Session Review: Executive Board

Legislative oversight, additional budget requirements and redistricting concerns topped the list of Executive Board issues considered by lawmakers this session.

Executive Board chairperson Sen. Mike Hilgers

LR104, introduced by Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz and approved 42-0, reauthorizes a legislative committee that was approved in 2018 to study assisted living facilities.

The State-Licensed Care Facilities Oversight Committee is tasked with examining the lack of adequate conditions at state-licensed care facilities, the treatment of individuals residing in such facilities, the effectiveness of state Department of Health and Human Services regulation and licensure and how the department implements and administers its behavioral health services through the behavioral health regions.

The Executive Board appointed seven state senators to serve on the committee: Sens. Curt Friesen, Steve Halloran, Lou Ann Linehan, Dave Murman, Dan Quick, Lynne Walz and Anna Wishart.

The committee will issue a report to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2019.

Lawmakers also extended a time frame for the authority of the deputy public counsel for institutions.

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 Walz, extends that time frame to 24 months.

The bill includes provisions of Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz’s LB330 that eliminate the July 2019 termination date for the Nebraska Children’s Commission. Under the provisions, the commission will become a permanent forum for collaboration among state, local, community, public and private stakeholders in child welfare and juvenile justice programs and services.

Also included are provisions of Bolz’s LB332, originally considered by the Health and Human Services Committee, which 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 bill expands the program to include young adults who age out of the state’s juvenile justice system. It also limits participation in the program to Nebraska residents and eliminates benefits to recipients who already are receiving residential funding through the home and community-based waiver program.

LB600 passed 39-0 and took effect immediately.

LB572, a measure proposed by Walz that would expand the oversight powers of the Ombudsman’s Office to include licensed assisted living facilities, remains in committee.

Sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, LB631 would create the Medicaid Expansion Task Force to provide oversight and facilitation of Medicaid expansion, which was approved by voters in 2018.

The 13-member task force would hold public hearings in each of the state’s three congressional districts and submit a report to the Legislature. The bill remains in committee.

A bill that requires the Legislature to analyze long-term fiscal sustainability by adding a new step to the state budget process was approved this session.

LB713, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas and passed 49-0, requires the legislative fiscal analyst to create additional revenue and budget reports throughout the biennium. The reports include a revenue volatility report in even-numbered years, a budget stress test in odd-numbered years and a long-term budget for major programs every four years.

The Executive Board also considered four proposals this session regarding the Legislature’s redistricting process.

Currently, the Legislature is responsible for drawing new governmental boundaries every 10 years after the decennial census for districts pertaining to the U.S. House of Representatives, Legislature, Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska Board of Regents, state Board of Education and Nebraska Supreme Court.

Redistricting will be undertaken next in 2021.

LB466, introduced by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard, would adopt the Redistricting Act.
Among other provisions, the act would specify the Legislature’s redistricting process and require that new district maps be drawn using state-issued computer software and politically neutral criteria.

Other redistricting proposals considered were:
LB253, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, which would establish an Independent Redistricting Citizen’s Advisory Commission, to be established by Jan. 30 of each redistricting year;
LB261, sponsored by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, which would require the use of state-issued computer software to create any map that is part of the redistricting process; and
LB467, sponsored by Vargas, which would prohibit consideration of the political affiliation of registered voters, demographic information other than population figures and results of previous elections when drawing boundaries for legislative districts. Information required by federal law or the U.S. Constitution would be exempted under the bill.

None of the redistricting measures advanced from committee.

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