Legislative Update: Week of February 27

Legislative Update: Week of February 27

Welcome to the Women’s Fund Legislative Update! This update will keep you informed of what’s going on in the Nebraska State Legislature related to issues important to the well-being of women and girls.  We’ll also let you know when YOU can take action around our top policy priorities – payday lending reform, increasing penalties and fines for trafficking, and other critical issues.

Your first action step: find out who your senator is! This session includes 17 new senators, and 70% of the legislature has 2 years of experience or less. It’s easy to lose track of who is representing you. Find your senator here.

If you have questions or need more information, please feel free to contact Michelle Zych, Women’s Fund of Omaha executive director, via email at MZych@OmahaWomensFund.org

TAKE ACTION NOW: CONTACT YOUR SENATORS

  • Payday Lending Reform
    • LB 194, introduced by Senators Vargas and Linehan, will reform the payday lending industry and increase consumer protections.
    • If your senators are on the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee, call to tell them you support LB 194 and payday lending reform.
    • For more information, check out our fact sheet.
  • Fighting Trafficking
    • LB 289 is Senator Pansing Brooks’s bill to increase penalties for traffickers and buyers of trafficked individuals.
    • If your senators are on the Judiciary Committee, call to tell them you support LB 289 and the fight against trafficking in Nebraska.
    • For more information on this bill, check out our fact sheet.

Kolowski’s Wage Disclosure Bill Is a Step Towards Equal Pay

A hearing for LB 354 was held Monday, February 27. This bill would prohibit employers or potential employers from requesting or requiring previous job salaries in an effort to prevent continued wage discrimination related to gender or race.

This bill is a step in the right direction towards equal pay for women. According to National Partnership for Women and Families, in Nebraska the median annual pay for a white woman working full-time is $35,101, while their male counterparts stand at $44,533, meaning that women earn only 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. This equates to a wage gap of $9,432. The wage gap grows even larger for women of color. For every dollar white, non-Hispanic men make, African American women earn 62 cents, Latina women earn 54 cents, and Asian women earn 66 cents

We support LB 354 because we believe salaries at all levels, entry and up, should be set based on objective criteria, such as responsibilities, skills, experience required, and not simply be based on previous salary or negotiating prowess. When employers rely on previous salary history, it not only disadvantages women at the point of hiring, it also disadvantages them in future years given that increases are typically given as a percent of current salary.

Borrowers and Advocates Make Strong Case for Payday Lending Reform

On February 21, the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee of the Nebraska Legislature listened to three hours of testimony.  Private citizens personally affected by the payday lending industry, lawyers, bankers, pastors, and advocates supported LB 194, which would cap interest rates and fees and extend the length of loans for payday borrowers. 

During the hearing, senators heard from 20 proponents as to why they support the bill. In addition to in-person testimony, there were many letters of support provided as well. Read our letter of support here.

Borrowers who testified describe the devastation the payday lending industry wreaked on their lives and families.  One former borrower, Glenda Wood, described how difficult it was to escape her initial $500 payday loan.  It took her 8 years and $10,000 to finally pay it off. That kind of credit doesn’t help anyone.

Nick Bourke with Pew Charitable Trusts described the data that backs the bill.  Nick pointed to the fact that current regulations, which were meant to increase access to credit for people with low credit scores and low incomes, have not achieved those goals. 461% APRs are not accessible or reasonable.  James Goddard from Nebraska Appleseed testified to their analysis around the payday lending industry’s disproportionate number of instances of noncompliance with regulatory law compared to other financial institutions.

Opponents of the bill perpetuated myths about payday lending reform, claiming that Colorado’s reforms led to the end of the payday lending industry.  While there was industry consolidation in Colorado after the 2010 reforms, the industry still exists and has become more efficient. Each storefront serves more customers annually and the demography of their consumer base has not changed substantially, meaning that low income borrowers can still afford the loans.

Learn more with stories from Fox 42, the Omaha World-Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star, the Miami Herald/Associated Press, and Public News Service, or by reading our fact sheet.

Powerful Testimony at Trafficking Hearing Last Thursday

LB 289, Senator Pansing Brooks’s bill to increase penalties for traffickers and solicitors, as well as increase protections for survivors of trafficking, was heard by the Judiciary Committee last Thursday, February 23.

Proponents’ testimony demonstrated a strong need for increasing penalties; two advocates who are themselves survivors of sex trafficking described their experiences and expressed support for the bill. Organizational and agency representatives in a variety of fields who have interacted with survivors, including law enforcement, academia, and healthcare, testified in support of the bill as well. The Women’s Fund’s own Meghan Malik, Trafficking Project Manager, testified, saying, “This bill prioritizes the protection of children over the protection of adult offenders.”

The bill would increase penalties for those convicted of trafficking, as well as define solicitation of a minor as trafficking. Additionally, the bill would increase protections for survivors of trafficking who were forced to recruit others; currently, they can also be charged as traffickers.

Learn more with stories from the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star, or by reading our fact sheet or our report “Nebraska’s Commercial Sex Market.”

Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Sexual Assualt and Domestic Violence Protection Order Bills

LB 178, introduced by Senator Kate Bolz, would provide for sexual assault protection orders. During the hearing, senators heard moving testimony from organizational and college campus representatives, as well as college students who are survivors of sexual assault.

Current law protects someone in a relationship under the domestic abuse protection order, or for someone who is continually harassed under the harassment protection order. However, there is a gap in the law for those victims who were sexually assaulted but do not meet the definition of domestic abuse because they are not in a relationship with the perpetrator, or they have not suffered continual harassment. LB 178 will close this gap in current law and allow for sexual assault protection orders for survivors of a sexual assault.

LB 191, introduced by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, would provide for renewals of domestic violence protection orders 30 days prior to a current protection order expiring to ensure victims of domestic violence remain under continuous protection. Under current law victims have to wait for their current protection order to expire before they can renew. This creates a gap in victims being protected from contact with their perpetrators. One testifier shared an example of a victim whose protection order expired and as a result she suffered severe physical injury during the gap in coverage. Another testifier spoke to the need for this provision due to the length of time involved in filing for and being granted a protection order, especially when the parties live in different counties.

LB 188, introduced by Senator Sara Howard, would prohibit a person who has been convicted of sexual assault from seeking or obtaining parental rights to a child born from that assault. This bill sends the message that sexual violence is unacceptable and will demonstrate Nebraskans’ commitment to not only supporting survivors, but their children as well.  Currently, people convicted of first-degree sexual assault on a minor are not able to obtain parental rights; however, this law does not apply to adult survivors. Read our letter of support here.

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