Session Review: Transportation and Telecommunications

Senators addressed young immigrant drivers and transportation network companies, among other issues this session.

Licensing and administration

Introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, LB623 allows Nebraska residents of driving age who are covered by the federal Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program to secure a driver’s license or state identification card.

Senators passed the bill on a 34-9 vote, but Gov. Pete Ricketts subsequently vetoed it, saying the language was too broad.

Lawmakers voted 34-10 to override the governor’s veto. Thirty votes were needed.

LB629, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, designates a transportation network company (TNC) as a new class of transportation service provider. A TNC, such as Uber and Lyft, falls under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission and is defined as a corporation, partnership or other entity that uses an online application or digital network to connect riders to drivers for transportation service.

The bill establishes regulations for a TNC regarding stages of operation, permits, insurance, driver background checks, vehicle inspections, fee collection and complaint investigation. TNC drivers in Nebraska are required to have a valid driver’s license, proof of registration, proof of automobile liability insurance and be at least 21 years old.

A TNC must pay a $25,000 registration fee and maintain a minimum $1 million of primary liability insurance coverage for death, personal injury and property damage. The bill requires that a driver provide the TNC with a signed confirmation that their vehicle lienholder has been notified prior to a vehicle being used for a TNC.

Lawmakers passed the bill with an emergency clause on a 47-0 vote.

Lawmakers passed a bill 49-0 that authorizes specialty license plates in celebration of Nebraska’s 150th anniversary of statehood in 2017.

The Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Plate will be available as an alphanumeric or a personalized message plate under LB220, introduced by Papillion Sen. Jim Smith. The alphanumeric version of the plate will display up to seven characters and will not display county designators. The plates will be available from Oct. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2022. An initial application and renewal fee of $70 will be required. Fifty-seven percent of the fee will be credited to the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial License Plate Fund, also created by the bill.

Introduced by Syracuse Sen. Dan Watermeier, LB47 remains on general file and would require a person to state whether or not they wish to be an organ donor when applying for a state driver’s license or identification card. The bill also would specify that an organ donor’s status would continue until amended or revoked by the licensee and that a donor’s status could not be terminated by telephone.

Two other bills remain on general file.

Introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, LB474 would make available a license plate depicting designs supportive of Nebraska’s mountain lion population.

Two versions would be available. The alphanumeric plate would display up to five characters and not use a county designation. The fee for the alphanumeric plates would be $5, credited to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Educational Fund.

Personalized plates would cost $40, with $10 credited to the Department of Motor Vehicles Cash Fund and $30 credited to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Educational Fund. The commission would be required to use the educational fund to teach youth about wildlife conservation practices.

LB53, introduced by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer, would allow owners of passenger cars to be issued only a rear license plate. The fee for the single plate option would be $100 in addition to standard licensing charges. In lieu of a second plate, drivers would be required to purchase a decal for 65 cents to be affixed to the driver’s side windshield.

Motorcycles and bicycles

Introduced by Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield, LB31 would repeal the requirement that motorcycle and moped operators and passengers in Nebraska wear a helmet.

After eight hours of debate spanning three days, Bloomfield filed a motion on general file to invoke cloture to cease debate and force a vote on the bill. The motion failed 24-18, as 33 votes were needed.

Introduced by Smith, LB95 adds electric-assist bicycles, or e-bikes, to Nebraska’s definition of bicycles. The new definition includes two- or three-wheeled vehicles that can be propelled by pedaling or by an electric motor no larger than 750 watts, producing up to one brake horsepower, with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.

The bill passed 48-0.

Rules of the road

Senators passed a bill 45-0 addressing the rights of disabled pedestrians. Introduced by Bellevue Sen. Tommy Garrett, LB641 permits a person operating a manual or motorized wheelchair on a sidewalk, in a crosswalk or across a roadway the same rights as other pedestrians.

Smith introduced LB231, passed 48-0, which defines an autocycle as a three-wheeled motor vehicle controlled by a steering wheel and pedals with a driver and passenger sitting in tandem or side-by side in an enclosed area featuring a removable or fixed top, airbag protection, roll cage, three-point safety belt system and antilock brakes.

An autocycle is required to have one or two headlamps, at least one tail lamp, a brake and turn signals. The vehicles cannot be used for the driving skills test for an operator’s license exam. Fees and taxes are $15 for registration, $25 for the base motor vehicle tax and a $10 base motor vehicle fee.

A bill remains in committee that would make holding a phone while driving a primary offense in Nebraska.

Introduced by Ralston Sen. Merv Riepe, LB517 would prohibit those operating a motor vehicle from holding an interactive wireless communication device to talk, listen, view, record, transmit images, text, play games or access any data. The bill would not apply to first responders and law enforcement officers.

Railways

Lawmakers approved a bill 39-6 that withdraws Nebraska’s membership from the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. LB317, sponsored by Papillion Sen. Bill Kintner, authorizes the state’s withdrawal from the compact and takes effect July 1, 2018.

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