Legislative Update: 4/7/2017

Welcome to the Women’s Fund Legislative Update! As a reminder, with 70% of the legislature having two years of experience or less, it’s easy to lose track of who is representing you. Find your senator here. Keep calling, emailing, and visiting your senators! It is one of the most effective ways to make sure they are representing Nebraskans’ best interests.

Your Voice is Critical: Reject Tax Cut Package

The Revenue Committee voted 6-2 in favor of LB 461, a tax cut package that will cost an estimated $458 million over 10 years from the state budget. Floor debate for LB 461 is scheduled for Friday, April 21, and we need each of you to get involved.

Call your senator TODAY! Tell them to reject LB 461.  It will largely benefit the wealthiest Nebraskans; it’s estimated that 74% of the benefit of the income tax cut will benefit the top 20% of income earners.

With the state’s current budget crisis — a nearly $1 billion shortfall — any proposal to cut taxes and reduce state revenues even further is dangerous.

Nebraska currently does not have enough money to meet its existing obligations. If passed, this bill would hurt our state’s ability to invest in important areas, such as health care, education and other vital programs and services that impact women and girls directly.

Please take a couple minutes to call your senator right now and tell them to reject LB 461.

To learn more on the tax cut proposals, check out the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World-Herald stories.

Sex Trafficking Bill Advances

The Legislature voted 42-0 to advance LB 289 to second round debate last week.

While the bill advanced, some senators brought forward concerns about the bill, some of which can be addressed before second round of debate. Others, however, are baseless and show a complete misunderstanding of human sex trafficking.

For example, one senator stated:

“But trafficking a minor which goes from zero to 20 to 20 to life, that’s a huge increase. You better be coming at me with a policy reason of why to do it other than they’re just heinous crimes. You better say, this is my North Star. This is why I think it’s okay. Because guess what, folks, if you’re a victim of a crime, every crime is heinous. You get your car stolen, you’ve lost your sense of privacy. You’ve lost your sense of trust in society. It’s a heinous crime. On the level of sex trafficking, maybe not. But it’s a heinous crime. Tell me, how do you differentiate these crimes? And how do you justify going from zero to 20 to 20 to life other than to use the word heinous…I haven’t heard one person say, hey, I was trafficked. The guy got out or the woman got out and then I was a victim a second time, or there was a second offense of an individual. That’s what I want to hear. Then I’ll say, you know what? This doesn’t work. We do need to ratchet it up a little bit more.”

Trafficking victims are victimized over and over, multiple times each day. They are never victimized only once. The basic premise of the bill to increase penalties, which aims to disrupt the market that creates the environment for children to be sexually exploited and victimized over and over again, is non-negotiable.

When there are little to no consequences for their actions, buyers will continue to purchase sex and remain the driving force behind the industry. Unfettered market demand is what allows this illegal activity to flourish here in Nebraska.

Please call your senator and ask them to support LB 289 to help bring an end to human sex trafficking in our state. We will keep you posted when the bill is up for second round debate.

For more information, read this recent Columbus Telegram article on human sex trafficking.

Bill to Support Pregnant and Parenting Students Advances

LB 427, a bill introduced by Senator Vargas which would support parenting students by requiring schools to provide breastfeeding accommodations, was debated and advanced today. Senator Vargas offered and successfully advanced an amendment to integrate LB 428, which would require schools and the State Department of Education to adopt policies relating to pregnant and parenting students.

Both of these bills stem from the need identified through a report and survey conducted by the ACLU of Nebraska- Protecting Their Health, Protecting Their Future, which found:

  • 78% of Nebraska districts have no policies or written guidelines on providing alternative education methods to pregnant or parenting teens.
  • 46% of Nebraska school districts have an absence policy that specifically mentions pregnancy. The remaining 54% of districts have absence policies but do not address pregnancy.
  • Over 90% of Nebraska schools have no provision to help parenting students with childcare needs.
  • Only 17% of school districts had written policies providing for students’ need to express milk.for students’ need to express milk.

We will keep you updated on when the bill will go into the second round of debate.