Session Review: Executive Board

The Legislature’s Executive Board initiated an in-depth investigation into the handling of a former prison inmate suspected of multiple homicides.

The month after Nikko Jenkins’ July 2013 release from the Nebraska State Penitentiary, he allegedly killed four people in Omaha. Jenkins was found by an ombudsman’s report to have requested continued incarceration because he feared he would kill people upon his release.

Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop introduced LR424, adopted 31-0, which establishes the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee to study the circumstances of Jenkins’ incarceration and release. The committee will issue a report to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2014.

The Executive Board appointed seven state senators to serve on the committee: Sens. Kate Bolz, Ernie Chambers, Bob Krist, Steve Lathrop, Heath Mello, Paul Schumacher and Les Seiler.

The resolution authorizes the committee to study the following with respect to the state Department of Correctional Services:
• administration of good time laws;
• policies relating to the segregation of inmates;
• adequacy of programs designed to rehabilitate inmates;
• availability of mental health care and measures in place to ensure that inmates receive appropriate mental health care or confinement through the civil commitment process; and
• transition of inmates from incarceration to the community at large.

LB976, introduced by Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek, proposed an Independent Redistricting Advisory Commission, responsible for drawing new governmental boundaries for districts pertaining to the U.S. House of Representatives, the Legislature, Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska Board of Regents and the State Board of Education after each decennial census.

The six-member commission would submit proposed redistricting maps to the Legislature for approval.

After extended debate, Karpisek offered a cloture motion to cease debate and force a vote on the bill. The motion failed on a vote of 27-22, six votes short of the number required, stalling the bill on select file.

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist introduced LB1016, adopted 34-5, which authorizes the state Department of Aeronautics to purchase a new aircraft and sell the state’s current plane.

The bill is the product of legislation passed in 2013 commissioning an independent study to determine whether the state should purchase an aircraft for state purposes. The study indicated that a new King Air C90GTx would incur the lowest costs over a 20-year life cycle at a cost of $3.85 million.

The department is required to report the name of the agency or entity using the plane, the name of all passengers, all purposes of the trip, the destination and intermediate stops and all miles flown.

LR400, introduced by Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas, establishes the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee of the Legislature. ACCESSNebraska is an online and call center system developed by the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and implemented in 2009 to determine public benefit eligibility and deliver benefits to clients.

The scope of the investigation will include the experiences of clients and their families, adequacy of the technology used within the ACCESSNebraska system and adequacy of staffing and training of DHHS employees working within the system.

The Executive Board appointed seven members to serve on the committee: Sens. Kate Bolz, Sue Crawford, Annette Dubas, Mike Gloor, Sara Howard, Amanda McGill and Jeremy Nordquist. The committee is authorized to hold hearings and issue subpoenas as deemed necessary and will issue a report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature no later than Dec. 15, 2014.

The resolution was adopted on a 23-0 vote. Legislative resolutions require a simple majority of members present for adoption.

The Legislative Performance Audit Committee introduced LR444, adopted 34-0, which creates the Tax Incentive Evaluation Committee. The committee will develop a proposal for evaluating the state’s tax incentive programs and report to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2014.

The new committee comprises the seven members of the Legislative Performance Audit Committee, the chairperson and vice chairperson of the Appropriations and Revenue committees and Hyannis Sen. Al Davis, who was appointed by the Executive Board.

The committee is tasked with developing recommendations regarding specific and measurable goals for each tax incentive program and a process for regular evaluation.

LB996, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, would have required state agencies to respond within four business days to written requests for information from a member or employee of the Legislature.

If a legal basis existed for denial of access to information, or if the entire request could not be fulfilled within the time constraint, an agency would have been required to provide a written denial or explanation.

The bill was advanced from committee but was not scheduled for general file debate.

Papillion Sen. Bill Kintner introduced LB909, which would have amended the Administrative Procedures Act to require state agencies that promulgate rules and regulations to submit a list of all current agency regulations that have been in effect for more than five years and cite the legislative basis for each.

LB909 was held in committee.

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