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Greetings Northeast Lincoln! Spring has sprung and the legislature is gearing up to spend more and more time in-doors. With only five weeks left of Session, we will be working long hours to make sure our bills are heard by the body.
The first round of debate on the biennial budget bills began last week. The Appropriations committee voted unanimously to advance from committee the 8 budget bills that are now on General file. The budget funds programs such as correctional services, property tax credits and schools like Southeast Community College, which would receive a general 3% increase under this budget. The proposed budget can be found here:
Last Wednesday, we debated 36 bills that were placed on the Consent Calendar. The Consent Calendar represents a portion of the agenda carrying noncontroversial bills. A bill on this calendar should not be debated for more than 15 minutes, and should advance somewhat quickly. Most bills change or update provisions or restrictions. If any three members of the Legislature believe a bill to be controversial, they can request that the bill be removed from the consent calendar.
In 2013, the Legislature created the Behavioral Health Screening and Referral Pilot Program at UNMC to address children’s behavioral health needs that were not being met. This year, I introduced LB 240 to remove the program’s termination date and allow for more clinic sites. Out of the 1,900 children screened since the program’s inception, approximately a quarter of those screened positive for a behavioral health concern. There is a need in our state to identify and treat disorders such as depression and anxiety among young people, and LB 240 seeks to meet that need. After advancing from General file to Select file, an amendment was adopted that will sunset the program in September of 2017. Last Wednesday, LB 240 advanced to Final Reading. By extending BHECN, we are bridging the gap between screening and treatment, investing in happy and healthy youth, and preventing fatalities related to behavioral health.
After the advancement of BHECN, there were several hours of late-night debate on LB 599, a bill to lower the minimum wage for certain young student workers. I fought against the advancement of this bill with many of my colleagues, unsuccessfully However, the legislature will have one more opportunity to vote on LB 599 before it’s sent to the Governor. As the youngest member of the legislature, I feel compelled to maintain the rights of Nebraska’s youth. The value of our young people cannot be exaggerated.
Since last month, many bills have advanced, and many have failed to advance. The following bills are ones that I co-sponsored. LB 472, the Medicaid Redesign Act, introduced by Senator Campbell, was bracketed until June 5, 2015. LB627, a bill to change provisions relating to pregnancy and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act, introduced by Senator Mello, was approved by the Governor. Finally, Senator Chambers’ LB 268, a bill to repeal the death penalty, advanced to Select file with 30 votes.
The pie chart below represents the concerns shared with our office by constituents. The healthcare category is over-arching, and includes medicaid expansion, women’s health, child welfare, and behavioral health. The Ag Issues category includes animal rights and livestock markets.
Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with several different groups. I was able to tour Gateway Vista, a retirement and assisted living facility in the district, with a healthcare administrator to see the facility and to talk about the healthcare process. I spoke to the Meadowlane Area Residence Association at their annual meeting about this session’s most important legislation. Most recently, I attended the Stand Up For Kids Carnival with several other Lincoln leaders to give tips on protecting our children. I was also able to meet with the NU’s President Hank Bounds.
Since the last newsletter, two LD 26 schools have visited us- Trinity Lutheran and Faith Lutheran. Thank you to all the students who have come to visit your Nebraska Legislature! We look forward to receiving Trinity Lutheran’s seventh and eighth graders this week.
The Nebraska Youth Legislature will be held June 7-10, 2015 and is open to all high school students. Registration includes lodging, meals, and daily transportation from East Campus to the Legislature. The deadline to register is May 15 and the fee is $350. Scholarships available. For more information visit NebraskaLegislature.gov/uyl
Thanks to everyone who has called, sent letters, e-mailed, or stopped by our office to share your views! We hope you’ll continue to let us know what is important to you. As always, thanks for reading.