Lawmakers address juvenile murderers, park fees and education funding

LINCOLN - Nebraska lawmakers continued consideration of bills on a wide range of subjects this week.  Here’s a roundup of some of them:LB44: This bill advanced on a 30-2 vote Thursday. Sponsored by Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, the bill would set a 40-year minimum prison sentence for juveniles committing a 1A felony, which includes serious crimes such as murder, rape or kidnapping. Juveniles committing these crimes could still be able to be sentenced to life without parole.Senators debated the bill at length to determine the proper number of years to set as the minimum. With the compromise at 40 years, juveniles with this minimum sentence could be eligible for parole after 20 years of imprisonment. The bill also requires that judges take into consideration specific circumstances that were determined by a U.S. Supreme Court case.LB362: This bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln, is still pending in the Legislature. It would require Nebraska residents to pay a $7 fee when registering their vehicles that would go to the state parks fund. It would eliminate the $25 annual fee and $5 daily fee for park permits for Nebraska residents.Supporters of the bill said the proposal would create the necessary revenue to keep the state parks running in Nebraska.Opponents expressed concern that it would force people to pay for the parks when they have no intention of using them. It would put a burden on these people, especially those people who already struggle to pay for their vehicle registrations, opponents said.“This does not need to be funded on the backs of the people who can’t afford to go to the park in the first place,” Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said. LB497: Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids introduced this bill that would use lottery money to fund education. The bill advanced Tuesday with a 34-0 vote.Under this bill, about 44.5 percent of lottery funds remaining after paying lottery winners and the fund to help compulsive gamblers would go to an education innovation fund beginning in 2016.It would also require the Education Committee to hold a study to identify areas of education that would receive the funding. The committee would submit a report to the Clerk of the Legislature by the end of December.LB269: Nebraska lawmakers advanced Legislative Bill 269, incorporating amendments, Tuesday, April 9. The bill would allow the state to get more federal foster care funds. An amendment by Health and Human Services Committee passed, which said former foster children could use the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for Medicaid coverage if they’re younger than 26 years old.LB528 – A bill that would allow for the treatment of a sexual partner or partners of a person diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea without a medical examination advanced through the Nebraska Legislature Wednesday. Legislative Bill 528, introduced by Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, would help prevent one partner from reinfecting the same or other partners and would also help reduce the number of babies born with chlamydia or gonorrhea in Nebraska, Howard said. An amendment, introduced by Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, was adopted that would require written information about the diseases to be sent home with the unseen partner’s prescription. The bill has been submitted for review before it’s presented to the Unicameral for the final reading. LB158: This bill would extend the minimum period someone with multiple DUI’s would have to use a vehicle ignition interlock to at least one year. Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings sponsored the bill and said it would put Nebraska in compliance with the federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which requires a year of ignition lock after a 45-day license suspension. The bill advanced to add amendments before it is read a final time.LB271: Senators voted Wednesday to advance this bill that would reduce the number of days a person may vote before an election from 35 to 30. The original bill, introduced by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, would have cut early voting days to 25, but strong opposition from several lawmakers, including Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, forced proponents of the bill to a compromise of 30 days. The bill’s supporters argue that the reduced early voting period gives election officials more time to program machines that assist disabled voters in casting their ballots. Opponents of the bill’s original 25-day period expressed concern that it could restrict access to the polls.