By Christine Scalora
Nebraska News Service
State senators have introduced about 300 new bills since returning for the second session of the Legislature. Beginning on Jan. 4, 2012, legislators have introduced bills that deal with everything from health insurance to child welfare reform to the Pledge of Allegiance. Here are some of the highlights:
• LB749: Tanning salons would be exempt from sales tax and use taxes if this bill, introduced by Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, was passed.
• LB753: Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln introduced this bill that would fund childhood obesity prevention measures by taxing soft drinks. The State Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services would each have an obesity prevention fund created by the bill. The soft drink classification would only apply to nonalcoholic beverages with sweeteners, not to milk products, milk substitutes or 100 percent fruit or vegetable drinks.
• LB797: This bill, introduced by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln, would have made kissing on the mouth without consent a crime, but Avery withdrew the bill on Jan. 10.
• LB808: Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha introduced this bill that would allocate $2 million from the 2012-2013 budget to study the impact of a hydroelectric dam on the Platte River near the Interstate 80 corridor.
• LB821: A state agency that oversees all programs that serve children and families would be created by this bill. Lack of coordination among state agencies means that the current system can be dysfunctional and hard to navigate, the bill says, and the proposed Department of Children’s Services would help address this dysfunction. The bill was introduced by the Health and Human Services Committee.
• LB829: Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth introduced this bill that would create “alcohol impact zones,” or an area that is “adversely affected” by chronic drunkenness. Restrictions could be placed on liquor licenses in these impact zones.
• LB835: This bill is one of two introduced bills that would create the Nebraska Health Benefit Exchange. The exchange would help individuals and small businesses purchase health insurance by creating a health insurance marketplace. The goal of the exchange is to increase access to affordable health insurance within the state and to have fewer uninsured people throughout the state. In this bill, introduced by Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, an 11-member board would regulate the exchange. The board would include members who represent the interests of individual consumers, small businesses, and health insurance providers.
• LB838: This bill, introduced by Sen. Rich Pahls of Boys Town, would also create the Nebraska Health Benefit Exchange. Under this bill, the Director of Insurance would manage the exchange.
• LB845: Introduced by Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, this bill would require oil pipeline companies to be responsible for reclamation costs, such as topsoil replacement or restoring active cropland where the pipeline was constructed. The company would be responsible for these costs until the pipeline is removed or permanently shutdown.
• LB861: Alcoholic liquor, in addition to beer and wine, could be sold between 6 a.m. and noon on Sundays, if this bill, introduced by Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, was passed. Currently, Nebraska law gives cities the option to sell beer and wine at this time, but not liquor.
• LB912: Laws and rules against discrimination statewide would be more uniform if this law is passed. Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha introduced this bill with the purpose of ending discrimination and improving intrastate commerce.
• LB928: Mountain lions could be hunted if this bill is passed. The application for the permits could not cost more than $25 and residents would receive permits through a random drawing. The bill was introduced by Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth.
• LB956: Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha introduced the bill that would allow cities to increase sales tax from 1.5 percent up to 2 percent. Residents would have to approve the tax increase through a vote before the tax can be implemented.
• LB957: This bill, one of several that address child welfare reform, would establish the Office of Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare, which would oversee the state’s child welfare system. The program would “provide increased accountability and oversight” of the system, the bill says. The bill was introduced by the Health and Human Services Committee.
• LB986: Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton introduced this bill that would eliminate sales tax on replacement parts for machinery or equipment used in commercial agriculture.
• LB990: This bill, introduced by Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln, would require an American flag in every public school room – not just on school grounds – and would require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in their first class of the day, every school day.
• LB991: A study would be conducted to see if all counties in Nebraska should be required to have a single, county-wide school district, if this bill is passed. The bill was introduced by Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha.
• LR358CA: Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege proposed this constitutional amendment to change senator’s term limits to three consecutive four-year terms, instead of two terms. Nebraska voters would have to approve the amendment. The current term limits were established in 2000.
• LR373CA: A constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha would give state senators a raise: an annual salary of $32,000.Voters would have to approve the new salary–a 167 percent increase from the $12,000 a year state senators currently earn.