LINCOLN--The Legislature continued committee hearings and floor debate this week on a wide range of issues, including state dollars for the University of Nebraska, requiring landlords to work with victims of domestic violence, Medicaid-like health care coverage to undocumented children and a Democratic candidate announcement.
In a hearing that went on for more than four hours Feb. 14, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds and dozens of other testifiers told the Appropriations Committee to reject Gov. Pete Ricketts' proposed cuts to the university system's budget. Bounds told lawmakers the university comprises just 13 percent of the state's budget but would shoulder 34 percent of the proposed cuts in state spending under the governor's budget proposals. Advocates said the university drives economic development in the state. No one testified in favor of the governor's proposal.
In a political development that created a buzz in the Capitol, State Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said he has decided to seek the governorship as a Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts. Krist changed his voter registration in Douglas County to Democratic on Monday morning and made plans to file as a Democratic candidate with the secretary of state's office.
Autonomous vehicles traveling Nebraska's roads would become a possibility under two bills heard Tuesday by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. One proposal would allow for testing driverless vehicles throughout the state, and another would authorize a driverless vehicle pilot program in downtown Lincoln.
Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha presented the All Kids Health Care Program to the Health and Human Services Committee Thursday. LB 922 would extend Medicaid-like health care coverage to undocumented children in the state of Nebraska regardless of how long they've lived in the state or their country of origin. James Goddard, health care program director at Nebraska Appleseed, testified in favor of the bill, saying, "Our communities are stronger when all children are healthy." But a Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services official testified against it. Thomas Thompson said the bill would create another financial burden on the state.
LB 992, introduced by Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, would require landlords to work with victims of domestic violence. The bill heard by the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 15 would require landlords to release victims of domestic violence from their lease agreement, upon the recommendation from a third party such as law enforcement or a mental health professional.
LB 911, introduced by Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, presented the Revenue Committee with a proposal that would allow local school boards to ask voters to approve a local income surtax not to exceed 20 percent as a means of providing school property tax reduction and to "spread costs across taxpayers based on income."
Among 18 bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law Wednesday by the governor were the Automatic License Plate Reader Privacy Act (LB93), which would establish criteria under which law enforcement agencies can use the automatic devices and the information the devices record.
Also signed into law was a bill (LB377) that simplifies from six to three the number of school district classifications in the state. The six classifications dated from 1949, when the state had more than 6,500 school districts, compared to the 245 districts in Nebraska today, according to the Legislature's Education Committee.
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