In the 2018 Nebraska Legislative session, State Senators passed important bills, which we were proud to support, that increase safety and accountability in the child welfare system and take a small step forward on protecting Nebraska borrowers from predatory lending.
Just as important, you helped us defeat an irresponsible tax plan that would have made our budget shortfall worse, and reject voter suppression bills that would have threatened the ability to cast a ballot for many eligible Nebraska voters.
Here’s our recap of the 2018 session.
Child welfare reform bill signed into law
Last fall, two troubling reports were released by the Office of Inspector General of Child Welfare and the Foster Care Review Board showing the safety of children in Nebraska’s foster care system was not being provided for all children. This session, State Senators introduced a package of bills to increase safety for families and bring needed accountability to those charged with protecting our youth.
Several of these bills became pieces of Sen. Sue Crawford’s LB 1078, which we were proud to see pass unanimously in the Legislature and get signed into law by the Governor.
A small step forward to stop predatory lending
For several years, we have worked with several Nebraska organizations to put a stop to abusive predatory lending that hurt many hard-working Nebraskans who seek loans from a payday lender.
On April 18, the Legislature gave unanimous Final Reading approval to LB 194 introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas, a good first step in addressing some of the payday lending practices that can trap people in a cycle of debt.
However, LB 194 does not address some of the biggest faults that make payday loans harmful to borrowers, namely the high cost and short repayment period of current loans. Nebraska allows payday lenders to charge borrowers one of the nation’s highest interest rates – an effective APR of over 460 percent.
We will join other Nebraska advocates to continue to fight for more reforms in the future that will prevent payday lenders from charging exorbitant fees and unreasonable costs to borrowers who cannot afford them.
Senators defeat reckless tax plan
Thanks in part to your calls and emails, enough State Senators rejected reckless tax bill LB 947 that the bill did not have enough votes to advance past first-round debate on April 3.
This irresponsible bill would have endangered Nebraska’s ability to strengthen our child welfare system and improve our community health while maintaining great schools, quality roads, and public safety. The bill would have cost nearly $650 million when fully implemented, making our budget shortfall even worse.
After passing similar tax plans, neighboring states like Kansas and Oklahoma have had to close their schools early, put off fixing roads, and slashed other important investments to the bone.
Nebraska must maintain a responsible budget that allows us to invest in the important things that stitch a community together like affordable health care, outstanding public schools, well-maintained roads, and programs that makes sure hard-working families can meet their basic needs and get ahead.
We will continue to fight for these policies in state and federal budgets.
Voter suppression measures rejected
State Senators also voted down a number of measures which would have risked the fundamental right to vote for many eligible Nebraska voters.
LR1CA – A proposed State Constitutional amendment to restrict Nebraskans’ right to vote by mandating you need to have a current photo ID in order to cast your ballot. Bills like these have been proven in other states to prevent older adults, people with low incomes, people of color, and highly mobile populations from exercising their right to vote.
LB 1115 – Would have excluded counting many hard-working, tax-paying Nebraskans when determining boundaries for several kinds of political sub-divisions. This would result in districts that don’t reflect the full representation of residents.
Neither of these bills got enough votes to advance on General File.
Fighting to improve food security for working families
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called “food stamps”) helps 1 in 11 Nebraskans afford basic meals. We continue to work with lawmakers in the State Capitol and in Congress to strengthen SNAP and ensure the program works the way it should to make sure every Nebraskan has food on the table.
LB 770 would have allowed Nebraskans to receive gradually smaller amounts from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as their wages increase, thereby rewarding work and helping people move ahead while ensuring their families can still get the meals they need.
Unfortunately, LB 770 did not advance from the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. We will continue fighting to improve SNAP in Congress this year and at the State Capitol next session.
Upcoming interim studies
An interim study can be an important way to highlight ongoing issues or new needs the Legislature should address in the next session.
We were pleased a number of State Senators introduced interim studies to examine some of the biggest systemic causes of poverty and injustice.
LR 394 (Sen. Dan Quick) – Examines statewide policies allowing utilities to be shut off, which impacts low-income Nebraskans who face losing heat or electricity in the winter.
LR 418 (Sen. Sara Howard) – Will look at the racial and ethnic disproportionality within Nebraska’s foster care and juvenile justice systems.
LR 430 (Sen. Kate Bolz) – Focuses on state implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2017, a landmark federal child welfare bill that gives Nebraska a great opportunity to improve safety of children and families.
LR 413 (Sen. Brett Lindstrom) – Focuses on the cliff effect that exists in Nebraska’s child care subsidy programs and assesses needs for working parents in our communities who struggle to make ends meet.