Disability Rights Nebraska's Public Policy Team worked hard to protect the rights of people with disabilities during the 105th Legislature's 2nd Session. In 2018, we continued our public policy advocacy by providing analyses and testimony on issues that affect the disability community. We respond to “High-Priority” bills with testimony, personal contacts and education, and “Medium Priority” bills with letters, often in conjunction with other disability rights partners. View a complete list of our legislative priorities in 2018 to learn more about bills that might affect Nebraskans with disabilities.
Under LB739, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services could not place a member of a vulnerable population in restrictive housing. Disability Rights Nebraska Public Policy Director, Brad Meurrens, testified in support of this bill and was quoted in this article. “It does not require much of a stretch to understand that solitary confinement could create additional or exacerbate underlying mental health conditions for persons who are in one or more of those vulnerable populations [outlined in the bill],” Meurrens said.
Over the years, the use of seclusion and restraint in schools across the United States has drawn plenty of attention. Federal data indicates more than 122,000 students nationwide were secluded or restrained in the 2015-2016 school year and students with disabilities represent 12% of the student population. Nationally, they represent 71% of students who were restrained and 66% of those students who were secluded. Recently, there has been movement at the federal level to better understand and reduce the use of restraint and seclusion. Locally, however, a Nebraska state senator has proposed a bill, Legislative Bill 147, that leans the opposite direction.
Michael Warner, a Disability Rights Nebraska Board Member, spoke against LB 147 at its hearing. “Students are in school to learn,” he said. “They should not be fearful of retaliation from a teacher because they got frustrated.”
LB 247 was proposed by Sen. Kate Bolz "to establish provisions specific to the advance planning of mental health care." Disability Rights Nebraska's Public Policy Director, Brad Meurrens, testified in opposition to the bill, stating "We would like to see psychiatric advance directives in place in Nebraska. We just believe that this bill is not the vehicle at this time and issues need to be addressed in a broader discussion with a wider array of stakeholders."