Medical marijuana, conversion therapy and more — bills to watch in the 2019 Legislature

by Triumph staff.

Prison + Crime
LB 176, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers would eliminate certain mandatory minimum penalties for felony crimes. This would allow these felons to be eligible for parole.

LB 83, by Sen. Justin Wayne. This bill would allow felons to vote immediately after serving their sentences or completing parole. Currently, felons are barred from voting for two years after completion. Gov. Ricketts vetoed a similar bill in 2017, claiming it violated the state constitution.

Taxes
LB 50, by Sen. Tony Vargas would raise taxes on millionaires and give a small cut to lower income people. Vargas estimated the bill would bring in nearly $500 million in 5 years. Though raising taxes on the wealthy is popular among Nebraskans, this bill is likely to die before ever being voted on.

Wages
LB 400, brought by 17 Democratic members, seeks to raise the minimum wages for servers and other tipped employees. It would set tipped wages at half the regular minimum wage by 2021.

LB 383, introduced by a similar but smaller group, would index minimum wage to the consumer price index. Essentially, this means wages would rise along with inflation. For some reason, the bill includes a caveat that no increase over three and a half percent could be given, even if inflation is higher.

Housing
LB 85, by Sen. Wayne, which would provide for state inspections of rental units. A coalition of non-profits support this bill as a step towards improving tenant living conditions in the state. Some, like Omaha Tenants United, worry that the bill will unintentionally lead to more mass evictions like Yale Park, which saw more than 70 families evicted over night after a city inspection deemed the apartment complex unlivable.

LB 435, by Sen. Matt Hansen, which would add protections for tenants against retaliation from landlords.

LGBTQ+ Rights
LB 167, introduced by freshman Senator Megan Hunt would prohibit conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is strongly condemned by LGBT activists, who feel the “pray the gay away” attitude is harmful and repressive. Hunt introduced another bill that would define enrolling a child in this kind of therapy as child abuse.

medical use only
Weed
LB 110, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart, which would adopt the Medical Cannabis Act. Opponents claim medical marijuana bills are slippery slopes to recreational legalization, while supporters tout legitimate uses of the plant in treating seizures and cancer related issues.

Look for more updates in next month’s issue of The Triumph.

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