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Barring any public health emergency, high school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 7-10. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.
The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.
“Civic engagement means a lot of things,” Senator Hunt said. “From volunteering at a phone bank and canvassing neighbors on important issues to census counts and running for office, the range of opportunities to participate in our community is immense. I have no doubt that during student’s time in the Unicameral Youth Legislature, students will learn how to expand their influence and effect on the systems of government that are ultimately here to serve them.”
Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available.
The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.
To learn more about the program, go to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl or call (402) 471-2788. The deadline for registration is May 15.
For more information, please contact Kate Heltzel at (402) 471-2788 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Health and Human Services Committee (HHS) introduced LB 1140 to address long-overdue reforms to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) in Nebraska. This bill emerged from a joint interim study and a report conducted by the HHS Committee.
The increased oversight and changes are a response to worsening violence, escapes, and inhumane living conditions found at these facilities. This issue is currently being debated on the floor, and you can watch the live coverage here.
LB 1140 is composed of five other bills to address vital changes and updates to the YRTCs. Below are the proposed changes:
The Department of Health and Human Services indicated they would need to construct additional buildings at the YRTC in Geneva for “appropriate physical separation and segregation of juveniles based on gender.”
Danette Smith, CEO of DHHS, made a statement that has promised to strengthen existing protocols. They also started a committee called the “Future State Planning Committee for Nebraska’s Youth Care System” which includes discussions on the YRTC.
LB 1144 is brought by the HHS Committee as a package to provide legislative oversight to the YRTCs. It will require annual facility reviews of YRTCs and creates a YRTC Legislative Oversight Committee.
LB 1148 creates YRTC judicial oversight by combining LB 458, LB 906, LB 969, and LB975. These bills clarify access to information, records, and reports relating to juvenile court. It also requires monthly updates to be provided to a court when a juvenile is placed at a YRTC.
The Legislature has passed the mid-point of this year’s session. Committee hearings concluded on February 27th and the Legislature moved to all-day debate on March 3rd. To allow the Legislature to debate more bills, we will enter into late nights on March 18th. Below are just a few of my colleagues’ priority bills I want to highlight.
Senator Patty Pansing Brooks prioritized LB 627 which prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation and identity. This bill addresses the systemic discrimination against people in the LGBTQ+ community. Together we can move Nebraska forward by embracing all Nebraskans. LB 627 will help keep local talent in our state. The diversity of thought, perspective, skills, and strengths enhances Nebraska’s economy. We must embrace inclusion and do the right thing. This bill will be heard in the coming days on General File.
Senator Kate Bolz prioritized LB 43, which adopts the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act. This bill is currently on Select File. It provides for certain rights for victims of sexual assault-related to physical examinations, interviews, or depositions arising out of the assault. We have a duty to protect these people by ensuring they have an advocate and giving them the tools to move forward. In an article by the Omaha World-Herald, Angie Lauritsen said, “If we truly want to curb sexual assault and trafficking in our state by bringing perpetrators of these crimes to justice, we must support LB 43. When survivors of sexual assault feel safe and supported throughout their interaction with medical and legal processes, they are more likely to report their assaults, and we, as a state, are more likely to hold perpetrators accountable while achieving safety for our communities and justice for survivors.”
Senator Ernie Chambers prioritized LB 924, which changes provisions relating to racial profiling and requires law enforcement training on this issue. This bill is currently on Final Reading. It requires certified law enforcement officers to complete a minimum of two hours of “anti-bias or implicit bias training” per year. LB 924 addresses our implicit biases that have been woven into the fabric of our society since it formed. These biases and stereotypes can turn minor encounters with law enforcement officers into dangerous and potentially deadly ones. We must train our officers to protect and serve all of us.
Senator Adam Morfeld prioritized LB 997, which adopts the Out-of-Network Emergency Medical Care Act. This bill is currently on Final Reading. The purpose of this bill is to avoid consumers being subjected to “surprise billing” in emergency situations by out-of-network providers or facilities. Our country’s healthcare is the world’s most expensive. The United States spends twice as much on healthcare as 10 other high-income nations. Health care is a human right and must be accessible and affordable to everyone.
Senator Machaela Cavanaugh prioritized LB 1060, which includes hair textures and protective hairstyles within the definition of race under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act. This bill is currently on Select File. The purpose of this bill is to expand the definition of race for the purposes of employment discrimination to include traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and styles (braids, locks, etc.). It addresses how professionalism is tied to European standards and that restrictive grooming policies have unfairly targeted black workers and students more than any other group.
On March 2nd, I joined my colleagues at the UNO Women’s Policy Forum to discuss the impact electing women has on our communities and our laws. I was joined by several other women in the Legislature.
Many elected officials vote on issues from a position of their own experience, and many people, because of their experience, forget to consider how issues affect not only women but people of color, incarcerated people, children. In my experience, speaking generally, women are the ones who tend to think more about these groups of people, because we come from a place of inclusion, we’re used to supporting people in our communities, and that has been my experience with working with these women in the Legislature. Grateful to UNO for elevating the women of the Legislature and facilitating a conversation about women in leadership.
On March 9th, I met a bright and engaged group of students from Lincoln who took time from their spring break to come to the Capitol and learn about the Unicameral! We talked about climate change, non-discrimination, and answered a lot of questions about our lawmaking process. The days that I get to talk to kids are my favorites.
In this session, 481 new bills were introduced as well as 15 substantive resolutions/constitutional amendments. Besides this new legislation, bills from the last session that were not acted upon do carry over to this session. In January, as people worked to select their priorities for 2020, floor debate mainly centered on bills from last year. In February, we began debating priority bills and other legislation introduced this session. On March 3rd, the legislature will begin full-day floor debate and no more committee hearings will be held.
Each senator is allowed to designate one bill as a personal priority bill and each committee can designate two committee priority bills. The Speaker designates another 25 priority bills. This session, I have prioritized LB 962, a bill that will allow student-athletes in college to receive compensation for their name, image, and likeness rights. This will allow students to participate in the free market and earn money for their talents, just like every other student is currently allowed to do.
We only have 30 days left in the session with many difficult issues to debate. I hope that you will continue to stay in touch with me on any issue that is of importance to you.
On February 4th, Senator Megan Hunt introduced LB 962. This bill would allow athletes at Nebraska’s colleges to earn money from their name, image, and likeness rights, or athletic reputation, over objections from the NCAA.
The bill advanced from committee to general file on February 13th, and has shown enough potential to be Senator Hunt’s priority bill for this session.
On February 18th, Senator Megan Hunt attended the opening of the Black and Pink organization’s, “Lydon House”. The Lydon House will operate as a transitional living home for members of the LGBTQA+ community that are coming out of the correctional system.
“To be an urban city, to be a city that welcomes everyone, we need these kinds of services and these are the kind of organizations that we need.”
Senator Megan Hunt has continued to make her rounds throughout the schools in Nebraska. This month, she has visited 5 different classrooms within Rosehill and Dundee Elementary to teach about the three branches of government and democracy.
February 27-19th – Omaha Jazz Festival
Held at the Holland Performing Arts Center Scott Recital Hall
February 29th – February Food Pantry Day
Held at Benson Baptist Church
March 6th – Benson First Friday
Two indoor artist markets will be held at Masonic Lodge and Citylight Arts Project. Petshop, Envy Tequila Bar, Lion’s Mane Vintage, Mercer Masonic Lodge, B-Side Theatre, and Infusion Brewing Company will all be participating from 7:00 – 10:00 pm.
March 7th – Soup Walk – 5k and 10k
Held at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
March 10th – Precinct Advisory Meeting
Held at the NW Precinct (10245 Wiesman Drive) from 6:00 – 7:00 pm. The meeting provides you with information on crime, apprehensions, statistics, and an opportunity to report your concerns to the police or an official who works at the Mayor’s office.
March 13th – Better Benson 2020
Held at Citylight Benson Church at 7:00 am
March 26th – Healing Arts Concert
Held at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at 12:00 pm
March 30th – Benson Neighborhood Association Meeting
Held at Benson Baptist Church
Senator Hunt will be speaking at this meeting
May 14-17th – Annual Garage Sale Weekend
Hosted by the Dundee Memorial Park Association
May 16th – Spring Honors Walk
A walk where we honor the memory of those who lost the battle against breast cancer and celebrate those who are still thriving. Held at Benson Park.
July 27-28th – Benson Days
Family-friendly summer festival that celebrates the neighborhood’s creative culture.
Lincoln Journal Star – Editorial, 1/26: Schools are making cash; their athletes should be, too
The Gateway – OPINION: Fight against food insecurity
Omaha World-Herald – Editorial: Nebraska expands opportunity through occupational licensing reform
Lincoln Journal Star – Former Huskers support bill allowing college athletes to profit from name, likeness
The Reader – The Legislative Balancing Act
Lincoln Journal Star – College athletes pay bill advances from committee for debate
Norfolk Daily News – Norfolk chamber supports arts bill
KMTV News Omaha – Nebraska lawmakers pass ‘Party Bus Bill’
KMTV News – Controversy over testimony at Unicameral
Lincoln, NE— 2.25.20 — Today, Senator Megan Hunt’s Nebraska Fair Pay to Play Act advanced from General File at the Nebraska Legislature. Legislative Bill 962 provides for all student-athletes enrolled in public and private four-year colleges in Nebraska to earn money from endorsements, sponsorships, and any other activities related to their athletic skills. Thirty-six Senators voted to advance the bill, with only four voting in opposition. This bill will allow college athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness rights or athletic reputation.
LB 962 would ensure that college athletes are not being taken advantage of and provide them more opportunities outside of the field. The bill would not require colleges and universities to pay the athletes, but would provide for college athletes to seek endorsement deals such as posting an Instagram post or teaching lessons to aspiring athletes. If passed, Nebraska could be the second state in the nation to enact name, image, likeliness rights legislation.
“The vast majority of college athletes, even with scholarships, struggle to make ends meet. LB 962 is our chance to align these athletes with the rest of the student population and restore their right to earn a wage for their talent and skills,” Hunt said. “Students understand the market opportunities available to them through social media. They understand the modern economy. It doesn’t matter if they’re the biggest star athlete in Nebraska or if they’re a tennis player at a D3 school who just wants to give private lessons in the off-season: Currently, neither of them can earn a dime. That’s not right.”
Lincoln, NE— 2.21.20 — Today, Senator Megan Hunt introduced LB 872 which seeks to repeal the language in state statute that requires both physicians and the state to provide unsafe and inaccurate information to patients regarding “abortion reversal.” New evidence presented by University of California-Davis researchers has raised serious safety concerns about the dangers of not completing a medical abortion combination regimen. The study investigated claims that the hormone progesterone can stop a medication abortion.
The study was stopped for safety concerns after three patients required transport to an emergency room for hemorrhaging. All women in the study except one experienced bleeding. The first pill in medication abortion — mifepristone — is not intended to be used without the follow-up misoprostol treatment within 24-48 hours. The study shows that there are serious medical concerns about encouraging patients to seek out a treatment that is not grounded in science or medicine.
“The UC-Davis study raises serious safety concerns about not completing the evidence-based medical abortion combination regimen,” Senator Hunt said. “Mifepristone is not intended to be used without follow-up misoprostol treatment. It is even more concerning that states are passing laws to encourage women to participate in what amounts to an unmonitored experiment. When a study is monitored, as this one was, we have the ability to stop if safety concerns arise.”
“The legislation that we passed last year was irresponsible, and new evidence shows that the “abortion reversal” procedure recommended by DHHS threatens the health and safety of patients,” Senator Hunt said. “We should not be passing laws that encourage women to participate in an unmonitored experiment. That’s what the enactment of LB 209 has done to abortion patients in Nebraska. The State of Nebraska should embrace evidence-based practices, not promote and encourage bad medicine.”
Chief of Staff & Legislative Aide
Dave graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2010. After graduation, he spent time working for labor unions in Washington D.C. before moving back to Nebraska to work as an organizer for Planned Parenthood. He is currently a third-year law student at the University of Nebraska Law School.
In his limited spare time (law student), he enjoys baseball (Go Cubs) and reading, mostly history books. When not at work or school Dave is usually taking his dog to the dog park or on a bike ride. He is also a self-declared cinephile — a lover of movies.
Communications Director & Administrative Aide
Cassy studied at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in Political Science and Global Studies. She has been heavily involved with Amnesty International and is currently a Sexual and Reproductive Rights trainer for the organization. She has previously interned for the ACLU, the Nebraska Unicameral, the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, and Sisterhood is Global Institute in Amman, Jordan.
Cassy is currently studying to become fluent in Arabic and wants to begin to learn Russian next. She loves learning about other cultures through language. In her free time, she fosters animals for the humane society, works as a part-time bartender, and is a plant connoisseur.
Temi is a senior Psychology and Political Science double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is from the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, but has found a home in Nebraska. At UNL, Temi is the current president of the Afrikan Peoples Union, a member of the NU Student Alliance that helps advocate at the legislature on behalf of the university, and a couple of other fun clubs.
Reading, writing, soccer, and chess are all hobbies that Temi loves. Post-grad, he is deciding between a few interests that he might pursue, but he hopes that his road will lead back to Nebraska.
Anna is currently a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French. Her interests include foreign policy and working on basic human rights. Anna says that her position with Senator Hunt will allow her to dive deeper into the political field, which will help with incorporating her interests into her future career.
Anna enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures. After graduation, she hopes to travel to another country to teach English and learn about their government system for a year, then returning to attend graduate school.
Fun Fact: Anna has eaten at the same Mexican restaurant as Barack Obama (S/O La Juanitas in Sioux City, IA).
Matt is a senior Political Science and Accounting double major student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At school, he has been involved in various independent research projects regarding state legislatures, specifically term limits and ideas on representation. Matt says that coming to the Unicameral is like stepping out of the academic journal and into the wild!
As a lifelong Lincolnite and Nebraskan, he says that the Unicameral has always had a place in his psyche and he is thrilled to help on a team doing work to make this state a more welcoming place. In Matt’s spare time, he loves to read books of all kinds: mythology, psychology, justice, history. He is also a huge fan of the Denver sports teams—Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche, and Rockies.
Lincoln, Neb. — 1.16.20 — Today, three senators from Omaha introduced four bills (LBs 1037, 1038, 1039, and 1040) to address the lack of access to healthy, affordable foods for workers, families, and children across Nebraska.
“It’s hard to reconcile the fact that 200,000 Nebraskans struggle with food insecurity when they’re living in America’s breadbasket,” said Senators Hunt, Vargas, and Cavanaugh in a joint statement. “Even in a state with expanses of farmland and ranches, many families are worried about how to feed their kids. Every hungry family, every hungry child is relying on answers from our state government.”
LB1040 from Senator Vargas (District 7) would appropriate money to the Department of Agriculture to manage and grow Double Up Food Bucks, a program that doubles the value of federal nutrition (SNAP or food stamps) benefits spent at participating markets and grocery stores. The Double Up program began in Lincoln in 2017, and has since grown to nine locations and benefited more than 700 families. Double Up is currently managed by Nebraska Extension with help from the Department of Agriculture.
“Double Up Food Bucks has been an incredibly successful program with a huge impact for families and farmers over the past few years. LB1040 will grow that program while helping people bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables and supporting local farmers,” said Senator Vargas.
Senator Hunt’s (District 8) LB1038 would remove SNAP restrictions on an individual with three or more felony convictions for possession or use of a controlled substance if they participate in a substance abuse program. The bill would remove a major barrier to successful reintegration for formerly incarcerated people, while reducing hunger for the individuals and their families that are negatively affected by this restriction. LB1037 would ensure that eligible children aren’t removed from benefits due to someone in the household being disqualified. Under the current SNAP system, if one person in a household is disqualified from participation in the program, the entire family loses access.
“Over 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year who face monumental barriers to attaining employment and housing. Restricting access to basic necessities for these populations perpetuates the cycle of poverty and increases rates of recidivism.” said Senator Hunt. “Additionally, Nebraska’s current rules around SNAP qualification exclude children who live in a household with an adult who may not qualify. Children shouldn’t go hungry because our state hasn’t adopted this common sense, compassionate approach.”
LB1039 from Senator Cavanaugh (District 6) would create the Hunger-Free Schools Program, ensuring that every public school student in Nebraska is provided with breakfast and lunch during the school day at no cost to their family. Participating schools will be reimbursed by the Nebraska Department of Education for the total difference between their expenses and federal reimbursement. Schools will also maximize their participation in federal reimbursement programs such as the Community Eligibility Provision, bringing Nebraskans’ tax dollars back to Nebraska.
“With over 80,000 children in Nebraska facing food insecurity, meals at school are one of the most effective tools available to ensure they get the nutrition they need and deserve,” Senator Cavanaugh said. “Studies have shown that well-fed students are well-performing students, receiving better grades and better health. By making these meals freely available to all public school children, regardless of income, we can eliminate needless bureaucracy, better prepare our children for educational success, and let our educational professionals focus on education.”
Lincoln, NE— 1.15.20 — Today the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) recognized Senator Megan Hunt with the 2020 Inspiring Efficiency Award in the Leadership category. The Inspiring Efficiency Awards honor leaders who delivered groundbreaking advancements in energy efficiency in five categories: Leadership, Education, Impact, Innovation and Marketing.
“Today more than ever, the power to build a sustainable world rests on the shoulders of state and local officials,” Hunt said. “Nebraska is a nationwide leader in energy efficiency, creating economic opportunities, protecting the environment and advancing clean energy across the Midwest. I’m proud to play a role in finding solutions to build a healthier, more sustainable world.”
MEEA selected Senator Hunt as an award recipient because of her leadership as the sole sponsor of Nebraska Legislative Bill 405, which updated the Nebraska Energy code from the 2009 IECC to the unamended 2018 IECC, a three-version code jump signed into law in 2019. Senator Hunt shepherded the bill through the legislative process, defending against harmful amendments, and rallying support when necessary. Senator Hunt convinced a politically diverse body of state lawmakers to adopt the most progressive energy code in the country.
ABOUT THE MIDWEST ENERGY EFFICIENCY ALLIANCE:
The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) is a collaborative network advancing energy efficiency in the Midwest for sustainable economic development and environmental stewardship across 13 states. MEEA is the Midwest’s key proponent and resource for energy efficiency policy, helping to educate and advise a diverse range of stakeholders on ways to pursue a cost-effective, energy-efficient agenda. Through partnerships, programs and a dynamic annual conference, we curate a forward-thinking conversation to realize the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency.
Lincoln, NE— 1.13.20 — Today Senator Megan Hunt introduced two bills with the purpose of establishing creative districts in Nebraska, funded by the sale of Support the Arts license plates. LB 942 tasks the Department of Motor Vehicles to design a Support the Arts license plate in coordination with the Nebraska Arts Council. The bill also creates the Support the Arts Cash Fund, with the primary purpose of funding the establishment of creative districts in the state. LB 943 grants the Council authority to propose a plan for identifying and certifying creative districts in Nebraska. Once established, these creative districts would be able to apply for a grant from the Council, funded by the sale of Support the Arts license plates.
“Creative districts can revitalize neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for its residents,” Hunt said. “These districts can bring physical transformation, economic growth, and greater community and cultural cohesion. There are over 300 creative districts across the country, but Nebraska is one of the few states that does not recognize any creative districts. We need to embrace the amazing grassroots artists in our state for how much excitement, economic development opportunities, and cultural vibrancy they bring to neighborhoods across Nebraska.”
“The arts put people to work, fostering a skilled workforce of creative occupations that contribute to economic productivity,” Hunt said. “The arts and culture industry produces substantial federal, state, and local tax revenue that only continues to grow.”
Lincoln, NE— 1.13.20 — Today Senator Megan Hunt introduced LB 962, allowing student athletes the right to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. Student athletes are the only college students who are prohibited from earning an income for their skill or talent. The Fair Pay to Play Act gives students who are athletes the same opportunity as the rest of their classmates to participate in the market and earn money for their skills and talent. This bill will not cost taxpayers or universities a dime, because it opens up the opportunity for all student athletes to leverage the value of their talent and skill through the free market and entrepreneurship. LB 962 was introduced with the bipartisan support of 11 cosponsors.
“NCAA athletic programs generate tons of revenue, while players who generate this money can only be compensated with performance-based athletic scholarships,” Hunt said. “These athletes give free labor for no compensation and at great risk to their physical health. That’s why ensuring all student athletes have control over the value of their name, image, and likeness rights is so important to leveling the playing field and ensuring the civil rights of all students.”
“LB 962 is about the right of every person to work, to participate in the free market, and to gain a living through their work and talent,” Hunt said. “Today, colleges and universities profit greatly from intercollegiate sports while athletes struggle to have enough money for food. With the Fair Pay to Play Act, players will finally enjoy the right to benefit from the value of their name, image, and likeness rights through markets and entrepreneurship.”
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