Legislative Update – Week of April 23

I want to begin by thanking you, our supporters, for using your voice this session on behalf of women and girls. All the emails and the phone calls to your senators made a difference!

A recap of the legislative session is below. If you have any questions about where legislation ended up this year or are interested in working with the Women’s Fund on public policy issues moving forward, please email me at TJoekel@OmahaWomensFund.org. I’m here to be a resource in any way I can, and I look forward to finding new ways to partner with you in our shared efforts to help women and girls reach their full potential.

Supporting Survivors of Sex Trafficking Continues with Passage of LB 1132

Survivors of sex trafficking in Nebraska will no longer be held back by the barriers to economic stability that a criminal record create. LB 1132 provides a process by which survivors can have their convictions set aside and their records sealed for crimes committed while being trafficked. This legislation was passed by the Legislature, signed by the Governor, and will take effect in mid-July. We will work to provide more information on how survivors can access these set aside and sealing provisions, so stay tuned.

Special thanks to Senator Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln for introducing this legislation and a shout out to Senator Dan Quick of Grand Island for making this his priority bill for the year. THANK YOU to all the senators who supported this effort along the way and to the Governor for signing this bill!

Improvements Made in the Regulation of Payday Lending

We took a step forward on payday lending this session, but much work remains. Passed by the Legislature on the last day of session and now signed by the Governor, LB 194 includes the following provisions:

  • Closes a loophole that payday lenders in other states have utilized to evade regulatory limits on interest and fees;
  • Includes new reporting requirements that will allow the Department of Banking and Finance to more effectively track lending activity; and,
  • Creates a payment plan borrowers can request once per year that would allow a little more time to pay back a loan.

LB 194 falls short in addressing the core issues that make payday loans harmful to borrowers, namely the high cost and short duration of current loans, but we will continue to work with our coalition partners so that all women in Nebraska have access to affordable credit as a tool to build economic stability.

Special thanks to Senator Tony Vargas of Omaha for introducing and prioritizing this legislation! You can read more about the passage of this bill via the Omaha World-Herald.

Low-income Nebraskans Lose Access to Reproductive Health Care

A huge disappointment this legislative session was the restriction of access to reproductive health care. The federal Title X program offers a broad range of reproductive health care services for low-income and uninsured Nebraskans, including pelvic exams, screening for cervical and breast cancer, screening for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes, screening and treatment for STDs, infertility services, and health education. By eliminating Planned Parenthood of the Heartland as a provider under this program, the Legislature created new barriers to health care for thousands of Nebraskans.

This policy change is particularly harmful to the work of our Adolescent Health Project, which relies on Title X clinics to provide services for adolescents in a “youth-friendly” manner. Since 2015, we have been working to build a system of care that ensures adolescents in our community do not face barriers when trying to access testing and treatment for STDs. Given that access to education, prevention, testing, and treatment is fundamental to our community’s success in addressing what are epidemic-level STD rates, it is unacceptable that the Legislature knowingly created barriers to our work to decrease the rates of STDs and unintended pregnancy.

The health and lives of women and families will be negatively impacted by this politicization of their health care.

What’s Next

We will take a minute to celebrate these important steps forward and to regroup where we have lost ground, but we have lots of exciting opportunities ahead. Over the next several months, we will be working with policymakers to set the stage for next year’s policy agenda.

Also, in an election year, it is so important that we work with our partners to educate all candidates and voters about the policy issues that impact the lives of women and girls. A friendly reminder that the primaries take place in Omaha on Tuesday, May 15.

Sign-up for our emails to stay engaged in advocacy throughout the year!