Now that the Legislature has ended its 2019 session, those of us in office can take time to reflect on what an honor it is to serve the people of Nebraska.
I am particularly appreciative to residents of Legislative District 12, including Ralston, for allowing me once again to represent you at the Capitol. It is a special place, bringing together people from all walks of life who share the goal of making our state the best it can be.
This is important to remember, particularly when we disagree.
To those of you who contacted my office with support, ideas or concerns: Thank you. The high level of passion and reasoning you demonstrated this year was truly uplifting. We still have a lot left to accomplish in the Legislature; input from all of you helps fuel this important work.
Among the issues in need of continued attention is reducing property taxes, while maintaining critical support for our local schools.
As you might already know, the proposal on this topic which generated the most discussion this session was LB289. The bill would have raised sales taxes and eliminated a series of sales tax exemptions, in exchange for injecting more money into state aid for schools and reducing our reliance on local property taxes.
The bill failed to secure enough support to pass. Reducing property taxes and supporting our local schools remain top priorities of mine; however, any reform on these interconnected subjects must provide meaningful, sustainable relief for the people in our district. I am optimistic that continued efforts will yield positive solutions.
Another area of focus for our Legislature must continue to be protecting public safety by ensuring that our corrections system is functioning properly.
Our prisons are some of the most crowded in the nation, which puts corrections workers, inmates and the public at risk. Overcrowding also impedes our ability to prepare inmates to lead productive lives upon release.
Like with property taxes, there is no “silver bullet” to corrections reform. We need to re-examine how we house inmates, how we ensure they meet expectations for rehabilitation during and after their confinement, and how we can employ alternatives to incarceration safely and effectively for low-risk, nonviolent offenders.
The Judiciary Committee, of which I am chairman, made some progress with reforms included in LB686. The amended version of this bill, which the governor signed into law, will help improve our post-release supervision system, allow judges to defer a person’s conviction if they complete a probation program, and eliminate solitary confinement for minors, pregnant women and people with serious mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries.
Here’s a look at some of the other bills I brought this session:
• LB309 provides another judge for the overburdened Douglas County District Court. This will help people’s cases move along quickly and promote access to the courts.
• LB538 sets up a process where the Revenue Department can vet cash-dispensing touch-screen games in bars and convenience stores to weed out any which violate our state’s gambling ban.
• LB125 protects people who fall victim to significant thefts at the hands of their intimate partners. The bill requires that these victims be kept informed about resulting the criminal proceedings.
It was pleasing to see each of these measures pass this year without a single “no” vote — a testament to the common-sense, nonpartisan nature of our unique Legislature.
I look forward to spending more time with the people of our district during the interim, and laying the groundwork for substantial measures next session.
— Steve Lathrop is the
Nebraska State Senator
representing District 12.