Women Farmers and Ranchers Inspire

I love my job at the Center for Rural Affairs. I get to meet interesting, creative people, all working to make Rural America stronger. One of the highlights this past year was working with beginning women farmers and ranchers.

We’ve held workshops, fielded phone calls, and placed aspiring women farmers with established women farmers who serve as their mentors. The Women Food and Agriculture Network, an Iowa-based organization staffed by incredible women, made this work possible. They included the Center in their “Harvesting Our Potential Program” for aspiring women beginning farmers.

One of the most interesting women I’ve met this year is Samantha Christenson, a Navy veteran, mom, textile artist, and aspiring farmer (shown above). Sam contacted us about her small farm dream. We signed her up for an on-farm internship with Charuth Loth at Shadowbrook Farm. Shadowbrook is a 34-acre diversified family farm including a goat dairy, organic vegetables, and cut flowers.

Internships are an invaluable experience for beginners. They allow hands-on experience, hard to acquire if you were not raised on a farm or ranch. At Shadowbrook, Sam learned to milk goats, tag their ears, de-worm, vaccinate, remove horns, and trim hooves. She learned about feed quality, parasite prevention, pasture rotation, and cheese making.

I could hear her enthusiasm when she talked about making bouquets, describing how she selected each flower to create full, unique arrangements. Sam rightfully picked up on the importance of efficiency. Time is a valuable commodity for small-scale farmers. She said “for two months, I saw and experienced firsthand the culmination of my four years of studies.”

Thanks for the inspiration, Sam. Women farmers and ranchers make our rural places so much stronger! Read more about Women Farmers and Ranchers Inspire

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
Newsletter

Two-State Transmission Project Takes Important Regulatory Step

The Minnesota-Iowa transmission project, a 215 mile line connecting southern Minnesota and north central Iowa, would open new markets for renewable energy and improve system reliability and capacity. An important regulatory step took place this summer.

Developers held public meetings in the two states. In Minnesota, they were joined by officials from the state Department of Commerce. Sessions informed community members and landowners about the permitting process and the project’s plans. Developers are using the feedback they received to reevaluate plans as they draft an environmental impact study. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission attended and noted comments to use in their own project evaluation.

In Iowa, developers presented existing plans for the line to community members and took comments. Representatives from the Iowa Utilities Board attended and made the rights of landowners clear. Next, project developers will apply for a franchise permit in Iowa.

The meetings highlight an important fact about transmission lines. The regulatory process requires public involvement. In both states, developers could not move forward without holding public information meetings first.

They had to present their case. Landowners and communities were encouraged to actively participate, to voice concerns, and to give suggestions. Other states require public involvement too. But unless you participate, the opportunity is lost.

Transmission is a big deal when it’s done right. And that is with help and oversight from the public and the regulators who represent us.  Read more about Two-State Transmission Project Takes Important Regulatory Step

  • Clean Energy
Newsletter

Rep. Fortenberry Witnesses Benefit of USDA Small Business Program

During the August Congressional recess, Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) joined us on a tour of northeast Nebraska small businesses. Staff from the Northeast Nebraska Development District and USDA Rural Development also joined us.

We visited two small businesses to show the benefits of the USDA Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). This program makes money available for rural small businesses through organizations like the Center for Rural Affairs and the development district.

First up for the tour was Ted’s Covers and Tarps of Fremont. This growing business offers custom production and repair of upholstery, awnings, boat covers, and canvas and vinyl repair. (Ted is featured in the image at the top of the page, second from left.)

Ted had operated his business in his home for 3 years as a small, part-time venture. He wanted to expand and move to a new location. An RMAP loan helped make that possible. In May 2012, Ted’s Covers and Tarps opened full-time in its own building. 

Next up was Black Dog Wood and Steel, a rural Burt County sawmill between Tekamah and Craig, Nebraska. Black Dog specializes in designing and producing decorative wood and steel products. Owner Shawn Qualley hopes to benefit from a USDA RMAP loan. Unfortunately, the money has not been available yet. Demand is so great, there is a waiting list. 

Tours like these are important in building support for programs that support rural small businesses and communities. Representative Fortenberry’s role on the House Appropriations Committee is vital for rural Nebraska. We are grateful he took the time to see the positive impact of programs like RMAP. Read more about Rep. Fortenberry Witnesses Benefit of USDA Small Business Program

  • Small BusinessSmall Business Policy
Newsletter

Finding A Home for Renewable Energy and Transmission

Utilities must involve America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners in critical decisions about how and where to build new energy transmission infrastructure. Finding A Home for Renewable Energy and Transmission, my new report authored with Carl Zichella of the Natural Resources Defense Council, outlines clear steps to achieve this goal.

A clean and efficient power system requires wires to transmit and distribute electricity where it is most needed. Today’s aging grid struggles to achieve this as consumers are increasingly demanding efficiency and clean energy.

The report is one of eight white papers making up America’s Power Plan, a clean energy toolkit curated by the Energy Foundation in partnership with Energy Innovation. It focuses on institutional innovations that can help modernize America’s power grid by making changes to the way we plan for, site, and permit clean power generation and transmission infrastructure.
 
Policymakers have many options to accelerate siting for new generation and transmission needs. Changes to the way landowners are compensated for the value of their land is one. Also, reforms are needed to locate, coordinate, and expedite any new generation or transmission the grid system requires.
 
In short, policymakers should:

  • Optimize existing grid infrastructure.
  • Fully use available planning processes.
  • Employ “Smart from the Start” criteria.
  • Improve interagency, federal-state, and interstate coordination.
  • Work with landowners to develop new options for private lands, including innovative compensation measures.
  • Refine the process to support siting offshore wind developments.

Today’s siting process can be a particular challenge for transmission line projects that cross many different jurisdictions. But the changes we’ve described in Finding A Home for Renewable Energy and Transmission can help accelerate smart siting.

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Hladik and Zichella were among over 150 leading energy analysts from academia, industry and the nonprofit sector that were tapped for their analysis in the commissioning of America’s Power Plan, the first national effort to take a comprehensive look at the challenges faced by the electric power system and outline potential policy and market solutions. The report is intended to tackle the tough questions about America’s energy future and serve as a toolkit for state and local decision makers as they seek to address these challenges. Read more about Finding A Home for Renewable Energy and Transmission

  • Clean Energy
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REAP Small Business Lending Tops $9 Million

The job title “loan specialist” may sound dry to some, but it shouldn’t. Because our REAP Loan Specialists could just as easily be called “Dream Makers.”

We help hard-working business owners and entrepreneurs reach for their dreams. We do this (and always have done this) with REAP’s drive to meet the debt financing needs of startup and existing micro entrepreneurs in rural Nebraska – individually or by collaborating with partners. The REAP Loan Program meets this need effectively.

REAP lending had another tremendous year.* We placed 78 loans totaling $1,084,950. We have placed loans totaling $9,367,681 in the lifespan of REAP. This lending helps to leverage other funds in a substantial way.

As part of our technical assistance, we provide business planning services to REAP members. These services have resulted in leveraged lending in many instances. Quite often, a REAP client has completed their business plan in consultation with us and has been able to secure a loan from a traditional lender, development district, community action agency, or a local loan fund.

Our staff has also helped in “packaging” loans that include other lenders in addition to REAP’s loan fund. We leveraged $1,777,685 this past year due to REAP assistance. Historically, REAP has leveraged loans totaling over $16 million since we began.

Through REAP lending and leverage efforts, we’ve created or retained 148 jobs. Current REAP lending products can be viewed here

*Figures cover the time period from 7/1/12-6/30/13. Read more about REAP Small Business Lending Tops $9 Million

  • Small Business
Newsletter

Questions about the Wilds of the Affordable Care Act

With another provision of the Affordable Care Act being implemented - new healthcare marketplaces, or “exchanges” are set to come online October 1st - we’ve been hearing many questions. For example...

 

Are families who can’t afford the employer provided health insurance eligible for subsidies through the new health insurance marketplace?

If your employer offers a health insurance plan, first look at what it covers. It must be a comprehensive plan that meets the essential benefit package.

If it's a comprehensive plan, look at what you're required to pay.  If the annual premium is more than 9.5% of what you report on tax forms as your income, the plan is considered “unaffordable.” If you are between 100-400% of the federal poverty level, you’ll be eligible for a premium subsidy if you buy a plan on your state's health insurance marketplace. Anyone can purchase insurance in the marketplace, but not everyone will qualify for a subsidy.

 

I got a check from my insurance company recently. Why?

Another way the Affordable Care Act seeks to lower costs is by making sure insurers aren’t padding their pockets or using a majority of your premium dollars for things that aren’t medical care. At least 80% of your premium dollar goes to actual medical care. It may not be your medical care, but that’s the nature of insurance. If the insurer charges too much and doesn’t meet this threshold, they are required to give every customer a rebate until they meet the rule.

Questions?  Email StephL@cfra.org

  Read more about Questions about the Wilds of the Affordable Care Act

  • Rural Health
Weekly column

Q&A: Health Insurance Marketplaces Set to Open in October

It’s nearly here! October will bring the unveiling of your state’s health insurance marketplace. There will be no more guessing. You’ll be able to go to the marketplace and find the health coverage that’s right for your family, discover whether you qualify for federal subsidies, and how much insurance might cost for you.

If you have questions or need to know where to look, one place to start is www.healthcare.gov, or call 1.800.318.2596. Now, on to your questions!

I’m a small business owner with less than 50 full-time (or equivalent) employees. I know I’m exempt from the requirement to provide health insurance. Is there anything else I need to know?

Yes! If you have one or more employees and at least $500,000 in revenue, you must inform all employees by a letter that the health insurance marketplaces exist, and that they may be eligible for tax credits. Letters to current employees are required by Oct. 1, 2013, and to new employees within 14 days of their hiring date.

This applies to all employees, full-time or part-time. It’s a simple letter. The Department of Labor has two sample notices, which you can view here if you offer health coverage and here if you do not offer health coverage.

I smoke. Will my insurance cost more?

In a word, yes. The four things an insurance company can look at to determine your premium are your age, family size, location, and tobacco use. With tobacco use, they can charge you up to 50 percent more compared to a non-smoker, and the extra premium cost will not be covered by federal subsidies.

This is because tobacco use has been attributed to many health problems that are costly to treat, such as cancer and emphysema. So if you smoke, you might save thousands of dollars on health insurance by quitting now.

As with any information on insurance forms, it is critical to be honest – if the insurer finds out you intentionally lied, mislead, or excluded information about your tobacco use, they can still cancel your insurance retroactively.

These articles are meant solely to answer questions we receive and provide general information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Center for Rural Affairs does not offer or provide legal advice. CFRA is not an insurance agency, broker, or consultant; does not recommend any health insurance product or policy or provide any advice on the purchasing of health insurance; and does not accept any compensation or consideration from an insurance company, insurance broker, or insurance consultant. Read more about Q&A: Health Insurance Marketplaces Set to Open in October

Newsletter

Is Nebraska Ready for Regional Food Systems?

A new Center for Rural Affairs report says yes, with much work. It zeroes in on a series of focus groups we held to explore interest and barriers to creating regional food systems in our state. We talked to farmers and ranchers, consumers, food-serving institutions, and grocery stores. You can download the Regional Food Systems Focus Group report here.

We found great interest, but also major challenges that need to be resolved first. Earlier we reported on a comprehensive survey of Nebraskans on local food system issues. Those surveys and these focus groups show several issues between producers and consumers that require answers before local and regional food systems can be truly successful.

For example, the usual food buying experience of consumers (location, hours, convenience) do not always translate to a local or regional food buying experience. Farmers are experienced in farming and growing and producing their products for sale; their skills in marketing and basic business operations may be lacking.

Balancing the expectations and needs of consumers and the skills and desires of farmers and ranchers will be necessary to create long-term successful and sustainable local and regional food systems. Yet all groups with a stake in the food system appear to want to make a local and regional food system work. Now we must capitalize on that support and enthusiasm to build for the future.

It is clear from the survey results and the focus groups that all three groups - farmers, consumers, and institutions - need to collaborate to make regional food systems a viable reality. A number of steps need to occur to bring about the necessary collaborations between food system partners. Those include:

  • A state food policy council or local and regional food policy councils to organize regional food systems and determine the strengths, challenges, and needs of localities and regions in relation to food systems.
  • Local and regional entities to develop the infrastructure necessary for the cultivation and advancement of regional food systems. Things like information and education for consumers and institutions on local foods, their advantages, how to purchase them, and how best to use them; non-farm business training for farmers involved in local food production and marketing; and “bricks and mortar” infrastructure such as distribution and retail channels.

Neither the original survey or the focus groups discussed the issue of distribution. In a state like Nebraska, geography is crucial to feasible distribution. As it relates to food systems, geographically challenged or remote communities could include almost any community outside of Omaha and Lincoln or any other population center. If regional food systems are to be viable in more geographically remote communities, questions of distribution and aggregation must be discussed and dealt with. 

Questions and issues of resources – both financial and human – are, of course, always paramount in developing new systems and infrastructures. Communities and regions developing food systems must develop sources of funding for needed infrastructure, communications, networks, and training. These funding sources will likely need to be alternatives to government funding, and significant questions exist as to the source of needed resources. But with collaboration of all interested stakeholders, that question is not insurmountable.
 
Nebraskans raise some serious questions and challenges that must be addressed for regional food systems to have a viable future in the state. However, they also express genuine interest in seeing regional food systems become part of the state’s food landscape. There is indisputable excitement about making regional food systems become a workable part of Nebraska’s food production, marketing, and consumption approach. Matching the questions and needs with the interest is the next step in making regional food systems a reality. Read more about Is Nebraska Ready for Regional Food Systems?

  • Small TownsCommunity Food
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Rural Areas Lacking Dentists

Rural America has too few dentists, and some counties have no dental services at all. A recent University of Nebraska Medical Center study that focused on that state reflects a problem found across rural America. Further complicating the shortage of dental care is the fact that many dentists in rural areas are nearing retirement.

The exodus of soon to retire dentists from rural practice will further accelerate the situation. Sadly, too few dentists are being educated to replace them. Even fewer are trained to handle unique, rural dental challenges.

Access to dental services is a major healthcare issue. The American Dental Association estimates that dental issues contribute to 164 million lost work hours and 51 million lost school hours annually. And oral health deficiencies have been found to contribute to a host of other health issues. The longer one goes without dental care, the more likely that dental issue will contribute to other health issues, which then require more and often more expensive healthcare.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center report corresponds to a recent report by the National Academy for State Health Policy, which estimates that 85 million Americans lack dental coverage. The lack of coverage is most acute among low-income adults.

In rural communities, as is the case with health insurance, residents are more likely to be uninsured and this fact combined with sparser access to dental services, creates stern challenges for many small town residents in accessing adequate dental care, especially for children. Read more about Rural Areas Lacking Dentists

  • Rural Health
Weekly column

Free Resource Center for Nonprofits

Get FREE access to up-to-date information, statewide listings of trainings and events, and topical experts. Let’s Build Nebraska is a free online resource that increases the capacity, skills, and abilities of individuals assisting nonprofits, community-benefit organizations, and volunteers that strengthen the great state of Nebraska.

Let’s Build Nebraska offers:

  • An extensive resource library featuring knowledge on topics including starting a nonprofit, board development, marketing, financial management, volunteer management, and much more.
  • Access to experienced experts who specialize in the nonprofit sector and have proven success helping nonprofits build organizational capacity.
  • Links to webinars, events, and on-site training that enhances the knowledge of nonprofit professionals, board members, and volunteers.

How you can help:  Visit www.letsbuildnebraska.org or contact letsbuildne@gmail.com to become involved or be included as an expert. You can also follow Let’s Build Nebraska on Facebook, Twitter and blog.

Thank you for your support!

Submitted by Dawn M Garcia, Let's Build Nebraska Project Coordinator Read more about Free Resource Center for Nonprofits

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Op-Ed: Other utilities should buy wind energy

The Midwest gains a lot from investing in wind energy. It is a homegrown resource, and it's abundant -- Nebraska ranks third in the nation for wind energy potential.

Wind energy also offers new jobs -- in manufacturing, construction and services -- and is a welcome source of revenue for communities and landowners that host projects.

When all is said and done, investing in wind energy carries a lot of benefits that utilities and customers should want to promote and take advantage of at the same time.

The recent contract signed by Lincoln Electric System to purchase 100 megawatts of wind energy is a positive step by the utility to not only increase its renewable energy portfolio, but because it offers cheaper energy to consumers.

Wind energy has grown quite a bit as an industry, with the power and materials becoming cheaper to produce by the year, and many parts are being produced right here in the United States. In fact, in 2012, 75 percent of all parts used were produced domestically. That's a significant jump from the 25 percent made in the United States in 2007.

This local sourcing also has lead to lower prices for turbines, which decreases the overall price of wind farms and other projects. That drop in price, along with improvements in the transmission that helps move wind energy to different markets, led to cheaper wind energy. From the high point in 2009, prices have fallen from an average of $70 per megawatt hour to an average of between $20 and $40 per megawatt hour in 2012.

Right now, utilities get a great bargain from purchasing wind energy, getting it for the best price to date.

As the Lincoln Journal Star pointed to in an editorial July 26, "Lincoln Electric System should be encouraged," LES more than doubled its projected renewable energy use through this purchase, going from 11 percent by 2016 to the current projection of 23 percent. This investment means that customers will be getting a lot more of their power from renewable resources, and it increases LES' investment in a growing industry.

The rest of Nebraska's utilities would be wise to do the same.

Because of this drop in price, wind energy has become one of the most successful forms of renewable energy for the Midwest and has begun to rival fossil fuels. Coal, which has experienced a rise in price, has become more costly than wind energy.

Considering that many coal plants are aging and require expensive maintenance or upgrades, the overall cost of coal is expected to increase even further.

LES has made a wise investment for the future, and that investment will pay off for customers in the long run. While we would have preferred to see LES purchase power from wind farms here in Nebraska, we understand that the economics didn't allow for it.

What we don't understand is the reluctance on the part of the rest of Nebraska's utilities to get serious about locking in these affordable prices. Instead, they extol the virtues of fossil fuels, pretending as if we as customers are not smart enough to know that the costs -- both long-term and short-term -- aren't worth it.

We need to be bold, and we need investment in the future of our rural communities. Customers in Nebraska have a unique opportunity to reach out to their power providers, as well as elected officials that help make power purchase decisions. We can all make it known that we don't want to reinvest in something that is only going to get more expensive, especially when we have the opportunity for savings now and in the future.

  Read more about Op-Ed: Other utilities should buy wind energy

  • Clean Energy
Weekly column

Op-Ed: Transmission project supported

Recently the Nebraska Public Power District held a series of hearings to discuss a new transmission project planned for northeast Nebraska. The 40 mile line, stretching from the Hoskins area to a new substation near Neligh, is designed to improve reliability in a part of the state hit hard by the drought.

Increasing the reliability of our transmission grid is important. But expanding our electric grid also serves a role that many of us don’t consider. Today, a lack of wires is the single biggest limiting factor as we work to build wind farms in our rural counties. 

More transmission leads to more wind power. It also ensures that our rural communities can begin to benefit from the economic advantages wind energy can create.

NPPD understands this. Though what I believe to be its failure to capitalize on the economic and environmental benefits of wind energy routinely disappoints many Nebraskans, they recognize that this technology will play a role in Nebraska’s future. They know that any significant transmission expansion must enable the operation of a new generation of wind projects.  

Some are concerned that this project might also provide electricity needed to power pumping stations along the Keystone XL pipeline. We know that the Hoskins to Neligh line isn’t being built expressly for that purpose. Might some of the electricity delivered on this line be used for that purpose? It’s hard to tell. Once electricity makes its way to the grid, it’s close to impossible to pinpoint where it’s going and how it might be used

The Center for Rural Affairs uses a core set of principles when evaluating whether a transmission project deserves our support. Will the project enable wind generation? Has the developer sought out the input of each local community? Will affected landowners be compensated fairly?  In this case, the answer is yes. We support the Hoskins-Neligh transmission project.  

  • Clean Energy
Weekly column

Effective Messaging to Rural Voters

What would small town and rural Americans like to hear from organizations and elected officials about the issues facing their communities? How do they see the role of government in addressing small town and rural issues? We provide some insights in a new analysis, Lessons for Advocates in Small Town and Rural PollThe analysis explores these questions and more:

How many of us would like to run our own farm or business? Lots! Over half said "owning my own business or farm is a big part of the American dream for me." Entrepreneurial communities that support aspirations for people to own their own business will be attractive to a large segment of rural and small town Americans.

What do we think about government help for small business and beginning farmers? Rural Americans hold very strong support for investments in small business development and other forms of community and economic development. That support extends to beginning farmers. Over 85% of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents favor helping "small and owner-operated businesses and farms get started and grow through loans, tax credits, and training."

What do folks who don’t farm think about cutting farm programs to invest in small towns and rural communities? We found bipartisan support for shifts from big farms to broader rural and small town programs. But we found little support, irrespective of party affiliation, for across-the-board cuts in farm programs to fund rural development.

How do we feel about help for the working poor? Rural Americans are very responsive to messages that advocate assistance to the working poor. Six in 10 say government has some or a lot of responsibility to help the working poor advance economically. About half of Republicans and over 60% of Independents agree.
 
Check out our new report and the topline polling data at cfra.org/rural-poll.

  Read more about Effective Messaging to Rural Voters

  • Small BusinessSmall Business Policy
  • Small TownsCommunity Development
Newsletter

Scholarships Now Available for Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Our friends at the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) office of Nebraska will help up to 20 female  environmental or sustainable agriculture educators from Nebraska attend the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture to be held Nov 6-8th in Des Moines. 

Applicants don't need to be formal teachers. Field personnel, community sustainability facilitators, grad students - a range of vocations and avocations from committed women will be considered. Scholarships will be for $250 ($125 deducted from up-front registration costs, and the remainder to be rebated after attendance and evaluation forms are received). Find details on Scholarships here

This conference has not previously been held west of Pennsylvania. Do NOT miss this local chance to enjoy 42 breakouts, the company of like-minded, dedicated women, arts events, fantastic field trips, locally grown food, and inspiring national keynote speakers!

Contact Carol at the Women Food & Agriculture Network, 641.430.2540 or carol@wfan.org, with any questions. Scholarship applications are due before Sept. 20! Read more about Scholarships Now Available for Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
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Op-Ed: Legislature leaves much work unfinished

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned their 2013 session without so much as taking a vote on one of the most significant issues before them - a bill to expand health coverage to 54,000 low-income working Nebraskans.

Senator Kathy Campbell, a Republican, advanced a bill that won the support of a clear majority of senators - Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. Polling shows that a majority of Nebraskans support the policy. An AARP poll during the legislative session found that 55% of Nebraskans favor extending Medicaid to low-income, working adults who aren’t eligible now (as provided for in LB 577). A recent Center for Rural Affairs poll found that 65% of rural Americans, including rural Nebraskans, favor assisting the working poor with affording the necessities of life with Medicaid coverage for healthcare.

Senator Campbell’s proposal allows the state to accept funds available under the Affordable Care Act to enroll low-income working Nebraskans in the Medicaid program. The proposal is especially important to rural Nebraskans, who are more likely to be uninsured than their urban counterparts.

The proposal is fiscally smart for Nebraska too. The cost is fully paid for with federal funds for the first three years, gradually decreasing to 90% after that. The legislature’s fiscal office found that the proposal saves the state money over the next two fiscal years and eliminates several state programs.

Business-friendly groups agree. Bloomberg News and Moody’s Investor Service wrote that the policy is good for businesses and good for hospitals. The new program will return up to $3.5 billion to Nebraska through 2020 and create tens of thousands of good jobs in health services, not to mention over $1 billion that currently insured Nebraskans will save because less uncompensated healthcare for the uninsured would no longer be shifted to those with insurance.

At the same time, Moody’s warns that hospitals in states that do not expand Medicaid could have credit rating problems and face higher interest rates.
But commonsense and bipartisan support was not enough to overcome politically crass opposition to the bill. Debate on the bill stalled after 17 members in the 49 member body filibustered the bill. Aware that the bill had strong majority support, opponents took the unusual step of demanding a 2:1 super-majority to cut off debate. They refused to even allow a vote on the bill.

That is unfortunate in Nebraska where the nonpartisan unicameral is usually a refreshing relief from the partisan trickery and gridlock in Washington. For generations, Nebraskans have put good governance ahead of party loyalty.

Without this bill, low-income working Nebraskans in poverty will fall into a health care gap. Most don’t qualify for the current Medicaid program, and they also won’t qualify for federal credits that will make health insurance affordable for middle-income Americans.

This health care gap is real. The jobs that the Medicaid expansion would create are real.

A handful of legislators should not stand between bipartisan majorities to block health care coverage for tens of thousands of our low-income, working friends, neighbors, and family members.

You and I elect legislators to make decisions, not just when it is easy, not just when it is popular, but when the stakes are high and the outcome controversial. Nebraskans deserve legislators who finish the job.

Luckily for us, as the political dust-up clears, the legislature can take Campbell’s proposal up as their first order of business next January. With 54,000 working Nebraskans without healthcare coverage until they act, we will be working hard to bring the issue to a vote. Read more about Op-Ed: Legislature leaves much work unfinished

  • Rural Health
Weekly column

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