This Week in Lincoln: Cannabis, Civics, Chambers and More

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February 1st, 2019

Each Friday morning, the KVNO News website will provide a recap of Fred Knapp’s updates on the Nebraska Legislature for NET News. These stories run daily on 90.7 FM at 7 a.m. and 12 p.m., but in case you missed them, here they are again:

FRIDAY, JAN. 25 – A hearing on a bill to legalize medical marijuana was the main event at the Capitol on the twelfth day of the legislative session.

Sen. Anna Wishart’s LB110 drew both supporters and opponents into a packed hearing room to state their cases. Supporters touted the benefits of cannabis in treating various symptoms and conditions.

Among those in opposition to the proposal was former congressman and Husker coach Tom Osborne, who cited instances with players repeatedly testing positive for marijuana as contrary to the idea that the substance is not addictive or dangerous.

The Judiciary Committee will decide the bill’s fate. If it fails, supporters will mount an ballot initiative petition drive for 2020.

MONDAY, JAN. 28 – Sexism and racism were topics of discussion during the thirteenth day of the session.

It started with Sen. Ernie Chambers calling on more young women to become active in politics and run for office. Freshman Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh countered, with back-up from Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, saying that women should “not be told how to manage our business.”

After discussion of routine bills, Sen. Justin Wayne recounted an incident from the previous week in which he was mistaken for a server or cook at a function he was attending.

“But every time I walk to a dinner, even sometimes out in this rotunda, they don’t see me as a state senator. They see me as a stereotypical black or brown individual who is working,” said Wayne, who stressed the need to look at historical context while serving in the Legislature.

TUESDAY, JAN. 29 – A hearing on a civics education proposal and the advancement of a bill on pensions were part of business at the Legislature on the fourteenth day of the session.

Sen. Julie Slama’s bill would require schools to give students the 100-question civics test new citizens have to pass. It would update an existing law on the teaching of “Americanism.”

The testing part of the bill was opposed by the Nebraska Department of Education, and opposition to the proposal objected to a “sugarcoated, whitewashed” version of American history taught to students.

Senators also voted 40-1 on legislation to keep more information about public pensions private. The proposal would add Omaha Public School retirees to those whose information is already kept private.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 30 – Two proposals regarding how crimes in state prisons are investigated were brought before the Judiciary Committee on the fifteenth day of the Legislature.

The proposals would have State Patrol, rather than Corrections, investigate these crimes. In opposition were both the director of Corrections and superintendent of the State Patrol. The committee took no immediate action.

The Revenue Committee also held a public hearing for a proposal on demand for water from Nebraska’s rivers.

Sen. John Stinner’s proposal would allow Natural Resource Districts along the Republican and Platte Rivers to increase property taxes in proportion to valuation to fund water management projects. No immediate action was taken on this proposal as well.

THURSDAY, JAN. 31 – Internet sales tax and regulation of wind projects were two proposals with hearings on the sixteenth day of the session.

Nebraska can now collect sales tax on out-of-state online sales after a Supreme Court ruling last June. Now, lawmakers are debating how to turn policy into law. There are several proposals addressing this, but they differ in their approach.

Sen. Tom Brewer’s bill on wind energy would require counties to have zoning in place before major projects are approved. Opponents say this could slow down a process that needs to be quicker; “we need to be open for business,” said John Hansen of the Nebraska Farmers Union.

And Sen. Ernie Chambers hinted at potential future terms in the Legislature. The longtime Omaha senator, 81, will be term-limited in 2020, but he can run again in 2024 after sitting out the requisite four years.

As well as keeping up with the legislature through daily updates, you can also watch the Nebraska Legislature live on NET World.

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