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Greetings Northeast Lincoln!
This legislative session, I have introduced 20 bills. All 20 received a public hearing over the last three months, and nine bills have been advanced out of committee. My priority bill, LB259, has advanced to the second round of debate, and LB113 has been approved by the Governor.
This session, I have designated LB259 as my personal priority bill. This bill will serve as an update of our criminal court procedures. I have been working with stakeholders such as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and court administrators to make efficient and fair use of our court system. LB 259 was generated as a way to potentially solve a problem that Lancaster County shared with me and my fellow Lancaster County senators in a presentation last fall. At that presentation our county jail administrator shared with us his concerns about the ever increasing costs of the county jail. Much of this cost was coming from people who did not necessarily need to be in jail: people awaiting trial for minor offenses who are sitting in jail in lieu of paying fines. LB 259 is my attempt to fix that, and I am glad to have the support of Lancaster County on this issue. This is an opportunity for us to eliminate unnecessary financial burdens on our Counties.
LB 259 is also part of a continued effort to remedy the fact that people are currently sitting in our county jails based on a lack of income. Currently in Nebraska, you can be sentenced to jail to “sit out” a fine if you are unable or unwilling to pay the fines and court costs. The current rate that someone is credited per day to “sit out” their fine is $90. What we are seeing is people having to sit out their fines in jail for a crime that carries no jail time, due to their lack of income. This is both bad and expensive public policy. Based on our research, over 2,800 people spent a total 55,961 nights in jail in fiscal year 2014-15, for a grand total of $5.6 million dollars. This expense to our counties is in addition to the loss of revenue of the unpaid court fines and fees. LB259 provides judges options for sentencing indigent defendants that avoid this problem: payment via an installment plan, reducing or eliminating costs, or sentencing them to perform community service. LB 259 ensures defendants are still fulfilling their obligation to society, while not sitting needlessly in jail based on their income. LB 259 is supported by the Omaha City Attorney, the Douglas County Public Defender, and the Nebraska Bar Association, and was advanced to the second round of debate on April 19th.
Last month, I had a great opportunity to talk with students and families at the Dawes Middle School CLC Community Night with State Senator Adam Morfeld.
We had some tough questions posed to us, like “How do we decide to fund our schools?” and “Are you ready to be replaced by robots yet?” Thank you to all who attended and to Dawes for inviting us.
I was also invited to a meeting of the Kiwanis Club at the Cotner Community Center. We had a great conversation about the Legislature and I was happy to attend.
Thanks to everyone who has called, sent letters, e-mailed, or stopped by our office to share your views! We hope you’ll continue to let us know what is important to you. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at (402) 471-2610 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you! As always, thanks for reading.