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2017 Legislative Session Recap
The first session of the 105th Legislature adjourned early, on May 23rd. The session was scheduled to adjourn on June 2nd, but due in large part to having heard all of the priority bills and finalizing the budget, Speaker Scheer announced we would adjourn early. The interim has now begun, and we are keeping busy attending meetings, traveling, and preparing for interim studies. In this newsletter, I’ve recapped the bills my office passed this session and the interim studies we introduced and will be working on. This session, the following bills that I introduced were passed: LB113, LB259, and LB519. The contents of my bill LB145 were amended into LB259, bringing the grand total up to four bills passed during the first session of the 105th Legislature.
My priority bill, LB259, was advanced to the Governor’s Desk on May 8th, and approved by the Governor on May 12th. LB259 aims to eliminate unnecessary financial burdens on our counties by allowing individuals who are sitting in jail in order to pay off debts the opportunity to pay via an installment plan or perform community service. Often, people who commit a crime that carries no jail time are sentenced to pay a fine and court costs. When they are unable to pay this fine, they “sit out” the fine in jail, and are credited $90 a day. This creates a burden on the jail and the county, as they end up losing money. I introduced LB259 in order to rectify this expensive public policy, and I am grateful to my colleagues for their support on this issue. Portions of my bill, LB145, were amended into LB259.
LB113 was designed to change population threshold provisions relating to municipalities and eliminate obsolete provisions. The bill updated statutes that reference city population thresholds and adds clarifying language. LB113 was the result of the findings of LR526, an interim study conducted by the Urban Affairs Committee during the 2016 interim, and was supported by the League of Municipalities and the City of Lincoln. It was signed by the Governor on March 29th.
My bill, LB519, was placed on the consent calendar this year. Consent calendar is a term for a portion of our legislative agenda that is set by the Speaker, and includes non-controversial legislation. The idea behind the consent calendar is to pass consensus bills which do not need much debate more efficiently. I introduced LB519 in order to treat government employers the same way as private employers in regards to paying the unemployment benefits of a newly hired employee. I am very glad this legislation was included on the consent calendar agenda, and appreciate my fellow senators’ votes on LB519. LB519 was approved by the Governor on May 22nd.
My staff and I have selected a few issues to study more in depth over the interim in order to inform our legislative proposals for the upcoming session. To that end, I have introduced LR219, LR220, and LR221. LR219 is an interim study to examine the effectiveness of the Nebraska state statute that relates to the imposition of bail, and the relevant statutes which relate to the imposition of fines, fees, and court costs. Our hope is that an interim study will help us propose legislation to enhance the effectiveness of these programs. LR220 is an interim study to investigate the purpose and benefits of creating conviction integrity units in Nebraska. Conviction integrity units, or CIUs, are divisions which work to prevent, identify, and correct false convictions. Finally, LR221 is an interim study to examine possible reforms to Nebraska’s sentencing laws to accommodate an option of deferred judgment probation.
American Civil Liberties Union Visit
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the ACLU of Nebraska and chat with Executive Director Danielle Conrad and lobbyist Spike Eickholt. We talked about the legislative session, namely, good legislation that was passed, legislation that was stopped, and our goals, separately and collectively, for the next legislative session. The entire Facebook live conversation can be viewed on their Facebook page, ACLU of Nebraska, here. I’m appreciative of the opportunity to discuss important policy with the ACLU, and thank them for their invitation.
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.