Let’s start with some bills that have advaced out of committee and onto floor debate. This week, Unicameral will debate LB 627, a bill to ban discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace, for the first time on the floor. It is currently on the agenda for Tuesday, but living legend Ernie Chambers is likely to continue to filibuster Senator Slama’s Committee on American Civics bill, so it is unlikely LB 627 will come up until Wednesday or Thursday. It is time to pass this anti-discrimination legislation in Nebraska. Call YOUR senator and ask that they advance LB 627. If you don’t know who your senator is, you can find out here.
This week’s committee hearings will cover the practice of suspending kindergartners, common sense gun legislation, arming teachers, and some A+ bills for renters.
Reducing the School-to-Prison Pipeline
On Tuesday, the Education Committee will hear Senator Hunt’s LB 165, the Too Young to Suspend Act. This bill would prevent five and six year olds from being suspended or expelled for developmentally normal behaviors, such as defiance and disruption. Suspensions starting as early as pre- kindergarten set children up for entry to the school-to-prison pipeline. Zero-tolerance discipline policies disproportionately affect children of color. This bill would help prevent young children from being criminalized. Because today (Monday) is a recess day, it is unfortunately too late to submit a letter to be read into the record, but it’s not too late to call the committee members or to show up and testify. The school-to-prison pipeline is an important reason to support PPB’s bill to mandate memorandums of understanding between local police and school districts outlining the roles of school resource officers. Until we can get cops out of schools, it is important for their roles to be clearly delineated and for there to be transparency and public accountability.
Gun Bills: the good, the bad and the ugly
Thursday is an important day for common sense gun legislation in Nebraska. The first, LB 58, comes from Senator Morfeld and would give the courts the ability to remove guns from anyone that poses an extreme risk to themselves or others. This type of law is typically known as a ‘red flag’ law and generally allows law enforcement to remove guns from those with mental illness, an escalation of threats, substance abuse, or domestic violence.
For example, a study of Connecticut’s red flag law between 1999 and 2013 found that for every 10-20 gun seizures, a suicide was prevented. Suicides make up about 60% of gun deaths in the United States. If you love someone with a mental illness, support domestic abuse survivors (or are one yourself), or want to prevent mass shootings, this is a bill to support. It will be heard by the delightfully stacked Judiciary Committee, so please write or come testify to help get it out of committee.
Moving on, the second gun bill in Judiciary we’d like to highlight comes from Senator Halloran. LB 343 would allow the governing body of a school (be it private, pub life, or post-secondary) the option to allow teachers in Nebraska to conceal carry. Seeing Red writer, and former elementary school teacher, Sarah, invites you to read this article on Vox, because all she has is rage screams. Friend of Seeing Red, Robin, has been rallying folks in Hastings (Halloran’s own district) against this absurd bill for months. Look for the Seeing Red podcast (here) for an interview with this Nebraskan shero.
Also, as Vox has pointed out before, we do not have a single gun problem in the United States, we have many. These bills would be a move in the right direction for reducing suicides and other gun deaths and would prevent school shootings from becoming worse (and all the accidental shootings from having armed teachers in schools). Please support LB 58 in the Judiciary Committee and tell the Education Committee to kill LB 343. If you cannot be there in person, please make sure to get your letters in by 5:00pm on Wednesday.
Finally, Friday. Friday will be an important day for anyone that wants to protect tenants’ rights. The Judiciary Committee will hear a series of bills that would Senator Matt Hansen has 5 bills before the committee. LB 395 provides protections for victims of domestic violence from being evicted because of criminal activity at the rental property. This bill is huge. It gives women protection to call the police on abusive partners without losing their home. Evictions are particularly hard on women and children and contribute to the downward spiral of poverty and school failure (Imma gonna take a minute to plug the book Evicted here, because everyone should read it).
Next, LB 396 eliminates the language in current statute that prohibits judges from granting a continuance in an eviction case unless all back rent is paid. Additionally,LB 433 would require that landlords return the tenant’s security deposit within 14 days of termination of the lease. Currently, Nebraska law only requires the landlord to return the security deposit if the tenant asks for it. And many tenants do not realize that this is the law– assuming that they automatically get their deposit back. LB 434 would lengthen the notice requirement that landlords must give their tenants before beginning the eviction proceedings. LB 435 adds actions made by tenants that landlords cannot retaliate against.
Additionally, the Judiciary Committee will also hear LB 689 on Friday. This legislation, brought by Senator Cavanaugh, would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and citizenship status in housing. Cavanaugh is rapidly becoming one of our favorite Senators here at Seeing Red.