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Last of Public Hearings on Crawford Bills Set for Next Week
LB 108 establishes 12 one-year behavioral health master’s level internships in rural and underserved areas of Nebraska. Behavioral health master’s level programs include professional counseling, marriage and family therapists and clinical social workers. Currently, the state funds 8 additional psychiatry residents and 10 one-year doctoral-level psychology internships. The hearing for LB 108 will take place on Tuesday, March 3 at 1:30 PM in front of the Appropriations Committee (room 1524).
LB 459 addresses an issue brought to our attention by Sarpy County Attorneys regarding child witnesses in felony cases. It examines how we treat children during depositions and creates a process for the court to make special provisions during the deposition phase of a trial if the court finds the provision necessary to protect the child from emotional harm or distress.
This process is only available if there is already a video recorded interview at a child advocacy center like Project Harmony. Some of these provisions include a maximum time limit for the deposition or allowing a victim advocate or other supportive adult who is not a witness to the case to be present during the deposition. The hearing for LB 459 will take place on Wednesday, March 4 at 1:30 PM in front of the Judiciary Committee (room 1113).
LB 390 creates the Medical Cannabidiol Pilot Study within the University of Nebraska Medical Center for patients who suffer from severe and untreatable or treatment-resistant epileptic seizures. It allows access to low-THC cannabidiol, or CBD, oil. THC is the substance in marijuana that produces a psychotropic high. Low-THC CBD oil has no recreational use. The hearing for LB 390 will be held on Friday, March 6 at 1:30 PM in front of the Judiciary Committee (room 1113).
HHS Committee Hears Testimony on Bill to Address Cliff Effect
LB 81 removes the cliff by allowing recipients to pay for child care on a sliding scale as their incomes increase until their incomes reach a point where they are better able to pay for childcare themselves for up to two years. In a recent Voices for Children in Nebraska recently survey of almost 300 women in Douglas, Sarpy, Lancaster, Polk, Dawes and Sheridan counties, 55% of those who received child care assistance faced the cliff effect at some point.
Last year, the Legislature unanimously approved legislation to take a first step in addressing the cliff effect in our child care assistance program. LB 81 builds upon this work and is supported by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Voices for Children in Nebraska, Center for People in Need, and Women’s Fund of Omaha.
African-American Leaders in the Legislature
February is Black History Month. As such, this update highlights some of the African American state senators, past and present, in the Nebraska Unicameral.There are currently two African American state senators in the legislature, Senator Ernie Chambers and Senator Tanya Cook. My colleagues both serve in important leadership positions, with Senator Cook serving as chair of the Legislative Planning Committee and Senator Chambers as the longest serving member on the Judiciary Committee.
Leadership by African American senators is not new to Nebraska, however. Born to enslaved parents in Kentucky in 1858, Dr. Matthew Oliver Ricketts was a leader in every sense of the word. He became the first African American to be elected as a state senator in 1893, as well as the first African American to graduate from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in Omaha. During his time in the Legislature, Dr. Ricketts introduced a bill to legalize interracial marriage, was instrumental in passing laws to prohibit the denial of public services to African Americans, and helped to implement a law creating an age of consent for marriage.
Omaha State Senator Edward Danner was the lone African American legislator in the Nebraska Unicameral during the U.S. Civil Rights era of the 1960’s. “His efforts not only benefited the black Nebraskan,” said Governor Norbert Tiemann at Danner’s funeral in 1970, “but also served to make the white Nebraskan aware of the needs of his black brothers.” Danner was instrumental in passing legislation that made it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate on the basis of skin color, and remained a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement in the Lincoln Community.
In 1977, Senator JoAnn Maxey of Lincoln became the first female African American state senator following her appointment to the legislature by then-governor Jim Exon. During her two years as a state senator, she successfully passed legislation over a gubernatorial veto to create funding for women who found themselves homeless or without resources due to divorce, death, or separation from a spouse. She went on to become the first African American to serve on the Lincoln Board of
Education, advocating for special education programs and implementing programs to help at-risk youth from dropping out.
Nebraska’s longest-serving state senator can still be found in his characteristic blue jeans and plain tee shirt on the floor of the Unicameral. The “Defender of the Downtrodden”, Senator Ernie Chambers, has been serving in the legislature for over 40 years. Senator Chambers played a large role in the Civil Rights Movement in Omaha in the 1960’s, and used this momentum to propel himself into the legislature in 1970.
Widely renown for his legislative prowess, Senator Chambers spearheaded a 1980 resolution and a 1984 bill that divested state investments in South Africa due to their apartheid policies. Through his action, Nebraska became the first state in the nation to begin the withdrawal of funds from South Africa. Senator Chambers remains one of the state’s most prolific advocates for human rights.
Stay tuned for a feature next month in honor of Women’s History Month.
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