Week 8 of the Nebraska Legislature

Most of the action on the floor last week stemmed from growing tension over the advancement of two highly controversial bills: LB 626, Sen. Albrecht’s “Heartbeat Bill” which would effectively ban most abortions in Nebraska; and LB 574, Sen. Kauth’s “Let Them Grow” Act which would ban gender-affirming care for youth experiencing gender dysphoria. Both bills were initially voted out of committee on a 4-2 vote with Sen. Walz absent. I’m told the committee held the vote open in order to force Walz to make a vote, and she ultimately ended up voting no on both, leaving each bill with final committee votes of 4-3.

If you’re watching these bills you may note a delay in them being reported to General File and in Committee Statements being published online. There’s an interesting reason for this. Opponents of both measures in the Health and Human Services committee, where the bills were heard, have decided to make use of a little-known tactic available to senators called a “Minority Statement”. Normally, every bill that gets reported out of committee onto General File gets a published Committee Statement that contains a summary of the bill and any changes made, how the members voted, and who testified in support or opposition to the measure. This Minority Statement will be new to many legislature watchers as it’s rarely used, and it would be reported in addition to the Committee Statement. As provided in the legislature’s rules, members of committees that disagree with the majority vote for a measure can file their own report describing their dissent. The rules provide that these statements must be reported by the committee within eight calendar days of taking a vote on the bill in question, which took place last Wednesday. So, we should be seeing those by midweek. Note that Kauth prioritized LB 574 and Albrecht prioritized LB 626, so both will likely be debated in the near future once they are reported out.

Opponents of these measures wielded procedural tactics to take floor time and express their opposition to the bills and grievances with this year’s legislative process. Sen. Hunt opened a debate on “Choose Life” license plates when she filed an amendment to strike the license plates from law on a bill of Sen. Brandt’s that dealt with those sections of law, but which was unrelated to the Choose Life plates. Hunt and others said that if the legislature is going to remove womens’ ability to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy, then it is no longer appropriate to have state-sponsored license plates framing the abortion issue as a choice in our state.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh took control of the floor for the latter part of the week in response to the advancement and prioritization of the two bills discussed above. Using procedural motions to get herself more speaking time and run up the clock, she vowed to continue grinding the session to a halt if the body is going to continue pushing for measures that she said will harm children. It is unclear how long Cavanaugh might continue with this effort, which has since gained national attention.

Notable Hearings this Week

  • LB 811 (Murman): The student restraint and discipline proposal formerly carried by Mike Groene that could harm students of color and students with disabilities most
  • LB 675 (Day): Less restrictive Voter ID implementation plan backed by voting rights organizations
  • LB 228 & 230 (Erdman): Restrict voting by mail & create more strict voter ID requirements
  • LB 316 (Fredrickson) & LR 26CA (Day): Eliminate outdated gendered language in marriage statutes
  • LB 488 (Hunt): Requires hospital emergency rooms to inform sexual assault survivors about emergency contraception, and dispense it if the patient wants it
  • LB 62 (M. Cavanaugh): Provides for Medicaid coverage of translation and interpretation services for non-native English speakers navigating the system
  • LB 179 (Fredrickson): Prohibits conversion therapy, the harmful and often abusive practice of attempting to change someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation
  • LB 169 (Hunt): Prohibits employment discrimination against LGBTQ people
  • LB 776 (Bostar): Provides for all state elections to be on a nonpartisan ballot
  • LB 366 (Conrad): Would make police body camera footage public record
  • LB 35 (DeBoer): Extends the deadline on the currently increased childcare subsidy eligibility levels -LB 84 (Day): Eliminates the SNAP cliff effect
  • LB 357 (Walz): Increases aid amount available to families under the disability waiver
  • LR 22CA (Dover): Extends legislative term limits from two to three consecutive terms
  • LB 676 (Day): Creates a Diaper Distribution grant program
  • LB 79 & LR 6, 7 CA (Erdman): Replaces Nebraska’s three legged tax system with one Consumption Tax that would disproportionately burden the poor
  • LB 233 (J. Cavanaugh): Disregards child support income for purposes of Aid to Dependent Children eligibility

What’s Next

After a recess day Monday, senators will start the week with debate on motions from Sen. Hunt to re-refer two Constitutional Amendments she introduced- which would give voters an opportunity to decide whether to enshrine reproductive freedom in the state constitution- from the Health and Human Services committee to the Judiciary committee. Hunt has said historical precedent and referencing guidelines indicate that these two measures belong in Judiciary, but that they were inappropriately sent to HHS in order to kill them.

Priority designations continue to roll in. Senators have until March 14 to select their priority bills. Other than the two discussed above, here’s a few new priorities that are likely to draw some attention:

  • LB 294 (Conrad): Creates a state child tax credit
  • LB 195 (Halloran): Establishes guidelines for Nebraska’s participation in a controversial Convention of States, at which delegates would propose amendments to the United States Constitution
  • LB 343 (Slama): Bars the state from contracting with companies that boycott Israel

Until Next Week,
Your Capitol Fly on the Wall