Issues

Nebraska Legislature: How the Voted for the Early Advantage of Children in the 106th Legislature, 1st Session

The Holland Children’s Movement has assembled a list of legislative votes from the 106th Legislative First Session. These votes are on bills that pertain to the Holland Children’s Movement priorities range from tax reform to paid family leave. Included is a percentage of each senator’s support on priorities based on their votes on specific legislative measures throughout the 2019 Legislative Session. Considering the many different committees and their compositions votes taken within committee are not included in our scorecard tally.

We are pleased to report that almost two-thirds of all senators voted in support of the Holland Children’s Movement eighty percent or more of the time. This includes 23 senators who received a perfect score of 100% for their efforts in the 2019 session. The Holland Children’s Movement would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all the senators for their dedication to public service. We recognize the amount of time and commitment required to serve and we thank you Senators.

One of the most pressing issues of this session (LB 289), a tax reform bill, that prioritized raising taxes on those who can least afford them only to give tax breaks to those with property was defeated. In addition LB 66 was introduced by Senator Hansen. This bill would have required cities to include an early childhood education piece in their city planning but failed to advance to the next round of debate. LB 160 introduced by Senator Quick, was an element of a bill vetoed by the Governor last year. Senator Quick reintroduced the bill this year which allows for the use of economic development funds for early childhood education, and we are proud to say this bill was passed and signed by the Governor.

Moving forward, the Holland Children’s Movement looks to support more proposals advancing the vision to make Nebraska the national beacon in economic security and opportunity for all children and working families.

See the full 2019 Legislative Voting Record for all State Senators here

The bills that pertain to the Holland Children’s Movement from the 2019 Legislative Session

LB 15

Introduced by Senator Blood

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 15 creates the Children of Nebraska Hearing Aid Act. This act would allow any child under the age of 19 that needs a hearing aid to have it paid for through their insurance plan as long as the benefits paid for the hearing aid during the previous 48-months has not exceeded three thousand dollars. In addition to the hearing aid, a child’s insurance plan will be required to pay for the device, evaluation for the hearing aid, fitting, programming, microphone measurements, repairs, ear mold impressions, and auditory rehabilitation and training. An insurance company will be exempt from the act if the company can show the cost of coverage will exceed one percent of premiums collected. Small business group health plans, as defined under 44-5260 will be exempt from this act as well. OUTCOME: Passed

LB 66

Introduced by Senator Hansen

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 66 requires cities to include an early childhood element in comprehensive plans before January 1, 2022, either when they create a new plan or when they update an existing plan. The early childhood element would have three requirements: 1) an assessment of the supply of quality licensed early childhood education programs for children under six, 2) an evaluation of the availability and utilization of licensed child care capacity and quality for children under six, and 3) promotion of early childhood health and education measures that benefit the community. Cities are required to develop and release comprehensive plans under current law in order to adopt zoning regulations. LB 66 would add early childhood education to the list of already required elements which include the issues of land use, transportation, community facilities, energy, and annexation. OUTCOME: Failed to advance to select file from general file 19-23-7

LB 160

Introduced by Senator Quick

HCM Position: Support

Intent: The purpose of LB160 is to amend the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act by redefining economic development program to include early childhood infrastructure development for cities of the first and second class and villages. Early childhood infrastructure development pertains to early childhood education programs of recognized quality, as determined by the quality rating criteria provided under the Step Up to Quality Child Care Act. OUTCOME: Passed 36-7-6 and signed by the Governor

LB 169

Introduced by Senator Hunt

HCM Position: Support

Intent: To allow individuals with three or more felony convictions for the possession or sale of a controlled substance to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and to change a requirement regarding participation in a substance abuse program for individuals with one or two felony convictions for possession or sale of a controlled substance to three or more convictions. OUTCOME: Failed to invoke cloture 28-16-5

LB 294

Introduced by Speaker Scheer at the request of the Governor

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 294, introduced by the Speaker at the request of the Governor, is part of the Governor’s biennial budget recommendations. This bill is the mainline appropriations bill for the biennium that begins July 1, 2019 and ends on June 30, 2021. the measure includes the budget recommendations for all State operations and aid programs. The bill includes the appropriate transfers from cash funds to the General Fund as well as between specified cash funds. Finally, it provides the necessary definitions for the proper administration of appropriations and personal service limitations. This bill contains the emergency clause and becomes operative on July 1, 2019. Detailed information regarding funding for all State operations and aid programs is included within the agency recommendations found in the State of Nebraska, Executive Budget – 2019-2021 Biennium, which may be viewed on the Department of Administrative Services State Budget Division’s website. OUTCOME: Passed 35-12-2 and signed by the Governor.

LB 361

Introduced by Senator Hansen

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 361 prohibits retaliation or discrimination by an employer against an employee or applicant for employment because they filed a complaint or participated in another action concerning a violation of the Wage and Hour Act or the Wage Payment and Collection Act. The Wage and Hour Act sets and enforces a minimum wage for workers. The Wage Payment and Collection Act sets rules for paying wages to employees, including providing regular paydays, preventing the withholding of pay, and paying wages and earned vacation time owed after separation. OUTCOME: Did not come up for a vote, will return next year

LB 433

Introduced by Senator Hansen

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 433 requires that a landlord return the balance of a tenant’s security deposit and a written itemization within fourteen days after the date of termination of the tenancy. Currently, a tenant must first request the balance be returned to them. The bill also provides that a tenant does not have to pay for damages that result from their removal from the unit by order of a governmental entity because it was not fit for habitation due to negligence or neglect of the landlord. This bill adds liquidated damages of one month’s rent and court costs to what the landlord already owes the tenant for violating this section, which is the security deposit balance and reasonable attorney’s fees. OUTCOME: Passed 39-1-9 and signed by the Governor

LB 468

Introduced by Senator Walz

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 468 would require that no additional populations or services be added to the at-risk capitated managed care program before either January 1, 2020 or the completion of a critical evaluation proving the success of such program. As with the amendment filed, AM46, LB468 would apply only to long-term care services. As of January 1, 2017, all Medicaid eligible persons had been included in the at-risk capitated managed care program referred to as Heritage Health. OUTCOME: Passed 43-1-5 and signed by the Governor

LB 590

Introduced by Senator Briese

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 590 seeks to streamline the process by which Department of Health and Human Services staff verify the training and credentials of licensed child care providers by utilizing an existing Department of Education database called the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System. OUTCOME: Passed 48-0-1 and signed by the Governor

 

LB 726

Introduced by Senator Walz

HCM Position: Support

Intent: LB 726 adds language to require the Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Correctional Services to establish a protocol to assist individuals who are eligible for medical parole to apply for benefits under the Medical Assistance Act. OUTCOME: Passed 39-0-10 and signed by the Governor

Step Up to Quality

Our team worked with state partners and lawmakers to create Step Up to Quality (hyperlink), the first public quality rating and improvement system of child care providers in Nebraska. Programs serving the highest populations of children through the child care subsidy program participate in Step Up to Quality. These new quality ratings go beyond licensing and strive for better, for all of Nebraska’s children.

School Readiness Tax Credits

Early childhood programs that care for and educate children in Nebraska’s lowest income families should be committed to high quality care. The greatest barriers to building quality early childhood education start with affordable access and teacher qualifications. In 2016, Nebraska became the second state to pass School Readiness Tax Credits for early childhood programs and members of the workforce. The credits are tied directly to Step Up to Quality (hyperlink) ratings and the professional qualifications of the workforce. The higher the level of program quality and staff qualifications, the higher the tax credits. These tax credits serve as an incentive and a catalyst for speeding up the availability of quality statewide. Holland Children’s Movement advocacy was integral in passing this legislation. Our team steered this innovative solution from the idea state through to the Governor’s signature on the final bill.

Prenatal Care for all Women

Success for children starts with access to prenatal care. Due to a federal change in 2010, approximately 870 undocumented immigrants and 750 legal residents lost prenatal coverage through Medicaid in Nebraska. In 2012 we worked with a coalition of advocates and lawmakers to restore this prenatal coverage.

Child Care Subsidy Improvements

Crucial groundwork is laid for the workforce of today and tomorrow through the child care subsidy program. This program provides child care assistance so families can attend work or school. We have worked consistently over the years to support policy improvements to program eligibility and to tie public investment to quality efforts. We have also successfully defended against repeated attempts to curb access and funding to the program. In 2017, we worked with providers and key lawmakers to mitigate a budget cut targeting the cared care subsidy program.

Home Visiting

Children begin learning at birth. Home visitation programs can ensure parents are their child’s first and most effective teachers. The funding for this program has gradually increased over time, and in 2014 we supported the expansion of funding the utilization of an evidence-based framework.

Minimum Wage Increase

In 2014, we served as the leadership for Better Wages Nebraska. Because of our work to support a petition drive and ballot initiative campaign, Nebraska voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour. This ground-breaking ballot initiative unified Nebraskans

The Cliff Effect

In 2015, hundreds of Nebraskans signed our “End the Cliff” online petition in support of the successful passage of LB 81, to lessen the “cliff effect” in our child care assistance program for low income, working families. The prior steep eligibility cliff was a disincentive to workers from accepting a raise or working more hours because a modest increase in earnings resulted in program ineligibility. Creating a smooth transition to economic stability – instead of a cliff – is a smart policy that supports work as a way out of poverty.

Policy Supports and Legal Protections for Pregnant and Parenting Students

In 2015 we supported legislation to strengthen workplace protections for pregnant women and new mothers. LB 627 was an overdue update to Nebraska’s employment law. Because of this bill, pregnant and new mothers in Nebraska can request reasonable accommodations in the workplace without fear of losing their job. Accommodations such as a space to express breast milk, a chair for sitting, and bathroom breaks.

Recently, these laws saw another improvement. Supported by a combination of our research (hyperlink) and advocacy efforts, LB 427 became law in 2017 to support the health and education rights of pregnant and parenting students and their children in every school district in Nebraska. This two-generational approach to policy and practice will change the future trajectory for countless young Nebraskans.

LB 614: The Revenue Committee

I am here today in support of LB 614 and want to thank Senator Crawford for introducing this bill.

Research conducted in December of 2018 by the Holland Children’s Institute and its public polling initiative shows that 55% of Nebraskans believe the state should be focusing on expanding opportunities instead of cutting taxes (38%). The research also found that 58% of Nebraskans believe that the legislature and state government are focused on giving tax breaks to the rich and big corporations

LB 614 would help the state of Nebraska focus on what Nebraskans are asking state government to prioritize. The first is increasing aid to schools, the research found that an overwhelming majority (86%) of Nebraskans believe that properly funding our schools would help grow Nebraska’s middle class and develop our work force. More than 6 in 10 voters (61%) believe Nebraska state government underfunds education, while only 36% believe state government properly funds our schools.

We are strong proponents for increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). According to National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), people who work in the retail trade, healthcare, food service as well as those in the accommodation, construction and manufacturing industries are the most likely to receive and benefit from an increase in the EITC. We have heard time and time again about the need to continue to invest in these industries and increasing the EITC is a way to do that.

We believe that LB 614 will help grow the middle class and help focus our state’s efforts on middle class Nebraskans and their policy priorities. Thank you for your service to the state of Nebraska, and I would welcome any questions you may have.

-Joey Adler
Director of Strategic Engagement