Health and Human Services

Aid to dependent children changes amended into bill

A bill to create a consumer bill of rights was scrapped May 13 in order to replace it with a compromise version of a public benefits bill vetoed by the governor.

LB607, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, would have created a consumer bill of rights for individuals who receive home care services. The bill was gutted on general file by an amendment offered by Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, approved 30-1, to include a compromise version of her LB89.

LB89 was intended to remove the “cliff effect” in the state’s Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program. The bill passed April 23 on a 30-15 vote and was vetoed by Gov. Pete Ricketts on April 29.

Campbell said the governor indicated in his veto letter that he believed the bill to have merit, but that he had concerns about the long-term sustainability of LB89.

The bill would have increased the maximum ADC benefit each year through 2019, after which it would have been set at 70 percent of the standard need. The bill also would have changed the amount of gross earned income that is disregarded for ADC applicants, increasing it to 50 percent once eligibility is established.

Campbell said she worked with fiscal analysts from the Legislature and the governor’s office to reach a compromise that would ensure the measures’ sustainability through the year 2025.

Under the amendment, the maximum monthly ADC payment would increase to 55 percent of the standard of need. The amendment removed the other increases that were included in the original LB89.

“So much work went into this to try and preserve my goal of serving Nebraska families who need our help—particularly the children,” Campbell said, adding that she realized the bill’s path was unusual.

“But I believe that it represents the sense of true compromise and cooperation between the legislative branch and the executive branch,” she said.

Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield expressed concern regarding the influence of the executive branch inside the Legislative chamber.

“I believe that’s improper,” he said.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist acknowledged the unique manner in which the compromise was reached—coming after LB89 was passed rather than during debate on the proposal—but urged lawmakers to focus on ADC recipients.

“I support the amendment for all those families and people who will be served by those funds,” he said.

The amendment retained provisions of LB335, originally introduced by Mello, establishing a task force to study intergenerational poverty in Nebraska.

The task force would include the chairpersons of the Health and Human Services and Appropriations committees as well as three at-large members appointed by the Executive Board of the Legislative Council.

Nonvoting members would include representatives from the state departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education as well as a variety of community stakeholders and policy experts.

The task force would analyze the ADC, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, child care assistance and Employment First programs with a focus on helping children escape the cycle of poverty. A preliminary report would be presented to the Legislature and the governor by Dec. 15, 2015, and a final report—including a long-range strategic plan—by Dec. 15, 2016.

Following adoption of Campbell’s amendment, LB607 advanced to select file on a 40-1 vote.

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