2019 Legislative Session concludes with small victories for Nebraskans

NE_Appleseed_Icons_StateCapitol-200Last Friday, the 2019 Nebraska Legislature adjourned sine die until January. Small victories for children and families and low-income community members were made during this legislative session. However, there is still more work to be done and Appleseed continues engaging with state policymakers on a variety of issues impacting Nebraskans throughout the interim.

Below are some of the highlights from the Unicameral’s work this year.

 

Important economic justice issues discussed

This session, Appleseed advocated for bills that would give all Nebraskans, including our low-income communities, the economic opportunities they need to thrive.

We’re excited to see LB 433 (Senator Matt Hansen) pass and become law last week. This important bill strengthens a number of tenants rights, including requiring that security deposits be returned to the tenant upon termination of the lease. LB 433 also requires that landlords provide seven days of notice of eviction to a tenant instead of the current law of three days notice. We thank Senator Hansen and his staff for protecting and strengthening tenants rights.

Paid family leave and changes to our SNAP program were also major discussion points on the floor this session. LB 311 (Senator Sue Crawford) proposed to implement a paid family leave policy in Nebraska that would ensure that hardworking Nebraskans can take the time needed to care for a loved one without creating unnecessary economic hardship for themselves and their families.  LB 169 (Senator Megan Hunt) would have ensured access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for individuals working to get back on their feet after serving their sentence for a drug-related offense.

Unfortunately, these bills did not advance this session, but Appleseed looks forward to continuing to advocate for both of these policy changes at the next session.

 

Medicaid expansion oversight approved

Several conversations in the Legislature highlighted Nebraska’s health care system, specifically Medicaid expansion. An amendment by Senator Sue Crawford was added to LB 468 (Senator Lynne Walz), giving additional oversight to the Legislature when the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) wants to pursue an 1115 waiver to make changes to the Medicaid program.

This legislation is especially important this year as DHHS is attempting to use an unnecessary 1115 waiver as a component of the Medicaid expansion implementation. LB 468, with this amendment, was approved and signed into law last week. Moving forward, the Legislature now requires a hearing in front of the Health and Human Services Committee prior to submission of an 1115 waiver.

Medicaid expansion was also included in the package of budget bills advanced by the Legislature and signed into law this session. LB 294, the mainline budget bill, requires DHHS to report monthly to the Appropriations Committee on how they are spending funds implementing Medicaid expansion. This additional oversight allows you, along with the Legislature, to monitor how DHHS is moving forward with the Medicaid expansion implementation process.

 

Child welfare bills signed into law

The Legislature made successful strides this session by creating better access to benefits for young people in foster care and strengthening our child welfare system.

LB 600, introduced by Senator Lynne Walz, was amended to include LB330 (Senator Kate Bolz), reauthorizing the Children’s Commission. The Children’s Commission brings together government, public, and private stakeholders to strengthen the wellbeing of Nebraska’s child welfare system.  

Also included in LB 600 was LB 332, a bill introduced by Senator Kate Bolz, supporting young adults with foster care experience better prepare for adulthood by implementing stakeholder recommendations to strengthen the Bridge to Independence Program (B2I). This program gives youth the tools to continue their education, find a job, or simply learn how to drive – ultimately empowering youth to become independent young adults with a bright future ahead of them.

This important package of child welfare bills was passed and signed into law last week.

 

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. Here are some of the interim studies Appleseed will be following over the coming months:

LR 127 (Sen. Megan Hunt) –  Interim study to ensure youth in the foster care system and juvenile justice system understand their rights, to ensure their rights are being upheld, and to explore the need for additional rights

LR 135 (Sen. Megan Hunt) Interim study to examine issues related to food insecurity in Nebraska communities

LR 170 (Sen. Adam Morfeld) Interim study to examine the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ plan to submit a demonstration project waiver for the medical assistance program under section 1115 of the Social Security Act

LR 179 (Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh) Interim study to examine the fiscal impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child care subsidies

LR 193 (Sen. Kate Bolz) Interim study to assess implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act in Nebraska and identify opportunities for children and families

LR 210 (Sen. John Stinner) Interim study to analyze programs and agencies that are active in addressing workforce and talent shortages, and identify options to assist in filling vacant high-wage, high-demand, and high-skill jobs

 

Stay up to date on Appleseed’s issues

You can keep up with all the happenings at the Legislature by following Appleseed online. Like our Facebook page and follow legislative hearings in real-time on Appleseed’s Twitter feed. Stop by our blog for opinion pieces, informative updates, and news stories.

We’ll let you know how you can take action to get involved and make your voice heard throughout the session!

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