Starting the Year with Issue Cafes!

Mental Health Panel on Feb. 25

Mental Health leaders brought in a panel of mental health agencies and services to begin a conversation about the biggest needs for keeping people with mental illness out of jail. Some of the main issues discussed were lack of or shrinking funding and resources, both from the state and for nonprofits, that makes good programs hard to scale up; shortage of mental health professionals, especially people of color; and difficulties with continuum of care that helps divert people from the criminal justice system, as well as coordinating care as people move throughout the system.

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Panelists:

Moderator Paul Feilman, mental health activist (not pictured)

Ryan Carruthers, CenterPointe

Mary Ann Borgeson, Douglas County Commissioner

Patti Jurjevich, Region 6

Justine Wall, Douglas Co. Correctional Rehabilitative Services Administrator

Doris Moore, Center for Holistic Development

Participants are invited to attend a follow up session on April 7 to continue exploring these issues and what we might be able to do about. Join us on Tuesday, April 7th at 6 pm at First United Methodist Church, 7020 Cass St.


Unicameral Update on Feb. 18

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

Starting the Year with Issue Cafes! - 7

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.

 

Housing

  • 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.

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Small group discussion including Family Housing Advisory Director Teresa Hunter

Unicameral Bills we are watching:

LB1020: Source of Income Discriminations (Vargas)

Judiciary Committee, hearing was January 30.

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 from:

  • Social security, child support, foster care subsidies, alimonies, veteran benefits
  • Federal, state, or local public general assistance
  • Federal, state, or local housing assistance (ex: Section 8 voucher)

 

LB 866: Density Bonus and Inclusionary Zoning (Wayne)

Urban Affairs Committee, hearing was February 4.

Provides concessions and/or incentives for residential development based on the percentage of low-income or very-low-income units provided in the development. Examples of concessions: reduction in site development standards, modification of zoning requirements, ratio of parking spaces required.

 

LB794: Missing Middle Housing (Hansen)

Urban Affairs Committee, hearing was February 4.

Allows the development of Missing Middle Housing on lots zoned for single family housing. Meant to increase density. Formally acknowledges that historically, zoning restrictions have unfairly prioritized single-family homes, and that zoning restrictions led to redlining and a lack of affordable housing.

Missing Middle is defined as duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters, town houses.

 

LB933: Utility Shutoffs (Crawford)

Natural Resources Committee, hearing on February 13.

Public and private utilities must make service termination public on their website and available by mail; utilities cannot charge a fee larger than the reasonable actual service cost for disconnecting or reconnecting service; easier certification and longer amount of time to certify that someone with a handicap or illness would come to immediate harm if their utility was shut off.

Next Steps you can take:

Housing Coalition Meeting

February 18 at 2 pm

Augustana Lutheran Church, 3647 Lafayette

 

Meet with an OTOC leader

to learn more about how to learn more about OTOC and community organizing. Email otocfornebraska@gmail.com

 

City Planning Rental Registration Information Session

In preparation for the upcoming Rental Registration and Inspection Program, the City of Omaha Planning Department is holding two free Rental Information Sessions:

February 12th and March 18th at 7:00pm

Meetings held in the Legislative Chamber (LC) at 1819 Farnam

See more here

 

Omaha Housing Authority Board Meeting

8:30 am recurring every first Thursday (unless otherwise noted on website)

OHA office, 1823 Harney

Next 2 meetings:

Feb 6 and March 12 at 8:30 am

See more here

 

Omaha Municipal Land Bank Board meeting

9 am recurring every second Wednesday

Civic Center, 3rd Floor Jesse Lowe Conference Room, 1819 Farnam

Next 2 meetings:

February 12 and March 11 at 9 am

See more here

 

Property Maintenance Appeals Board Meeting

1:30 pm recurring every first Thursday

Civic Center, 3rd Floor Jesse Lowe Conference Room, 1819 Farnam

Next two meetings:

February 6 and March 5 at 1:30 pm

See more here


 

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Environmental Sustainability, Housing and Revitalization, Mental Health, Predatory Lending, Uncategorized