Unicameral considers youth tanning, parks funding, industrial hemp


March 5th, 2014

Omaha, NE — Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist originally proposed banning children under 18 from using commercial tanning beds. He cited the rise of skin cancer, particularly among young women.


Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell cited a National Cancer Institute study that said skin cancer among women aged 15-39 had increased by as much as 50 percent from 1980 to 2004.

Nordquist’s proposal met resistance from the tanning industry, which pointed out doctors prescribe tanning to deal with certain skin conditions.

Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion objected to the legislation in principle.

“This is the wrong kind of legislation, although this body (the Legislature) seems to like this kind of legislation,” Kintner said, characterizing it as “busybody legislation where we’re going to regulate your life, we’re going to tell you how to live your life, we’re going to tell you what you can and can’t do.”

That led Nordquist to ask Kintner if he opposed regulations on selling tobacco to young people. When Kintner said he did not, Nordquist said tanning poses a similar hazard.

“According to the FDA and the World Health Organization, indoor tanning is considered and rated a class one carcinogen, the same level as tobacco, arsenic and asbestos,” Nordquist said. “Obviously we regulate tobacco products, we regulate class one carcinogens, I think it just makes sense to allow appropriate regulation of indoor tanning.”

Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk proposed an amendment lowering the proposed ban to apply only to children under age 16, and allowing them to use tanning facilities if a parent or guardian came with them and gave permission. The amendment was adopted, and senators then gave the bill first round approval on a vote of 34-0.

Senators also debated a bill designed to help address a maintenance backlog in Nebraska’s state parks. The proposal by Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery would direct the revenue from sales taxes on motorboats, personal watercraft, all terrain and utility vehicles to the Game and Parks Commission for the next five years.

Avery said it’s important to address the maintenance backlog, in part to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We really can no longer ignore the fact that we have some very serious issues with our state parks. There is of course the ADA compliance issues, but also there is a problem of public safety,” he said.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins opposed the bill, suggesting Game and Parks should not be given additional money.

“I believe this to be a mismanaged organization that has not spent well the resources that we have given them,” Bloomfield declared.

Game and Parks closed about 20 state recreation areas and state historical parks from September to May to address deferred maintenance. Avery put the price tag at $43 million. His bill, which advanced on a vote of 32-1, will raise about $2.5 million a year. He said other bills being advanced by the Appropriations Committee would give Game and Parks about another $19 million in one-time funds.

Lawmakers also gave first-round approval to a bill by Sen. Norm Wallman of Cortland allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Supporters said the measure would give farmers an additional crop to grow that can be used in everything from clothing to reinforcing fiberglass. Although hemp is related to marijuana, they said it has low levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC. The measure advanced on a vote of 32-1.


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