Legislative Update 6/6/2022: Gun Control, Mental Health, & COVID Vaccines for Kids Under 5

US capitol

This is the legislative update for June 6, 2022. View all updates here.


The June 6, 2022, legislative update includes highlights from the federal and state legislature.


Federal Updates

Gun Control Measures in Congress

The Senate is in today. The House returns tomorrow.

Survivors of two mass shootings in New York and Texas will appear before the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee at 9 a.m. CST Wednesday, June 8 as Congress faces an official work week to determine the fate of gun legislation in Congress. The hearing, “The Urgent Need to Address the Gun Violence Epidemic,” can be streamed live or in demand here.

The witnesses will include:

  • Fourth-grader Miah Cerrillo, a survivor of the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Texas whose survival story has gripped the hearts of all Americans, including lawmakers
  • Felix and Kimberly Rubio, parents of Lexi Rubio, a 10-year-old student who died at Robb Elementary
  • Zeneta Everhart, a survivor of the mass shooting in Buffalo, NY on May 14.
  • The only pediatrician in Uvalde, Dr. Roy Guerrero, who treated the victims of the school shooting

The second panel will include:

  • Greg Jackson Jr., the executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, which advocates to end gun violence
  • Joseph Gramaglia, a police commissioner in Buffalo
  • Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association
  • Nick Suplina, the senior vice president for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that advocates for gun control formed a year after the Sandy Hook mass school shooting

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, firearm-related injuries are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the US. President Joe Biden addressed the nation late Thursday, urging Congress to advance gun control legislation, citing “enough” more than a dozen times in his speech.

The House will vote this week on a series of gun control measures approved last Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee.

These bills include:

  • Raising the age for buying semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21
  • Banning high-capacity ammunition magazines
  • Prohibiting the sales of “ghost gun” kits without a background check or serial numbers stamped on the parts used in assembling the weapon
  • Boosting penalties for illegal “straw purchases” of guns
  • Requiring gun owners to store their weapons safely, especially when minors are present
  • The “Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act” — This red flag bill would allow family members and law enforcement to file petitions in federal courts requesting extreme risk protection orders temporarily taking away guns from those considered a threat to themselves or others.

While some progress is being made, it is not the House where votes are needed. The Senate being evenly divided requires at least 10 Republican lawmakers to change their vote.

It seems some agreements between Senate leaders had been made over the weekend — specifically on a basic framework for legislation that would create a system of incentives, grants, and federal standards for states that create their own red-flag laws. A federal red-flag law also received the endorsement of 20 prominent conservative Texans who have endorsed Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) to lead the talks for Republicans. Background checks are also still on the table, including stricter provisions related to criminal history, even as juveniles.

Mental Health

Mental health legislation is becoming more revitalized alongside the gun debate, and we continue to ask lawmakers to pass the “Strengthening Access to Mental Health Care Now Act” (H.R. 7236).

Among its many provisions, the bill would:

  • Increase reimbursement for pediatric mental health services, targeting support directly to providers
  • Review state implementation of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) annually to identify barriers and opportunities to improve the availability of pediatric mental and behavioral health services
  • Create a new grant program at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) focused on strengthening community-based pediatric mental health services and enabling communities to implement or develop new programs and policies tailored to meet the mental and behavioral health needs of children and adolescents
  • Establish a new HRSA workforce grant program focused specifically on bolstering the pediatric mental and behavioral health workforce
  • Creates an HRSA program dedicated to strengthening critical pediatric mental health infrastructure and expanding our national capacity to deliver appropriate care for children with more intensive treatment needs (including inpatient psychiatric care and step-down care)

Related to mental health is the growing concerns social media presents to our nation’s youth. Last week, DHHS, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced $2 million in funding for the establishment of a national center of excellence (CoE) on social media and mental wellness focused on children and
youth.

The purpose of the CoE will be to develop and disseminate information, guidance, and training on the impact — including benefits and risks — that social media use has on children and youth, especially the risks to their mental health.

This CoE will also examine clinical and social interventions that can be used to mitigate the risks. Funding will be provided in the form of one grant for $2 million per year for up to five years.

Drug Pricing

Finally, on Tuesday, June 7, Rep. Spanberger, (D-Va), will be leading a bipartisan special-order hour after votes to honor the 30th anniversary of the 340B program.

This recognition of the importance of the 340B drug pricing program for high-Medicaid providers will kick off our virtual Hill day on Thursday, June 8. We will be meeting with Congressman Don Bacon (R-Ne.), Congressman Adrian Smith (R-Ne.), U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Ne.) and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse throughout the afternoon on Thursday.

We will be asking Congress to:

  • Enforce the 340B drug pricing program on the 16 major drug companies that are refusing to participate
  • Pass legislation H.R. 4390 to “Protect the 340B Act” from discriminatory policies from PBMs and payors

Hearings This Week

Tuesday, June 7:

  • Senate Finance will hear from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the president’s FY 2023 budget. Link to hearing.
  • Senate Judiciary will have a hearing on domestic extremism in the wake of the shooting in Buffalo. Link to hearing.
  • Education Secretary Miguel Cardona will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Link to hearing.

Wednesday, June 8:

  • House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on gun violence. Link to hearing.
  • House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the president’s FY 2023 budget. Link to hearing.

Thursday, June 9:

  • Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing on domestic extremism. Link to hearing.
  • The January 6th Committee will hold its first public hearing at 8 p.m. Link to hearing.

COVID-19 Vaccines

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said Thursday, June 2 that if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes emergency use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for kids under 5 after its June 15 meeting, the federal government would immediately begin shipping the specialty doses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would need to recommend emergency use of the vaccines before health care providers could begin administering them, but Jha said he expects that vaccinations could begin as soon as Tuesday, June 21.

State Updates

In Nebraska

Friday, June 3 was proclaimed National Day of Awareness to end violence in hospitals by the American Hospital Association. The Nebraska Hospital Association (NHA) addressed the concerns across the state of Nebraska in a press conference Friday afternoon and offered best practices for de-escalation techniques and other safety protocols to keep staff safe.

Jeremy Nordquist, President of the NHA, said 44% of nurses nationwide had experienced physical violence during the pandemic, and 68% had been verbally abused. The assault on front-line staff is undoubtedly contributing to the workforce burnout and shortage, and the NHA has committed to addressing these concerns in future legislation both at the federal and state levels.

The NHA recently joined the Nebraska Medical Association (NMA) in a joint statement about the growing gun violence in our country and asked lawmakers to work across the aisle to pass “common sense, responsible gun violence prevention” efforts. They did not specifically endorse any pending legislation.

Meanwhile, Chairwoman of the Education Committee Lynne Walz (D-Dist. 15, Fremont) is seeking the creation of a comprehensive School Safety Task Force in Nebraska.

She is asking Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt to:

  • Review current school safety, security, and preparedness practices
  • Identify solutions to keep Nebraska’s schools safe

Children’s is working with Senator Walz to join the task force.

Save The Date

Thursday, July 16 at Noon

Congressman Don Bacon and his staff will join the Child Health Champion Advocacy team at Children’s for a virtual discussion on Congress’s actions to advance mental health legislation. Contact Liz Lyons if you have not received an invitation to this event!

Wednesday, July 22

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will officially become 988, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Children’s joined advocates last year to advance state legislation to adopt the new framework. Boys Town will be managing the crisis line in Nebraska. More information about this change.

Friday, June 24 at 8 a.m.

State Senator John Arch (R-Dist. 14, La Vista), Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, will visit our Child Health Champion Advocacy Team to discuss the future of child welfare in Nebraska and outline his investigation over the course of the last year. Dr. Suzanne Haney and Liz Lyons will moderate this opportunity to speak directly with the chairman.

Upcoming Tours:

  • June 7: Tour for Councilwoman Jane Raybould, seeking a seat in legislative district 28 in Lincoln
  • June 8: Tour for State Senator Ben Hansen, likely future chair of HHS Committee
  • June 21: Tour for legislative candidate Bran Von Gillern, district 4 in West Omaha

Upcoming Meetings

We are working to secure a meeting with State Senators Justin Wayne, Terrell McKinney, and Tony Vargas to provide our rich child health data as they allocate ARPA funds to North and South Omaha investors. The funding was appropriated by the Legislature to revitalize these significantly blighted areas and we hope to shed light on what needs the children and families living in these communities are.

(Sources: CHA, AHA, NHA, Nebraska Examiner, Congress.gov, Nebraska Legislature, World Herald)

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