Urge Your Representative to Vote Yes on HR1 This Week

Voters across the country voted for democracy reform up and down the ballot in 2018, sending the 116th Congress a clear message that the country is ready for bold, comprehensive democracy reforms.

And now, HR1, the For The People Act is on the verge of passing the House of Representatives – THIS WEEK the House will vote on this historic piece of legislation.

Call your Representative TODAY through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote to pass H.R. 1 – the  “For The People” Act.

HR1 is the biggest democracy reform agenda many of us have seen since the Voting Rights Act. This bill will revamp our voting system, implement fair redistricting, and crack down on dark money in elections so that voters have a stronger voice at the ballot box.

We must get this bold, transformative set of reforms to strengthen our democracy and return political power to the people over the finish line but we cannot do it without your help!

Call your Representative TODAY through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to commit to vote YES on  H.R. 1.

LWVNE Testimony in Support of LB 175

On Feb. 20, LWVNE submitted written testimony in support of LB 175, a bill to change provisions regarding candidate committee funds.

Download the submitted testimony or read the full text below.

Senator Tom Brewer, Chair

Government, Military, and VA Committee

State Capitol

Re:  Hearing for LB 175 (Chambers)  to change provisions regarding candidate committee funds

Dear Senator Brewer and Members of the Committee,

The League of Women Voters has worked on transparency in campaign finance since the early 1970s, spurred by spending abuses in congressional and presidential campaigns.  The Nebraska League has turned its attention to monitoring transparency in state level campaigns.  

We support Senator Chambers’  bill because of its solid protection for donors who wish to give to a particular candidate’s campaign with the expectation that their donation will support their candidate of choice.

We urge you to advance LB 175 to General File for full debate by the members of the Senate.

Respectfully submitted,

Lynne Elwood, Government Director                         

Sherry Miller, President

Recapping the 2018 Elections with the Douglas County Election Commission

In this episode of Go Vote, Omaha, LWVGO member MaryLee Moulton interviews Douglas County Election Commission Director Brian Kruse and Deputy Director Chris Carithers about the recent election, how votes are counted, shifts to early vote by mail, and other election topics.  

Go Vote Omaha! is our locally produced informational television program. Watch Go Vote Omaha at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday nights on Cox channel 22 or CenturyLink channel 89 or anytime on YouTube. You can also listen to these episodes as podcasts on Podbean.

Unicameral Considers Redistricting Bills

Last week, the Nebraska state legislature’s Executive Board considered four proposals regarding the Legislature’s redistricting process.

Two of these bills — 253 and 466 — are among LWVNE/LWVGO’s 2019 priority bills.

The committee took no immediate action on any of the proposals.

LWNE President Sherry Miller encourages all LWVNE/LWVGO members to contact their state senators to urge them to support LB 253 and LB 466.

The members of the executive committee are: Hilgers (Chair), Vargas (Vice Chair), Bolz, Chambers, Hughes, Kolterman, Lowe, McCollister, Scheer, Stinner

Our 2019 Priority Bills

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska and League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha have considered all legislation introduced in this Unicameral term and determined the organizations’ priority bills for 2019.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes political parties or candidates. We are a political organization that has guiding values and policy recommendations. Using our programs — the list of political positions adopted by the national, state and local organizations — as a guide, LWVNE and LWVGO have adopted the following as priority bills.

We Support:

We Oppose:

Read on to find out more about these bills and how our organization came to support or oppose them.

Support

Redistricting Reform

LB 253 and LB 466

LB 253, introduce by Sen. John McCollister (LD 20), is a reintroduction of Sen. Harr’s LB 216 from last year, which we also supported.

LB 466, introduced by Sen. Sara Howard (LD 9) is a reintroduction of her bill from last year, which we also supported.

Why do we support redistricting reform as presented in LB 253 and LB 466?

The basic commonalities and differences in the bills are:

  1. Most important, in both bills, neither the Independent Commission nor the Legislative Redistricting Committee draw the maps.  The maps are prepared by the Legislative Research Office (LRO) using a software it prepares and approves—except in LB 466, third drawing of maps is done by the Legislature’s Executive Board.
  2. Voting in Legislature:  LB466 no amendments any of the three times the bills could come to the Legislature; LB 253 no amendments for first two times but amendments third time.
  3. Both set dates, chair, and report on 3 Public Input Hearings (one in each Congressional District): LB 253: Commission (composed of 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and one non-partisan elected by the 6); LB 466 the Legislative Redistricting Committee.
  4. LB 253 does not allow packing or cracking to dilute voting rights of voting majority or minority based on race or language; LB 466 doesn’t address this issue.

We are anticipating that one bill come from the Executive Board combining these bills. We believe that it is critical that the Senator supports:

  1. Critical to assure that the maps are drawn by the Legislative Research Office (LRO) using a software it prepares and approves.  (This avoids use of pre-existing software prepared by groups with political orientation.)
  2. Best to have no amendments on the floor of the Legislature during any of the three times the bills come to the floor.  (There is a period after the first and second votes for members of the Legislature to communicate to the LRO reasons for their votes against the bills, so that future maps may (but will not necessarily) address those issues.
  3. Setting dates, chairing, and reporting on public hearings could be done by either the Commission or the Legislative Committee.  Having hearings in all three Congressional Districts will be important to assuring public input.
  4. Language excluding packing and stacking are important to include in the bill.  

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Adopt the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act

LB 311

LB 311, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford (LD45), creates a paid family and medical leave insurance program to provide partial wage replacement for eligible workers to care for themselves or a family member following a serious illness or to care for a  new child through birth, foster care or adoption. Leave can also be taken for military exigency.

Why do we support LB 311 and paid family medical leave?

The League of Women Voters believes that one of the goals of social policy should be to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families and that the most effective social programs are those designed to prevent or reduce poverty.

In addition:

  • Paid Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) prevents choosing between the job and caring for a family member.
  • PFMLA provides for a healthy launch into family life for a newborn.
  • PFMLA guarantees leave without having to quit a job, leading to dependence of social services and that social cost to a community.
  • PFMLA benefits employers who can retain an experienced worker, a plus in an era of worker shortage in certain fields.

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Provide for Restoration of Voting Rights Upon Completion of a Felony Sentence or Probation for a Felony

LB 83

LB 83, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne (LD 13), removes the arbitrary two-year waiting period between the completion of felony restitution and the restoration of citizenship rights.

Current Nebraska law prevents someone with a felony conviction from voting for two years following their release and completion of all required probation. Many ex-felons/returning citizens welcome the right to vote again as part of their re-assimilation into society, along with obtaining a driver’s license, getting a job, opening a bank account, etc.

Why do we support LB 83 and the removal of the waiting period?

The League of Women Voters believes voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed. Citizens should have full rights following the completion of their sentence and should not be continued to be punished/removed from society.

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Criteria for Recipients of Title X Funds

LB 629

LB 629, introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks (LD 28), changes what kind of entitities can receive Title X funding.

Under the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services shall only grant funds received under 42 U.S.C. 300 (Title X) for voluntary family planning programs to entities that are:

  • licensed under the Health Care Facility Licensure Act and provide service to recipients of medical assistance under the Medical Assistance Act;
    •  compliant with the provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and any regulations promulgated under such federal act;
  • able to diagnose and treat sexually transmitted diseases and infections; and
    • able to provide gynecological exams.

Why do we support LB 629 and requiring that recipients of Title X funds must be clinics with real medical personnel and facilities?

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska supports Title X funding, which provides family planning and reproductive health care services to low income individuals and families.

The intent of LB 629 is to ensure that Title X funds are distributed only to those family planning services which are staffed with medical personnel trained and licensed to diagnose and treat STDs and infections and to provide gynecological exam.  Family planning services without such medical personnel will not qualify for the grants.

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Oppose

Public Funds for Private Schools

LB 670

LB 670, introduced be Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (LD 39), is a reincarnation of LB 295 from the 2017-18 session. It provides for the creation of scholarship-granting organizations, which shall be certified by the Department of Revenue, and can provide educational scholarships to students attending a qualified school. 

Why do we oppose LB 670?

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska believes in a public educational system financed by a combination of local and state revenues.

The League opposes state aid to non-public schools. 

Read more about this bill in the citizen lobbying guide prepared for Legislative Day 2019.

Read More

Follow the Unicameral Update for news about the legislature and the progress of bills.

Take Action: Help HR1 Move Forward

New legislation from Congress, HR 1, the For the People Act, will modernize our election system, reform redistricting, and restore the Voting Rights Act.

The extraordinary and comprehensive reforms in HR1 are good for all Americans and deserve bipartisan support. That’s why we need YOU to contact your Representative and express your support for this legislation. 

Find and contact your Representative via the League of Women Voters’ website.

Legislature Recognizes August 2019 as Nebraska Woman’s Suffrage Month

Members of the League of Women Voters of Nebraska will be acknowledged on Thursday, Feb. 14, by Senator Lynne Walz and members of the legislature in conjunction with a resolution recognizing August 2019 as Nebraska Woman’s Suffrage Month. Walz introduced the legislative resolution with 44 other members of the Nebraska legislature on Feb. 8. It was read into the record on Feb. 11.

The recognition kicks off a celebration from August 2019 through August 2020 by the LWVNE of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women in the United States the right to vote. In the final campaign for women’s suffrage, Nebraska was the 14th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on August 2, 1919. Over the next year, other states followed with Tennessee becoming the 36th needed and final state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920. The 19th Amendment officially became part of the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920.

“The Nebraska League was organized in June 1920,” said Sherry Miller, president of the LWVNE, “and was fully ready to lead the way for women’s suffrage in Nebraska when it was ratified later that year. It has been leading the way in voter education and protection ever since.”

The ratification of the 19th Amendment was the hard-fought and successful culmination of a 72-year campaign by several generations of suffragists. Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, women and men at the Seneca Falls, NY, convention in 1848 produced a Declaration of Sentiments that called for actions to equalize women’s status with men, including the right to vote.

LWVNE and LWVGo members with Sen. Walz

Since winning the vote in 1920, more women than men have voted in every presidential election since 1964 and, since 1980, a greater proportion of women than men has voted in presidential elections. In 2019 more women serve in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures than ever before with 102 women in the House of Representatives, 25 in the Senate, and 2,117 in state legislatures. There are now more women senators in the Nebraska legislature than ever before.  “This diversity in our Unicameral creates a more equitable conversation and better represents the makeup of our state,” Walz said.

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska with its local chapters in Omaha, Lincoln, Seward and Hastings plans a yearlong schedule of events, including participation in the 2020 Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

Read the resolution below.

LWVNE Testimony Supporting LB 253

On Feb. 8, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska submitted testimony in support of LB 253, a bill to adopt the Redistricting Act. The executive board will hold its first hearing on this bill at 12 p.m. on Feb. 14 in Room 1525 of the Unicameral.

Download the submitted testimony or read the full text below.

Re:  LB 253, Hearing February 14, 2019

Dear Senator Hilgers and Members of the Committee,

Redistricting legislation is critical to open and fair government, so this is one of the most important legislative initiatives before the Nebraska Unicameral.  We congratulate Senator McCollister for the introduction of his revision of Senator Harr’s 2017 redistricting bill.  

Attached to this letter is a summary of the redistricting structures and process of the four key states selected for analysis in its Redistricting Study adopted by the LWV of Nebraska (2015).  How does LB253 compare with these four state redistricting laws?

  1. Nonpartisan Unicameral:  None of these states have unicameral legislatures, so there must be adaptations for Nebraska.  For instance, since there are not party caucuses in the legislature, the members of the commission are chosen by parties in the Congressional District Caucuses.
  2. Non-Partisan Commission:  LB253 mandates that the Legislative Research Office (LRO) draws the districts, which is positive.  LB253 prescribes a non-partisan commission to conduct and report on four Legislative hearings in the three Congressional Districts.  To ensure a non-partisan process, Arizona and California select an equal number of Republican and Democratic members and then one or more Independents, one of whom must be chair. LB253 uses a similar process by mandating that  6 members, one from each party from each of the 3 Congressional Caucuses constitute the Commission. Those 6 members then elect the one non-partisan, who serves as chair.
  3. Maps Drawn by Non-Partisan Legislative Office:  The Iowa system uses the Legislative Services Agency (very similar to the Nebraska’s Legislative Research Office (LRO) to draw the districts.  Again, a system very much like one of the outstanding redistricting systems.
  4. Ignoring Incumbent Addresses:  LB253 does not ignore incumbent addresses.  The Nebraska Constitutional provides that senators in office after redistricting are allowed to remain in office for the remainder of their terms: “the law providing for such redistricting shall where necessary specify the newly established district which they shall represent for the balance of their term” (Article III, Section 7).  This provision creates some problems, because avoiding incumbent addresses may mean drawing new districts only around existing districts. This makes it very difficult to draw the best overall district maps. However, we are assured that there are procedures for addressing this issue.
  5. Finally, five issues raised in Governor Ricketts’ veto message are satisfied:
    • Points 2 & 3 above satisfy Governor Ricketts’ concern (in his veto of LB580 dated April 20, 2016) that that the bill should reflect “the spirit and tradition of our non-partisan Legislature.”
    • This bill gives the Legislative Research Office (NOT the Independent Advisory Commission) the authority to draft the maps (or after rejection of the maps twice by the Legislature, that power shifts to the Legislature’s Executive Board).  The LRO is the agency that drafts all legislation. The drafting of maps by the Legislative Research Office avoids the Governor’s concern that that the Commission “could become a hyper-partisan, unelected advisory commission that will likely be comprised of formal political party activities and former elected officials.”
    • The bill also provides for hearings held in all three Congressional Districts (rather than simply in the Capital).  While the Commission schedules, chairs, and reports on these hearings, the reports on the hearings come before the Legislature, the same as the reports of other hearings.
    • The bill does not contradict the Nebraska Constitution.  There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits the Legislature from delegating part of the responsibility of conducting hearings and providing reports.  The Commission does not draw the maps. They are drawn by the LRO—or, in the final instance, by the Legislature’s Executive Board. Furthermore, the final decisions about the maps is retained by the Legislature—and if it is not satisfied with the second set of maps, it retains the authority to draw its own maps.
    • Finally, this provision—that the Legislature retains the authority to draw its own maps—avoids the Governor’s final concern.  It’s timeline significantly reduces the likelihood of delays that could create a need for “a special session to be called for the purpose of enacting redistricting plans.”
  6. Several Minor Issues:

  • The maximum allowable variations in populations except for U.S. Congressmen is 10 percent.  This may a be larger variation than the Courts would accept, but that is not certain.
  • It appears that amendments to the redistricting bills are not allowed, but that is not specifically stated in the bill.
  • If the Unicameral is unable to approve the any of the first two sets of bills, the Legislature’s Executive Board becomes responsible for drawing the maps, then sending them to the Legislature for amendment and approval.
  • This bill does not include the language in LB580 (2015-16) asking that the Secretary of State provide a formal opinion on the constitutionality of the proposed maps.  This eliminates one of the issues raised by Governor Ricketts in his veto message.

We believe this in an outstanding bill that will serve well the citizens of Nebraska.  It deserves the strong support of our tremendous non-partisan Legislature.    

Sincerely,

John F. Else,   Social Policy Director                                                                      

Sherry Miller, President

 

 

Great News: No Voter ID in 2019

The following was adapted from an email newsletter by Brad Christian-Sallis, Voting Rights Policy Organizer with Civic Nebraska, and reprinted with permission. Become a Voting Rights Advocate through Civic Nebraska to get the latest training, information and calls to action.

Jan. 23  was the final day of the 10-day bill introduction period for the 106th Nebraska Legislature. We are pleased to note that for the first time in nearly 10 years, senators will not spend time debating the merits of an introduced voter ID bill.

This is obviously great news, mainly because it means no unnecessary barriers to the ballot in 2019. It also means we will be able to focus our energy on positive, pro-voter policies at the statehouse.

One of these pro-voter policies is LB83, introduced by Sen. Justin WayneThis bill would immediately restore voting rights for Nebraskans upon completion of a felony sentence or probation for a felony. When thinking about this issue it is important to remember:

  • Our current waiting period of two years was a compromise, and the length of “wait time” is arbitrary.
  • Returning citizens are no less qualified than anyone else to vote. Remember, they were found competent to stand trial. We must consider them competent to vote.
  • Studies show that voting leads to a feeling of engagement in one’s community. Returning citizens, then, are less likely to re-offend.
  • Nebraska has one of the most restrictive felon re-enfranchisement laws in the country. We are one of just five states to disenfranchise all citizens with a felony conviction beyond their sentence. To bring the state in line with the vast majority of the rest of the country, we should let people vote when they have served their time, including probation and parole.

Advocate for LB83

Please take five minutes today to contact your state senator and explain to them the importance of LB83! Once you speak with your senator, we please ask that you record your response here

Here is an example script you can use when contacting your elected officials for any issue:

Hi,

My name is_________. I’m a constituent of Senator ________ and I wanted to call/write/email and urge the Senator to stand up for Nebraskans and our voices by supporting LB83. I believe returning citizen re-enfranchisement is a good policy because

(Pick one or two messages from above or another reason you are for LB83.)

Please let the senator know LB83 would be good for their constituents and the entire state of Nebraska. Thank you.

Voting Rights Advocate recruitment and training

Let us know if you have an opportunity for Team Voting Rights to present to a group our advocacy training — or, if you know of anyone who is interested in voting rights, forward this email to them and encourage them to become a Voting Rights Advocate.

If you are not already a Voting Rights Advocate or have yet to update your information with Civic Nebraska, please go to this link.

Voting Rights Bills Introduced in First Days of Unicameral Session

The 106th Nebraska Legislature convened on Jan. 9 for its 90-day first session. Senators have until Jan. 23 to introduce legislation to vote on during this session (should it move out of committee). LWVGO policy team volunteers will be monitoring bills as the session continues, and will publish calls to action as needed.

Interested in volunteering as a Unicameral monitor?

Join us for our Legislative Update on Jan. 28. Following the Dine & Discuss event, the LWVGO policy team will meet to assign bills to monitor and talk about how to follow the Unicameral developments. If you’re not able to join us for the event, email web@omahalwv.org to learn more about how to get involved.

Several voting-rights-related bills have already been introduced.

The following text, identifying these introduced bills, comes from an update from Civic Nebraska. Sign up to be a Voting Rights Advocate with Civic Nebraska to get updates as more legislation is introduced and calls to action are published.

LB83, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne, would provide for the immediate restoration of voting rights upon completion of a felony sentence or probation for a felony. This bill would ensure that nearly 8,000 Nebraskans who have served their time but who are currently barred from voting can fully rejoin our democracy and become more engaged members of their communities.

LR2, introduced by Sen. Carol Bloodwould rescind any previous resolutions calling for an Article V U.S. constitutional convention, removing Nebraska from the list of states with open applications that call for a dangerous constitutional convention.

LB211, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford, provides for the nonpartisan election of county officers. This bill would help counties focus on policy, rather than parties, for local elections.

LB163, introduced by Sen. Megan Hunt, will encourage local control in elections by allowing counties of any size to take advantage of a vote by mail standard in one or more precincts, with the secretary of state’s permission.