NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Dan Watermeier

Sen. Dan Watermeier

District 1

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Legislative Update

March 8th, 2013

The Legislature began debate on a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize wagering on prerecorded or “historic” horse races that are replayed at licensed racetracks on video terminals. If Legislative Resolution 41 is approved by the Legislature, it would be placed on the November 2014 general election ballot, allowing voters to make the final decision.

Senators passed a bill last year dealing with the same horse racing issue, however, the Governor vetoed the bill and the motion to override the veto fell just short of the votes required. In his veto message, Governor Heineman inferred that the bill might be constitutionally suspect. Therefore, Senator Scott Lautenbaugh introduced a constitutional amendment this year to remove all doubt that wagering on such races is constitutional.

Proponents pointed out that this proposal would help the horse racing industry that has been struggling for a number of years and would preserve thousands of jobs. They also stressed the relationship between horse racing and agriculture. Opponents countered that this proposal represents expanded gambling and that the terminals are very similar to slot machines. They state that the horse racing industry is dying and efforts should not be made to extend its life. Opponents vowed to filibuster LR 41CA at every stage of debate, if necessary.

In 2008, the Legislature passed a law requiring all indoor places of employment and public places to be smoke-free. The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on LB 630, which would require licensed in-home day care facilities to be smoke-free at all times, not just while the day care facility is open. Additionally, LB 630 would prohibit smoking in a motor vehicle that is used to transport children for a licensed child care provider. Proponents of the bill emphasized the harmful effects of residual smoke.

This past week, I introduced LB 588 before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. This legislation would create awareness of and update a process in current statute that gives preference to eligible veterans when seeking employment with the state or its governmental subdivisions. The law currently provides that veterans who obtain passing scores on all parts of an examination shall have 5% added to their score if a claim for such preference is made on the application. An additional 5% is added to the passing score of any disabled veteran. The current program was put in place more than 40 years ago. When enacted, civil service exams were common, making the additional point system applicable.

Language taken from state personnel rules would be added to the current statutes, under an amendment that I offered at the public hearing on LB 588. This language states that if an examination or numerical scoring is not used, preference would be granted to the qualifying veteran if there are two or more equally qualified candidates for a position. LB 588 also proposes to allow spouses of veterans with a 100% service-connected disability to receive veterans preference and requires that necessary documentation to prove veteran status and disability status be submitted. Furthermore, the bill requires that all notices and applications must state that the position is subject to a veterans preference and requires that veterans be notified if not hired within 30 days of the position being filled.

When a veteran serves our country, not only are they placed in potential danger, they also must be away from home for extended periods of time, creating many hardships. When they return, they should not be penalized for their lack of job experience or education during the time they served. The intent behind LB 588 is to help resolve the relatively high unemployment rate, especially among our younger veterans. I feel that our state needs to do what we can to assist our veterans, who have given unselfishly of themselves for our country. Updating the veterans preference statutes, to make them more relevant, functional and accessible is one simple step we can take.

Again, I welcome your thoughts and opinions on these and other issues that are before the Legislature. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is dwatermeier@leg.ne.gov and my telephone number is (402) 471-2733.

Sen. Dan Watermeier

District 1
Room #2000
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2733
Email: dwatermeier@leg.ne.gov
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