Legislative Update Week of March 22

Welcome to the Women’s Fund Legislative Update! The 2017 legislative session is more than halfway complete, and committee hearings come to a close this week. Senators have identified their priority legislation for the year, and those bills are likely the only ones that will receive time on the legislative floor for debate.

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.

What follows is an update on legislation the Women’s Fund has prioritized. 

Take Action: Reject Income Tax Cut Bill

With the state’s current budget woes — a $1 billion shortfall– it would seem logical that any proposal to cut income taxes is off the table. However, some lawmakers continue to push LB 337, which is focused on providing tax cuts for the wealthiest Nebraskans. Our state currently does not have enough money to meet its existing obligations. LB 337 would make matters worse. If passed, this bill would hurt our state’s ability to invest in important areas, such as education, health care and other vital programs and services that impact women and girls directly.

Please call your senator TODAY! Tell them to reject LB 337 which would provide tax cuts for the richest Nebraskans and when fully implemented will cost $300 million and create even further pressure on budget cuts that impact critical programs.

How would LB 337 cut income taxes?

LB 337 would gradually cut the top income tax rate from 6.84% to 5.99%, which would provide the richest Nebraskans a huge tax break (an average $5,810 per year), while middle income Nebraskans would see an extra $3.25 per month or about $39 per year. Low-income Nebraskans would receive little to no tax relief.

LB 337 has been prioritized by Senator Brett Lindstrom, District 18. The bill has not yet advanced from the Revenue Committee, but we anticipate LB 337 will be rolled into a package with other tax cut provisions and be debated on the floor.

It is vital for every senator to hear from their constituents.  Call your senator TODAY and tell them to reject income tax cuts for the richest Nebraskans by opposing LB 337, or any combination of tax cut provisions that provide the largest share of the benefits to the wealthiest Nebraskans.

Hearing on Family Planning Bill Held

LB 120 was heard by the Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, March 15.  The bill would expand family planning services under Medicaid to those whose income is up to 185% of poverty, which for a family of four is $44,955.

There was broad organizational and individual support for LB 120 at the hearing. According to the fiscal note for the bill, LB 120 would generate over $6 million in savings. We believe that figure is low as they used an outdated 2008 study showing savings of only $4.02 for every dollar invested. Current research from the Guttmacher Institute indicates states should see a savings of $7.09 for every dollar invested.

If your senator sits on the Health and Human Services Committee, let them know you want them to support LB 120.

Payday Lending Reform Delayed in Banking Committee

LB 194, introduced by Senators Tony Vargas and Lou Ann Linehan, has not yet made it out of the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. Senator Vargas intended to prioritize LB 194 if it would have made it out of committee prior to senator’s priority designation deadline.

If your senator is on the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee, call them and let them know you want payday lending reform so they need to advance LB 194 to the full Legislature!

In addition to contacting members of the committee, we have an opportunity to continue to raise awareness around this issue with the mayoral and city council elections. There will be public debates and forums where citizens can ask the candidates how they can help Omahans solve the problem of predatory lending.

If you want to learn more about LB 194, read our fact sheet. Please email Michelle Zych at MZych@OmahaWomensFund.org to learn how you can help this issue front and center. 

Judiciary Committee Prioritizes Sex Trafficking Bill

The Judiciary Committee prioritized LB 289, introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks, which will increase penalties for sex trafficking and solicitation while also increasing protections for trafficking victims. LB 289 was prioritized in a package with other bills (LBs 191, 188, and 178) relating to sexual violence.  Priority status means these bills will receive debate time in the full Legislature.  

LB 191, introduced by Senator Pansing Brooks, aims to eliminate the gap that currently leaves survivors without protection orders while they wait for protection order renewal. It would create a procedure to allow a survivor of domestic abuse who has a protection order against the perpetrator to renew a protection order before the current order expires.

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.

LB 178, which was introduced by Senator Bolz, would provide for sexual assault protection orders.

While we do not expect much opposition to these bills, it is good to let your senator know you want them to support these bills and to commit to ending sexual violence in Nebraska. Learn more about LB 289 with our fact sheet.