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This Week's Editorial
Priority bill declared by senators and committees PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 24 February 2012 18:32

By Mark Christensen

State Sen. 44th District

 

It is another busy week in Lincoln for me and I look forward to the last of my 2012 bills having their committee hearings.

Senator priority bills and committee priority bills have been declared and many of those bills have been scheduled for debate on the floor this week.

I will further discuss priority bills as well as discuss Legislative Bill 1043 for this week’s Letter Back Home.

I am excited and fortunate to have two priority bills this year, with a chance for a third. I chose (as my priority bill this year) LB 653, which provides for interbasin transfers during times of flooding.

The Natural Resources Committee has also chosen my bill, LB 950 as a committee priority bill. It redirects repayments from the Republican River NRD’s to the state for assistance that they received in 2008 to pay farmers not to irrigate in 2007.

These funds would be redirected to the Water Resource Cash Fund to help provide water management needs throughout Nebraska.

Speaker priority bills have not been decided, I did request the speaker to consider LB 1125.

This bill seeks to provide the ability for Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) to refund the occupation tax on the activity of irrigation authorized in section 2-3226.05 to landowners in certain circumstances.

Discounted power rates

Senator Chris Langemeier’s bill, LB 1043, was heard and advanced on the floor this week with a 33-0 vote. LB 1043 amends current contracts and agreements for discounted rates involving public power districts.

In essence, it removes the requirement of a general retail rate increase for new or expanding businesses.

Current law allows public power districts and electric cooperatives to provide businesses that meet certain electric load requirements and that qualify as an economic development project, rates that are effective for no more than fives years and then revert to a standard rate.

I view this as a beneficial and important bill to the economic development of our state. This is a good endeavor to giving big businesses an incentive to locate their business in the State of Nebraska and bring better paying jobs.

 

Hearings on bills

Other upcoming hearings for bills that I have introduced include:

LB 1084—requires all lands leased by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds be open to the public for hunting, fur harvesting and fishing on Feb. 21.

LB 785—authorizes the transportation and storage of firearms in vehicles in parking lots open to the public on Feb. 22.

LB 1170—changes provisions of separate segregated political funds under the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act. Provides better paycheck protection for people who have dues and fees used for political purposes on Feb. 24.

LB 1171 — adopts the Nebraska Balance of Powers Act and creates the Committee on Nullification Laws on Feb. 24.

 

LB 653 on the agenda

During his weekly teleconference Tuesday, Christensen said LB 653 is on the agenda. However with only 11 hours of debate scheduled this week, he doesn’t expect it to get debated this week.

The time may be helpful though as he responds to concerns expressed by entities that could be impacted by the legislation.

He said Sen. Tom Carlson’s legislative resolution to change term limits from two terms to three will get lots of debate time this week.

This marks the final week of hearings. With those complete, full-day sessions of floor debate will begin.

Questions or comments? Contact the senator or his staff at the address and phone number below.

 

Senator MARK CHRISTENSEN’s address is c/o State Capitol, P.O. Box 94604, Rm. 1000, Lincoln, NE 68509, Phone 402-471-2805, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 18:34
 
Senior Center explains purpose and funding; visits, volunteers and donations welcomed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:15

By Joey Large

President of the Board of Directors

Wauneta Senior Services Center


The board of directors and staff of the Wauneta Senior Center would like to share with the community some basic information about the purpose of the Senior Center and how it operates. It is hoped that this article is informative and if readers would like to know more about the center’s activities and programs additional articles can be provided in the future.

 

What is the purpose of the organization?

The corporation was organized in August of 1990 to “operate a facility for services and programs to the elderly.” The original board of directors was Albert Loyd Christner, Elinor Denker, Eleanor Crabb, Mildred Brill and Leland DeHart. Over the years the operations of the center have been guided by various area citizens serving on the board of directors and through the growth and demands of the center it has moved from various building locations to its present location at 231 N. Tecumseh.

 

What are the services and programs offered?

The main program is serving a daily noon meal to individuals over the age of 60 using the procedures recommended by the West Central Nebraska Area Agency on Aging (WCNAAA). This meal program provides a nutritionally balanced hot meal daily to those coming to the center and to those who have met the home delivered meal assessment guidelines. The meal program is also available to those under the age of 60, but they are charged a different amount for their meals.

The center also offers a place for socialization as weekly you will find individuals playing cards, dominos and participating in weekly wellness or exercise programs.

 

Are all of the activities subsidized?

There are many who feel the meal program and other activities of the center are totally subsidized by government programs or by tax dollars. Currently the only funding assistance is through the WCNAAA program which reimburses the center ONLY $2.45 for each qualified meal that it serves daily. The remaining cost of the daily meals is covered by a “suggested donation” value as the center is not allowed to charge the over 60 age group for the meals they eat. Currently the suggested donation is $4.00 but the daily meal average donation is below this amount.

 

How is the Senior Center financially?

The operations of every Senior Center in the state of Nebraska are heavily dependent on volunteer help and volunteer giving. The Wauneta Senior Center program is not supported by local or state tax dollars and the only outside funds received are through the WCNAAA meal fund of $2.45 each. To help pay for the bills, the center has monthly money-making projects like the Sunday dinner, the pancake feed, and bingo activities and the building is available to rent for receptions, birthday parties, other celebrations and various seed and fertilizer meetings.

At the annual meeting held in July 2011, it was reported that the center has been operating in a negative financial status for quite awhile and that future trends were not favorable. The daily meal count has decreased to about 50 percent of what it was five years ago, the expenses of insurance, labor, utilities and food costs continue to go up and it is making it a challenge for the board and staff to be encouraged about the future.

 

Do you have other sources of funding?

The Wauneta Senior Center is very fortunate to have great community support that has come through cash donations or donations of paper products, canned goods, and other items that are needed. The center keeps a list of items that can be donated for those who would like to contribute in that manner. In the recent past we have been blessed with a matching fundraiser that was sponsored by BWTelcom and with considerable cash donations from local citizens and anonymous donors.

How is the Center going to operate on a balance budget?

The board of directors has discussed many ideas and options to resolve this continuing problem. The board is looking at internal operational changes that will save some costs but they will not be the total cure. The budget projections for 2011-2012 showed that an average daily meal count of 35 would help greatly in closing the financial void. However our average is continuing to trend downward and is closer to 20 meals a day than our hope of 35.

The board can sponsor additional fund drives asking for financial help but the best support is that received voluntarily from those who desire to give because of what a positive impact we are having on a family member or the community.

Other options are to raise the suggested meal price, possibly open a thrift shop on the south side of the building or seek funding support through local tax dollar support. These are all good ideas but the board is hoping that stabilizing and then increasing our daily meal count will not make these other options necessary.

 

What can the Community do to help?

First, just remember that the center is in your community to provide a solid meal program for those over the age of 60 and the board encourages everyone to stop in and socialize and eat with us.

Second, you do not need to be over 60 to help at the center. Volunteer help is greatly appreciated and helping at the front desk, setting tables in the morning, helping in the kitchen, or volunteering to deliver home delivered meals even once a week is a great help in making the activities of the center work better.

And third, your donations of cash, paper products or listed canned goods are always appreciated.

Suggestions, ideas and concerns are always welcomed by the board of directors and staff. Please contact us at any time for a visit.

Board of Directors of the Wauneta Senior Services Center

  • Joey Large, President
  • Dale Wicke, Vice President
  • Ruth Petsch, Secretary
  • Cindy Einspahr, Member
  • Berneta Steinert, Member
  • Kerry Hamilton, Director
  • Mary Gage, Food Services
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:18
 
Christensen makes water transfer bill his priority bill for the session PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:12

By Russ Pankonin

The Imperial Republican

 

Senator Mark Christensen of Imperial wants to make sure the state can benefit from flood waters by being able to transfer the water across river basins.

That’s why he prioritized his bill, LB 653, which would allow unappropriated water to be transferred across river basin.

Christensen said he’s been working on this bill for the past six years and it made it out of committee this week on a 7-1 vote.

While the bill concentrates on flood stage conditions, any unappropriated or excess water could be transferred, even when the rivers are not in flood stage.

He said he wants to make sure Nebraska makes best use of the extra water that eventually just flows out of the state.

When the Platte River Basin finds itself in flood stage, the most likely transfer would occur from the Platte into the Republican River Basin.

Existing irrigations canal systems currently fed by the Platte could be used to deliver the water into the Republican Basin.

The water transferred into the Republican Basin could help the state maintain compliance with the 2002 compact settlement with Kansas over Republican River flows.

Christensen said it makes no sense to let flood waters flow out of the state when it can be put to use in other parts of the state. A transfer could also help alleviate some flood pressure along affected rivers.

 

LB 950 also gets priority

Another of Christensen’s bills got priority status as the Natural Resources Committee named LB 950 their priority bill. The bill was introduced by Christensen. Sen. Tom Carlson and Sen. Chris Langemeier.

The bill would create a revolving loan fund for water projects in the state.

It would be funded with money being repaid to the state by natural resource districts in the Republican Basin.

The state lent the districts the money to pay for the purchase of surface water during the drought to keep the state in compliance with Kansas and the compact settlement.

Christensen said the NRDs still owe the state about $7.2 million of the $8.7 million borrowed. When repaid, those funds would be placed into the water resources cash fund to help fund water issues around the state.

Christensen said it won’t be long before funds will be needed in the Platte River Basin and this is one way to provide it. He added he wants to see the reserve as a revolving loan fund so that money used from the fund would eventually have to be paid back.

The hearing on the bill was held Wednesday, Feb. 15.

 

Term limits, wage increase

Senators advanced two legislative resolutions to the floor which could set up another statewide vote on raising senators salaries and extending term limits.

Christensen said the Executive board engaged in some valuable discussion about the two measures.

For many years, the salaries for state senators has been set at $12,000 per year. Nebraskans have rejected several attempts to raise it.

The resolution coming from the Exec board set a proposed salary of $22,500 annually. It was originally proposed at $32,000 but was reduced in an effort to get it to the floor.

On term limits, the Exec Board forwarded a proposal that would allow state senators to serve three four-year terms before being term-limited out of office. Presently, the limit is set at two four-year terms.

Christensen said he doesn’t know whether either measure can get the needed 30 votes to put the issue to the voters.

He expects the wage proposal to face the most opposition. In addition, he said senators don’t think either will pass if they both appear on the same ballot.

 

SENATOR MARK CHRISTENSEN holds weekly teleconferences at 7 a.m. MT/8 a.m. CT each Tuesday morning. The public is invited to attend the conference calls. Hosts of the conference calls are Imperial Republican in Imperial, Southwest Public Power District in Palisade and Midwest Electric in Grant. Christensen can be reached at 402-471-2805, or by mail at P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:15
 
Christensen’s EMS bill advances after first-round legislative debate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 09 February 2012 18:34

Telephone conference report held on Feb. 7

 

Capitol Happenings

By Russ Pankonin

The Imperial Republican

 

Senator Mark Christensen’s bill, LB 646, advanced to second reading Monday on a 28-1 vote, but the bill dealing with emergency medical service definitions faced some opposition during debate.

During his weekly teleconference Tuesday, Christensen explained the bill would broaden the definition of emergency medical services (EMS) but does not broaden the type of services an EMS technician could deliver.

Nebraska statute currently defines an Emergency Medical Service as an organization responding to a perceived individual need for “immediate” medical care in order to prevent loss of life or aggravation of physiological or psychological illness or injury.

LB 646 removes the word “immediate,” which would allow EMS to provide the same medical services in a non-emergency setting on a scheduled or on-call basis.

Christensen emphasized the bill does not change the scope of practice for the level the service is licensed at.

The EMS and its employees and volunteers would still be required to conintue to operate under the statutes, which require supervision of a physician, medical director and the Nebraska Emergency Medical Services Board.

In addition, this change would allow an EMS to provide education and follow-up patient care in a non-emergency or non-hospital setting helping to increase access to care and to lower costs to both the patient and the medical providers.

He said this is especially critical to rural and under-served areas of the State, especially if home health services are lost.

He said there are many instances when volunteer and paid EMS workers are on duty or on call at sporting events, hospital/nursing home transfers etc... and are “technically” not responding to someone that may need “immediate medical care.”

He said the bill would remedy the use of ‘immediate’ and prevent an EMS worker from potential liability.

Christensen said the nurses are opposed to the bill and didn’t know what to expect opposition-wise on second reading.

 

LB 677

Christensen said he will continue support of LB 677 introduced by Senator Steve Lathrop. The bill was debated on the floor last week and advanced to select file.

The bill would increase penalties for assault on a health care professional while the health care professional is engaged in the performance of official duties.

Despite the invigorating floor debate regarding the imperfections of the bill, he said it does seem to hold some validity in protecting health care professionals that may be harmed not only by patients but by family and friends in a health service setting.

An amendment to the billredefines health care professional as “a physician or other health care practitioner who is licensed, certified, or registered to perform specified health services constant with state law who is practicing at a house or health clinic.”

 

Lengthy debate on LB 540

Christensen said they spent a lot of debate on LB 540 which deals with providing a Medicaid waiver to provide medical assistance for family planning services for poverty-level Medicaid clients.

The income threshold is for persons whose family’s earned income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

Christensen said the debate turned ugly when the focus shifted to a debate on abortion and money for Planned Parenthood.

He guessed the issue would consume all eight hours of allowable debate, followed by a vote to end the filibuster situation.

 

Other bills

LB 536 would allow land to be transferred after death without having to go through probate. The land owner would give non-binding title of the land before death. Upon death, the land would transfer directly, avoiding probate cost. The bill advanced to Select File.

A bill to create an entertainment zone for the new arena area in Lincoln has been introduced. It would allow open containers of alcohol in the new zone.

Christensen said enforcing the rule would be up to the Lincoln police. He noted the state patrol is fine with the local control issue in the bill.

The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on establishing mountain lion hunting season. He said the hearing brought out a lot of people in opposition.

Christensen said the Game & Parks came in neutral on a bill that would allow farmers to get permits to control deer population when significant crop damage occurs, due to the deer.

They would like some involvement in determining whether the damage incurred would justify the permits.

LB 1043 would allow public power districts in the state to offer a locked, flat-rate electric rate for five years as part of an economic development incentive package to businesses who qualify for the Nebraska Advantage Act.

The bill would prohibit the districts from selling power below cost and provide an alternative to selling excess energy out of state. The bill did advance out of committee.

LB 1092 would create rules on how to dispose of energy-saving light bulbs that contain mercury.

Christensen said it was an interesting debate, leading back to the question that if mercury is such a hazard, why not just continue to allow the use of incandescent bulbs? For now, Congress halted a mandate in December that would have prohibited use of incandescent bulbs by October, 2012.

 

Senator MARK CHRISTENSEN holds weekly teleconferences at 7 a.m. MT/8 a.m. CT each Tuesday morning. The public is invited to attend the conference calls. Hosts of the conference calls are Imperial Republican in Imperial, Southwest Public Power District in Palisade and Midwest Electric in Grant. Christensen can be reached at 402-471-2805, or by mail at P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 February 2012 18:37
 
Sens. Christensen, Carlson trying to create water resources cash fund PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 02 February 2012 18:04

Telephone conference report held on Jan. 31

By Russ Pankonin

The Imperial Republican

 

Senators Mark Christensen of Imperial and Tom Carlson of Holdrege have joined forces again that will create a water resources cash fund.

The pair, along with Sen. Chris Langemeier, have introduced LB 950 that would create a revolving loan fund for water projects in the state.

They want to fund the reserve with $8.7 million being repaid to the state by natural resources district in the Republican Basin.

The state lent the districts the money to pay for the purchase of surface water during the drought to keep the state in compliance with Kansas and the compact settlement.

The occupation tax created in Christensen’s 2007 water bill, LB 701, was intended as a funding source to repay the loan.

Christensen recalled during debate on the loan that many state senators felt this money would never be repaid.

However, Christensen said the NRDs are making good on their word by starting to pay back the loan.

He, Carlson and Langemeier want those loan repayments placed into this water resources cash fund to help fund water issues around the state. Christensen said it won’t be long before funds will be needed in the Platte River Basin and this is one way to provide it.

The fund would be under the control of the Department of Natural Resources.

The hearing for this bill is set for Feb. 15.

 

Flooding transfer bill

Christensen said he is still working to get LB 653 out of committee. It is a carryover bill from the 2011 session.

The bill seeks to allow the transfer of unappropriated water from one basin to another during a time of flooding.

With Nebraska getting hit hard by spring floods last year, Christensen feels the time for the bill is right.

Christensen said he’s making some language changes to insure that the transfer of unappropriated surface water creates no priority water rights. Any rights would be inferior to current and future surface water rights within the basin of origin.

He feels these changes will help get the bill out of committee and on to the floor for debate.

 

Hearing activity

Christensen said a lot of good hearings occurred last week on bills aimed at correcting problems within the Health and Humans Services department.

He noted there have also been some heated hearings on the governor’s tax cut proposal.

Hearings will continue through February. After hearings are completed, the senators will resume full-time debate on the floor. Until then, the senators meet on the floor for just three hours each morning the body is in session.

Christensen said it feels like the body is moving at a rather slow pace. Last year’s pace was slow but this year it’s even slower, he noted. However, as the number of days gets shorter, he expects things to pick up, especially down the final stretch.

 

Senator MARK CHRISTENSEN holds weekly teleconferences at 7 a.m. MT/8 a.m. CT each Tuesday morning. The public is invited to attend the conference calls. Hosts of the conference calls are Imperial Republican in Imperial, Southwest Public Power District in Palisade and Midwest Electric in Grant. Christensen can be reached at 402-471-2805, or by mail at P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2012 18:05
 
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