LINCOLN — Starting today, more Nebraskans will be eligible for handicapped parking permits.

The law passed during the 2016 legislative session allows people who can’t walk 200 feet without stopping to qualify for handicapped parking permits.

Previously, the permits for designated spaces were available to people who were unable to travel more than 200 feet without the use of a wheelchair, crutch, walker or other assisted device.

The law is a common-sense policy change that will help people who are most affected, said Bellevue State Sen. Sue Crawford, who sponsored the legislation.

It emerged from discussions with people who use the handicapped spaces and their advocates, she said.

“We’re hoping that this opens up the handicap parking space as a way for people to be more mobile and for people to get to work, get to church, do their shopping, and do the things they need to do for their families and themselves,” Crawford said.

Several other laws go into effect today. Among them:

» Meatpackers can contract with farmers to raise company-owned hogs to the packers’ specifications under a law sponsored by Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala. Nebraska was the last state with a ban on meatpacker ownership of livestock.

» Prompted by an incident involving Cambridge students at a summer wrestling camp, hazing charges can apply to children still in high school and younger. Indecent exposure and lewd caressing of the body are included in the law’s definition of hazing. Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango sponsored the legislation.

» Dependents of U.S. military veterans who died or were disabled during their service can apply directly to the State Department of Veterans Affairs for tuition and fee waivers under a law sponsored by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte. Such waivers are available to the children, stepchildren and spouses attending public colleges and universities.

» Nebraska National Guard members living in other states can qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, and National Guard units elsewhere can qualify for the same job protections as people serving in the Nebraska National Guard. The laws were sponsored by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse and Crawford of Bellevue, respectively.

» Open adoptions are recognized in state law and allow for communication and contact between adoptive parents and birth parents after a child is placed in private and agency adoptions. Watermeier sponsored the legislation.

» Employers can’t force or ask employees or job applicants to hand over social media passwords or access to social media accounts. The law, sponsored by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, also stipulates that employers can’t require employees to add anyone, including his or her employer, as a friend on social media such as Facebook.

» The number of applications needed to create a new specialty plate is 250, down from 500. The law sponsored by Sen. John Murante of Gretna was amended into the annual transportation omnibus package. It also creates breast cancer awareness license plates, though they aren’t available until January. The cancer plates portion was sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks.

» A law sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha requires grand juries to issue a report of their findings if they do not recommend criminal charges in cases where people are killed by police. The law would kick in if the grand jury decided there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement or corrections officials.

» Legal services fees charged on every county, district and juvenile court case increase by $1 under the legislation sponsored by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln. The fees will rise to $6.25 per case, providing $355,000 annually to legal services for low-income Nebraskans.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9581, emily.nohr@owh.com

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