Weekly Legislative Update
Even though last week marked the first day of spring, winter continues to linger. Hopefully warmer weather and rain comes quickly! Last week, the Unicameral passed the halfway mark for the session as hearings concluded. This week, full days of debate start as the legislature continues to discuss priorities designated by senators and committees.
As hearings concluded, the Judiciary Committee heard almost a dozen bills related to the use of guns. Many of these bills sought to protect our 2nd Amendment rights. Senator Kintner introduced his priority bill, LB293, to prohibit the disclosure of any applicant or permit holder information regarding firearms registration or sale. This legislation was introduced after a newspaper in New York published information disclosing the identity of gun owners, raising concerns that gun owners would become targets of crime.
Medicaid expansion continues to be a topic of heated discussion as legislative debate on the subject draws closer. Our District 16 hospitals and healthcare facilities deliver high quality, affordable healthcare, and help administer the state Medicaid program which provides access to healthcare for those in need. Currently, Nebraska’s Medicaid program costs $1.6 billion a year including $576 million in state general fund.
Obamacare already imposes and additional $227 million in direct costs to Nebraska’s Medicaid program meaning that the entire Medicaid program will cost Nebraska $770 million by 2020 without expanding coverage. Currently, about 242,000 Nebraskans are enrolled in Medicaid, and that number will likely grow by almost 50,000 in 2020. If LB577 passes and Medcaid coverage is expanded, this would cost the State of Nebraska another $116 million in general funds, bringing the total cost of Medicaid to $2.7 billion by 2020.
Many who support this expansion argue that Nebraska should not turn down federal funds that have been offered under Obamacare to support this expansion. During the first few years, federal funds would cover over 90% of the costs associated with expansion. In my view, this expansion poses two major concerns. First, these federal funds do not represent actual tax revenue, but rather additional deficit spending. Second, after the federal government’s commitment to the state ends in a few years, Nebraska taxpayers may be obligated to pick up the cost, potentially at the expense of other important budget priorities. We often say here in Nebraska, “we don’t spend money that we don’t have.”
As session continues, this column continues to highlight legislation that impacts Nebraska families. LB528 would allow for treatment of partners who have contracted sexually transmitted diseases without examination by a physician. Under this legislation, doctors would be able to prescribe antibiotics to patients and their partners with chlamydia and gonorrhea. Concerns have been raised that this legislation does not provide protection for minors that have been subject to abuse, and does not provide any protection for unexamined patients that may be taking additional medication.
In Lincoln this week, I had the honor of attending events hosted by the Nebraska Legislative Sportsmen’s Forum and the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance. On Friday, I spent the morning of our recess day at Wayne State speaking to the Northeast Nebraska Legislative Forum about issues of concern to people who live in our corner of the state. Even though hearings have concluded, I still want to hear your feedback on pending legislation as issues arise. Please contact either my administrative aide, David Slattery, or legislative aide, Taylor Gage, at (402) 471 2728 or firstname.lastname@example.org with your concerns.
Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,
Senator Lydia Brasch