During the week, state legislators removed restrictions on permissible clothing for teachers as well as acupuncture referrals.They also considered replacing Columbus Day with a Native American Day during the final week of hearings in this year's session.
Lawmakers passed a bill that would protect the right of a public school teacher to wear religious clothing in the classroom.
LB 62 repeals a law that prohibited public school teachers from wearing religious garments in school. It required school boards to suspend teachers who violated the law for a year and terminate them after a second violation.
The bill passed 39-5. It was sponsored by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer.
In a unanimous vote, lawmakers removed the requirement for people to receive a letter of referral from a doctor before being treated by a licensed acupuncturist.
Instead, LB 19 requires an acupuncturist to refer a patient to an appropriate practitioner if his or her symptoms are not treatable by acupuncture.
The Government, Military, and Veteran Affairs Committee heard LB 485, which would replace Columbus Day with a holiday that would honor indigenous people. It is sponsored by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln.
The day instead would be called Standing Bear and Indigenous Leaders' Day.
Standing Bear, chief of the Ponca Tribe, successfully argued in federal district court in 1879 that Native Americans are persons under the law.
Proponents of the bill included Larry Wright Jr., the chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, as well as Judi gaiashkibos (her name is spelled correctly), the executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
George Matuella, a representative of the Nebraska chapter of the Sons of Italy in America, testified against the bill.
LB 650 would make several changes to the procedures used by the state Department of Correctional Services for inmates in solitary confinement.
Sponsored by Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, the bill would not allow the department to place a member of a vulnerable population in restrictive housing. This includes any inmate who is 18 or younger, pregnant or mentally ill.
The bill suggests placing the inmates in immediate segregation to protect the staff.
Schumacher said Nebraska's rates of confinement are significantly higher than other states, and he said the department's consideration of inmates' civil rights may be challenged in court if nothing is done.
The bill would also allow inmates to ask for judicial review of their solitary confinement if they have spent at least 90 days confined in a calendar year.
State Ombudsman Marshall Lux testified in support of the bill but Scott Frakes, director of the Department of Correctional Services opposed it.
The Education Committee heard testimony on two bills focused on civics education.
LB 155, introduced by Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, would require high school students to successfully pass a civics test in order to graduate. The examination would be the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha had similar proposal in LB 14, which he proposed amending to require local school districts to create committees that would ensure the curriculum teaches basic civics, history, geography and economics. Under that bill, passing the civics portion of the naturalization test would be part of the curriculum but wouldn't be required for graduation
The Judiciary Committee also considered several measures:
• LB 446, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, would eliminate Nebraska's death penalty.
• LB 502, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, would adopt the Permitless Concealed Carry Act. The act would prohibit the regulation of concealed handguns by cities and villages, allowing an individual to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.
• LB 593, introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, would make vehicle trespassing a criminal offense.
The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee considered bills regarding lobbyists:
• LB 153, sponsored by Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell, would restrict certain officeholders and public employees from becoming lobbyists.
• LB 664, also introduced by Kuehn, would prohibit a political subdivision from using taxes or fees to employ a lobbyist.