2024 Legislative Session Summary

Another Nebraska Legislative Session has ended sine die. So, what all happened? What bills were stopped and which ones were passed that will impact gender equity in our state? Let’s recap the progress made (of which there is plenty!), setbacks experienced and what to look for during the interim (hello election year).

Before we get to the lists, let me just say how thankful I am to everyone who contacted their senators, met with policymakers, testified during committee hearings and joined us at the Capitol. There is nothing more powerful than when you use your voice for positive change.

Progress for Gender Equity

In our preview of the session, we shared that our policy efforts would be focused on increasing economic security, advancing housing justice and protecting reproductive rights. After this 60 day session, we are so pleased to share that several bills were passed that support this work to advance gender equity in our state.

  • LB 840 (Sen. Terrell McKinney), to Adopt the Poverty Elimination Action Plan Act, also includes LB 1046 (Sen. J Cavanaugh) and LB 530 (Sen. McKinney) which increase housing stability for public housing tenants. Housing justice ensures that safe, accessible and affordable housing is available to everyone. This issue is directly connected to gender equity and won’t be solved by this few bills so you can bet we’ll be in this space to ensure everyone can secure safe and stable housing that is affordable.
  • LB 856 (Sen. John Fredrickson) makes certain child care employees eligible for child care subsidies, and allows more flexibility for home-based and smaller child care centers.
  • LB 857 (Sen. George Dungan) improves Medicaid prenatal care services for at-risk pregnant people, which will reduce pre-term and low birthweight births and support mothers.
  • LB 904 (Sen. Wendy DeBoer) allows the Department of Health and Human Services more flexibility in calculating child care reimbursement, increasing access to affordable child care. This bill passed 45-4.
  • LB 1050 (Sen. Danielle Conrad) was amended onto LB 1284 and passed 42-7. This will create a pilot program to provide free menstrual products in schools.
  • LBs 1106 & 1107 (Sen. Jen Day) bills to cover breast pumps and lactation consultations under the Medical Assistance Act, passed on Final Reading as part of LB 1215.
  • LB 937 (Sen. Elliot Bostar) adopts the Caregiver Tax Credit Act to ensure family members who take care of their relatives with disabilities are paid for their critical caregiving work. During General File, LB 58 (Sen. J Cavanaugh) was added to provide sales and use tax exemptions for diapers. This cost-savings will directly benefit Nebraska families with young children.
  • The vote to advance LB 575 (Sen. Kathleen Kauth), the bill to ban trans youth from sports and spaces, failed by two votes during the first round. The advocacy of trans youth, their families and everyone who loves them is to be celebrated. Trans individuals belong in our communities, on our sports teams and in our schools. We will continue to advocate for all those who experience gender-based oppression and reject attempts to use “women’s rights” as a way to oppress others.

Sometimes the work is in stopping bad bills from advancing. Additional legislation that we opposed that failed to pass includes: LB 371 that would have criminalized drag shows and performers; LB 441 to ban books and criminalize teachers and librarians; LB 810 that would have created a broad license to discriminate against patients; LB 1109 that would have inserted politicians into personal health care (again); LB 1330 that would prohibit DEI trainings at postsecondary institutions; LB 1357 to criminalize street homelessness; LB 1382 that would have prohibited petition circulators from getting paid; and LR277CA that would have asked voters to approve mandatory life imprisonment for certain crimes.

Setbacks in Advancing Our Work

While there was so much good and important work to further our mission through effective policy solutions, there are a few bills that will setback the advancement of our work.

  • LB 876 (Sen. Rick Holdcroft) creates a Newborn Safe Haven Act. As more people are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will, more Nebraskans may be looking for a safe way to surrender their newborns. We remain concerned that this bill will have the potential for increased surveillance of pregnant people and their pregnancy outcomes.
  • With the good that was added to LB 937 (Sen. Bostar), comes the bad. LB 606 (Sen. Joni Albrecht) was amended onto the bill that provides tax credits to donations made to anti-abortion centers, also known as “crisis pregnancy centers.” While these centers already receive $2 million annually in state funds, this additional funding will allow them to continue with their deception and manipulation disguised as health care and helping people.
  • LB 1339 (Sen. Tom Brewer) was amended to LB 1329 and will allow school boards and districts in communities with less than 5,000 people to create policies that allow firearms in schools. Gun violence is the leading cause of death of children in America and the presence of a gun increases the risk of violence. Continue to follow and connect with Moms Demand Action Nebraska.

A Few Final Notes

It also must be said that changes within the legislature as a workplace and as the Second House need to be made to ensure that everyone is safe and supported. During debate one evening, a senator read parts of a memoir from a rape survivor and inserted his colleagues’ names into the passages. It is not obscene or inappropriate to talk about sexual violence. Being a survivor is not shameful. Banning books that silence survivor stories and using that material to harass co-workers is unacceptable. We will be working through the interim to ensure the Capitol is a safe place for everyone. This is not about one instance or a response to one person’s actions, but about an institution that allows harm to continue without accountability. Keep connected with us for more details and updates on this ongoing work to create spaces that are free from gender-based violence.

Friendly Election Reminder! Half the seats in the Nebraska Legislature are up for election. The primary is on May 14. Vote!