2024 Session Begins
January 04th, 2024
Dear friends and neighbors,
As we step into this new legislative session, I am filled with hope and determination to enact positive change for our community. Our unwavering focus remains on championing bills that promote equity, ensure housing stability, and remove discriminatory barriers. Together, our collective efforts will ensure our state thrives by uplifting every individual and family.
Yesterday I prioritized LB307, which would empower local jurisdictions to authorize public health programs to distribute hypodermic needles as part of public health efforts to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
I also introduced two bills to protect students facing eviction during the school year (LB845) and to reduce the prevalence of bed bugs and evictions (LB846). Today, I introduced LB913, a bill to extend postpartum care to all women and people who need it.
This year, my primary focus is continuing the work on bills I introduced last year, which carry over into this new session. You can view the full list of bills I have introduced since last session here. These bills encapsulate our shared vision for a better state.
I’m looking forward to a legislative session that prioritizes things that improve the lives of all Nebraskans like workforce, housing, and attracting and retaining talent, rather than targeting groups that are already marginalized or struggling. Let’s use these 59 days to do good.
All the best,
Priority Bill - LB307
As I mentioned, I am designating LB307 as my personal priority bill for this year. It was my priority bill last year but was not scheduled for debate. It remains on General File and is in a good position to see early debate with bipartisan support this year.
LB 307 would allow local jurisdictions to authorize public or behavioral health programs to distribute hypodermic needles as part of public health efforts to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Such programs are known as Syringe Service Programs (SSPs). SSPs protect the public and first responders by facilitating the safe use and disposal of syringes; curbing outbreaks of disease; and encouraging intravenous drug users facing addiction to access treatment.
Nebraska’s HIV infection rate has shown an alarming trend in the years since the pandemic: 2021 saw the highest number of new infections in more than a decade, a figure largely driven by an uptick in rural counties’ infection rates. As fentanyl prices drop and more of the drug is trafficked, fentanyl overdose incidents are on the rise. 214 Nebraskans died of overdose in 2021. SSPs can help address each of these issues by providing comprehensive services such as fentanyl test strips, overdose prevention education, and referrals to substance abuse treatment programs. SSPs are proven to reduce the incidence of HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases by as much as 50%, and SSP participants are five times more likely to enter treatment and engage in long-term recovery than users who do not use an SSP.
Under current Nebraska law, a local jurisdiction that wishes to authorize an SSP is prohibited from doing so by the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. With LB 307, the legislature could grant localities a powerful tool to exercise local control and the discretion to meet their community’s needs as they see fit. In a rural community, there might not be any good option for a brick-and-mortar location that could house an SSP. In those places, the community could implement the program through their local pharmacy, or do something more innovative like a mobile service unit. With LB 307 we leave that up to the local jurisdiction, who can set the parameters for their particular program. The bill does not require any locality to adopt such a program.
The Committee Amendment (AM381) was suggested by expert physicians with the Nebraska Medical Association, who encouraged us to provide some legal protection for program participants. If an intravenous drug user is trying to do the right thing by using more safely through an SSP and potentially seeking resources to help overcome their addiction, we do not want to criminalize them. AM 381 shields users from criminal liability related to their use of SSP services, which could be a major deterrent to anyone who would otherwise want to use an SSP. There is no cost to the state associated with LB 307. When we consider that the average lifetime cost of treating a person living with HIV is somewhere around $420,000, this is a preventive measure that can provide significant cost savings to the State. Additionally, there may be funding available to fund SSPs through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) or the Opioid Settlement Fund.
This bill came out of committee with 7 yes votes, not a single no vote, and has bipartisan support from the Douglas County Sheriff, Nebraska Medical Association, The R Street Institute (a conservative, free-market think tank), the Nebraska AIDS Project, Centerpointe, the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, and OutNebraska. My office is working to solidify official support from public health directors, the UNMC College of Public Health, NACO, and the League of Municipalities in advance of the debate.
District 8 Events
Christmas Tree Disposal
- Sites close on Jan. 9th
- Click here for a full list of locations and requirements
- Jan. 5th, starting at 5pm
- Jan. 12th at Joslyn Castle Carriage House
- Jan. 13th at Culxr House at 7pm (tickets $20)
- Jan. 19th at Blackstone Theater at 8:30pm (tickets $10)
- Comics from across the gender spectrum showcase their comedy skills
- St. Cecilia Cathedral on Jan. 26th, 27th, and 28th
- July 27th and 28th
Our Office in the News
Omaha World-Herald – Nebraska Legislature kicks off 2024 with multiple workforce development bills
KETV Omaha - 2024 means $12 minimum wage in Nebraska, but no change for tipped employees
News Channel Nebraska - No shortage of critics for Pillen's suggested sales tax hike
Lincoln Journal Star - Ernie Chambers, others plead for Pillen to accept summer food aid for Nebraska children
KETV Omaha - Nebraska Legislature focused on property tax relief, and workforce solutions in 2024
Lincoln Journal Star - League of Women Voters of Nebraska files amicus brief in Planned Parenthood case