Lawmakers override veto on social service payments

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April 3rd, 2012

Lincoln, NE – On Tuesday the Legislature overrode Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto of payments to social service agencies who went unpaid during child welfare privatization.

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The veto override concerned $2.5 million worth of claims from social service agencies across the state. The agencies provided services for children who were state wards. But they were subcontractors, and were not paid by the contractor Boys and Girl’s Homes, one of the so-called “lead agencies” hired by the state to handle child welfare privatization. Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop argued that they should be paid, and used a personal analogy:

Senator Steve Lathrop argued that social services agencies should be paid (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

“If I take my daughter into the hospital and I give them my insurance card and they take her appendix out and the bill comes and at the same time the bill comes the insurance company calls me up and says ‘I’m bankrupt. I don’t have the means to pay it.’ I’m a parent. I still owe the bill. And, when we take in a ward we really are, statutorily and practically, in the position of a parent.”

In his veto message, the governor said the proposed payments were unconstitutional. But Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff supported the override, saying the agencies affected served parts of the state without other providers.

“If we support the governor, then we’ve just destroyed many parts of rural Nebraska in providing services.”

Sen. John Nelson of Omaha supported the governor’s veto.

“I haven’t heard anyone here say that the children were not cared for they were that was done by the subcontractors, weather voluntarily or involuntarily. We had a duty to pay the contractors Boys and Girl’s Homes and I maintain that we did, that was our duty. We don’t have a duty to pay twice or to pay indefinitely because someone lost some money.”

Nelson predicted an override would result in a lawsuit that the state would lose. Nevertheless, senators voted 31-12 to override the veto.

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