2020 Legislative Update: February 5

Today is Day 19 of 60 working days in this legislative session. The field is set, with 482 bills introduced in this second session, combined with the 481 still alive from last session. That leaves us with just shy of 1,000 bills for consideration over the next 41 legislative days. With that, there’s no time to waste—let’s dive right in!

Action Items—THIS WEEK!

LB 329, introduced by Senator Kate Bolz, is on the agenda for debate in the Nebraska Legislature this week. LB 329 would lessen the “cliff effect” in the child care assistance program (Title XX) by raising the income level at which families make “too much” to continue to receive child care assistance. This would ensure that parents do not lose their child care assistance because they get a small raise or work a few extra hours.

Please reach out to your state senator (email or phone) and let them know:

Affordable, high-quality child care is vital to allow Nebraska families to work, to keep children safe and to jump-start a child’s learning and development. LB 329 will help families afford child care, as they work their way to economic stability. Please advance LB 329 to support working families who may get a small raise or work a few extra hours—their hard work shouldn’t be punished by losing their child care assistance.”

Hearings this week:

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh’s LB 1060 would promote workplaces free of racial discrimination as it includes natural hair in the definition of race for our Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act. Under this law, it would be illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee’s natural hair. A hearing was held on this bill in the Business and Labor Committee on Monday and awaits action by the committee to advance.

LB 1079, introduced by Senator Anna Wishart, would ensure victims of sexual assault are supported with timely testing of their sexual assault kits and serial offenders are identified. There is currently a year backlog between the time a kit is submitted to the State Crime Lab until it is analyzed and evidence is entered into the DNA database. This means – it may be at least 12-months before we are able to identify and stop serial rapists in communities across our state. LB 1079 would provide additional funding for the State Crime Lab to support the timely processing of sexual assault kits. Survivors deserve to know the outcomes of their forensic exams, and our communities are safer when we are able to identify serial offenders. LB 1079 will be heard by the Appropriations Committee on February 6 at 1:30 pm. Learn more via our fact sheet.

LB 1112, introduced by Senator Rick Kolowski, ensures that when victims seek medical care following a sexual assault, the cost will not prohibit their care. This bill would reimburse hospitals for providing survivors with treatment for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy prevention so that the cost of care does not fall on a victim in the aftermath of violence. This bill will be heard before the Judiciary Committee on February 6 at 1:30 pm.

Last week:

On Friday, Senator Carol Blood introduced LB 745 to support victims of violent crimes and aid law enforcement in their investigations by creating a uniform process for T and U visa certifications. Victims of trafficking, sexual assault and other violent crimes who cooperate with law enforcement in their investigations and prosecutions may be eligible for a T or U visa. These visas were created as a tool for law enforcement to incentivize reporting of crimes and victim cooperation. Our communities are safer when victims feel supported in coming forward to report crimes against them and offenders are held accountable. LB 745 would streamline this process for local agencies and promote victim confidence in coming forward to report crimes. Please stay tuned for updates as we work to support survivors and law enforcement alike. Learn more via our fact sheet.

Other bills to watch this session:

The Women’s Fund will be working to oppose and overcome legislation that attempts to put reproductive health care further out of reach for women in Nebraska. LB 814, introduced by Senator Suzanne Geist, is a method abortion ban, once again attempting to put politics between a woman and her doctor. This follows similar attacks on patient-physician relationships experienced last session with the passage of LB 209, forcing physicians to provide information to patients about “reversing” an abortion, that was not supported by science. Senator Megan Hunt has introduced LB 872 to repeal last year’s law and protect the safety of women and their relationship with their physician. Both bills will be heard in the Judiciary Committee at 1:30 pm — LB 814 on February 20 and LB 872 on February 21. We will be in touch with additional information as the hearings get closer.

LB 43, the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, would ensure the rights of survivors are known and protected. Primarily, this bill would ensure a survivor has the right to an advocate at various stages in medical and legal proceedings, to support the survivor’s mental health and well-being. This bill remains in Judiciary Committee awaiting a vote to advance.

With the legislative session in full swing, now is the time to reach out to your senator and let them know your thoughts about the issues important to you. We promise to keep you informed, as we need your help to ensure the voices of women and girls are represented.

If you have any questions about the information discussed in this legislative update, please contact Tiffany Seibert Joekel, Women’s Fund Research and Policy Director, at TJoekel@OmahaWomensFund.org.