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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Back to work for WEC offenders

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Last week was another busy week on the floor of the Unicameral. During the week, I had a couple of bills move forward, which I think will be good news for the District and specifically many of you who have contacted my office.

One of them, Legislative Bill 429, which was designed to help the Work Ethic Camp (WEC) in McCook to resume their ability to enter into work agreements with educational entities, was successfully amended into LB 63. LB 63 had already advanced to the second round of debate when my bill was amended into it and eventually moved on to Final Reading.

LB 429, allows the Department of Correctional Services to enter into arrangements with school districts, educational service units, community colleges, state colleges, and universities for employment of persons committed to the department. In addition, it requires such persons to be supervised. This change includes the WEC.

Currently, Nebraska law provides the authority for the Department of Correctional Services to enter into work arrangements with any other board or agency of the state, any natural resources district, or any other political subdivision, except for political subdivisions such as school districts, educational service units, community colleges, state colleges, and universities.

Until last summer, the WEC had been entering into these types of agreements with educational entities since their inception because it was determined they did not fall under this restriction, as they only housed probationers. However, last summer Corrections stopped WEC from entering into these arrangements with educational entities because it was unclear whether the WEC was included under the educational entity restrictions in statute, since the passage of LB 83 in 2007. LB 83 allowed inmates and not just probationers into WEC, potentially bringing the facility under the restriction.

Amending LB 429 into LB 63 not only frees up the WEC to resume working with political subdivisions like Mid-Plains Community College, ESU 15, and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture to utilize this workforce from the WEC, but also frees up work programs at other correctional facilities in Nebraska.

WEC has been a great success. It has helped many offenders to learn to be productive citizens and providing a great service for Southwest Nebraska. I am very please that we were able to address this problem.

The second of my bills that moved last week was LB 430, which addressed several issues relating to the Concealed Handgun Act. Passing Final Reading with a very strong 45-3 vote, we expect the Governor will sign LB 430 into law by the time most of you read this article. Again, I am glad that we were able to accomplish these necessary fixes and improvements to the act.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with your comments, concerns, or questions.

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State Sen. Mark Christensen
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