 different districts across 6 maps. Due to COVID-related census delays, a process that normally takes nine months was condensed into three weeks to prevent delays in Nebraska’s May 2022 primary elections. This column will reflect on some of the changes to maps in District 1.

If you live in Pawnee, Richardson, Nemaha, and Johnson Counties- there were no changes made during Redistricting that impact your districts or representatives. Legislative District 1 is still entirely in the 5th District for the University’s Board of Regents (represented by Rob Schafer), the 1st District for the Public Service Commission (represented by Dan Watermeier), the 5th Supreme Court Judicial District, and the 5th District for the Nebraska State Board of Education (represented by Patricia Timm).

The biggest changes for Southeast Nebraska are the additions of Otoe County to Congressional District 3 and Nebraska City to Legislative District 1. Otoe County is a strong fit in Congressional District 3. Its communities of interest fit well with the rest of Southeast Nebraska and the rest of rural Nebraska, which are represented by Rep. Adrian Smith. Personally, I have been very impressed by Congressman Smith’s accessibility and participation in events across his district, which stretches from Chadron to Rulo. I’m confident he will represent Otoe County well.

In the past decade, Otoe County and Nebraska City were split between Legislative Districts 1 and 2. Now, the entirety of the county and city is in Legislative District 1. Therefore, I would like to officially welcome around 4,000 new Otoe County constituents to District 1. Senator Clements and I always considered ourselves as jointly representing Nebraska City and Otoe County, so there won’t be any major changes to your representation in the Legislature. Uniting Nebraska City will be beneficial for District 1, and it’s an honor to continue serving you.

Our Legislature has a full slate for its upcoming January session. We will explore the major issues in more detail in columns throughout the fall, including fighting against government mandates, growing our rural economy, strengthening our pro-life laws, bringing Constitutional Carry to Nebraska, cutting taxes, and further securing our elections. You have my word that I’ll continue to stay true to our values and provide honest, transparent updates. Until then- have a blessed and plentiful harvest.

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.

Redistricting Update
October 14th, 2021

Monday was the start of the Legislature’s First Special Session to address redistricting. It is stacked up to be a lively session, with many contentious debates. This week’s column will discuss the two proposed congressional maps. One was introduced by Senator Linehan, (LB 1) and the other by Senator Wayne (LB 2). Simply put, LB 1 is a better map for our district, since it keeps Otoe County whole, while LB 2 divides Otoe County between two different congressional districts.

Many opponents to LB 1 say that it is unacceptable to split Douglas County between two congressional districts because it would split the City of Omaha. However, Douglas County is not a sacrosanct entity that can’t be divided, while rural counties have to pay the price. Otoe County has never been split between congressional districts in the entire history of Nebraska being a state. Historically, when Otoe County moved to a different congressional district, it moved as a whole, not in pieces. This gives it just as much right as Douglas County to claim that it cannot be split because of historical precedent.

Another significant part of redistricting is keeping together communities of interest, which means keeping people together who share common goals and passions. Unlike Douglas County, Otoe County is a distinct community of interest. It is primarily an agricultural community, and it has agricultural interests that are unique from the rest of the state. From the highest number of vineyards and wineries per capita to apple orchards and sawmills, and with similar socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, Otoe County’s unique cohesiveness means it should be in one congressional district as a whole under the redistricting guidelines the Legislature passed earlier this year in Legislative Resolution 134.

This is in stark contrast to Douglas County. Douglas County has a large population with many distinct communities of interest within the county. Past legislatures have recognized this in their maps. Our current Public Service Commission maps have Douglas county divided, while Otoe and the rest of our district are not. The same is true for the current State Board of Education maps. These maps are in use right now, and there have not been any complaints about them.

If we want to draw a map that keeps communities of interest intact, it makes the most sense to split Douglas County, not cohesive, rural counties that make up whole communities of interest like Otoe County. That is why I prefer Senator Linehan’s LB 1 map to Senator Wayne’s LB 2 map. I look forward to continuing to fight for the voices in our district, and make sure that everyone here and across the state is fairly and accurately represented. Debate this week will cover all proposed redistricting maps. It promises to be a fiery debate, and I’ll keep you updated along the way.

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.

Redistricting Rundown
October 14th, 2021

On August 27th, Governor Ricketts signed a proclamation calling the Legislature into a special session for the purposes of enacting legislation to redistrict different boundaries across Nebraska. This includes the boundaries for the Supreme Court judicial districts, the Public Service Commission districts, the boundaries for the members of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska and the State Board of Education, and our Legislative and Congressional districts. 

Thus, the Legislature will convene on September 13th for a very busy special session. This column will outline the redistricting process in Nebraska and what to expect in the coming weeks.

Much of the work done during this special session will be conducted by the Redistricting Committee, and they have already met a few times prior to the special session to adopt their guidelines and analyze data. This committee is made up of nine senators from all across the state and was appointed by the Executive Board of the Legislature. By the time the Legislature convenes on the 13th, the committee will have a redistricting plan for all seven maps ready to introduce.  The maps will be available for the public to view before the start of the special session.

After they are introduced, the maps will have three public hearings, where residents from all across the state will have the opportunity to share their input on the redistricting plan. The first will be at Central Community College in Grand Island on September 14th at 1:30 pm, the second will be at the State Capitol on the 15th at 9 am, and the third will be at the Scott Conference Center in Omaha on the 16th at 10 am. You can find more information about these hearings at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/red/meetings-and-hearings/

Like all legislation, the committee will take a vote on each map and send it back to the Legislature for three rounds of debate (General File, Select File, and Final Reading). The maps have to be approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor to be implemented for the next election cycle. Redistricting maps are in effect for ten years at a time, and a lot has changed in our state since our last redistricting in 2011. 

Redistricting has traditionally been packed with fierce and heated debates, especially when it comes to legislative and congressional districts.  We are already planning on working many late nights, and going into the weekends. I will work hard to ensure rural Nebraska, especially Southeast Nebraska, continues to be fairly represented in district boundaries.

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.

In the past 17 months, we have faced many challenges to our freedoms as Americans. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the entire United States went on lockdown as governments haphazardly determined which businesses were “essential” and could remain open. Nebraska ended all statewide restrictions early into the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, there are new trends across the United States that are concerning, and many people are reaching out to the Legislature asking what can be done to keep their freedoms protected.

Vaccine mandates have arrived and spread like wildfire across our country. Many Nebraska businesses and private universities are requiring employees and students to get vaccinated. Healthcare entities, such as CHI Health, are requiring proof of vaccination to continue working at their facilities. During a public health crisis and pre-existing staffing shortage, medical personnel are being forced from their professions and protesting to take a stand for their individual liberties. 

The Department of Defense issued a vaccine mandate impacting military personnel in all branches and President Biden mandated vaccines for nursing home staff, putting Medicaid and Medicare funding at risk for those who do not comply. Biden’s nursing home mandate is especially concerning, as it could lead to more entities receiving federal funds being forced to require vaccines.

There are many issues with vaccine passports. It takes away the individual’s right to make their own healthcare choices. Some people might have valid concerns about the vaccine. Others may have been told by a doctor that it would not be the best option for them. Either way, demanding documentation of this sort sounds like something coming out of a George Orwell novel, not from a nation that is known for protecting our freedoms. President Trump was one of the first Americans to choose to be vaccinated in January, and I chose to be vaccinated in April. I chose to get the vaccine after studying the science, balancing both the risks and benefits.  If the President of the United States and other government officials have the freedom to make their health care decisions, it’s unconscionable for those same government officials to take that freedom away from our citizens.

Vaccine passports are not the only COVID-related facing our state and country. Just a couple of weeks ago, on July 27th, the CDC announced a new recommendation that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with “high COVID transmission levels.” In this announcement, they also recommended that students of all ages require masks when they return to the classroom this fall.

I remain opposed to vaccine and mask mandates. Masks and vaccines should always be a personal choice, not something that the government can require. The Legislature is looking to address this government overreach next session. First, we will work on passing Senator Ben Hansen’s LB 643, which would protect the right to accept or decline a vaccination under a mandatory directive. We will also be looking into other ways the law can reign in mask and vaccine mandates in other areas.

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.

Sportswriters will spend the next few years picking apart the best moments of this year’s Olympic Games. In spite of all that seems to divide us, we can all unite every few years to support our heroes on Team USA. Nebraska had several medal-worthy moments during the Games, but none shone brighter than Jordan Larson’s performance on the last day of competition.

Jordan Larson, hometown of Hooper, NE (pop. 830), grew up like many girls here in Nebraska. She idolized the Nebraska volleyball team and dreamed of one day being a Husker.

Jordan’s dream came true. In 2006, she scored the winning point for Nebraska in the National Championship game. I was ten years old and watched on ESPN with the girls that would be my high school volleyball teammates at Auburn. We bought headbands like Jordan wore and peppered volleyballs, realizing girls from small towns could dream big and grow up to be Husker volleyball stars.

Jordan kept dreaming and playing. Her professional volleyball career took her around the globe. Teammates nicknamed her “The Governor,” both for her leadership skills and dedicated following of Nebraskans who would attend her matches in every country. Jordan always took time to sign autographs and talk with fans who came to see her play.

Last weekend, Jordan took the last swing of her career on the biggest stage in the world. She scored the winning point for Team USA’s first-ever women’s indoor volleyball Olympic gold medal. It was also the gold medal that topped China in the final medal count of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Jordan Larson retires as one of the best players ever to step foot on a volleyball court. You wouldn’t know it if you met her, though. She’s still a Nebraskan at heart, with a work ethic and humble attitude that keeps her grounded while living an extraordinary life. Jordan Larson is a Nebraska Legend, both on and off the court. 

Practices for fall sports are already underway across middle schools and high schools. The familiar thuds of a volleyball game will soon remind us of fall and the quickly approaching winter. The Husker volleyball team looks strong this year, but then again, when doesn’t it? Just as consistently as John Cook always seems to put together a solid team, little girls in Nebraska will discover the game of volleyball. Players at every level could learn from Jordan Larson’s path from Hooper to Olympic gold in Tokyo. We all could.

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.

Help Wanted: Everywhere
October 14th, 2021

Last week, while traveling through Valentine, Nebraska on a quick road trip to promote financial literacy resources, I made a supper stop at the Peppermill & EKV Lounge. Notably, the sign outside the restaurant had a timely advertisement. It said the following: “EVERYONE IN TOWN IS HIRING FYI.” 

Nebraska has one of lowest unemployment rates in the country. The Nebraska Department of Labor reported that the Unemployment Rate for June was a mere 2.5%. Low unemployment is the cornerstone of a solid economy, but we have a problem in Nebraska: we don’t have enough people to fill the good-paying jobs available. 

Our state is taking steps to address our workforce shortage. We have several programs in place to help keep talent in our state. The first program is the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Career Scholarship Program. This program awards aid to Nebraska community colleges and Nebraska private nonprofit postsecondary institutions. With this extra funding, these schools can provide scholarships to students pursuing degrees in targeted, high-need fields with labor shortages. Through this program, community college students may be awarded up to $5,000 a year for up to 3 years, and private nonprofit postsecondary institution students may be awarded up to $10,000 a year for up to 4 years.

Next is the Career Scholarship Program offered by the Nebraska State College System. This program allows students studying certain programs to obtain academic scholarships ranging from $2,000-$10,000 per year. This program allows Chadron, Peru, and Wayne State students to get their degrees at an affordable cost while also providing on-the-job career experience through internships and other experiential learning opportunities. 

Through these two Career Scholarship Programs, students are encouraged to stay in Nebraska and help serve our more rural communities. However, more needs to be done to address our workforce shortage in both the short- and the long-term. I introduced LB 594 last year, aptly named the “Rural Workforce Crisis Act.” My office is working with employers, economic development groups, educational institutions, and labor interests to craft a final version of the bill to take another step in addressing our workforce shortage.

My advice for recent high school graduates: don’t go into debt at a four-year university “deciding what you want to do with your life.” Go to a trade school, community college, or state college to complete a high-need degree or certificate in a trade without debt. You can always “figure things out” while making $100k+ at a high-need job. Don’t miss your opportunity in this labor market!

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 5
July 12th, 2021

This week’s column will highlight a few of my bills that passed into law in 2021.

First, LB 152 was signed into law on May 5 and loosened restrictions on fireworks. In our district, hundreds of people would flock to Missouri each year to purchase the larger fireworks that they wanted. This has led to Missouri making nearly eight times as much firework revenue annually as Nebraska. The passage of LB 152 will keep Nebraskans from being labeled criminals for possessing bottle rockets. Now, we are free to celebrate the Fourth of July how we want to, without fear or breaking the law! 

Second, I introduced LB 327 this year, which will require a semester of financial literacy for students to graduate high school. This bill was amended into Senator McKinney’s LB 452 and was approved by the governor on May 25. Both LB 327 and LB 452 addressed the financial issues that our young Nebraskans face. With this bill becoming law, students will now be able to access an introduction to critical financial literacy fundamentals and will start off their lives as independent adults on better footing. 

Two of my bills, LB 403 and LB 593, passed quickly through the Legislature with nearly unanimous support, but that does not mean that they are not important. LB 403 offers better protections for Nebraska citizens against Medicaid liens and LB 593 addressed issues that our state had in recognizing foreign-country money judgments. Both bills were introduced to fix some of the kinks in our current law and were signed by the governor on May 5 as part of LB 501, a package full of non-controversial bills.

Last but not least, my personal priority bill for this session was Senator Briese’s LB 139, which prohibits frivolous COVID-related lawsuits. This law provides general liability protections from COVID-19 lawsuits for a broad range of individuals and organizations. These include, but are not limited to, restaurants, medical centers, and churches. Across the country, we are seeing individuals sue small businesses for exposing them to the coronavirus.. LB 139 will prevent civil action as long as the business was acting in compliance with federal public health guidelines in place at the time of the alleged exposure. The governor signed this bill into law on May 25.

It was an honor to pass these bills while representing the greatest district in Nebraska. I look forward to seeing these bills benefit Nebraskans in the years to come.

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 21
July 7th, 2021

Financial literacy is one of the most important skills a child can learn. Two bills were introduced this session to ensure that every graduate of Nebraska’s schools has the skill set necessary to make responsible financial decisions. My bill, LB 327, added a one-semester personal finance class as a statewide graduation requirement. LB 327 was amended into Senator McKinney’s LB 452, which encourages age-appropriate financial literacy concepts to be taught at all levels of K-12 education. LB 452 passed near the end of session and was signed into law.

Passage of LB 327 and LB 452 are massive victories for personal finance education in Nebraska. Students graduating high school need to make one of the largest financial decisions of their life– whether to attend college or go into the workforce. According to the Federal Reserve, student loan debt in the United States is $1.7 trillion dollars. Now, students will be able to access an introduction to critical financial literacy fundamentals and will start off their lives as independent adults on better footing. 

The Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office also provides many helpful free financial literacy resources for students, teachers, and parents.

EVERFI’s is used by more than two million K-12 students and is available to Nebraska school districts and educators at no cost. The program uses game-based lessons to teach students life skills through fun, scenario-based learning and includes courses in Financial Literacy. You can reach this resource at: https://everfi.com/k-12/parent-remote-learning/.

The Nebraska NEST Financial Education Center provides a short, interactive learning experience that prepares Nebraskans with the right skills to manage their financial future. You can explore options on how to invest in your future, or you can review financial basics. This resource can be reached at https://nest.everfi-next.net/welcome/collegesavings-achieve.

With the passage of LB 452 and resources like EVERFI and NEST, we can be sure that our students are on the right path towards a successful financial future.

My tour of office hours and town halls will kick off at the start of July. I’ll be joining Governor Ricketts for a town hall in Nebraska City at the Lied Lodge at 3 p.m. on Thursday, July 1. This town hall will cover the Nebraska Department of Education’s controversial proposed sex education standards (which begin sex education at kindergarten) and how you can help stop them. I’ll also be hosting a town hall in Auburn at the Rural Impact Hub on Friday, July 2 at 5 p.m.. This town hall will wrap-up the 2021 legislative session and preview both the 2021 special redistricting session and 2022 legislative session. If you’d like to chat with me one-on-one about an issue, I’d encourage you to come to my office hours. This week, I’ll be holding office hours at Gospel Coffee in Brownville on July 2 from 3-4 p.m. I’ll be announcing more town hall stops and office hours across District 1 in the coming weeks and would encourage you to attend!

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 7
June 22nd, 2021

This past session, the Legislature passed LB 406 to create the Statewide Tourism and Recreational Water Access and Resource Sustainability Special Committee, better known as the “STAR WARS” Committee. LB 406 was introduced by Senator McDonnell, and the committee will study potential flood control projects and related economic development opportunities in Nebraska.

The STAR WARS Committee will conduct a study of different areas around the State of Nebraska to identify potential projects and opportunities to enhance the value of those areas through economic development, tourism and recreation, flood control, and water sustainability. These projects would use federal funds, which are coming into the state with certain requirements attached. While I’d like to see these funds returned to taxpayers directly through tax relief, these are usually conditions attached to federal funding which prevent that from happening.  Using these funds for one-time expenditures, such as for new or improved recreational opportunities, could grow tourism in our state and take some pressure off in-state taxpayers for generations to come.

Nebraska has many beautiful areas that are worth exploring and attract many visitors across the country. In our district alone, we have Indian Cave State Park, which provides beautiful views of the Missouri River and a great escape into nature. The findings of the STAR WARS Committee could lead to even more areas like this in District 1.

The STAR WARS Committee includes Sen. Brandt from Plymouth, Sen. Clements from Elmwood, Sen. Flood from Norfolk, Sen. Gragert from Creighton, Sen. Hughes from Venango, Sen. McCollister from Omaha, Sen. McDonnell from Omaha, Sen. Wishart from Lincoln, the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and the Speaker of the Legislature. These senators represent Nebraskans all across the state, and they’re ready to get started brainstorming ideas for across the state. 

That is where you come in. Since the STAR WARS Committee is looking to explore new and improved recreation options, I need your thoughts. What do you think would be the best recreation project for our district? Would it be better to have a larger lake in our area, or better camping facilities in our current parks? More park development along the Missouri River? Our district has so much to offer when it comes to natural beauty, and it is important for the STAR WARS Committee to consider projects to grow tourism in our corner of the state. We don’t want to miss the boat on this once-in-a-generation opportunity!

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
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