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I would like to thank the many people who have contacted me in support of restoring the Mother’s Room. It has been very gratifying to hear the passionate voices of so many. I can’t thank you enough!
For those who may not know, I was instrumental in 2019, my first year at the Legislature, in getting a room set up for pregnant women and nursing moms to go to rest and to nurse a baby or pump breast milk. A former office on the second floor of the Capitol was remodeled with private donations to provide a sink, changing table and furnishings for mothers and babies. At the time, I was a nursing my youngest child.
I recently learned from one of the nursing moms that works in the building that it is no longer available. When I investigated I found out it is now being used as an office again during the current stage of the heating and air conditioning upgrade. I was, and remain, outraged! That room was customized for a specific purpose with private donations! There are other options for the one person that needed an office. In fact, I vacated my private office to be used for that person and I’ve now set up an office in a cubicle next to my staff.
Although the office assigned to me remains empty and the person remains in the Mother’s Room, the Chair of the Executive Board has informed the Legislature that it will be returned to use as a Mother’s Room as soon as possible. For now, the mamava pod on the first floor is an option but be aware, nursing moms, there is no way to wash your hands or wash the equipment so in my opinion is not adequate. If you have problems using the code (provided by staff at the info desk) or the app, Security has a key. Please let me know of any problems you encounter using the pod.
Yesterday the OIG for Child Welfare released a special report and recommendations on privatized child welfare services. Long story short – they recommend ending the contract and all privatization efforts. Here’s a link:
It’s that time of the decade again and while many are dividing perennials this fall, your state legislators are reshaping legislative districts. Redistricting can be complicated so I hope to make the process conceivable.
What Is It? Redistricting is the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts. It happens every 10 years based on the census. Redistricting determines where you vote and who’s on the ballot, and most importantly how our voices are heard.
Why Does It Happen? To fulfill the premise of equal representation as the constitution requires by keeping districts as equal as possible in population. How and where district lines are drawn can shape communities’ ability to elect representatives of their choice.
Why It Matters? Redistricting can dramatically impact the fairness of our political process.This matters because if not careful, it could leave states vulnerable to gerrymandering. Unfair redistricting (or gerrymandering) has negative ramifications such as impacting racial fairness by diluting the power of minority voters and giving an unfair advantage to one political party in a certain district.
Redistricting in Nebraska: Our legislature’s return for a special session starting today is dedicated to redistricting. The past couple of weeks has included the Legislative Research Division organizing data from the Census Bureau and the Redistricting Committee preparing recommendations they will present in hearings in each Congressional district. District remapping also includes our U.S. House of Representative districts, regent districts for the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, the Nebraska Supreme Court, the Nebraska Public Service Commission and State Board of Education.
Hearings will be as follows:
Tuesday, September 14 at 1:30pm at Central Community College, 3134 W. Hwy 34, Room 555, Health Science Education Center, Grand Island, NE
Wednesday, September 15 at 9:00am at the Nebraska State Capitol Bldg. Room 1524, Lincoln
Thursday, September 16 at 10 a.m. at the Scott Conference Center, 6450 Pine St. in Omaha
The Redistricting Committee website that gives further information on procedures and how to comment is found at: http://news.legislature.ne.gov/red/
Over the past two evenings, thousands of students have publicly shown their criticism of the University of Nebraska- Lincoln administration’s handling of sexual assault cases on campus, including a lack of support for survivors of sexual violence. It is clear that University leadership has already lost the trust of a significant portion of the student body on basic issues of safety on campus. We empathize with these students and their advocacy, and are deeply concerned that these issues have been of repeated public concern over the last several years.
Several Senators have written Chancellor Green. The full letter is linked below.
Special Session planned for September
Speaker Mike Hilgers has announced a plan to schedule a Special Session for the Legislature to address redistricting from September 13 through September 30th.
The finalized census data in a preliminary format is expected in mid-August. After receipt of this data, the Legislative Research Division will need approximately two weeks to re-format the data into a useable form. This time line leaves two weeks for the Redistricting Committee to work with the finalized data to prepare proposed maps and draft legislation prior to the start of the special session. The law needs passed and the maps provided to the Secretary of State prior to October 1. This will allow the Secretary of State and local officials to have time to prepare for the 2022 elections. For instance, voting precincts cannot cross a newly drawn legislative district boundary, so depending on the newly drawn districts some voting precincts will need to be redrawn by county election officials next fall.
The special session is limited to the purpose outlined in the call of the session, and no bills introduced outside the scope of the call will be considered. Specifically, and pursuant to the Nebraska Constitution, the Legislature’s redistricting responsibilities include redrawing districts for the Legislature, the Supreme Court, the University Board of Regents, the Public Service Commission, and the State Board of Education. The federal Constitution and federal law also place with the state legislatures the responsibility of redistricting for members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In addition to addressing redistricting legislation, the Legislature will be confirming gubernatorial appointments made between the end of our session in May and the beginning of the special session. Traditionally, the Legislature has always conducted confirmation hearings during a special session. While not specifically mentioned in special session calls, Attorney General Opinions hold that gubernatorial appointments fall within an administrative function of the Legislature, and thus, do not need to specifically be mentioned in the call. In addition to confirmation hearings and reports, standing committees may utilize the first few days to continue their interim work on study resolutions and to informally work on carryover legislation from the first session. No official action can be taken on any carryover legislation during the special session.
Page applications available to all Nebraska college students
The application process for the Page Program is now available to any Nebraska college
student who may be interested. The deadline for submitting page applications and letters
of recommendation for the 2022 legislative session will be Friday, October 1 at 5:00 p.m.
The page selection committee will meet in October to select individuals to fill those
Positions. For more information. https://nebraskalegislature.gov/unicampages/
Last week, a small group of legislators killed LB 376, a bill I introduced to create a Medicaid waiver, called a Family Support Waiver, to support children with Developmental Disabilities. The bill would reduce the number of individuals on the A&D waiting list for developmental disability services that now has over 3,000 people. Wait time is 6-8 years on average and is radically growing. Because of the long-term critical underfunding and a service model that has not been updated for decades, Nebraska families with disabled children have struggled greatly.
The Family Support Waiver could make would help families provide care at home with services designed to help the disabled child develop to their fullest potential. For some, that would eventually mean being able to live independently. This is already a federal program available for state participation that includes a federal matching amount. I had worked with Senator Stinner to limit the fiscal impact of the bill and identify the funding in this year’s budget. The senators who filibustered the bill ignored the fact that the money is available and Appropriations Chairman Stinner had agreed.
This fight has brought a lot of light to the issue and has solidified my resolve. I will continue to fight for these kids and families who desperately need our help. The link above is a press release the ARC of Nebraska will be releasing. To continue to bring light to the people who need this funding, they are hosting a press conference on Thursday at 11 a.m. Please clink the link to learn more.
Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, Nebraska Legislature 402-471-2617
Newly proposed regulation changes relating to childcare centers and certain schools or school programs has garnered a lot of comments. These proposed administrative regulations are in response to FEDERAL law and not as a result of any bill passed by the Nebraska Legislature. The federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 requires DHHS to develop a state plan that includes group size limits for specific age populations, as determined by the State. The group size limit is in addition to provider-to-child ratios. The federal law requires A PLAN but does not require certain ratio or size limits. The state can alter those limits in their state plan.
A public hearing on these proposed regulations was held on May 19th. My staff attended the hearing and I’ve been in contact with local representatives from some of the affected programs. While the deadline for public comment has passed, the department has indicated because of the large amount of feedback, it will continue to take comments but has asked that those comments are submitted ASAP. Any comments should be sent to: DHHS.Regulations@nebraska.gov.
Also, there will be another public hearing on this matter and another opportunity for parents and providers to weigh in on the proposed regulations.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
I’ve designated Legislative Resolution 29 as my priority for this year. LR 29 will create the Eastern Service Area Child Welfare Contract Special Investigative and Oversight Committee of the Legislature.
The standing committee, Health and Human Services, will work collaboratively with the LR 29 Committee in studying the child welfare contract, the RFP (Request for Proposal) process and contract decision making process. The committees will also study the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Administrative Services with respect to the award, implementation, and oversight of the contract. Findings and recommendations will be issued no later than December 1, 2021.
With allegations of financial mismanagement and poor performance of the current contractor, I felt this was of utmost importance. Taking care of these vulnerable children IS of utmost importance. The contractor, Saint Francis Ministries, has commented to the Health and Human Services Committee, that their original application and bid for the $147 Million services contract was fraudulent. The latest CEO of that company used that very word in their report. So, why should the State of Nebraska continue to throw money at the contract in hopes of improving performance? In addition to the original amount, HHS issued an “emergency” contract with an additional amount that makes their payments even higher. Why? Because until other plans can be made and implemented to take care of the 2500 children involved, there is no one else to do it. The decades-long experiment in Nebraska with child welfare privatization has proven over and over that the process is fraught with problems.
Children in the eastern service area deserve better. Let’s see if we can get to the root of the problem.
A related bill is LB 428. Section 2 of AM 566 requires the Legislature to complete an evaluation of the “pilot program” of privatization of child welfare case management services in the Eastern Service Area by December 31, 2021. The bill would authorize the Legislature to hire a consultant to assist in completing the evaluation. LB 428 is currently on Select File, or the second round of debate. It is a Health and Human Services Committee bill that is very likely to pass.
Here’s a recent television news article about the wait list known as the “DD wait list.”
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