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LB89 changes payments to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (welfare). Prior to LB89, payments were limited to $300/month plus $75/month per additional child. This change puts the payments on automatic pilot, starting with 60% of the standard of need index, increasing it to 65%, then to 70% over the next three years. The first year average increase in monthly payments will be $112/month. We are told this will only come out of your pocket which pays federal tax dollars. However, the fiscal note says the federal funds will not be enough by 2018. Any legislation that puts government on automatic pilot, I vote against it.
LB494 changes base pay for tipped employees from $2.13/hr. to $4.50/hr., then amended to $2.64/hr. Employers are already required to compensate any difference between tips and base pay that is short of the $9.00/hr. minimum wage; therefore this bill was not necessary. I voted against it since cafés in small towns struggle to exist now; they do not need added cost.
LB599 lowers the minimum wage for high school students to $8.00/hr. The sponsors of the minimum wage initiative last year made it clear they were seeking to raise the minimum wage for those who were supporting their family or individual living expenses. Our constitution makes it clear that the people acting as the second house can enact law through the initiative process but the Legislature can amend the law with a super majority of 33 votes. This change, which passed General File, does not harm the intention of the new minimum wage law; it helps give high school kids opportunities to get a foothold in the working world. Opponents of the law claimed that my support conflicted with my stance on the constitutional amendment for term limits. However, changing the Constitution is done solely through the vote of the people; that is not the case in changing laws through the petition process. But instead of debating the issue, opponents attempted to distract by playing politics.
LB605 changes classifications of penalties, punishments, probation, and parole provisions within our penal system. This legislation is about overcrowding in our prisons. The argument is we should try to change the behavior of the nonviolent criminals through behavioral drug/alcohol programs and probation, instead of building a $270 million prison. It will add pressure to local county jails and probation offices. Who pays the cost is still in debate. I voted for the bill.
LB173 changes provisions for habitual criminal incarceration. I voted against it. The reason violent crime has decreased is because we keep violent criminals behind bars. These are the criminals that habitually commit violent crimes. They belong in jail.
LB268, which repeals the death penalty, passed General File. I am amazed at how many ways the Bible can be interpreted by politicians. Regardless of the religious argument, many folks “do what is right in their own eyes.” I argued that a civil society must not tolerate evil, and the death penalty confirms the high value society places on innocent life. There is no evidence that an inmate has been wrongly put to death in Nebraska. The eleven criminals now awaiting their fate were put there without any public doubt as to their guilt. The high cost of appeals is also a false argument. Despite what sentence is given, inmates in the penitentiary appeal and the taxpayers pay to defend the state via salaried attorneys in the Attorney General’s office. Appeals against life imprisonment will also be numerous. Opponents of LB268 will try to stop it in Select File, but if their effort fails the Governor will veto the bill. I will support the Governor.
LB85 related to cattlemen. It allowed the Nebraska Brand Committee to increase brand inspection fees from 75 cents to $1.25 per head. I supported an amendment that limited the increase to $1.10. The bill passed General File.
LB343 would have funded school programs relating to advanced placement, dual credit, and career academy courses through the general fund. Those programs are already funded out of a school district’s existing budget. I voted against it; the bill did not advance. Please contact our office at 402-471-2729 or firstname.lastname@example.org with your input.