LINCOLN– Senators in the Nebraska Legislature introduced various bills in the second week of the 2021 Nebraska Legislative Session. Here are some of the most notable proposals.
Bills related to correctional facilities included
LB 525, introduced by Sen. Anna Wishart Lincoln, would establish a full-time program to investigate and review the Nebraska Correctional System to improve operations, policies and procedures. The bill would also change the Office of Inspector General of the Nebraska Correctional System’s ability to conduct investigations and file reports.
LB 515, introduced by Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, would adopt the Municipal Police Oversight Act. As part of the proposal, certain cities with more than 5,000 people would establish an oversight board to monitor, investigate and evaluate police standards and practices.
LB 519, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, would provide a person immunity from arrest and prosecution for drug and alcohol offenses if he or she witnessed or was a victim of sexual assault.
Other bills included
LB 643, introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, would protect the right to accept or decline a vaccination under the state’s mandatory directive. As part of the bill, there would be no implication, penalty, litigation, or punishment by the state to people or businesses who decline to accept a mandatory vaccination.
LB 621, introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, would adopt the Social Media Fairness Act. As part of the proposal, the owner of a dominant social media site must give electronic notice to the person or business that owns the account informing them their account is being disabled, suspended or censored.
LB 623, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, would adopt the Remote Instruction Act to provide guidelines for school boards’ remote learning plans.
LB 590, introduced by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, would decrease the amount of time early voting ballots are available before an election.
During the week, senators also adapted new session rules. Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings introduced a rule that would have required public votes for the election of the Speaker of the Legislature and chairpersons of all 14 standing committees. Votes for the elections are currently conducted in secret. Halloran said that secret ballots are unconstitutional.
Halloran’s rule was met with controversy. Supporters of the bill said it would allow for more transparency between senators in the Legislature. Groene said a lack of transparency breeds mistrust among lawmakers.
Those who opposed the new rule said that secret voting allowed for the best candidates to be elected. They said lawmakers do not feel the pressure to vote with a specific party in secret voting. Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg also opposed the change, calling it politically motivated. Lawmakers voted 30-19 against the proposal.
The Legislature also released committee hearing modifications in response to the pandemic Jan. 22. Hearings began Jan. 25 with the morning session starting at 9:30 a.m. and afternoon sessions at 1:30 p.m.
The Legislature also created four options for public input at committee hearing meetings. Individuals may continue to testify in person. Due to limited capacity and social distancing, people may also submit written testimony in person the day of the hearing. People who do not wish to appear in person can also send an email to the committee’s account by noon the day before the hearing. Another option is to submit comments on the Legislature website on the ‘Bills’ page. Online comments will not be included as part of the official legislative record.
“It’s vital to the legislative process for members of the public to have the opportunity to have their voices heard. Nebraska’s unique Unicameral Legislature relies heavily on citizen input,” said Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln.