Sen. Colby Coash
District 27

LR350 – Recognize and honor correctional facility staff in Nebraska who demonstrate great courage and diligence in their work

May 28th, 2015


Introduced by Coash, 27; Baker, 30; Bloomfield, 17; Bolz, 29; Brasch, 16;
Campbell, 25; Chambers, 11; Cook, 13; Craighead, 6; Crawford, 45;
Davis, 43; Ebke, 32; Friesen, 34; Garrett, 3; Gloor, 35; Groene,
42; Haar, 21; Hadley, 37; Hansen, 26; Harr, 8; Hilkemann, 4;
Howard, 9; Hughes, 44; Johnson, 23; Kintner, 2; Kolowski, 31;
Kolterman, 24; Krist, 10; Kuehn, 38; Larson, 40; Lindstrom, 18;
McCollister, 20; McCoy, 39; Mello, 5; Morfeld, 46; Murante, 49;
Nordquist, 7; Pansing Brooks, 28; Riepe, 12; Scheer, 19; Schilz,
47; Schnoor, 15; Schumacher, 22; Seiler, 33; Smith, 14; Stinner,
48; Sullivan, 41; Watermeier, 1; Williams, 36.

WHEREAS, the staff of the Department of Correctional Services are

committed and dedicated state employees who command respect and admiration for

their exemplary contribution and service on behalf of others; and

WHEREAS, correctional facility staff put their lives on the line to keep

Nebraskans safe; and

WHEREAS, correctional facility staff perform a variety of duties to

maintain public safety; and

WHEREAS, it is the sense of the Legislature that correctional facility

staff should be recognized for their selfless acts of bravery and for putting

themselves in harm’s way every day; and

WHEREAS, it is the sense of the Legislature that these committed public

servants who unselfishly dedicate their lives to working in a correctional

facility are worthy of and due full praise for their commitment to making

Nebraska safer.



1. The Legislature recognizes and honors correctional facility staff in

Nebraska who demonstrate great courage and diligence in their work.

2. The Legislature recognizes correctional facility staff for their

efforts to create a safer community and expresses its strong support for the

state’s correctional facility staff.

3. That a copy of this resolution be sent to Scott Frakes, director of the

Department of Correctional Services.

Senators get their pro wrestling names with support of bill

April 29th, 2015


The future of professional wrestling is (somewhat) secure in Nebraska. State senators now have their official Capitol Wrestling Federation names.

Galen “Hammerhead” Hadley, Bill “King Kong” Kintner, “Lawless” Tyson Larson, Heath “Money Bags” Mello, Patty “The Punisher” Pansing Brooks, Ernie “Lion Whisperer” Chambers.

Lincoln Sen. Colby “Captain Chaos” Coash issued the names Wednesday before he introduced a bill (LB291) on the Legislature’s consent calendar. The bill would remove professional wrestling from the jurisdiction of the state athletic commissioner.

During discussion of the bill, Coash apologized to any children in the balconies or the listening audience as he broke this news.

“In case anyone is unaware of this and Captain Chaos is telling you this for the first time, here is the hard truth: Professional wrestling is not a real sport,” Coash said. “It is not a competitive sport. It is no different than a scripted play or musical act that you would see at the Lied Center, Sokol Auditorium or Norfolk Community Center.”

Professional wrestling has more in common with Cirque du Soleil or the Ringling Bros. Circus, he said.

The point of the bill, brought to the Legislature on behalf of the Pinnacle Bank Arena, Omaha’s CenturyLink Center and for professional wrestling fans across the state, is to remove the Athletic Commission’s 5 percent tax on gross revenue on the broadcast fee for live televised events. That’s exclusive of state and federal taxes.

The bill would help ensure live professional wrestling events like WWE Monday Night Raw and Thursday Night Smackdown return to Nebraska, he said. Professional wrestling has a huge fan base in the state, and “incredible market appeal.”

“Captain Chaos has it on good authority that WWE may not send live entertainment events back to Nebraska because of the additional tax placed on ticket sales that goes toward the State Athletic Commission,” he said.

Last year, two professional wrestling events sold out in Omaha and Lincoln, and the WWE had to fork over $60,000 of revenue, he said.

It would be a travesty, Coash said, if new generations of wrestlers the likes of Macho Man Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior, Captain Lou Albano and Hulk Hogan never have the opportunity to provide live entertainment to Nebraskans.

As Coash distributed their own list of names he told senators: “Feel free to speak in the third person and refer to colleagues accordingly for the rest of the day — or session.”

The bill advanced on a 42-0 vote.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature

April 20th, 2015

High school students are invited to take on the role of state senators at the Unicameral Youth Legislature June 7-10. At the State Capitol, student senators will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

Registrants are encouraged to apply for a Speaker Greg Adams Civic Scholarship award, which covers the full cost of admission. Applicants must submit a short essay. Other $100 scholarships are also available. The application deadline is May 15th.

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Extension 4-H Youth Development Office coordinates housing and recreational activities as part of the Big Red Summer Camps program.

To learn more about the program, go to or call the Unicameral Information Office (402) 471-0764. The deadline for registration is May 15.

Editorial, 4/17: Accuracy imperative in abuse registry

April 20th, 2015


A bill introduced by Sen. Colby Coash on the child abuse registry has not yet become law, but the senator from Lincoln has already done a world of good for scores of children who had been placed there incorrectly.

Thanks to Coash, state officials discovered that some youths had been placed on the registry when they were still infants.

“It was unbelievable to me that any child just a few months old can be listed as a perpetrator of an abuse or crime,” Coash said.

When Coash reviewed the current list last fall, he learned that four children under the age of 1 and 87 children aged 11 or younger were on the list. Between 1985 and 2013, nine infants had been placed on the list.

When the department found the errors, they began working to remove the children from the list. All children age 4 and under were removed by January. Work continues to clean up the records.

The reason for the errors included birth dates that were entered incorrectly, confusion with a parent by the same name or because a statute had been interpreted incorrectly.

In many cases, Coash noted, those who were placed on the registry as youngsters might not know of any problem.

The registry is used for pre-employment and volunteer background checks, license approvals for child care and youth programs, approval for adoption and placement of children in foster homes.

“Someday those children become adults, and something that was part of their past is going to come back and haunt them and they won’t even know if until they try to get a job or apply for a license to be a dental hygienist,” he said.

Coash wants to set up a process to ensure that mistakes are detected and corrected before they do damage.

His bill (LB292) would ensure that no child 11 or younger would be placed on the registry and that all minors on the list will get a mandatory hearing to consider whether the record should be expunged within six months of the minor turning 19.

The mandatory hearing would provide no guarantee that the record would be expunged, but it would ensure that the child was notified and given a chance to explain the circumstances under which their name was put on the list. The Department of Health and Human Services is supporting the bill.

A legislative colleague, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, told the Unicameral Update that Coash had “gone above and beyond.” She nailed it. Coash deserves praise for a job well done.

Senator working to correct errors on child abuse registry

April 13th, 2015

April 10, 2015 6:00 pm • By JOANNE YOUNG | LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

In August, Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash sent a question to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

How many youths have been placed on the department’s central registry of child abuse and neglect because they are considered offenders?

The answer surprised him, and the ages of some of those youths stunned him further.

Between 1985 and 2013, nine of those placed on the registry were infants. Nine were toddlers, 10 more were preschoolers and nine were kindergarten age.

In total, 128 children 12 and younger and 2,227 aged 13 to 18 were on the registry as of Sept. 15.

“It was unbelievable to me that any child just a few months old can be listed as a perpetrator of an abuse or a crime,” Coash said.

He set to work crafting a bill (LB292) that would ensure no child 11 or younger would be put on the registry and that all minors on the registry would get a mandatory hearing to consider expunging the record within six months of turning 19.

The bill advanced to a second round of consideration Friday on a 28-0 vote.

“Branding a child as a child abuser on the basis of his or her juvenile adjudication is directly at odds with the spirit of Nebraska’s juvenile code,” Coash said.

The proposed mandatory hearing wouldn’t guarantee a youth’s name would be expunged, he said. It would just give them an opportunity to explain the circumstance.

The state’s child abuse registry contains records of individuals who the department or the courts find responsible for abuse and neglect of a child or vulnerable adult.

The registry is used for pre-employment and volunteer background checks, license approvals for child care and youth programs, approvals for placement of children in foster care or adoption and to collect statistical data.

HHS staff told Coash many mistakes had been made over the years in placing children on the registry, and they are working diligently to remove many of the records.

HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said some minors, for example those who are parents and abuse their children or those who abuse other, usually younger, children, should be on the registry.

But some of them are there because of data entry errors of birth dates, or the listing of a child rather than a parent with the same name. Some are there because a statute was misinterpreted.

The department supported the bill at its hearing and is reviewing all of the cases involving minors, Osterman said.

Coash said no review of those records had been required in the past, and without his inquiry last summer, all those infants, toddlers and preschoolers would still be on the registry. All children 4 and younger were removed from the registry as of January.

“We can protect ourselves from future lawsuits by placing more oversight on this registry,” he said.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist and other senators commended Coash for his work on the issue.

“This is why we are here, to apply the oversight in government and correct the wrongs that need to be corrected,” Krist said.

These kids frequently find themselves in bad situations through no fault of their own, Coash said. And sometimes those bad situations result in them doing bad things, as well.

“But being put on the abuse registry is a big deal, and there needs to be protections for children, so their rights are protected and their futures can remain bright,” he said.

Children don’t have the resources to address this, he said.

“Someday those children become adults and something that was part of their past is going to come back to haunt them and they won’t even know it until they try to get a job or apply for a license to be a dental hygienist,” he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

Bill aims to keep American Indian children with families

April 7th, 2015

Posted 10:26 a.m. Sunday
By ANNA GRONEWOLD, Associated Press

LINCOLN, NEB. — While applying for her driver’s license at age 16, Karen Hardenbrook saw her birth certificate and learned what her adoptive parents from Broken Bow never told her: she was born in Winnebago and her mother was a member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. As a baby, the state removed her from her biological grandmother’s crowded home on the reservation.

Today Hardenbrook, 57, lives on the Omaha Reservation in Walthill. She’s an enrolled member but at times still feels like an outsider.

“I had a wonderful, beautiful (adoptive) home. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Hardenbrook said. “But I still wish I would have never left the res. I would have learned to dance. I would have learned to sing the songs. Now when I get out to the arena, I have to watch everyone, at 57 years old, because I don’t know the steps.”

A bill slated for a committee vote this week in the Nebraska Legislature would further strengthen protections of cultural identities for children like Hardenbrook by engaging tribal government and extended family mediation before removing children from tribal homes.

In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in response to what it deemed “a crisis of massive proportions.” Between 25 percent and 35 percent of American Indian children were living in out-of-home placement, endangering the preservation of already dwindling American Indian tribes.

The federal law created standards that encouraged states to recognize the interests of Indian families and tribal governments when handling child custody issues. Nebraska adopted a nearly identical version in 1985.

“As sovereign entities, when one-third of the population gets taken out of your community, you won’t have a tribe much longer,” said Robert McEwen, attorney for legal nonprofit Nebraska Appleseed.

American Indian children represent just 2 percent of Nebraska’s children but account for more than 5 percent of all children in out-of-home placement, one of the highest disparities in the nation, according to 2014 data from Nebraska’s Foster Care Review Office.

The bill by Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln would explicitly define when social workers can remove Native American children from their homes, making it harder to separate families and break the cultural ties

Coash said Nebraska’s 30-year-old child welfare laws are too hazy for courts and caseworkers to effectively implement the federal law. When children or one of their biological parents are tribe members, state and federal laws require social workers to make “active efforts” to keep Native American families together — but state law doesn’t define “active efforts.”

“The state has a responsibility to not only provide for safety, but to keep the cultural connections,” Coash said.

Under the bill, caseworkers would first have to contact tribal leaders, consult with mediators and exhaust all family counseling and mediation options before forfeiting parental rights. The Department of Health and Human Services would have to document each step.

The bill also broadens the definition of “expert witnesses,” who are required to testify in American Indian child custody cases.

Judi gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska commission on Indian Affairs, said tribal culture and state standards often clash in the welfare system, contributing to high numbers of Native American foster children.

“A caseworker might say, ‘That’s too crowded, that’s not a good thing for the family. The child might be better in this white family. They get their own bedroom and bathroom,’” gaiashkibos said. “But they’re not with the people they look like, their family and their tribal family.”

Only 135 of Nebraska’s 2,663 licensed foster homes are recognized as Native American, according to a DHHS spokesman. Many children are placed with non-native families, effectively severing tribal ties, gaiashkibos said.

She acknowledged that in emergency situations, temporary out-of-home placement might be needed.

The bill specifies that if a child can’t remain safely at home, custody preference should be given to a foster home or adoptive parents that can best preserve and grow a child’s political, cultural and social relationship with his or her tribe.

The Department of Health and Human Services has not taken a position on the bill, a spokesman said.

The Judiciary Committee is expected to discuss advancing the bill on Tuesday.


The bill is LB566

Nebraska crowdfunding bill LB 226: What it means for startups

March 10th, 2015


Nebraska State Senator Colby Coash of Lincoln has introduced a bill, LB 226, that creates a framework for equity-based crowdfunding.

“This is designed to work like other crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter,” Coash said. “But instead of being a donation that might get you a t-shirt, this platform gives investors a share in the company.”

The Nebraska Department of Banking & Finance would manage the program. Nebraska companies interested in using the program would be required to pay a $200 filing fee, submit documentation to be presented to prospective investors, and provide an escrow agreement with a financial institution where investments will be deposited.

Investors, who must be Nebraskans, will be allowed to make deposits in the escrow fund through a third-party web portal. The company must specify the fundraising time frame and investment target, and investors can cancel their commitment if the target amount is not raised by the deadline. The company must also disclose the terms and conditions of the securities being offered. The company cannot access funds until the target amount has been met or exceeded.

High-risk investments

LB 226 is very up-front about the fact that these investments carry a high degree of risk.

“Venture capitalists and banks aren’t interested in this type of investment,” Coash said. “They do see the potential for companies that start in this way to eventually grow to a level that they would be interested.”

Under the bill, investors are required to certify that they understand the investment is in a high-risk, speculative business venture, and that they may lose all of their investment. Investment limits are also established for both accredited (high net worth/high income institutions or individuals) and unaccredited investors.

A baseball analogy

Senator Coash used a baseball analogy to describe his goals for the crowdfunding bill.

“A home run would be nice, but a couple of singles would be great, too,” he said. “Who knows where the next Valmont or Hudl might come from?”

LB 226 has not yet been reported to the full legislature, but Senator Coash said that the Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee would be sending it out unanimously with one minor technical amendment.

Unlike another proposed bill this session affecting Nebraska entrepreneurs, LB 156, the crowdfunding bill has no financial impact on the state’s General Fund, and could potentially pass before the main budget bills. However, it still requires a priority designation, or else the bill must be scheduled for debate along with other bills with no committee opposition and no General Fund impact.

State lawmakers advance bill giving producers incentive to film in Nebraska

February 12th, 2015

February 11, 2015 by Brent Martin, Nebraska Radio Network

It might be a small incentive, but it is an incentive.

Film makers will get a break on vehicle registration under a bill advancing in the Unicameral.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln sponsors LB 45 which would exempt vehicles used in a movie production from state license registration requirements for up to a year.

Coash says it’s a small step to providing incentives to make more movies in Nebraska.

“Film in this state is more than art; certainly is that, but it can also be an economic driver,” Coash tells colleagues during legislative flood debate. “It puts people to work. It can be difficult to find steady work in this area. And so, what we find is a mass exodus of people who want to do this kind of work and they have to go elsewhere to do it.”

Coash says removal of the vehicle registration requirement gives movie producers one less obstacle to filming in Nebraska.

“I have talked to many of these people and they want nothing more than to be able to come back to Nebraska, make this their home and continue to pursue that vocation,” Coash says. “There are a lot of reasons why that can’t happen and that doesn’t happen, but what we’re doing with LB 45 is giving them one less reason.”

Cigar bar bill advances in Legislature

February 6th, 2015

February 04, 2015 12:30 pm • By ZACH PLUHACEK | LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

Smoking in cigar bars is a step closer to being re-legalized in Nebraska.

Lawmakers advanced a bill (LB118) with that intent Wednesday and will need to vote twice more before it reaches the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Supporters hope the move will address a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that undid cigar bars’ exemption from the 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act. The court found the exemption violated the law’s intent to protect people from secondhand smoke.

“We want to go back to status quo,” said Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, sponsor of LB118.

Larson’s staff and the cigar bars’ lobbyist are consulting with constitutional experts to ensure the bill adjusts the act’s language to satisfy the court, he said.

But at least two senators, Bob Krist of Omaha and Merv Riepe of Ralston, urged caution.

“It’s a fine line,” Krist said later Wednesday.

He pointed to the ongoing legal battle over another bill, his own, that created a 500-foot buffer zone for protesters at funerals in the state. Opponents have accused the state of targeting a particular group of protesters. A trial in the case is set for March.

In addition, Krist said, Larson “poked the Supreme Court in the eye” with statements he’s made to media about the cigar bar ruling. Krist co-signed Larson’s bill at first but has since withdrawn his name.

Larson has said there’s a “sense of urgency” surrounding the bill because cigar bar owners are losing business while smoking is prohibited.

“I don’t share the same sense of urgency,” Krist said.

He voted to advance the bill Wednesday, along with all but two other senators who voted. But a handful of senators, including Ernie Chambers of Omaha, were not present, so the outcome could be different next time around.

Cigar shop customers and workers know they are entering an environment with smoke, Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln told fellow lawmakers.

“There is no expectation by the customers of a place like this that they would be protected from secondhand smoke,” Coash said.

The courts “went off the rails a little bit” by striking the exemption, he said.

Coash is a member of the General Affairs Committee, where the bill originated, and served in the Legislature when the original Clean Indoor Air Act was passed.

The Legislature is “in the business” of making exemptions, he said, pointing at the state’s tax code, which includes dozens of items and services for which sales taxes are not assessed.

“We poke holes in a large policy all the time,” Coash said.


Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or On Twitter @zachamiLJS.

Nebraska Moves Forward with Investment Crowdfunding Legislation

February 3rd, 2015

February 2, 2015 @ 5:37 pm By JD Alois

Today (February 2nd) the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee will be having a hearing to discuss LB226 sponsored by Senator Colby Coash from Lincoln, Nebraska. The bill puts Nebraska on the roster of the growing number of stats that are pushing forward with their own intrastate crowdfunding exemptions in lieu of missing federal rules. The bill is said to be modeled after the one legalized by Indiana last year.

Senator Coash was quoted in the JournalStar on his initiative;

“The main difference between a Kickstarter website and this legislation is that when you contribute to a project on Kickstarter, typically you receive a T-shirt, or a poster, or other promotional gift depending on the size of the contribution, but have no monetary stake in the project,” Coash says in the statement of intent for his bill. “LB226 gives the investor a monetary stake in the project, not a donation.”

Nebraska State CapitolThe bill is said to be modeled on an Indiana law that went into effect in 2014. Twenty other states considered or passed crowdfunding laws last year, as well.

Nebraskans worth less than $1 million or couples making under $300,000 a year would be allowed to invest as much as $5,000 in a single business online. Funding for small businesses without audited statements will be capped at $1 million. With audited statements the funding may hit $2 million.

Corporate securities attorney Bart Dillashaw of Lincoln who is also president of the Nebraska Angels investment network was quoted on the legislation;

“That’s where the action’s at. Nothing really happens until the SEC tells us what the rules are.”

“Regulations create an ‘artificial barrier’ that allows only people with a certain amount of money to invest. So long as the risks are disclosed, they should be able to make those decisions for themselves.”

“I’m excited to see the Legislature paying attention to the startup sector. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Companies interested in using the exemption would need to register with the Banking Department for a small fee. Coash’s plan was described as a method for people with moderate incomes to invest in a bar, restaurant or other small business.