Recap of 2016 Nebraska Legislative Session

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapitol-200The 2016 Nebraska Legislative session ended with a flourish last week with two of Appleseed’s priority bills passing into law!

It was a great end to the session. However, while there were some important policies advanced at the State Capitol, this session largely will be remembered as a session of missed opportunities to remove barriers for hard-working Nebraska families.

Let’s start with the good news! The Legislature did pass several bills this session that improve opportunities for working adults to continue their education, allow young immigrants to pursue their career dreams, clear the way for more schools to help feed students in need, and improve the lives of young people in foster care.

LB 947 (Sen. Heath Mello) – On April 20, the final day of the 2016 session, Senators voted 31-13 to pass this bill and override a veto from Governor Pete Ricketts. This bill allows young immigrant Nebraskans who are authorized to work in the U.S. to obtain their professional licenses and fully contribute their skills to their home state.

It was a moving scene at the Capitol as hundreds of supporters of LB 947 watching debate from the gallery, including many young DREAMers affected by the bill, broke into applause after the vote. As supporters stood, their applause was returned from the floor by many senators who voted “Yes” on the override.

We thank all of the senators who voted “Yes” on LB 947, and we can’t say enough about the hard work and courage of all of the young people who contacted their senators, told their stories, and fought for this bill.

 

More Good News

LB 746 (Sen. Kathy Campbell) – The Nebraska Strengthening Families Act will clear barriers for children and youth in foster care to have important developmental experiences and allow foster parents the ability to make more day-to-day decisions for the youth in their care. Our Child Welfare program’s top priority, the bill was passed 48-0 on April 12 and signed by the Governor.

LB 1081  (Sen. Kathy Campbell) – Reauthorizes education as an option to fulfill the work requirements to participate in the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) cash assistance program. This provision, originally introduced by Sen. Mello as LB 701, would allow Nebraskans to continue meeting their basic needs while learning new skills to get better jobs. Gov. Ricketts signed this bill into law on March 30.

LB 1066 – This comprehensive education bill introduced by Sen. Kate Sullivan included language from Sen. Tanya Cook’s LB 1004, which clarifies that eligible schools will not lose state funding if they choose to take up the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP is an important tool to allow schools to let all students get the healthy meals they need while reducing administrative time and cost. This bill passed Final Reading 44-0 on April 7 and was signed into law by the Governor.

But despite those successes, the senators failed to pass several more bills that would have helped thousands of working Nebraskans get ahead and reach their full potential.

 

Missed Opportunities

LB 1032 – (Sen. John McCollister) – The Transitional Health Insurance Program Act would have created a path to affordable health coverage for nearly 97,000 Nebraskans who currently can’t afford insurance.

The bill would have allowed Nebraska to bring nearly $2 billion in federal tax dollars into the economy to purchase mostly private coverage for working people with low incomes, boost our state’s economy, and support jobs. Despite these important and common-sense benefits, senators voted 25-14 not to advance the bill on March 29.

LB 910 (Sen. Kate Bolz) – This bill contained an amendment that was originally LB 690, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld, that would have ended Nebraska’s unnecessary and harmful ban on food assistance for people who have finished their sentences for drug crimes. Being able to get essential food helps people rebuild their lives after getting out of prison and greatly reduces their chances of re-entry. After passing on General File, the bill received only 28 votes out of the 33 needed to overcome a filibuster on Select File.

Additionally, the Legislature created a risky tax environment that could endanger the ability to fund important areas of the budget such as schools, public safety, local governments, and other important investments that affect all Nebraskans.

Senators passed LB 958, which reduces property taxes mostly for Nebraska’s largest agriculture land owners as part of a concerning package of tax bills that created a $230 million budget deficit according to OpenSky Policy Institute.

This could mean drastic cuts to important areas of the budget, or may force the Legislature to drain the important “rainy day” cash reserve fund, which already is below recommended levels.

 

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

Despite these missed opportunities, we will continue to fight for policies at both the state and federal level that increase opportunity for hard-working Nebraska families. And we want you to get involved!

Keep up with ongoing opportunities to make your voice heard by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow issues and action opportunities in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed.

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 the year.

And, check out our Take Action Page to get involved and make your voice heard in 2016!

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