NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

The official site of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Joni Albrecht

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17

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 jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov

Welcome
January 6th, 2021

Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 17th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.

Sincerely,
Sen. Joni Albrecht

Weekly UPDATE March 4, 2021
March 4th, 2021

107TH LEGISLATURE, 1ST SESSION – DAY 38

What a beautiful week it was to be outside and enjoy the sunshine. My husband Mike, is a farmer who also works cattle. As we look forward to calving season beginning soon, these milder days are sure welcomed.

There was a significant shift in our Legislative time schedule this week as hearings are beginning to wrap up and we spend more in Executive Sessions. I am finding myself deeply appreciative of my colleagues who I see working so hard to make wise, strategic decisions for our great State. We will be setting all of our Priority Bills next week as well as deciding which Bills will come out of Committees.

This is my third year on the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee and expanding broadband internet service in rural areas has become one of the top issues in that Committee this year. Governor Pete Ricketts said he has heard too many stories of families having to drive their kids to libraries in town, parking lots near schools or high hills near their ranch to access adequate internet service to do homework. Businesses won’t locate or expand in rural areas unless they have high-speed internet. “We’ve got to have this infrastructure. It’s basic,” the Governor said. “This investment will allow all of Nebraska to be able to grow.” I am supportive of the Governor’s Legislative Bill 388, Adopt the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act, which is one of 11 bills being considered this year to boost expansion of broadband. It is evident that we are not going to be able to get the coverage we eventually hope to see in every Nebraska home this year, but we will be able to launch some important endeavors that will aid new business and bring in commerce, which in turn helps all Nebraskans. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee will exec this week, and broadband will remain a high priority for me. I will keep you up to date with the latest developments.

Another key topic in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee this week is railroad safety. The Committee heard a bill raising the question of how many people should be on a crew, and whether one person is sufficient to safely operate the train. Senator Lynne Walz introduced LB539 which would provide for a limit on the length of a train. There are places in Nebraska that have been developed long after railways were well established in the area. Often those residents then find the continual pattern of waiting on trains an inconvenience. Her bill is meant to address that issue.

I greatly appreciate Jeff Davis and the great team at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad that so faithfully provides service in District 17. Their presence significantly helps our commerce and I am proud to have them here. Annually, BNSF moves nearly 170,000 carloads of corn, wheat and other agricultural products from Nebraska to plants around the country for domestic use and to ports for export abroad. They are helping Nebraska farmers reach new markets by providing a vital transportation link for the state’s emerging ethanol industry. If you have any questions or concerns about a rail or the company, the BNSF Emergency Hotline is 1‐800‐832‐5452.

Union Pacific is another significant railway in Nebraska. I visited with Kelli O’Brien, from Union Pacific this week about new legislation being introduced. Kelli told me that for over 150 years, Union Pacific has been committed to Building America, serving as an economic engine and improving the standard of life for millions across the country. Building upon this heritage, they are launching the Union Pacific Community Ties Giving Program. The program is a grand opportunity to build safe, prosperous, and vibrant communities by investing in high-quality nonprofits and programs in the cities and towns in which we operate and our employees live and work. The application submission period is April 1, 2021 – May 31, 2021. If you or someone you know is interested, you can find more information at UP Community Ties Giving Program. To report grade crossing blockages or damage, please call Union Pacific at 1-800-848-8715. 

I began signing on to other Senator’s LBs this week:

LB4 Briese Tuition Credit for Armed Forces

LB40 Groene Adopt the Nebraska Rural Projects Act

LB310 Clements Change Inheritance Tax Rates and Exemption

LB387 Brewer/Gragert Change Taxation of Military Retirement

LB454 Friesen School Property Tax Stabilization Program

LB581 B Hansen Change Motorcycle Helmet Provisions

LR11CA Erdman Enactment of a Consumption Tax 

LR3CA Slama Verification of Voter ID

DISTRICT 17 COVID-19 

The number of positive tests reported for the periods February 26, 2021, and March 4, 2021 in District 17 are as follow: 

Dakota County +16 (3883) 

Thurston County: +6 (1105) 

Wayne County: +19 (1068) 

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at 402-471-2716 or jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly UPDATE February 26, 2021
February 26th, 2021

107TH LEGISLATURE, 1ST SESSION – DAY 34

It has been an especially productive week at the Legislature this week. We were able to go into Executive Sessions this week in Committees, which means the process is progressing and decisions are being made to see what LBs will be going to the Floor this Session. With just one week left to complete all Committee hearings, we will have our first Floor debate on Tuesday morning, March 2nd. I introduced five of my Bills to the perspective Committees this week:

LB111- First Responders and Public Protection Bill– Beginning in late May of 2020 and stretching throughout this past summer, I was disturbed by peaceful protests turned into violent riots, by vandalism and property damage, and by injuries sustained by men and women serving to protect our communities. I started discussions toward this LB in South Sioux City last Fall with State Patrol, Police Departments, representatives from the County Attorney’s office and a judge from District 17. There I met and visited with not only local law enforcement, but also with members of law enforcement that were called in to help protect the good people of Lincoln on May 30, 2020. I cannot state strongly enough the respect and admiration I hold for those who serve us in this capacity. I’ve felt heart sick, hearing stories about liquid gasoline and fireworks being thrown at first responders, blinding laser lights directed in their eyes and shots being fired at them and into public buildings they are called to protect.  Also disturbing are reports that people from other states have incited violence and riots in Nebraska and outside groups have offered to post bail for those put in jail for their actions against our cities and the police.  This is simply not acceptable and we must make this type of behavior as unattractive as possible to people from other states.

Under this LB111, rioting is defined.  Inciting, recruiting for, or participating in a riot is a punishable offense.  Interrupting services, meetings, blocking public roads or destroying government property are likewise addressed.  Graffiti of government buildings is discouraged through higher penalties than other graffiti crimes, and most importantly, assault on our first responders, whether with fists, with harmful liquids, or with laser pointers rightfully triggers stiffer penalties. Read the Lincoln Journal Star’s article on LB111.

 

LB281- Erin’s Law– I was asked by someone in District 17 to carry this Bill. It will require public schools to provide four hours of body awareness training to students in K-12, and teacher training as a preventative method for helping reduce incidents of child sexual abuse. The State Department of Education will provide a framework for policies which will train teachers, inform and involve parents and teach children through age-appropriate, evidence based curriculum. The goal is that children who are being abused will find a voice, a place where they could safely learn what to do if they need help. I greatly appreciated the participation of the testifiers, one driving seven hours and several taking personal time off of work to help protect our children in this way. Channel 7 in Omaha covered Erin’s Law.

LB282- Repeal Obscenity Exemption– Currently it is against the law for anyone in Nebraska to present materials to children considered obscene or harmful … except in schools or libraries. This bill simply continues to close the loophole prosecuting any adult in a K-12 or library setting who seeks to groom a child through the use of obscenity. LB 282 just says the same obscenity standard applies to everyone in Nebraska – no exceptions.

LB523- School Bonding Authority– We continue to be “inundated” as elected officials by citizens concerned over high property taxes. One way this body can assist taxpayers is to assure, when possible, they are directly included in decisions of major spending decisions when tax increases are necessary. Historically in Nebraska, when a necessity was deemed by a local school board to build new school structures or expand existing structures, we have held elections to fund those projects. When I vote for a local school board member, I have always believed I was giving that person the authority to make policy, hire staff, purchase supplies, pay utilities through the general fund, and maintain the existing school structure through use of depreciation funds included in their reserves. I have never believed that I was giving that individual the authority to build new school structures without my approval through an election. The intent in bringing this LB523 was simple. I wanted to give the citizens a vote on major local tax decisions.

LB595- Ethanol Sales and Uses Tax Exempt– Because of the large numbers of people who are involved in the agriculture industry in our District, I make every effort to advance the causes that further agri-business in Nebraska. LB595 provides a sales and use tax exemption for certain products used in the process of manufacturing ethanol, to harmonize provisions with other states and industries. As it is, ethanol producers are paying an input tax that is not consistent with other industries and state regulations.

DISTRICT 17 COVID-19

The number of positive tests reported for the periods February 19, 2021, and February 26, 2021 in District 17 are as follow:

Dakota County +26 (3867)

Thurston County: +9 (1099)

Wayne County: +18 (1049)

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at 402-471-2716 or jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly UPDATE February 19, 2021
February 19th, 2021

107TH LEGISLATURE, 1ST SESSION – DAY 29 

A BAKER’S DOZEN

The timing was perfect for Mike and I to welcome our 13th grandchild into the world!

My daughter and son-in-law, Michaela and Lee Kortus, are celebrating the arrival of their third daughter, Berkley Grace. Berkley arrived between hearing days, while I was not in session. I had the joy of staying with Berkley’s big sisters, McKynlee and Landrie, and we had a delightful time. I am blessed beyond measure.

ENERGY IN NEBRASKA

With the extreme weather conditions, it seems like the subjects of electricity and energy are being discussed from coffee shops to Capitals across the nation. I had a chance this week to sit down with James Dukesherer, from the Nebraska Rural Electric Association, to discuss what District 17 residents and Nebraskans as a whole can expect when the Nation’s energy resources are drained. I came away from our conversation very thankful for the hard work NREA does to provide excellent service and customer relationships with the people of our District. 

THANK YOU TRUCKING INDUSTRY 

When the weather gets as cold as it did this week, additional commercial motor vehicles and motor carriers are called on to transport fuel to meet the increased energy needs. In response, Governor Pete Ricketts signed an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency, facilitating the granting of a waiver that allowed motor vehicles and carriers to operate for extended hours effective February 15-19. I want to say a special “thank you” to those in the trucking industry in District 17 and across this great State, for their hard work and extraordinary efforts. Similar to this summer when Covid hit us so hard, truckers across Nebraska are carrying the supplies needed for our citizens to be able to thrive. Thank you for your amazing fortitude and diligence. We appreciate you! 

INHERITANCE TAX RELIEF BILL

This has been an intense week in the Revenue Committee hearing bills relating to Nebraska’s inheritance taxes. Nebraska currently has the nation’s top inheritance tax rate, 18%, on remote relatives and non-related heirs. Of the six states that currently impose inheritance taxes, only two states, Nebraska and Pennsylvania, have chosen to tax lineal heirs (children and grandchildren), while the others exempt these relatives. Inheritance Taxes have changed significantly in the state since 2007.

Senator Robert Clements of Elmwood is introducing LB310 which would cut state inheritance tax rates while increasing the amount of property value that is exempt from the tax. Nebraska is one of only six states that impose an inheritance tax. Inheritance tax revenue, which is collected by counties, has increased by approximately 5 percent per year for the past 27 years, much faster than inflation. This  bill would cut rates in half on each of the three classes of beneficiaries subject to the tax over three years while allowing exemptions to increase at a rate close to inflation. LB310, would modernize Nebraska’s tax code. Most states repealed their inheritance and estate taxes after a federal tax change in the early 2000’s.

DISTRICT 17 COVID-19 

The number of positive tests reported for the periods February 11, 2021, and February 18, 2021 in District 17 are as follow: 

Dakota County +14 (3841) 

Thurston County: +4 (1090) 

Wayne County: +10 (1031) 

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at 402-471-2716 or jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly UPDATE February 12, 2021
February 11th, 2021

107TH LEGISLATURE, 1ST SESSION – DAY 27 

LEADERSHIP WAYNE

We had a great time hosting Leadership Wayne during their visit to the Capitol this week. Thank you Luke Virgil and all the great leaders for coming to learn more about the Unicameral and touring the building. We enjoyed getting to know you!

 

BROADBAND IN RURAL NEBRASKA

The two key issues that I believe most significantly impact the lives of children, parents, farmers, and main street small businesses in District 17 today are property taxes and expanding high-speed internet access. This was a big week of discussion in regards to seeing broadband advanced in our area. I sit on the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, to whom Governor Pete Rickets testified this week proposing significant changes that would be vital to seeing the constituents of Wayne, Thurston and Dakota Counties having strong, consistent access to the internet. It will obviously be a significant undertaking, but I believe there will be broadband bills on the Floor this year, and  if we come at the problem from several different directions over a period of time, solving this issue is certainly attainable. Below are excerpts from an article the Omaha World Herald published this week that highlights the hearings.

Ricketts pushes proposal for $40 million in state funds to expand broadband in rural Nebraska

Omaha World Herald- A long line of supporters testified Monday for a proposal by Gov. Pete Ricketts to spend $40 million in state funds to help expand high-speed internet service into Nebraska’s rural areas.

Representatives of telecommunications companies and school, business and rural organizations all said the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of broadband, as people were forced to work and to do schoolwork at home. It also underscored the “digital divide” between the adequacy of service in urban and rural areas.

Ricketts and others said they’ve heard too many stories of families having to drive their kids to libraries in town, parking lots near schools or high hills near their ranch to access adequate internet service to do homework. Businesses, they said, won’t locate or expand in rural areas unless they have high-speed internet.

“We’ve got to have this infrastructure. It’s basic,” the governor said. “This investment will allow all of Nebraska to be able to grow.”

Expanding broadband internet service in rural areas has become one of the top issues in the Legislature this year. Legislative Bill 388, introduced on behalf of Ricketts, is one of 11 bills being considered this year to boost expansion of broadband.

The money earmarked by the governor — $20 million a year for two years — marks the first time he’s devoted general state funds to address the problem. It would be in addition to the $29 million in federal coronavirus relief funds that Ricketts designated for rural broadband projects last year.

And that’s on top of nearly $370 million that the Nebraska Public Service Commission has allocated to expand and maintain high-speed internet over the past decade, using money from fees charged on landline and cellphone bills.

Despite that spending, Broadband Now, a California-based research group, ranks Nebraska 48th among the states in coverage, speed and affordability of broadband access. And testifiers on Monday said that it will take several years to expand services.

Ricketts said his proposal would bring broadband to an additional 30,000 households in Nebraska.

Right now, he said, an estimated 80,000 households don’t have access to the internet that meets the federal definition of broadband set in 2015: 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed, referred to as 25/3.

Under LB 388, state grants would cover 50% of the cost of a project and would have to provide internet speeds of 100/100, which Ricketts and others said represents “quality” internet for today’s needs. About 150,000 households in the state, he said, now lack access to 100/100 internet speeds.

The bill would give priority to broadband expansion projects in areas that lack 25/3 internet speeds and have no projects planned to change that, areas where projects are underway but cannot be completed within 24 months, and underserved areas that already have access to 25/3 broadband.

State Sen. Bruce Bostelman, who lives outside a rural community north of Lincoln, said current maps based on census tracts are often inaccurate when measuring the service. There’s regularly a disconnect, he said, between internet speeds promised by providers and the actual speeds delivered.

Ricketts’ bill, advocates said, would require testing to prove that speeds met the 100/100 requirement.

Four other broadband bills heard on Monday got more mixed testimony.

Utility companies denied that there have been problems negotiating permission to use power poles by internet companies, which was the focus of LB 455. Municipalities likewise said there was no need for additional regulation on placement of cell towers within cities, as called for in LB 520.

Six more broadband bills were the subject of public hearings on Tuesday. A comprehensive bill, combining aspects of all of the broadband proposals, is expected to advance to debate this year. By Paul Hammel, OWH

 

NEW TAX CREDIT BILLS

The Revenue Committee has heard many tax credit bills in the last couple of weeks. Soon we will be going into Executive Session to see which bills will advance to the Floor. I encourage you to take a look at them on the Nebraska Legislature website. 

They include:

LB176        Lindstrom     Agriculture Data Practices

LB254       Williams        Beginning Farmer 

LB364       Linehan         Opportunity Scholarships Act 

LB366       Briese            Nebraska Advantage Microenterprise 

LB531        Briese            Childcare and Early Childhood Education

LB596       Albrecht        Higher Blends of Ethanol

LB597       Albrecht        Parents of Stillborn

 

DISTRICT 17’S ROADS 

Kevin Domogalla, District 3 Engineer with the Nebraska Department of Transportation, met with our office this week to discuss current road conditions and future roadway projects in Thurston, Wayne and Dakota Counties. Mr. Domogalla shared with us that up to 20% of some highway projects are federally funded. I plan to stay in close communication with his office in the future.

FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES

Our office has been receiving questions and comments about issues taking place on the Federal Government level. Although we are not in a position to address them, I thought it might be beneficial to include contact information for Nebraska’s Representatives.

 

District 1

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

506 West Madison Ave, Ste 2

Norfolk, NE 68701

NE Phone: 402-379-2064

DC Phone: 202-224-3121

www.fortenberry.house.gov

 

District 2

Congressman Don Bacon

13906 Gold Circle

Omaha, NE 68144

NE Phone: 402-938-0300

DC Phone:202-225-4155

www.bacon.house.gov

 

District 3

Congressman Adrian Smith

1811 West 2nd Street, Ste 275

Grand Island, NE 68803

NE Phone: 308-384-3900

DC Phone: 202-225-6435

www.adriansmith.house.gov

 

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse

1128 Lincoln Mall, Ste 305

Lincoln, NE 68508

NE Phone: 402-476-1400

DC Phone: 202-224-4224

www.sasse.senate.gov

 

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

440 North 8th Street, Ste 102

Lincoln, NE 68508

NE Phone: 402-441-4600

DC Phone: 202-224-6551

www.fischer.senate.gov

 As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Weekly UPDATE February 5, 2021
February 10th, 2021

107TH LEGISLATURE, 1ST SESSION – DAY 22 

BILLS I INTRODUCED TO COMMITTEES THIS WEEK 

LB596- Higher Blend Ethanol Tax Credit– I was pleased to introduce LB 596 that creates the Nebraska Higher Blend Tax Credit Act to increase the sales of sustainable ethanol…produced from corn…right here in Nebraska. 

The ethanol industry brings $5 billion dollars of economic activity to Nebraska. It would seem prudent that the State of Nebraska would reinvest a portion of the tax revenue collected from Nebraska’s ethanol industry back into the source in the form of a higher blends infrastructure program supported by the general fund.

LB 596 creates an incentive for petroleum retailers to increase higher ethanol-blended gasoline sales, from the current E10 blend to E15, E25, E30, and E85. This is accomplished by creating a five-year tax credit pool of $2 million per year for retailers who sell E15 and higher blends. 

For instance, retailers who dispense E15 would be eligible for a 3-cent per gallon income tax credit. If those same retailers dispense E25 and higher, they would be eligible to apply for a 5-cent per gallon tax credit. Higher use of ethanol in our vehicles is good for the environment, good for our ethanol industry, and good for Nebraska’s economy. And it is especially good for our agricultural economy. This bill would help keep us competitive in the markets with the states surrounding Nebraska.

LB597- Tax Relief for Stillbirth Parents– Families with live births qualify for various tax benefits. LB597 would ease some of the burden that falls on families who also incurred costs getting ready for a baby but tragically never got to bring their baby home.

  The bill would allow a refundable tax credit for the parent of a stillborn child in the amount of $2,000 for taxable years beginning in 2022. The credit can be claimed for the taxable year in which the stillbirth occurred if the child advanced to at least the twentieth week of gestation and would have been a dependent of the individual claiming the credit. 

While there is nothing we can do to take away the loss these families have experienced, we can acknowledge the special dignity and humanity of the child and provide some financial relief to grieving families in need. 

Parents incur real expenses as result of stillbirth. The cost of hospital care associated with stillbirths is substantial. According to a 2013 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average hospital costs for women with stillbirth delivery are more than $750 higher than women with live births. In addition to medical care and hospital stays, families have added expenses such as paying for a funeral, burial, grief counseling, and lost income from time taken off work. 

This bill has a much deeper meaning than money. State vital statistics records show there are 120 to 150 stillbirths annually in Nebraska. We cannot mend the hearts of these families, but by advancing LB597 we can support families at a time of immense grief and provide recognition to their children.  

ADDRESSING PROPERTY TAXES

I am partnering with other Senators to bring leadership to what could be a tremendous change to Nebraska taxpayers. LB133 and LR11CA are two pieces of legislation that would significantly change the framework for how taxes are determined in Nebraska. Below is an excerpt from an article my colleague, Senator Steve Erdman of District 47, the introducer, wrote about the bills.

“Nebraska’s tax system is completely broken. Nebraska is the worst state in the nation for the inheritance tax, the seventh worst state for property taxes and only Wisconsin beats Nebraska in terms of the number of farm and ranch bankruptcies.

This year I introduced LR11CA and LB133 for the consumption tax. The first piece of legislation is a resolution for a constitutional amendment to change our tax system; the second is a bill to direct the legislature in how to implement the consumption tax. LB133 re-writes the tax code. The legislation is known as the EPIC Consumption Tax Act, where the word EPIC is an acronym which stands for the Elimination of Property, Income and Corporate taxes. It will repeal the state income tax, the state sales tax, the state inheritance tax and all property taxes and replace them all with a consumption tax.  

The consumption tax prevents double taxation. The consumption tax would tax services and new goods. Used goods would never get taxed, because goods should only get taxed once.  Imagine buying a used car or a used boat and paying no taxes on the purchase!

The real beauty of the consumption tax, though, is that it prevents over-taxation. It is the one tax that the taxpayer can control. If you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t go shopping.  Moreover, the consumption tax ties government taxation to the economy. The government only gets more money to spend when consumers spend more of their own money first.”

DISTRICT 17 COVID-19 

The number of positive tests reported for the periods January 28, 2021, and February 4, 2021 in District 17 are as follow: 

Dakota County +46 (3809) 

Thurston County: +41 (1076) 

Wayne County: +13 (1003) 

FORMER SENATOR BLOOMFIELD REAPPOINTED 

I am proud to announce that on January 28, 2021, Governor Pete Ricketts reappointed District 17’s former State Senator, David F. Bloomfield, of Hoskins, to the Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs. The aim of the Commission is to help the State of Nebraska preserve and protect military installations across the state, attract new missions to the State’s military installations, and serve Nebraska’s military and veteran families.

GREAT JOB WAYNE STATE

Recently I met with Chancellor Paul Turman, Nebraska State College System. Chancellor Turman presented to me the excellent advancements Wayne State is making through online programs and student retention in the midst of the Covid Pandemic. I am excited to announce that Wayne State is joining the other Nebraska State Colleges in their Tuition Guarantee, which ensures that Pell-qualified Nebraska students can attend tuition-free. The program takes effect in Fall 2021 and applies to returning and new undergraduate students. “Building on our long-standing history of providing an accessible and affordable college education to Nebraska students, the guarantee will play a vital role in supporting the workforce needs, not only in the rural area in which the College serves, but across Nebraska,” said Gary Bieganski, Chair of the Board of Trustee for the Nebraska State Colleges.

SHARE YOUR COMMENTS 

I want to make sure you are aware that the public may submit online comments through a new feature on the Legislature’s website, which is available on each individual bill page. Online written statements will not be included as part of the official legislative record, but are very important. The new options will allow residents with safety concerns related to the pandemic to continue to share their views with the Legislature. “It’s vital to the legislative process for members of the public to have the opportunity to have their voices heard,” Speaker Hilgers said. “Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature relies heavily on citizen input.” Just go to https://nebraskalegislature.gov, insert the bill number in the “Search Current Bill” box on the homepage, and click on “Submit Written Comment” tab. I always love to see when someone from District 17 becomes involved in the Legislative process! 

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

WEEKLY UPDATE January 29, 2021
January 29th, 2021

107th Legislature, 1st Session – Day 17

PROGRESS IN SPITE OF A STORM

I make my way back to Lincoln every Sunday night so I can be well prepared for the Legislature the next day. This particular week, it was a good thing I made the trip early. The tremendous storm that buried Lincoln, made it pretty tough for many Senators to attend the Session. Even though it was tough, enough leaders made it to the Capitol and we were able to begin committee hearings as planned. I appreciate Speaker Hilgers drive to see that we are utilizing every day as effectively as we can to keep Nebraska’s Legislature advancing in the midst of the season’s inclement weather and a pandemic. 

BILLS I INTRODUCED THIS WEEK

LB112- I presented the Open Meetings Act to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The change will require that members of the public to be allowed to speak at any public meeting that is subject to the Open Meetings Act. It will increase transparency and accountability by governing bodies, and offer members of the public an opportunity to trust in the process.

LB113- I presented the DMV Bill to the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. The bill will change important provisions relating to motor vehicles titling, licensing, registration, and fees and operators’ licenses and permits and authorize a new motor vehicle carrier services system. The current system was custom built in the 1990s by the University of South Dakota for the State of South Dakota. Nebraska purchased the product in the 1990s and its processes mirror paper handling business processes that had developed during the life of the DMV before computerized data management was imagined. 

Kent Grisham, President, Nebraska Trucking Association testified as a proponent for LB113. Kent shared some very interesting information about the valuable impact the trucking industry is making in Nebraska. Kent said, “ For more than 80 years, the Nebraska Trucking Association has been advocating for and promoting the trucking industry in Nebraska. We represent more than 800 trucking and allied companies from every part of the state. Our nearly 460 motor carrier members from Nebraska and surrounding states range from many single-truck owner-operators, all the way to several of the nation’s largest public and private companies. The trucking industry employs 1 in 12 Nebraskans in the workforce, making it the third largest industry in the state. Truckers transport more than 82-percent of all freight in Nebraska, and about half of the state’s communities get everything they need only by way of a truck. When it comes to paying our way, the trucking industry in Nebraska paid 47-percent of all taxes owed by motorists in the state, even though trucks represent only 9-percent of all vehicle miles traveled here. I would like to express the Nebraska Trucking Association’s strong support for that part of LB113 which will allow and provide for the replacement of the Agency’s existing motor carrier services system for handling the  issuance of motor carrier registrations and the assessment of motor carrier fuel tax. The current system has served us well for many, many years, but is seriously antiquated, lacking ongoing technical support, and in need of  updating. DMV Director, Rhonda K. Lahm and her team have done a wonderful job in keeping the system viable  and have an outstanding plan in place to timely, efficiently, and cost effectively bring an updated system on-line  here in Nebraska. We fully support the Department’s upgrade and Director Lahm’s efforts in  this regard. In fact the Nebraska Trucking Association recognized The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicle’s Director, Dr. Rhonda Lamb the 2020 Woman of Distinction Award.”

LB149- Transportation and Telecommunications Committee also heard the State Patrol Bill, which will harmonize Nebraska Statute with federal regulations to avoid incompatibility and loss of federal funding. This is something that is important to update annually.

LB280 I presented the Insurance Board Residency Bill to the Banking and Insurance Committee. As the law currently stands, any insurance company that provides insurance in the State of Nebraska must have at least one member of their board of directors residing in Nebraska. In other words, any new insurance company who might be considering bringing jobs and business to Nebraska, might find it a deterrent that they would have to either add a Nebraska resident to their board of directors, or move one of their current directors to the state. I believe this is potentially an inhibitor to economic development in our state. I carried this bill because Great West Casualty Company, who specializes in truck insurance products and services, asked me to help them address the antiquated regulation. I am proud to have Great West Casualty Company in District 17. Their company was founded over 60 years ago, and today is the premier provider of insurance products and services for the trucking industry. Several of the Legislative Committee members from other regions in Nebraska expressed their appreciation and admiration for the tremendous contribution that Great West Casualty Company has made in Nebraska.

PROPERTY TAX HEARING

I am including below excerpts from an article that will give you a good overview of the hearing on LR22CA. Property taxes are one of the primary concerns I will always focus on during my time serving as your State Legislator. I believe our homes, our land, our family’s future and heritage is at stake. We simply cannot continue to allow our civic entities to neglect to budget our money without accountability. Several times during this hearing, I challenged those testifiers who sit in positions to see our property taxes lowered. We have got to see this changed!

Excerpts from NE AP by Grant Schulte. Governor Pete Ricketts shared his property tax proposal to a legislative committee on Wednesday. He warned that voters might take the issue into their own hands if lawmakers don’t cap how much local governments can collect. The Republican governor’s measure won support from a prominent farming organization and conservative groups, but faced opposition from cities, counties and school advocates who say it would undermine local control.

The proposed ballot measure would limit the growth of local property tax collections to 3% per year. Voter-approved bond measures would be excluded.

Property taxes in Nebraska have increased by nearly 52% over the last decade, outpacing the state income growth of 48% and 18% inflation, according to the state Department of Revenue. The issue has repeatedly surfaced in the Legislature, with many farmers and homeowners lobbying lawmakers, although opponents argue that the higher rates are driven by inadequate state funding.

Ricketts pointed to the 1966 constitutional amendment approved by Nebraska voters that stripped the state of its power to levy property taxes. Property taxes are now imposed only by local government, while the state relies primarily on income and sales taxes.

In recent years, activists who have failed to pass major bills in the Legislature have turned to ballot campaigns to appeal directly to voters. The strategy has been used successfully by supporters of casino gambling and the death penalty, and a proposal to legalize medical marijuana would have had a good chance of passing if a court ruling hadn’t derailed it.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue said many of his members appreciate the steps lawmakers have taken in recent years to try to lower property taxes but want to see more done to reduce what is often one of their largest and fastest-growing expenses.

The proposal “says ‘enough is enough,’” McHargue said. “At some point, we’ve got to figure out how to cap this thing.”

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, the Revenue Committee’s chairwoman, said the status quo is unacceptable because it’s becoming less affordable for homeowners on fixed incomes and farmers who are a major part of Nebraska’s economy. Excerpts from NE AP by Grant Schulte.

SHARE YOUR COMMENTS

I want to make sure you are aware that the public may submit online comments through a new feature on the Legislature’s website, which is available on each individual bill page. Online written statements will not be included as part of the official legislative record, but are very important. The new options will allow residents with safety concerns related to the pandemic to continue to share their views with the Legislature. “It’s vital to the legislative process for members of the public to have the opportunity to have their voices heard,” he said. “Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature relies heavily on citizen input.” Just go to https://nebraskalegislature.gov , insert the bill number in the “Search Current Bill” box on the homepage, and click on “Submit Written Comment” tab. I always love to see when someone from District 17 becomes involved in the Legislative process!

COVID-19 

The number of positive tests reported for the periods January 21, 2021, and January 28, 2021 in District 17 are as follow:

Dakota County +30 (3780)

Thurston County: +32 (1035)

Wayne County: +9 (990) 

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

WEEKLY UPDATE January 22, 2021
January 22nd, 2021

District 17 made history this week!

District 17’s Legislator before me, Senator Dave Bloomfield, sought to uphold the honor of our country by initiating a resolution, for the regular recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance following the opening prayer in the Nebraska Unicameral each day, and ten years later,  as his successor, I have carried on the effort. 

 This year I submitted a permanent rule change to the Rules Committee that the Legislature recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day following the opening prayer. Out of 21 new rules that were proposed to the Rules Committee, it was one of only three that were advanced to the floor for debate. I am happy to announce that it passed with flying colors! 

I want to say a special thank you to Beverly Neel, my Administrative Assistant who travels from Wayne each week to serve District 17 at the Capitol. Beverly  has been coordinating the Pledge for our Legislature for years. 

 

Thousands Stand for Life

After spending the week in Lincoln, most Friday afternoons you would find me in my car excited to be heading home, to District 17, to spend the weekend with my family. Last weekend was a little different, however, because I had the privilege of speaking at Nebraska Right to Life’s – Walk for Life. 

What an encouraging experience it was to join thousands of other Nebraskans, who, on a brisk January morning, gathered to honor life. A number of Nebraska’s representatives boldy shared their value for every human life. 

Governor Ricketts encouraged us that, though many things are transitioning in our country, to hold tightly to our faith, values and to keep standing for what we believe. 

Representative Don Bacon shared that every human life has been divinely designed. Senator Suzanne Geist reflected on her bill last session, LB814, that banned dismemberment abortion. 

I had the opportunity at the event to announce that I would be introducing LB597 that would issue a tax credit to the mother of a stillborn baby to help cover medical bills and the burial costs. In a season of much political change, it was powerful to stand with my colleagues to declare that some things will never change, every human life is valuable to Nebraska!

 

My Newly Proposed Legislation

LB523- Bonding Authority– is a bill that will establish a parameter that a bond levy cannot be put in place without going to a vote of the people.

LB595- Ethanol Sales and Uses Tax Exempt The purpose of this bill is to provide a sales and use tax exemption for certain products used in the process of manufacturing ethanol, to harmonize provisions with other states and industries. As it is, ethanol producers are paying a tax that is not consistent with other industries and state regulations.

LB596- Higher Blend Ethanol Tax Credit the bill will create an incentive for ethanol retail dealers to sell higher blends of ethanol by receiving a refundable tax credit for the sale of the higher blend option.

LB597- Tax Relief for Stillbirth Parents- This bill is designed to provide parents who have suffered a stillbirth of 20 weeks or more, a refundable tax credit of $2000. Parents of stillborn babies often incur higher medical expenses than a healthy delivery, as well as burial expenses. This credit will help alleviate the financial burden of their loss. 

 

COVID-19 

Nebraska vaccine campaign moving faster in some rural areas. 

According to the Nebraska Associated Press, Nebraska’s campaign to vaccinate people for the coronavirus is further along in some rural parts of the state. The Health District based in Dakota City has started to vaccinate older residents in the area they serve.

 Overall, the state has administered 109,526 of the 192,078 doses of the vaccines it has received so far. Officials said Tuesday that more than 75,000 of the state’s roughly 90,000 health care workers have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and shots have been administered at 428 long-term care facilities. LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)

The number of positive tests reported for the periods January 15, 2021, and January 21, 2021 in District 17 are as follow:

Dakota County +72 (3750)

Thurston County: +26 (1003)

Wayne County: +10 (981) 

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

WEEKLY UPDATE January 18, 2021
January 20th, 2021

One of the most important bills I am presenting to the Legislature this year is LB111, the First Responders and Public Protection Bill. The Bill will address some of the concerns that emerged surrounding officer and public safety during riots this past summer. It will define and enact criminal violations related to rioting, inciting or recruiting, or participating in a riot, violence toward first responders, riot-related vandalism and blocking public roads. 

I feel privileged to introduce legislation that will secure the safety of those who put their lives at risk, so the rest of us have the privilege to live without fear of danger. They include police officers, firefighters, emergency care providers, probation officers, Correctional Services employees, and Health and Human Services employees. I have been receiving a growing number of responses from supporters, those in opposition, and the media about the bill. 

Ronald Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions. In a culture that has growing confusion about responsibility and accountability, I find President Reagan’s quote a good reminder. We are each responsible for our actions and behaviors. What I say, do and think is my responsibility. I’m so thankful to live in the great state of Nebraska where we uphold the values of freedom, responsibility and holding each individual accountable.

New Legislation

LB280- Insurance Corporation– As the law currently stands, any insurance company that provides insurance in the state of Nebraska must have at least one member of their board of directors residing in Nebraska. In other words, any new insurance company who might be considering bringing jobs and business to Nebraska, might find it a deterrent that they would have to either add a Nebraska resident to their board of directors, or move one of their current directors to the state. I believe this is potentially an inhibitor to economic development in our state.

LB281- Erin’s Law The purpose of this Bill is to require that public schools provide four hours of body awareness training to students in K through 5, and teacher training as a preventative method for helping reduce incidents of child sexual abuse. This is an extremely appropriate curriculum and is in no way a sex education class. It simply helps children understand that no one should touch them anywhere that makes them feel uncomfortable. It also gives children who might be experiencing abuse, a voice, where they could safely go and share that they need help. 

LB282- Repeal Obscenity Exemption Laws have been in place for decades that make it illegal for an adult to expose a child to pornographic or obscene material. An example of this is that children under 18 cannot attend R rated movies. There is an exemption however, for an adult in an education setting. Currently an adult in an educational environment cannot be prosecuted when a minor under their supervision is exposed to obscenity. This Bill would close that loophole and assure that a child would be protected in a school environment from any intentional harm.

LB325- Art Therapy Bill- This bill is designed to provide Nebraskans with the best possible care and protect the welfare of vulnerable populations by certifying they are receiving professional, art-based therapeutic treatment. Also, to delineate the professional title of “Art Therapist” as a distinct and separate mental health and behavioral profession, credentialed by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Maintaining Confidence in Nebraska’s Election Process

Last week I shared that I am doing some deep investigations into the security and integrity of Nebraska’s election processes. I want to make sure that the people in District 17 know that they can be completely confident that the elections across our state                  .

This week I met with Bob Evnan and Wayne Bena, from the Secretary of State’s office to learn every step in Nebraska’s election process. It has been extremely informative to see great lengths were taken in the process to see that our elections are thoroughly run with precision and excellence! In fact, I am so impressed that I am going to be introducing a Resolution, inviting every representative in Nebraska’s Legislature to thank the great folks across the state who once again delivered an excellent election process, especially in the middle of a pandemic!

COVID-19 

It is my hope and prayer that you and your family are remaining healthy during this time. As more people are contracting Covid-19, I am grateful for the excellence of District 17’s Health Departments, Emergency Managers and everyone involved with providing great healthcare to our residence.

In Governor Ricketts State of the State Address on Thursday he informed us that, “The federal government has invested over $10 billion in aid into our state.  The State steered federal coronavirus relief towards $411 million in grants for Nebraska’s businesses and family farms.  We also provided over $80 million to aid non-profit and community-based organizations ranging from food banks to childcare providers.”

According to the Omaha World Herald, Nebraska will start vaccinating anyone 65 years and older as part of its next phase in administering the COVID-19 vaccine. A top official in Nebraska’s vaccine effort cautioned that the shifting priority will add some 300,000 to 400,000 people to the next vaccine group, so it will take cooperation from everyone as we begin to vaccinate our citizens.

The number of positive tests reported for the periods January 8, 2021, and January 14, 2021 in District 17 are as follow:

Dakota County +24 (3678)

Thurston County: +66 (977)

Wayne County: +18 (971) 

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

WEEKLY UPDATE January 11, 2021
January 11th, 2021

On Wednesday, January 6th we began the first day of the 2021 Nebraska 107th Legislature. I find it so refreshing to be in a proactive season where the things that have made Nebraska a great place to live can be upheld and advanced. Like the past several years, I will be spending a great deal of my time in Lincoln during the Legislative session. But it is a high priority for me to stay connected with constituents in Legislative District 17 by phone, email, meetings and visits when I am home.

I am excited to welcome my colleagues, the new Senators I will have the privilege to work with.  During the first ten days of session we will drop our bills, elect Committee Chairs and work to place all Senators on committees. By unanimous vote, Senator Mike Hilgers, from District 21 of Lincoln, was unanimously elected Speaker.

I have been selected to sit on the Revenue Committee and Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. I always find it rewarding to be on the inside track and have more influence in areas that are dear to my heart. 

New Legislation

I have had the privilege of putting four bills on the docket for this session so far. 

LB111- Our First Responders and Public Protection Bill will address some of the concerns that emerged surrounding officer and public safety during riots this past summer. The bill will define and enact criminal violations related to rioting, inciting or recruiting, or participating in a riot, violence toward law enforcement officers, riot-related vandalism and blocking public roads.

LB112- The Public Comment at Open Meetings Act Change will require that members of the public to be allowed to speak at any public meeting that is subject to the Open Meetings Act. It will increase transparency and accountability by governing bodies, and offer members of the public an opportunity to trust in the process.

LB113- The DMV Bill will change important provisions relating to motor vehicles titling, licensing, registration, and fees and operators’ licenses and permits and authorize a new motor vehicle carrier services system.

LB149- State Patrol Bill will harmonize Nebraska Statute with federal regulations to avoid incompatibility and loss of funding. This is something that is important to update annually.

Nebraska Walk for Life

One of the most rewarding aspects for me of having the privilege of being a State Senator is the progress we have made in the realm of protecting the unborn. I will be speaking at the annual Nebraska Walk for Life Saturday, January 16th, and I would love to have you join me! The Walk begins at 10 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol Building. 

Governor Pete Ricketts issued a proclamation declaring January 22, 2021 as a Statewide Day of Prayer.  January 22nd is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down Nebraska’s laws protecting unborn babies. Governor Ricketts’ proclamation encourages Nebraskans to pray for an end to abortion and a deepening respect for the humanity of unborn children.

 

Maintaining Confidence in Nebraska’s Election Process

One of the most valuable privileges we have as Americans is the right to vote. For generations Nebraskans have trusted our election process to reveal the candidate that the majority of the people in our Nation believed should be their next leader. Recently, that trust has been broken. I will be leading an initiative to ensure that all Nebraskans have confidence in the elections throughout our state. Elections must be operated with complete integrity, accountability and excellence. In order to ensure those characteristics remain true for Nebraska’s elections, I am working to create an Election Review Resolution, which will establish a commission to oversee our elections. I want you, as a constituent in District 17, and the State of Nebraska, to feel completely confident that the integrity of our elections have not been compromised. Be watching for more information to come.

 

COVID-19 numbers in District 17

The number of positive tests reported for the periods January 1, 2021, and January 7, 2021 in District 17 are as follow:

Dakota County +54 (3654)

Thurston County: +45 (911)

Wayne County: +20 (953)

My Legislative Aide, Cyndi Lamb, is transitioned to serve as Legal Counsel for the Natural Resources Committee. I am so proud of her accomplishments and excited about all she will bring in her new role. I am excited to announce our new Legislative Aide,  Lisa Weeks, who will be a significant asset. Lisa is looking forward to answering your calls and emails!

As always, it is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage you to contact me and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by phone at 402-471-2716 or by email at jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov.

Sen. Joni Albrecht

District 17
Room 1404
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2716
Email: jalbrecht@leg.ne.gov
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