Christensen calls for fiscal responsibility when compensating wrongfully convicted

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A bill to financially reimburse those who have been wrongfully incarcerated needs to be realistic and fiscally responsible, Sen. Mark Christensen said.

But a bill that has been advanced to full floor debate will not get his vote if it's left in its current form, he said at the Government Affairs Legislative conference call this morning at the McCook Area Chamber of Commerce.

LB 260, advanced out of the Judiciary Committee this week, establishes the Nebraska Claims for Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act, and compensates those who have been jailed yet later declared innocent of the crime.

Reimbursements include $25,000 for each year incarcerated, free educational opportunities, dental and mental health coverage and child support payments, among other reimbursements.

Christensen, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said he voted to advance the bill only because it deserves floor debate but added that the current bill needs extensive amendments before he could support it.

"You have to be realistic, you can't replace things like missed birthdays or anniversaries," he said. "There's no money figure you can put on it to make up things like that."

Christensen said although he believes people should be compensated, he's concerned about provisions under the current bill such as the lump- sum fee, what lawyers will collect from these claims and other reimbursements.

"You have to take care of their needs and be fiscally responsible at the same time," he said.

Six people were recently exonerated, based on DNA evidence.

One of Christensen's own bills, LB 651, will be heard in the Natural Resources Committee today, which he said he has amended to repay property taxes collected under LB 701 which have since been declared illegal by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Another amendment he has attached will eliminate the closed-class section of LB 701, which allowed only NRDs in the Republican River Basin to collect property taxes, and which was one of the factors behind by the ruling by the Supreme Court.

Legislative Bill 651 would adopt the Water Resources Revolving Loan Fund Act, where NRDs could borrow money to pay for projects in their districts. The funds would be financed by the $9 million owed to the state by the Republican River Basin NRDs, who borrowed the money to pay irrigators for water purchased in 2007 and which has not yet been repaid.

Christensen also weighed in on LB 478, which would allow the sale and consumption of alcohol on property owned by the Nebraska Games and Parks.

Heard in committee Feb. 23, but with no definite date set for floor debate Christensen said he was "torn" on the issue. Although most people are responsible with alcohol, it's those who are not that caused the problem that ultimately led to the current ban of alcohol at recreation areas, he said.

"Unfortunately, most of the laws get put into place because of the 5 to 10 percent of people that are irresponsible," he stated.

Christensen said he will see where debate takes the bill and will support if it includes no alcohol used while boating. "If they keep it off the boat, I can probably live with it."

Christensen said he would also look into banning the use of glass bottles and beer kegs other than those sold by licensed establishments.

And paycheck advance establishments are under the gun at the Legislature, with three bills heard in committee recently that add restrictions.

He hasn't made up his mind yet on these bills, Christensen admitted, as in emergencies they are a legitimate source of cash for those unable to obtain bank loans. But the businesses also feed on those people, he added.

Amendments considered in committee included limiting interest rates to 36 percent and mandating a three-day wait before a second loan can be advanced.

Currently up to 400 percent interest rates can be charged at these businesses, with $17.50 per $100 loaned.

Those in the advance paycheck industry said in committee hearings that at 36 percent, they would close up shop and leave the state, according to Christensen. Eliminating a business is not a good idea in today's economy, added Christensen, who favored restrictions on interest rates that would keep the industry in business but not be excessive.

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  • Wow... I dont think that 25K per year of incarceration would cut it. That seems like a small price to pay for taking a man or womans' life away. The free education and health care are start, but I still think they should do better than 25K.

    I dont think they should allow the use of alcohol at state recreation areas. It is nice to enjoy the beverage of your choice while kickin back at the lake, but most responsible people do not correlate the amount of fun they can have at a given activity with the amount of alcohol they consume during that activity. These people will have a beer if it is allowed, but it doesnt bother them that it is not allowed. The only people that will complain are the people that require alcohol to enjoy a recreational activity, these are the ones that will also screw it up for the rest of us with irresponsible behavior. 95% of the patrons will act and drink responsibly, the other 5% will make you regret lifting the ban.

    The pay day advance people are worse than lawyers. They prey on people that have few other options. Once they get in the cycle, it is very difficult for them to get out. I think they should put a cap on the interest rate, these places wont close thier doors. They might get additional customers to make up for the loss of revenue if the fees were reasonable. And if they do close the doors, so what, these places ore thieves anyway.

    -- Posted by seentoomuch on Thu, Feb 26, 2009, at 1:50 PM
  • Why do some senators try to change laws that have been passed and are working? Why dont you look around a little. Why waste money for such stupid ideas !!!! Maybe you should get someone to advise you whats going on. It appears you sure dont know what is happening--------How long has it taken for a law and Law enforcement people to get things straightened up at the lakes with the drinking problem and you want to open up drinking Again. Maybe you should go to Ogallala and talk with some game Wardens , local people and law officials.

    Are you going to make some more laws so you operate a boat or drive a vehicle , (if you only have one open container in your hand) and no more than a case in your possesion????

    Maybe you should make the Salt Cedar tree our State Tree or the Turkey Buzzard our State bird,and spray all Goldenrod flowers.

    Then we can shoot and trap all Western Meadowlarks and spray all river bottoms and kill the Cotton wood trees.

    Look how much water you will save and how much free food people can get.

    Seems you need people advising you and telling you what needs changed!!!!!!!

    -- Posted by Just a reader on Mon, Mar 2, 2009, at 11:41 AM
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