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Nebraska State Legislature

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A former longtime Nebraska state lawmaker has died at the age of 79. Dwite Pedersen of Omaha served in the Nebraska Legislature from 1993 to 2009. Pedersen was a leading advocate for alcohol and drug rehabilitation and worked with troubled youth and prison inmates. Pedersen represented the Elkhorn area of Omaha and ran unsuccessfully for Omaha City Council in 2017. He worked as a counselor focused on youth and was a recovered alcoholic who had been sober for 40 years. He also was known to help prison inmates, including those who rarely got visits from others. 

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska officials are speaking out against a bill that could legalize medical marijuana in the state.  Governor Pete Ricketts, Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley and former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne hosted a news conference yesterday to voice their opposition to the proposal.  Ricketts mentioned several young people who died after consuming marijuana products.  Osborne noted that he has mentored people whose lives have been negatively impacted by the drug.

Omaha World Herald

A bill that would impose harsher penalties on protesters who loot, riot or commit other crimes has received a chilly reception from a Nebraska legislative committee. Some critics of the bill argued Wednesday that it would infringe on free-speech rights and punish people who gather peacefully. The measure was modeled after a recently passed Tennessee law and was introduced in response to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests in Omaha and Lincoln that led to property damage and one death.

Nebraska Legislature

A Nebraska lawmaker is urging her colleagues to create a state commission to study how to pay for K-12 public schools, an issue that has become contentious as some senators push for lower property taxes. Sen. Wendy DeBoer, of Bennington, says the commission could look for ways to pay for schools other than property taxes while still providing equal educational opportunities to children around the state. The commission would present its preliminary findings back to lawmakers in 2022.

Omaha World Herald

  Highway safety advocates are urging Nebraska lawmakers to tighten state seat belt requirements that are among the loosest in the nation. The National Conference of State Legislatures says Nebraska is one of nine states that only require seat belts for front-seat passengers. Violations are also considered a secondary offense, meaning police can’t cite someone for not wearing a seat belt unless they’ve stopped the vehicle for some other reason. Sen.

Nebraska lawmakers have rejected a new effort to require a public vote when they choose legislative leaders, despite a push from some conservative senators for transparency. Lawmakers voted 30-19 against the motion to change the Legislature’s internal rules. Committee chairs and the speaker of the Legislature are elected through a secret ballot.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska lawmaker is proposing a state takeover of K-12 public education funding as a way to lower property taxes. Sen. Tom Briese, of Albion, introduced a constitutional amendment that would require state government to pay for local schools. Currently, public schools are financed through a combination of state aid and local property taxes. Briese says rising property taxes are driven by the state’s unwillingness to adequately fund schools. His proposal would place the issue on the 2022 general election ballot, where voters would decide whether to approve it.

Unicameral Update

A decades-old rule designed to promote transparency and accountability in the Nebraska Legislature could be in jeopardy. A proposed rule change would bar reporters from otherwise private “executive sessions” of legislative committees, where lawmakers discuss and vote on bills. The sessions are closed to the general public, but legislative rules allow reporters to attend and report what happened. Sen. Dan Hughes, of Venango, says he introduced the measure after getting quoted several years ago in what he believed to be a private, frank discussion with fellow lawmakers.

NET

The state law that allowed President-elect Joe Biden to win one of Nebraska’s Electoral College votes could once again be in jeopardy under a new bill introduced in the Legislature. The measure would reinstate the winner-take-all system in Nebraska, awarding all five of its Electoral College votes to the statewide winner in presidential races. Nebraska Republicans have tried for years to repeal the 1991 law that lets the state divide its votes. Nebraska is overwhelmingly Republican, and a Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won statewide since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska lawmakers have kicked off a new session with plans to redraw the state’s political districts and promises to minimize the dysfunction that has creeped into the Legislature over the last several years. The new session began on a cordial note, with newly elected Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers pledging to treat all senators equally and ensure full and fair debate on all measures that come before them.

Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska lawmakers will begin a new session Wednesday that’s likely to be scaled back because of the pandemic, but they’ll still have a lot of big issues to debate, including a proposed $230 million prison and the mandatory redrawing of the state’s political districts. High on this year’s priority list is the Legislature’s once-a-decade redistricting ritual, a bitterly partisan process where lawmakers redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts and others.

KETV

Nebraska’s corrections department will propose to lawmakers a new, $230 million prison to reduce chronic overcrowding that the agency's director says is likely to get worse. Corrections Director Scott Frakes will present the plan in the upcoming legislative session with backing from his boss, Gov. Pete Ricketts. State officials have tried for years to ease crowding in Nebraska’s prisons by expanding parole, changing some sentencing laws and creating new diversion programs.

Remington Research Group

State regulators have found the Nebraska Republican Party and a political consulting firm liable for making illegal robocalls in a hotly contested legislative race. The Nebraska Public Service Commission issued the ruling against the state party and Kansas City-based Remington Research. The calls were made to help state Sen. Julie Slama, of Peru, who is locked in an unusually bitter race against challenger Janet Palmtag. Slama and Palmtag are both Republicans, and have each won key endorsements. Slama is backed by Gov.

Nebraska lawmakers have approved new tax credits for homeowners, farmers and businesses and put more restrictions on abortions as they finish a session marred by ugly public disputes and criticism that they didn’t do enough to address the coronavirus pandemic. The 60-day session ended after several last-minute, unsuccessful attempts to derail the tax and abortion bills. Lawmakers gave both measures final approval and sent them to Gov. Pete Ricketts, who’s expected to sign them. Lawmakers convened as normal in January but suspended their session in March out of concern about the pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nebraska is surging past 27-thousand.  Officials confirmed 222 new cases yesterday, bringing the statewide total to 27-thousand-178.  Four more coronavirus deaths were reported yesterday, and the state has seen 332 deaths during the pandemic.

Nebraska’s meatpacking plants won’t have to worry about any new state-mandated safety restrictions this year, despite outbreaks of the coronavirus among their workers. A Nebraska lawmaker who wanted to add more protections on Wednesday failed to secure sufficient support for the idea. Sen. Tony Vargas, of Omaha, fell two votes short of the 30 he needed to introduce a bill this session. Bills can only be introduced during the first 10 days of each session, unless a super-majority of lawmakers agrees to suspend the rule.

College athletes in Nebraska may soon be able to sign endorsement deals with sneaker companies, car dealerships and other sponsors under a bill approved by lawmakers. Lawmakers gave the measure final approval on Tuesday with a 37-6 vote. The measure would apply to student-athletes at the University of Nebraska and its smaller state colleges. It would cover athletes in all sports, although Nebraska’s football, basketball and volleyball players are likely to have the most money-making opportunities.

Nebraska lawmakers returned to their session with lingering concerns about the coronavirus and extra safety precautions that will likely remain in place until they adjourn for the year. The 60-day session resumed Monday with plexiglass barriers separating lawmakers in the legislative chamber, mandatory temperature checks to enter and tougher restrictions on who can access the room. Lawmakers took the unusual step of suspending their session on March 25 to try to keep the virus from spreading after they passed an emergency coronavirus funding bill.

Nebraska lawmakers will hold two hearings next week to hear public input about law enforcement and racial equity in the state. Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will convene Monday at the Scott Conference Center in Omaha’s Aksarben Village. They’ll meet Tuesday at the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications office in Lincoln. Both events will be live-streamed online and on television by NET, the state’s public television service. Sen.

Nebraska lawmakers have advanced an $83.6 million emergency funding package to help fight the new coronavirus as Gov. Pete Ricketts sought to assure the public that the state is “well ahead of the curve” compared to others in its response to the global pandemic. The new funding bill sailed through a key procedural vote in the Legislature with no lawmakers dissenting.

Nebraska lawmakers are set to take a four-day recess, but they may extend the break to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak at the state Capitol. Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer said Thursday that lawmakers were still tentatively planning to reconvene as scheduled on Tuesday, but they may temporarily suspend their session if health officials confirm a community-spread case of the virus in Lincoln during the break.

Nebraska lawmakers have given initial approval to a $9.4 billion, two-year state budget that shovels millions of extra dollars into the state’s rainy-day fund amid fears about the global pandemic caused by the new coronavirus. Lawmakers had already planned to boost the state’s cash-reserve fund after three years of lagging tax collections and tight budgets, but the worldwide panic had many of them warning that the state could face more trouble. The new budget would boost the cash reserve to $731 million by the end of the current two-year budget cycle in June 2022.

Nebraska lawmakers have taken a major step toward increasing transparency and accountability in state-run juveniles homes following an outbreak of violence, vandalism and escapes. Lawmakers on Tuesday gave initial approval to measures that would require state officials to create a long-term operations plan for how to safely run the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers in Geneva, Kearney and Lincoln.

Some Nebraska lawmakers are expressing shock and outrage that gun owners were allowed to bring loaded, semi-automatic rifles into the state Capitol to protest bills that would have imposed new restrictions on gun ownership. Some lawmakers say they viewed the demonstration as an intimidation tactic during a contentious legislative hearing Friday afternoon that drew an estimated 400 protesters.

Nebraska legislators have given initial approval to a measure that would require law enforcement officers to undergo anti-bias training. The bill that received first-round approval Wednesday in a 43-0 vote could be the last major piece of legislation proposed by the state's longest-serving and best-known state senator, Ernie Chambers. The Omaha lawmaker designated it as his last official legislative priority in what could be his final year in office.

A bill designed to lower property taxes by boosting state aid for Nebraska's K-12 public schools has advanced out of a legislative committee but will still face opposition when lawmakers debate it. Members of the Revenue Committee voted 6-2 Wednesday to send the proposal to the full Legislature. The bill has won  support from farm and business groups, but some school districts have objected because they would lose some taxing authority and the bill would tighten state-imposed spending restrictions. Gov.

Nebraska lawmakers who want to minimize partisanship when they redraw the state's political boundaries will make one final push to change the process before it begins anew next year, but creating an independent commission to guide their work appears to be a lost cause. Barring any changes, the process that’s set to begin in the 2021 legislative session will follow the same rules that led to a bitter struggle between Republicans and Democrats during the last redistricting in 2011.

Lawmakers Consider Red Flag Bill

Feb 6, 2020

Nebraska lawmakers are considering a "red-flag" bill. The "Omaha World Herald" reports that the measure would allow authorities to temporarily seize guns from people suspected of being dangerous.  Supporters say the measure is designed to prevent violence against others and gun-related suicides. The legislature's Judiciary Committee advanced the bill yesterday on a five-to-two vote.

A key state lawmaker says Nebraska’s severe prison overcrowding is only going to get worse over the next few years if state officials don’t take more aggressive steps to address the problem. Sen. Steve Lathrop, of Omaha, told a legislative committee Wednesday that the state’s prison population is projected to grow so fast that it will outpace the new beds that corrections officials are adding to try to ease pressure on their facilities. Lathrop made the remarks as he proposed a new, $52 million Omaha community corrections facility to members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's new economic development director has been confirmed by lawmakers who praised him for his business experience. Senators voted 42-0 to put Tony Goins, of Lincoln, in charge of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed Goins in July. Goins replaces Dave Rippe, who stepped down as the director to return to his home in Hastings. Goins serves as director of Branded Products for Lincoln Industries, where he leads a sales team responsible for aftermarket truck and Harley Davidson parts. Goins started in his new role Oct.

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