Legislative Roundup, Week 16

Budget, Budget, Budget

On Friday, the Appropriations Committee filed an amendment (AM590) to the underlying budget bill, LB327 (Scheer). This amendment provides specific budget details. The budget bill will officially hit the legislative agenda tomorrow afternoon. Debate is expected to carry over into Wednesday and Thursday this week.

One issue of concern to ACLU of Nebraska and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is language to restructure Title X family planning grants to keep funding away from Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. Advocates are concerned that this would hurt preventative services and basic health care for low income and rural women as many patients rely on these health centers as their primary health care provider. Those concerned about these cuts should prepare to contact their senators and send action alerts.

The Open-Sky Policy Institute is having budget briefings today in Omaha and Thursday in Lincoln. Click here for more details and to register.

This Week’s Other Bills

Today: The Nebraska Legislature will have Final Reading (the last of three rounds of debate) on several bills this morning, as part of today’s agenda. Once a bill passes on Final Reading, the Governor has five days, excluding Sundays, to decide whether to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his or her signature. Among the bills up on Final Reading are LB427 (Vargas), which extends breastfeeding protections to a mother attending a public, private, denominational or parochial schools and requires the school to provide a private or appropriate facility of accommodation for milk expression and storage. LB428 (Vargas) was amended onto LB427, which requires each school district to adopt a written policy which provides for standards and guidelines to accommodate pregnant and parenting students. This was a recommendation of the Intergenerational Poverty Task Force, which included many CSN members and was supported by CSN through facilitation assistance.

Also on Final Reading is LB75 (Wayne), which eliminates the two-year waiting period for felons to have their voting rights restored upon completion of sentence. ACLU of Nebraska has fought for LB427 and Nebraskans for Civic Reform has worked for passage of LB75.

Also scheduled today on General File (the first round of floor debate) is LB595 (Groene), which provides for the use of physical force or physical restraint or removal from a class in response to student behavior. Voices for Children is working hard against the legislation as they have serious concerns about the safety of students and their exclusion from the classroom.

Click here for a link to the NET live stream of floor debate.

Last Week’s Actions

With the budget shortfall, the Nebraska Legislature advanced LB409 (Groene) on General File last week, which cuts about $150 million in state aid to schools.

Meanwhile, several other bills went to the place where bills go when they have been debated for three hours but don’t have the required votes to advance (see “La-La Land”). Among these bills were:

  • LB461 (Smith), a package of income and property tax cuts that, as amended, would cost the state $458 million a year when fully implemented. The bill includes elements of LB337 (Smith) and LB338 (Brasch), the Governor’s tax plan proposals, as well as elements of LB452 (Lindstrom). Amended together in LB461, this creates a mega tax cut plan geared primarily toward wealthy Nebraskans. However, Senator Smith is confident that he can still find enough support for the bill and bring it back to the agenda. The Omaha World Herald editorial board is skeptical about the bill. Advocates fighting this tax plan should keep it on their radar as the Governor continues to make his pitch and is likely applying significant pressure to get key senators to support it. It is likely only a few votes short of passing.
  • LB640 (Groene), which takes $224 million out of the Property Tax Credit Fund and sends it as state aid to school districts with the heaviest reliance on property taxes, is probably dead for the year. Stand for Schools was among those organizations fighting against this bill.
  • LB622 (Wishart), which adopts the Medical Cannabis Act. ACLU of Nebraska has been a lead advocate on this bill. The Omaha World Herald has coverage.
  • LB661 (Kuehn), which prevents disclosure of manufacturers or suppliers of lethal injection drugs. The Omaha World Herald has coverage.

Voter Rights

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee has advanced LR1CA (Murante) from Committee, a constitutional amendment to require voter identification. The bill is a Murante priority, meaning it will likely be debated this session.

As the Omaha World Herald says:

“If adopted by the full Legislature, ballot language on the constitutional amendment would appear before voters in November 2018. If voters approve the amendment it will be left to state lawmakers to pass legislation spelling out what constitutes an acceptable ID and whether the state will pay for IDs for those who cannot afford them.”

Nebraskans for Civic Reform is one of many organizations opposed to the bill.

Also making it out of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee is LB25 (Murante), which would make Nebraska winner-take-all in allocation of presidential electoral votes. This bill is not a priority bill, but Senator Murante says he will try to get it attached to another bill this session.

Prison Reform

The problems in our Nebraska prisons received some added attention this week in the Lincoln Journal Star as inmate letters have detailed extreme danger during a fire at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center earlier this month.

While the Department of Corrections is saying “reforms take time”, ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad says a lawsuit over overcrowding is imminent.

“Our next announcement about this case will be when we file suit. In the absence of state leadership our work is more important than ever.”

Whiteclay Liquor Licenses Denied

The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission voted this week to deny liquor licenses to the four stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska. The Lincoln Journal Star answers some questions about “What’s next for Whiteclay.” Check out the “Wounds of Whiteclay” website to learn more about the history of liquor sales in Whiteclay and the effects of these sales on the Pine Ridge Reservation. LB407 (Pansing Brooks) will be up on Final Reading today. This bill establishes the Whiteclay Public Health Emergency Task Force to look at treatment, detox and economic development opportunities to help the people of both Sheridan County and the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Holland Children’s Movement is among the organizations who have supported the establishment of this task force.

 “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

-Jane Goodall

The Capitol Fly on the Wall

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