Synthetic drug ban, assault penalties passed

Senators approved an amended bill April 17 that updates the list of banned synthetic drug compounds in Nebraska. The bill advanced from select file following a cloture vote.

Introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, LB811 amends one class of currently banned substances under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act and adds another class of synthetic cannabinoids to the list of banned substances. The bill also revises the act to apply to substantially similar imitations of prohibited controlled substances that may be developed in the future.

An amendment offered during select file debate April 9 by Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor was adopted 36-0. In addition to making technical changes, it contained regulations for prescribing, transferring, record-keeping and destruction of controlled substances.

An amendment brought by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop was adopted 36-6 and incorporated provisions of his LB752. The amendment expands the list of professions protected by enhanced assault penalties and increases the penalty to the next higher classification for assaults on firefighters, paramedics, state correctional employees, state Department of Health and Human Services employees and health care professionals.

Lathrop said he introduced the amendment because attacks on first responders are happening more often and—unlike law enforcement personnel—firefighters and paramedics do not expect confrontation from the people they serve.

“I think there is good reason to take care of our first responders,” Lathrop said. “They run toward circumstances where they are vulnerable and providing them with additional protections is altogether appropriate.”

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers spoke in opposition to the amendment, saying that laws should not favor one group of people over another. To illustrate his point that many jobs can be dangerous, he brought two amendments that would have extended protections to pizza delivery drivers and utility workers. Both efforts failed.

“Let the law as it exists now … let that be the law for everybody,” Chambers said.

Following adoption of technical amendment brought by Chambers, Schilz filed a motion to invoke cloture—or cease debate and force a vote on the bill—which senators approved on a 38-3 vote.

Senators then advanced LB811 as amended from select file on a 44-4 vote.

The bill passed 46-0.

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