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Ricketts signs final slew of bills, notes concerns in developmental disability bill

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The U.S. Treasury Department sent a letter encouraging Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to apply for a second round of federal rent assistance, which Ricketts has vocally opposed.

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts signed his final slew of bills for the 2022 legislative session Tuesday, but requested the Legislature address concerns he had in one bill next year.

In total, Ricketts signed 29 bills into law Tuesday, including Legislative Bill 376, which will provide new family support services to as many as 850 children with developmental disabilities. However, he noted several issues in the appropriation bill that he asked lawmakers to address in the 2023 legislative session.

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha introduced LB 376 in hopes of keeping children from needing state-funded group homes or institutional care in the future. The services would be provided under a three-year Medicaid waiver. The bill also would allow some children to qualify for Medicaid despite their parents’ income.

Pete Ricketts mug bill signing 2022

Ricketts

Ricketts’ main concerns centered on the sources of the funding under the appropriation bill, LB 376A. If left unchanged, he said the state would not be able to implement some of the programs listed in the main bill.

LB 376A allocates $500,000 of federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, but Ricketts said that money should have come from the state’s cash funds. The bill also appropriates more than $6 million in federal dollars for fiscal year 2023-24, which Ricketts said should have also come from cash funds.

None of the concerns were enough to warrant a veto. Ricketts did not veto any bills Tuesday, and has no more bills to consider.

Ricketts requested the Legislature make the changes before the start of the next state budget year, which begins July 1, 2023.

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Other bills Ricketts signed Tuesday include:

LB 888, requiring Nebraska schools to teach about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide abroad.

LB 1173, which repealed a law allowing private contractors to manage child abuse and neglect cases in the Omaha area, ending a troubled 12-year experiment in child welfare. This will bring the Omaha area back to a system where state workers oversee child welfare cases.

The bill also requires the three branches of state government to come together, along with others involved in child welfare, to work toward a shared strategic direction for child welfare in Nebraska.

LB 876, putting new horse racetracks and attached casinos on hold until the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission completes studies of the horse racing market, the casino gambling market and the socioeconomic impact of tracks and casinos.

Those studies must be completed by Jan. 1, 2025. The delay would, in turn, restrict the number of casinos that could be built in the state. Voters approved a trio of ballot measures in 2020 that legalized casino gambling in Nebraska but only at licensed horse racetracks.

LB 984, which eliminates sales taxes on feminine hygiene products, such as tampons. The bill also requires that state detention centers, including jails and prisons, provide free feminine hygiene products to female inmates upon request.

LB 1218, providing financial incentives to teachers and teachers in training. The bill also eases requirements around the basic skills test that prospective teachers must take before getting hired.

LB 921, which requires the state help people about to be released from state prisons or county jails apply for Medicaid coverage. Applications would have to be submitted at least 45 days before an inmate’s release, so the inmate could continue with medications and treatment for mental health and other issues once back in the community.

LB 922, creating a new criminal offense, “criminal impersonation by stolen valor.” This would apply to people who try to pass themselves off as active military members or veterans with the intent to deceive or harm someone or get a financial benefit. It also would apply to people who falsely claim to have a military medal or honor in order to gain something of value.

ebamer@owh.com Twitter @ErinBamer

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