There has been a good deal of activity at the Legislature on Appleseed’s priority issues since the last update. Here is a quick summary:
In the Capitol’s legislative chamber, there is a large sign listing each Senator’s name. When a Senator votes in favor of a bill, a light next to their name turns bright green. “Green Lights” highlights the passage of bills that advance justice and opportunity in Nebraska.
We have had several “green lights” at the Unicameral in the last few weeks:
Bill Passed!: On March 7th, LB 507 was signed into law! This bill, brought by Senator Harms, increases educational opportunities for young parents between 19-24 years receiving cash assistance through the Aid to Dependent Children program by allowing them to pursue their GED or high school diploma as their primary work requirement.
Child Welfare Bills: The package of five main child welfare reform bills passed through the first two rounds of votes and await a final vote on Final Reading:
- LB 820 (dealing with improvements for foster parents and a funding waiver)
- LB 821 (creating a Children’s Commission)
- LB 961 (returning case management to the state and addressing caseloads)
- LB 949 (requiring regular reporting and a strategic plan by the Department of Health and Human Services) and
- LB 1160 (which would require additional oversight and evaluation)
The appropriations for these bills have passed the first two rounds of votes as well.
Education and Training Bills:
- LB 842: This is a bill by Senator Harms that would extend the current law which provides ADC recipients with the opportunity to pursue an Associates Degree as their work requirement. This bill passed on its second round vote, Select File, this week. It now awaits a final vote on Final Reading.
- LB 1079: This bill by Senator Mello would provide grants to create bridge programs which pair adult basic education with technical or vocational training to provide students with credentials they can use to find jobs and set them on a path to advancing in a particular field through additional education. In addition, this is a win for businesses who are looking for skilled labor in high demand fields. This bill passed the second round vote on Select File this week. Now it just has to pass on Final Reading before being sent to the Governor.
- LB 825 is a bill by Senator Dubas which would begin to address the significant problems with the implementation of ACCESSNebraska, the state’s attempt at modernizing the public benefits system. LB 825, which incorporates LB 1016 by Senator Conrad, would ensure that Nebraskans can talk to a caseworker when they need help and would also assist the community based partners that DHHS has been leaning on to help people struggling with the new system. In addition, measures that will streamline the administrative process, which came from LB 1041 by Senator Cook, were amended onto the bill this morning. LB 825 passed on the first vote, General File, this morning.
Children’s Behavioral Health
- LB 1063 is a bill by Senator Cook which would create more transparency and accountability for how decisions are made by Medicaid to approve or deny behavioral health services for children. The Division of Medicaid uses guidelines to approve or deny services under Medicaid. LB 1063 would require that those guidelines are created in a public process with the opportunity for public comment. It would also require the state to report on its rate of approvals and denials. This bill passed on General File and awaits debate on Select File.
Appleseed is opposed to the Governor’s proposed tax cut in LB 970 even in its scaled back form. We cannot afford it. It is money we do not have to spend and it is unacceptable to pass a tax cut without giving the public any information on what critical services will have to be cut to pay for it. The compromise tax cut passed on Select File this week.
There are only a few days left in the session but much work left to be done. Please stay tuned as we work with you and our partners to bring these important bills to final passage.