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Water, abortion bills draw attention

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is it February already? Things always seem to go faster during a short 60-day session and this one is no exception. By the end of this week, we will be done with a third of the 2010 Session.

Last Thursday, my LB 893 was heard in the Revenue committee. It was another attempt to provide an additional process to get unconstitutional taxes back to the taxpayers in the district and for similar situations in the future. It was modeled after last year's LB 681, but limited it to unexpended funds and provided clearer language that taxes could also be refunded by satisfying a levy. Several senators on the committee are not very supportive of the bill, so the chances of it advancing are unclear. However, I will continue to work to find a solution to the tax refund issue.

This week I have four bills being heard in committees. On Wednesday Feb. 3, the Natural Resources Committee will be having a public hearing on LB 862 and LB 932. LB862, the occupation tax fix, would change similar language that the district court said was closed class language during the litigation of the LB 701 property tax. The new language would allow any Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) in a river basin, which a majority of NRDs use well metering controls would be authorized in LB 862 to issue riverflow enhancement bonds that could be paid back with proceeds from the current occupation tax.

LB 932 would provide forgiveness of the $8.7 million loan from the state that the NRDs received in 2008 to help pay farmers for the surface water they did not use to help get us in compliance with Kansas in 2007. If compliance is a state issue and the NRD revenue sources are unable to be used or taken away, then the NRDs should not be obligated to repay the money.

On Thursday Feb. 4, the Judiciary Committee will hear LB 889 and LB 1033. LB 889 seeks to strengthen and clarify our self-defense laws by putting in place the Castle Doctrine. LB 1033 would clarify the preemption statute for a Concealed Handgun permit holder by not allowing local registration ordinances, such as the City of Omaha's, to apply to a Concealed Handgun permit holder.

Another bill introduced this year, which I support, is LB 1103, the Abortion Pain Prevention Act. Introduced by Speaker Flood, it is a bill certain to cause controversy. The bill seeks to prohibit late-term abortions and seeks to prevent Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Bellevue from making his clinic the primary provider of late-term abortions in the region.

LB 1103 would prohibit abortions of an unborn child at the gestational age of 20 weeks or later. This is because substantial scientific evidence now exists that an unborn child can feel pain at this stage of development, and the state has a vital interest in preventing that pain.

Besides prohibiting abortions on unborn children twenty weeks or more in gestational age, it requires reporting. It would require new reporting from abortion providers on the determination of gestational age, method used for abortion, reasons and methods of any emergency abortion or late-term abortion, and a requirement that Health and Human Services create an annual public report of this information.

In addition, LB 1103 would create new causes for unprofessional conduct, causes for civil action, injunctive relief, and criminal penalties for knowingly violating the act.

I definitely do not want to see Bellevue become the next "Wichita" of late-term abortions. I hope we can move this bill out of the Judiciary Committee and get it before the whole Legislature to debate.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding these bills or any issue please call my office at 402-471-2805 or for more information you can view my legislative website at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/.

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State Sen. Mark Christensen
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