Last week the legislature tackled some bills that were controversial to some. The resolution for Nebraska to support a convention of states finally made it to the 3rd round of debate after many attempts over the years. LR 14 was amended to add a sunset date of February 1, 2027. That means if a Convention of States is not called before then Nebraska would withdraw its application. It takes 34 states to call a Convention of States. Historically I have not been in favor of this due to my concerns of a runaway convention. But the mess that DC is currently in I think they need the incentive of a possible convention to get their act together. The danger of a runaway convention versus our current runaway Congress is the question I have. I believe our current Congress is a greater and more immediate threat to our nation than a possible runaway convention.
As many of you know, this is my 8th and final year in the Nebraska Legislature. I’m amazed by how quickly time has gone by. As I enter my final session, barring any special session, there are some things I have yet to accomplish and we will get into those a little bit later. As many of you already know, on Thursday of this week, the governor will have laid out his plan on how we will spend the $1.04 billion of ARPA money which is the America Rescue Plan Act. Not much was known previously about what the governor would like to spend that money on. There will probably be money for a new prison to replace the aging State Penitentiary in Lincoln. I think there will be some money for LB 406, the ‘Star Wars’ Committee which is looking at increasing tourism through improving water resources and recreation in the State of Nebraska. Some of that money will be spent at Lake McConaughy in Keith County. Some of it will be spent in Knox County in Northeast Nebraska and some spent somewhere between Lincoln and Omaha on the Platte River corridor to provide additional water and recreation opportunities. Those impending projects will be exciting. Beyond that, there could be some additional money for broadband expansion in Nebraska to build up that broadband in unserved and underserved areas, which would be a very wise use of these funds. I don’t know if any of the money will go to roads but there is a lot of speculation there.
With 1.4 billion consumers, China is a place with abundant potential. China also is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, a longtime belligerent which enslaves its own people, steals intellectual and tangible property, and flouts fundamental values like national sovereignty, free enterprise, democracy, and the rule of law around the world. While Congress has taken several small steps to restrain China this year, including passing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act which bans products made with slave labor in China’s Xinjiang region, the Biden Administration is failing to more directly confront China’s aggression. January 15th is the second anniversary of the U.S.-China “Phase One” trade deal negotiated by President Trump and provides an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of our approach to China. We have had some clear wins under the Phase One agreement, but President Biden’s inaction could undo this progress even as we work to build on it. By signing the Phase One trade deal, China committed to increase market access for American goods across four sectors -- agriculture, services, manufacturing, and energy -- and make key reforms to practices damaging American businesses like intellectual property theft and currency manipulation.
Laura Lambrecht never expected to lose her father, Mark, in the way she did two years ago. Mark suffered from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a devastating nervous system illness that slowly robs patients of their independence and ability to live a normal life. He passed away peacefully at home in January 2020, just a year after his diagnosis.
As we enter a new year, we face new opportunities to strengthen Nebraska. Our state will soon convene for the second session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature. I look forward to the robust debate that will fill the halls of the Capitol over the next few months as Nebraska’s senators work to deliver results for the men and women who voted them into office. These senators come from districts with diverse perspectives, and the legislation they introduce will reflect those differences. However, there are key directives that most Nebraskans back.
I always look forward to reconnecting at Christmas with family and friends in one of America’s most beautiful places – the Nebraska panhandle. Although 2021 has ended, many of the same challenges Democrats failed to address last year as they pursued their extreme economic and social agendas await when the House reconvenes next week.
Over the past three years, the Nebraska National Guard has helped Nebraskans through floods, fires, and a global pandemic. Through it all, the Guard has proved time and again how vital they are to the citizens of our state in times of need. As Commander-in-Chief of the Nebraska National Guard, I could not be more proud of these men and women.