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DeKay introduces six legislative bills


January 26, 2023

Late last week I learned of my appointment to three special committees: justice reinvestment oversight, state-tribal relations, and statewide tourism and recreation water access and resource sustainability. I am pleased to both be the vice chair of State-Tribal Relations (Committee) and be able to provide the 40th District with continued representation on the STAR WARS Committee. As a member, I hope to bring the proposed event center and lodge at Niobrara State Park, boat launch near the village of Niobrara and expansion of the Weigand Marina at the Lewis and Clark State Recreational Area from the drawing board to reality.

This week saw the legislature conclude bill introduction for the year. Senators introduced 812 legislative bills that will each receive a public hearing this session. I introduced six bills and I would like to discuss three of them.

LB 484 would finish the expansion of U.S. 81 to a four-lane highway by requiring the Department of Transportation to finish construction between York and Columbus and Norfolk to the South Dakota line. I believe this project is long overdue in terms of safety, convenience and growing northeast Nebraska.

LB 767 would increase the indigent defense filing fee from $3 to $8, so as to provide stable funding for the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy. The commission was created in 1995 to provide property tax relief to counties that are required to provide legal representation to indigent defendants charged with first-degree murder and serious violent or drug-related felonies. Before the creation of the commission, smaller counties faced the prospect of raising property taxes or declaring bankruptcy if a person or group charged with a heinous crime was unable to pay for their legal defense.

LB 768 would transfer $30 million from the cash reserve fund to support the development of the Cedar Knox Rural Water Project being overseen by the Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District. This system serves 900 rural service connections.

It also accommodates two sanitary improvement districts, three housing developments, five campgrounds and four communities: Crofton, Fordyce, Obert and St. Helena. However, the intake structure is expected to be filled in by sediment in approximately 20 years and the current production capacity of the treatment plant and portions of the distribution system are at or near its maximum sustainable level. This funding will assist with the cost of developing a groundwater source and a treatment plant before the potential increased population and infrastructure due to the STAR WARS projects proposed in northern Knox County.

On Thursday, the legislature debated changes to the permanent rules. The Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. Steve Erdman, considered 58 proposals. Ultimately, 10 proposals were brought to floor and eight were adopted. Most of these proposals were largely technical in nature to allow for quick adoption of permanent rules and consideration of other business, like the budget, voter identification and the governor's proposals for property tax and school finance reform. Erdman has indicated he plans to hold another public hearing on proposals that received controversy or did not advance to the floor. I imagine several proposals, such as public votes for committee chairs and speaker of the legislature, will be discussed again during this hearing and later in the session.

The legislature also appears primed to take up at least two issues that fell to filibusters last year. Sen. Tom Brewer introduced LB 77 that revives the effort to bring constitutional carry to Nebraska. This proposal would expand Second Amendment rights by allowing persons wanting to carry a concealed weapon to no longer need to get a permit. Brewer prioritized this bill on Day Two, meaning it is very likely to be debated this year.

Sen. Joni Albrecht introduced LB 626 that would adopt the Nebraska Heartbeat Act. Under this legislation, abortions would be restricted once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually after six to eight weeks gestation. The bill contains exceptions for rape, incest and medical threats to a mother's life. It also spells out protections for in vitro fertilization and procedures after miscarriages. Doctors would lose medical licenses if they perform an abortion after an ultrasound finds a heartbeat. As the only abortion restriction bill introduced, this bill is likely to be prioritized and debated as well.

As my first legislative session gets underway, I invite you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions on legislation that is before us. I can be reached at [email protected]. My state capitol telephone number is 402-471-2801 and my mailing address is: Senator Barry DeKay, District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.


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