An abortion debate nearly derailed the state budget.
State lawmakers barely got past the contentious issue to advance the $8.9 billion budget to final reading.
Legislators picked up the budget debate where they left off during first-round debate, an argument over language directing federal family planning funds.
Opponents claimed it took direct aim at Planned Parenthood.
“This is an assault on women’s health care in this state,” Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln told colleagues during legislative debate on the budget.
Tempers flared during first-round debate on so-called Title X funding, money from the federal government for family planning and women’s health services. Appropriations Committee chair, Sen. John Stinner of Gering, had promised to work on a compromise between rounds. He submitted an amendment that would direct the issue of Title X funding to an appropriate committee to be decided separately from the budget.
The language would have prioritized Title X funding, favoring those providing comprehensive health care, mostly clinics associated with hospitals and medical clinics, over so-called stand-alone clinics, such as those operated by Planned Parenthood.
Opponents of the language claimed it not only would keep money from Planned Parenthood, but would imperil routine women’s health care in rural Nebraska.
Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk stated the issue didn’t belong in the budget debate. He accused the Ricketts Administration of intentionally slipping the language in a budget bill.
“This is the wrong way to do business,” Scheer stated during floor debate. “We can all talk about the Nebraska way, well, this sure as hell is not the Nebraska way. We’re upfront. We’re transparent. I’m pro-life. This is wrong, period.”
Appropriations Committee chair John Stinner of Gering told colleagues the budget won’t advance with the language
“But, right now it’s a poison pill in the budget, folks,” Stinner stated. “If you want to get to talking numbers, if you want to get to balancing the budget, if you want to talk about whatever you want to talk about, this thing needs to get gone.”
An initial vote on Stinner’s amendment failed, but a motion to reconsider the vote was approved and on reconsideration, the amendment passed without a vote to spare, 25-19 with four senators abstaining.
Once the language was removed, legislators returned to debating numbers and advanced the budget to final reading.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]