Last year, Nebraska took an extraordinary step as a Pro-Life state by including language in our budget to deny Title X funding to clinics that provide abortions or facilities that refer a patient to clinics that provide abortions. Title X is a federal grant program that gives money to family planning clinics to ensure millions of low-income or uninsured individuals have access to family planning and related preventative health services. In 2016, Congress passed a resolution giving states the power to divert Title X funds away from clinics that provide abortions or facilities that refer a patient to clinics that provide abortions. The provision included in the state budget last year simply instated this provision allowed by Congress to ensure no federal funds are used for abortions. Additionally, in June 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services follow Nebraska’s lead by proposing a new Title X regulation that would enforce statutory program integrity provisions by no longer permitting Title X-funded family planning services at the same location where abortion is provided.
This week, the Appropriations Committee passed a state budget which took out the Title X language the Legislature agreed on and passed last year. I am disappointed that my colleagues who voted for this measure last year decided to change their vote. I support including Title X language in the budget to ensure that Nebraska continues to reflect our Pro-Life values.
On Thursday, my bill LB 224, Rename the Nebraska Educational, Health, and Social Services Finance Authority Act and provide for applicability, was debated on General File. LB 224 allows the Nebraska Educational, Health, and Social Services Finance Authority (NEHSFA) to be a conduit issuer of tax-exempt bonds for cultural institutions. NEHSFA currently issues bonds for private not-for-profit colleges, private not-for-profit hospitals, and certain not-for-profit social service organizations. Bonds issued by the NEHSFA are not obligations of the State of Nebraska or any political subdivision. An amendment was proposed to broaden the non-discrimination requirement for institutions. The original language mirrored other NEHSFA statutes, the amendment makes a small change by requiring that institutions do not violate any state or federal laws against discrimination. The amendment and LB 224 both passed without any “no” votes. I am excited to advance LB 224 from Select File and Final Reading and begin allowing cultural institutions to exercise another avenue to secure funding for projects.
Cultural institutions are important drivers of economic development in our state. Last year, over 349,000 Nebraskans, or nearly 1 in 5 adult Nebraskans, went to see an art exhibit or art performance – this is the highest participation rate of any state in the U.S. Cultural tourism has an enormous impact on local economies, with performances and arts festivals drawing visitors to enjoy restaurants, lodging, and retail establishments. Nebraska’s arts and cultural industry is a $174 million industry generating $18.8 million in local and state government revenue. As the Legislature explores tools to expand economic development in the state, LB 224 will provide infrastructure and programming to attract visitors and can be used as a recruiting and retention tool for local economies.
On Friday, I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at the Wayne Area Economic Development Young Professionals event. It was encouraging to hear from young leaders that are dedicated to keeping our community growing and thriving.
Live coverage of committee hearings and the full session of the Unicameral is available at www.netnebraska.org/capitol
It is of great importance that I hear from my constituents to effectively do my job as your voice in the Legislature. I encourage my constituents to reach out to me and I look forward to hearing from you.