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Between the 2017 and 2018 sessions, the state’s revenue came in short of initial projections, which led us to reduce state spending beyond what was initially planned in our original two-year budget cycle. As the vice chair of the Appropriations Committee, it was important to me that we did this while protecting our state’s investments in kids, seniors, education, public safety, and job creation.
The 2018 budget adjustments contained necessary cuts as well as funding for state priorities. Among the priorities in the budget were services in child welfare, property tax relief for seniors and individuals with disabilities through the homestead exemption, funding to developmental disability providers to make up for lost federal funds, needed resources for school funding, and dollars needed to shore up Medicaid services to respond to changes on the federal level. I’m also pleased that we were able to reduce the significant cuts to higher education that were proposed by the administration.
I introduced LB104 to establish a process to declare a medical surrogate to make healthcare decisions for those incapable or incapacitated, but who do not have a guardianship in place or medical power of attorney. The current guardianship system will remain in place, but LB104 offers a less restrictive option that allows those with a medical surrogate to maintain their general independence, and avoid the expensive guardianship process, which can often cost up to $5,000. LB104 passed unanimously, and was signed into law by the Governor.
Aging and Disability Resource Centers
Helping seniors and individuals with disabilities find their way to information and services is critical in making sure they receive the care they need. Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC), connect patients, families, caregivers, and advocates with referral and options counseling services to connect those in need with the correct long-term services and supports. The success of the pilot program led me to introduce LB1004 makes the state’s ADRC program permanent. LB1004 was passed and signed into law.
Corrections Reform Package
The Legislature also took steps to address Nebraska’s prison overcrowding and safety issues by passing a corrections reform package that included a number of pieces of legislation, including LB852 legislation I brought forward to establish a protocol for parole of terminally ill offenders that no longer pose a threat to the public, as well as policy changes to promote access to employment and mental health treatment through the parole administration. The corrections reform package includes legislation that requires the Department of Corrections to outline how they will respond to a prison overcrowding emergency, conduct a staffing analysis and authorize the department to utilize additional substance abuse evaluations and treatments. These reforms will help the Department safely and responsibly make prisons safer, while reducing recidivism.