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Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • Unicameral Update

  • Senators are allowed to introduce bills for the first ten days of the legislative session. At the end of the tenth day, 655 bills, six constitutional amendments and seven resolutions that require a public hearing were introduced by the Legislature. During the last several days of bill introduction, legislation was introduced ...
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  • Senators are allowed to introduce bills for the first ten days of the legislative session. At the end of the tenth day, 655 bills, six constitutional amendments and seven resolutions that require a public hearing were introduced by the Legislature. During the last several days of bill introduction, legislation was introduced to expand Medicaid coverage as envisioned under the federal health care reform law, to divert one-quarter of one percent of the sales tax for water sustainability projects, to repeal the law passed last year diverting one-quarter of one percent of the sales tax for road projects, to repeal the law passed last year providing Medicaid coverage of prenatal care for unborn children of illegal immigrants, to abolish the death penalty and to overhaul the juvenile justice system.
    I introduced six bills and signed on as a co-sponsor to several others. Three of the bills that I introduced had their public hearing during the first week of hearings, of which two have already been advanced to the floor of the Legislature.
    The first bill that I introduced was Legislative Bill 100. It proposes to bring state law into conformity with the current provisions of federal law relating to automatic teller machine (ATM) fee disclosure requirements. Currently, state law requires financial institutions operating ATMs to display notices in two separate places to notify customers that they might be charged fees for withdrawing cash from the ATM. One notice is a placard posted in a prominent location on the ATM and a second notice is required to appear on the screen of the ATM or on a paper notice issued from the machine prior to the completion of the transaction. Congress recently passed legislation eliminating the posting requirement, which is no longer needed as most every ATM now has on-screen capabilities to notify customers. Furthermore, the posting requirement has led to lawsuits across the country when the placard is missing or has been deliberately removed. LB 100 would remove the posting requirement from state law, once again conforming state law with federal law.
    I introduced LB 102 at the request of the Department of Natural Resources. In 1997, the Legislature passed the License Suspension Act, finding that the potential suspension of a professional, occupational, or recreational license or driver's license for failure to pay child support was an effective tool in the enforcement of child-support orders. To implement the law, social security numbers were required on the applications for certain licenses and permits. Consequently, applicants for certain water permits were required to list their social security numbers. Since these permits are public records, department personnel must redact this information before making them available to the public, but must keep the originals intact. Since the Department of Health and Human Services has never requested information on these permits, the legislation strikes the requirement for the inclusion of the applicant's social security number. Not only will this save staff time, it will also protect the identity of the public.
    Page 2 of 2 - The third bill that I introduced at a public hearing this past week was LB 156. Counties are required to establish general assistance programs and may develop community service programs for employable recipients. Counties utilizing a community service program are required to file an annual report to the Department of Health and Human Services. Previously, the department was to summarize the county findings in a report to the Legislature. However, this requirement was eliminated in 2005. Since only two counties have submitted reports and the reports are not being utilized, LB 156 strikes this requirement of the counties.
    The other three bills that I introduced have not been assigned a hearing date at this time. LB 101 proposes to reduce the valuation of agricultural land from 75 percent to 65 percent of actual value for school district taxation purposes. LB 588 creates the Veterans Preference Act, to assist veterans when applying for jobs with the state and its governmental subdivisions.
    Finally, LB 589 deals with the responsibilities of natural gas companies in regards to the One-Call Notification requirement during emergency conditions.
    As the Legislature begins debate on bills that have advanced to the floor, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My e-mail address is dwatermeier@leg.ne.gov and my telephone number is (402) 471-2733.
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