Nebraska legislators had a short week last week, with a break from hearings Monday in observance of Presidents Day.
On Wednesday, legislators voted 36-1 to advance protection for teachers' religious rights. Senators gave first-round approval of LB 62, introduced by Sen Jim Scheer of Norfolk, after two days of debate. The bill would protect the rights of public school teachers to wear religious clothing in classrooms.
The Judicial Committee heard bills Thursday on domestic violence and sexual assaults.
LB 178, introduced by Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, would provide protection orders for sexual assault victims who often don't meet the criteria for protection orders, which are based on harassment and domestic violence, Bolz said.
LB 191, introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, would allow domestic violence protection orders to be renewed up to 30 days before existing orders expire, eliminating coverage gaps of days or weeks under current law.
LB 394, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, would extend existing laws against possession or purchase of a deadly weapon by people subject to domestic violence protection orders to also include subjects of harassment protection orders.
LB 188, introduced by Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, would enable termination of rapists' parental rights.
Under the bill, victims of sexual assault could seek to have sole parental rights of a child conceived as a result of the assault, if an assailant is convicted and sole parental rights are found to be in the best interests of the child.
Hearings on other legislation included the following:
LB 487, also introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld, mirrors Good Samaritan laws in place for underage alcohol consumption to give criminal immunity to people seeking help during a drug overdose.
LB 617, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, would adopt the Industrial Hemp Act, creating an Industrial Hemp Commission within the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
Hemp, Wayne said, is unfairly stigmatized because of its relation to marijuana. However, hemp has much lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than marijuana and can be used to produce fabric, rope, paper, body care products and more.
LB 173, introduced by Morfeld, would protect employees from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That hearing drew a crowd of dozens of supporters and opponents, some arguing the bill would infringe on employers' religious beliefs and others expressing concern about losing workers to states with workplace protection laws already in place. (See related story on the Bulletin's state/regional news page.)