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Legislature passes state budget, YRTC bills in clearing slate of 30-plus measures

Legislature passes state budget, YRTC bills in clearing slate of 30-plus measures

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State senators made it through their 10th day of the July portion of the 2020 session, passing a budget and more than 30 other bills. 

The 2020-21 budget adjustments, part of $4.8 billion in general fund appropriations, include $8.8 million in Regional Center building changes, $55 million to repair damage from 2019 flooding, $8 million for Department of Correctional Services pay increases and nearly $8 million for certain Medicaid provider rate increases.

The budget also leaves about $442 million in the state's rainy day fund. 

Prior to senators approving the budget, Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne filed a motion to discuss having them wait to pass the budget until next week while Congress meets to determine if the state is getting any extra money for COVID-19 relief. 

The Legislature also passed three Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center bills, one that requires operating, strategic and emergency plans for the state's juvenile centers. The bill, if signed by the governor, would halt changes to the centers recently announced by the Department of Health and Human Services until required reports, due to the Legislature on March 15, are made.

Those changes include moving the girls now housed at the Kearney and Geneva Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers to a new building at the Hastings Regional Center originally meant for the boys substance-abuse treatment program. 

Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center bills passed were: 

* LB1144, to create an oversight committee and require reports;

* LB1188, to establish the position of superintendent of schools to administer educational programs;

* LB1148, giving the juvenile court authority to commit a youth to a specific YRTC facility and require the Office of Juvenile Services to provide the treatment plan to courts and interested parties.

Senators also unanimously passed Sen. Ernie Chambers' last bill (LB924) to require law enforcement to take anti-bias and implicit bias training and complete testing to minimize apparent or actual racial profiling. Chambers is leaving after this year because of term limits.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh's bill (LB1060), which would add to the definition of race in the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act traits such as hair texture and protective hairstyles, did not appear on the final reading agenda. She said someone had requested an attorney general's opinion on whether the bill would do what it is supposed to do. 

That someone was Speaker Jim Scheer, who asked for the opinion on whether the bill changes the meaning of race for purposes of employment discrimination. 

"If anybody had a problem with that, I really wish you had come and talked to me instead of playing games," Cavanaugh said. "It's not very collegial. I don't appreciate it.

The Omaha senator said the bill has no cost and had no opponents at its hearing.  

The bill now has been put into the list of bills for final reading Monday.

Attorney General Doug Peterson's spokeswoman, Suzanne Gage, said Peterson did not issue a formal opinion. But it appears he sent Scheer an informal response. Scheer withdrew his request.

During debate on the budget, Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte said a bill (LB1106) dealing specifically with property taxes will come back in some form so senators will have a chance to make good policy, instead of simply throwing money at the issue.

No matter what, though, he said he will not support any type of property tax credits again. 

"Property tax credit fund, I will fight it tooth and nail. Don't bring it," he said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

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