Five Hughes bills to final reading

Thursday, April 20, 2017

McCOOK, Neb. — Five of the bills introduced by District 44 State Sen. Dan Hughes this session have advanced to final reading, with hope remaining for a couple of others and several slated for a renewed effort next year. The third-year senator introduced a total of 11 bills this session, touching on a broad spectrum of topics and nearly doubling the six bills he introduced during last year’s short session.

Sen. Hughes provided a progress recap during this morning’s legislative conference call with the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce. He said two of the final reading bills, LB 89 and LB 90, were wrapped into LB 151 which was placed on final reading earlier this month. LB 89 would reduce the public notification period required by the Nebraska Budget Act for proposed annual budgets submitted by governing bodies. The changes would reduce the five-day publishing requirement for proposed budget statements, prior to public hearings, to four days and specify “calendar” days.

LB 90 will require public entities to provide suitable accommodations for employees of the Auditor of Public Accounts at locations where they are conducting audits or examinations. The accommodations include desks or tables and chairs, electrical outlets and Internet access if available, according to the introduced copy.

Sen. Hughes proposal to change powers and duties of the Department of Environmental Quality, LB 182, is also on final reading. The bill would amend the power to enter into loan forgiveness and financial assistance agreements with public water systems having populations of 10,000 inhabitants or less, to specify public water systems that provide service to 10,000 persons or less.

LB 535 would provide an exemption for oil, gas or mineral leases from requirements to file a completed statement with the register of deeds. It was placed on final reading last week.

Sen. Hughes’s Imperial bill, LB 317, is also among the five final reading bills. It would extend authority to second class cities and villages to re-levy or reassess a special assessment found invalid, uncollectible, void by a court, or paid under protest and recovered by suit, among other scenarios.

Sen. Hughes indicated he was working two other bills, with three slated for a renewed effort next session and one serving as a placeholder bill.

LB 318 will add the Nebraska Brand Committee to the list of governing entities authorized to conduct meetings via telephone conference and is expected to advance to select file as part of the consent calendar. Sen. Hughes said the consent calendar could be a risky path because legislation that faced opposition was pulled and could not be brought back.

Sen. Hughes indicated he was still negotiating with staff members for the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to get LB 183 out of committee. The bill would remove political party affiliation ballot requirements for elected county officers in counties with a population of 15,000 or less, some 74 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

The three delayed bills include one intending to assist law enforcement officers and private property owners when dealing with abandoned vehicles, LB 275. Sen. Hughes said he asked to place the bill on the consent calendar but didn’t get it.

The bill intends to authorize property owners to remove abandoned vehicles and puts in place certain reporting requirements.

Sen. Hughes’ bill to implement a drug screening program for some recipients of welfare cash, LB 537, is similarly stuck in committee and he said he plans to work on it more this summer and try again next session.

The bill would have required the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a drug screening program for recipients of cash assistance under the Welfare Reform Act, that they have reasonable cause to believe are using.

A bill drafted by Sen. Hughes and McCook Chief of Police Isaac Brown, LB 593, will also remain in committee with plans to take it up again next year. The bill intended to add the offense of “criminal trespass to vehicles” to the Nebraska Criminal Code.

Sen. Hughes said LB 536 was primarily introduced as a placeholder for Natural Resource District issues, that might have arisen and could then be rolled into the bill. The bill was referred to the Natural Resources Committee in February and clarified language in Nebraska Revised Statute 2-3224 pertaining to disbursement provisions for natural resource districts, according to its statement of intent.

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