Legislative Update 4/20/2022: Special Edition

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This is the special edition legislative update for April 20, 2022. View all updates here.

The April 21, 2020, legislative update includes highlights from the state legislature.

Nebraska Legislature Sine Die Adjournment

The 107th Legislature, Second Session Nebraska Legislative Session is complete! The Legislature took their victory lap at the state capitol Wednesday, April 20 after 60 long legislative days of work.

In total, the Legislature passed a low threshold of legislation (146 bills), but the merits of each bill contributed to the historic nature of this short session cycle.

During his final sine die ceremony, Governor Pete Ricketts praised the Legislature for their efforts this session, describing its work product as “historic, with generational impact.” He highlighted key investments in tax relief, public safety, water resources (particularly the Perkins County Canal & Reservoir Project), economic development in north and south Omaha, and, of course, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The one-time opportunity to invest $1.04 billion throughout the state required vision, perseverance, collaboration, sustainability, and agility. Children’s Hospital & Medical Center (Children’s) rose to the occasion and illustrated a pediatric mental health demonstration project back in July 2021, coordinating key stakeholders and legislators throughout the process.

Our vision to “swim upstream” to address the pediatric mental health crisis facing our youth today was heavy on the minds of the legislature this session, carrying a great deal of success for many mental health priorities this session.

Mental Health

COVID-19 placed an unprecedented burden on youth and adults alike, and the responding legislative action included a range of mental health initiatives and legislation.

These bills include:

  • LB1014: The ARPA budget bill — crafted by the Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers (R-Dist. 21, Lincoln) on behalf of the Governor — included a $10 million investment for Children’s to create two pediatric mental health urgent care centers across the state.
  • LB1075: Now amended into the ARPA budget package, was Children’s $1.8 million request to fund integrated behavioral health care into primary care practices across the state via telehealth. This bill was also funded at the full $1.8 million, representing an investment of $1 per Nebraskan.
  • LB1011: This was the mainline budget bill this session. Given the excess in General Fund dollars made available through higher-than-expected sales tax receipts, the Legislature appropriated a 15% rate increase for Medicaid provider rates specifically for behavioral health, as well as child welfare, developmental disabilities, and nursing homes.
  • LB852: This bill will create a mental health point of contact in every school across the state. The registry will be housed within the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and will also provide a provider referral network to schools.
  • LB912: Amended into LB852, this bill takes mental health in schools one step further by providing mental health first aid training to school personnel, teachers, and administrators.
  • LB905: This bill will provide perinatal mental health screens at prenatal and postnatal visits, as well as well-child checkups. These policies may include the creation of a referral network for mothers who need additional support after a positive screen.
  • LB1066: Amended to ARPA, this bill appropriates funds for capital costs of behavioral health infrastructure across the state.
  • LB1068: This bill designates funding to the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) to address the mental health workforce across the state.
  • LB1159: Amended into the ARPA package, this bill will address a model system of care for people with long-haul COVID symptoms and mental health challenges related to COVID-19.

General Health

Nebraska’s 49 state senators took on several divisive issues this year and at times faced gridlock while navigating through filibuster after filibuster.

But if you sort through the fray, it is easy to agree on one thing: Our legislators agreed on the importance of healthcare. Perhaps it was easy to prioritize during a public health emergency (PHE), but the support for providers and investments in people will have a long-lasting influence on the state.

Those policies that will make a difference include:

  • LB698: This bill requires Nebraska Medicaid to provide coverage for continuous glucose monitoring.
  • LB721: Amended to the ARPA budget, this bill appropriates $60 million to the UNMC Rural Health Complex in Kearney to develop talent and workforce infrastructure.
  • LB737: Amended into LB863, this bill adopts the Primary Care Investment Act to increase access to care across the state.
  • LB741: This bill amends the Child and Maternal Death Review Act to review data on stillbirths in Nebraska.
  • LB752: This bill updates the scope of practice for respiratory therapists (RTs). This bill was introduced on behalf of Children’s to ensure RTs with ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) training can push medications intravenously through the ECMO circuit, a standard of care across the country that allows the right person to be in the right place for extremely critical care.
  • LB767: This bill adopts the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure and Regulation Act adding safeguards to access and cost of pharmaceutical drugs.
  • LB782: Amended to the mainline budget bill, this bill will increase funding to Nebraska’s Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative (NPQIC).
  • LB792: Amended to the mainline budget bill, this bill appropriates funds to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney.
  • LB901: This bill will require cytomegalovirus (CMV) public education and prevention tactics for providers and DHHS.
  • LB906: COVID-19 vaccine exemptions and duties for the DHHS for all employers excluding hospitals and providers under CMS requirements for vaccinations.
  • LB1025: This bill focuses on the economic development for north and south Omaha to recover from COVID-19.
  • LB1138: This bill appropriates $16 million of ARPA funds to local public health departments.
  • LB1160: This bill appropriates $5 million of ARPA funds for reverse osmosis water systems in rural communities with a high level of nitrates present.
  • LB1269: Amended to ARPA, this bill seeks to create a workforce pipeline by allocating funds for loan repayment for new physicians.
  • LB1201: Amended to ARPA, this bill awards funds to nonprofit organizations focused on food distribution with a focus on healthy eating habits.

Child Welfare

During the Summer and Fall of 2021, Children’s was deeply involved in the unraveling of the state’s contract with St. Francis Ministries. There were a number of special investigation hearings that Dr. Suzanne Haney testified at to outline concerns we had for the well-being and safety of children in foster care.

The DHHS and Special Investigation Committees produced a series of bills, including a proposal to increase rates for child welfare services by 15% (which was successful).

Other bills of note include:

  • LB1037: This bill requires the Department of Administrative Services to contract for an evaluation of the state’s procurement process (in response to the St. Francis Ministries contract that failed to meet the requirements).
  • LB1049: This bill appropriates funds to the Office of Public Guardian to hire additional staff to meet the needs of children in their care.
  • LB1173: This became the priority bill for child welfare, with the intention of creating a strategic plan for child welfare services in Nebraska, specifically the eastern service area. The bill had a series of amendments that include:
  • LB854: In situations of alleged out-of-home child abuse or neglect, this new law will require the Division of Children and Family Services to notify the Division of Public Health immediately.
  • LB491: This amendment will remove statutory language requiring the State to contract the eastern service area for child welfare.
  • LB541: This bill will require DHHS to adopt a specialized level of caregiving for foster parents and foster care agencies, as prescribed in the Foster Care Reimbursement Rate Committee report dated June 22, 2020.

With Gratitude And An Eye On The Future

We end this legislative session with a great deal of gratitude to those 49 state senators, the Governor, his team and chief of staff, and our stakeholders in the community.

While we are celebrating an extremely successful year in the Legislature, it was a bittersweet end as we said goodbye to 13 state senators who are either term-limited or chose to not seek a second term (*) in office:

Senator Curt Friesen
Senator Mark Kolterman
Senator Patty Pansing Brooks
Senator Tim Gragert*
Senator Steve Lathrop*
Senator John Stinner
Senator Matt Hansen
Senator Brett Lindstrom
Senator Matt Williams
Senator Robert Hilkemann
Senator John McCollister
Senator Dan Hughes
Senator Adam Morfeld

As we wrap up this session, the real work begins to implement all new laws by July 20, 2022. We will also be changing gears to focus on the critical election ahead of us and interviewing candidates for all offices across the state to ensure they understand the critical needs and investments for children living in our state.

Additionally, interim studies will begin to take shape as legislators seek to prioritize what the 2023 legislative session will bring.

(Sources:CHA, AHA, NHA, Nebraska Chamber, Congress.gov, Nebraska Legislature, World Herald, Peetz & Co, Zulkoski Weber.)


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