LINCOLN–Senators in the Nebraska Legislature continued to take up a wide variety of bills this week, including proposals dealing with credit monitoring, voting rights for ex-felons and broadband internet service.
Lawmakers passed a bill on Feb. 23 that guarantees free credit monitoring to consumers after a data security breach. LB 757, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, will prohibit credit monitoring agencies from charging fees to place a security freeze on an account to prevent identity thieves from using stolen information. The bill passed unanimously.
The Government, Military and Veteran Affairs Committee heard testimony Feb. 22 on a bill to restore voting rights to felons directly after the completion of their sentence on Feb. 22. LB 1027, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, would eliminate the two-year waiting period felons currently wait to regain their voting rights. There was no testimony in opposition to the bill. The committee took no immediate action.
The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on Feb. 22 on a bill to increase pay of commissioners for the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. LB 713, introduced by Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, would increase pay from $50 a day to $500 which would increased the pay cap from $2,000 a year to $6,000 a year. The bill would also allow the director of the commission the ability to recommend voting to increase or decrease the pay amount every five years beginning in 2020. No immediate action was taken on the bill.
A resolution introduced to the Executive Board on Feb. 21 by Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont would create a special committee to look into state-licensed mental health facilities. Walz said many facilites across the state are not providing basic medical and nutritional needs to patients. The Department of Health and Human Services inspection system only requires 25 percent of a random sample of facilities be inspected every five years. The board took no immediate action on the resolution.
The Executive Board heard a resolution on Feb. 21 that would increase pay of Nebraska lawmakers. LR295CA, introduced by Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, would raise state senators’ pay to 50 percent of the Nebraska median household income. Currently, lawmakers earn $12,000 as an annual salary, which is set in the state constitution and cannot be amended without a vote by the people. Vargas said a 2017 National Conference of State Legislatures survey found the average annual salary for a state lawmaker was $35,500. The board took no immediate action on the bill.
The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard testimony on a bill that would help expand broadband internet service in rural Nebraska. LB 1113, introduced by Sen. Lynne Walz, would exempt Public Service Commission regulations on partnerships between public entities and private companies that provide high-speed internet service. Walz said 51 percent of rural Nebraska’s population does not have broadband internet. The committee took no immediate action on the bill.