Hello District 24!
My first few weeks in the Unicameral has seen myself and my fellow freshman senators sworn into office, the inauguration of a new governor, the appointment of a new United States senator and the introduction of more than 800 bills!
I have only introduced a handful of these bills but they’re ones designed to have a positive impact. We are facing a shortage of licensed nurses in our state, growing to an estimated shortfall of more than 5,400 nurses by 2025. In response, I sponsored LB586 which will invest $10 million over the next two years to increase the number of nurses in our state.
I know full well the challenges of training our future nurses as my oldest daughter recently graduated from nursing school. The number of clinical sites with staff able to train new nurses has become a bottleneck in addressing this critical issue. LB586 works to bridge this growing gap by increasing the number of faculty dedicated to training our future nurses.
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While $10 million is a lot of taxpayer money, it serves as a modest investment in recruiting and retaining nurses in our state. Our neighbor to the south, Kansas, has to date invested more than $50 million in addressing their nursing shortage. We must do our part to remove any barriers to train more nurses here in the state, which will in turn lead to more nurses staying here in Nebraska.
A second bill that I have introduced, LB584, imposes a tax on vaping products in our state. Vaping has become a rampant problem for our teenagers specifically and youth in general. A Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) survey from 2020 found that of youth that have ever tried tobacco, nearly 59 percent tried e-cigarettes or vaping first!
In the same survey, DHHS found that over a third, 37 percent, of Nebraska youth have tried vaping. Nearly 23 percent of our kids were found to use it on a regular basis. Cigarettes are both taxed and hard to hide — as they smell bad! Vaping is not taxed and kids are readily able to mask their use of these products as many give off an innocuous or inconspicuous odor that is hard to recognize.
While youth in our state will continue to get a hold of products, like vaping, that they are not supposed to have because some retailers and/or adults are willing to break the law to purchase these products, LB584 will hit them in the pocketbook. In doing so, it will hopefully discourage vaping from becoming an even bigger problem in our youth. It is absurd that these products have not been taxed before!
I look forward to reporting back to you next week with more information about what is going on here in the State Capitol. Until then, be well and thank you for the privilege to represent District 24.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. You can also follow me on Facebook at Senator Jana Hughes. While my office is on the 10th floor, which does require a staff member to access, please feel free to let us know if you’re in the Capitol and would like to stop by. My staff members — Matt and Katie — are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance with. If you would like to sign up for the daily Unicameral update go to: http://update.legislature.ne.gov/