Omnibus judiciary bill clears second round

Lawmakers amended and advanced a bill from select file July 20 that would make several changes to judicial procedure.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist26' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Matt Hansen'>Sen. Matt Hansen</a>
Sen. Matt Hansen

LB881, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, would eliminate the court’s authority to deduct fines automatically from otherwise encumbered portions of an offender’s bond. A Judiciary Committee amendment adopted on general file incorporated provisions of several additional measures.

Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop introduced an amendment during select file debate that would add provisions of four more bills heard by the committee:
• LB766, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom, which would prohibit sexual assault of a minor by an authority figure, change statute of limitations for failure to make a report of child abuse or neglect and change provisions relating to sexual offenses;
• LB991, sponsored by Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran, which would create the offense of sexual assault of a student and prohibit related enticement conduct by school officials;
• LB1048, sponsored by Grand Island Sen. Dan Quick, which would create the offense of sexual assault by a school employee and provide notification to the Commissioner of Education; and
• LB1210, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, which would create the offense of sexual exploitation of a student.

Under the amendment, a person would commit the offense of sexual abuse by a school employee if that employee subjects a student to sexual penetration or contact or engages in a pattern or scheme to subject a student to such conduct, commonly referred to as “grooming.”

Sexual penetration of a student by a school employee would be a Class IIA felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Under the amended bill, a student’s consent to sexual activity would not be considered a valid defense.

Sexual contact with a student would be a Class IIIA felony, subject to a penalty of up to three years imprisonment with 18 months post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both. A person found to have committed grooming behavior would be guilty of a Class IV felony, punishable by a maximum of two years in prison with 12 months post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both.

A school employee found guilty of sexual abuse of a student would be required to register as a sex offender.

Any report of alleged sexual abuse by a school employee would be forwarded to the state commissioner of education, including the status of an active law enforcement investigation into the allegations.

Additionally, the amendment would extend the statute of limitations for failure to report child abuse or neglect to 18 months after the commission of the crime or the date upon which the child reaches the age of majority, whichever is later.

The Lathrop amendment was adopted 46-0.

As amended on general file, LB881 includes provisions of:
• LB213, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, which would allow a person sentenced to community service to apply to have their conviction set aside;
• LB282, sponsored by Hansen, which would require the court to appoint counsel when setting bond for an indigent defendant;
• LB776, sponsored by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, which would allow evidence from an expert witness regarding eyewitness testimony to be admitted under the Nebraska Evidence Rules;
• LB777, also sponsored by DeBoer, which would replace references to infractions, misdemeanors and felonies and use the term “offense;”
• LB945, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, which would require cities of more than 100,000 people to prepare an annual report of untested sexual assault evidence collection kits;
• LB1007, also sponsored by Hansen, which would reduce the time between court reviews of a person’s competency to stand trial to every 60 days;
• LB1041, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, which would clarify the process for making a grand jury transcript publicly available when convened to investigate the death of a person in custody or detention;
• LB1180, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, which would increase to six the number of alternate jurors a court can impanel; and
• LB1181, also sponsored by Wayne, which would provide that a person cannot be held in custody while awaiting trial on an offense for a period of time longer than the maximum sentence for that offense.

Following adoption of a technical amendment, senators advanced LB881 to final reading by voice vote.

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