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Legislature delays COVID-19 meatpacker protections bill

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A bill proposed by State Sen. Tony Vargas was delayed Tuesday by the Nebraska Legislature.

LB 241, which among other things, would require meatpackers to maintain a 6-foot social distance between workers, require all workers inside the plant to wear masks or shields, require paid time off for testing and at least two weeks paid time off for workers who tested positive.

Senator John Lowe of Kearney moved to bracket the bill, which delays consideration until June 10, the last day of this year’s session. Lowe argued that this was a “good bracket” and would give senators time to gather more information about the progress of the pandemic and measures to defeat the virus.

Senator Ray Aguilar argued against the delay, saying that Grand Island’s JBS plant workers continue to be vulnerable to the virus. Aguilar also said the bracket motion was simply a way to kill the bill.

State senators passed the bracket motion Tuesday morning 25-18. Lowe and State Senator Steve Halloran of Hastings voted in favor of the delay. Aguilar voted against it.

On Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts told News Channel Nebraska that he thought the legislation was "unnecessary," though he wouldn't directly comment on whether or not he would veto the bill.