Legislative Roundup, Week 20

Sine Die

The legislative session will adjourn Sine Die tomorrow with an agenda that contains mostly farewell ceremonial activities, including a closing address from the Governor. The body will convene at 1:00 pm Tuesday.

Click here for a link to the NET live stream of floor debate.

Failed Overrides

After the Governor vetoed roughly $45 million from the state budget, the Legislature attempted to override those line-item vetoes, but the body’s most conservative senators voted against all attempts to prevent the additional cuts. Every one of the motions to override failed to get the 30 required votes for override. Vetoes included $32.5 million for low-income Nebraskans with developmental disabilities or mental health issues. The heartfelt pleas of certain senators and the presence in the Capitol Rotunda of people who have developmental disabilities was not enough to restore funding.

As the Omaha World Herald reports:

“Gov. Pete Ricketts successful backing of legislative candidates appeared to have paid off on Wednesday. His allies in the Nebraska Legislature held the line against all efforts to override his line-item vetoes…Among the 21 senators who voted against each motion were 16 who got campaign funds from the Governor.”

Several Coalition members were involved in the battle to prevent further cuts.

Human Trafficking Penalties Increase

With final passage of LB289 (Pansing Brooks), Nebraska is set to dramatically crack down on human trafficking in the state through increased penalties on traffickers and those who solicit trafficking victims. The Women’s Fund of Omaha has been the leading advocate for this bill. As the Omaha World Herald reports:

“Each month in Nebraska, 900 people are sold for sex, often more than once, according to a reports by the Human Trafficking Initiative, a projects of the Women’s Fund. The report stated that almost 400 of those are considered at moderate to high risk of being trafficked. The report also showed that Nebraska’s commercial sex market skews toward children and minorities. One in five people is advertised on websites with phrases indicating that she or he is young. And African African-Americans make up half of all individuals sold for sex in Nebraska, despite representing just 5 percent of the population.”

The Lincoln Journal Star has additional coverage on the passing of LB289.

Support for DACA Youth and Refugees

Last week the Nebraska Legislature passed LR26 (Vargas), which put the Legislature on record opposing federal actions to rescind protections for DACA youth. The Legislature also passed LR27 (Bolz), which put the Legislature on record supporting refugees regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age or sex. Nebraska Appleseed worked for passage of both LR26 and LR27.

Prison Reform

The Nebraska Legislature approved a resolution last week to create a new Justice System Oversight Committee. LR127 (Krist) will continue the previous oversight work of LR424 in 2014 and LR34 in 2015. As the Omaha World Herald reports:

“Recently two inmates were killed during an uprising at the Tecumseh State Prison and an inmate was slain in a double-bunked solitary confinement cell there.”

The ALCU of Nebraska has been keeping a watchful eye on the array of systemic issues in the prison system, including the problem of overcrowding and solitary confinement.

Whiteclay

For those interested in the latest development in Whiteclay, Nebraska and the aftermath of the beer store closings there, the Omaha World Herald and Lincoln Journal Star have great pieces.

Looking Back

Next week this blog will examine important “carryover” bills that will go into next session. Bills not indefinitely postponed (killed) will automatically remain alive next session. This blog will also explore the highs and lows of this session in a special wrap-up piece In the meantime, check out this Lincoln Journal Star article from Don Walton on how much of this session was spent playing defense on budget and taxes.

“The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”

-George Mason  

The Capitol Fly on the Wall

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