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The Judiciary Committee advanced a bill I introduced, LB721, to general file. LB721 expands the definition of police animal to include police dogs and horses owned by cities, counties, and villages. I look forward to debate on this bill before the full Legislature and passage of this legislation.
The public hearing for LB915, a bill I introduced to change the animal abuse reporting statutes and create a new criminal offense of obtaining employment at an animal facility with the intent to disrupt the normal operations of that business, was held in the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, January 31. While some concerns were raised about the language in the bill, I am working with members of the committee to address the concerns and move this legislation forward because of the importance of stopping certain practices employed by animal activist groups.
The Legislature debated and advanced LB391, introduced by Senator Ken Schilz of Ogallala, which increases awareness of invasive species in Nebraska with the creation of the Nebraska Invasive Species Council. The Council would develop an integrated management plan for the state, facilitate governmental coordination for prevention and management, and provide public outreach. This Council will help local governments in their efforts to stem the infestation of these species and I support this legislation.
LB946, introduced by Senator Greg Adams of York, was advanced through both rounds of debate to final readings. LB946 adopts the Community College Aid Act, which changes the formula for state aid to community colleges beginning in Fiscal Year 2013-2014. The initial allocation of state aid will be appropriated along the current guidelines. However, allocations beyond that, up to $500,000, would be allocated to the Nebraska Community College Student Performance and Occupational Education Grant Fund where a committee would determine the appropriate allocations. Any remaining allocations would be then distributed based upon the total number of community college areas, the number of students, and the number of reimbursable educational units offered at the community colleges. This bill authorizes continued support for our state’s community colleges and will better allocate funds according to need.
Senator Tyson Larson
This past week, the Legislature discussed several important bills. The Legislature debated and advanced LB459, introduced by Senator Ken Schilz of Ogallala, which limits the authority of political subdivisions in the state to define or assign a legal status to animals that is inconsistent with the status of animals as personal property. Other states have passed similar legislation, and this is a positive step for Nebraska agriculture.
The Legislature also debated and advanced LB473, introduced by Senator Leroy Loudon of Ellsworth, which adopts the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. This bill creates a duty on landowners in counties that have adopted a prairie dog management plan to prevent the uncontrolled spread of colonies. County boards also have new responsibilities related to prairie dog management that are modeled after the Noxious Weed Control Act. I support this bill because it puts important processes in place to address a pressing concern in many rural areas.
LB60, introduced by Senator Bob Krist of Omaha, was debated and advanced as well. LB60 refines the process for compliance checks on liquor licensees and holds those who are conducting the checks more accountable. Under the bill, minors and law enforcement officers would be prohibited from consuming alcohol during a compliance check, and minors would also be required to be truthful in answering any questions by the retailer.
Several Legislative committees held hearings on significant policy changes last week. The Revenue Committee held a hearing on LB970, which encompasses Governor Heineman’s tax proposal to eliminate the inheritance tax and to reduce the individual and corporate income tax rates. In addition, the Health and Human Services Committee held hearings on several bills related to child welfare reform following the extensive study completed as part of LR37. While I do not sit on either of those two committees, I have been discussing these bills with my colleagues and look forward to a rigorous debate of these very important issues.
Senator Tyson Larson
Bill introduction has concluded for this session with a total of 467 bills and six constitutional amendments being introduced. I introduced two more bills, LB1095 and LB1157. LB1095 allows for the reintroduction of the classic Beef State license plates, creating a new type of specialty license plate that is designed like the black and white Nebraska Beef State license plates used decades ago. This plate would be available under a system similar to the Husker license plates. LB1157 eliminates one of the requirements for reduction of late filing fees with the Accountability and Disclosure Commission.
Committee hearings have begun on the new bills. This week, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on LB721, my bill redefining police animal to include dogs and horses owned by cities and counties. The bill had strong support at the hearing, and I expect this bill to advance.
The Agriculture Committee held hearings on LB770 and LB771, both introduced by Senator Tom Carlson of Holdredge, and voted to advance both bills to the full Legislature. LB770 amends the Nebraska Seed Law to clarify the definition of noxious weed seeds in the Nebraska Seed Law so that it matches the list of noxious weeds designated by the Department of Agriculture under Nebraska’s Noxious Weed Control Act. LB771 updates the Nebraska Pure Food Act to incorporate provisions from the 2009 Food Code. The law currently has provisions from the 2005 Food Code. I voted in support of both of these bills and will continue to support them in debate by the full Legislature.
Senator Tyson Larson
Last week, I introduced LB915, which changes the statutes relating to reports of animal abuse. Current law requires certain employees to report criminal animal abuse, but LB915 expands this requirement to all persons. LB915 also requires that the report be made within 12 hours of the suspected abuse and that any documentation be turned over to authorities with the person’s report. The penalty for failing to report these incidents is also increased significantly. LB915 also includes a new criminal offense, which criminalizes obtaining employment at an animal facility with the intent to disrupt the operations of the business. Animal facilities include any place an animal is maintained for agricultural production, exhibitions and education facilities, and businesses which transport animals.
This bill is intended to protect agricultural businesses from attacks by animal activist groups, like the Humane Society of the United States. By requiring reporting by all persons, a group like HSUS cannot collect information about a potential animal abuse crime that has taken place and then keep it to use it for its own propaganda, but rather would be required to submit this evidence to the appropriate authorities to investigate the abuse. This approach ensures that any perpetrators of animal abuse are properly investigated and that the welfare of the animals is the top priority, rather than fundraising or lobbying efforts by groups like HSUS. Tactics such as infiltrating an agricultural business to disrupt its operations also cannot be allowed, and LB915 also addresses this concern.
On January 12, Governor Dave Heineman reported to the Legislature with his annual State of the State address as well. Governor Heineman focused on the need for work on the state’s child welfare system as well as streamlining the Department of Labor and the Department of Economic Development by combining the two departments. Governor Heineman’s main focus was tax relief for middle class Nebraskans and the elimination of inheritance taxes.
Senator Tyson Larson
On January 4, 2012, the second session of the 102nd Nebraska Legislature convened, symbolizing the 75th Anniversary of the only unicameral legislature in the nation. I am excited for my second session as a member of the Legislature and hope to build on my achievements of last year. Last session, my bill, LB305, helped bring national attention to the issues regarding horse processing the U.S., and my priority bill, LB229, helped allocate more Environmental Trust Fund monies to water resources projects.
In addition to the carryover bills that were not addressed last session, senators have begun introducing new bills. This session, I introduced LB721, which seeks to include police animals owned by any county, city, or village under peace officer obstruction laws and police dog harassment laws. Current laws only protect police animals that are owned by the State of Nebraska used in assisting a Nebraska state trooper, and this bill will extend protection to all police animals.
LB857 requires grant recipients of monies from the Environmental Trust Fund who have purchased real estate with such grant funds and subsequently sold or transferred the property to repay the original grant amount. The repayment will be remitted to the Water Resources Cash Fund to support water resources projects. This legislation builds on LB229 from last session and works to ensure the best use of Environmental Trust Fund monies.
The Legislature will continue bill introduction until January 19 and will begin debate on carryover bills from last session this week.
Senator Tyson Larson
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