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The passage of LB268, the repeal of the death penalty, on Final Reading has been the center of attention statewide. While polls show that 70% of Nebraskans approve of using the death penalty as a form of punishment for individuals that commit the heinous crime of premeditated murder, 70% of state senators have decided to do what is right in their own eyes and have voted to repeal the death penalty against the will of the majority of the citizens they represent. Personal interpretations of the Bible have been used as justification by some for their positions, and I also have looked for direction from that source. I can find many references in both the Old and New Testaments where the government is empowered to carry out a death sentence as justice for the crime of murder. I cannot find any references where life imprisonment is dictated as a punishment. As for a secular argument, a civil society cannot tolerate evil, and the death penalty affirms that belief. I will vote to uphold the Governor’s veto of LB268.
Last Thursday on Final Reading the Legislature voted to pass 42 bills into law, ready to be signed by the Governor. Ten bills that have passed this year are welfare expansion and they have added $7,172,598 in additional spending of your tax dollars on an already costly welfare system.
LB605 was one of the Thursday bills. It will provide, change and eliminate penalties, punishments, sentencing, restitution, probation, and other aspects of criminal sentencing. This legislation was brought forward to address overcrowding in our prisons. The goal is also to offer more counseling for substance abuse to try to prevent repeat offenders. The price tag is high, $8 million this biennium budget and rising to a total of $67 million over the next 5 years. Sadly, crime and punishment is a growing industry in Nebraska. I voted for LB605; it was either that, or the state builds a $300 million new jail and hires the manpower to run it.
LB173 eliminates certain mandatory minimums for felony offenses. Opposition of that bill has grown because of the fact that many of the rioters at the prison in Tecumseh would have been free instead of behind bars if this bill would have been in effect. We have decreased violent crime in Nebraska because we keep bad criminals behind bars. The sponsor of the legislation was sensing the growing opposition and decided to carry the bill over until next year. I continue to be against LB173.
LB623 is the so called Dreamers bill, which is intended to give driver’s licenses to children of illegal immigrants. I believe the bill is flawed because it does not limit licenses to dreamers only, it gives other illegal aliens with limited status an opportunity to receive a license, too. I offered an amendment that would have clearly stated that the bill only applied to dreamers, but it was rejected, so I subsequently voted against the bill. LB623 passed Final Reading, but will likely be vetoed by the Governor.
There are four days left in this year’s session. A General File bill being heard for the first time is LB176. It allows hog-packer ownership of livestock by contracting with producers to raise the hogs for them. Foreign owned meat packing plants will be able to own hogs from cradle to grave. I am against the bill since Nebraska has done well with private livestock operations; they are called family farmers and ranchers.
LB643, the medical cannabis bill, will be heard on Select File later this week. I have decided against supporting it. Its efficacy is unverified by FDA research, and is only supported by undocumented, anecdotal testimony of those who it has helped with their medical conditions. This is one of those instances where one would wish that the medical industry would come to an agreement as to marijuana’s medical benefits.
It continues to look like an increase of 3.5% to 3.7% in the budget. This number is still too high for this fiscal conservative, but we have set some groundwork to be better prepared to limit increases in the future.