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One of the most controversial bills of the year in the Nebraska Legislature has been the Governor’s budget bill, LB944. Last Friday the cloture vote on LB944 failed by just two votes. With little time left in the current legislative session, the prospect of the Governor having to call for a special session of the Legislature after we adjourn in April in order to approve a budget is getting closer.
LB944 has become controversial for two reasons. First, the Governor had originally cut funding for the University of Nebraska by 4 percent, but the Appropriations Committee reduced these cuts to 1 percent when they amended the bill. When the bill came up for debate on Select File, I introduced an amendment to restore these cuts back to the Governor’s original proposal of 4 percent. Although my amendment failed to pass, we finally got to have a serious discussion about the various ways that the University of Nebraska misuses taxpayer dollars.
Second, LB944 is controversial because it contains language about Title X funding which excludes those clinics “where abortion is a method of family planning.” According to federal law, Title X funds cannot be used to fund abortions.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has a history of violating Title X funding. For instance, Nebraska’s State Auditor, Charlie Janssen, had reported back in 2016 that Planned Parenthood had illegally spent at least $3,500 in public monies to pay for physicians’ fees, staff salaries, and pathology work specifically related to placenta and fetal tissue. Because Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has a track record of abusing Title X funding, the decision was made this year to exclude them from Title X funding altogether in the State budget.
Last year President Trump signed a congressional resolution allowing states to withhold Title X funds from abortion providers. Under the Obama administration states had been prohibited by a rule from withholding these funds from abortion clinics. In response to Trump’s signing of the congressional resolution, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission had said, “It is a travesty that any taxpayer money goes to support the exploitive work of Planned Parenthood.” I agree. Nebraska taxpayers should never be forced to support an industry that the majority of us hold to be immoral.