Legislative Update

Nebraska State CapitolThis was a very good week at the Legislature for children in Nebraska and several of the other issues we have prioritized at Nebraska Appleseed.  The bill to restore prenatal care, LB 599, passed its final round vote and was presented to the Governor yesterday.  And several of Appleseed’s priority bills became law this week.  Here is a quick recap:

Prenatal Care:

Yesterday, the Legislature passed LB 599, the bill to restore prenatal care coverage to all low-income women.  The vote was 31-15.  We commend the Nebraska Legislature for this important vote and for prioritizing the health of children in our state.  Restoring access to prenatal care is good health policy, it is fiscally responsible, and it is the right thing to do.   Your calls and emails have really made a difference in pushing this critical legislation forward.  So, thank you!

Unfortunately, the Governor has made clear that he will veto the bill.  A vote to override that veto is scheduled for next Wednesday, April 18th.  Thirty (30) votes are needed to override the veto and senators will be under a good deal of pressure over the next six days to change their votes.  Please continue to thank the 31 senators who have supported this bill and encourage them to stand firm on their vote.

This week has also been full of “green lights” for the bills Appleseed prioritized.

“Green Lights”

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.

Child Welfare Bills:
All child welfare bills have been signed by the Governor and are now law!  As a reminder those bills are:

  • 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 (requiring additional oversight and evaluation)

This is a critically important milestone and, we hope, a turning point in addressing persistent failures of the system.  These bills provide a path forward.  Now is the time for all three branches of government and system stakeholders to roll up our sleeves and commit to going the distance to turn around Nebraska’s child welfare system.

Education and Training Bills:
The two education and training bills that were priorities for Appleseed were also signed into law this week!

  • LB 842: This is a bill by Senator Harms that extends the current law to provide ADC recipients with the opportunity to pursue an Associates Degree as their work requirement.
  • LB 1079: This bill by Senator Mello and prioritized by Senator Conrad provides grants to create bridge programs.  Bridge programs 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 advance 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.

LB 825
, a bill by Senator Dubas which begins to address the significant problems with the implementation of ACCESSNebraska, the state’s attempt at modernizing the public benefits system, was also signed into law yesterday! 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.

Children’s Behavioral Health:
LB 1063 was also signed into law yesterday.  It is a bill by Senator Cook which creates 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 requires that those guidelines are publicly available and posted on the website.  It also requires the state to report on its rate of approvals and denials.

Summer Food for Children:
And last, but certainly not least, LB 1090, introduced and prioritized by Senator Wallman, provides grants and information to expand the Summer Food Service Program which provides hungry children much needed meals during the summer.  This bill, along with the appropriation for the grant fund, was signed yesterday and will make a real difference in the lives of many Nebraska children.

We are very grateful for the work of all these Senators and their commitment to these key issues.  We look forward to following the implementation of these laws and our continued work on these key issues.

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