The Legislature has begun to debate priority bills this week; senators and committees have until March 12 to pick their priority bills for the 2009 Session. Last Thursday and Friday, we debated Legislative Bill 53 (Sen. Fischer) that makes changes to the public power districts' chartered territory statutes and LB 83 (Sen. McGill), which attempted to provide for the care of domestic animals in protection orders. I would like to give an update on each of these bills
First, LB 53 advanced to Final Reading after a motion failed to postpone debate until June 4. It addresses three main issues: the eligibility to run and vote for a public power district board, the rules for public power districts, and the definition of a wholesale customer.
Specifically, LB 53 will treat public power districts alike, with one set of rules in statute instead of two. Currently, there is one set of rules for districts with 50 counties or less, and one for districts with more than 50 counties. In addition, the bill will go back to requiring municipalities and other wholesales customers to purchase 50 percent of their firm wholesale annual energy from a public power district to be included in the chartered territory of the supplying district. Chartered territories generally include areas where districts provide retail and wholesale service; directors are elected from these areas.
The sponsor of LB 53 believes this will provide better equality and fairness for the governance of all public power districts, and I agree. Shifts in population are anticipated to lessen the rural representation on the NPPD board while increasing the representation of certain municipalities who have less significant interest in the decisions of NPPD.
Legislative Bill 83 would have allowed a person filing for a protection order to receive additional protection for any domestic animals that the victim felt could be harmed by the person for which the order is directed.
After much discussion in committee about what type of animal might be included under the term "domestic animal," LB 83 advanced out of committee with an amendment to clarify it. The amendment would have added language to exclude animals used for commercial agricultural operations. The concern was for certain animals like horses used in the farming, ranching, or livestock industry. One might consider a horse domestic when it is primarily commercial, potentially interfering with business operations.
Friday, the committee amendment failed, but another amendment was adopted that changed the term from "domestic animal" to "household pet," addressing the previous concern.
LB 83 ultimately failed to advance because of possible unintended consequences of elevating property, like a dog, to the level of a human in a protection order. I agree that it is a fine line to cross to elevate animals into the same category as children during domestic disputes.
As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions or opinions.