Unicameral Considers Redistricting Bills

Last week, the Nebraska state legislature’s Executive Board considered four proposals regarding the Legislature’s redistricting process.

Two of these bills — 253 and 466 — are among LWVNE/LWVGO’s 2019 priority bills.

The committee took no immediate action on any of the proposals.

LWNE President Sherry Miller encourages all LWVNE/LWVGO members to contact their state senators to urge them to support LB 253 and LB 466.

The members of the executive committee are: Hilgers (Chair), Vargas (Vice Chair), Bolz, Chambers, Hughes, Kolterman, Lowe, McCollister, Scheer, Stinner

Our 2019 Priority Bills

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska and League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha have considered all legislation introduced in this Unicameral term and determined the organizations’ priority bills for 2019.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes political parties or candidates. We are a political organization that has guiding values and policy recommendations. Using our programs — the list of political positions adopted by the national, state and local organizations — as a guide, LWVNE and LWVGO have adopted the following as priority bills.

We Support:

We Oppose:

Read on to find out more about these bills and how our organization came to support or oppose them.

Support

Redistricting Reform

LB 253 and LB 466

LB 253, introduce by Sen. John McCollister (LD 20), is a reintroduction of Sen. Harr’s LB 216 from last year, which we also supported.

LB 466, introduced by Sen. Sara Howard (LD 9) is a reintroduction of her bill from last year, which we also supported.

Why do we support redistricting reform as presented in LB 253 and LB 466?

The basic commonalities and differences in the bills are:

  1. Most important, in both bills, neither the Independent Commission nor the Legislative Redistricting Committee draw the maps.  The maps are prepared by the Legislative Research Office (LRO) using a software it prepares and approves—except in LB 466, third drawing of maps is done by the Legislature’s Executive Board.
  2. Voting in Legislature:  LB466 no amendments any of the three times the bills could come to the Legislature; LB 253 no amendments for first two times but amendments third time.
  3. Both set dates, chair, and report on 3 Public Input Hearings (one in each Congressional District): LB 253: Commission (composed of 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and one non-partisan elected by the 6); LB 466 the Legislative Redistricting Committee.
  4. LB 253 does not allow packing or cracking to dilute voting rights of voting majority or minority based on race or language; LB 466 doesn’t address this issue.

We are anticipating that one bill come from the Executive Board combining these bills. We believe that it is critical that the Senator supports:

  1. Critical to assure that the maps are drawn by the Legislative Research Office (LRO) using a software it prepares and approves.  (This avoids use of pre-existing software prepared by groups with political orientation.)
  2. Best to have no amendments on the floor of the Legislature during any of the three times the bills come to the floor.  (There is a period after the first and second votes for members of the Legislature to communicate to the LRO reasons for their votes against the bills, so that future maps may (but will not necessarily) address those issues.
  3. Setting dates, chairing, and reporting on public hearings could be done by either the Commission or the Legislative Committee.  Having hearings in all three Congressional Districts will be important to assuring public input.
  4. Language excluding packing and stacking are important to include in the bill.  

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Adopt the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act

LB 311

LB 311, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford (LD45), creates a paid family and medical leave insurance program to provide partial wage replacement for eligible workers to care for themselves or a family member following a serious illness or to care for a  new child through birth, foster care or adoption. Leave can also be taken for military exigency.

Why do we support LB 311 and paid family medical leave?

The League of Women Voters believes that one of the goals of social policy should be to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families and that the most effective social programs are those designed to prevent or reduce poverty.

In addition:

  • Paid Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) prevents choosing between the job and caring for a family member.
  • PFMLA provides for a healthy launch into family life for a newborn.
  • PFMLA guarantees leave without having to quit a job, leading to dependence of social services and that social cost to a community.
  • PFMLA benefits employers who can retain an experienced worker, a plus in an era of worker shortage in certain fields.

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Provide for Restoration of Voting Rights Upon Completion of a Felony Sentence or Probation for a Felony

LB 83

LB 83, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne (LD 13), removes the arbitrary two-year waiting period between the completion of felony restitution and the restoration of citizenship rights.

Current Nebraska law prevents someone with a felony conviction from voting for two years following their release and completion of all required probation. Many ex-felons/returning citizens welcome the right to vote again as part of their re-assimilation into society, along with obtaining a driver’s license, getting a job, opening a bank account, etc.

Why do we support LB 83 and the removal of the waiting period?

The League of Women Voters believes voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. Citizens should have full rights following the completion of their sentence and should not be continued to be punished/removed from society.

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Criteria for Recipients of Title X Funds

LB 629

LB 629, introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks (LD 28), changes what kind of entitities can receive Title X funding.

Under the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services shall only grant funds received under 42 U.S.C. 300 (Title X) for voluntary family planning programs to entities that are:

  • licensed under the Health Care Facility Licensure Act and provide service to recipients of medical assistance under the Medical Assistance Act;
    •  compliant with the provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and any regulations promulgated under such federal act;
  • able to diagnose and treat sexually transmitted diseases and infections; and
    • able to provide gynecological exams.

Why do we support LB 629 and requiring that recipients of Title X funds must be clinics with real medical personnel and facilities?

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska supports Title X funding, which provides family planning and reproductive health care services to low income individuals and families.

The intent of LB 629 is to ensure that Title X funds are distributed only to those family planning services which are staffed with medical personnel trained and licensed to diagnose and treat STDs and infections and to provide gynecological exam.  Family planning services without such medical personnel will not qualify for the grants.

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Oppose

Public Funds for Private Schools

LB 670

LB 670, introduced be Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (LD 39), is a reincarnation of LB 295 from the 2017-18 session. It provides for the creation of scholarship-granting organizations, which shall be certified by the Department of Revenue, and can provide educational scholarships to students attending a qualified school. 

Why do we oppose LB 670?

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska believes in a public educational system financed by a combination of local and state revenues.

The League opposes state aid to non-public schools. 

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Read More

Follow the Unicameral Update for news about the legislature and the progress of bills.

LWVNE Testimony in Support of LB 182

On Feb. 11, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska submitted written testimony in support of LB 182, a bill to adopt the School District Local Option Income Surtax Act.

The revenue committee will hold its hearing on LB 182 at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 in Room 1524 at the Unicameral.

Read LWVNE’s testimony below.

Re:  LB 182 (Bolz) Adopt the School District Local Option Income Surtax Act

Dear Senator Linehan and Committee Members,

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska believes in a public educational system financed by a combination of local and state revenues.  Since state government has created the public schools by law, it has a responsibility to aid local school districts in providing adequate and equitable school financing while letting school districts maintain local control (adopted 1981).

Further, the League supports shifting the tax burden from heavy reliance on the local property tax to increased state support while maintaining local control of school district budgets.  The League also supports the provision of adequate revenue from sales and income taxes, both individual and corporate, to support educational services.

On this position, the League endorses Senator Bolz’s LB 182 which lets school districts maintain local control of their budgets while proposing a means of raising revenue that provides relief to property owners tax burden.  It should be stressed that increasing a sales tax to provide relief must be approved by a vote of the electors of those school districts, putting this effort squarely in the hands of the local school district residents.

Real property tax relief has eluded the senate for several years.  This seems to be one common sense step toward providing some relief to those most closely affected by high property assessments.

We urge you to advance LB 182 to General File for debate by the full Senate.

Respectfully submitted,

Sherry Miller, President

Mary Ann Sturek, Education Director

Great News: No Voter ID in 2019

The following was adapted from an email newsletter by Brad Christian-Sallis, Voting Rights Policy Organizer with Civic Nebraska, and reprinted with permission. Become a Voting Rights Advocate through Civic Nebraska to get the latest training, information and calls to action.

Jan. 23  was the final day of the 10-day bill introduction period for the 106th Nebraska Legislature. We are pleased to note that for the first time in nearly 10 years, senators will not spend time debating the merits of an introduced voter ID bill.

This is obviously great news, mainly because it means no unnecessary barriers to the ballot in 2019. It also means we will be able to focus our energy on positive, pro-voter policies at the statehouse.

One of these pro-voter policies is LB83, introduced by Sen. Justin WayneThis bill would immediately restore voting rights for Nebraskans upon completion of a felony sentence or probation for a felony. When thinking about this issue it is important to remember:

  • Our current waiting period of two years was a compromise, and the length of “wait time” is arbitrary.
  • Returning citizens are no less qualified than anyone else to vote. Remember, they were found competent to stand trial. We must consider them competent to vote.
  • Studies show that voting leads to a feeling of engagement in one’s community. Returning citizens, then, are less likely to re-offend.
  • Nebraska has one of the most restrictive felon re-enfranchisement laws in the country. We are one of just five states to disenfranchise all citizens with a felony conviction beyond their sentence. To bring the state in line with the vast majority of the rest of the country, we should let people vote when they have served their time, including probation and parole.

Advocate for LB83

Please take five minutes today to contact your state senator and explain to them the importance of LB83! Once you speak with your senator, we please ask that you record your response here

Here is an example script you can use when contacting your elected officials for any issue:

Hi,

My name is_________. I’m a constituent of Senator ________ and I wanted to call/write/email and urge the Senator to stand up for Nebraskans and our voices by supporting LB83. I believe returning citizen re-enfranchisement is a good policy because

(Pick one or two messages from above or another reason you are for LB83.)

Please let the senator know LB83 would be good for their constituents and the entire state of Nebraska. Thank you.

Voting Rights Advocate recruitment and training

Let us know if you have an opportunity for Team Voting Rights to present to a group our advocacy training — or, if you know of anyone who is interested in voting rights, forward this email to them and encourage them to become a Voting Rights Advocate.

If you are not already a Voting Rights Advocate or have yet to update your information with Civic Nebraska, please go to this link.

A New Year’s Message from the National League

At the beginning of the new Congress, and we are proud to support the first piece of legislation introduced in the House —HR1—a bill that stands to improve American elections by making them freer, fairer, and more accessible to all eligible Americans.

HR1 includes comprehensive reforms, like restoring the Voting Rights Act, improving Automatic Voter Registration, creating a public financing system through small donor matching funds, overturning Citizens United, ending partisan gerrymandering, and more! The League worked behind the scenes to influence the language of this legislation, including a push to include Same Day Registration.

This bill will make our elections fairer, put the power back into the hands of the American people, and it deserves bipartisan support.  We’re asking all of our members and supporters to click here to call their Representative and ask them to vote Yes for HR1.

College Voting 101

The League of Women Voters of Metro Columbus (Ohio) put together the following short video on how to register and vote, specifically speaking to college students. Check it out!

Note: The websites in the video are specific to Ohio, but you can register to vote in Nebraska here (as long as you have a valid NE DL/ID): www.nebraska.gov/apps-sos-voter-registration. Or find out more about registering in your home state at vote.org.

Join LWVGO Sept. 25 to Register Voters through National Voter Registration Day Events

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is a Proud Partner of National Voter Registration Day 2018

LWVGO Joins 2,500+ Partners Nationwide in Massive Push to Register Voters on Sept. 25.

On September 25, 2018, Americans will celebrate National Voter Registration Day with a massive 50-state effort to register voters before Election Day this November. National Voter Registration Day is a nationwide, non-partisan effort to register voters on Tuesday, Sept. 25. More than two million Americans have registered to vote on this day since the inaugural National Voter Registration Day.

The goal for this year’s annual National Voter Registration Day is to increase participation in the 2018 state and municipal elections across the country by encouraging Americans to register to vote and make their voices heard at the ballot box. While national elections get the media attention, local elections in many ways have a more direct impact on people’s lives, including the quality of roads and transit systems, the schools our kids attend, parks and greenways, public safety, and more.  In Omaha, voters will weigh in on a ballot referendum on Medicaid Expansion alongside races for Nebraska Governor, Senate, House of Representatives, State Senator, and more. Since its founding in 2012, National Voter Registration Day has grown into a massive cultural and civic event with nationwide reach.

Thousands of national, state, and local organizations and volunteers will be the driving force behind National Voter Registration Day 2018. Partner organizations will coordinate hundreds of National Voter Registration Day events nationwide.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is proud to be a National Voter Registration Day partner. On Sept. 25, LWVGOwill engage the community and register voters at the following events.

Location Name Address Times
Metropolitan Community College Elkhorn Campus 829 N 204th St. Elkhorn, NE 68022 9:30 a.m.-12:30 PM
Metropolitan Community College South Omaha Campus Connector Building 2909 Edward Babe Gomez Avenue Omaha, NE 68107 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha Campus Building 23 5300 N 30th St, Omaha, NE 68111 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
College of Saint Mary 7000 Mercy Rd, Omaha, NE 68106 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
UNO Arts & Sciences Building (Vending Machine Area) 222 University Drive East, Omaha, NE 68182 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Bellevue University Student Center 1000 Galvin Rd, Bellevue, NE 68005 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

The effort’s website, www.NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org, provides a listing of National Voter Registration Day events across the country.

For inquiries about the League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha’s participation in National Voter Registration Day, please contact:

Joanna Lindberg, Co-Chair, Get Out the Vote Committee

joannaclindberg@yahoo.com

402-216-3014

or

Ann Chalson, President

aschalson@cox.net

402-392-0318

 

Supreme Court Upholds Unreasonable Voter Purge Standard

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha supports the sentiment shared in the following media release from the League of Women Voters.

High Court Decision Will Disenfranchise Millions in Upcoming Elections

Washington, DC and Columbus, Ohio – Today, the Supreme Court ruled against Ohio voters by upholding the state’s purging practice for those voters who did not vote in a single election in the case of Husted v. A. Phillip Randolph Institute.

“The Supreme Court got this one wrong. The right to vote is not ‘use it or lose it’,” said Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “The public trust in the fairness of our elections is badly shaken. This decision will fuel the fire of voter suppressors across the country who want to make sure their chosen candidates win reelection—no matter what the voters say.”

The League of Women Voters of the United States, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law previously filed a friend of the court brief in the case, arguing that the state’s purge process which could be initiated after a voter missed a single federal election, violated the National Voter Registration Act. Ohio’s voter purge practice, kept hundreds of thousands of eligible, registered voters from participating in the 2016 elections.

“Not only did Ohio voters not find justice today, but the high court has opened up the opportunity for extreme voter purging to continue in Ohio, which could spread to other states,” said Jen Miller, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “Today’s decision further undermines the National Voter Registration Act’s protections for duly registered voters, which will increase voter confusion and provisional ballot counts in the fall. We encourage Ohio voters to confirm their registration ahead of this fall’s elections and to join the League as volunteers register and re-register eligible voters.”

“While this is disappointing, Ohio is one of only a few states that used failure to vote as a trigger for kicking someone off the rolls,” said Myrna Pérez, Director of the Voting Rights and Elections Project at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Our worry is that other states will take this decision as a green light to implement more aggressive voter purges as the 2018 elections loom.”

“A democracy is strongest when every voice can be heard — when every eligible voter can cast their vote and have it counted,” Carson said. “The League of Women Voters will continue to fight for voting rights, for equality at the ballot box, and equal representation in government.”

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is currently researching Nebraska’s voter-purge practices. Have a tip or would like to help? Email web@lwvgo.org.

Act Now to Save Title X Funding

Two attempts to advance the NE legislature’s budget bill have stalled because there is language in the bill that would jeopardize federal Title X funding for valuable health centers across the state.  Please call your Senator today to ask her/him to NOT allow the budget to come for a vote until TITLE X FUNDING is taken out of the bill.

Some talking points provided by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland:

*Nebraskans use Title X to receive crucial family planning care and education. Title X is a federal grant that helps Nebraskans access affordable birth control information, annual exams, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, HPV testing and vaccinations, health services for survivors of sexual assault, and more.

*At least 8,000 Planned Parenthood patients would lose access to care. Planned Parenthood currently serves over 8,000 patients in Omaha and Lincoln under Title X. Other area providers would not be able to absorb these thousands of patients.

*Abortion referral language implicates all Title X providers. The Governor’s budget includes ambiguous language that threatens all Title X health centers, even those which do not provide abortion – potentially jeopardizing access to family planning care for 28,000+ people across the state.

Please call your Senator now!

Thousands of patients are counting on them to resist the Governor’s anti-health agenda.

– Kathie Uhrmacher, President, Lincoln Women’s Foundation

Action Alert: Oppose the Unfair Election Laws LB 1115 and LB 1065

The following is a message from LWVNE President Sherry Miller and LWVNE Social Policy Director John Else to all members. We encourage non-members to participate in this call to action as well.

ACTION ALERT #1: LB 1115, REDUCING POPULATION COUNTS FOR REDISTRICTING

Dear Activists,

It appears that LB 1115 may be debated in the Unicameral this week, since it is on General File. It is Senator Murante’s priority bill. Please call your senator opposing this bill, since it can severely impact the fairness of redistricting in Nebraska. This is the intent of LB 1115, followed by the language of Article III, Section 5 to which it refers.

The following constitutes the reasons for this bill and the purposes which are sought to be accomplished thereby:

Article III, section 5 of the Nebraska Constitution states: “The basis of apportionment shall be the population excluding aliens, as shown by the next preceding federal census.”

LB 1115 would effectuate that policy by requiring the population basis for redistricting for legislative districts, Supreme Court districts, and all political subdivision districts the total population minus non-citizens.

III-5. Legislative districts; apportionment; redistricting, when required.
The Legislature shall by law determine the number of members to be elected and divide the state into legislative districts. In the creation of such districts, any county that contains population sufficient to entitle it to two or more members of the Legislature shall be divided into separate and distinct legislative districts, as nearly equal in population as may be and composed of contiguous and compact territory. One member of the Legislature shall be elected from each such district. The basis of apportionment shall be the population excluding aliens, as shown by the next preceding federal census. The Legislature shall redistrict the state after each federal decennial census. In any such redistricting, county lines shall be followed whenever practicable, but other established lines may be followed at the discretion of the Legislature.

Feel free to use any of the talking points listed below. Be sure to call as YOUR senator’s constituent. They will listen to constituents.

Thank you,

Sherry Miller, President, LWVNE; and John Else, Director of Social Policy

LB 1115 TALKING POINTS

*LB 1115 perpetuates an injustice begun in 1875 when Article III, Section 5 was adopted into the Constitution. The word “aliens” most likely referred to Native Americans or newly arrived immigrants from Europe. It was amended in 1920, probably also in reference to immigrants fleeing the aftermath of WWI.

*Nebraska Legislature obtains the count of “aliens” or “non-citizens” from the U.S. Census.

*It seems that redistricting in Nebraska is based only on citizens (or possibly voters}. Omitting non-citizens overlooks the fact that many of them pay taxes and are therefore taxed without representation.

*This is harmful to those immigrants who are awaiting legal status and are in every sense citizens in actuality except for the completion of application and the naturalization ceremony.

*LB 1115 would expand this limitation on population for redistricting purposes beyond legislative districts to all political subdivisions, not just legislative districts.

Urge your senator to vote NO on advancing LB 1115 to Select File. Let’s kill this thing and then look to getting the constitution amended in the future.

ACTION ALERT #2: LB 1065, REQUIRING POLL WORKERS TO MATCH VOTER IMAGES ON FILE, REDUCING NUMBER OF PEOPLE ABLE TO VOTE

Dear Activists,

Here we go again. LB 1065, introduced by Senator Murante, has advanced from the Government Committee to General File. I encourage you to contact your senator in opposition to this bill.

Its purported intent is to update poll site equipment, making it easier for poll workers to identify voters coming to vote. But part of it is simply an attempt to impose voter ID rules. Other attempts have failed ever since 2012. Besides mandating the use of electronic poll books (computers), the bill requires a digital image of each voter be part of the listing of the voter. This image would probably be provided by the DMV.

I am including talking points from my testimony (see below) against LB 1065 for your use when you contact your senator. REMEMBER, Contact your Senators as constituents and not as members of the league. Senators give a great deal of weight to hearing from their CONSTITUENTS.

Thank you for taking prompt action on this important attempt to suppress voter rights.

Sherry Miller, President
League of Women Voters of Nebraska

LB 1065 TALKING POINTS

TESTIMONY TO THE GOVERNMENT/MILITARY/VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, FEBRUARY 14, 2018

First, County election offices across Nebraska need updated election equipment now. Implementing an electronic poll book system will take time and money, lots of money. While the electronic system may be an idea to contemplate for upgrading our election systems in the future, 2018 is a crucial midterm election year, which, it is hoped, will bring much renewed voter attention to the process, and 2020 even more so.

Secondly, voters deserve a measure of privacy. Furthermore, facial features can change from one election cycle to another through surgery, accidents, and plain old aging. How often would voters have to re-register to assure compatibility with a digital image? I agree it may be an unlikely scenario, but it could happen, and more than once.

Thirdly, in a time of income shortfall for our state government, why mandate a very expensive measure, costing $2.6 million for the first year and $451,000 for succeeding years.

Fourth, current election systems must be updated in a timely way to meet more immediate needs and not risk their failure while waiting for an electronic system to be put in place.

Please vote no to LB 1065.