Priority Opportunities

Since senator and committee priority bills have been announced, let’s look at a few of the bills our members have been fighting for that could have positive impacts on low-income and marginalize people this session.

LB173 (Morfeld) – Senator Bolz came through in a big way last week for LGBT advocates, making LB173 her priority bill for the session. This bill makes it unlawful to discriminate against LGBT individuals in employment. Current law prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, marital status or national origin. Twenty other states have protections that cover sexual orientation and gender identify, others only protect sexual orientation and others have bans that protect only public employees. Currently, Nebraska law offers no employment protections for LGBT individuals.

LB447 (Chambers) – This priority bill from Senator Chambers advanced on General File last week with a compromise amendment by Senator Linehan. As amended, the bill eliminates certain mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses. As the Omaha World Herald notes:

“The measure has the potential to reduce the state’s overcrowded prisons and save several million dollars annually on the cost of housing inmates, supporters said. And they argued that nothing in the bill prevents judges from throwing the book at hard-core drug criminals.”

Still, the Governor and Attorney General are actively fighting the bill, and the 25 votes on General File would not be enough to sustain a veto.

LB358 (McCollister) – Senator McCollister named this his priority bill for the session, which would address the cliff effect in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), by allowing working families to accept raises or other small increases to their income without losing the vital support of SNAP. Under this legislation, families would still be eligible for SNAP if they successfully demonstrate that expenses like childcare prevent them from being able to afford food.

LB158 (Pansing Brooks) – This priority bill from Senator Pansing Brooks says when a juvenile is brought to court, counsel shall be appointed for such a juvenile. Voices for Children offers a great explanation on why protecting this constitutional right is important.

LB427 (Vargas) – Senator Vargas prioritized this bill to provide that breastfeeding mothers who are students in schools have the same right to breastfeed as stipulated in current law for employees.

LB75 (Wayne) – Senator Wayne prioritized this bill, which would restore voting rights to ex-felons after their sentence. For more information, read this Lincoln Journal Star article about the advancement of the bill out of Committee.

LB289 (Pansing Brooks) – The Judiciary Committee prioritized this bill, which would increase penalties on human traffickers. Several bills to protect victims of sexual assault and domestic violence were also included in the packaged priority. Those domestic violence bills were introduced by Senators Bolz, Crawford, Morfeld, Pansing Brooks and Howard.

As the legislature moves from hearings to floor debate, read up on the threats for the work of CSN members.