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LINCOLN--Lawmakers this week debated bills dealing with health care decisions, funding for military dependents and juveniles in court.

A bill to allow access to drugs in clinical trials to Nebraska patients was debated by legislators on March 1. LB 117, introduced by Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha, would allow eligible patients to be treated with any drug that has completed phase one of clinical trials but has not yet been cleared by the FDA for general use. Hilkemann says the bill gives hope to patients suffering a terminal illness that have exhausted all other options. Thirty-three states have adopted similar legislation. The bill advanced to the second round of debate on a vote of 33-12.

Lawmakers heard a bill that would create funding priority for military dependents with developmental disabilities on Feb. 28. LB 685, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would allow dependents of members of the U.S. Armed Forces to become the fifth priority. People in need of services in Nebraska start out at the bottom of the list and move up depending on the severity of their need. The bill advanced to select file, the second round of debate, 37-0.

A bill to allow a designated person to make health care decisions for adults and emancipated minors was heard on Feb. 28. LB 104, introduced by Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, would designate a surrogate to make health care decisions if a person became incapacitated. The surrogate would have to follow the instructions or wishes of the incapacitated person if their wishes were known. The bill would prohibit employees or owners of health care facilities from making decisions for patients unless related by blood, marriage or adoption. The bill advanced to select file unanimously.

Lawmakers debated a bill Feb. 26 through Feb. 28 that would ensure all Nebraska juveniles appearing in court would have legal representation. LB 158, introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, would appoint legal counsel and would inform the juvenile's parent or guardian of the right to retain counsel. The bill would expand legislation that was passed in 2016 to guarantee counsel for juveniles in counties with population greater than 150,000. The legislature took no action on the bill.

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard a bill on Feb. 27 to exclude the state's noncitizen population during redistricting. LB 1115, introduced by Sen. John Murante of Gretna, would require only citizens be taken into account for purposes of redistricting. The decennial federal census hasn't asked citizenship questions since the 1960s. The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Contact Emma Olson at nns.eolson@gmail.com

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