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Letter to the Editor by Senator Brasch on Renewable Fuels Month


As chairperson of the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee, and an ag producer, I’m humbled and proud to promote the successes of agriculture. But even more important is to continue to work on solutions for the challenges facing Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and the rural economy, including burdensome property taxes.

 

I’m excited about all the future opportunities for Nebraska agriculture, such as our continued success with ethanol. As a leading producer of ethanol, Nebraska ranks second nationally, which is why I’m pleased to join Governor Ricketts in celebrating Renewable Fuels Month. It’s been a difficult road to develop the ethanol industry, but the return on that investment has been tremendous for the communities that are home to ethanol plants, the workers at those plants and their families, our farmers and ranchers, and our state’s overall economy.

 

In February, during the National Ethanol Conference, Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, expressed concerns about the future of the Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS) beyond 2022. He said “[t]he debate on Capitol Hill is shifting away from repealing the RFS to reforming it after 2022, when the congressionally mandated volumes proscribed in the law are removed and replaced with largely unfettered discretion by EPA to set future standards for all renewable fuels. We need to be active…participants in that debate.”

 

I agree with Dinneen. I’m not comfortable with leaving the fate of this important industry in the hands of the EPA, which has proven to be a burdensome bureaucracy that lacks accountability and appreciation for the importance of ethanol to the rural economy. To leave the destiny of corn-based ethanol under the complete control of the EPA beginning in 2023 is unthinkable. As we celebrate Renewable Fuels Month, let us also be mindful that we must work to secure the future of the ethanol industry.

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Senator Brasch Invites High School Students to Apply for Youth Legislative Experience


High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 11-14.  At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, and debate legislation. Senator Brasch says, “This is a great opportunity for Nebraska high school students to learn about their state capitol building and experience the legislative process of the nation’s only Unicameral Legislature.”

 

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking.  Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

 

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission.  Applicants must submit a short essay.  Other $100 scholarships are also available. The deadline for registration is May 15.

 

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature.  The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

 

To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788.

 

Nebraska Legislature Clerk’s Office Accepting Applications for Page Positions


The application process for selecting pages for the 2017 Legislative Session is now underway in the Clerk’s Office at the Nebraska Legislature.

“Working as a page provides a unique opportunity to assist legislators throughout the session,” said Senator Brasch. She continued, “Pages are privileged to work on the Floor of the Legislature during debate and interact with senators. The experience acquired will equip students for a variety of career fields. In my six years as senator, several college students from District 16 have worked as pages.”

Legislative pages are local college students employed by the Legislature to respond to senators’ requests for assistance on the Legislative Floor, answer incoming calls to the Legislative Chamber, and possibly assist in committee hearings. The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, October 3, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. A letter of recommendation from your state senator is encouraged. College students from District 16 requesting a letter of recommendation from Senator Brasch should contact our office at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

Applications are available at the Clerk of the Legislature’s Office, Room 2018, State Capitol, 1445 K Street. For further information on the application process, please contact the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature at (402) 471-2271 or Kitty Kearns at (402) 471-0617, or email Kitty at kkearns@leg.ne.gov.

Busy Week for Nebraska’s Legislature


By Senator Lydia Brasch

Our ninth week of session – Days 34 through 37 of our 60-day session – adjourned Thursday.

On Monday, and part of Tuesday, we debated and defeated LB371, which created the Nebraska Council for Educational Success. The council would have consisted of 21 members, including the Governor, the Commissioner of Education, the Chancellor and President of the Nebraska State College System, Commissioner of Labor, and an individual representing the business interests. There also would have been one parent on the council with a child in any of grades K-12. The objective of this council would have essentially been to recommend policy changes to the Education Committee of the Legislature.

The proponents argued a new council was necessary because of term limits, since the council would help add consistency and permanency to Nebraska’s educational policy. Opponents countered two councils already exist with many of the same goals and individuals: the P-16 Council and the council created by Governor Ricketts. LB371 would have been duplicative and also carried a fiscal note of $50,000 from the state’s general fund and $250,000 from the Department of Education’s budget. I voted no with the opponents.

LB919 advanced to Select File. This bill expands the use of problem-solving courts in Nebraska. Problem-solving courts use evidence-based outcomes to achieve positive results to address specific needs and problems that could not be addressed in traditional courts. Problem-solving courts promote results that benefit the offender, the victim, and communities. Types of problems addressed by these courts are drug abuse, mental illness, DUI’s, and domestic violence. The bill expands the use to include problem-solving courts for veterans to help address the issues unique to our nation’s soldiers.

Another bill debated was LB83 – it advanced to Select File with a small majority. The amendment to LB83 replaced the bill entirely and redefined the word “employer” in Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-1220. For the purposes of discriminatory wage practices based on sex, employer shall now mean “any person engaged in an industry who has two or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year[.]” Prior to LB83, the definition of employer applied to any person engaged in an industry who has fifteen or more employees. The smaller number of two employees creates more burdens for our smaller, rural businesses, including women in agriculture. It was made into a gender issue on the floor of the Legislature. I did not support this bill.

Finally, an additional bill that merits mentioning is LB344. This bill was hotly debated on Thursday. It would grant NRDs the authority to issue general obligation bonds for the purpose of financing all or part of the cost of non-revenue-producing water projects authorized by law. Issuance of the bonds shall be approved by two-thirds of the members of the board of directors of the district. I, along with other senators, argued that Nebraskans right now are struggling to pay their property taxes, so why introduce another avenue through which the people would be charged more property taxes? I oppose this legislation.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 if you are in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Senator Brasch Introduces Bill Involving Motor Collisions with Livestock


By Senator Lydia Brasch

Our seventh week of session – Days 26 through 29 of our 60-day session – adjourned on Friday.

The Legislature did not convene on Monday in honor of Washington’s Birthday, a United States federal holiday that is celebrated on the third Monday of February. Officially started as a way to honor the birthday of George Washington, it has been used in many states as a day to remember all of our United States Presidents.

On Tuesday the Legislature convened and I introduced LB811 and LB929 which were on Consent Calendar for General File. Consent Calendar is a way to get noncontroversial bills through the debate process quickly. The bills selected for Consent Calendar can sometimes be technical in nature, such as LB929, or they may make small changes to statutes that help clarify language and reduce waste in certain agencies, thereby saving the state money, which is the case with LB811.

LR26CA was a constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Larson that would have lowered the age requirement (to 18) to hold any public office in Nebraska. It was defeated Thursday on Select File. I voted with those who were also opposed to the bill.

On Wednesday I introduced LB1037 to the Revenue Committee. The intent of LB1037 is to solve the increasing valuation problem specific to farm sites and farm home sites due to non-agricultural, housing developments around farmsteads. LB1037 redefines agricultural and horticultural land to mean a parcel of land that excludes buildings or enclosed structures located on the parcel, which is primarily used for agricultural or horticultural purposes. Agricultural or horticultural purposes would also now include farm sites and farm home sites lying in or adjacent to and in common ownership or management with other agricultural and horticultural land. The effect of the bill would be that the land that the home sits on would also be valued at 75% of its market value, but the home itself would still be valued as residential – which is 100% of its market value. Senator Bill Kintner, from Sarpy County, chose LB1037 as his priority bill.

On Friday I introduced LB890 to the Judiciary Committee. This bill deals with civil action lawsuits involving motor collisions with livestock. Defendants in these cases – usually the owners of livestock – are oftentimes put into an indefensible position in court cases because plaintiffs – usually the drivers of the motor vehicles – are not required to provide evidence of negligence by the defendant. Under a certain legal doctrine, even if there is no evidence of negligence provided by the plaintiff, the Nebraska Supreme Court decided that in these cases negligence by the defendant can simply be assumed and they can then be held liable if the judge or jury decide it to be so. However, this relieves the driver from assuming any responsibility for not driving carefully, and also assumes no other outside party was an influence in the case. There are times when the livestock owner was negligent and should be held accountable, but if no evidence exists that they were negligent, then their negligence should not be assumed. To put the livestock owners on an even playing field in these lawsuits, LB890 would have required the plaintiff to provide specific acts of negligence by the defendant. I appreciate that several citizens who are livestock producers and some who are not, took time out of their busy workweek to come testify as proponents. Their support for the bill was much appreciated. There were only two opponent testifiers: the Nebraska Trial Attorneys Association and the Nebraska Trucking Association.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann; or my legislative aide, Brett Waite, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 if you are in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Brasch Encourages District 16 College Students to Apply for Unicameral Page Program


Senator Brasch encourages college students from Legislative District 16 to apply for the Unicameral Page Program and experience the distinguished opportunity to work in the Nebraska Legislature and represent his or her hometown and District 16. Senator Brasch appreciates the opportunity to meet applicants and provide a letter of recommendation for the position. “To be a legislative page,” said Senator Brasch, “is a privileged opportunity and provides every college student a unique occasion to be part of the legislative process and witness how our State’s unicameral functions.”

 

The Nebraska Clerk of the Legislature is accepting applications for legislative pages for the 2016 legislative session. Legislative pages are local college students employed by the legislature to respond to senators’ requests for assistance on the legislative floor, answer incoming calls to the chamber and prepare for and assist with committee hearings. The deadline for submitting an application and a letter of recommendation is Wednesday, September 30th at 5:00 p.m.

 

Please contact Senator Brasch with questions or a page application for the 2016 legislative session. Senator Brasch can be reached at (402) 471-2728 or lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

 

Senators Lydia Brasch and Senator Al Davis Request State Action, Oversight in Nebraska Nursing Home Closings


On Monday, May 4, Senator Brasch and Senator Al Davis (District 43) along with Governor Pete Ricketts, representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL), and private representatives of the nursing home care community met to ensure proper oversight and due diligence are undertaken to protect the residents and employees of various nursing home facilities.

 

Deseret Health Group announced last week on April 25 it would close its facility, Logan Valley Manor, in Lyons. This announcement coincided with a notice to also close another facility, Ainsworth Care Center, in Ainsworth. Deseret Health Group has now withdrawn care of all four of its facilities in Nebraska.

 

Currently, DHHS is working to provide receivership status for the Lyons and Ainsworth facilities. Receivership provides the state the ability to work with a private entity to take custody, manage, and protect the people, property, and assets involved. Receivership provides a temporary, legal remedy while a more permanent, long-term solution is determined.

 

Initially, Deseret Health Group gave a 30-day notice to the Lyons and Ainsworth facilities. However, federal law requires a 60-day notice be given with regard to the closing of a nursing home facility that accepts Medicaid and/or Medicare payments. Deseret has complied with the 60-day notice, but could not be reached for comment.

 

DHHS, under the new leadership of Courtney Phillips, has been actively involved at both facilities in Lyons and Ainsworth. DHHS made on-site visits to ensure adequate care was being offered and continues to monitor each facility on a shift-by-shift basis.

 

DOL has been working diligently to try to ensure the payment of wages for employees. Employees of the nursing home facilities were scheduled to be paid on April 30. However, Deseret Health Group is yet to provide payment of wages as of May 6. The DOL also sent a Rapid Response Team to both the Lyons and Ainsworth location to speak with employees. The Rapid Response Team provides services regarding filing wage complaints, new employment opportunities, and the requirements for filing for unemployment benefits.

 

Senator Lydia Brasch, representative of District 16, voiced concern for the recent announcement stating: “I am truly concerned for the residents and employees of Logan Valley Manor as they undergo this difficult transition in light of Deseret Health Group’s recent and abrupt actions. Yet, I remain hopeful as I believe the residents, family of residents, employees, citizens, businesses, and government agencies will step up and provide needed care and support for those affected.” Senator Brasch additionally indicated her desire for local groups, charitable organizations, businesses, and church communities to step in where necessary and offered gratitude for all those who have already sacrificed to ensure the health and welfare of the residents and employees of Logan Valley Manor.

 

Any questions or concerns for DHHS may be addressed by contacting them at 402.471.3324 (between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.), 402.499.4417 (after hours, weekends, or holidays), or by e-mail to eve.lewis@nebraska.gov. To file a wage complaint with the DOL, call 402.471.2239.

 

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Senator Brasch Comments on Senator Chambers Statements About Law Enforcement


Thursday debate was largely consumed with recent, unacceptable statements made by Senator Ernie Chambers regarding law enforcement. During a Judiciary Committee Hearing held on March 20th for LB635 providing an additional location where a concealed carry permitholder has the right to carry a concealed handgun, Senator Chambers went on a reckless diatribe equating law enforcement officers with the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). While Senator Chambers’ comments can sometimes be hyperbolic and politically charged, this time he went too far. Multiple times I urged Senator Chambers to apologize for equating law enforcement with ISIS and statements which could be taken to incite violence and retaliation against law enforcement. Many others Senators did the same.

 

While many Senators invoked the importance of free speech, I made it clear our liberty of free speech is not about the ability to say whatever we want whenever we want. Rather, our liberty of free speech is connected to the exchange of ideas in pursuit of the truth. With regards to politics, our speech should promote truth for the common good. Additionally, our exercise of free speech can promote good actions, or have consequences inciting harmful reactions.

 

In this instance, while citing specific cases of abuse of law enforcement power, Senator Chambers did a great disservice to the overwhelming majority of our men and women in blue who serve us well. Although I certainly respect the good things Senator Chambers has done throughout his years of Legislative service, Senator Chambers was out of line and should offer an apology for his infuriating comments. On that note, I want to take a special opportunity to thank all of our law enforcement for their selfless and virtuous service to our communities and state.

 

The Legislature also debated important issues regarding motorcycle helmet laws, term limits, and organ donation. LB31 would have repealed the motorcycle helmet law, providing the operator the choice whether to wear a helmet. LB31 fell short by nine votes to end debate and provide a vote for advancement.

 

LR7CA gives voters the opportunity to decide in the 2016 general election whether to extend a state senator’s term from four to six years. The committee amendment offers the question whether state senator’s term limits should be increased from two to three four-year terms. This sparked a discussion over issues such as frequent senator turnover, loss of institutional knowledge, issue familiarity, and the desires of the citizens. LR7CA will receive additional floor debate before it is voted on.

 

LB47 also received significant attention. LB47 requires applicants for drivers licenses or identification cards to answer the question whether to place their name on the donor registry and donate their organs and tissues at death. Currently, this question is optional. The debate focused on the need for increased organ donors and whether LB47 violates the constitutional right of free speech by mandating an answer regarding organ donation to obtain a drivers license or identification card.

 

As always, please contact me, administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402)471-2728 or e-mail at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov.

 

Keeping the Good Life Growing in Nebraska,

Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

Pastors Hale and High Offer Prayer at Legislature


By Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

The first full week of our 90 Day session began on January 12th. This marked Day 4 of the 10 days allowed for bill introduction according to the “Rules of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.” The rule does allow for exceptions, such as appropriation bills or bills introduced at the request of the governor. Overall, our Rules book consists of 10 rules with multiple sections and sub-sections. While the rules can seem extensive at times, they help preserve the order of the Legislature.

 

As of Friday, January 16, there were 430 bills and 27 legislative resolutions introduced. Wednesday, January 21, will mark Day 10 of the session meaning no further bills can be introduced. Committees will begin holding public hearings on Tuesday, January 20th.

 

So far, I have introduced five bills, with more to come next week. LB 179 requires apprentice electricians to complete continuing education hours. This bill would help apprentice electricians understand the National Electrical Code Book which is the adopted standard for electricians in our region and assist them in passing their exam to become licensed electricians.

 

LB 338 provides for a docket fee for custody, parenting time, visitation, and other parental access disputes. Currently, when a married couple with children seeks to divorce, the court may require mediation to help the couple address key issues such as custody and parenting time. They are assessed a $50 fee which goes to a fund that supplements the costs of mediation. However, non-married couples addressing the same issues of custody and parenting time are not required to pay the $50 fee. The number of unmarried parents with these child-centered issues are far outpacing the number of marital dissolutions (nearly 6,000 to 3,769). This bill would help our state’s court and mediative services finance a service provided to those using the system.

 

LB 350 seeks to provide property tax relief for agricultural and horticultural land by decreasing the valuation from 75% to 65%. I have introduced this in the past and was previously introduced by then Senators Fischer and Heidemann. It is a change long overdue. Currently, agricultural taxpayers consists of only 3% of our population but pay 26% to 29% of the tax burden for education. Related to LB 350, I also introduced LB 351. This bill will not increase income tax, but will direct 20% of income taxes collected to state aid for education. Between these two bills, we can provide a fiscally responsible way of paying taxes that is more proportionate.

 

We especially want to thank the following volunteer pastors from District 16 who served as Chaplain of the Day and offered prayer at the Legislature this week: Pastor Hale from Bancroft and Pastor High from Tekamah.

 

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Katie Wattermann, or my legislative aide, Tom Venzor, with questions or thoughts at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.  If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government.  Live broadcasting is available on NET2 as well.

 

Keeping the Good Life growing in Nebraska,
Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16

104th Legislature Convenes on Sad Note


Returning back to work in January started on a sad note in our office and the Capitol.  On January 3rd we learned of the unexpected death of the father of our newly hired Legislative Aide, Tom Venzor. His father was a great man, husband and father who will be dearly missed. At this time, Tom is needed by his family and will be joining us once again in our office when able. We were also saddened to learn on January 8th, a loved, valued and respected Legislative Aide, Chris Keetle unexpectedly passed. As we start this year with heavy hearts and prayers of comfort for these two families, we realize we must move forward in a renewed spirit of hope and promise for the many days ahead.

 

Day 1, Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 our First Session of the One Hundred Fourth Legislature convened. I was among 49 State Senators, families, friends, staff and others gathered to participate or witness the traditional swearing in ceremony. Following came the business of the adoption of temporary rules, election of permanent officers, election of a new speaker, oath of officers, election for chairpersons for the committee on committees, executive board, vice-chairperson of the executive board and election of standing committee chairpersons.  Senator Bill Kintner rose to announce he will bring before the Rules Committee a motion to make voting for chairmanships public and not by secret ballot. We were reminded voting for chairmanships has only been by secret ballot since 1976 and public, open ballot prior to that since 1937. I believe in transparency and will support this motion.

 

Following my re-election I announced my bid in late November for the Chairman of Agriculture Committee and knew it was going to be a steep uphill climb as Senator Jerry Johnson, LD 23, announced his bid following session in the Spring of 2014. Although he won by just one vote, I know he is a man of exceptional experience and abilities and be an excellent chairman. Should I have been elected, I would have been the first woman to serve our Unicameral as an Agriculture Chairwoman in its 78 year history. The standing committees I will serve on are the Revenue Committee and Transportation and Telecommunications, on which I will serve as Vice-Chair.

 

Day 2 began with introduction of new bills and adoption of our temporary rules.  The Inaugural Oath of Offices took place in the afternoon, where swearing in took place for many including the Board of Regents, State Board of Education, Public Service Commission, Attorney General-Elect, State Auditor-Elect, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor-Elect, and the Governor-Elect.

 

It was a great pleasure and honor to be named as one of 5 escorts to lead, at that time, Governor-Elect Pete Ricketts to be sworn in as our new governor. Governor Ricketts’ Inaugural Address was outstanding and his vision for leadership is innovative and inspiring.

 

Day 3 was another day of bill introduction with only 10 days that are allowed for new bill introduction. January 21st is the final day of bill introduction. Once our office is fully staffed we will resume introducing our legislation.

 

The Inaugural Gala took place on Saturday, where Lee and I were greeted by many familiar and dear faces from across our District and State. It was a joyful celebration that will be long remembered by many.

 

In our office Tom Venzor is my Legislative Aide and Katie Wattermann as my Administrative Aide.  Tom is from Schuyler and has an extensive background in various legal work.  Katie is from West Point and knows the district like the back of her hand. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact me and my office via email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov or via phone at 402-471-2728; or stop by Room 1016 if you are at the Capitol.

Senator Lydia Brasch

Senator Lydia Brasch

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