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Two weeks of public hearings have been completed. All 655 bills that were introduced will be scheduled for a public hearing by March 21. This past week, senators began meeting as a body in the mornings to discuss the legislation that has already advanced from the various committees. The first few days were spent giving first round approval to primarily noncontroversial bills, including two bills that I introduced. The first bill that encountered some extended debate was LB 125, which proposes to reduce the Omaha School Board from 12 to 9 members.
Every senator spends their afternoons in the various committees to which they are assigned. On Monday and Tuesday, I sit on the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, on the Health and Human Services Committee.
Last week, HHS Committee members listened to lengthy testimony on both sides of LB 132, the Skin Cancer Prevention Act. This legislation proposes to ban those under 18 years of age from using tanning equipment at a tanning facility. Any operator of a tanning facility who allows a person under the age of 18 to use tanning equipment would be guilty of a Class V misdemeanor. For several days this past week, I received at least 50 e-mails a day in support of this bill.
Proponents of LB 132 quoted from a National Cancer Institute report that showed the number of melanoma cases for young women between the ages of 15 and 39 increased as much as 50% from 1980 to 2004. It is believed that the spike in malignant melanoma in young women is due in part to their rising use as adolescents of commercial indoor tanning facilities. Ultraviolet radiation is categorized by the World Health Organization, FDA, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the highest risk category, calling the practice “carcinogenic to humans”, a distinction shared with asbestos and arsenic. The American Medical Association recommends that no one under the age of 18 expose their skin to artificially generated ultraviolet radiation. Supporters reminded committee members that tobacco use, which is also associated with cancer, is illegal for persons under 18 years of age.
If LB 132 were to pass, opponents pointed out that the law would be the most extreme law in the country regulating indoor tanning. Currently only two states ban indoor tanning for persons under 18 and the penalties are less severe in those two states than under LB 132. Opponents countered that no experimental data exists to show a causative connection between indoor tanning and melanoma. They feel that it is more of a competitive issue with dermatologists than a public health issue. Opponents responded that young people would instead tan more aggressively outdoors or use home tanning devices with no supervision if the ban were in place. They also questioned whether the government should get involved in such issues.
This past week, a public hearing was held on LB 216 by the HHS Committee. The purpose of this legislation is to support former state wards in transitioning to adulthood. Testifiers related their personal experiences of trying to make it on their own without adult support or guidance. Under the bill, a program would be created for young adults in foster care when they reach the age of 19 to provide for extended support services, such as medical care, housing support and case management services, until they reach 21 years of age. To qualify for the program, young adults would have to be attending school or be employed. It is estimated that the program could cost more than $3 million per year, although beginning in 2014, Medicaid expenses of former foster care children up to 26 years of age will be covered under the federal health care reform law.
Although the public hearing has been held on both of these bills, the HHS Committee has taken no action on either of them at this time. I predict that there will be more work done on both issues, prior to committee members discussing their advancement.
Again, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions on the issues before the Legislature. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my telephone number is (402) 471-2733.