Press, Revenue, Medicaid

Press Round Up

ICYMI: Last week, there was an incident causing the Speaker of the Legislature to stand up “on the floor” and defend the Unicameral, its members, and its traditions in light of some comments made by another Senator. Both the OWH and the LJS covered the unusual event. You won’t find a link to the originally “authored” op-ed in this blog, but it is available online.

Revenue Defense

During the LB 959 hearing in the Education Committee, Governor Ricketts touted the bill as “cattle farmer common sense” while school officials and teachers lined up against the property tax plan. LB 959 was introduced by Senator Sullivan on behalf of the Governor. It is the sister bill to Senator Gloor’s LB 958 in the Revenue Committee, also introduced on the Governor’s behalf.

Medicaid Expansion

Nearly 40 testifiers went to the LB 1032 hearing to make the case for Medicaid expansion in front of the Health and Human Services Committee on February 10th. LB 1032 was introduced by Senator McCollister and is the latest attempt at passing a form of Medicaid Expansion. The hearing kicked-off in an unusual way with the Chair of the Committee reading a paragraph from the bill’s fiscal note into the microphone.

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Social Media: #NELeg and the Digital Conversation

If you haven’t embraced it already, now is the time to follow #NELeg.

As with all other forms of news, social media is sometimes the fastest way to get legislative information. Likewise, as with all regular forms of social media browsing, there is the oversharing, the selfies, and the irrelevant. But occasionally, social media conversations can shape a debate.

Communication around the Capitol has been a slow transformation from exclusively discrete conversations in the rotunda to what we now see in the occasional twitter war. Last session, a Wallaby from the Lincoln Zoo made a visit and twitter and Facebook exploded as if there was a big foot sighting. In all seriousness, sometimes social media updates are critical for those in the building. Just this last month, when there was a shooting involving police on a street adjacent to the Capitol, updates were happening live on twitter faster than Capitol Security was able to send an official email to employees.

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How to Get Your Voice Heard

The Real Deal

Without the real deal, the policy making process can miss the mark.

Every bill in the Nebraska Unicameral has a public hearing. This tradition is baked into the process and (most) Senators attend all hearings, listen to hours of testimony, and ask thoughtful questions.

You will almost always hear a thank you to the mother who shared her story through tears in the Health and Human Services Hearing, an acknowledgement to the correctional officer who came before Judiciary to tell his story from the day-to-day grind, and a thoughtful question or two proposed to the well prepped high school student who went before the Education Committee. These are small, but not trivial things. They are part of what makes the Unicameral tick.

Every. Person. Has. A. Chance. To. Be. Heard.

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Controlled Chaos and Medicaid Expansion

Controlled Chaos

Session is in full swing. While the consistency of the public hearing schedule and the daily agenda is ever-present, variety is in store as the Capitol is a buzz every day with different interests, press conferences, and lunch and learns.

Press Round Up

Don Walton’s write up offers a quick synopsis of an array of political topics including filibusters, Ben Sasse’s Twitter account, and the latest in the “Governor greeting the President” controversy.

On the topic of filibusters – here are a two articles for you to catch up on the gun debate set to resume Monday January 25th: Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World Herald.

Learn more about Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services testifying against a coalition member priority LB 690, the bill that would remove the barrier for individuals with drug felonies to access SNAP benefits.

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Calendar, Agenda, and Voting

Full Steam Ahead

Let’s talk about the ever changing, highly anticipated, strategically ordered, and occasionally loathed daily “agenda”. It can be found a few different ways on the legislature’s website. Your best bet is probably visiting the calendar page.

The Speaker sets the agenda and the agenda in turn sets the pace for the day/week. Staffers and seasoned advocates can look at the order of bills and gauge the flow of the day. Nebraskans make the decision whether to drive to Lincoln from Omaha, Grand Island and beyond based on the agenda. It’s a big deal.

The next day’s agenda is not only a hot topic, but there is a whole current of whispers throughout the Capitol building about when certain controversial bills may be scheduled on a future agenda. You might be thinking, that is a lot of attention for what amounts to a simple schedule, but entire legislative packages have lived or died based on their placement on the fluid document. Watch for much discussion later about when T-HIP (Medicaid Expansion) and other Coalition member priorities are scheduled.

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Possible Focus Areas

Big Picture

At our core, when we each envision poverty, we are grounded in our own perception of what it can look like in everyday life. When you work on policy change – we do not lose the image of an individual person or child – rather we look at the system and ask ourselves what can be done to change the picture.

The volunteer at the food bank, the philanthropist, the policy advocate, and the family struggling to put food on the table are all change agents. Your work is ongoing and this, my friends, is only the beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session.

Let’s see what you can do…

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Understanding the Legislature

The 104th Legislature, 2nd Session begins this week!

There are some certainties that Coalition for a Strong Nebraska members can count on during these first 10 days of bill introduction. The Unicameral will see legislation introduced that would fight poverty, legislation introduced that would foster the growth of poverty, and legislation introduced that simply forgets poverty exists in Nebraska. Look here for updates in all three categories (as prioritized by the Coalition) in the months ahead.

While tax policy, medicaid, education, and prison reform have been widely cited as key issues this session, addressing the $132 million dollar projected budget shortfall will be a priority looming over these and all policy discussions.

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Putting Paid Family Leave for Nebraskans in the Spotlight

From the Omaha World-Herald:

Backers put paid family leave for Nebraskans in the spotlight

By Barbara Soderlin World-Herald staff writer | Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1:00 am

Her daughter’s bout with meningitis was a health emergency that quickly became a financial emergency for Angie Gross of Omaha and her family.

Gross told an audience Tuesday that paid family leave time would have meant less stress and fewer difficult budget choices when she lost her job in 2012, just as her health care, travel and household expenses were rising because of her 6-year-old’s care and rehabilitation needs.

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Living Paycheck to Paycheck in Nebraska

The Coalition for a Strong Nebraska is collaborating with the Women’s Fund of Omaha and Film Streams to host a screening of the film PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF KATRINA GILBERT on Tuesday, October 28th at 7pm. Tickets to this event are FREE and can be reserved in advance by contacting A limited number of seats are available, so making reservations in advance is highly recommended. Limit of 2 tickets per person.

Filmed over the course of one year in Chattanooga, Tenn., PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK follows Katrina Gilbert, a 30-year-old single mother of three working as a certified nursing assistant in an extended-care facility, while striving to address her own health-care issues. Overworked, underpaid, uninsured and lacking support, she chooses daily between purchasing her own medication and paying for the needs of her children, which often leaves her struggling to make ends meet.Following the film, a panel moderated by Tiffany Seibert Joekel, Director of the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska, will provide insights into struggles faced by families surviving paycheck to paycheck and what we can do to better support working families in our state. Panelists will include Nebraska State Senator Tanya Cook, Heart Ministry Center Self-Sufficiency Programs Facilitator Ericka Guinan, and Heart Ministry Center SNAP Outreach Specialist Aja Alfaro.

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Community Eligibility – A New Opportunity to Help Kids Learn

We want to do everything we can to help kids learn. Too often, kids come to school hungry, leaving them unable to focus on their #1 job: learning. There is a new option – called “Community Eligibility” – available to high-poverty schools to ensure that hunger does not act as a barrier to learning during the school day.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), part of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, allows high-poverty schools to provide breakfasts and lunches at no charge to every student. To be eligible for CEP, school buildings must have a very high number of children who have already been identified as low-income or vulnerable (for example, they are eligible for other public assistance programs or Head Start, in foster care, migrant, homeless, or runaway).

CEP was phased in over time across the country and will now be available to Nebraska schools in the 2014-2015 school year. CEP has been incredibly successful for the early adopting states – increasing participation by children in school meal programs, reducing the administrative burden for schools, and increasing federal revenues into school districts. In short, it allows for a healthier student body and a healthier school meal budget.

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