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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Two WEC bills on way to becoming law

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two bills affecting the Nebraska Department of Corrections Work Ethic Camp in McCook are on the way to becoming final.

Sen. Mark Christensen said the bill that would allow offenders to work at education facilities has an emergency clause so it can go into effect as soon as its passed.

"A lot of people are ready to have that back," he said today at the Government Affairs Legislature conference call at the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce. Offenders at the WEC had been providing labor, under proper supervision, at area schools until last year, when officials discovered a state law that prohibited it.

Another bill that allows the corrections director to assign inmates currently incarcerated to the camp is up for final reading on the consent calendar and Christensen expects no opposition.

But funding for a corridor study on a proposed expressway along U.S. Highway 83 has hit a roadblock this session and Christensen said he would bring it back next year.

Christensen said there was no support from the Legislative Transportation or Appropriations Committees to provide matching state funds for federal money designated for the study.

He was discouraged from attaching an amendment to the budget to appropriate the funds, Christensen said, as other senators would have attached their bills and increased the budget.

Without the support of the Transportation and Appropriation Committees, "It would have gotten pretty ugly on the floor," he said

The corridor study would have determined the cost effectiveness of the expressway and other factors. Although a four-lane expressway going north and south would jumpstart commerce activity in Western Nebraska, Christensen said senators wanted hard numbers concerning traffic counts.

Senators were not convinced that the proposed expressway was needed, he said, and felt that the state should not invest funds into a study when no money has been allocated for the construction.

As the Legislature winds down for the year, two controversial bills are still facing second round approval.

Senators advanced a bill May 19 to adopt lethal injection as the state's method of execution. Christensen said he supported the bill and says there are enough votes to carry the bill through.

The state was left with no legal method to carry out death penalty, when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled last year that electrocution, the method of execution in Nebraska, violated the state constitutional prohibition against inflecting cruel and unusual punishment.

Another bill that made it through first round approval will require a physician who performs an ultrasound to display the image in a manner viewable by a patient seeking an abortion, before the procedure is performed.

An amendment to exempt victims of rape or incest to view the image was ultimately defeated but the vote was closer than what he thought it would be, Christensen said.

"There was a lot of heated debate," he said.

-- Lorri Sughroue

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