2014 Legislative Priorities

2014 Legislative Priorities

End of the Session Wrap-Up

The legislative session has ended. It was an exciting session all the way to the end. Disability Rights Nebraska was fully engaged in this legislative session. Here is a quick rundown of the high priority bills Disability Rights Nebraska addressed this session.

LB 393: Repeal motorcycle helmet law
Disability Rights Nebraska’s position: Oppose
Status: Did not pass. Opponents successfully filibustered to stop the bill.
LB 393 proposed to repeal the requirement that motorcycle riders over the age of 21 could ride without having to wear a helmet but would require motorcyclists to wear eye protection.

Disability Rights Nebraska opposed this bill given the rise in motorcyclist brain injuries and fatalities in states that have relaxed or repealed their helmet law.

LB 752: Enhanced penalties for assaulting first responders
Disability Rights Nebraska’s position: Oppose
Status: Passed; amended to LB 811; Passed 46-0. Presented to the Governor on April 17, 2014. Not yet signed.

LB 752 proposed to expand the list of professions protected by enhanced assault penalties and increase the penalty to the next higher classification for assaults on firefighters, paramedics, state correctional employees, state Department of Health and Human Services employees and health care professionals.

Disability Rights Nebraska opposed LB 752, arguing that the bill does not make exceptions for people with disabilities who may assault due to a diminished capacity or a manifestation of their disability and increasing penalties for a select group is not a convincing means for deterring assaults on these specific employment categories. We were not successful and the bill passed.

LB 850: Provide homestead exemption for people with developmental disabilities
Disability Rights Nebraska’s position: Support
Status: Passed; amended to LB 986; Passed 43-0. Signed by the Governor on April 2, 2014.

LB 850 proposed to allow individuals who have a developmental disability to qualify for the homestead exemption.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported LB 850, contending that people with developmental disabilities should be able to benefit from a homestead exemption as well. Such an arrangement would help those individuals to stay in their homes and communities.

LB 854: To place a hold on action relating to managed care for long-term care services and support.
Disability Rights Nebraska position: Support
Status: Passed 46-0 vote; Signed by the Governor on March 28, 2014.

LB 854 proposed a moratorium on managed care for long-term care services in order to solicit sufficient planning and meaningful input from stakeholders, including service providers and consumers, in order to establish an effective managed care system for Medicaid recipients.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported the bill, agreeing that input from stakeholders is critical to establishing a more effective long-term care system transformation.

LB 887: Wellness in Nebraska Act - Medicaid expansion to uninsured
Disability Rights Nebraska position: Support
Status: Did not pass. Opponents successfully filibustered to stop the bill.

LB 887 would have provided Medicaid coverage or payment of premiums in the insurance exchanges for approximately 55,000 Nebraskans. The bill specifically addressed persons with disabilities as a subset of those 55,000 Nebraskans.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported the bill, arguing that expanded Medicaid coverage to those who traditionally are excluded—for example single childless adults and those individuals/families above the traditional Medicaid income limits—would provide an opportunity for those individuals/families (especially those with disabilities) in the expansion group to have access to healthcare.

LB 920: Establish Office of Public Guardian
Disability Rights Nebraska position: Support
Status: Passed 44-0; Signed by the Governor on April 2, 2014.

The office of Public Guardian will serve as a means of last resort as guardian or conservator for those individuals needing guardianship services where no family member or suitable individual is available. In addition, the office will provide education, training, and support to current and future guardians and conservators.

Nebraska was the only state without some system to provide guardianships for persons who have no individual, family member, or other entity available to be the guardian. LB 920 creates an office of Public Guardianship to provide that role.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported this initiative, recognizing the importance of oversight and transparency for people who need guardians, especially those who have no one with an interest or ability to serve as guardian.

LB 974: Require Department of Health and Human Services to include strategic plans for the Division of Behavioral Health, the Division of Developmental Disabilities, and the Division of Medicaid and Long-term Care for the next two budget cycles.
Disability Rights Nebraska position: Support
Status: Passed 44-0; Signed by the Governor on April 2, 2014

LB 974 would provide an important piece for the transparent planning and delivery of public benefits and services.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported the legislation, arguing that a transparent, robust, and substantial strategic planning process is critical to effective system efficiency.

LB 1076: Postpone changes in Medicaid authorization and payment for medically necessary home health services and reimbursement rates
Disability Rights Nebraska position: Support
Status: Passed 48-0; Signed by the Governor on April 16, 2014.

The Department of Health and Human Services communicated to Sen. Campbell that the Department would on its own agree to postpone home health care changes until the Balancing Incentive Payments Program was completed—thus achieving the intent of LB 1076.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported postponing changes in home health care until other state reforms and activities under the Balancing Incentive Payment Program can be evaluated. Reductions in home health care services and reimbursements would potentially have significant effects on those individuals with disabilities receiving home health care and would potentially decrease the ability for some individuals to retain community-based care and increase the number of individuals who would be institutionalized.

LB 505: Require insurance coverage for children with autism
Disability Rights Nebraska position: Support
Status: Amended to LB 254; LB 254 passed 48-0; Governor signed on April 21, 2014.

For those families with a child with autism, existing insurance coverage may not include services for autism. LB 505 (and amendment) would require insurance plans in Nebraska to include coverage for autism diagnosis and treatment.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported LB 505 (and amendment to LB 254) as families with children with autism often find it difficult to get insurance coverage for autism treatment. Early intervention and access to services are key elements for families with children with autism.

This bill was a medium priority bill for us at the beginning of the session. We anticipated other groups would actively pursue its passage so we focused our resources on letter writing to express our support for the legislation.

LR 400: appoint a special committee to be known as the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee of the Legislature
Disability Rights Nebraska position: Support
Status: Adopted by Legislature March 7, 2014; Signed by Speaker of Legislature March 10, 2014 to create special committee.

LR 400 would study and investigate the effectiveness of the ACCESSNebraska system.

Disability Rights Nebraska supported LR 400 noting that the system is vital to many people with disabilities. Despite system improvements, many people still experience difficulties accessing and using the system. A thorough investigation of the program is needed.

2014 Priorities and Priority Selection Criteria

Disability Rights Nebraska has set its 2014 legislative priorities for the Second Session of the 103rd Nebraska Legislature.

This is the Short Session – only 60 Legislative Days. The Session starts January 8, 2014 and ends April 17, 2013.

The priorities support positions approved by our Board of Directors. These priorities are based on criteria adopted by the Board.

In reviewing proposed legislative bills, the key question is: Does the proposed legislation have a direct impact on the lives of people with disabilities?

If so, then we ask the following:

  • Does the proposed legislation address or raise issues relating to the human and legal rights of people with disabilities? OR
  • Does the proposed legislation encourage or discourage the empowerment of people with disabilities? OR
  • Does the proposed legislation promote or diminish the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities? OR
  • Does the proposed legislation promote or undermine the individual dignity of people with disabilities?

Legislative Bills that meet these basic criteria are reviewed by our advisory councils in consultation with Disability Rights Nebraska’s staff. The advisory councils recommend our position in support or opposition of the legislative bill and any revisions to improve the proposed legislation. Based on that input, our public policy staff prepares final recommendations for the Board of Directors approval.

The legislative priorities are not intended to be a comprehensive list of the advocacy efforts of Disability Rights Nebraska. Instead, the priorities represent where we believe we can bring a unique voice to the legislative process through a focus on the human and legal rights, empowerment, community inclusion, or dignity of people with disabilities.

2014 legislative priorities

We continue with our 2013 work (see below) and now add these 2014 legislative priorities:

  • Creation of an office of Public Guardianship;
  • Assure more government transparency;
  • Establish a “return-to-learn_ protocol for students with concussions;
  • Protect long-term care benefits;
  • Fairness in homestead tax exemption for people with disabilities;
  • Increase the Medicaid personal need allowance to at least $75 per month;
  • Establish a special legislative committee to investigate ACCESS Nebraska;
  • Stop reckless tax cutting that robs funds from education and human needs;
  • Assure adequate funding for home health care;
  • Require the creation of a statewide plan for behavioral health services;
  • Protect people with disabilities from unfair criminal charges

2013 legislative priorities

The 2013 legislative priorities are:

  • Behavioral Health Reform that works to improve lives;
  • Assure the return to work without loss of health care benefits;
  • Protect the voting rights of people with disabilities;
  • Access to public benefits that is more efficient and less burdensome;
  • Remove the regressive term “mental retardation” from state law;
  • Oppose the repeal of Nebraska’s motorcycle helmet law;
  • Reform health insurance law to cover the treatment of autism;
  • Protect the health of unborn children and their mothers;
  • Expand Medicaid coverage to Nebraskans without health insurance;
  • Assure guardianship protections for vulnerable Nebraskans;
  • Support the Legislature’s oversight of the Beatrice State Developmental Center (BSDC) and community-based services for persons with developmental disabilities.