Disability Rights Nebraska is fortunate to have a long history of dedicated public policy advocacy as a true compliment to our legal advocacy. Better late than never, below are some of our public policy success stories from the last legislative session and upcoming activity to watch out for.
Legislative Bill 1104 (Support): The bill would require the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to consult with disability advocacy and disability service organizations when developing/revising Plans for county/local emergency management. The bill advanced out of committee unopposed, but did not ultimately pass.
However, we achieved success by raising public and policymaker awareness of the need for inclusive planning: to plan with people with disabilities, not for them. As a result, we have been asked to help provide input and education directly to NEMA and emergency managers as well as helping them make connections with the disability community.
Legislative Bill 834 (Support): This bill would remove language in state statute allowing certain persons with disabilities to be paid below minimum wage. We voiced strong support for LB 834 at the public hearing, but the bill stalled in committee.
However, we achieved success: We raised awareness of the sub-minimum wage issue at the legislative level and engage in discussions regarding its elimination. We have been engaged in discussions with other advocates and policymakers regarding next steps and potential solutions. We feel this collaboration would not have happened without this bill.
Legislative Bill 1216 (Oppose): As introduced this bill would have exploded the types of individuals who could be guardians of people with disabilities. Amendments changed the bill to allow family guardians to be paid caregivers. We testified in opposition to expansive guardianship: concerned about conflicts of interest and the thin oversight contained in the amendments. We suggested the bill had not received sufficient analysis or input from stakeholders and should be an Interim Study ; hence, Legislative Resolution 368.
Interim Studies are important, too! Eighty-five Interim Studies were proposed this session on a wide range of issues. The studies are intended to get information that could be used to draft bills later. Some studies will have public hearings over the Fall and early Winter. Interim Studies are great opportunities for individuals to address and inform policymakers directly in a non-adversarial environment. Our Legislative Updates page has a list of our legislative testimony and the 2022 Interim Studies we are watching. Find your state senator here.
The motto “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen” is engraved above the North door of the state Capitol. Senators take that seriously and want to be informed. Public policy advocacy isn’t so intimidating after you get a few public hearings under your belt. You don’t have to go it alone. If I can be of any help, please let me know.
Eighty-five interim studies were introduced this session. These are studies requested by Senators or Legislative Committees on a wide range of issues. Some of these studies will have a public hearing some time over the Summer/Fall. These interim studies are intended to gather information about the issue, not prescribing a specific solution. Basically, the legislature is admitting they need more information and is asking for public input. Click here for a few that caught Brad's attention.
Brad is the Public Policy Director at Disability Rights Nebraska. For the agency, Brad works on public policy issues and legislation affecting people with disabilities in Nebraska. Outside of the agency, he coaches high school debate and is a member of the National Speech and Debate Coaches’ Caucus on Persons with Disabilities. He lives under the rule of his two cats, Smootchie and Voodoo.