Nebraska lawmakers propose disability and racial implications statements for some laws


LINCOLN. Most of the legislation in the Nebraska Legislature includes a budget impact report, a process that two lawmakers called on the body’s Executive Board on Friday to expand to disability and racial impact statements for certain legislation.

Legislative Bill 39 and Legislative Bill 54, introduced by State Senators Carol Blood of Bellevue and Terrell McKinney of Omaha, respectively, give the Executive Council the power to solicit disability or racial impact claims. These statements will be prepared by the Office of Legislative Research.

McKinney and Blood said that including these impact statements would help lawmakers understand the often unintended consequences of legislation. This, McKinney added, could reduce or eliminate potential damage and increase Nebraska’s “Equality Before the Law” value.

“We must ensure that legislation is passed that takes into account the interests of all Nebraska residents,” McKinney said.

“Without Consideration”

On Friday, more than a dozen supporters told the Executive Council they support the Blood Act because it provides an easy tool to engage Nebraska residents with disabilities in policy discussions.

Papillion’s Cathy Hoell said lawmakers can legislate with “little or no consideration” for people with disabilities, even if they live in every county in the state and are one of the largest minority groups in the country.

“Our community is very unhappy that capable people make decisions without thinking about the consequences,” said Hoell.

Edison McDonald, representing The Arc of Nebraska, and Brad Murrens, director of public policy for Disability Rights Nebraska, said people may not be aware of the small hurdles that people with disabilities must overcome.

McDonald noted the portability required to turn doorknobs, or how a small pay rise could change Medicaid coverage. Murrens said people with disabilities face higher levels of poverty, fewer job opportunities and more difficult transportation problems than people without disabilities.

“Can’t Dodge”

A dozen more supporters backed McKinney’s legislation, which he says he would like it to apply to all legislation, although his proposal will focus on bills that, if passed, could have a disproportionate impact on racial minority populations and affect systems criminal justice or juvenile justice. , jail, prison, probation or parole.

Nine states — Colorado, Iowa, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia — already have racial impact claims, McKinney said.

“We can’t shy away from talking because it’s considered uncomfortable,” McKinney said. “What should be inconvenient is that we are protecting our state as a state with a good life, but we have in the past and currently continue to push legislation that will have a negative impact on minorities in our state.”

“Dear Members of Nebraska”

Lincoln’s Dinah Henke told the board that people with disabilities make up a quarter of the nation’s population, so state senators who ignore these implications will “alienate” most of their constituents.

“We are not asking for special rights,” Henke said. “We only ask to be seen, heard and treated as valued Nebraskans.”

McDonald said that Nebraska used to be a leader in the “disabled arena” and could use legal, ethical and moral reasons to do so again.

“We have the opportunity to become a leader with a very small process that will get us to this place,” Blood said, echoing McDonald’s. “And then we can start reaching out to all Nebraskans.”

“Healing Racial Wounds”

Jasmine Harris, director of public policy and advocacy at RISE in Omaha, said conversations can sometimes turn to what’s happening on the coast, but she noted there are claims of racial impact in neighboring states as well.

“It’s critical that we start looking at how people of color are affected by legislation in Nebraska, especially related to the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems,” Harris said.

Legislative bills can be written to be racially neutral, said Rose Godinez, Nebraska ACLU senior legal and policy adviser, but she added that they can still perpetuate racial disparity.

Che Orduna, program director for the Heartland Family Service, said senators are elected to maintain “high ethical positions” which she said should include “denouncing any bill that supports the perpetuation of racism.”

“By adopting LB 54, we will have a huge impact on healing racial wounds in our state,” Orduna said.

Suitable for the table

Benjamin Thompson, director of the Legislative Research Bureau, said there could be increased costs associated with impact claims, although he and his staff would “be happy” to provide assistance if asked.

This, Thompson added, can ensure that there are no unintended, or at least expected, obstacles.

No one testified Friday against any of the bills, but Albion’s chairman of the executive council, Tom Breeze, said there were five filings against Blood’s bill and eight against McKinney’s. Blood said the opposition had focused on claims that her bill would increase the government’s abuse of power.

This is not the case, she told the board of directors, because the Legislature has the ability to use an existing tool to improve the state.

“Friends, once we start this, the movement will be more active,” Blood said on the board. “And we’re always last at the table, okay. We will not be the first, but we will be in the top ten.”

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