Veto of school-based health center bill sustained

The governor’s veto of a bill that would provide grant funding for school-based health centers was sustained after a motion to override the veto failed April 18.

LB1020, introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, would have created the Coordinated School Health Program to award $200,000 in competitive grants to school districts to help fund school-based health centers.

School districts would have been required to match grant funds by 50 percent. Medically underserved areas would have been given priority. The funds could have been used only for capital construction and startup costs for school-based health centers.

Senators had passed the bill April 5 on a 26-15 vote. In his veto letter, Gov. Dave Heineman said the bill would inappropriately use funds designated for education to provide health care.

Nordquist filed the motion to override the governor’s veto saying that a child’s health is directly tied to educational outcomes. He also said that the fund dedicated to education has been amended repeatedly in the past to allow for innovations.

“This fund has been changed 26 times in the past to allow for innovations to increase educational outcomes,” Nordquist said. “Research shows that school-based health centers lead to a reduction in absenteeism and tardiness, an increased likelihood to stay in school and a reduction in Medicaid expenditures.”

An attempt to override the governor’s veto failed on a 27-21 vote. Thirty votes were needed.

Omaha Sen. Brenda Council filed a motion to reconsider the vote. She said the welfare of children should be a priority for the Legislature.

“We’re allowing the veto to stand on a bill that would address the needs of kids who need medical care,” Council said. “Are we willing to jeopardize the health and academic success of our young people for a small amount of money?”

York Sen. Greg Adams opposed the motion to reconsider, saying the language of the bill does not specify that funds be used for providing health care services.

“This bill is for capital construction, not health services,” Adams said. “Is this really the direction we want to go?”

The motion to reconsider the vote failed on a 27-22 vote and the veto was sustained.

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