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Yesterday, the Legislature adjourned sine die. Sine die is a Latin term meaning “without day.” When used in this context, it means the Legislature adjourns with a future meeting date uncertain. At a minimum, the Legislature will meet again in January 2016. However, the Legislature could meet for a special session before that if needed. The last time the Nebraska Legislature met for a special session was in 2011.
We now shift to our interim schedule for future legislative updates. We will send legislative updates approximately once a month until the Legislative session begins again next January. These updates will focus on interim study and bill research for next session and will continue to feature events in the district and information about town hall events. I anticipate we will send our next update in late June.
Update on Key Bills Featured in Previous Updates
Governor Ricketts signed LB 390, my personal priority bill, into law on Wednesday. LB 390 provides access to cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, to patients with intractable epilepsy who are under the care of a neurologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Because LB 390 included an emergency clause, the bill takes effect immediately upon passage. UNMC has been hard at work obtaining the necessary FDA and DEA licenses and approval, even before the bill’s passage. I hope this hard work means the program will be up and running soon.
This week the Legislature took final action on several bills featured in previous updates, including two veto overrides. LB 268 and LB 623 passed notwithstanding the objections of the governor. LB 623 allows Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) youth, often referred to as DREAMers to receive Nebraska driver’s licenses. Currently, Nebraska is the only state in the country that does not allow DREAMers to obtain a driver’s license.
LB 268 repeals the death penalty in Nebraska and replaces it with life without possibility of parole. I received numerous phone calls on both sides of this issue. Even on votes where I am fairly certain about my eventual vote I still listen carefully to the question and concerns of all those who contact me.
Sometimes I can find a way to address some concerns with opponents as we move forward by pushing for an amendment to the bill. This was the case when I met with Sarpy County officials who opposed prison reform. One of their key concerns was that the bill, as written, would shift costs to counties. So, I went to work fighting for amendments to reduce the risk of cost sharing to counties.
In some cases a good question from a constituent on the other side prompts me to do some research to make sure the evidence supports my likely vote. Some opponents to the death penalty asked me how I could support the repeal of the death penalty in the face of the recent tragic death of Officer Kerrie Orozco. This prompted me to check the evidence on the connection between the death penalty and attacks on police officers. What I learned was that in all but one state that has repealed the death penalty, officer homicides have gone down, and the states with the highest rates of officer homicides are those states with the death penalty. So, my vote for repeal of the death penalty is also a vote attentive to the need to keep our police officers safe.
As I read your emails and considered your questions, I found again and again that repealing the death penalty was the best policy choice for Nebraska. For example, I heard the concern about safety for prison workers. The evidence shows that states with the death penalty have prison murder rates over four times higher than in states without the death penalty.
Some opponents argue that the death penalty is an important tool for public safety. Yet, as I examine the evidence I found no credible evidence to support that argument. Murder rates are higher in states with the death penalty. Moreover, it is difficult to argue that the death penalty is a critical tool when that tool has not been used for nearly 20 years and is unlikely to be used in the near future.
Nebraska Boards and Commissions
The state of Nebraska relies heavily on a vast array of citizen commissions that advise and support important work across the state. Many of these positions require the confirmation of the legislature. As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee I have had the privilege to see a number of the citizens in the state who step up to these responsibilities. This past week the Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing for two outstanding nominees for the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Foster Care Review Board. These commissions and boards usually include a mix of professionals and lay citizen representatives. If you have any interest in serving the state in this way, I urge you to check out the latest list of Board and Commission openings and consider applying for a position: governor.nebraska.gov/board-comm-req. It is critical that we get a strong and diverse mix of citizens serving on these boards and commissions. If you would like a letter of support from me, please contact my office.
Intern Introductions–and Goodbyes
With session ending, our office prepares to say goodbye to another batch of interns, our third since we began our internship program during my first year. Our interns provide invaluable support to our office and my staff both during session and during interim.
This summer, two new interns will be joining the team to work on a variety of interim projects. Molly Anne Krebs is currently a student at Creighton University, seeking a B.A. in Medical Anthropology and a B.S. in Health Administration and Policy with minors in Communication Studies and Public Health. Molly has an extensive background in research, most recently conducting domestic violence research within a team from the Abrahams Legal Clinic within the Creighton University School of Law. Following graduation, Molly hopes to attend law school and focus on health law.
Nicholas Le is a senior at Creighton University currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with minors in Legal Studies and Asian Studies. Nicholas is from Honolulu, Hawaii, and has worked at Koko Head District Park for the past three summers as a coordinator for their Summer Fun Program. His senior research thesis at Creighton focused on cyber warfare and cyber crime. Following graduation, Nicholas hopes to attend law school and focus on criminal law.
Each term, our interns assist our office in a variety of ways. This session, Isabella spent considerable time digging into the issue of prison reform. This included reading transcripts, Council of State Government reports and legislation. Isabella also helped revamp our weekly update design and is responsible for the layout for the paper newsletters we send to a sample of registered voters in our district each week. Isabella will be attending Creighton University School of Law in August, and she will spend the rest of her summer traveling around the United States and getting trained to be a top trial lawyer.
Billy compiled research on the history of Nebraska’s African American State Senators, both past and present, and he presented his findings in a February Legislative Update in honor of Black History Month. In March, Billy wrote a feature on the women of Nebraska to commemorate Women’s History Month.
Billy also worked extensively with the Legal Counsel of the Urban Affairs Committee, Trevor Fitzgerald. Together they reexamined and identified a number of state statutes dealing with cities of the first class in preparation for their revision this interim. Billy also reviewed the Department of Revenue’s annual report on tax-increment financing (TIF) to help identify trends and patterns in TIF projects statewide. The Urban Affairs Committee will continue to examine TIF statutes over the interim. Billy will spend the rest of his summer in preparation for attending the Creighton University School of Law in August.
Please join me in welcoming new interns Nicholas and Molly to our office as well as extending a heartfelt thank you to current interns Billy and Isabella! If you or someone you know is interested in an internship for the 2016 legislative session, please email Courtney Breitkreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org.