2021 Legislative Session Wrap-up

2021 Legislative outcomes for Nebraska families, communities, and racial justices

The Legislature wrapped up this year’s discussion and decisions on proposed bills in late May. Despite the obstacles brought by the pandemic, community members like you worked hard to make your voice heard to ensure we are building a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive Nebraska. Read below to find out what happened to some of the 2021 priority bills for Nebraska families, communities, and racial justice.

Your voice is important. Please call or email your senator to thank them for their vote or express disappointment on the position they took on the issue you care about. You can find your senator here.

Wrapping up 2021 legislative priorities 

Floor debate was limited to senator, committee, and speaker priorities, so a few bills that would have normally seen debate and votes did not this year. There are a few ways senators can vote on bills: 

  • Yes
  • No
  • Present, not voting, which means the senator was in the chamber during a vote, but decided not to vote “yes” or “no” on the bill
  • Excused not voting, which means the senator was not in the chamber when the vote was taking place and was excused from legislative activity at that point in the day

Read more on the lawmaking process generally here

We’ll keep you updated if any of the bills that did not advance are brought back in the 2022 session. 

Worker health, safety, and supports:

  • Worker SafetyLB241the Meatpacking Employees COVID-19 Protection Act, introduced and prioritized by Senator Tony Vargas, protects Nebraska’s meatpacking workers with common sense and critical COVID-19 protections: 6-foot distancing, sufficient masks, effective screening and quarantine practices, and enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. The Legislature voted to “bracket” this bill, which stopped it from moving forward this year. Find how your senator voted here.
  • LB258, introduced by Senator Tony Vargas and prioritized by Senator Matt Hansen, did not advance past ‘general file,’ which unfortunately means it failed and will not be coming back next year. This legislation would have ensured that Nebraskans have access to basic, earned paid sick leave – promoting healthier and stronger families, especially working parents with young children. Find how your senator voted here.
  • LB298Senator Mike McDonnell’s priority bill, would update state law to create parity in the system and allow DACA and TPS holders to access unemployment benefits when needed. This bill advanced to ‘select file’ and will return for further debate during the 2022 session. See how your senator voted on general file here.

Food access, childcare, and housing supports:

  • Public AssistanceLB108, a bill introduced and prioritized by Senator John McCollister, expands access to our SNAP program. The “cliff effect” occurs when families on SNAP are put in the tough position of passing up raises or better jobs because they would lose more in food benefits than they would gain in pay. Thanks to your support, the Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of this bill to become law! See how your senator voted on the override here.

 

Call the Food Bank of Lincoln’s SNAP Hotline at 855-444-5556 to apply!

Call the Hotline

For additional questions on food assistance programs like SNAP, please contact our Economic Justice community organizer, Megan Hamann at mhamann@neappleseed.org.

  • LB306Senator Tom Brandt’s priority bill, would expand eligibility for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a critical tool to help with the heating, cooling, and energy needs of vulnerable households across the state. The Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of this bill to become law. Find out how your senator voted on the override here.
  • LB485, introduced by Senator Wendy DeBoer, makes long-needed improvements to expand initial eligibility for the child care subsidy program to Nebraska families whose income is at or under 185% of the federal poverty level, and allow families to continue to receive the subsidy if their income stays below 200% of the federal poverty level. This bill was signed into law by the Governor. You can see how your senator voted on final reading here.
  • LB320, prioritized by Senator John Cavanaugh, contains a number of important updates to Nebraska’s Landlord-Tenant Act that will help address Nebraska’s housing needs and provide tenants better access to justice. These changes are crucial to ensuring housing justice is afforded to tenants in Nebraska. The Governor signed this legislation into law. Find how your senator voted here.

Voting rights and redistricting:

  • LR10CA, introduced by Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, is a constitutional amendment to remove felony convictions other than treason from being a disqualification for voting. 
  • LB107, introduced by Senator John McCollister, creates a process for redistricting to draw Nebraska’s legislative and other districts for the next decade without regard to political affiliation or race.
  • LB158 restores voting rights upon completion of a felony sentence or probation for a felony (introduced by Sen. Wayne).
  • LB577 establishes Election Day as a holiday, as well as early voting and automatic voter registration provisions. (introduced by Sen. Bostar).
  • Read Civic Nebraska’s Voting Rights Legislation summary.

Racial justice

  • LB138 requires law enforcement agencies to give public notice before taking on additional duties as federal immigration agents, such as 287g agreements, which harm community policing and public safety (introduced by Sen. Vargas).
  • LB657 requires the Legislature to prepare racial impact statements for all legislative bills (just like fiscal impact statements) (introduced by Sen. Vargas).
  • LB515, the Municipal Police Oversight Act creates community oversight committees for law enforcement (in cities with more than 100,000 population) to ensure just and fair procedures over police misconduct (introduced by Sen. McKinney).
  • LB548, the Nebraska Racial Justice Act provides post-conviction relief if a person can show racial bias was a factor in their conviction or sentence (introduced by Sen. Wayne).

The voting rights and racial justice are currently still in committee and have the potential to move forward next year. We’ll keep you updated on how you can take action in the 2022 session.

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 issues 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!

Want to support our work? Consider giving a donation today.

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