Legislative Update: Week of February 6

Welcome to the second 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 reformincreasing 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.

  • Payday Lending Reform
    • LB 194, introduced by Senators Vargas and Linehan, will reform the payday lending industry and increase consumer protections and is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, February 21 at 1:30 p.m. in the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee on at the State Capitol.
    • 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
    • The hearing for LB 289, Senator Pansing Brooks’s bill to increase penalties for traffickers and buyers of trafficked individuals, will be held on Thursday, February 23 at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Judiciary Committee at the State Capitol.
    • 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.
    • To learn more about sex trafficking in Nebraska, watch Nebraska Public Television’s New Report Project on Sex Trafficking.

LB 337 Would Compound State Revenue Troubles

In addition to funding cuts to close the budget gap, pending proposals looking to cut income taxes, such as LB 337, would significantly reduce revenue, and harm services important to women and girls. This proposal will benefit the wealthiest Nebraskans while offering little to no tax cut for middle-class Nebraskans. The average tax cut for the middle class would only be $43, while the wealthiest one percent will receive more than $8,400.

Proposing income tax cuts while facing a significant budget shortfall is bad fiscal policy. We oppose LB 337 because:

  • The tax cuts will flow to the wealthiest 1%, not the middle-class;
  • It would have devastating consequences for our state’s revenue health that will lead to significant further budget cuts that negatively impact programs serving the interests of women and girls.

Similar tax policy has created devastating effects to education in Oklahoma. They witnessed income tax cuts in 2016 just as oil prices plummeted. This contributed to a budget crisis where nearly one third of Oklahoma’s school districts moved to four-day school weeks.

The hearing for LB 337 is this Wednesday, February 8. If your senator is a member of the Revenue Committee, call and make your voice heard. To learn more about LB 337, see what our friends at OpenSky Policy Institute have to say about the proposal.

Schumacher Brings Family Planning Waiver Bill

Senator Schumacher introduced LB 120, which would require the creation of a state plan amendment to provide Medicaid coverage for family planning services to families at or below 185% of the federal poverty line, which would decrease barriers to things like cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and contraceptives. If this bill passes, Nebraska would join 27 states who already have some sort of Medicaid Family Planning Program.

From our research, we know that two major risk factors that increase the probability of unwanted pregnancy and STD contraction are poverty and inadequate access to healthcare. Everyone needs access to healthcare, regardless of socioeconomic status, including family planning services. Increased coverage for these services will do just that.

Additionally, expanding access to family planning services saves millions of dollars for the government. For example, a 2003 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-funded evaluation of state Medicaid family planning programs found that expanding access to family planning saved Arkansas and Oregon nearly $30 million and $20 million, respectively, in a single year.

Howard’s Bill Would Protect the Rights of Sexual Assault Survivors

LB 188, introduced by Senator 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.

The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on this bill on February 24.

Senator Crawford’s LB 305 is being heard today, February 6, by the Business and Labor Committee. LB 305 would create a partial wage replacement insurance program for Nebraska employees, which would allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually to deal with a serious health condition (including pregnancy) or to take care of a newly born, adopted, or placed child, and up to six weeks of paid leave annually to take care of a family member’s serious health condition.

Research shows that women experience a 7% decrease in pay for each child they have. Much of this “motherhood penalty” is a direct consequence of the wages women lose during unpaid leave and the time they lose toward scheduled earnings increases. Paid family and medical leave would address this gap and give women the flexibility to advance professionally while taking care of themselves and their families. It also would help businesses retain employees, reducing turnover costs, and increase employee morale and loyalty. Additionally, it would allow small businesses, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to offer paid family and medical leave, to compete with large businesses who can.

The Women’s Fund supports LB 305: good for women, good for families, and good for businesses. Sign the Holland Children’s Movement’s petition to show your support for paid family and medical leave in Nebraska.

Bills to Support Pregnant and Parenting Students Heard last Monday

The Education Committee held hearings on Monday, January 30 for LB 427 and LB 428, Senator Tony Vargas’s bills to protect the rights of pregnant and parenting students. LB 427 provides for accommodations for students who need to breastfeed or pump during school, and LB 428 is more general, requiring the State Department of Education to develop a model policy for school districts that explicitly addresses absence policies, alternative coursework options, breastfeeding/pumping, and either providing childcare or assisting students with finding affordable, high quality childcare.

The Women’s Fund supports these bills. They would provide pregnant and parenting students in our community with the accommodations and flexibility they need to succeed academically and as parents. Want to know more? Check out Nebraska ACLU’s study on Nebraska school policies about pregnant and parenting students, or read articles about the bills in the Omaha World Herald and Lincoln Journal Star.

Other Bills to Follow

  • Protection orders for survivors of domestic abuse: LB 191 provides a procedure to allow a survivor of domestic abuse who has a protection order against the perpetrator to renew said protection order themselves before their prior protection order expires; currently, this leaves survivors without protection orders while they wait for a renewal.
  • Prevent forced wage disclosure: LB 354, introduced by Senator Kolowski, would prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their wage history. This disrupts cycles of underpaying, which is one contributor to wage inequality.Interested in receiving the Women’s Fund Legislative Update directly to your inbox? Sign-up for our e-newsletter today!