A culture of life. It’s part of what makes Nebraska the best place to live, work and raise a family. This culture is evident in the way we care for each other and look out for our neighbors. You can see it in how Nebraskans step up and care for our most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and disabled. It’s manifested in the work of volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life prayer vigils held across our state each year.
As governor, I have worked to support initiatives that protect and strengthen the culture of life that Nebraskans embody. Life is precious, and public officials have a duty to stand up and be a voice for the unborn and most vulnerable.
This year, I had the privilege of signing LB46 into law. This bill was introduced by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse to create the “Choose Life” license plate. This license plate bill is the first pro-life legislation signed into law in years. This plate is a specialty license plate, which Nebraskans can choose to purchase as an alternative to our standard license plate. The “Choose Life” license plate gives Nebraskans the opportunity to express their values as they travel around Nebraska and across the nation.
This week, Sen. Watermeier and I unveiled the design for the plate. The plate depicts a mother and her child walking into a Nebraska sunrise. I know that the design will spark fond memories of parents and their loved ones. With the creation of the plate, Nebraska joins 29 other states that offer “Choose Life” license plates. You can see the design by visiting www.Governor.Nebraska.gov and access information about how to order one of the plates.
This year, I also signed another pro-life bill into law. LB506 introduced by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston adopted the “Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act.” This legislation is helping provide essential information regarding perinatal hospice care to pregnant women who are diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly. Before this legislation, many parents were provided minimal options when given a serious medical diagnosis during the early stages of a pregnancy. Unfortunately, most women and their families are not aware of the compassionate care available to them through perinatal hospice services. Nebraska is the first state to pass legislation requiring information on hospice to be provided at the time of diagnosis.
In addition to these legislative initiatives, my administration has also worked to build a more effective and efficient state government that delivers a high level of customer service. How we deliver a service communicates a respect for the dignity of the people we serve and makes a real difference in the quality of life for our most vulnerable Nebraskans.
In the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), we have made great strides in improving the level of service for our customers. Our call centers for Medicaid services and economic assistance have reduced call wait times from 24 minutes to an average of just five minutes. Why does this matter? Imagine being a low-income Nebraskan with a prepaid phone that has 45 minutes on it. Now imagine spending over half of those minutes on hold. What does that do to your quality of life? Faster response times not only improve the customer experience, but are also helping ensure that we are serving only people who qualify and need our help.
Serving Nebraskans with developmental disabilities is another one of DHHS’ key responsibilities. Under my administration, we have reduced the amount of paperwork families have to complete to determine eligibility for the state’s developmental disability services. We streamlined the application from 14 pages to three pages. Additionally, we have accelerated the process for approving new providers who help deliver these services. Originally, it took 163 days to review prospective providers, and now we’re completing approvals in 49 days.
These are just a few examples of how we are working to support and protect Nebraska’s culture of life. We aren’t finished — there is more work to do. Whether Nebraskans are expressing their pro-life values through their license plate or volunteering at a local pregnancy clinic, we’re always working to grow our respect for life here in the Good Life.