Legislative Update

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapital-128The 2014 Legislative session comes to a close this week when senators adjourn sine die on Thursday.  We’re pleased to let you know several of our big priority bills passed this session!

Let’s take a quick look back at the highlights at the Capitol in 2014.

Immigration reform resolution passes last week

LR 399 (Sen. Wightman) – In the closing hours of the 2014 session, the Legislature voted 20-3 on April 10 to adopt this bipartisan resolution that urges the federal government to pass updated, common-sense immigration laws.

With the vote, the Legislature sent a strong message that Nebraskans want Congress to fix our outdated immigration laws to stop the separation of Nebraska families, strengthen our economy, and create a strong foundation for our communities and future.

Legislature passes laws to help foster youth, stop wage theft, and ‘ban the box’

Several other of Appleseed’s top priorities were passed by the Legislature this session.

On April 2, Governor Heineman signed into law LB 853 (Sen. McGill) – a bill to ensure a smoother implementation of the new Bridge to Independence program for youth who age out of foster care.  Bridge to Independence will be implemented within 60 days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approves Nebraska’s state plan amendment, which is expected to happen soon.

LB 560 (Sen. Mello) – Also on April 2, Gov. Heineman signed into law this bill that strengthens enforcements to prevent wage theft in Nebraska and ensure that a day’s work equals a day’s pay for Nebraska employees.

LB 907 (Sen. Ashford) – This bill that contains several reforms to Nebraska’s prison system was presented to the Governor for signature on April 10 after passing 46-0 on Final Reading.

The bill passed with an amendment to “ban the box,” or prohibit public employers from requesting prior criminal history on the first round of an employment application for certain jobs without first determining if the applicant meets the basic qualifications for the job.  Employers may still ask to view an applicant’s criminal history after an interview.

The goal of “ban the box” is to ensure people have an opportunity to interview for a job and get back to work after serving their sentence.

LR 400 (Sen. Dubas) – This resolution to establish a special investigative committee for the ACCESS Nebraska system was adopted on March 7.  This committee will investigate and identify solutions for the state’s troubled system to administer public benefits.

Efforts to increase health care access, raise minimum wage fall short

The 2014 Legislature unfortunately fell short of passing several bills that would have greatly supported hardworking Nebraskans who earn low incomes.

LB 887 (Sen. Campbell) –  The “Wellness In Nebraska Act” was filibustered and fell six votes short of cloture on March 19.  This marks the second straight year a bill to help 54,000 Nebraskans get access to health insurance was blocked from receiving an up-or-down vote by a minority of senators.

Read Appleseed’s statement on LB 887 vote

LB 943 (Sen. Nordquist) – This bill to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska to $9 per hour failed to pass by a vote of 20-20 on March 31.

While these results were disappointing, Appleseed will continue working with lawmakers and partners to advance policies that remove barriers to stability and increase access to health coverage for our friends and neighbors who earn low wages.

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

Even though the Legislature session is over, you can keep up with all our work year-round by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow breaking news in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed.

Plus, stop by our Appleseed Blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, and news stories, and visit our Vimeo page for videos of what we’re working on throughout 2014.

And, we’ll let you know how you can take action to get involved and make your voice heard on issues you care about throughout the year!

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