By Kate Sullivan
District #41 State Senator
This political process is one of giving and taking, winning and losing. I’ve had a little of both the past two weeks.
As I sit in the Legislative Chamber this mor-ning, I’m listening to a long list of bills being read on Final Reading. Two of the bills on this list are mine. LB 667 fine tunes state law on fences. It clarifies that there is equal responsibility on the part of landowners to erect and maintain division fences irrespective of the type of land use, be it livestock owner, crop producer, or acreage homeowner. The clarification is needed for the law to operate properly. Some landowners will view LB 667 as a win; others may consider it a loss.
My other bill is LB 914 which simply changes the word shall to may. It allows judicial discretion about whether to suspend the driver’s license of someone who leaves the scene of an accident where no bodily injury has occurred. Current law mandates a one-year license suspension with no other option. With LB 914, the judge will decide whether to suspend the license as part of the penalty and the length of the license suspension up to one year.
Both bills had strong support so I’m optimistic that the Governor will sign them when they reach his desk.
My disappointment this week has to do with the bill I had hoped to prioritize. LB 858 deals with service dogs for the disabled and ongoing training of the dogs in public places once they’re in service. It was an idea brought to me initially by a constituent. The hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee was positive, and I believed the committee would advance LB 858 with an amendment.
Unfortunately, the committee had reservations about LB 858, particularly with work that needs to be done to bring our laws into compliance with the federal Americans with Disability Act and its standards.
In researching this issue, I was truly touched by the many disabled persons I spoke with and how the quality of their lives are enhanced with the assistance of a working service dog. I will be working on this issue over the next ten months and plan to introduce rewritten legislation next session.
There was considerable give and take on a discussion that began last year with a bill I introduced concerning pre-school attendance for 5 year olds and the date of kindergarten eligibility. The end result was LB 1006, introduced by Senator Greg Adams and me. It moves the date by which a student must be 5 years old in order to enter kindergarten from October 15 to July 31 beginning with the 2012-13 school year. Children who turn 5 between July 31 and October 15 may enter kindergarten if they complete an assessment developed by the school district which indicates their ability to complete the work expected of a kindergartner.
I believe that changing the enrollment age will benefit children both academically and socially. It won’t please every parent, but it allows flexibility for parents while also ensuring success for young children beginning school. LB 1006 is now on select file and I expect it to move forward to passage.
My priority bill this year is a simple yet important bill which clarifies how school boards and ESU’s fill vacancies on their respective boards and when those replacements must run for election. The Nebraska School Board Association is working with me on this bill, and I know they will keep your respective school boards up to date.
If you would like more information on any of these bills, please contact my office at (402) 471-2631. You may also write to me c/o P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and mailing address. If you live in District 41 and would like to receive a biweekly newsletter via email during session, please send an email with “E-News” in the subject line and we’ll add you to the mailing list. For an ongoing recap of activities while the Legislature is in session, please visit the legislative website at www.nebraskalegislature.gov. Thanks, as always, to all of you who’ve weighed in with your thoughts, opinions, and ideas on legislation before the Unicameral. You are a vital part of this give and take, win and lose process, and I value your input.