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Sen. Bill Avery
Sen. Bill Avery

Age: 68

Address: 1925 E St., Lincoln

Occupation: State senator, retired UNL professor

Political party: Democrat

Avery, who has served as chairman of the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, says he has worked to reduce taxes for all Nebraskans, expand high-paying jobs, expand access to health care for thousands of children from low- and moderate income families, improve mental and behavioral health care, have mandatory DNA testing for convicted felons, and to limit the influence of money on the political process.

Q: Should the Legislature pass laws addressing illegal immigration? If so, what law would you propose?

A: Immigration is largely a federal issue that must be addressed urgently by Congress and the president. Action should be taken immediately to implement effective measures to seal the border in order to stop the flow of illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, I am willing to consider state laws to discourage the hiring of illegal immigrants by imposing stiff penalties on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers.

Q: What reforms could the Legislature enact to make state government and its agencies more efficient?

A: Governance of higher education is top-heavy and redundant, with separate boards governing the university, state colleges and community colleges. Consolidation would lead to more efficiency, reduced costs and streamlined administration. Similarly, water policy now is managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with authority over surface water, and numerous Natural Resource Districts (NRDs), with authority over ground water. Water resource management needs to be consolidated, probably in the DNR, in order to capture efficiencies and to achieve more coherent policy.

Q: Are Nebraska's laws against distracted driving enough to protect the public, or are other laws needed?

A: More laws are needed. For example, Nebraska has no law prohibiting pets from riding in the laps of drivers, a practice that can be as distractive as texting.

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Q: How should the Legislature deal with federal health care reform law in the 2011 session? Make it as efficient and effective as possible, or delay implementation in hopes it will be overturned?

A: Make it work for all Nebraskans by working with the federal government to make it as efficient and effective as possible.

Q: Should the Department of Health and Human Services continue with child welfare in its present form, or do changes need to be made? What changes would you propose?

A: Privatization appears to be undergoing a rocky start. Private providers are cancelling contracts and going broke. The state is now dependent on two providers only and it may be merely a matter of time before they too drop out. It may be time for the state to reconsider its privatization plan and once again assume sole responsibility for child welfare programs. The alternative is to increase significantly the rates paid to private providers, an option that is unappealing in difficult economic times.

Q: How should Nebraska use bonds to pay for needed highway improvements?

A: Current funding mechanisms for roads barely generate enough revenue to keep pace with existing maintenance needs. Issuing highway construction bonds may be the only way Nebraska will generate the revenue needed to finish the Expressway System, build the South Beltway (Lincoln), rebuild bridges and maintain existing roads. These priorities probably will require taking on debt, in much the same way school districts finance new schools.

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