Bill would require Capitol space to express breast milk

The administrator of the Nebraska State Capitol Building would be required to provide a space to express breast milk under a bill considered March 15 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist06' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh'>Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh</a>
Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh

Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, sponsor of LB709, said the building should have a designated place for nursing mothers who work in and visit the Capitol—a space that is not simply a stall in a public restroom. Women need an area that is private and hygienic, she said, which public restrooms are not.

“I very strongly believe that this is the people’s building and that the building should reflect that,” Cavanaugh said, adding that she has been encouraged by the support the bill has found among state agencies that occupy the Capitol.

Under the bill, the space provided could not be a bathroom and must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by the public. The bill also would require that the space have running water and electrical outlets that could be used to express breast milk by any person authorized to be in the State Capitol Building.

Scout Richters testified in support of the bill on behalf of the ACLU of Nebraska. Many breastfeeding women face discrimination, she said, and LB709 would ensure that they have an appropriate space in the Capitol.

“The ACLU of Nebraska supports [this bill] because breastfeeding is a civil right, a gender equity concern and an equal justice issue,” Richters said.

Bob Ripley, capitol administrator for the Office of the Capitol Commission, provided neutral testimony. He said the commission recently purchased a “lactation pod” as a temporary solution, which should be available for use by senators, staff and the public by the end of April.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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