Extension of public counsel authority amended, advanced

Senators amended and advanced a bill May 13 that would extend a time frame for the authority of the deputy public counsel for institutions.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist15' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Lynne Walz'>Sen. Lynne Walz</a>
Sen. Lynne Walz

The public counsel—also known as the state Ombudsman’s Office—is an independent office that handles citizen complaints regarding the actions of administrative agencies of Nebraska state government.

Currently, the authority of the deputy public counsel for institutions extends to individuals who have been patients at a state-owned or state-operated regional center within the prior 12 months. LB600, introduced by Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz, would extend that time frame to 24 months.

The bill was amended on general file to include provisions of Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz’s LB330. The provisions would eliminate the July 2019 termination date for the Nebraska Children’s Commission.

Under the amendment, the commission would become a permanent forum for collaboration among state, local, community, public and private stakeholders in child welfare and juvenile justice programs and services. It also would streamline the commission’s duties and shift its administration to the Legislature.

During select file debate, Bolz offered an amendment to add provisions of her LB332, which would revise the Youth Bridge to Independence Program—a system of supports for older teenagers and young adults who are at or near the end of their time in foster care.

The amendment would expand the program to include young adults who age out of the state’s juvenile justice system. It also would limit participation in the program to Nebraska residents and eliminate benefits to recipients who already are receiving residential funding through the home and community-based waiver program.

Bolz said the change would “rightsize” the program to make the best use of state resources without increasing expenditures.

“This is a very narrow population of young people who don’t otherwise have a home to go to when they age out of the juvenile justice system and have that experience with the child welfare system in their history,” she said.

Following adoption of the amendment 28-3, senators advanced LB600 to final reading by voice vote.

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