Child welfare reform takes another hit State workers will resume care of the nearly 3,000 foster children served by the Boys and Girls Home after the company terminated its child welfare contract last week, citing a funding shortfall. Three of the five lead child welfare contracts have been terminated since the state moved to privatize care last November. Kathy Bigsby Moore, executive director of Voices for Children in Nebraska, has consistently argued the state failed to consider administrative costs, funding only costs for services. “We had recommended a more gradual roll out, perhaps piloting it in one area of the state and learning lessons from that,” Bigsby Moore says. “That didn’t happen. It was full steam ahead from the beginning.” Nebraska Families Collaborative and KVC are the only private providers still under contract. Bigsby Moore says the state should use those companies to determine precise costs of child welfare services. “The governor needs to look very, very carefully at what has occurred,” Bigsby Moore says. “I firmly believe that there has to be more dollars or that the dollars need to be distributed differently.” State first to limit abortions based on controversial rationale: fetal pain Nebraska doctors will no longer be able to perform abortions on fetuses older than 20 weeks, when a new law takes effect Oct. 15. Introduced by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, the Abortion Pain Prevention Act is the first law of its kind to use pain as a threshold for banning abortions. Previous Supreme Court decisions were based on viability for life outside the womb — estimated at 22 to 26 weeks — as the determining factor. The state claims “substantial evidence” collected in conjunction with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision shows a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Opponents argue a comprehensive 2005 American Medical Association study proves fetal pain is unlikely to be felt before 28 weeks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents 90 percent of board-certified obstetricians and gynecologists, says there is no solid evidence of pain at 20 weeks. The law also requires physicians to report the age, length and weight of aborted fetuses. Physicians voluntarily submitted age and size statistics on just one of 2,551 abortion reports filed with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2009. Sen. Mike Johanns is already pushing the debate to the federal level. Last week, he re-introduced the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require doctors to tell women of the 20-week pain threshold before performing an abortion. Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah already have similar state laws in place. Previous versions of the bill were defeated in 2005 and 2007. White and Terry talk partisan politics and the League of Women Voters of Omaha hosted an online question and answer session with Congressional candidates Lee Terry and Tom White on Sept. 15. Each week leading up to the November election, we will excerpt a question and the candidates’ answers here. Question: How do you bridge the divisive line of partisan politics? White: We can bridge the divide by looking for common ground focusing on the merits of ideas, rather than whether they come from Democrats or Republicans. We should find issues that no American should disagree with, and then solve them … To me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Republican idea or a Democratic idea, but whether it’s a good idea. Terry: When working on legislation, I often enlist the help of my Democratic colleagues in order to produce a bipartisan product … Together, we have authored legislation on everything from energy policy to telecommunications policy to consumer protection measures. For the complete Q&A visit Suttle toughens up against recall effort Mayor Jim Suttle called the latest recall effort “expensive, divisive, and reckless” in a statement submitted to the Douglas County Election Commission last week. The statement will appear on the recall petitions circulated by the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee later this month. It was a noticeably tougher tone than the one Suttle used when questioning the estimated $900,000 cost of an effort led by former state senator Lowen Kruse, who plans to use the recall process to stimulate conversation about the city’s problems — not to recall the mayor. But the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee is serious about removing the Democrat from office. The group’s spokesperson, Jeremy Aspen, says, “We will be happy to read Mayor Suttle’s words to petition signers, as is required by law, because it will reinforce one of our key reasons for the recall — namely that the mayor is out of touch with the voters.” The committee will begin collecting the nearly 27,000 signatures needed to force a revote in late October. No taxation without deliberation Mayor Jim Suttle thought he balanced the 2011 budget when the City Council approved new commuter and restaurant taxes in August, but some groups aren’t quite ready to foot the bill. Sarpy County is leading the charge against the $50 wheel tax on commuters. State Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue started working last week on legislation to block cities from imposing such fees. She said Omaha’s tax could lead other cities to impose wheel fees, creating confusion for taxpayers. Earlier in September, the Bellevue City Council voted to formally oppose the fee, which Omaha officials estimate would generate $2.8 million next year. The Omaha Restaurant Association went to court last week to try to stop the 2.5 percent restaurant tax one day before it was scheduled to take effect. Douglas County District Judge Marlon Polk denied the request, saying the restaurants didn’t face irreparable harm. The tax will generate an estimated $14.8 million, according to the city. Shooting Rounds Maurice Davis-Abram, 20, was wounded in a drive-by shooting Sept. 28 near 40th and Lake St. Michael Mitchell, 18, survived after being shot Saturday afternoon near 16th and Locust St. Police have made no arrests in either shooting. —Brandon Vogel

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