LWVNE Testimony Supporting LB 43

On Feb. 20, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska submitted testimony in support of LB43, a bill to adopt the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act.

Download the submitted testimony or read the full text below.

February 20, 2019

Senator Steve Lathrop, Chair

Judiciary Committee

State Capitol

Re:  LB 43 (Bolz)  Adopt the Sexual Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act

Dear Senator Lathrop and Members of the Committee,

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska strongly supports LB 43 and its long overdue protections for survivors of sexual assault.  Too often the shame of being such a victim has debased that victim’s ability to believe herself or himself worthy of restorative measures.

The U.S. League of Women Voters adopted its position on human trafficking in 2014.  Part of the position states that “Extensive essential services for victims should be applied where needed.”  The LWV of Nebraska believes that Senator Bolz’s Bill of Rights accurately defines those essential services that will help bring healing, along with justice, to all victims of sexual assault.

We urge you to advance LB 43 to General File for full debate by the members of the Senate.

Respectfully submitted,

John Else, Social Policy Director
Sherry Miller, President


How Bills Become Laws in Nebraska

Ever wonder the steps required for an introduced bill to become a Nebraska law? We’ve got a quick explanation below. We hope to empower Nebraskans to be active observers and even participants in the process!

Unicameral 101: How Bills Move through the Lawmaking Process

An Idea Becomes Introduced Text

Each Senator has 10 days from the start of the session to introduce as many bills as they would like. The deadline this year was Jan. 23, so all the bills that will be considered in this session have been introduced. You can find them all on the Nebraska Legislature website.

Bill Gets Assigned to a Committee

The Reference Committee assigns each bill to one of the Standing Committees.

Bill Gets a Hearing

Every bill gets a public hearing at the committee level. You can see the schedule for hearings on the Nebraska Legislature website. (The weekly schedule even has a handy “Add to Calendar” button.) You can watch hearings live or on-demand via NET.

Committee Considers the Bill

You can attend committee hearings in person (the calendar has location information) and optionally participate to support or oppose the bill.

You can also express support or opposition to a bill (while it’s in committee) by submitting written testimony to the committee chair.

If you are not testifying in person on a bill and would like to submit a written position letter to be included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, the letter must be delivered to the office of the committee chair (or emailed to the committee chair) of the committee conducting the hearing on the bill by 5:00 p.m. on the last work day prior to the public hearing.

Additionally, the letter must include your name and address, state a position of for, against, or neutral on the bill in question and include a request for the letter to be included as part of the public hearing record.

from the Nebraska Legislature website

The committee hears testimony about the bill and then can vote to:

  • indefinitely postpone the bill (“IPP” in the graphic below), effectively “killing the bill” as it won’t advance to general file this session; or
  • take no action; or
  • amend the bill; or
  • advance the bill to general file, meaning that all senators will vote on it.

(To be clear, they can vote to advance without amending, or can amend and then advance, or even amend but not advance.)

Bill Gets to General File (and Possibly Floor Debate)

If the introduced and/or amended bill gets sent to general file by the committee, then it may or may not be debated and voted on by all the senators from across the state.

The speaker can decide to block the bill from floor debate, meaning no action is taken, or can advance the bill to floor debate.

Senators can offer floor amendments during discussion of a bill. Amendments to bills are voted upon separately. A bill will move to select file if at least 25 senators vote to advance it.

Bill Gets to Select File (and Possibly More Floor Debate)

Once at the select file stage, senators can continue floor debate before voting again to advance, or not advance, the bill.

Bill Gets to Final Reading

Final reading is usually non-controversial. The clerk reads the entire bill, or, if a bill is unusually lengthy, the senators may vote to dispense with reading the entire bill.

If, following the final reading, a majority of senators vote for the bill, the bill passes and then goes to the governor.

Bill Goes to the Governor

The governor has 5 working days to sign the bill, veto the bill, or let the bill pass without his signature. If the governor vetoes the bill, the legislature can override the governor’s veto with 30 votes.

Bill Becomes a Law

If a bill has an “emergency” clause, it becomes law immediately upon the governor’s signature. If not, a bill becomes law 90 days after the last day of the session.

Legislative Process: The Flowchart

Download this graphic as a PDF: Bill-to-Law Process

For even more info, see all of our Unicameral 101 posts, including a video explanation of how a bill becomes a law.

LWVNE Testimony Supporting LB 230

On Feb. 13, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska submitted testimony in support of LB 230, a bill to provide for room confinement of juveniles as prescribed.

On Feb. 14, members of the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill, but did not take any immediate action.

Download the submitted testimony or read the full text below.

Dear Senator Lathrop and Members of the Committee,

We write in support of Senator Pansing Brooks’  LB 230. The League of Women Voters of Nebraska supports a correctional system that provides for humane treatment of an accused or incarcerated offender, both juvenile and adult.

This seems to be a simple bill that provides important and humane constraints on the use of room confinement for juvenile offenders living in confinement facilities.  These limitations are critically important to the mental health and development of youth. The required report and rigid timeline will assure that there is timely awareness of the use of such confinement in youth facilities and will enable the Legislature to hold facilities accountable.  

We hope this bill receive Committee approval and broad support by the Legislature.  

Sincerely,

John F. Else, Director of Social Policy                                                        

Sherry Miller, President

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

LWVNE Testimony Supporting LB 391

On Feb. 13, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska submitted testimony in support of LB 391, a bill to change duties of peace officers taking juveniles into custody or interrogating juveniles and prohibit use of statements taken in violation of the rights of a juvenile

Download the submitted testimony or read the full text below.

Dear Senator Lathrop and Members of the Committee,

We write in support of Senator Pansing Brooks’s LB 391.  The League of Women Voters of Nebraska supports a correctional system, including initial arrest, that provides for humane treatment of an accused offender, both juvenile and adult. 

LB 391  is a straight-forward bill that assures that arrested juveniles receive the same legal protections as adults, but including, in these cases, requirements that the parent, guardian, custodian, or relatives be informed so that they are able to provide advice and counsel to the youth.  It also requires access to an attorney, either paid by the arrested person (or adults in his/her life) or by the State.

It also provides for limits on use of adult facilities for youth.  It excludes use of such facilities for youth under 16 and places time limits (of time and location, and requires significant supervision) on use of such facilities for youth 16 years of age or older. 

All of these provisions seem basic and appropriate.  We hope the bill will receive Committee approval and broad support in the Legislature.     

Sincerely,

John F. Else, Director of Social Policy

Sherry Miller, President                                         

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 Supporting LB 253

On Feb. 8, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska submitted testimony in support of LB 253, a bill to adopt the Redistricting Act. The executive board will hold its first hearing on this bill at 12 p.m. on Feb. 14 in Room 1525 of the Unicameral.

Download the submitted testimony or read the full text below.

Re:  LB 253, Hearing February 14, 2019

Dear Senator Hilgers and Members of the Committee,

Redistricting legislation is critical to open and fair government, so this is one of the most important legislative initiatives before the Nebraska Unicameral.  We congratulate Senator McCollister for the introduction of his revision of Senator Harr’s 2017 redistricting bill.  

Attached to this letter is a summary of the redistricting structures and process of the four key states selected for analysis in its Redistricting Study adopted by the LWV of Nebraska (2015).  How does LB253 compare with these four state redistricting laws?

  1. Nonpartisan Unicameral:  None of these states have unicameral legislatures, so there must be adaptations for Nebraska.  For instance, since there are not party caucuses in the legislature, the members of the commission are chosen by parties in the Congressional District Caucuses.
  2. Non-Partisan Commission:  LB253 mandates that the Legislative Research Office (LRO) draws the districts, which is positive.  LB253 prescribes a non-partisan commission to conduct and report on four Legislative hearings in the three Congressional Districts.  To ensure a non-partisan process, Arizona and California select an equal number of Republican and Democratic members and then one or more Independents, one of whom must be chair. LB253 uses a similar process by mandating that  6 members, one from each party from each of the 3 Congressional Caucuses constitute the Commission. Those 6 members then elect the one non-partisan, who serves as chair.
  3. Maps Drawn by Non-Partisan Legislative Office:  The Iowa system uses the Legislative Services Agency (very similar to the Nebraska’s Legislative Research Office (LRO) to draw the districts.  Again, a system very much like one of the outstanding redistricting systems.
  4. Ignoring Incumbent Addresses:  LB253 does not ignore incumbent addresses.  The Nebraska Constitutional provides that senators in office after redistricting are allowed to remain in office for the remainder of their terms: “the law providing for such redistricting shall where necessary specify the newly established district which they shall represent for the balance of their term” (Article III, Section 7).  This provision creates some problems, because avoiding incumbent addresses may mean drawing new districts only around existing districts. This makes it very difficult to draw the best overall district maps. However, we are assured that there are procedures for addressing this issue.
  5. Finally, five issues raised in Governor Ricketts’ veto message are satisfied:
    • Points 2 & 3 above satisfy Governor Ricketts’ concern (in his veto of LB580 dated April 20, 2016) that that the bill should reflect “the spirit and tradition of our non-partisan Legislature.”
    • This bill gives the Legislative Research Office (NOT the Independent Advisory Commission) the authority to draft the maps (or after rejection of the maps twice by the Legislature, that power shifts to the Legislature’s Executive Board).  The LRO is the agency that drafts all legislation. The drafting of maps by the Legislative Research Office avoids the Governor’s concern that that the Commission “could become a hyper-partisan, unelected advisory commission that will likely be comprised of formal political party activities and former elected officials.”
    • The bill also provides for hearings held in all three Congressional Districts (rather than simply in the Capital).  While the Commission schedules, chairs, and reports on these hearings, the reports on the hearings come before the Legislature, the same as the reports of other hearings.
    • The bill does not contradict the Nebraska Constitution.  There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the Legislature from delegating part of the responsibility of conducting hearings and providing reports.  The Commission does not draw the maps. They are drawn by the LRO—or, in the final instance, by the Legislature’s Executive Board. Furthermore, the final decisions about the maps is retained by the Legislature—and if it is not satisfied with the second set of maps, it retains the authority to draw its own maps.
    • Finally, this provision—that the Legislature retains the authority to draw its own maps—avoids the Governor’s final concern.  It’s timeline significantly reduces the likelihood of delays that could create a need for “a special session to be called for the purpose of enacting redistricting plans.”
  6. Several Minor Issues:

  • The maximum allowable variations in populations except for U.S. Congressmen is 10 percent.  This may a be larger variation than the Courts would accept, but that is not certain.
  • It appears that amendments to the redistricting bills are not allowed, but that is not specifically stated in the bill.
  • If the Unicameral is unable to approve the any of the first two sets of bills, the Legislature’s Executive Board becomes responsible for drawing the maps, then sending them to the Legislature for amendment and approval.
  • This bill does not include the language in LB580 (2015-16) asking that the Secretary of State provide a formal opinion on the constitutionality of the proposed maps.  This eliminates one of the issues raised by Governor Ricketts in his veto message.

We believe this in an outstanding bill that will serve well the citizens of Nebraska.  It deserves the strong support of our tremendous non-partisan Legislature.    

Sincerely,

John F. Else,   Social Policy Director                                                                      

Sherry Miller, President

 

 

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

2019 Nebraska Legislative Preview

In this episode of Go Vote, Omaha!, MaryLee Moulton talks with Peggy Adair, League of Women Voters of Nebraska’s unpaid lobbyist, about the Nebraska Legislative process and newly introduced bills that the League is watching this legislative session.

Go Vote Omaha! is our locally produced informational television program. Watch Go Vote Omaha at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday nights on Cox channel 22 or CenturyLink channel 89 or anytime on YouTube. You can also listen to these episodes as podcasts on Podbean.

Join Us to Celebrate a Resolution Declaring August 2019 ‘Nebraska Woman’s Suffrage Month’

Join the League of Women Voters of Nebraska (LWVNE) and the League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha (LWVGO) at the Nebraska Legislature to be present when Senator Lynne Walz presents a resolution declaring August 2019 as Nebraska Woman’s Suffrage Month!

The resolution will be read at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14 in the chamber. Members of the League of Women Voters of Nebraska will be recognized as part of the reading.

This is the kickoff to the Centennial Celebration of the 19th Amendment and the 100th Anniversary of the League of Women Voters.

Please meet us at 10:30 a.m. at the doors to the legislative chamber. We will walk up to the gallery to be recognized when Sen. Walz recognizes LWV members and marks the passing of the resolution presented.

RSVP using the form below, or, for more information, contact MaryLee Moulton at mmoulton@lwvgo.org.