Gearing up now for a later announcement that she will seek a second legislative term, Sen. Kate Bolz is looking ahead to policy more than politics.
Supporters held a fundraiser for Bolz on Thursday evening, but she was focused far more this past week on topics like career education opportunities, correctional reform and delivery of needed social services.
Bolz, 36, is a Democrat who represents Lincoln's 29th District, a politically competitive district in which there are 2,500 more registered Republicans than Democrats.
But the Legislature is nonpartisan and it demonstrated that in vivid terms this year.
"We have a very thoughtful and independent-minded Legislature," Bolz said during an interview last week in her Capitol office.
"Positive policy doesn't have a blue or red tag."
Bolz points to a couple of successful bills that she helped spearhead this year to open opportunities and improve lives.
One includes a provision to assist students in pursuing job training in high-demand occupations in Nebraska's community colleges. Another authorizes special bank accounts for young people with disabilities so they can more easily save money to pursue their education without disqualifying them from public benefits.
Bolz sees an opportunity to team up with Gov. Pete Ricketts in opening the path for more career education and job training opportunities in community colleges. The governor focused on that issue as a priority during his 2014 campaign, pointing to the need to fill more skilled and high-salaried jobs and give Nebraska students more options and opportunities.
"I think there is great potential," she said.
As a member of the special legislative committee that investigated the Department of Correctional Services last year, Bolz has been on the front lines of corrections reform, a task that fits well with her position on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.
"We've got a lot of work to do," she said.
Prison overcrowding and staffing challenges, lack of behavioral health programming, community-based programming and services, and more.
Big issues, Bolz said, but a task this Legislature can handle.
"I am pleased how the nonpartisan ideals of the Nebraska Unicameral play out, not just on the big issues, but also how committees work," she said.
"It works if you work it," Bolz said. "We find common ground. We spend a lot of time hashing out issues.
"There's a diversity of opinion and perspective, but when you can justify your policy choice, the right things move forward."
Bolz sought a seat on the Appropriations Committee after she was elected in 2012 and she has served there for three legislative sessions.
"I thought one of the best ways to serve the people in my district was to understand all the functions of state government," she said.
"It has helped me see how all the pieces come together," Bolz said, "and how good policy can be matched with appropriate resources."
A diverse committee unanimously agreed this year on a budget that "manages the growth of spending," provides additional property tax reduction and focuses on important priorities, she said.
"That is a huge accomplishment," Bolz said, and another indication of how a thoughtful and independent legislature works.
Bolz is preparing to go door-to-door once again as the 2016 election year approaches.
"That is living the idea of a representative democracy," she said.
"I will try to earn the opportunity to continue serving."