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Columnists
How to troubleshoot electrical outlet issues
 
 09.13.17

One of life’s little annoyances is when you find an electrical outlet that is not working. But, annoying as it may be, a non-functioning electrical outlet is actually fairly simple to deal with. Troubleshoot your electrical receptacle with the help of the following suggestions.

For your safety: do-it-yourself electrical repair is extremely hazardous. If you are not 100 percent sure of what you’re doing, call a licensed electrician. If you do attempt to do the electrical work, first turn off the main power and use an accurate non-contact voltage tester to double-check that your electrical wiring is not “hot.”

1. Test the appliance.

Although your problem may initially seem to be the electrical outlet not working, the appliance (or lamp, tool, electronic device, etc.) you’re trying to use could actually be the source of the problem. Inspect the appliance’s plug and cord to verify that they are in good shape, and make sure the plug is firmly inserted in the socket. Next, try connecting to another outlet in a different room if possible. If your device switches on successfully, you’ve confirmed that the first electrical outlet is not working.

2. Check the breaker.

Go to your electrical service panel, which may be located in your basement, garage or hallway. If a breaker has tripped or a fuse has blown, reset the breaker by flipping it completely to the "off" position and then back to the "on" position or replace the fuse. If it looks like nothing is wrong, or one or more breakers is only partially-tripped, try flipping each questionable breaker off and then on again, to make sure they all snap properly back into place.

3. Checking a GFCI outlet.

Building code requires installation of a GFCI outlet (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) in any area of your home where there is a faucet or other water source, in a garage or outdoors. These outlets are designed to protect users against potentially fatal electrical shock. This type of outlet is super sensitive and will trip in response to a power surge or even excessive humidity. It may then also affect other outlets that are on the same circuit. These outlets have a reset button on them. Make sure that there is no water in contact with the GFCI outlet and try pressing the reset button. Occasionally, a GFCI outlet will not reset. This is a serious problem that needs the attention of a licensed electrician, as there could be other problems as well as a bad outlet.

4. Inspect the electrical outlet.

Any electrical outlet that is suspected of not working should be inspected for scorch marks, excessive heat or buzzing and sizzling sounds. If any of these are present they could indicate a loose wire connection or a loose socket. With any of these indications, the outlet should be replaced. Again, if you are not 100 percent sure of what you are doing, or  if you are not comfortable working with electrical equipment, you should call a licensed electrician.


Columnists
Honoring those in the armed forces
 
 09.13.17

We must uphold our commitment to the men and women who serve in our armed forces. Since the start of this Congress, the House has passed two dozen bills to better serve our veterans.

Four of these bills have already been signed into law by President Trump, including the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This legislation provides the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove VA employees for poor performance or misconduct, while also strengthening whistleblower protections. The HIRE Vets Act is now law as well, and creates incentives for companies to hire veterans.

The House and Senate unanimously passed a bill at the end of July, which was signed into law in mid-August, to eliminate the current 15-year time limit for veterans to use their GI bill benefits and cut down on red tape. With the ability to attend college at any time in their lives, veterans will have greater opportunities for professional and workforce development and the flexibility to make the best education choices for themselves and their families.

Other bills passed by the House this year would reform the VA appeals process, enforce more accountability measures on VA scheduling and improve access to the Adult Day Health Care program for severely disabled veterans. Additionally, we passed legislation to expand the study of innovative therapies for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Each of these bills is designed to ensure veterans have access to the best possible care and resources. As co-chairman of the Rural Veterans Caucus, I continue to advocate for our heroes in rural America.

In addition to pursuing sensible policies, another important way for us to serve our veterans is to preserve their stories.

The Library of Congress manages the Veterans History Project (VHP), which has compiled more than 100,000 firsthand accounts from America’s veterans. On Wednesday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. CDT, my office will host an interactive training workshop with the Library of Congress on how to conduct interviews with local veterans and submit them to the VHP. The training will be streamed live at sites throughout the 3rd District.

Anyone interested in learning more about the VHP is encouraged to attend this workshop. More information on locations will be provided in the coming weeks and you can also call my Grand Island office at 308-384-3900 with questions.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, only 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive today, with more than 3,800 of these veterans living in Nebraska. Sadly, we lose an average of 362 of these brave Americans each day, along with a growing number of veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars.

By preserving veterans’ personal narratives, we can ensure these valuable accounts of our nation’s history are not lost to the passage of time. Visiting with veterans and learning more about their experiences is also a meaningful way to show our gratitude to these heroes and remind them of the lasting impacts of their service.

My grandfather served in World War II, and I know what a meaningful impact his story had on my life and my decision to pursue a career in public service. I urge all Nebraska veterans to share their stories as we keep working to ensure they receive the care and services they deserve.


Columnists
Time marches on in the capital city
 
 09.13.17

They’re playing football at Memorial Stadium, there are 116 new laws on the books and the schedule of interim studies in the Legislature is bustling.

First, let’s get the football out of the way: new quarterback who either throws too much or not enough; new defensive scheme and a new defensive coach – you have the right to remain silent; same old Cornhuskers taking every game – no matter the quality of the opponent – to the last few seconds. Unpredictable.

The enactment of new laws marks the end of the 90-day period following adjournment of the Legislature. These are the measures passed without the emergency clause or a specific enacting date. They include a mixed bag of topics: from requiring schools to provide space for students who are nursing mothers to allowing the creation of two new license plates. More on that later.

It has long been thought that legislative interim hearings are scheduled to coincide with football games on the following day as a good excuse to get senators to Lincoln. The Judiciary Committee has a blockbuster lineup of resolutions to be discussed on Sept. 15, an agenda that could be far more exciting than the next day’s football game with Northern Illinois in Lincoln.

Topics include: possible reforms to sentencing laws to accommodate an option of deferred judgment probation; the impact of incarceration on children; possible legislative reforms to mandatory minimum sentencing laws; and examination of statutes relating to geriatric or compassionate release laws for elderly inmates.

The interim studies take on a new seriousness this year in the wake of the state’s ongoing fiscal problems. On Sept. 22, the Appropriations Committee will meet to discuss LR209 to examine the volatility of Nebraska’s revenue portfolio to determine the level of the constitutionally mandated Reserve Fund.

The committee is also set to discuss LR210 to examine fiscal distress among local political subdivisions in Nebraska and how the Legislature could establish a warning system to identify and respond to such fiscal distress. Read that: no more unfunded mandates.

That same day, the Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on LR125, a study to examine public power in Nebraska. Any of these hearings will likely be more exciting than the next day’s football game between the Huskers and Rutgers at Memorial Stadium. For sure, the outcomes will have a longer lasting impact on all Nebraskans.

As for the new laws, which actually went on the books Aug. 24, some reflect the changing times of society. Nebraska schools will have to give students a place to express and store breast milk and adopt written policies for how to handle absences and class work for pregnant students. Supporters of the measure argued last session that it’s necessary to ensure teen parents have the flexibility they need to raise children and finish high school. The state Department of Education is working on a model policy for pregnant and breastfeeding students that school districts can use at their discretion. The department says that many districts already have such policies in place.

In another school-related measure, public school teachers in Nebraska can now wear habits, hijabs and other religious clothing in their classrooms. The new law ends a 98-year-old ban on religious garb, which was apparently enacted during a time of anti-Catholic sentiment. The ban came to lawmakers' attention after a sister in Norfolk was rejected for a substitute-teaching job because her faith calls on her to wear a habit.

Nebraska comes one step closer to creating two new license plates: a "Choose Life" plate, endorsed by groups that oppose abortion, and a "Native American Cultural Awareness and History" plate.

The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles still needs to design the plates and is expected to start offering them in mid-December. That will be just in time for Nebraskans to celebrate the Cornhuskers' appearance in a lesser bowl game and get ready for the 2018 session of the Legislature.