LINCOLN — A proposal to beef up liquor law enforcement clashed with concerns about state budget priorities Wednesday.
Legislative Bill 579 would add more troopers to the Nebraska State Patrol and designate some of the new positions for liquor enforcement.
State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber, who introduced the measure, said growing demands on the State Patrol and fewer trooper positions are hampering efforts to police the state's liquor license holders.
Nebraska had 12 full-time liquor investigators in 1987, each responsible for 345 license holders, he said.
Today, nine troopers are assigned part time, and their caseload has grown to 605 each.
“I think that they're stretched thin,” Karpisek said.
The bill, as amended, would add one liquor enforcement investigator and nine other troopers to the state law enforcement agency.
But other senators questioned the $800,000 annual cost of the proposal, given the state's limited budget.
“We all have to start deciding where our priorities are,” said Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill.
If lawmakers decide that adding troopers is a priority, Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln said, he is not convinced that they should be assigned to liquor enforcement. He noted that the State Patrol also has lost troopers who were focused on child pornography investigations.
Karpisek said the public has many concerns about alcohol-related problems in Nebraska, such as minors getting alcohol and drunken driving.
Debate ended before a first-round vote could be taken on the bill.
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