New year brings gas tax hike, sealed records law to Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- More than a dozen new Nebraska laws will take effect on Sunday, including ones meant to help people who have been acquitted of crimes and help the widowed spouses of veterans. The second phase of a gasoline tax increase is also set to take effect:
Here are details of some of the more notable changes set to take effect:
Motorists will pay an additional 1.5 cents per gallon of gas under a 2015 law that is gradually raising the state's fuel tax rate over four years. The first 1.5-cent increase took effect in January 2016.
When the full 6-cent-per-gallon increase goes into effect in 2019, the tax will generate roughly $25 million annually for the state and $51 million annually for cities and counties, according to legislatives estimates.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, who opposed the initial increase, signed a bill in April that will steer $450 million from the tax and the state's cash reserve into road and bridge projects.
The revenue can't come soon enough for cities that have waited for the state to deliver on highway expansion projects that were promised decades ago.
"The whole state is really going to benefit from these expressways," said West Point Mayor Marlene Johnson, who has lobbied extensively for the expansion of U.S. Highway 275. "It's very much an economic issue. Businesses will move closer to larger communities if they can't move their product quickly and efficiently."
The law is LB610.
CRIMINAL RECORDS SEALED
Nebraska will automatically seal criminal records in cases in which people have been acquitted or have successfully completed the requirements of a drug court or a similar type of court. Once the records are sealed, the person affected does not have to disclose the charge when applying for a job or license or to enroll in college.
The law is designed to help people who have turned their lives around and are trying to find a job, said Mark Porto, a Nebraska criminal defense attorney. He said employers will often discard a candidate's job application when a background check turns up a criminal charge, even if they were never convicted.
"It undermines the entire goal of the drug court program, which is to make them productive members of society," he said.
The law is LB505.
Nebraska will expand its homestead exemption so that surviving spouses of veterans can keep the benefit even if they remarry after age 57. Under the old law, a widow or widower of a veteran would lose their benefit if they remarried at any age. The law is LB683.
SURGICAL FIRST ASSISTANTS
Surgical first assistants, who help doctors perform surgeries, will have to get a state license before they can practice in Nebraska. Nebraska law prohibits surgeons from delegating to an unlicensed person. In 2013, the Sidney Regional Medical Center was ordered to stop using a surgical first assistant because the state didn't recognize that person's credentials. The law is LB721.
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