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Tuesday wee hours legislative update/Monday recap

(Photo courtesy of the Nebraska Unicameral Information Office)

This is the latest in a series of posts I have done criticizing Nebraska’s legalized child abandonment laws. You can find my earlier posts via my Nebraska tag.


Nebraska has an incredible State Capitol, it’s a shame to see it used as the venue where the Nebraska Governor and Legislature are abandoning some of the state’s most needy kids.

Regular readers know, I oppose all legalized child abandonment laws, so while I’m going to detail the latest machinations relating to the ‘new and improved’ dump bills (what I’ve dubbed dump law 2.0) the bottom line remains, if any of these bills succeed, Nebraska will continue to fail those most vulnerable and least able to defend their own rights.

Today Nebraska’s Attorney General weighed in on the likely constitutionality (or lack thereof) regarding LB 3 (Annette Dubas’ two tier bill.)

Via Monday’s Nebraska Legislative Journal (link opens a PDF) we get the details on the Attorney General’s opinion on:

Whether LB 3 is within the scope of the Governor’s call for a special session of the Legislature relating to child abandonment.

Again, we’re deep down in the technical issues of what can and cannot be done within the scope of the special session itself. Back on November 14th (Friday) when LB 3 was introduced, Speaker Michael Flood requested an opinion from the Attorney General on LB 3.

The One-Hundredth Nebraska Legislature began its First Special Session on November 14, 2008. That special session was convened pursuant to a 44 LEGISLATIVE JOURNAL Proclamation issued by the Governor on October 29, 2008, under authority of art. IV, § 8 of the Nebraska Constitution. The Governor’s Proclamation called the Legislature into special session “for the purpose of considering and enacting legislation on only” two subjects. Those subjects are:

1. Enacting legislation to limit the application of 2008 Neb. Laws LB 157, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-121, by reducing the maximum age of children to whom the statute applies; and

2. To appropriate funds to the Legislative Council for the necessary expenses of the extraordinary session herein called.

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-121, the statute specifically addressed in the Governor’s proclamation, reads as follows:

No person shall be prosecuted for any crime based solely upon the act of leaving a child in the custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska. The hospital shall promptly contact appropriate authorities to take custody of the child.

Your opinion request, which we received late in the afternoon on November 14, pertains to LB 3 from the First Special Session. You wish to know whether, in our view, LB 3 “is within the scope of the Governor’s call for a special session of the Legislature to enact legislation that limits the application of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-121?” For the reasons discussed below, we believe that it is not.

(Emphasis added.)

I’ll let readers go over the details of why via the Legislative Journal link if they are so inclined, suffice it to say, just as I predicted, to date the only real options the legislature has open to it is setting an age limit (again I advocate Zero point Zero, i.e. no kids at all) and how to pay for the special session.

Much of this opinion is based upon an earlier decision the Attorney General rendered:

This is the second opinion request which we have received regarding legislation proposed for the First Special Session and the scope of the Governor’s call. In our Op. Att’y Gen. No. 08008 (November 14, 2008), we indicated that legislation proposed by Senator Pahls was likely outside the scope of the Governor’s call for the special session.

Much of the first opinion is quoted in relation to LB 3 in the Legislative Journal piece. This paragraph summarizes:

It is well established that the legislature while in special session can transact no business except that for which it was called together. . . . The proclamation may state the purpose for which the Legislature is convened in broad, general terms or it may limit the consideration to a specified phase of a general subject. The Legislature is free to determine in what manner the purpose shall be accomplished, but it must confine itself to the matters submitted to it by the proclamation. . . .

Now how exactly the above relates to these three resolutions:

LR1 – Congratulate the Lindsay Holy Family High School Boys’ Cross Country Team for winning the Class D state championship

LR2 – Congratulate Thomas Wilson Hall for earning the rank of Eagle Scout


LR3 – Congratulate Matthew Willaert Wallen for earning the rank of Eagle Scout

is all just a bit beyond my legislative know-how, (but apparently when they’re not busy making yet still more of Nebraska’s abandoned kids they have to do something to fill the time and justify spending that $68,761.)

The Attorney General’s opinion also points out what he feels is beyond the constitutional scope of the special session, (speaking of the Governor):

He has not summoned the Legislature to consider and legislate with regard to other legal, medical or administrative ramifications that might flow from the relinquishment of a child at a licensed hospital or from the exemption from criminal prosecution itself.

and from further down:

…the supreme court’s restrictive view of what legislation is considered germane to a special session call does not allow the Legislature to consider bills which go beyond the specified phase of the Governor’s call and which deal in broad terms with child abandonment, the duties of governmental and private institutions, and the duties and rights of parents. Those additional legislative issues must wait, at this point, until the Legislature is assembled in its regular session.

Which has, just as I said, left their hands tied when it comes to offering any other form of concrete help to Nebraska’s kids and families.

The Nebraska Attorney General lays out very clearly, he believes LB 3:

…if enacted during the special session, is in violation of the Nebraska Constitution and void.

So where does this leave us?

Well for starters, with many hours of testimony that was heard Monday afternoon. (I’ll be working with that later on,) which was almost universally about at precisely what age Nebraska’s unequal treatment under law was going to kick in…2-3 days/that magic 72 hours? 30 days? A 2 month minimum? At 6-8 months? 1 year? 2 years?

As I’ve said before Zero point zero is the only way for Nebraska to ensure all kids receive “Equality Before the Law.” Anything else is an arbitrarily picked point in time that ensures a class of kids in Nebraska receive unequal treatment under Nebraska law.

Governor Heineman laid out his stance in a radio interview:

The governor said today that he’s flexible on an age limit and is willing to work with the legislature.

“Somewhere between 3 and 30 days is appropriate,” Heineman said on a statewide radio call-in show broadcast from KFOR in Lincoln.

So, again, where are we? For the moment anyway, stuck with LB 1, (the 72 hour bill) and the amendments that have been offered to date:

Sen. Bill Avery- AM 1– 1 year
Sen. Chris Langemeier- AM 2– 30 Days

Which is to say so far the legislators have accepted inequitable treatment, now they’re merely quibbling over the exact point that inequality will be applied.

We are still waiting for even one Nebraska legislator to step up and introduce a bill with an age cap set at zero point zero, a bill that would put a stop to the practice of child dumping in Nebraska.

The Attorney General’s opinion clearly leaves room for for a Zero point Zero bill:

Therefore, during the First Special Session, the Legislature may lower the maximum age of covered children to whatever age it chooses, or not at all.

(Emphasis added.)

In fact, given the current constraints of the special session, a Zero point Zero bill would be the ONLY means by which the legislature could effectively repeal the dump bill.

Unless and until that happens, we’re merely debating how many abandoned kids can dance on the head of that legalized dump pin.

A damn sad state of affairs, and one under which Nebraska’s kids will continue to lose.


All state enabled and encouraged legalized abandonment schemes fail kids.

Zero out the dump law.

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