Nebraska lawmakers finished up an eventful week failing to vote on a repeal of the death penalty and overriding the governor’s veto. Here’s a look at this week’s Capitol happenings.
LB 543: After eight hours of discussion, a motion for cloture failed 28-21 May 14 for this bill that would have repealed the death penalty in Nebraska. Cloture would have forced a vote on the issue, but the motion fell five votes short. Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers introduced the bill and the motion. Chambers promised to bring back the bill next session as he’s done for each of the 37 years he’s been in the Legislature. Opposed to the bill was Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont who said the death penalty acts as a crime deterrent. Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford supported the repeal saying the death penalty sometimes is used wrongfully to coerce confessions to crimes from those who did not commit them.
LB 553: Nebraska senators overrode Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto on a bill that made changes to the state’s teacher retirement pension plans. Introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, the bill reduces benefits for employees under the School Employees Retirement System who begin work for the first time on or after July 1, 2013. Senators originally passed the bill May 7 on a 34-0 vote. In his veto letter, Heineman said the bill does not represent a sustainable long-term solution and called for a thorough study of alternative solutions. Senators votes 32-1 to override the veto with 15 lawmakers not voting. Under the bill, all school employees will continue paying more of their salaries toward their retirement -- 9.78 percent as opposed to the 7.37 percent they would have paid after 2017. The bill also increases the state’s contribution from 1 percent to 2 percent of benefits, an additional $20 million per year.
LB 561: Introduced by Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, this bill would transfer responsibility for the state’s roughly 3,000 juvenile offenders from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Office of Probation Administration in an effort to keep most offenders at home, saving detention centers for the most serious cases. The bill would appropriate $10 million a year in state funds for grants to counties that develop programs for juveniles and shift about $40 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Office of Probation Administration for 100 additional probation officers to be dispersed throughout the state. The bill advanced in the Unicameral Wednesday, May 15.
LB 568: Introduced by Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha, this bill would give the state power to license and regulate health insurance navigator programs that are required under the federal Affordable Care Act by Oct. 1, 2013. A navigator’s job is to give fair and unbiased information about insurance plans to people seeking them. They are not allowed to tell potential buyers which plan is best for them. The bill’s biggest opponent was Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln who said the bill was duplicitous because the federal government would already regulate the navigator programs. Supporters called the bill a consumer protection bill. She introduced a motion to return the bill to the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee later withdrawing it. The bill advanced from Select File 37-0 Thursday, May 16.