The World-Herald’s Statehouse reporters round up news highlights from the Legislature and state government into the Capitol Digest — a daily briefing for the political newshound with a busy schedule.

License plates. Starting in 2021, Nebraska drivers could display their support for military troops, wildlife or prostate cancer awareness under a pair of bills passed by state lawmakers Thursday.

Legislative Bill 138, introduced by State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would create a “Support Our Troops” license plate and direct proceeds from the plates to a new fund aimed at recruiting and keeping military veterans in the state.

The bill, passed 48-0, also would add to the license plate options for active-duty military and veterans and make some military-related plates free. The new options would include separate designs for the Army and Air National Guard, plus designs honoring people awarded medals for serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Southwest Asia, the war on terrorism and Vietnam.

License plate fees would be eliminated for drivers who qualify for Pearl Harbor Survivor, Ex-POW, Purple Heart, Disabled American Veteran and Gold Star Family plates.

LB 356, introduced by Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer of Norfolk, would create three new wildlife license plates — a sandhill crane, a bighorn sheep and an ornate box turtle — with proceeds going to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. They would be in addition to the mountain lion plates currently available.

The bill, passed 49-0, also would create a prostate cancer awareness plate, with proceeds going to prostate cancer research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Nebraska currently has a breast cancer awareness license plate.

LB 356 would set standard application fees for specialty plates, such as the cancer awareness and wildlife plates, which benefit designated causes. Specialty plates with messages would be $40, with $30 of the proceeds going to the cause, and number-letter specialty plates would be $5, with all of that money going to the beneficiary.

Spoofing calls. Using fake telephone numbers to fool people into answering scam calls would become illegal in Nebraska under a bill passed 49-0 Thursday.

LB 693, introduced by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings and 17 co-sponsors, would make it against state law to use deceptive caller identification to “defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value.”

Under the bill, the Public Service Commission could punish violations with an administrative penalty of up to $2,000 each. The state attorney general also could pursue cases as violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

Farm protection. Lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that would put a two-year deadline on lawsuits over dust, noise, insects, odors and other nuisances created by farming operations.

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The compromise version of LB 227, introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, passed on a 46-2 vote. The measure addresses potential liability concerns for growing and changing farms, while giving neighbors a chance to address issues that make their homes unlivable.

The amendment to Nebraska’s Right to Farm Act would still prevent lawsuits from neighbors who just moved into a rural area.

Witness tampering. A bill increasing the penalties for tampering with witnesses, jurors or evidence in a criminal case passed Thursday on a 48-0 vote.

LB 496 was introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, who said it addresses a concern that current state law provides a lesser felony penalty for such tampering than for the crime being charged, such as murder or kidnapping. Under his bill, the penalty would match that for the underlying felony charge.

The bill was sparked by the slaying of Army Sgt. Kyle LeFlore, who was shot and killed outside a north Omaha nightclub in January 2018. A key witness in the slaying backed out after, prosecutors say, two people attempted to intimidate her.

NRD bonds. The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District could keep using bonds for flood-control projects under a bill passed 35-8 on Thursday.

LB 177, introduced by State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, would extend the NRD’s bonding authority for five years, until 2024. The metro area NRD is the only one in the state allowed to issue bonds, but that authority is set to expire at the end of this year.

The NRD has issued $70 million in bonds over the past decade for six projects; eight more projects are in the queue. Under LB 177, property tax levies needed to pay off the bonds would have to fit within the state-mandated 4.5-cent levy limit for NRDs.

Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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