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New Legislative session brings hope for kids

 

On Wednesday, Nebraska’s 103rd Legislature got off to a fantastic start.  New senators were sworn in and senators elected their leadership for the next two years.

A lot has been made of the so-called balance of power between political parties in the media (Legislature shifts more moderate with election of leaders – Omaha World-Herald).  Everyone around the Capitol quickly did the math and saw that of the standing committee chairs, 8 are registered Democrats, 7 are Republicans, and 1 is Independent.

As a nonpartisan organization, we at Voices for Children could care less about whether a senator is a Democrat or Republican.  What we really care about is how they address the issues that impact kids.  Looking back at our Legislative Scorecard for 2012, we find a lot of reasons to be excited about the possibility of another great year for children.  The newly elected legislative leadership has a solid record when it comes to kids.

Below you will see that, with the exception of Agriculture and Natural Resources–two committees that rarely work on issues related directly to children–the new committee leadership does better than average on children’s issues.  With Senators Ashford and Campbell continuing their leadership of the Judiciary and Health and Human Services Committee–the two committees we most frequently work with–we predict another great year for kids at the legislature.

Agriculture
Chair:Schilz
Grade: D

Appropriations
Chair: Mello
Grade: A

Banking, Commerce, and Insurance
Chair: Gloor
Grade: C

Business and Labor
Chair: Lathrop
Grade: B

Education
Chair: Sullivan
Grade: B-

General Affairs
Chair: Karpisek
Grade: B

Government, Military and Veterans Affairs
Chair: Avery
Grade: C

Health and Human Services
Chair: Campbell
Grade: B

Judiciary
Chair: Ashford
Grade: B

Natural Resources
Chair: Carlson
Grade: C-

Nebraska Retirement Systems
Chair: Nordquist
Grade: A

Revenue
Chair: Hadley
Grade: C

Transportation and Telecommunications
Chair: Dubas
Grade: A+

Urban Affairs
Chair: McGill
Grade: A+

Also on Wednesday, the Legislature elected its new Speaker, Senator Greg Adams.  At the end of the 2012 session, our legislative scorecard gave Senator Adams an “F.”  While the grade is the numerical result of his voting record on our priority bills last year, it is important to note two things:

  1. All bills carry equal weight in the total score – so Senator Adams’ courage and leadership in overriding the governor’s veto of prenatal care has the same effect as a vote for any other bill in score; and
  2. Much of the Senator Adams leadership and experience on children’s issues are related to education and his work as chair of that committee.  None of our priority bills focused on education, so his score does not reflect the dedication and hard work he has put in to improve our state’s schools.
Congratulations to Speaker Adams and the newly elected committee chairs.  We look forward to working with you this session.

 

 

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