The first session of the 106th Nebraska Legislature is in its eighth week. At this point in the 90-day first session, the full legislative body meets for floor debate in the mornings and continues with committee hearings in the afternoons. Senators introduced 739 bills this session, each of which was referred to a committee to receive a public hearing. Committee hearings will conclude the end of March and full-day floor debate is scheduled to begin April 2.
We’ve identified 90+ bills introduced this session that could affect early childhood, and have further designated 30 of those as Legislation to Watch on our website’s Nebraska Legislation page.
FFN has testified on six early childhood bills to date.
LB590 offers cost efficiencies for state government and child care providers. In 2017, 23 Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services licensing staff made more than 6,000 visits to child care providers, the majority of which involved manually checking paper copies of training credentials to ensure child care staff met licensure requirements. This process is time consuming, and an existing online state database, the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System (NECPRS), could be used to track training information electronically, which would expedite and simplify the verification process.
FFN worked with Senator Tom Briese on crafting this bill, which he introduced, along with an amendment, AM330, to allow providers the option to adopt NECPRS as their preferred method of managing their professional records. We appreciate Senator Briese’s leadership in streamlining a burdensome system.
The Health and Human Services Committee advanced LB590 to General File, the first round of floor debate.
LB266 would widen access to the School Readiness Tax Credit Act of 2016. The 2016 law provided tax credits to child care providers who offer high-quality early care and learning. However, problems in the statutory language made it impossible for many providers to take advantage of the credits. The original legislation created two types of credits, the first was a nonrefundable credit for child care owners and operators whose programs are rated at Step 3 in Step Up to Quality, our state’s quality rating and improvement system for early childhood programs. The second credit type was a refundable credit for early childhood professionals who have been employed for at least six months in an eligible program and who also participate in the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System (NECPRS). After passage of the tax credit act, it became clear that its language prevented self-employed child care providers and programs classified as S-Corporations from receiving the credits. This bill, introduced by Senator Brett Lindstrom, clarifies the language to allow all providers and staff to take advantage of the tax credit.
LB266 is in the Revenue Committee awaiting a vote on whether it will advance to General File and debate by the full Legislature.
LB66 Provides for an early childhood element in a comprehensive plan developed by a city. Introduced by Senator Matt Hansen, this bill would require cities to assess the number of quality licensed early childhood education programs and evaluate the availability and utilization of licensed child care providers as part of their comprehensive plans. Strengthening our early childhood infrastructure in communities can make it possible for more parents to fully participate in the workforce. An added benefit of this bill would be to strengthen Nebraska’s future talent pipeline by helping our youngest citizens develop the necessary cognitive and behavioral skills needed to be successful in school and later in life.
LB66 advanced out of the Urban Affairs Committee, but failed on General File.
LB160 Redefines terms under the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act to include early childhood infrastructure development and quality early childhood care and education programs for certain cities and villages. This bill would create an additional funding pathway for developing early childhood infrastructure by allowing communities to direct some of their Local Option Municipal Development Funds (LB840) to begin or expand quality early child care programs. As introduced by Senator Dan Quick, LB160 would have required qualifying child care programs to be at Step 3 or above in Step Up to Quality. After objections from a handful of senators, Senator Justin Wayne introduced an amendment to remove the requirement, which was adopted. The full body then advanced LB160 to Select File, the second round of floor debate.
LB459 Changes criminal background check provisions under the Child Care Licensing Act. Introduced by the Health and Human Services Committee, this bill requires a person applying to be a licensed child care provider to undergo a national criminal history record information check for themselves and each child care staff member at the applicant’s expense. It further requires a national criminal history record check at least once during a 5-year period and submission of fingerprints to the state patrol.
National Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) grants are instrumental to Nebraska’s efforts to close the achievement gap affection young children in need. The fund requires fingerprint background checks for licensed care providers, and passing LB459 would bring our state into compliance with federal regulations. Failure to do so would cost our state a 5% penalty.
LB459 is awaiting a committee vote to decide whether it will advance to General File for floor debate by the full Legislature.
LB341 Changes provisions relating to a determination of ongoing eligibility for a child care subsidy (graduated phaseout compliance). Introduced by Senator John Arch, this bill implements a graduated phaseout for child care assistance, removing the 24-month maximum for transitional care assistance, and changes the income level at which parents lose transitional child care assistance within an eligibility year.
These steps would help ensure working parents and caregivers will not turn down much-needed work or salary increases for fear of losing financial assistance that helps them afford child care. The bill also brings Nebraska into compliance with the Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization to avoid a 4% penalty for non-compliance.
LB341 is in the Health and Human Services Committee awaiting a vote to advance it to General File and floor debate.