Over the Fence
A bi-weekly newsletter from Senator Tom Hansen
April 20, 2012
The last day of the 2012 legislative session consisted of motions to override the Governor’s vetoes. The unsuccessful ones were LB 806 – which would have put historical horse race betting machines at Nebraska race tracks; and LB 1020 – proposed to have the State Department of Education (NDE) to annually award grants to school districts for the establishment of school-based health centers. The successful ones were LB 357 – which gives communities an option for an additional one-quarter or one-half cent sales tax on top of the 1.5 cents already allowed, if voters approve; and LB 599 – allows Nebraska to continue to offer prenatal services to unborn children of low-income women.
After the nine outgoing Senators gave their final goodbyes, we adjourned Sine Die.
Highlights of the session included passage of:
An overhaul of the state’s child welfare system. The bills that do just that include: LB 821 – creates a Children’s Commission and inspector general for child welfare; LB 1160 – a data and reporting system; LB 820 – increases foster parent payments and licensing changes; LB 949 – a requirement for more transparency and reporting on child welfare spending, financial benchmarks and a strategic plan; LB 961 – a requirement to bring case management in most of the state under the department and put caseload standards in place; and LB 998 – eliminates the 11-member state Foster Care Review Board and creates a five-member committee to work in tandem with the foster care review office.
LB 1161 will allow Nebraska to proceed with a $2 million study to find a route for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state.
LB 612 gives victims of childhood sexual abuse in Nebraska more time to sue their assailants.
LB 473 gives counties the power and duties to carry out a management program to help control prairie dogs.
LB 905 makes changes to the Nebraska Wheat Board checkoff; and LB 1057 changes the Nebraska Corn Board checkoff to one half cent per bushel.
LB 882 allows that oral chemotherapy will be treated the same as intravenous cancer treatments for insurance purposes.
LB 933 was meant to build on a truancy law passed in 2010. Complaints had been made that families had been hurt by the law, which requires that more than 20 absences (excused or nonexcused) in a school year be reported to the county attorney. The bill will allow schools to decide whether to report excused absences.
Two measures meant to help entice a billion-dollar data center to Nebraska: LB 1118 – makes changes to the Nebraska Advantage Act for data center projects that will invest $200 million and hire at least 30 new employees; and LB 1043 allows public power districts in the state to negotiate electric rates that are below the standard retail rate.
A sales and use tax exemption for biochips was passed in LB 830.
A proposed constitutional amendment – LR358CA – will ask voters whether to extend term limits for state senators from two consecutive four-year-terms to three. LR373CA will ask voters to decide whether to raise senators’ pay to $22,500 a year. The current salary of $12,000 was set in 1988.
LB 861 allows cities to permit alcohol sales before noon on Sundays. Currently, Nebraska cities can choose to allow the sale of beer and wine, but not liquor, between 6 a.m. and noon on Sundays. They can allow the sale of all types of alcohol after noon.
LB 970 was the Governor’s tax cuts for the middle class.
LB 804 changes provisions relating to justification for use of force – also known as the Castle Doctrine.
LB 807 changed provisions relating to disposition of firearms seized or held by a law enforcement agency and concealed handgun permit applications and revocations.
We also passed and balanced the state’s budget. The three budget bills were:
LB 131 which transferred $1 million from the Cash Reserve Fund to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and also transfers $80 million from the Cash Reserve Fund to be used for specific University of Nebraska and Nebraska State Colleges capital construction projects and also for a state contribution to the Centennial Mall project. LB 968 appropriates $10 million to special education; cuts unspent funds of $245,000 from Community Corrections; eliminates $2 million in Medicaid with no reductions in benefits or services. LB 969 cuts $2.8 million in unneeded final payments from the EPIC funds.
And finally, all three measures that I introduced were passed and signed by the Governor. LB 860 a bill I introduced on behalf of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office changes the number of hours needed to obtain a computerized voice stress analysis license; LB 1030 requires a motor vehicle driver to stay at least three feet away when passing a pedestrian, bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device; and LB 1066 (which became part of the mainline budget bill) appropriated money to fund the Veterinary Diagnostic Center at the University of Nebraska. Also, a bill I designated as my personal priority bill and introduced by Sen. Cornett also was passed. LB 799 increases the penalty for child abuse.
Even though the Legislature has adjourned and I will now be spending more time back home in the district, my legislative office will continue to be open for business. If you call (402-471-2729), my staff will be glad to answer your questions or direct you to where they can be answered. If you email me email@example.com, I will contact you as soon as I can.
Have a wonderful summer….Stay in touch!