Members in the Media

Sponsors of a Medicaid expansion initiative said Monday that they are well on track to collect enough signatures to place the issue on the November general election ballot.

"For six years, we have tried to pass a proposal in the Legislature," said Meg Mandy, campaign manager for Insure the Good Life.

Now, she said, it's time to allow the people of Nebraska to decide.

LINCOLN — Nebraska has been freed from federal court oversight after fixing problems that had delayed food assistance to needy families.

U.S. District Judge John Gerrard last month ordered the termination of a class action lawsuit after state officials met the terms of a settlement agreement.

LINCOLN, Neb. – New analysis by the Associated Press found a TransCanada political action committee gave more than $65,000 to Nebraska campaigns within the past year, including $25,000 to Gov. Pete Ricketts' campaign, $15,000 to the Nebraska Republican Party and another $25,000 to state legislators.

Jane Kleeb, president of the group Bold Alliance, says TransCanada knows that property owners think the company's Keystone XL pipeline project is too risky.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway disagree over payment limits for farm program payments. The proposed House Farm Bill does not contain those limits while Senator Grassley is pushing for them in the Senate version. The Center for Rural Affairs supports payment limits. The Center’s Policy Program Associate Anna Johnson says the House farm legislation fails to address the need for payment limits.

Hastings, Nebraska — A program to help community engagement is hoping to make central Nebraska communities more inclusive.

The Center for Rural Affairs presented the Seeding Civity Program in Hastings on Tuesday.

The program featured speakers Malka Kopell and Palma Strand, they focused on connecting community leaders and businesses with under represented members of the community.

Records maintained by the Nebraska Department of Corrections reveal that its execution team trained on five dates since the beginning of last year, and a specialized execution escort team trained on four dates.

ACLU of Nebraska filed a public-records request to find out what training members of the team have had in preparation for carrying out an execution.

The Lincoln City Council unanimously approved an revised inter-local agreement that would fund school safety objectives at a meeting last night. The agreement would pay for six new resource officers and Lincoln Middle Schools, community learning center after school programs and additional mental health services for LPS students.

Not everyone is pleased with more resource officers in the school system. Executive Director for the ACLU of Nebraska, Danielle Conrad, tells KLIN’s Coby Mach on Drive Time Lincoln the ACLU of Nebraska, the N.A.A.C.P and many community leaders fear the effect disciplinary action by officers will have on students.

(Ames) -- Farmers and small business owners who want to embrace renewable energy will not get any help from the federal government under the proposed farm bill headed to the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

Funding for the Rural Energy Assistance Program (REAP) has been eliminated in the current draft.

Center for Rural Affairs continued its mission on May 17 of educating underserved populations consisting of Latinos, women and veterans through its Beginning Latino Farmer classes catered for people who are interested in diving into the farming industry.

LYONS, Neb. – Consumer demand for organically produced goods is growing across the U.S., with organic sales accounting for more than 4 percent of total food sales.

The Center for Rural Affairs takes a look at this expanding industry in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, with three fact sheets, "Organic agriculture: consumer demand and economic opportunity" released Tuesday.

COLUMBUS – Centro Hispano recently expanded its immigration services with the addition of Jeremy Roose, rural capacity building attorney from Immigrant Legal Center, on its legal team.

“A lot of what we do for individuals here is to help them secure their status but also to unify them with their families,” Roose said.

A number of wind power projects are being planned and proposed across the northern plains.

Most of those projects need approval at the county level before they can get state and federal permission.

Lucas Nelsen, a program policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs (in Lyons Nebraska), says many counties don’t have the expertise to come up with rules and policies...

Get out the vote (GOTV) efforts, whether partisan party-driven or community-based, are a staple of American politics. In this messy mosaic of interests, attitudes and demographics, you may regard voting as solemn civic duty or why-bother-it's-rigged hassle.

Whether viewed as endorsement, protest, act of hope or futile gesture, your vote is coveted, if not always counted, as with some provisional ballots following a change of residence.

COLUMBUS – Over the course of four years, Columbus experienced an increase in Latino-owned businesses which directly reflects the development of diversity and community growth.

John Cartier, the director of voting rights at Civic Nebraska said they currently have around 60 volunteers, which isn't enough for the expected 70-80 polling locations for the May 15 primary election.

"Since the presidential election in 2000, there was a need discovered of making sure that there is a 3rd party independent observer in different polling locations across the country during our more important elections," he said.

In 2017, Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties received a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care Program to administer a program designed to connect homeless families with home – that place we need, as humans, to reach our full potential. The program, called Supportive Housing, works with homeless families to connect them with permanent housing and subsequently provides weekly case management support up to 24 months. Through case management, families receive empowering support in personal financial counseling, goal planning, employment search and stabilization, parenting skills and tenant education. By the end of the 24-month period, the goal of the program is for participants to be completely self-sufficient.

Several groups, including the NAACP, Urban League Young Professionals, Civic Nebraska and the Nebraska Black Caucus, are planning a North Omaha Political Convention for April 14.

Statewide, Latinos are still a small segment of Nebraska’s population. But in Columbus and Schuyler, their percentages are on par or higher than state and national averages.

In 2010, Nebraska was 9.2 percent Latino. Columbus and the U.S. were at 16.3 percent, and Schuyler was 65.4 percent.

With their population growing, Latinos also are becoming more prevalent in businesses and community organizations. But that hasn’t transferred to civic or government engagement.

Lemus and others canvassing the community are compiling the first tangible results of Collective Impact Lincoln, a $1.175 million grant-funded effort to empower residents of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods.

The project was launched last year by a coalition of nonprofits — Civic Nebraska, Nebraska Appleseed and the South of Downtown Community Development Organization — with the goal of identifying, and addressing, problems people face in a half-dozen of Lincoln’s oldest neighborhoods.

René Ferdinand will serve as interim director for the Arc of Lincoln until a permanent selection has been made.

Ferdinand has more than 42 years of experience in the developmental disabilities field. He currently serves on the Arc of Lincoln board and previously was executive director for the Arc of Nebraska. His experiences have ranged from direct support, to services coordination, to state level directorships. He has worked for service providers, advocacy organizations and state agencies, bringing this wealth of experience to Advocacy Partnership for People with Special Needs.

A new letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska is calling on the DEA to investigate Nebraska State Penitentiary officials for allegedly illegally obtaining drugs to use in lethal injections.

Records obtained by the ACLU of Nebraska show that the Nebraska’s government acquired fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance without the proper DEA approval, potentially acquiring the drugs through illegal means.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The ACLU of Nebraska wants public officials to not block critics from their government-affiliated social media accounts.

The Nebraska ACLU sent letters to officials on Thursday encouraging them to correct problems before litigation options are explored. The letters were sent to U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, U.S. Representative Adrian Smith, U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry, U.S. Representative Don Bacon, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, and the York County Sheriff’s office. The ACLU received multiple complaints regarding U.S. Senator Fischer and Omaha Mayor Stothert, which the ACLU says is particularly concerning.

In 2003, Nate Woods was long removed from his youth, a husband and grandfather, an Army veteran who’d returned home to Lincoln after years away.
And now he was back, helping revive a place that had seen hard times and would see more during his tenure.

It was a matter of pride and of giving back, he says.

Unspent campaign funds could be returned to donors, donated to charity, or transferred to a political party, under original provisions of the state's Political Accountability and Disclosure Act.

According to Frank Daley, executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, the “absolute prohibition” of candidates transferring funds to other candidates was intended to prevent newly elected officials from becoming beholden to an official with deep pockets.

A board member from the League of Women Voters of Nebraska wants to take on the state’s late fee policy for campaign finance filings.

Kate High of Lincoln says that the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission shouldn’t waive any late fees for political campaigns, lobbyists and others who are required to file campaign finance reports.

Just as TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline finally seemed ready to roll, activists are taking one more shot at stopping it.

A year after President Donald Trump gave the O.K. for the line to be built, groups including Bold Alliance and Sierra Club argue in a motion that the federal decision short-circuited the review process, relying on an outdated environmental assessment.

FREMONT – State Senator Lynne Walz of Fremont was honored by ARC of Nebraska as she was named the Harold Sieck Public Official of the Year recipient.

The award is given by ARC for outstanding support of citizens with developmental disabilities. This year Senator Walz has introduced four bills and/or resolutions that would impact citizens with disabilities.

People who testified at a legislative hearing Monday on a budget provision that would prioritize which clinics get federal family planning funds disagreed on whether the provision added by Gov. Pete Ricketts was needed.

They also disagreed about its effect on Title X providers, depending on how it's interpreted, and whether patients would continue to have access to care.

Recordings of committee hearings and debates in the Nebraska Legislature would be barred from public-records requests under a bill introduced on behalf of the legislative clerk's office.

Promising a “basket of options” for lawmakers to consider, Sen. John Murante on Wednesday introduced a trio of bills he said ensure future integrity in Nebraska’s elections without suppressing votes.

A growing community of re-entry pathways serve current and former incarcerated individuals needing work upon release. Many re-entry programs are run by people who've been in the criminal justice system themselves.

"Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution," said ReConnect Inc. founding director LaVon Stennis-Williams, a former civil rights attorney who served time in federal prison.

LINCOLN — The ACLU of Nebraska is not taking no for an answer.

Friday, the civil rights organization filed a lawsuit asking a judge to compel the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to reveal who supplied the state recently with the lethal injection drugs needed to carry out an execution.

A $460,000 federal housing grant will make it much easier for 40 homeless families to find permanent housing in Lincoln, Mayor Chris Beutler said during a Thursday news conference.

The grant program, aimed at families with children, allows parents to find their own apartment, with rent initially subsidized as the family moves into self-sufficiency.

KEARNEY — The brand new Mobile Food Pantry didn’t open until noon July 18, but people began lining up at 10:30 a.m. outside the Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska’s Food Bank at 114 E. 11th St., and they kept coming.

After doors opened, they still kept coming. The pantry stayed open until 4 p.m., one hour past its scheduled closing of 3 p.m., so everyone could be served.

Volunteers once again traveled door-to-door in Grand Island on Sunday to sell containers of honey to benefit the Arc of Central Nebraska, to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families who live in Hall and Howard counties.

The Arc of Central Nebraska, which is an is affiliated chapter of The Arc of Nebraska and The Arc of the United States, fights for equal rights and equal access for services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As the president of the Bold Alliance, a grassroots campaign to challenge Big Oil, Kleeb had helped lead a rural resistance to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline, blocking it in-state and successfully lobbying President Obama to deny its permit in 2015. But that was before Donald Trump endorsed bringing back the project on the campaign trail, saying during one debate that eminent domain – the government seizure of private property for public use – was "an absolute necessity" for companies to beat back landowners who oppose them. Now, as Kleeb stands at the front of the O'Neill Community Center, dressed in a Western-style sports coat and cowboy boots, it is a foregone conclusion that Trump's State Department will permit the pipeline (as it would do six weeks later), which means Nebraska is, once again, the final front in the struggle to stop it.

All students at six Omaha elementary schools have been able to eat free lunches for the past year and a half as part of a federal program intended to combat hunger at high-poverty schools.

But the pilot program won’t be expanded to more of the Omaha district’s schools in the coming school year because of worries that it could affect the level of school funding the district receives.

Two groups that provide services to Native Americans, Legal Aid and the Appleseed Center, have asked to intervene in the lawsuit over the future of beer sales in Whiteclay, Nebraska.

LINCOLN — After months of threats, the ACLU of Nebraska filed a lawsuit early Wednesday, alleging that “extreme” overcrowding in the state’s prison system has caused “needless suffering and death” of inmates, as well as unsafe conditions for staff.

“For over twenty years, Nebraska state prisons have been overcrowded, under-resourced, and understaffed. The result is a dangerous system in perpetual crisis,” stated the civil rights lawsuit, filed electronically just after midnight to the U.S. District Court.

Johnathan Hladik, policy program director for the Center for Rural Affairs, says increases in rural poverty have caused communities to dig deep when it comes to helping their residents.

He says this is evident in many ways, including the large amounts of food heading out of food pantries and into the kitchens of folks who are struggling.

“They really are a reflection of rural generosity,” Hladik says. “We have other programs like Habitat for Humanity that are out there and helping out people who live in rural communities.”

Allison Kinney-Walker, an Assistant Professor at Nebraska Methodist College, says these conferences have a different topic each year, with this year’s theme being: “Creating Engaged Campuses: Embracing the Immigrant and Refugee Populations.”

Jane Kleeb is the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party. A founder of BOLD Nebraska, she put together a coalition of ranchers, farmers, Native Americans, and environmentalists that fought the Keystone XL Pipeline to a standstill. She’s also on the board of Our Revolution, and is a member of the national Democratic Party’s Unity Reform Commission. Nation contributing editor D.D. Guttenplan spoke with her in her hometown of Hastings, Nebraska. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Nebraska Appleseed is applauding The U.S. Senate for voting down its latest version of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the so-called “Skinny Repeal,” which was projected to cause at least 16 million Americans to lose health insurance, drive up premiums, and create massive instability in the insurance market.

For five years the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has provided a legal framework for people brought illegally to the United States as children to live and work here. The controversial program now has an uncertain future that could affect the 3,000 Nebraskans who benefit from it.

Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse joined with all but two of their Republican colleagues on Tuesday in voting to launch a Senate debate on health care legislation that could lead to repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
"We are extremely disappointed that both Sen. Fischer and Sen. Sasse went along with this process and voted to place in jeopardy the health care of so many of their constituents," Appleseed deputy health care director Molly McCleery said.

With the Senate vote to move forward with discussion on healthcare reform, many advocacy organizations are weighing in ontheir views, hoping lawmakers take notice. Health advocacy group Nebraska Appleseed Deputy Director Molly McCleery says, they recognize there are many problems with the ACA, but from their view, none of those fixes are currently being discussed on capital hill.
Mcleery says Nebraska Appleseed thinks it would be better for the nation if the Senate targeted specific problems with the healthcare system, instead of broad, sweeping reforms.

Daily life on a farm outside Lexington, Nebraska, is far from luxurious. However, Vincente Acevedo and Magdalena Barrios wouldn’t have it any other way.

“A typical day: I come home from work, prepare dinner, clean the house, and then I go outside to help feed the animals,” Magdalena said. “There is never a day off. I would rather be at the farm than go out to a party.”

WASHINGTON — All four senators from Nebraska and Iowa voted Tuesday to debate the Republican health care legislation already approved by the House.
“This vote very well could lead to poorer coverage and higher costs to tens of thousands of Nebraskans,” said Molly McCleery, Nebraska Appleseed’s health care director.

Our cover features Eric Kingery competing in the 2016 Capital City Wheelchair Tennis Classic. Coming Aug. 18-20, the Lincoln Adult Open will add wheelchair divisions to the tournament and change its name to the Walk ‘n Roll Lincoln Open Tennis Tournament, which will be played at the newly constructed Woods Tennis Center.

The lines for the new Mobile Produce Pantry started as early as 7 a.m. Tuesday right outside the Kearney food bank.
People with bags and buggies left with loads of produce.

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