Each legislative session, our Nebraska state Senators have an opportunity to make children a priority.
Let me amend that statement: Senators have lots of opportunities to make children a priority, ranging from introducing bills that specifically address children’s issues to ensuring that vital programs have the funding to reach the kids and families who need them. With limited time each session to debate and advance bills (90 and 60 days respectively), however the Legislature has to pick and choose which issues facing our state will have to opportunity for full debate and extended dialogue.
There’s only one way to make sure bills get a spot on the Legislative agenda: by literally making it a priority bill. How does a bill become a priority?
- An individual Senator can choose to make it their priority (they only get 1 each session);
- A Committee can designate it as a priority (2 each session);
- The Speaker of the Legislature can designate it a priority (25 each session).
With child poverty on the rise, the child welfare system struggling to serve kids and families, trouble accessing public benefits growing, and juvenile justice challenges piling up, there’s been a lot of talk about the need for a “session of children” at the Legislature over the past few weeks. This week, Senators proved that that’s not just empty rhetoric, when they designated 16 bills that address issues facing children and families a priority. While we have concerns about a few of these bills, we commend the Legislature for being willing to put kids on the agenda in a major way this session.
So which bills made the cut?
Safety – Child Welfare
LB 820 – Provide for a foster care demonstration project (IV-E Waiver) – Support
LB 821 – Create the Nebraska Children’s Commission and require legislation to create the Department of Children’s Services – Support
LB 949 – Require reports and a strategic plan by the Division of Children and Family Services of the Department of Health and Human Services (Performance-based budgeting) – Support
LB 961 – Change provisions relating to case management of child welfare services – Neutral
LB 993 – Change provisions relating to child abuse and neglect teams and child advocacy centers – Support
LB 998 – Create the Foster Care Review Office and eliminate the Foster Care Review Board
LB 1063 – Adopt the Children’s Health and Treatment Act
LB 1160 – Require Department of Health and Human Services to develop an information system and provide for reports and an evaluation – Support
Safety – Juvenile Justice
LB 933 – Change provisions relating to truancy – Support
LB 972 – Transfer the youth rehabilitation and treatment centers from the Office of Juvenile Services to the Department of Correctional Services – Oppose
LB 825 – Establish local offices for access to public benefit programs
LB 842 – Change the termination date relating to self-sufficiency activities under the Welfare Reform Act – Support
LB 599 – Provide coverage for certain children as prescribed pursuant to the Medical Assistance Act – Support
LB 1090 – Provide for the awarding of grants and the distribution of information relating to the Summer Food Service Program by the State Department of Education – Support
LB 1063 – Adopt the Children’s Health and Treatment Act – Support
LB 996 – Change provisions relating to compulsory attendance – Neutral
LB 970 – Terminate the inheritance tax and change income tax rates and calculation – Opposed
We are at the half-way point in this short session (Tuesday is Day 30 of 60 days). With so many priority bills designated for children and so little time, it means Voices for Children will be incredibly busy in the next two months. We will be calling on you – our supporters, readers, followers, and friends – to talk to your senators and make sure that children continue to be a priority this session.