But, passage didn’t come without harsh criticism of controversial Title X language contained in the mainline budget bill, LB 944.
Twice LB 944 was blocked by filibusters mounted by those who objected to language in the bill which restricted nearly $2 million in federal Title X money. Gov. Pete Ricketts inserted the language, which prohibits the money from going to any clinic which performs abortions. The governor insisted he wasn’t targeting Planned Parenthood, stating if it separated its family planning clinics from its abortion clinics, it could apply for the federal funding.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha chastised fellow legislators during Tuesday’s floor debate for giving in to Gov. Ricketts on the compromise language eventually adopted to break through the filibusters.
“This that was done was not a compromise,” Chambers stated. “It was a 100% capitulation.”
Chambers called negotiations between the legislative and executive branches a sham.
“You don’t negotiate with yourself,” Chambers said. “The governor was not in that room and he didn’t have to be there, because he owns so many chumps, so many saps, so many sellouts on this floor.”
It is unusual for the legislature to enter into debate on Final Reading. Normally, legislators approve bills without comment. This was different. Opponents harshly criticized both the language inserted and Gov. Ricketts. Debate lasted longer than one hour before the bill passed.
Nebraska distributes $1.9 million in Title X funding to 42 clinics throughout the state, three run by Planned Parenthood. The clinics serve 28,000 poor Nebraskans, mostly women.
Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, who worked on compromise language, told colleagues it’s apparent Gov. Ricketts targeted Planned Parenthood by insisting the language be included.
“From all of the work I’ve done on this issue, one thing is clear,” Wishart told her colleagues. “This proposed restrictive Title X disbursement directly restricts Title X money (from) going to Planned Parenthood. There’s no doubt in my mind on that. While the bill does not name Planned Parenthood, there is only one abortion provider in Nebraska that receives Title X money and that is Planned Parenthood.”
LB 944 would cut state agencies 2% both this fiscal year and next fiscal year. It would cut the University of Nebraska budget by 2% this fiscal year and 1% next fiscal year. It also increases Child Welfare Services funding by $55 million. Public school funding and funding for the Department of Correctional Services were spared cuts.
Earlier, the Unicameral passed without comment two budget bills which transferred $100 million from the state cash reserve fund as well as $16 million from various fund balances to shore up the state budget, plagued by the increased cost of child welfare services as well as a nearly $175 million drop in state revenue.