Proposals introduced on everything from sex offenders to mountain lions

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January 9, 2012 - 6:00pm

Some sex offenders could have to register for shorter periods of time. People could hunt mountain lions in Nebraska. And legislative leadership elections could still be conducted by secret ballot.

Those were among proposals introduced or discussed at the Capitol Tuesday.

Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill is proposing a change in the length of time some sex offenders would have to register. Currently, they must register for 25 years if the violator is 19 or older and the victim is younger than 16. (CORRECTION: The audio version of this story misstated the current requirement). McGill said she wants to allow the registration to be reduced to 10 years for someone who was 19 or 20 years old and had sex with a 15 year old, if it was consensual. "I think those cases should be treated differently than someone who is 20 years old and is molesting a 3-year-old. Those are two very different types of cases, yet right now they're on the registry for the same length of time," she said.

McGill says there are other problems with Nebraska's sex offender laws, but this is where she wants to start making changes.

Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth introduced a bill that would allow a mountain lion hunting season in Nebraska. Currently, there is no such hunting season, although someone can kill a mountain lion if it is threatening harm or attacking livestock. Louden, who lives in the Sandhills, said mountain lions are becoming more plentiful, adding that he introduced the bill at the request of the Game and Parks Commission.

He acknowledged that he might face opposition, like from a woman who complained when he promoted exceptions to the ban on killing mountain lions a couple of years ago. "She was saying she just thought it was terrible because she had a granddaughter and she would like her granddaughter to see a mountain lion. And my answer is "You want her to see one face to face?" Because I have a granddaughter out there that I don't want her to see one face to face," Louden said. "They run across our yard," he added, noting "When you have a mountain lion in the area, you're not necessarily the top of the food chain."

Meanwhile, a proposal to do away with the secret ballot for electing legislative committee chairman remains bottled up in an equally-divided Rules Committee, at least for now. Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, a registered Republican, has proposed the measure, saying it would promote accountability.

Some registered Democrats like Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas oppose it, saying it would subject senators to party pressure and erode the nonpartisan nature of the Unicameral.

Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, a registered Republican, said he supports the change. "I just think it's a transparency issue. The votes we cast for the chairs are among the most important votes that we cast all session, every two years. So I think people have a right to know who we support," he declared."

But Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood, also a registered Republican, said he opposes the move. "It's not so much about partisanship. It's about our ability to work together beyond our leadership elections each year," Flood said. "Those are tough calls for people that work together every day. And a secret ballot in my opinion ensures that people make the choice that they want and that people are elected to serve on those committees," adding "it preserves the way that we operate down here."

Despite the committee's deadlock, Krist has said he'll try to get the full Legislature to approve his proposal when it debates on Wednesday.




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