Juvenile Justice Related Legislative Bills 2016

55b81ae6ec024.imageWith this short session of the Legislature, there have been over a dozen bills introduced that have some form of impact on juvenile justice in Nebraska. Not every bill will make it out of committee, but there are some that will be chosen as priority bills by a senator, a specific legislative committee or even designated by the Speaker.

Since the last legislative session, there has been much discussion, many meetings and a lot of dialogue regarding the legislated movement of youth from the Office of Juvenile Services to State Probation. In late 2015, there was a flurry of media articles, editorials and blogs with regard to that system change. Problems were noted in the budget numbers as well as issues relating to the Office of Inspector General for Children’s Services not feeling their office had the autonomy necessary to access some juvenile-related records.

Some of the discourse generated views of promoting another ‘system change’ and moving the youth back to the Executive Branch. NJJA took a stance by asking for cooler heads to prevail and noting that another change without a planned, incremental process would be disastrous. Even the talk of another wholesale change could have a profound, negative impact on the workforce. From further talks, collaborative efforts on every side and the erasure of lines in the sand, it appears that a more even and measured process is moving forward with the introduction of some proposed legislation that will address previous concerns without a major system change in the provision of juvenile justice in Nebraska.

This will be an interesting session to follow with most bills related to juvenile justice issues coming before the Judiciary and Health and Human Services Committee. However, one major piece of legislation introduced by Senator Krist addressing some of the issues noted above, went before the Executive Board and was heard the afternoon of January 22, 2016.

The Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association does not have an agenda in the form of self-interest. What we do promote is that Nebraska can have the best form of juvenile justice in the nation and we will assist in whatever way we can to make that happen. While we will follow juvenile justice-related legislation, we will very rarely take a specific stand on a bill. We will offer considerations toward legislative intent but we will not appear as a special interest group. NJJA has made numerous attempts to let our Legislative body know that our services are available to them as a resource. Asked a question, we will give a reply; asked for a resource, we will provide guidance.

I encourage everyone to go to the Legislature’s home web page under the Hearing Schedule link, to see when specific bills have been set for hearings. All the hearings are open to the public and invite your verbal and written observations on the introduced legislation. If you have an opinion on a bill or topic that you would like us to know about, please let us know. If you have questions or need answers, please let us know.

Hang on to your hats as this session has a lot to do before it adjourns on April 20, 2016. We will continue to provide some legislative updates, so check out our website and newsletters.

Tom McBride, M.S.
NJJA, Executive Director

LB 675 (Krist): Change provisions relating to placement and detention of juveniles

LB 709 (Howard): Provide for an alternative to detention for juveniles

LB 845 (Pansing Brooks): Provide requirements relating to confinement of juveniles and provide a duty for the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare

LB 866 (Bolz): Adopt the Transition to Adult Living Success Program Act

LB 893 (Pansing Brooks): Modify jurisdiction of juvenile courts and change provisions relating to temporary custody and disposition of juveniles

LB 894 (Pansing Brooks): Change provisions relating to appointment of counsel in juvenile cases

LB 954 (Krist): Change provisions relating to access to records for and investigations by the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare

LB 1010 (Williams): Change provisions relating to juvenile court petitions