Nebraska senators fail to agree on prison reform bill

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Nebraska senators worked hard on Wednesday to find a way to reduce prison overcrowding but those efforts failed.

Sen. Steve Lathrop said that the failure of LB920 came down to partisan disagreements.

In the final moments of the debate, Lathrop threw out a last-ditch plea for senators to meet him halfway on the bill so something could get to fruition.

“So now I’m going to ask you to do something.  If you can vote yes on cloture, no on the bracket, no on the “GIEST”, adopt the judiciary and move 920 to select, I will sit down with Senator Geist,” Lathrop said.

Despite this, Lathrop couldn’t get the 30 votes necessary to invoke cloture and send the bill forward.

The prison reform bill has been a hot topic among state senators and Gov. Pete Ricketts.

“There is a reason why LB920, without AM2337, is opposed by law enforcement,” Sen. Julie Slama said.  “The Attorney General’s Office and our county attorneys are those people tasked with ensuring community safety because those four things I outlined, along with the 60% rule are nonstarters because they compromise community safety.”

Slama said things like letting drug dealers go without mandatory minimums and incentivizing smash and grab robbers were just a few of the issues plaguing the bill.

Sen. Suzanne Geist tried to meet Lathrop halfway by putting forth an amendment that included about 80% of the original bill.

“Taking care of our citizens in a way we have not done in the past.  There is a huge gap in our system when it comes to treatment for both addiction and mental health,” Geist said.

Some senators said that the amendment still didn’t do enough to address the underlying issue of prison overcrowding.

“We’ve heard a lot of people get up on the floor and say we need more, we need more rehabilitation funding, we need more problem solving (COURT?), we need more diversion programs,” Sen. Adam Morfeld said.  “I think we can all agree on that, we can all agree on that but Senator Geists’ amendment doesn’t get us there.”

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