Leaders present research and solutions, looking for opportunities at Issue Cafes

Issue Cafe in February provide opportunity for leaders to share research on key issues and develop relationships for lasting change

Mental Health Panel on February 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.


  • Moderator Paul Feilman, mental health activist
  • 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

Unicameral Update on February 18

Jo Giles from the Coaltion for a Strong Nebraska presented about several bills currently in the State Unicameral related to current issue areas that IPL is helping OTOC leaders work on. IPL is a member of of the Coalition that helps nonprofits learn how to engage elected officials, especially at the Nebraska state level, on policy issues. Learn more about their work here.

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.


  • 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.

Payday Lending on February 11

Leaders presented about a ballot initiative to limit the interest rates on payday loans. Learn more here

Healthy Housing on February 4

The Housing Coalition that secured the 2019 proactive Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance 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 then broke 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.