The supporters of LB 887, the effort to expand Medicaid in Nebraska, were not able to muster enough votes to shut down debate last week, thus preventing the bill from moving forward. I am a strong believer that the bill would have been benefitted rural Nebraska and I am disappointed it failed to pass.Fox News Sunday hosted Ohio Republican Gov. John Kaisch last Sunday. Kaisch made a powerful case for Medicaid expansion in Ohio.
Kaisch was elected to Congress during the Reagan administration and is a conservative governor but he recognizes that money coming into the state through Medicaid expansion will benefit the most vulnerable in society — the mentally ill, the frail, and the poor. Other conservative states have adopted Medicaid expansion — Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida are three, while Utah and New Hampshire are moving to some form of Medicaid expansion.
I believe these states are simply using good business sense. If you are able to secure insurance benefits for a significant percentage of your population you develop a healthier workforce, prevent bankruptcies and charitable write-offs by hospitals, and foster economic development opportunities.
One point bears repeating -- any Nebraska individual who makes over 138% of poverty is able to purchase a subsidized insurance policy through the Affordable Care website, while their neighbor, who makes 137% of poverty will not have insurance. He will likely go without insurance.
Does Nebraska really want to exclude those individuals when their better-off friends are getting subsidy? I don't think so.
Other interesting legislation is surfacing during the final days of the session. Sen. Annette Dubas introduced a bill which permits the Department of Roads to issue $200 million in bonds, with the objective of completing a number of projects which have been on the books for many years.
The Department of Roads has completed a number of projects during the past few years which came in under budget, primarily because highway construction companies have been hungry for work due to the Great Recession.
In addition, the sad fact of the matter is that there will be no road improvement projects in rural Nebraska unless we undertake a project of this type.
Infrastructure needs in Lancaster, Sarpy, and Douglas counties and on I-80 between Lincoln and Grand Island will consume all new construction funding for the foreseeable future.
I am a strong believer that Nebraska must invest in western Nebraska and complete construction of the Heartland Expressway, yet I recognize that the current funding mechanism will never provide enough funds to make that happen.
Accordingly, I am a strong supporter of Sen. Dubas and her bonding bill. Saving money on construction, completing long-postponed projects, and improving the economic development opportunities available to our rural communities are goals which the residents of the 43rd district should support whole-heartedly.
Joining the national vote
One of the most interesting bills scheduled before the legislature is a bill that would require Nebraska to enter an intra-state compact that would obligate the state's electors to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote.
The bill was brought by a conservative Republican senator and was prioritized by another conservative senator and is being promoted heavily by a number of lobbyists, with fierce opposition from the governor.
I look forward to discussion of this bill on the floor because both sides are so passionate about their particular position.
Proponents say that Nebraska, as a small Republican state, is passed over during the fall presidential campaign. Nebraska is not unlike the other 43 states which can usually be counted on for one party or the other.
Therefore almost all campaign resources, many federal grants, and most of the policy decisions are made in those seven states with a purple hue. Proponents believe that Nebraska and the associated states who have joined with Nebraska to cast their electoral ballots for the winner of the popular vote will bring more balance and interest to our state.
I'm not fully convinced that this will happen but I will listen closely.
Finally, congratulations to the Creighton and the UNL men's and women's basketball teams for providing such an exciting winter sports season to fans. It's been quite a ride.