The interim between legislative sessions is seen as a time when senators leave legislative work behind and return to a quieter, more leisurely pace. My schedule from June-November was different, but just as fast-paced as my first legislative session earlier this year.
Senior senators as well as legislative staffers report this interim has been intense because of the ambitious schedules of some special committees and task forces.
State aid, water, etc.
Since June, the Education Committee has conducted an extensive review of the state aid to schools formula. I serve on this committee, so I attended 16 meetings and public hearings in Lincoln, Omaha, Crete, Macy, Kearney, Dunning, McCook, Hastings and Grand Island.
I also serve on the Judiciary, Nebraska Retirement Systems and State-Tribal Relations Committees, all of which have held meetings and hearings during the interim.
LB 517 created the Water Funding Task Force. Four other senators and I were appointed to serve on the task force with members of the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission and eleven gubernatorial appointees. This group has met 20 times in Lincoln, Gothenburg, Omaha, Grand Island, Alliance, Sidney, Kearney and Norfolk.
The Tax Modernization Committee held meetings and public hearings in Scottsbluff, North Platte, Norfolk, Omaha and Lincoln.
I attended these events to gain a clear understanding of policy changes that might be proposed in the 2014 legislative session.
Two interim studies I introduced had public hearings. LR 271, to review Nebraska's brand inspection policies, was heard by the Agriculture Committee in Ainsworth and West Point.
A review of the current operating practices of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency was the subject of LR 341. The hearing for this study was held in Lincoln on Nov. 1, with testimony also given at video conferencing sites in Chadron and Ainsworth.
Save state recreation areas
My schedule of District 43 events has been just as diverse as my legislative activities. In September and October I worked with constituents and Nebraska Game and Parks to keep Keller Park, Long Pine Recreation Area, and Walgren and Cottonwood Lakes open after they were all included on a list of 29 areas state-wide scheduled for fall and winter closings.
Since our district suffered a catastrophic blizzard in October, I have been involved in efforts to help affected livestock producers, and inform people in eastern Nebraska and in our nation's capital about the need to assist ranchers who lost so much.
I issued press releases, gave media interviews and encouraged sale barns to hold rollover auctions.
I was encouraged this week to learn a barn in O'Neill held an auction and raised $20,000 for the Cattlemen Relief Fund, established by Steve Cleveland at the First National Bank in Chadron.
This week, our state senators are signing on to my letter to Nebraska's representatives and other key congressional leaders urging passage of a Farm Bill with an updated Livestock Indemnity Program.
I support participation in efforts by the Dawson County Cattleman's Association and Heifers for South Dakota to replenish herds of those affected by the blizzard. The donation of a bred cow is an investment in a rancher's future and I hope my fellow ranchers will contribute cattle to this worthy project.
The cattle are being collected in Dawson County and will be delivered to the Chadron area on Dec. 9. Steve Cleveland, President of the First National Bank of Chadron, will also accept donated cattle on Dec. 9-10, but you must contact him first.
Some individuals are offering to help with delivery but there are certain protocols that need to be followed.
Steve's Chadron phone number is (308) 432-5552.
For further information on the Dawson County donations go to the hyperlink: http://www.helpforsouthdakota.com.
Additional events this month include:
• My address at the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska Convention in O'Neill.
• Meeting with a committee of the Niobrara Council in Valentine.
• Public discussions of the death penalty system with Death Row exoneree Curtis McCarty in Alliance, Chadron and Valentine.
• Veteran's Day meeting of students and veterans from World War II, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq followed by a school assembly to commemorate this special day.
• Program at the Alliance Cemetery to recognize the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.
• Welcoming comments to attendees at the Veteran's Invisible Wounds Conference at Chadron State College.
Legislative Bill 561 was passed this year to reform our juvenile justice system to treat and rehabilitate children who are at risk rather than punishing them.
On Nov. 26 I will meet with other senators, community leaders and staff from Voices for Children to discuss how provisions of this new law will be implemented in western Nebraska.
The Judiciary Committee has had two Lincoln meetings to discuss prison overcrowding and the associated cost of construction of a new prison in Nebraska. We are looking at possible alternatives and hope to gather information on ways to reverse recidivism from other states.
As always, I value your input and welcome phone calls, emails and personal visits from you.
Senator Al Davis, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. Call (402) 471-2628. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Davis of Hyannis represents District 43, the largest geographical district in Nebraska, in the Nebraska Legislature.