Debate at the Nebraska Legislature continued last week as senators discussed bills dealing with transportation, medical coverage and protection, vaping and the death penalty, among others.

Death penalty

The Judiciary Committee heard a bill March 7 that would repeal Nebraska’s death penalty. LB 44, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, would have a sentence of life without the possibility of parole replace the death penalty.

Chambers said there was “no indication in any state has shown that murders went down as a result of the death penalty being imposed.” Amy Miller, legal director of the ACLU of Nebraska, testified in support of the bill, while Dave Lopez, representing the state attorney general’s office, spoke in opposition. The committee took no action.

Texting while driving

A proposed amendment that would make texting while driving a more serious offense was heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee March 4.

LB 620, introduced by Sen. Rick Kolowski of Omaha, would change the offense of using a cellphone while driving from a secondary to a primary offense.

National Safety Council of Nebraska president Eric Koeppe was in favor of the bill and said increasing evidence shows the “use of electronic devices while driving can lead to severe visual, manual and cognitive distractions.”

The committee took no action.

Doctor safety training

The Legislature passed a bill March 7 that would provide funds for enhancing safety training for medical professionals. LB 25, introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, creates the Patient Safety Cash Fund that will be used for patient safety activities. The biennial fees created by the bill are $50 for physicians and $20 for physician assistants. Senators approved the bill on a 47-0 vote.

21 to vape

The General Affairs Committee heard a bill on March 4 that would increase the legal age of purchasing and possessing vapor products. LB 149, introduced by Sen. Dan Quick of Grand Island, would raise the legal age from 18 to 21.

Gaye Lannan, principal at Omaha Burke High School, testified in support of this bill, while Eric Johnson, owner of multiple vape stores, testified in opposition saying that “vaping is safer than smoking tobacco.” The committee took no action.

Insured organ donors

On March 5, the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee heard LB 228, introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, that would prevent discrimination of living organ donors by insurance companies. This bill would make it illegal for insurance companies to increase a donor’s premium and decline or limit long-term care or disability. The committee took no action.

Insurance for kid’s hearing aids

The Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee also heard a proposal on March 4 that would require most insurance plans to cover hearing aids for children in Nebraska. LB 15, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would require plans to cover the evaluation, fitting, programming and cost of hearing aids for Nebraskans under 19.

Johnson, a pediatric audiologist, spoke in support of the bill and said that “no Nebraska-based insurance company covers the full expense.” The committee took no action.

Seat belts on school buses

The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard a bill March 4 that would require all school vehicles in Nebraska to have seat belts. LB 634, introduced by Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha, would require three-point safety belts to be used during the transportation of public-school students. The committee took no action.