3647 Lafayette Avenue, Ste 110; Omaha, NE 68131 otocfornebraska@gmail.com 402-344-4401

Democracy is not a
spectator sport


Payday Lending Ballot Initiative

February 12th, 2020

OTOC’s Payday Lending Action Team has been working for several years to combat inhumane interest rates on delayed deposit loans. In 2020 we are participating in a state wide ballot initiative to put reduced interest rates into law.

2020 Ballot Initiative

A coalition of nonprofits across the state have teamed up to put this issue on the ballot. This requires getting 85,000 signatures of registered voters before July 3, 2020. Within these 85,000 signatures, 36 counties need 5% o their registered voters to sign. Then, if the issue qualifies, it will be on the November 2020 ballot for Nebraskans to vote on.

Amend Nebraska statutes to reduce the amount that delayed deposit services licensees, also known as payday lenders, can charge to a maximum annual percentage rate of thirty-six percent; to prohibit payday lenders from evading this rate cap; and to deem void and uncollectable any transaction made in violation of this rate cap.

If this Petition is placed on the 2020 ballot and passed by Nebraska voters, Sections 45-918 and 45-919 of the Delayed Deposit Services Licensing Act statutes would be amended to reflex the object of this Petition.

Key Dates:

July 3, 2020 – Petition signatures must be turned in
Nov.3, 2020 – Election Day

Payday Lending Coalition Member List

AARP of Nebraska, ACLU of Nebraska, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, Nebraska Appleseed, Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC), Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Voices for Children in Nebraska, Women’s Fund of Omaha

Learn more about the Nebraskans for Responsible Lending campaign here

Leaders Richard Blocker and Rod Kuhlmann lead a presentation at Augustana Lutheran Church

What Can I Do?

Read More . . .

Starting the Year with Issue Cafes!

February 6th, 2020

Upcoming Issue Cafes:

Mental Health

Tuesday, February 25, 6:45-8PM

Join the Mental Health Action Team for a panel exploring solutions to keeping people with mental illness out of the Criminal Justice system.

Unicameral Update on Feb. 18

Jo Giles from the Coaltion for a Strong Nebraska presented about several bills currently in the State Unicameral related to current OTOC issue areas.

Environmental Issues

  • LB 861 (Hughes, Natural Resources) – Change Integrated Solid Waste Management Act

Requires consistent regulation of plastic containers across the state, ie: could get rid of local ordinances about plastic bag bans, etc.

  • LB 905 (DeBoer, Revenue) – Single Use Check-out Bags & Program

Puts a 5 cent fee on plastic single-use grocery bags.

  • LB 1205 (McCollister, Natural Resources) – Adopt Renewable Energy Standards Act

Increase renewable energy production in Nebraska and set benchmarks for percentage of renewables used.



  • LB 794 (Hansen, M., Urban Affairs) – Missing Middle Housing Act

Allows the development of Missing Middle Housing on lots zoned for single family housing. Meant to increase density.

  • LB 866 (Wayne, Urban Affairs) – Density & Inclusionary Bonus Housing Act

Provides concessions and/or incentives for residential development based on the percentage of low-income or very-low-income units provided in the development.

  • LB 1020 (Vargas, Urban Affairs) – Change Fair Housing Act

Updates the Nebraska Fair Housing Act to include lawful source of income as an additional reason for discrimination in housing. Cannot discriminate against a tenant or prospective tenant if their income comes social security section 8, child support, etc.

  • LB 1155 (Vargas, Urban Affairs) – Middle Income Workforce Housing Investment Act

Gives 10 million for nonprofits to allocate for new construction, repair to dilapidated housing in certain census areas.


Criminal Justice Reform

  • LB 786 (Lathrop, Judiciary) Guidelines for Restrictive Housing

Change rules on the use of restrictive housing and require screenings of inmates for serious mental illness, developmental disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries

  • LB 1209 (Vargas, Judiciary) – Diversion Program for Caregivers

Provide prison diversion programs for offenders to continue to provide care to dependents


Mental Health

  • LB 247 (Bolz) – Advance Mental Health Care Directives Act (GF)

Allows patients to prepare a metal health directive to plan for treatment if they become mentally incapacitated

  • LB 1017 (Geist, Appropriations) – Funding for Problem-Solving Courts for Mental Health

Appropriates funding to Mental Health Courts pilot program

  • LB 1052 (Wishart, HHS) – Prohibit Denial of Coverage

Prohibits insurance denial of coverage for mental health drugs not on the preferred drug list if it deemed necessary by the patient’s primary care provider


Medicaid Expansion

  • LB 932 (Wishart, HHS) – Medicaid Expansion Implementation Date

Requires state to implement by October 1, 2020 and no later.


Other Big Issues

  • LB 720 (Kolterman) – ImagiNE Act

Tax incentives for businesses to settle in Nebraska. Problematic because we are already on two prior tax incentive programs

  • LB 974 (Revenue Committee) – Property Tax Relief & School Funding

Changes the way school funding is calculated to lower property taxes. Very problematic for school districts, especially large ones.


What Can I Do?

  1. Learn more about OTOC and our approach to systematic change
    1. Email otocfornebraska@gmail.com to schedule a meeting
  2. Learn more about the Coalition for a Strong Nebraska and their work teaching nonprofits how to lobby
    1. Visit strongnebraska.org
  3. Talk to OTOC Action Team leaders about your interest in these issues
    1. Environmental Sustainability- Clyde Anderson cydelanderson@cox.net
    2. Housing- Gloria Austerberry glauster@yahoo.com
    3. Mental Health- Linda Jensen lejensen@gmx.com
    4. Health Policy- Mary Spurgeon marspur2@aol.com
  4. Contact your senator
    1. If the bill in still in committee
      • Call or email your senator, especially if they are in the committee
    2. If the bill is out of committee
      • Call or email your senator to share your views on the issue
    3. Find out who your senator is, get contact info at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/ in the “Find Your senator” search bar

View handout: CSN Issue Cafe Handout


Payday Lending on Feb. 11

The OTOC Payday Lending Action Team presented about the concerns around predatory payday loans. This led into an introduction to the Nebraskan’s for Responsible Lending Campaign- a ballot initiative to put caps on annual interest rates so that borrowers pay no more than 36% annual interest rather than the current 387%. For more info about this effort and how to get involved, click here.

Healthy Housing on Feb. 4

The OTOC Housing Coalition led conversations about next steps towards affordable housing on the first Tuesday issue cafe of February. Leaders gave a quick update on the rental registration which is now open (learn more here), what work still needs to be done after last year’s important victory, housing inequality across the city, why housing needs to be a more prominent issue to policy makers, and what conversations are happening in the Unicameral about affordable housing now. The crowd was then broken into groups for house-meeting like discussions about the info and people’s own experiences. Several institutions shared stories about the burden on community groups like nonprofits and churches for rental and utility assistance, calling for partnerships and improved policy. Going forward, building power and building relationships that lead to successful passage of improved policy is the aim. Participants were asked to submit commitments they would take to continue building relationships and learning more.

Small group discussion including Family Housing Advisory Director Teresa Hunter

Read More . . .

OTOC represented at Great Plains United Methodist Conference Seminar

February 6th, 2020

Long time OTOC leader Kevin Graham of First United Methodist was a presenter at the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church’s Mercy and Justice webinar on Saturday, January 18. The webinar was to teach Methodists in Nebraska and Kansas about community organizing as the Methodist churches are looking to start teaching community organizing for justice. OTOC has been organizing with Methodists in Omaha since the early 1990’s and we look forward to continuing that partnership going forward. OTOC uses the Industrial Areas Foundation of faith-based, broad based community organizing with institutions as members to teach communities how to build power for positive change in our communities using self interest and relationships

Pictured left to right are Rev. Kalaba Chali, Great Plains UMC Mercy & Justice Coordinator; Kevin Graham, First United Methodist, Omaha; and Rev. Sarah Marsh, Associate Pastor, Manhattan (KS) First UMC. The webinar was held at St. Mark UMC in Lincoln, NE.

Temporary Protective Status Update

November 26th, 2019


65 people gathered on Friday evening to watch the film “The Last Dream.” It is a documentary about a group of youth in Baltimore whose parents are Temporary Protected Status recipients. With the TPS program under threat and caught in legal battles, the children, most of whom are US citizens, are also caught in the middle. If there parents were forced to leave the US, after being for over 20 years, raising families, doing good work, owning homes, etc, their children would be left with much less support. Many would move in with other family or older siblings would take custody. It is too dangerous for families to take their kids with them to El Salvador, as the young people are most at risk for being forcefully recruited to gangs.

The film highlights these kids stories, and their journey to perform a play about their experiences. They have been able to perform all over Maryland, and even performed in Congress! The documentary has now been released for broader viewing around the country. You can watch it online here ( http://guide.bnntv.org:8000/CablecastPublicSite/show/93888?channel=1 )
On Friday night, the Omaha community watched the film, met some of the families involved with its creation, and received a call to act- call Nebraska Senators so that a bill can go through the Senate for legal protection for TPS recipients with a path to citizenship. No more families should be separated.

Read More . . .

Medicaid Expansion Hearing

November 21st, 2019

On Nov. 13, the Omaha World Herald reported on the public hearing on the advisability of implementing expanded Medicaid with the Section 1115 Waiver experiment proposed by the Nebraska State Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

At that hearing, 24 out of 24 speakers opposed it.   You can oppose it, too. Comment here.


Besides failing to follow 3 of the 5 pertinent sections of the Initiative 427, speakers pointed out that this waiver is completely optional. In addition, other states have done similar research experiments and conclusions have been reached:

  • These plans are more expensive to administer for the state,
  • Place reporting regulations and treatment limitations on health care providers,
  • Interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, and
  • Do not replace the need for a comprehensive workforce development program.

Failure to implement swiftly will impoverish the the state by the loss of $460 million in federal monies in this year alone.

It’s not too late! We can still stop this waiver proposal from being adopted.

DHHS is required to take public comments on this waiver. Make your comment here, or keep reading for more options.

Comments will be accepted by DHHS through Nov. 26.

Click here for Talking Points to use in comments:
Linkto NE Appleseed’s talking points
Linkto OTOC’s talking points

Click herefor more background on the proposal from Nebraska Appleseed.

Click herefor information about the impact of the Dental and Vision care proposals.

How to Submit Comments

You can submit written comments directly to the Dept. of Health & Human Services via:

Email: DHHS.HHAWaiver@Nebraska.gov

Mail: Department of Health and Human Services Nebraska Medicaid
ATTN: HHA Waiver 301 Centennial Mall South
P.O. Box 95026 Lincoln, NE 68509-5026

There is a place online to submit comments. Make a comment online now, or visit us at our waiver comment station if you have any questions or would like assistance. Online comments are due Nov. 26

Click here to make a comment online

Waiver Comment Station:

Urban Abbey (1026 Jackson)
6-6:45 PM
Tuesday, Nov. 26

Newsletter Sign Up