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.

Rental deposits. Landlords would have to return their tenants’ security deposits without being asked, under a bill given first-round approval Wednesday by the Legislature.

State Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln, who introduced Legislative Bill 433, said the measure addresses issues raised during interim study hearings about affordable housing, neighborhood and rental issues. Several people at the hearings raised concerns about a lack of protection for tenants in state law.

“We all have constituents who will be helped by these changes,” he said.

Hansen’s proposal would shift the responsibility for returning or accounting for the deposit money after tenants move out. Current law puts the burden on renters to ask for their deposits back, even though many do not know about that requirement. If they do not ask, landlords can keep the money.

As amended by the Judiciary Committee, the bill also would give tenants seven days instead of three to pay rent before a landlord could start eviction proceedings against them.

Hansen said the days start ticking away once a notice goes into the mail, meaning renters have less than three days after receiving notice to find rent money or a new place to live. But other senators said seven days may be too long, given that tenants should know when their rent is due.

Medicaid managed care. State officials would be temporarily barred from adding nursing home, assisted living and other long-term care services to the Medicaid managed care program under a bill advanced Wednesday.

LB 468, which cleared first-round debate, would not allow those services to be included in the managed care program until July 1, 2021.

Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont said state Medicaid officials have too much on their plates already to be launching a new, complex venture.

She pointed to the work needed to launch the voter-approved expansion of Medicaid to some 90,000 more low-income adults, as well as the difficulties that the state encountered when moving other groups of Medicaid patients into the current managed care program, called Heritage Health. Numerous health care providers reported problems getting paid accurately and in a timely manner after the program began in 2017.

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Walz said nursing homes are operating on slim margins already, especially if they have large numbers of residents on Medicaid. She said they could not survive the same kinds of payment difficulties that other providers experienced with Heritage Health.

High-tech wireless. Nebraska lawmakers took a major step this week toward sorting out lengthy turf wars over the installation of small-cell wireless antennas in communities across the state.

State senators gave first-round approval Tuesday to LB 184, introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, chairman of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

The bill sets out ground rules for approving and installing the high-tech antennas that can be used for 5G, or fifth generation, wireless Internet.

Friesen said the wireless companies pushing the bill want to ensure that they can put their antennas in the public right-of-way, as well as have a streamlined and more uniform approval process and pay reasonable fees.

Representatives of wireless Internet firms have blamed high fees and foot-dragging by cities for stunting the deployment of small-cell wireless.

Nebraska cities and cable companies opposed LB 184 at the public hearing, saying the free market should be allowed to prevail and the bill would give a competitive advantage to the wireless companies. They have since adopted a neutral position.

Capitol Digest reporters photo xcapitoldigest capitoldigest

From left, World-Herald legislative reporters Martha Stoddard, Paul Hammel and Aaron Hegarty.

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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