Legislative Update: Week of January 23

Welcome to the Women’s Fund Legislative Update! We will use this update to keep you informed of happenings in the Nebraska State Legislature, including when you can take action around our top policy priorities – payday lending reform and increasing penalties and fines for trafficking, and other issues important to the well-being of women and girls.

The 2017 Legislative session is in full swing. Bill introduction came to a close on Wednesday, January 18. In addition to pushing our priorities forward, we will be tracking the progress of several bills as the session continues to unfold.

We look forward to keeping you informed as the legislative session continues. 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.

Bill Introduced to Reform Payday Lending Industry

On January 10, Senator Tony Vargas and Senator Lou Ann Linehan introduced LB 194, a bipartisan bill that will cap interest rates and fees and extend the length of loans for payday borrowers. This bill will allow the payday lending industry to continue as an important source of credit for many Nebraskans while protecting those consumers from the exploitation and debt cycle that marks many payday lending experiences. And, as Senator Vargas said, “These regulations will put millions of dollars back into the hands of consumers and our local economy.”

This is proving to be true in Colorado. LB 194 is based on legislation enacted in Colorado in 2010. Data demonstrates that Colorado borrowers save approximately $40 million per year after reform – money back in the hands of the state’s consumer.

Will you join our efforts to fight exploitative practices and reform payday lending in Nebraska?

LB 194 In the News:

Craighead’s Bill Would Protect Payday Lenders, Not Consumers

Senator Joni Craighead introduced LB 286, which would create the Nebraska Flexible Loan Act. This bill does nothing to address the existing predatory payday loans, but instead creates an new loan product that has been found to be even more predatory.

Here is what we know about this bill. It would seek to extend loans up to $2,500 at 18 percent per month, and allow them to extend for as long as two years. This monthly interest averages out to a 216 percent APR, which means a $500 loan would end up costing the borrower $1,252 to pay back over a 12-month period.

We will oppose this bill. It will create, not solve, problems for families seeking access to credit.

Pansing Brooks Introduces Bill to Address Trafficking in Nebraska

Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced powerful legislation aimed at ending trafficking in Nebraska by increasing the penalties for trafficking another person and for buying sexual acts from a trafficked person. This bill, LB 289, also explicitly states that a person who has been trafficked cannot be criminally charged for those acts.

This would be a major victory for the fight against trafficking in Nebraska. Traffickers and buyers would face real consequences, and victims and survivors of trafficking would not face criminal charges.

Stay tuned and we will keep you updated as this moves to the Judiciary Committee.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill Introduced by Senator Crawford

LB 305, introduced by Senator Sue Crawford, District 45, would create the Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Act. Under this bill, employees covered by unemployment insurance would have access to paid family and medical leave at two-thirds of their regular pay for up to 12 weeks. Those qualified employees would pay into the program through small payroll deductions, roughly less than $2 per week.

Having the ability to address a serious health condition (including pregnancy), care for a family member with a serious health condition and/or care for a newborn, newly-adopted child or newly-placed foster child while continuing to earn a portion of their pay is critical to women’s ability to provide for their families, and we will support this bill.

Not having access to paid family and medical leave impacts women in particular, especially in Nebraska. While women make up 47 percent of the labor force in Nebraska, they still only make 75 cents to each dollar that a man makes. For mothers, the pay gap can be even more substantial. Research shows that women experience a 7 percent 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. Having access to paid leave changes this as paid family leave increases wages for women with children.

Other Legislative Bills to Follow

  • Family Planning LB 120 would allow women up to 185 percent of poverty access to family planning services.
  • Paternity Sexual Assault Custody LB 188 would provide that a child who is conceived by the victim of a sexual assault and a biological parent is convicted of the crime, they will not be given custody or visitation rights.
  • Parenting Students LB 427 would require schools to provide breastfeeding accommodations for student parents; and LB 428 would require schools and the State Department of Education to adopt policies relating to pregnant and parenting students.

In Other News

There is a threat to federal funding that includes all funds under the Violence Against Women Act. We absolutely cannot lose this funding for our state, and we need your voices to be heard. Take action now by contacting your members of Congress and encourage them to protect VAWA!

Interested in receiving the Women’s Fund Legislative Update directly to your inbox? Sign-up for our e-newsletter today!