Issues

Adding Early Childhood to City Planning – LB 880

Nebraska State Senator Matt Hansen introduced LB 880 to add an early childhood element to city comprehensive planning.

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Background:

Nebraska statute lays out guidelines for comprehensive development plans for four separate items – for metropolitan class cities, primary class cities, all other cities and counties. In all these cases, the general guidelines are the same. The comprehensive development plan is intended to be a long-range plan that helps the city or country figure out how to pursue its preferred future situation.

Statutes dictate that a planning commission of five, seven or nine members appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council, village board or county board are to offer recommendations on any comprehensive plan. Besides metropolitan class cities – which only includes Omaha – there are several facets required by statute that comprehensive plans must evaluate. The include infrastructure, schools, public utilities, housing and public facilities. Adding an early childhood element would require adding identical language to the each of the four statutes addressing comprehensive plans. Requiring that the early childhood element be mandatory only until 2022 also has precedent – in 2010, the Nebraska Legislature mandated that any new or updated comprehensive plan between July 15, 2010 and January 1 2015 include an energy element.

Early childhood education is clearly important to Nebraska communities. The Committee for Economic Development released a 2017 brief emphasizing that a quality early childhood program can improve a child’s readiness for school, which in turn leads to students who are prepared to learn and eventually enter the workforce and benefit their cities and counties economically. Evaluating and examining the facilities available to young children now can make a major difference to the children and to the future of the community as well.

Building Early Childhood Infrastructure – LB 768

Nebraska State Senator Dan Quick introduced LB 768 to help communities across Nebraska build early childhood infrastructure. Senators Crawford, Hansen, Kolowski, McCollister, Stinner, Wayne and Williams cosponsored the legislation.

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Background: 

Over 25 years, the people of Nebraska approved and the Nebraska Legislature created a program allowing cities and villages to appropriate local funds, with approval of local voters, to economic development purposes. Since then, 68 Nebraska communities have held positive referendums on using this funding, often called 840 funding after the legislative bill that created the program, to offer loans, grants and other activities.

Since the program emphasizes local control, Nebraska’s communities have been able to use 840 funds to satisfy their community’s specific economic needs. Fremont has used 840 funds on street construction, renovation of public buildings and more general economic development. O’Neill has used 840 funds to create jobs and increase housing. Blair has considered using 840 funds for film production — a more unique cause that shows how widely 840 funds can be used to benefit a community economically.

Allowing LB840 funds to be directed towards early childhood infrastructure development would be a logical extension of this successful program. Nobel economist James J. Heckman released a study in 2017 demonstrating that high-quality early childhood programs for at-risk children can deliver a 13% per child per year return on investment. Given the emphasis on programs being high-quality, it would be important that LB 840 funds only be allowed for programs that are viewed as high quality under Nebraska’s Step Up to Quality Child Care Act. Under this act, Nebraska’s early childhood programs are judged on a five-step scale, with step-five being the best. Only programs rated step-three or above would b eligible for 840 funding.

The Committee for Economic Development released a brief in 2007 emphasizing that the first years of life and providing quality childhood education programs are imperative to school readiness, which in turn leads to students who have a head start in their education, which leads to their eventual preparedness to enter the workforce and benefit their communities economically. Jeff Yost, President and CEO of the Nebraska Community Foundation has emphasized that a small amount of investment in our state’s communities can have a major impact. Investing in education pays dividends for communities of all sizes and strengthens our state as a whole.

Governor Ricketts’ Disconnected Priorities Underscore Need for Unicameral to Stand Up for Working Families

OMAHA, NE – Hadley Richters, Acting CEO of Holland Children’s Movement, issued the following statement in response to Governor Ricketts’ State of the State address today:

“Today, Governor Ricketts failed to address the issues that Nebraska families are dealing with in their day to day lives. He made clear he cares more about corporate tax cuts than ensuring the future of public education, safety net programs, and public safety in Nebraska.”

“If the Governor truly wants to grow Nebraska, he should turn his attention to the middle class, the hard-working Nebraskans who are the heart of our state’s economy.”

“We know from November 2017 public opinion research, 64% of Nebraska voters agree the best way to build a stronger middle class is to give people the tools they need to succeed. And 9 in 10 blue-collar voters in Nebraska (87%) say government’s policies are helping big corporations, while 62% of college educated voters say the same.”

“We urge members of the Unicameral to make working families and children a top priority this Legislative Session. Nebraskans want their policymakers to focus on jobs with good benefits, health care, education, and quality child care. Members of the nonpartisan Unicameral should continue their work to responsibly balance the budget and pass real solutions to the biggest issues facing our state.”

Read about our Working Families Plan and add your voice to demand action for Nebraska’s middle class.

Working Families Plan

-Building Nebraska’s Middle Class-

Jobs

Hard working Nebraskans are the heart of our state’s economy. If policymakers want to drive economic growth, they should focus on working families.

Wages

IN 2014, Nebraskans voted to raise the state minimum wage to $9.00. We still have work to do. Nebraska needs to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers or “persons compensated by way of gratuities”. $2.13 an hour is inadequate.

Read MoreWorking Families Plan

Diving Right In: My First Day as a Holland Advocacy Fellow

Bobby Larsen is completing an Advocacy Fellowship in the Holland Fellowship Program. 

“Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.” – Chinese proverb

My name is Bobby Larsen and I am a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a lifelong Nebraskan and the first Holland Advocacy Fellow for the Holland Children’s Movement.

Ever since I was in sixth grade I have had a strong interest in politics and public service. Over the past few years, I have been able to begin fulfilling this passion by working for the Nebraska Legislature for the past three legislative sessions as a bill room staffer my freshman year and then as a legislative page my sophomore and junior years. I also interned in the office of State Senator Mike McDonnell this past semester and previously interned for Retain A Just Nebraska and Heath Mello’s campaign for mayor while volunteering for a plethora of other local campaigns.

Yesterday was my first day with the Holland Children’s Movement and I was fortunate to be able to dive right in. I accompanied our Vice President of Public Policy, Sarah Ann Kotchian, to meetings with state senators regarding legislation the Holland Children’s Movement plans to support during the 2018 legislative session. I was happy to get to return to the state capitol where I have had so many great opportunities throughout the past three years. This year will be a short session, and I will be kept busy meeting with senators to advocate for our bills, attending committee hearings, working with our partner organizations, doing research on past and present bills, helping with social media and more. I am eager for the opportunity to advocate for policies that will have a long-term impact on the children of this great state.

2017 Legislative Scorecard

Our annual Legislative Scorecard highlights significant bills and establishes a record of how children and families faired during the most recent session.

The scorecard shows which State Senators scored a perfect 100%, who had a failing grade and everyone in between.

We are pleased to report that nearly half of Nebraska State Senators voted in support of the position of the Holland Children’t Movement 83% or more of the time.

Read More2017 Legislative Scorecard