Lawmakers advanced the state’s mainline budget bill to final reading May 15 following a successful cloture vote.
LB294, introduced by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk at the request of the governor, would fund state government for the next two fiscal years.
Debate focused on an amendment brought by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, vice chairperson of the Appropriations Committee.
The amendment would make a number of technical changes to the bill and incorporate provisions of Bolz’s LB181, which she said were inadvertently left out of the committee amendment adopted during general file debate.
The provisions would use $87,500 from the Nursing Facility Penalty Cash Fund to pay for a study to examine demographic trends, project current and future service needs and provide recommendations for continued statewide access to long-term care services, including nursing facility care, for Medicaid recipients.
Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood opposed the inclusion of LB181 and offered an amendment that would have stripped those provisions from the Bolz amendment.
“The Department of Health and Human Services testified in opposition to LB181, mainly because they said the department already completes the long-term care redesign study [so] the amendment is really not necessary,” Clements said. “It places additional administrative mandates and requirements on the [department].”
Omaha Sen. Sara Howard supported the Bolz amendment. She offered several examples of times when she said the state has “burned money in a barrel” by paying “enormous” fines to the federal government resulting from a lack of sufficient funding to, or oversight of, the department.
Howard said the proposed study would provide a more comprehensive view of the state’s situation without negatively impacting the department’s budget or placing an undue burden on the administration.
“[The amendment] really gives us the opportunity … to make sure that we, as policymakers, fully understand what is going on in our long-term care space and what is happening to that very, very vulnerable population,” she said.
After two hours of discussion, senators voted 47-2 to invoke cloture, or cease debate and vote on the bill and pending amendments. The Clements amendment failed on a vote of 21-28. Twenty-five votes were needed.
Following adoption of the Bolz amendment 40-7, lawmakers advanced LB294 to final reading also on a 40-7 vote.