FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Nebraska Legislature Passes Reckless Medicaid Expansion
Providing Benefits to Illegal Immigrants
Nebraska’s State Legislature voted Wednesday afternoon, the 60th and final day of the 102nd Unicameral, 2nd Session, to override Governor Dave Heineman’s veto of LB599, a bill which creates a separate Nebraska Medicaid program to provide prenatal coverage for women deemed ineligible because they are in the United States illegally or fail to meet other requirements of the existing Medicaid program.
Wednesday’s veto override was the result of a two year effort led by a Lincoln state senator and a coalition of lobbying groups and organizations ranging from the Catholic Bishops Conference to the ACLU-NE.
Bill proponents made a cost-savings and pro-life argument based on a logic that children of currently ineligible mothers would be Medicaid eligible from birth and that the lack of prenatal care ultimately costs taxpayers more money. Many advocates claimed ineligible women would seek abortions if coverage was not provided by the state, but overlooked data which proves abortion rates actually declined 3.4% following removal of the 1,600 ineligible women from the Medicaid program.
Nebraska’s Governor and several legislators argued that private charity should provide for illegal immigrants’ prenatal care and that state-sanctioned Medicaid coverage will cause an influx of illegals into the state.
Legislation such as Wednesday’s Medicaid expansion measure seems out of step for Nebraska, traditionally considered a conservative, “red state”. Republicans do currently hold all major state offices including Governor, Treasurer, Attorney General, and Secretary of State, the GOP has a super majority 35 out of 49 of seats in the nation’s only single chamber State Legislature.
Citizens and observers will likely question Wednesday’s events. Some polling data and debate comments by opposing state senators indicate a significant number of Nebraska’s citizens were strongly opposed to the bill, so a strong majority of legislators seem out of step.
“Nebraska’s state senators seem oblivious to increasing scrutiny by citizens in the past year,” stated Shelli Dawdy, founder of Lincoln-based Grassroots in Nebraska (GiN). “And, the failure to pass a Voter ID measure several weeks ago made a lot of Nebraskans wonder – what else is going on at the State Capitol? When LB599 received 29 votes on the first round, and people realized it not only provides taxpayer benefits for illegal immigrants, but expands an already unsustainable Medicaid program, there was outrage.”
Nebraska has the 10th largest and fastest growing illegal immigrant population in the country. Nebraskans Advisory Group (NAG), founder, Susan Smith, has worked since 2006 to inform sitting officials about growing illegal immigration and its negative effects. On April 6, she sent a letter to the Nebraska Republican Party noting, “I’m encouraging…State and County GOP Republican Party [to] withdraw/refuse financial or other campaign support for the 30 senators who voted in support of LB599 and who may vote to override Governor Heineman’s veto of this bill in the likelihood it gets a final pass.”
Smith may wait in vain for such measures from an NE-GOP which has made a series of changes to its Constitution to provide official party support of incumbents, and whose only recent threat to withhold campaign assistance was focused on whether state senators supported the State Chair’s designated legislative priority in 2011, which focused on changing the proportional allocation of presidential electors to a winner-take-all system.
“Unfortunately,” notes Dawdy, “We didn’t get to a place where our super-majority Republican legislature expanded Medicaid to cover illegal immigrants overnight. Having spent the past several years researching our state government, I’d say it’s evidence of systemic problems. People pay a lot more attention to the national scene, so it’s a case of ‘while the cat’s away, the mice will play’.”
Reverberations may be felt in Nebraska’s May 15 primary, when a number of state senators who voted for the Medicaid expansion bill face voters. Legislators’ veto override may very well impact two Constitutional Amendments presented on the ballot; one to give a pay raise to state senators and another, which would extend term limits from two consecutive four year terms to three.
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Grassroots in Nebraska (GiN) is a Lincoln based group, founded in March of 2009, with a mission of promoting a return to Constitutional, limited government, according to its original meaning. GiN’s activities have been featured in Nebraska media including newspapers such as the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald; KLIN and KHAS radio; KLKN, KOLN, Action 3 News TV, and others. GiN’s research and information has been cited on numerous websites such as Case Western Reserve School of Law Library, and is regularly seen in CNN local news feeds.