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Nebraska State Legislature

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.

A bill that would lower Nebraska’s property taxes by shifting more state aid to schools is drawing support from the state’s top agricultural and business groups but opposition from schools that don’t want restrictions on their taxing power and don’t trust the state to maintain its funding. The face-off before the Legislature’s Revenue Committee was a troubling sign for the bill’s prospects, although the committee chairwoman says the proposal was likely to change.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has proposed nearly $60 million in state assistance to help the state recover from last year’s record floods. That proposal includes a surprise $9.2 million boost for a dozen of Nebraska's hardest-hit counties. Ricketts unveiled the plan Wednesday during his annual State of the State address to lawmakers that lavished praise on the citizens and state officials who responded to the disaster. Ricketts says the flood response was “Nebraska's finest hour,” but the disaster put undue pressure on local governments.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will attempt to lower taxes for homeowners, farmers and military retirees this year while setting aside money to help the state recover from the historic 2019 floods. The governor tells The Associated Press he'll present lawmakers with a property tax package during the new legislative session that begins Wednesday. He says he'll also continue pushing for one of his earlier priorities, a tax exemption for military retirees equal to half of their half of their benefit income.

A Democratic lawmaker says he may push to strengthen a Nebraska law regulating state officials' advertising after the Republican state treasurer spent more than $593,000 on ads prominently featuring himself. The Omaha World-Herald reports that State Treasurer John Murante selected his former employer, Victory Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, to do the ads without taking bids. Democratic State Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln said he is looking at expanding a law prohibiting state officers like the treasurer from running ads with their names during an election year.