LINCOLN — Nebraska would step into uncharted legal territory Tuesday if, as expected, Gov. Dave Heineman signs two new abortion bills into law.
Legislative Bill 594, passed on a 40-9 vote by the Nebraska Legislature Monday, would require extensive screening of women seeking abortions. The bill would hold doctors civilly responsible if a screening falls short.
Lawmakers approved the second abortion-related bill, LB 1103, Tuesday morning. It would ban abortions at 20 weeks after conception, a couple of weeks earlier than current law.
The bill also would narrow the circumstances under which exceptions would be legal.
The screening bill, introduced by State Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing, would set a new bar nationally in informed consent for abortion patients.
Opponents have predicted it would be challenged in court as unconstitutionally vague.
Under the bill, women would have to be assessed for any indication they felt pressured to have an abortion, as well as for risk factors that could predispose them to mental or physical complications.
Risk factors could include any identified in any research report published a year or more before in any peer-reviewed journal indexed by one of two major scientific indexing services.
Julie Stauch, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the organization is reviewing its legal options. In the meantime, staff will figure out how much additional information needs to be provided.
“LB 594 is very mind-boggling, to say the least. It's like setting up a moving target,” she said.
The 20-week timetable bill also is expected to spark court challenges. Lawmakers agreed to allow the so-called “fetal pain” law to go into effect three months later than normal so lawyers on both sides would have more time to prepare.
Among other bills passed Monday were:
• Parents could face fines of up to $500 or community service work if their children are truant for more than 20 days for any reason under LB 800, which reforms the state's juvenile justice system. Under it, nonviolent juvenile offenders could receive counseling rather than being detained with hardened offenders.
Its goals, State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha has said, are to keep kids in school and improve their education, as well as to reduce repeat offenses.
Juveniles who successfully complete probation programs also could have their youthful indiscretions sealed so that they don't jeopardize future employment and college scholarships.
• Construction and delivery businesses that improperly classify workers as “independent contractors” to avoid taxes would face a crackdown under LB 563, passed 43-1. Backers argued the measure could close a $9 million to $18 million tax loophole.
It would require the state to establish a hotline and a Web site for people to report possible violations. The state could fine violators $500 per incorrectly classified worker per day on a first offense and $5,000 per worker per day for later offenses.
• Omaha could get help cleaning up lead-based paint in older homes through LB 987, passed 46-3. The measure would use $200,000 from the state's tobacco settlement fund to help provide a match for a $2 million federal grant.
Omaha's current lead paint cleanup grant expires in September. The federal money would be enough to clean up 140 homes, according to city information. The city has completed work on 622 homes since 1999.
• Smaller cities would be able to utilize the same sales-tax recovery scheme that helped build Qwest Center Omaha under LB 779, passed 48-0. The Omaha suburb of Ralston is planning to build a $20 million ice hockey arena to provide a new home for the Omaha Lancers, as well as concerts. The bill also would aid the financing of a proposed new thoroughbred racetrack for Lincoln, a $15-20 million project.
• Wind energy and solar power leases could fuel performance pay bonuses for Nebraska teachers under LB 1014, passed 45-2. The bonuses would go into effect only if at least 75 percent of school districts had created a performance pay system by 2016. The systems would be subject to collective bargaining.
Money for the bonuses would come from wind and solar leases on Nebraska's educational lands — state-owned property whose income is designated to support K-12 education.
• Attracting smaller computer data centers is the goal of LB 918, which passed 49-0. The state has a goal of recruiting such data centers, like one located in La Vista by Yahoo, to cities like Kearney and Fremont.
• LB 1002, passed on a 47-1 vote, is the Legislature's first legislative attempt at addressing the alcohol-related consequences of liquor sales at Whiteclay, Neb. The unincorporated village is within walking distance of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to rampant alcohol-related problems. The bill allocates $25,000 as seed money for the state's Indian Affairs Commission to attract grants to build alcohol treatment facilities or improve law enforcement.
• The resolution of a bitter dispute over state aid between the state's six community colleges is the goal of LB 1072, passed 49-0. The bill requires the colleges to negotiate a new state-aid formula. Omaha-based Metropolitan Community College dropped its lawsuit against the other five schools as part of a compromise brokered by state senators that resulted in the bill.