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 – which would have had 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.
Highlights of the session included:
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;
• 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 – LR 358CA – will ask voters whether to extend term limits for state senators from two consecutive four-year-terms to three.
LR 373CA 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.
Other big bills
• 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!
A bi-monthly newsletter from Sen. Tom Hansen, a Lincoln County rancher and legislator, while the state Legislature is in session.