Week thirteen of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 54 through 57 of the 90-day session.
On Monday, the Legislature debated LB 339, a bill that would merge the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads and create the Department of Transportation. Through this consolidation, there will be a savings realized by the state of Nebraska in your tax dollars. This legislation advanced to Select File by a 40-0 vote. I voted in favor of this bill.
Both of the Agriculture Committee’s priority bills for this session were debated last week. On Tuesday, the Legislature gave first round approval to LB 600, which makes revisions to the Nebraska Brand Law. On Thursday, LB 276 was advanced to select file. LB 276 updates statutes that define hybrid seed corn. The standards in current law have remained largely unchanged since they were first put in place eighty years ago. We added an amendment to answer questions regarding the existing enforcement in statute. The amendment used longstanding language applied in many other areas of legislation related to agriculture.
The Legislature also advanced LB 289 to Select File. This bill would place into statute harsher penalties for individuals convicted of sex-trafficking and those who solicit trafficking victims. Also, the bill provides immunity for trafficking victims so that they cannot be prosecuted as participants, as they were coerced into trafficking. LB 289 was designated by the Judiciary Committee as one of its priority bills, and the committee had four other bills related to sexual assault or domestic violence amended into it. One such bill, that I was a co-sponsor of, is LB 188. This legislation allows victims of rape to terminate the parental rights of the perpetrator if the child was conceived as a result of a sexual assault. LB 289 advanced to Select File 42-0. I voted in favor of this bill.
The Legislature also advanced LB 444 to Select File. This bill would prohibit cities and counties from canceling health insurance coverage for first responders who suffer serious bodily injury from an assault that occurs while the first responder is on duty, and as long as the first responder continues to be employed by the city or county. As defined in the bill, a first responder is a sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, firefighter, or an individual who is licensed under a licensure classification in section 38-1217, who provides medical care in order to prevent loss of life or aggravation of physiological or psychological illness or injury. Currently, a first responder could suffer serious bodily injury from an assault while on duty and then fall below the minimum number of hours of employment needed to maintain health insurance. Proponents maintained that first responders selflessly sacrifice their own well-being to secure the safety of the community and should not be in danger of losing health care for themselves and their family while carrying out their job. While opponents did not disagree with that argument and also lauded the sacrifices of first responders, they were concerned about passing more unfunded mandates onto less populated counties and townships, who rely on already overburdened local property taxpayers for their budgets. Nothing prevents a county or township from implementing a policy that extends health insurance for injured first responders on its own, and Nebraskans throughout our rural communities are outstanding in demonstrating their generosity to assist those in need without it being state-mandated. For those reasons I was hesitant to support this bill on the first round of debate.
We want to extend a thank you to Dr. Natalie Tymkowych of West Point for serving again as the Family Physician of the day at the Legislature. Lastly, the Tekamah-Herman fourth graders visited their state capitol building on Wednesday and had the opportunity to witness their Legislature in action.
Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.