Greetings from Lincoln! We have reached the end of Committee hearings for the 2011 Legislative Session and will begin full-day floor debate on March 22nd. We are at the point of the Session where priority bills have been declared and those are the bills which we are debating. The Appropriations Committee is working hard on a budge proposal to present to the body for debate, and the re-districting committee is also hard at work preparing options for us to discuss.
This week we debated several priority bills, including LB 544, introduced by Senator Rich Pahls of Omaha, which would amend our civics education requirements to include active participation in the improvement of a citizen’s community, state, country, and world, and also the value and practice of civil discourse between opposing interests.
LB 230, introduced by Senator Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, would narrowly modify the Public Records Act to provide clear exceptions that allow the state’s public utilities to withhold information regarding utility infrastructure specifications, design drawings and maps, and specific customer use data, in order to protect sensitive public utility information. This could be important for the future protection of the people in the State.
One bill which I think is very good, and possibly overdue, is LB 100, introduced by Senator Colby Coash of Lincoln. LB 100 would take away the option of letting a defendant in a criminal case plead “not guilty by reason of temporary insanity” due to the person being drunk or high. This is important because a person who becomes voluntarily intoxicated or high should be responsible for the consequences of their actions. The bill would still allow for an insanity defense for people with long-term alcohol or drug abuse issues and would exclude those who become involuntarily intoxicated or high.
Another bill we debated but did not advance was LB 490, introduced by Senator Russ Karpisek of Wilbur, which would change restrictions on Keno gambling and horseracing in Nebraska. What the bill would do is remove the requirement that access to Keno machines is restricted to attendants. It is expected that this would lead to an increase in revenue, a portion of which would then be credited to the Live Horseracing Endowment Fund, created by the bill. I am not in favor of this idea, but no matter your views, I am not sure that this change can be made without amending our Constitution. We have requested an opinion from the Attorney General on this subject.