Sen. Colby Coash
District 27

Welcome Back the Members of the 104th Legislature event!

December 31st, 2014

Lancaster County Senators 

Colby Coash                   Kathy Campbell          Ken Haar

Kate Bolz                         Patty Pansing-Brooks                Laura Ebke

     Roy Baker                    Adam Morfeld             Matt Hansen


 Mueller|Robak LLC


Invite you to the Welcome Back the Members of the 104th Legislature event!


Please join us for appetizers and a cash bar:

Wed., January 7th, 2015

The Cornhusker Hotel

(Grand Ballroom)



Thank you to our generous sponsors:

Nebraska Independent Community Bankers * Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Nebraska

Nebraska Rural Electric Association * Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Nebraska

Nowka and Edwards * Rembolt Ludtke LLP * O’Hara Lindsay and Associates

Kelly & Jerram * Kissel/Erickson, Sederstrom & Associates * American Communications Group

Moylan Law Offices * Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District

Nebraska Bankers Association * Nebraska Farmers Association * Nebraska Cattlemen Association

League of Nebraska Municipalities * Loran Schmit * Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation

Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry * Nebraska Association of County Officials

Nebraska Association of Nurse Anesthetists * Nebraska Natural Resource District

Black Hills Energy * Nebraska State AFL-CIO * Heartland Strategy Group * Peetz and Company

Radcliffe and Associates * Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation * Jack Cheloha, City of Omaha * LIBA

Eric Gerrard, LLC * Nebraska Press Association * Husch Blackwell

Lincoln Chamber of Commerce * Frazier & Fraizer Law Offices * COX Communications * NSEA

Home Instead Senior Care * Bromm and Associates * Brennan & Nielsen Law Offices

No RSVP necessary.

Please contact Katie in Senator Coash’s office at with questions.

LR574 – Interim Study Report

November 6th, 2014

There is a substantial percentage of individuals in the United States who are deaf and hard of hearing.  Across the nation, there is a growing interest in fully integrated facilities for the deaf community.  An interim study on LR574 was introduced by Senator Coash during the 103rd Legislature.  LR574 explores the need for fully integrated residential services for people who are deaf and hard of hearing in Nebraska.  LR574 sought comments from the deaf community and residential providers regarding challenges that the deaf community faces in society, such as access to hearing aids, communication, and isolation.

Click on the link to read the full report.

LR574 Final Report

Heineman signs Nebraska autism coverage bill

April 22nd, 2014
Associated Press 
LINCOLN, Neb. — An estimated 1,000 Nebraskans will receive insurance coverage for autism therapies under a new state law.

Gov. Dave Heineman signed the bill into law Monday standing alongside two families with autistic children, and said the measure means more to him personally than any other he’s signed into law.

The proposal allows for up to 25 hours per week of covered therapy until the insured person turns 21 years old. Required coverage would include applied behavioral analysis, a treatment method that has been shown to help autistic children learn to function better. Certain insurance plans will be exempt from the autism requirement, including those that are sold in the individual and small-group markets under the new federal health care marketplace.

Vicki Depenbusch and 15-year-old son Jacob stood next to Heineman during the bill signing. Heineman and Jacob met in 2010 at a parent-teacher conference, and the pair has been friends ever since, Heineman said. Jacob was nonverbal until he was about 4, but with the treatment and support from his school district, he started communicating through sign language, pictures and then words.

“I’m signing this bill into law on behalf of Jacob and Nebraska’s autism families who are challenged with autism every day,” Heineman said.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, the bill’s sponsor, said there were times he considered giving up on the bill. It advanced out of committee in early April, leaving lawmakers little time to debate and vote on the bill. He credited parents for their help getting the bill passed.

The treatment that is covered requires a lot of training and education to be provided, Coash said, but noted the investment will save money in the long-run as children become independent and productive adults.

“This therapy opens doors and what it does for children is it allows them to interact with children in a way that they wouldn’t have but for this therapy,” Coash said.

Colleen Jankovich was the other mother who stood with Heineman during the bill signing.

“I’m so grateful for everyone for everything they’ve done because it means there’s a future in our state for our children, and that’s all that matters,” she said at the news conference.

Nebraska is the 36th state to require this kind of coverage.

The bill is LB254.

Read more here:

Office of Guardianship Bill Headed to Governor’s Desk

March 28th, 2014

Lincoln, NEB. Nebraska is one step closer to joining the rest of the country in having an Office of Public Guardianship.

“We tried to do it on a volunteer basis, but it didn’t work out as everybody would have liked,” said Governor Dave Heineman.

Though Senator Colby Coash, who introduced the bill, said it has been years in the making, a very public scandal last fall showing flaws in Nebraska’s volunteer guardianship program provided the motivation to get this done.

“That incident was kind of a catalyst to say ‘okay with a void of guardians you open yourself up to thing like what we saw in Scottsbluff.’ And so the time seemed right to pull this off,” said Lincoln Senator Coash

“It’s unfortunate we had really one person who made a series of mistakes. We caught those. We need to protect those with the appropriate guardianship,” said Governor Heineman.

Now, The guardianship system, volunteer and assigned, will have more safeguards to avoid abuse or confusion.

“One of the functions of this office will be to support those volunteer guardians through training and things of that nature, so even the volunteer guardians are going to have some support which i think will be helpful to them,” said Senator Coash.

He said he still needs to look through the actual bill, but Governor Heineman said he supports it.

“I do think it’s a good bill that Senator Coash has produced. I do want to read it in detail though before we make our final decision, but I do think it’s something needed,” said Governor Heineman.

Senator Coash said if the Governor approves the bill, part of the process will be finding someone to take on this role as the public guardian. He said the candidate will need to be a jack of all trades.

“You certainly have to have an understanding of guardianship issues, guardianship laws and vulnerable populations. You have to have some ability to account for funds, so there’s some responsibility to understand accounting and finances. And some experience with the courts and vulnerable people,” said Senator Coash.

The Governor now has 5 days to approve or veto the bill.

Press Release: LB920 to create the Office of Public Guardian

January 28th, 2014

January 27, 2014
Contact: David Slattery
(402) 471-2632

Senator Coash introduces LB920 to create the Office of Public Guardian

LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska State Senator Colby Coash of Lincoln introduces LB920 to establish the Office of Public Guardian under the jurisdiction of the Nebraska State Court Administrator. Additional co-sponsors of the bill include Senator Ashford of Omaha, Senator Brasch of Bancroft, Senator Davis of Hyannis, Senator Harms of Scottsbluff, Senator Lathrop of Omaha, Senator McGill of Lincoln, Senator Schilz of Ogallala, Senator Seiler of Hastings, and Senator Watermeier of Syracuse.

Nebraska is the only state that does not have an Office of Public Guardian and relies entirely on volunteers to take care of its most vulnerable citizens. The Office of Public Guardian establishes a director of the Office of Public Guardian, a deputy public guardian, and up to twelve associate guardians. While our state will continue to rely heavily on volunteers, the office will serve as a means of last resort as guardian or conservator for those situations where no family member or suitable individual is available. Additionally, the office will provide training and resources to current and future guardians and conservators.

Late last year, State Auditor Mike Foley released a report highlighting that the present system of obtaining a guardian as inadequate and leaves wards of the state vulnerable to fraud, abuse, and theft. One case of fraud of particular concern mentioned in the report was that of Judith
Widener, a public guardian to more than 600 wards in 60-plus counties across the state. Ms. Widener deliberately mishandled her wards’ finances and was charged with embezzling over $600,000 of their funds by spreading it out to more than forty bank accounts. Coash states, “Her appointment over 600 times was a result of a judge having no other option when appointing a guardian or conservator. It is time for Nebraska to follow others states and provide for an alternative that protects vulnerable Nebraskans.”

“As you look at a 50 state analysis, what you find is Nebraska stands alone and that we have no option other than volunteers. We have a situation where there is no other choice, and that makes it a ripe environment for people like Judith Widener, who will take advantage of vulnerable people,” says Senator Coash of District 27.

“In consultation with interested stakeholders from across the state, I am introducing legislation to establish the Office of Public Guardian that seeks to protect Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens. The effort to create the Office of Public Guardian has been ongoing for several years and in light of State Auditor Foley’s report in November of last year, there is no question that this legislature needs to act quickly to protect those whom are unable to protect themselves,” says Senator Coash.

Local View: Prison reform must include discussion on correction officer safety

October 8th, 2013
October 06, 2013 11:57 pm  •  BY SEN. COLBY COASH

The  Legislature, the governor and the new director of corrections soon will begin a needed discussion on prison reform.

The goal  will be to explore options to reduce overcrowding in the Nebraska correctional system. We all have an important role to play in this reform.

As a member of the Legislature and the Judiciary Committee, I have heard several sides and opinions for solutions.

Some people advocate for a tougher stance on inmate behavior through legislation and departmental rules and regulations. Others emphasize additional programming to deal with the underlying causes of crime and the mental illness that frequently are associated with inmates at all corrections facilities.

In the discussion of reform, there is always a great deal of concern. There is concern for the community, concern for the inmates, concern for crime victims, and concern for justice.

I venture to add yet another concern, that of corrections employees. No one knows the effects of prison legislation better than those who are charged with carrying it out. In addition, no  group would be more affected by changes in policy. Whether it be changes on how good time is earned, programming availability or the construction of a new prison, the men and women working for the Department of Corrections will be charged with the implementing these changes and the resulting effects.

When you see the effects of prison overcrowding with your own eyes, as I have, it becomes readily apparent that the job of protecting us from those  the justice system has removed from society is not an easy or safe task.

It is also notable that the department is carrying out its duties with fewer employees, managing more inmates with fewer corrections officers. Our prison system has become the new repository for people with mental illness. A third of the inmates in the system have a mental illness. As a result, corrections officers have become de-facto mental health technicians.

They are charged with managing a system with 50 percent  more inmates than the facility is designed to hold. When you add to this the high rate of mental illness, it becomes clear that we have asked our state corrections officers to deliver an increasingly impossible task: keeping safe a crowded population of people with no regard for the law and under-treated mental illness.

The work is dangerous. The administrative decisions we make in the Legislature will affect the severity of that danger. Our corrections employees and their safety deserve deference to that danger and warrant consideration in decision-making.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln is serving his second term representing Legislative District 27.

Welcome Back the Members of the 103rd Legislature!

January 4th, 2013

Lancaster County Senators

Bill Avery        Kate Bolz    Colby Coash

Kathy Campbell    Ken Haar     Russ Karpisek

Norm Wallman     Danielle Conrad     Amanda McGill

Invite you to Welcome Back the Members

of the 103rd Legislature!


Please join us:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Cornhusker Hotel

5:00 – 7:00 pm

Thank you to our generous sponsors:

Rembolt Ludtke * Cutshall & Nowka * Nebraska Farmers Union

O’Hara Lindsay & Associates * American Communications Group, Inc.

Nebraska State Education Association * Peetz & Company * Mueller / Robak LLC

Jensen Rogert Associates * AFL-CIO of Nebraska * Husch Blackwell, LLP

Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation * BNSF Railway Company

Nebraska Bankers Association * Nebraska Association of School Boards

Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Nebraska * Coleen Nielsen

The University of Nebraska * Radcliffe & Associates * Kissel / E&S Associates, LLC

Nebraska Mortgage Association * Advocacy & Issue Management, Inc.

Nebraska Cattlemen, Inc. * Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry

League of Nebraska Municipalities * Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska

Gordon Kissel * Nebraska Rural Electric Association

No RSVP necessary. Please contact Nicole in Senator Avery’s

office at with questions.

Omaha World Herald article, April 2nd, 2012

April 2nd, 2012

Midlands Voices: Save child-welfare ship from sinking

By The Rev. Val J. Peter

The writer, of Omaha, is executive director emeritus of Boys Town.

On March 12, the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform released a scathing report of some 50 pages on Nebraska’s handling of child welfare. Good for them.

Richard Wexler, the coalition’s executive director, held a press conference that day in Lincoln. Much of it was right on. The report says it is a mistake to look at privatization as the answer and compared it to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. What needs doing is saving the ship — a system to emphasize “safe proven programs to keep families together and due process protections for families.”

Bravo! The Wexler report rightly says Nebraska needs to make it “harder to get in.” Right on, but Nebraska also needs to make it “easier to get out.” So Wexler and Co. are getting close, but they don’t win a cigar.

The phrases “harder” and “easier” are empirical generalizations. They mean, generally speaking, you get better results this way. But expect exceptions — for example, safe-haven kids.

What does “harder to get in” mean? The Nebraska law says you need a “reasonable cause to believe a child has or soon will be subject to abuse and neglect.”

“Reasonable cause” is a legal concept that’s often misunderstood or misused. It is not a hunch, a guess, a feeling, a fear. That makes it too easy to get in. You need an objective criterion. You need to try to help families stay together, not fall apart.

I have personally heard too many who report families to Child Protective Services to “protect” themselves, to cover their own behinds. That is not a reasonable cause.

If you see a mom holler at her child in the checkout line for grabbing a candy bar and pushing his sister hard, that is not a reasonable cause. Neither is, “we all know she comes from a family of abusers, so . .” You need to make it harder to get in.

In Nebraska, we have too many calls to CPS or hotlines that are anonymous (not worth much), mean (former boyfriend is getting even), nasty (I’ll punish her) or confused between suspicion and reasonable cause or just plain covering their behinds — couched as these calls are in serious, responsible words.

Here, also, too many calls are passed on for something or another, the system is overloaded and real abuse cases are sometimes slopped over. Wexler’s report recommends a “protocol of questions.” Good idea. That will reduce some but not all problems. These workers need to be trained with better skill sets than ordinary folks.

Similarly, once a decision is made to send someone out to investigate, the law enforcement officers need similar but different training. They need to have a practical understanding of poverty and routine lack of housekeeping. That is not abuse and neglect. The presumption is the child will stay at home unless it is made harder to get in.

Finally, the Wexler report looks at system outcomes. That’s well and good. But what about individual outcomes? Make it easier to get out. A system outcome is when every senior (in out-of-home care) has a post-graduation plan. An individual outcome is whether the plan for this grad is any good for him or her.

Wexler’s system outcomes need to yield to individual outcomes. A system outcome is to reduce the number of kids paid for by the state. An individual outcome is to ask each kid, which is better for you and your family?

The answers are often surprising: Here is a boy who intentionally provoked his father to regular beatings. He then provokes a succession of foster parents. Mysteriously, he wishes to return home, but rights were terminated. That’s not uncommon. Make it easier to get out.

The best prevention program is for Nebraska to follow other states and slow down overly hasty unions and overly hasty divorces. Healthy children and families need fewer government interventions.

Many do not like foster care. I understand why. Read, for example, “The Lost Children of Wilder” by Nina Bernstein. Another good source is the February 2012 Minnesota report, “Child Protection Screening.” Boys Town has a solid foster care program.

The report generally did a good job. Listen to State Sens. Colby Coash and Brenda Council. Thank you.

Lincoln Journal Star Editorial, April 1st, 2012

April 2nd, 2012

Editorial, 4/1: Coash study deserves priority

Posted: Saturday, March 31, 2012 11:59 pm

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln has zeroed in on the right target in the ongoing effort to improve Nebraska’s child welfare system.

A resolution he has introduced calls for a study of the reasons why Nebraska takes children from their homes and puts them into out-of-home care at a rate twice the national average.

Year after year, in fact, Nebraska takes children from their homes at a rate higher than almost every other state in the country.

In a Local View column (“Examining out-of-home child welfare placement,” LJS, March 25) Coash explained that his request for the study stemmed from his personal involvement in the system.

For three years, he ran two emergency centers for children in Lincoln. He observed that once a child was put into the child welfare system, it was difficult to make an exit, and “every passing day” made it less likely that the child would be reunited with his or her family.

There’s no doubt that those involved in removing a child from his or her home thought they were doing the right thing by taking them from an environment where abuse and neglect allegedly occurred.

But, as Coash wrote, the consequences of putting them into the child welfare system also could be negative.

“I witnessed many children replace close family with peers who taught them inappropriate ways to fulfill their needs of belonging,” Coash wrote. “Picture this: a 12-year-old is in the shelter for having been abused by a parent and now is far from his family. He becomes friends with a local kid who is in the shelter for having stolen car stereos and running away from home. They become friends, and soon a kid who would never think of breaking the law is falling into peer pressure because he has no one to model good behavior.”

Coash is not the first to identify the issue. Reducing the removal rate supposedly was one of the goals of the botched attempt to privatize the child welfare system. And advocate Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform has hammered away on the theme for years. In Nebraska, the Family Advocacy Movement headed by Melanie Williams-Smotherman works to help families stay together.

Coash has asked the Legislature’s executive board to designate the study as a joint project of the Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees. We hope the committees will give the study a high priority with adequate resources to investigate the issue and come up with substantive recommendations. So far a solution has proved to be elusive.


Read more:

Lincoln Journal Star “Local View,” March 25th, 2012

March 26th, 2012

Local View: Examining out-of-home child welfare placement

By SEN. COLBY COASH | Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012 11:57 pm

For three years, I ran two emergency centers for youths right here in Lincoln. My job was to serve kids of any age who were brought to me one of three ways: 1. police removal;  2. judicial placement;  3. placement by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

I had no say in the decisions that brought them to my shelter; I just had the great responsibility of giving safety to the children placed in my care. Through that time, I  provided services to children who had experienced some of the most horrific abuse. Most were under my care because of no action of their own. They were victims in the purest sense.

Some children, however, were placed in my care as a result of their own actions. Drug use, aggressive behavior, shoplifting and running away were frequent reasons for their placement out of the home.

While the reasons for children coming into the system were varied, their experiences while in the system were similar. Children found the following common experiences:

1. Once in the system, it was an arduous uphill battle to exit it. Even families with great effort and support could not navigate themselves out of the system under the best of circumstances.

Changes in workers, delays in court dates and overall poor communication between all interested parties precluded any timely closure or reunification.

2. Every passing day lessened the likelihood that a successful reunification could occur.

3. Services were not always available in a child’s home community. With distance between the child’s home and the shelter where he or she resided, family bonds were fractured frequently. The kids who had been abused at home found family in their peers. I witnessed many children replace close family with peers who taught them inappropriate ways to fulfill their needs of belonging.

Picture this: a 12-year-old is in the shelter for having been abused by a parent and now is far from his family. He becomes friends with a local kid who is in the shelter for having stolen car stereos and running away from home. They become friends, and soon a kid who would never think of breaking the law is falling into peer pressure because he has no one to model good behavior.

I continued to watch children’s challenges get worse instead of better. For those children whose safety was immediately threatened at home, their situation improved drastically in the short term. However, in the long term, I watched children get buried in a sea of good intentions that devolved into indifference.

Rather than overextending our resources on the overall system itself, we must narrow our focus to the most crucial and pivotal point: entry into the system. We must focus on that critical time when an adult in authority makes a decision that it is in the child’s best interest to no longer sleep in his or her own bed, in his own house, with his own parents.

I certainly understand the sentiment of those who err on the side of caution when evaluating a child’s vulnerability in the home. But when Nebraska pulls children out of the home at almost twice the national average, we have to ask ourselves: “Do we have twice the number of bad parents?” or “Do we just not see things the way other states do?”

This session, the Nebraska Legislature has taken a critical look at the delivery of services to Nebraska’s abused and neglected children. This is an important step in reform. We must, however, continue with the same vigor in examining the critical front door of entry into our state’s system.

As part of this effort, I have introduced an interim study resolution, LR525, to investigate how Nebraska’s system for screening, assessing and investigating reports of child abuse and neglect contribute to our high rates of out-of-home care and to study how a differential response system to reports of child abuse and neglect could be implemented in Nebraska.

I look forward to working with the Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees, as well as statewide stakeholders, in pursuit of better outcomes for our vulnerable children.

State Sen. Colby Coash represents District 27 of Lincoln in the Nebraska Legislature.

Read more: