View and download our 2018 Legislative Scorecard here.
View and download our 2018 Legislative Scorecard here.
Holland Policy Fellow
Nearly nine months ago, as I was starting my senior year at the University of Nebraska, Heath Mello contacted me about a fellowship opportunity at the Holland Children’s Movement, where he had just become Chief Operating Officer. At the time I wasn’t familiar with the Movement, but accepted after doing some research.
Given that I would be the inaugural Holland Advocacy Fellow, I knew the parameters of the fellowship would be developed as I went along, to some extent, but I was more than ready for the opportunity. My friend Erin once told me that if she could describe me in one word it would be “idealistic.” I’m naturally inclined to see the positive side of any situation and to believe that, in due time, positive change can occur on a personal, local or even national or international level. However, I believe it is necessary to reach the conjunction of idealism and realism. Realistically, some people are in better positions to make change than others. Often times, privileges out of our control make us more or less apt to be in the position to enact meaningful change. However, without passion and drive, nobody, no matter their privileges, will get much done.
In February, Sarah Ann Kotchian, the Movement’s Vice President of Policy and the person I primarily reported to, gave me a book called You’re More Powerful Than You Think by Eric Liu. The book explains that power is not inherently negative, but if one wishes to use it for positive purposes they must first learn how to obtain and then harness it.
So through the Holland Children’s Movement, I made sure to be willing to do a variety of tasks and to try to understand how everything the Movement did worked within the broader system of change agents in the area. I now understand better the role of advocacy organizations in providing reliable assistance and advice on legislation that impacts hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans. I understand how nonprofits work together to achieve common purposes. On a personal level, I’ve observed the different ways one can be involved in the policy-making process without holding elected office.
Since I was twelve, I’ve wanted to hold elected office eventually, but my greater goal has always been ensuring I’m in a position to help create positive changes in the world around me. My fellowship has shown me that almost any progress is achieved via collaboration. There may be a few leaders driving the charge, but often the efforts and ideas of so many people are being synthesized to create the best possible solutions, which in turn must compete with solutions proposed by other groups of passionate people who hold different opinions. The process of turning good ideas into law is difficult. Many of the bills I worked on in conjunction with the Nebraska Legislature during my fellowship did not become law or even reach the floor of the legislature.
But this is how it goes. Sometimes enacting a good idea into law takes several tries. Sometimes it may need to be further revised to be accepted by more lawmakers. Sometimes it requires electing different people to office. Since the Holland Children’s Movement was created by the late Richard Holland in 2013, the Movement has been guided by a vision of making Nebraska “the national beacon in economic security and opportunity for all children and families.” By taking the lead on issues like paid leave, childcare and dependent care tax credits and expanding early childhood education, the Movement has worked to guide our state towards a future worthy of the Nebraska state motto: “Equality before the law.”
Finally, I am grateful for everyone who made this fellowship such a fantastic experience, especially to Heath for encouraging me to take the position, Sarah Ann for teaching me so much about the policymaking process, our current CEO, Hadley Richters, for letting me have so many great experiences and the rest of the staff, Rachel, Joey, Maria and Tori, for everything they do for this organization and will continue doing in the future.
Whatever my future holds, I already know this fellowship made me more prepared for it. I will be entering law school at Nebraska College of Law in August feeling even more ready to tackle the next challenge and soon will be in an even better position to be a change agent. For myself, for the Holland Children’s Movement and for the well-being of our state, the future looks bright.
The Urban Affairs Committee has prioritized LB 873, amended to include two critical components for quality early childhood education in Nebraska.
LB 873 includes the two Holland Children’s Movement priority bills, LB 768 and LB 880. The inclusion of these bills supports ongoing efforts to increase access to affordable, quality child care in Nebraska. One component would require the inclusion of an early childhood element in comprehensive city plans over the next five years, or when a new plan is created, or updates are made to an existing plan. The second component would expand the use of LB 840 funds to include and recognize early childhood as an important factor in economic infrastructure development.
A 2017 report by the National Institute for Early Education Research emphasizes the role of cities in developing early childhood education, finding that policies promoting high-quality early childhood education are “a key element of any city’s overall strategy to promote current and future health.”
Within Nebraska, one need look no further to see the value and vision of the early childhood proposals within LB 873 than the priority the community of Red Cloud has placed on the development of a high quality early childhood program to help ensure their economy not only survives, but thrives.
“With reliable and affordable child care, employees will miss fewer days of work, making employers more satisfied. I think Red Cloud will be an even more attractive small town to newcomers with high-quality childcare in place. It has the potential to strengthen our school district and stabilize our town’s population,” said Ashley Armstrong, of the Red Cloud Community Foundation Fund.
Comprehensive city plans already require the careful examination and evaluation of infrastructure, schools, public utilities, housing, public facilities and more. LB 873 provides the next logical step to evaluate early childhood education in cities and opens the use of local authority and local funding opportunities to finance quality early childhood education efforts and bolster economic development.
A report by the National League of Cities (NLC) in 2016 demonstrated the importance of including early childhood education in city plans. “Many municipalities collect a wide range of data about children and families through various city departments. City leaders can draw upon these data in assessing early childhood needs. For example, geographic information systems used by local planning departments can map out where services are located, show whether early childhood programs are accessible to low-income families, and help target services to areas of greatest need. Census and industry data collected by local economic development agencies can also shed light on growth patterns and future needs.” The NLC report goes on to say that the greater the community buy-in on early childhood initiatives, the easier it will be for effective and coordinated planning.
The Washington Post found in a 2015 national poll that more than three-quarters of mothers and half of fathers had passed up work opportunities, switched jobs or quit their job due to a lack of paid leave or child care. Furthermore, in 2016, NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that two-thirds of parents said they had access to “only one” or “just a few” realistic child care options. And of greatest significance are the voices of Nebraskans.
In recent public opinion research conducted by our sister organization, the Holland Children’s Institute, access to affordable child care was overwhelmingly popular. Among those with children under age 18 at home, nearly all favor expanding access to affordable child care (93%), and of those without children at home the clear majority (69%) are also in favor.
LB 873 includes proposals of great importance to building on the existing efforts to increase access to quality early childhood care and education, which in turn will strengthen communities now and long into the future. In concert, these proposals can ensure more young children enter school ready to succeed and grow into the workforce of tomorrow.
 Washington Post: The surprising number of parents scaling back at work to care for their kids https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/the-surprising-number-of-moms-and-dads-scaling-back-at-work-to-care-for-their-kids/2015/08/06/c7134c50-3ab7-11e5-b3ac-8a79bc44e5e2_story.html?utm_term=.6483784957df
 NPR: Child Care and Health in America https://www.npr.org/documents/2016/oct/Child-Care-and-Development-Report-2016.pdf
 Nebraska Values Project Installment IV, Holland Children’s Institute, March 20, 2018, available at https://hollandinstitute.org/fact-tank/
 “Red Cloud proves small-town success doesn’t just happen,” Nebraska Community Foundation, Omaha World Herald, June 20, 2017. http://www.omaha.com/living/the-better-half/red-cloud-proves-small-town-success-doesn-t-just-happen/article_883f165e-51e8-11e7-b357-57c80193cdeb.html
 National League of Cities: Supporting Early Childhood Success Issue #6 http://www.nlc.org/sites/default/files/2016-12/early-childhood-action-kit-apr07.pdf
Earlier today, Andy Holland, President of the Holland Children’s Institute and Movement, announced Hadley Richters as the organizations’ new Chief Executive Officer.
“This last year, the Holland Children’s Institute and Movement has undergone in-depth planning, to re-focus our work and future initiatives to make Nebraska the national beacon in economic security and opportunity for all children and working families,” said Holland. “We expanded our agenda and role in the research and public policy arenas to help address key challenges facing working families and children in Nebraska,” Holland continued.
“Hadley Richters has assumed a critical role in the organizations, and her work has led in the progress of both moving forward. I have complete confidence in her capabilities and talent to lead the organizations toward reaching their goals.” said Holland. “Hadley is known for delivering results and breaking records. I am very enthusiastic about the future and what’s ahead for both the Holland Children’s Institute and Holland Children’s Movement.”
Hadley Richters has a range of fundraising, communication and executive experience in political campaigns, capital campaigns, and other projects. Through her work Richters has seen to completion some of the most ambitious initiatives to the finish line in Nebraska.
A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Hadley served as Senior Advisor and Strategist to the Holland Children’s Movement and Holland Children’s Institute, and previously served as Finance Director and Executive Director to several organizations. In her new role leading the Holland Children’s Institute and Holland Children’s Movement, Richters will continue her commitment to public service and champion opportunities for all Nebraskans.
“I am proud to lead the Holland Children’s Institute and Holland Children’s Movement organizations set out to ensure more opportunities for prosperity for working families and children in Nebraska,” said Richters. “Everyday we are working to give all families and children the best opportunity for Nebraska’s ‘good life,’ by lifting the facts to make sure policy makers hear Nebraskans’ opinions, and have all the information needed to make the best decisions for our children and working families.”
Born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, Richters’ policy background aligns with the vision of Holland Children’s Institute and Movement in several notable areas. She was co-owner of a political consulting and fundraising firm, Richters Brinkman LLC, where she played a key role in the election of Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler and city council contests, statewide constitutional amendments, as well as a successful voter approval of Lincoln’s new arena. Richters has also led a number of successful legislative races throughout Nebraska and statewide ballot initiatives.
The Holland Children’s Institute and Movement looks forward to having Hadley Richters lead the organizations, ensuring that Nebraska children and working families are prioritized in the state budget and policy decisions.
Nebraska State Senator Matt Hansen introduced LB 880 to add an early childhood element to city comprehensive planning.
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.
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.
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 2017 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.
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.”
Hard working Nebraskans are the heart of our state’s economy. If policymakers want to drive economic growth, they should focus on working families.
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.
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.
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.