Tanning bed, novelty lighter bills to become law

Associated PressJuly 13, 2014 

— Nebraska will impose tighter restrictions on tanning beds and novelty lighters this week, and truckers who spill livestock manure in Omaha will have to pay a steeper fine.

The new laws are among 122 set to go into effect on Friday, when the three-month grace period from the end of the legislative session expires.

Many of the laws reflect compromises reached among lawmakers after hours of debate. Senators also approved major legislation to lower taxes and reduce prison crowding, but most of those measures won't come into play until next year.

Among the bills becoming law on Friday:

— LB132: Indoor tanning beds will be off-limits to children younger than 16 unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. The parent or guardian will also have to sign a written consent form on each visit, and facilities will have to post conspicuous warning signs about the health risks.

Medical groups pushed for an outright ban for all minors but backed the compromise measure to ensure that the proposal made it to a vote, said Dr. David Watts, an Omaha dermatologist and past president of the Nebraska Dermatology Society. Watts said studies show that young people who use the tanning bed face a greater risk of different kinds of skin cancer, and the law seeks to ensure that parents are aware of the threat.

Barton Bonn, the franchisee for Palm Beach Tan facilities throughout Nebraska, said his salons made "minor adjustments" to comply with the new law. Bonn said his facility and many others already imposed age restrictions for customers, and have added signs to meet the law's requirements.

"It reflects what professional tanning salons do already," he said.

— LB174: Truckers who spill livestock manure in Omaha will face a minimum $250 fine, up from the current $100. The law was proposed in response to numerous spills around meatpacking plants in south Omaha.

The Nebraska Trucking Association worked on the law with a coalition of local business owners and residents, who have complained for years about urine and manure spills on state highways. The spills also pose a hazard to public health and traffic safety. Design changes to the trucks reduced some of the spills, but residents complained that they were still happening often.

"This is a step that we're going to watch closely," said Larry Johnson, the trucking association's president. "We're hoping to see even fewer incidents than before."

— LB403: Nebraska will only allow the sale of novelty lighters that have child-proof safety features. Firefighting groups argued that the lighters are a threat to young children because they can resemble toy guns, animals, tractors and other items. Some senators argued that they pose no greater risk than regular lighters or candles.

— LB438: Nebraska will send state intervention teams into poorly performing schools to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The new law sets up an accountability system for Nebraska schools, and gives the State Board of Education the power to designate "priority schools" with low performance scores.

— LB674: Judges will have the power to impose longer ownership restrictions on people who have neglected animals. The law was inspired by a 2013 neglect case involving a puppy mill in Malcolm. A judge described the operation as an "animal Auschwitz," with dogs living in feces- and urine-crusted cages, but complained that he wasn't able to impose any restrictions on the owner beyond her two-year probation period.

— LB690: Nebraska will take additional steps to expand in-home care services for the elderly, at a cost of $8.2 million to the state and $36.5 million in federal dollars. Supporters say the law will reduce Nebraska's long-term Medicaid expenses, because in-home care costs less than nursing home care.

— LB698: Nebraska farmers will be able to mow and harvest hay along state highways each year, instead of every other year.

— LB740: Veterans who recently left the military will qualify for in-state college tuition, as long as they've established residency in Nebraska and registered to vote. So will their spouses and dependents.

— LB811: Assaulting a firefighter, paramedic, state corrections employee or social worker will carry the same penalty as the crime of assault on a peace officer. Anyone convicted of the felony charge faces a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum of 50 years.

— LB920: Nebraska will become the nation's last state to create a public guardian office for vulnerable people who can't make decisions on their own. The law will create the office as a last resort when no one is available to serve as a guardian or conservator.

— LB923: Public school teachers, counselors and other employees will receive at least one hour of suicide prevention and awareness training each year. The law goes into effect on Friday, but schools won't have to provide the training until the 2015-16 school year.

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