| Hearings End, Full Days of Debate Begin
Thursday marked the 36th day of the 60-day session. Senators wrapped up committee hearings on Tuesday with bills on gas taxes, redistricting requirements and placement of involuntarily admitted patients. Full days of debate began on Wednesday.
The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met on Wednesday to project anticipated state revenues. Because many of the pending bills have a fiscal note, the projections will play a key role in the remainder of the session. The Board raised its estimate by $55 million, compared to its October forecast and about $25 million for FY17-18. Federal tax changes could also affect Nebraska's individual and corporate tax collections next year. The Revenue Committee has prioritized
to help neutralize the effect.
On Tuesday, the agenda returns to
, a bill to provide requirements for inmate access to phone calls and videoconferencing systems. The bill was debated last week but the session adjourned for the day before a vote was taken to adopt an amendment and advance the bill from General File.
First round debate on other General File priority bills including a measure to require the state to pay certain prosecution costs for events in state facilities (
), is expected later in the week.
To date, 31 bills have been passed by the legislature and signed into law. Bills that are not passed during this session are considered indefinitely postponed and do not carry over to 2019.
|Counsel for Juveniles Debated
A bill to require legal counsel to be provided for juveniles was debated for three hours this week but time ran out before a vote was taken to adopt amendments or advance the bill from General File. The bill does not appear on Tuesday's agenda but it is expected to return later this session.
was introduced by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks and she designated it as her priority bill in 2017 and 2018. As introduced, the bill would require legal counsel to be appointed each time a juvenile petition is filed. Legislation was enacted in 2016 to require counties over 150,000 to provide access to counsel in these instances. LB158 would expand that requirement to counties of all sizes.
During General File debate last year, Senator Patty Pansing Brooks offered an
that would have provided $400,000 in funding from the Court Automation Fund to offset any costs to counties for providing additional legal services. The amendment fell three votes short of adoption on General File. A motion to reconsider the vote was adopted and a motion to bracket the bill until June 2, 2017 was pending when time for debate ran out.
This year's priority designation started the clock over. Senators continued debate on the Judiciary Committee amendment (
) that would clarify that counsel would not need to be appointed if the juvenile participated in pre-trial diversion. In addition, Senator Pansing Brooks offered an amendment to impose a $1 juvenile indigent defense fee on all cases filed in county, juvenile, and district courts, including appeals, and for appeals and original actions filed in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court rather than using the Court Automation Fund. The fees would be credited to a fund administered by the Commission on Public Advocacy and distributed to counties through a grant mechanism to help offset the cost of providing legal counsel for indigent juveniles.
Proponents discussed constitutional requirements for providing counsel and the challenges juveniles and their parents face understanding the complicated and often unfamiliar court system. Opponents, including Senator Mike Groene who filed a motion to bracket the bill, expressed concerns about the cost to counties in the bill as introduced and whether appointed counsel would interfere with parental responsibility.
| Judiciary Committee Advances Omnibus Bills
Because a large number of bills are assigned to the Judiciary Committee for hearing but only two can be designated as priorities, the committee followed its general practice of incorporating a number of bills into its committee amendments. This is also known as a Christmas tree in that the various bills are like ornaments on the underlying bill.
One of the priority bills is
that would make changes to the makeup and operation of the Nebraska Coalition for Juvenile Justice. The amendment retains a county board member, a law enforcement representative and a NACO representative on its membership.
Also included in the committee amendment are provisions from the following bills:
would make adjustments to the statutes governing juvenile bridge orders. The bill would further clarify that the transfer from juvenile to district court would not result in filing fees or other costs.
would address the quarterly reporting requirements on juvenile confinement. The committee amendment would clarify that placement of a juvenile in a room alone constitutes room confinement, even if the juvenile is in a room or cell that is monitored by video or other electronic monitoring. Additionally, penalty provisions would be adjusted.
would make adjustments to statutes governing how peace officers handle juveniles taken into custody and notice given to their parents or guardians.
would strike a requirement under current law that a preliminary hearing be held before an impartial person when a juvenile has been confined, detained or otherwise significantly deprived of his or her liberty in response to a violation of the juvenile's probation.
The second Judiciary Committee priority bill addresses adult corrections issues. The underlying bill,
, provides duties relating to correctional overcrowding emergencies. Other legislation included within the Committee's amendment includes:
would change and eliminate provisions relating to parole administration.
would ask the Department of Correction Services to complete a comprehensive analysis of its system-wide staffing needs and provide a report to the Legislature by September 15, 2020.
would transfer the authority to conduct criminal investigations occurring within facilities operated by the Department of Correctional Services from the Department to the Nebraska State Patrol. In some circumstances, the person alleged to have committed the offense would be transported from the correctional facility in the county that will have jurisdiction over the assault. If the offense the person is currently serving a sentence for is a Class I or Class IA felony, the person would not be removed from the correctional facility.
would adjust statutes that allow the Department of Correctional Services and Parole to permit an inmate to leave a facility for work release, and would allow an inmate, under certain circumstances, to leave a facility to participate in substance abuse evaluations or treatment, or attend rehabilitative programming or treatment. Also, LB852 as amended would make adjustments to the current process for granting medical parole for an inmate diagnosed with a terminal illness.
would authorize the Department of Correctional Services to contract with counties to house inmates in county jails on a temporary basis.Contracts would be limited to inmates within one year of parole or release eligibility, inmates being transferred into state custody for safekeeping, nonviolent offenders, and inmates requiring only community-based or minimum-security supervision. Counties would have to offer services to meet one or more of the inmate's prerelease programming requirements if needed for the inmate to be eligible for parole or release.
would require the Board of Parole to give both the Department of Correctional Services and an inmate notice that the inmate has been deferred parole within ten days of making such a determination.
would require the Medical Director the Department of Correctional Services to establish a protocol to determine whether an inmate soon to be released should be prescribed and dispensed a medication-assisted treatment that could assist in reducing or eliminating the inmates use of opiates upon release.
would create the Coordinated Reentry Council to further the state's efforts to establish a comprehensive and successful system of corrections reentry programs.
|Snapshots of County Issues
The final bill heard by the Judiciary Committee this year was
, a bill to adopt the Interstate Placement for Involuntarily Admitted Patients Agreement Act. The bill would enable behavioral health services to be provided across state lines. In some instances, patients might be able to receive services closer to home in a different state.
The Revenue Committee heard
, Senator Justin Wayne's bill to set the minimum average price of gas used to calculate the gas tax at $2.44. It is estimated to generate $6.5 million for counties in the first full fiscal year. In 2009, Senator Deb Fischer proposed setting the wholesale fuel tax rate a $2.44 per gallon. Had it been enacted, it would have generated more than $14 million.
Another bill introduced by Senator Wayne would allow the state to issue up to $200 million of bonds for the Build Nebraska Act. Bonds issued under
would have to be paid off by July 1, 2037.
Bills introduced by Senator Paul Schumacher would terminate tax incentive programs (
) and eliminate certain sales and use tax exemptions (
). The committee has not taken action on the bills heard this week.
Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
The state's 2021 redistricting would be determined by U.S. Census Bureau figures, less the noncitizen population of the state under
. The bill is intended to implement
Art. III, section 5
of the Nebraska constitution which states that "The basis of apportionment shall be the population excluding aliens, as shown by the next preceding federal census." Testifiers expressed concerns that the noncitizen data is not collected on the same schedule as other census data and that representation would be lost for the undocumented population. The committee did not report any action on the bill.
Bills Advanced by Committees
Bills Advanced from General File
Committees reported that a number of bills were placed on General File this week including the following bills of interest to counties.
would define "smart contracts", which are commonly offered as an example of distributed ledger technology. This is the technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency. The bill would amend electronic notary statutes to address signatures secured through such technology.
would provide a procedure to set aside criminal convictions of victims of sex trafficking and expunge related records. Senator Dan Quick has prioritized LB1132.
would create a new "super-two" functional classification for roads and increase maximum speed limits. The bill was prioritized by Senator Dan Hughes.
is a clean-up bill from the Urban Affairs Committee. A committee amendment would include language from
, which would allow municipalities and counties to enter into interlocal agreements to abate, remove, or prevent nuisances within the extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction of the municipality. It also includes language from
that would allow municipalities of all sizes to create land banks to help return properties to the tax rolls. LB873 is an Urban Affairs Committee priority bill.
Bills Signed by Governor
, Senator Sara Howard's priority bill, would limit prescriptions for opioids to a seven-day supply for patients under 19 years of age. Exceptions could be made for chronic pain management or pain associated with a cancer diagnosis. A Judiciary Committee amendment was adopted that added language from
to require practitioners to discuss certain information with patients before the first prescription and from
to require persons receiving a prescription for opiates to provide photo identification. Senator Tyson Larson filed and withdrew an amendment that would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide such identification at no charge for individuals without a valid operator's license or state ID.
A measure to require counties to only post weight limit signs on bridges if the carrying capacity is less than the road was signed by Governor Pete Ricketts on Wednesday.
also specifies the size of culvert that is subject to weight limits as an implement of husbandry.