Texting while driving could get you pulled over under bill introduced in Legislature

Texting while driving could get you pulled over under bill introduced in Legislature
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — State Sen. Kate Bolz introduced Legislative Bill 43, the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act, on Thursday. The bill would ensure that sexual assault victims receive “accurate and timely information they need to navigate the medical and criminal justice systems,” Bolz said. The bill would also inform medical and criminal justice professionals of victims’ rights.

The measure was among 135 bills and two proposed constitutional amendments introduced on the second day of Nebraska’s 106th Legislature. Some of the other bills introduced Thursday were:

Red flag:

  • LB 58 would allow authorities to temporarily take guns awayfrom people suspected of being dangerous. It was introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln.

Medical marijuana:

  • LB 110 would add Nebraska to 32 states that have legalized nonrecreational cannabis. A leader of the committee leading a similar petition effort, Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, introduced the bill.

Road safety crackdown:

  • LB 39 would make not buckling up a primary offense, meaning that an officer could pull you over if you or your passengers are without a seat belt. LB 40 would make texting on the road a primary offense, and for teens with learner’s permits or provisional licenses, using a cellphone and driving. Both were introduced by Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha.

Only one plate:

  • LB 38 would eliminate the second license plate required for vehicles. It was introduced by Hilkemann.

Nebraska’s favorite vegetable:

  • Corn would become Nebraska’s state vegetable if LB 105, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha, is passed.

Wildlife license plates:

  • New wildlife conservation plates would show “support for the conservation of Nebraska wildlife, including sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, and cutthroat trout.” Fees would go into a conservation education fund. LB 128 was introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango.

Felon voting rights:

  • LB 83 would eliminate the two-year waiting period for felons to vote after the completion of their prison sentence or probation. Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha offered the bill, just as he did in 2017. The previous bill was vetoed by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The death penalty, again:

  • Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha introduced LB 44, his perennial bid to eliminate the death penalty.

Protection for mountain lions and prairie dogs:

  • Chambers’ LB 46 would end mountain lion hunting in Nebraska. Another Chambers bill, LB 45, would repeal a law allowing counties to eradicate prairie dogs on private land.

National motto:

  • Schools would be required to display the national motto, “In God We Trust,” under LB 73, introduced by Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard.

Property taxes:

  • Erdman also introduced Legislative Resolution 3CA, a proposed constitutional amendment to provide income tax credits equal to 35 percent of property taxes paid.

Bill aims to ensure sexual assault victims are informed of their rights

A Lincoln senator is trying to ensure sexual assault victims know about their existing rights and the help available to them.

State Sen. Kate Bolz introduced Legislative Bill 43, the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act, on Thursday. It replaces a similar bill she introduced last year that did not gain traction.

The bill would ensure that sexual assault victims receive “accurate and timely information they need to navigate the medical and criminal justice systems,” Bolz said. The bill also would inform medical and criminal justice professionals of victims’ rights.

Unlike last year’s bill, the legislation would not require that sexual assault kits be tested during a defined time frame. Bolz said the change would eliminate the costs, making the bill easier to get passed during a budget shortfall.

Bolz outlined the rights of sexual assault victims in a press release:

  • The right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect;
  • The right to consult with a sexual assault counselor or victims advocate;
  • The right to be informed;
  • The right to be heard and participate in the criminal justice process;
  • The right to timely disposition of the case;
  • The right to notice about the status of the case; and
  • The right to apply for compensation.

Bellevue lawmaker: ‘Don’t call it meat’ if it comes from plants or is grown in a lab

LINCOLN — Veggie burgers and tofu dogs could be in trouble if a bill introduced Thursday in the Nebraska Legislature becomes law.

State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue offered Legislative Bill 14, a measure banning food products from being “misrepresented” as meat if they do not come from livestock or poultry.

“The goal of this bill is to promote truth in advertising in our state,” Blood said. “I don’t want it to say it’s meat if it’s not meat.”

She said she became interested in the issue last summer after overhearing two women at a local grocery store debating whether a plant-based meat alternative on the shelf was really meat.

As a vegetarian herself, Blood said she has no problem with plant-based foods and doesn’t want to discourage people from eating them. But she wants to protect Nebraska’s livestock industry and the state’s consumers.

She noted that the state’s single largest industry is cattle, while hog-raising operations can be found in almost every county, and the poultry industry is also important.

LB 14 is similar to a Missouri law that took effect in August.

That law was immediately challenged in court by opponents, including Tofurky, which makes plant-based meat alternatives; the Good Food Institute; the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri; and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

A Good Food Institute spokeswoman said the Washington, D.C.-based organization would oppose Blood’s proposal as well.

“It would censor food labels and create consumer confusion where there is none,” Nicole Manu said. “This is unconstitutional and wrong.”

Under LB 14, meat would be defined as “any edible portion of any livestock or poultry carcass or part thereof.” The definition would exclude “lab-grown or insect or plant-based food products.”

The bill would ban “any misleading or deceptive practices including misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from livestock or poultry.”

Violators could be charged with a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Pete McClymont of Nebraska Cattlemen said meat labeling has been a top issue for the organization over the past 18 months. The concern is with how products that do not come from animals are identified.

“We just want consumers to know where any product comes from,” he said.

McClymont said most of the group’s effort has been focused at the federal level, where the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are sorting out regulatory authority.

He said the group appreciates the intent of LB 14 but will have to look at the details of the proposal, including how it would be enforced.

Blood said she intends for enforcement to be driven by consumer complaints, instead of requiring additional inspections or creating a new office.

At Stella’s Bar & Grill in Bellevue, co-owner Tam Francois said she isn’t sure what the bill would accomplish.

The longtime restaurant offers veggie burgers and Impossible Burgers, as well as traditional meat burgers. It was the first in Nebraska to start selling Impossible Burgers, which are billed as being “made entirely from plants for people who love meat.”

Francois said she believes that customers are clear about what they are getting when they order the non-meat burgers.

“There’s never any intention to misrepresent it as meat,” she said, noting that the Impossible Burgers have been catching on despite their higher price.

Nationally, sales of meat substitutes have grown from about $445 million in 2012 to $699 million in 2017, according to Euromonitor, a consumer research company. The market remains tiny compared with the multibillion-dollar meat industry.

But livestock producers and meat processors have their eyes on the development of laboratory-grown meat, which has yet to hit store shelves.

Developers call the product “clean meat,” “cultured meat” or “slaughter-free meat” to distinguish it from meat produced through traditional livestock practices.