2019 legislative update: Bills to watch this session

We are nearly one-third of the way into the 2019 Nebraska Legislative Session. With bill hearings well under way, Appleseed staff, partners, and friends are maintaining a strong presence at the Capitol to advocate for a number of measures that would open doors to greater opportunity for Nebraskans. We’ll also be voicing our opposition to a few proposals that create unnecessary barriers for hardworking families.

Following is a snapshot of some of the key measures we’re working on this session.

Making quality health care affordable for everyone

Nebraska voters approved Initiative 427 on election day to expand Medicaid to 90,000 of our hardworking, uninsured friends and neighbors. We’ll be closely monitoring the Appropriations Committee’s budget plan to ensure it includes full funding for Medicaid expansion that doesn’t come at the expense of other essential services families depend on to meet their basic needs. We also support Sen. Adam Morfeld’s LB 631 that would create a task force to oversee the effective implementation of Medicaid expansion. Read more about what’s next for Medicaid expansion.

Sen. Sue Crawford’s LB 566 would require the Department of Insurance to obtain authorization from the Legislature before seeking to change key elements of the Affordable Care Act law. This proposal would help ensure proposed changes to the state’s health insurance marketplace don’t compromise Nebraskans ability to get the coverage they need.

LB 569, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld, would address the issue of “surprise billing,” providing clarity for patients about their rights and responsibilities in regards to out-of-network health care costs.

Supporting a healthier future for Nebraska children

Sen. Kate Bolz introduced LB 328 to adopt the Nebraska Family First Act and successfully implement the landmark federal Families First Prevention Services Act. Passing LB 328 would seize a tremendous opportunity to make sure Nebraska families can access the resources they need to stay together, overcome challenges, and keep children out of foster care.

Sen. Anna Wishart’s LB 219 would clear a path for teens in foster care to engage in activities that support their growth, including learning how to drive. Sen. Kate Bolz’s LB 332 would also help older youth with foster care experience better prepare for adulthood by implementing stakeholder recommendations to improve the Bridge to Independence Program, which provides young adults who age out of foster care with extended services and support to age 21.

Racial bias and discrimination are interwoven into our child welfare system, leading to worse outcomes and a lack of equal opportunity for Nebraska families and children of color. LB 326, introduced by Sen. Dan Quick, would support Children and Families Services’ staff with cultural competency and race equity training, giving them with tools to strengthen the child welfare system for the diverse communities its serves.

Making sure every Nebraskan has food on the table

LB 251 and LB 728 would both strengthen the administration of school meals to make sure students from low-income families don’t fall behind in the classroom because of hunger. These proposals introduced by Sen. Lynne Walz would go a long way toward making sure Nebraska’s children are getting meals they need to learn, grow, and be healthy.

LB 255, introduced by Sen. John McCollister, and LB 402, introduced by Sen. Robert Hilkemann, would both strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, improving food security for working families and for individuals working to get back on their feet after serving their sentence for a drug-related offense, respectively. Hunger should not stop Nebraska families from getting ahead. Please contact the Health and Human Services Committee chair and other members today to voice your support for these proposals.

We will testify in opposition to Sen. Curt Friesen’s LB 497 that would create a tax on groceries. Low-income families are especially impacted by grocery taxes that increase their expenses for basic necessities and make it more challenging to provide adequate, nutritious meals their families need.

Supporting working families

We joined supporters to advocate for paid family and medical leave bills, LB 311 and LB 305. It’s a reality of life that nearly everyone at some point will need to take time away from work to recover from illness or care for a family member. These proposals introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford would help make sure Nebraskans don’t have to choose between keeping their job and caring for themselves or their family during these critical moments.

Sen. Kate Bolz’s LB 329 would expand eligibility for the child care subsidy program to help more parents access high-quality child care that’s vital for their ability to work or pursue education, support their families, and build economic stability.

Our state’s minimum wage and tipped minimum wage are falling short of what hardworking Nebraskans need to support themselves and their families. LB 383, introduced by Sen. Dan Quick, and LB 400, introduced by Sen. Megan Hunt, would raise the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, respectively, better aligning them with today’s cost of living. Read more about how these proposals would help Nebraskans in minimum-wage jobs make a reasonable wage and support their families. We also support LB 361 and LB 362 from Sen. Matt Hansen that address wage theft to ensure Nebraskans are properly paid for the work they do.

LB 361 and LB 362, introduced by Sen. Matt Hansen, would address wage theft to help ensure Nebraskans receive proper full payment for the work they do.

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks’ LB 628 would increase the earned income tax credit to help hardworking Nebraskans in low-wage jobs move or stay out of poverty and have the financial security they need to get ahead.

We will testify in opposition to Sen. Andrew La Grone’s LB 265 that would allow for a new predatory short-term loan product in Nebraska. These loans, which could be up to $1,000 in principal, would include a high upfront fee and aggressive monthly maintenance fees, creating another harmful payday loan product that would trap low-income borrowers in a cycle of debt.

Strengthening our communities

LB 369, introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas, would require local law enforcement to provide notice to the public before entering into an agreement to take on the additional burden of serving as federal immigration agents, an arrangement that undermines community policing and public safety by making community members afraid to interact with police.

Strengthening democracy

Sen. Justin Wayne’s LB 83 would eliminate an arbitrary two-year waiting period to restore voting rights to returning citizens upon completion of a felony sentence or probation. Our democracy is stronger when it reflects the community it serves and everyone’s voice counts. The waiting period disproportionately harms people with low incomes and people of color, essentially silencing their voices during those two years.

Your advocacy this session will be critical to advancing many of these important measures and speaking out for bills that . If you don’t already receive it, I invite you to get our weekly Legislative Update email for the most current news from the Unicameral, including hearings and debates to watch, Appleseed testimony, opportunities to take action, and more.

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