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Committee endorses meatpacking worker protections, but time runs out
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Committee endorses meatpacking worker protections, but time runs out

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Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha on Tuesday won legislative committee support for an amended bill to provide more protections for meat processing workers from COVID-19 infection on meatpacking production lines.

The Business and Labor Committee rushed the proposal to the floor of the Legislature, but once it arrived there, the bill faced the reality of no path forward toward an opportunity for enactment by a legislative session that will adjourn for the year Thursday.

The chief safety element in the bill would require 6 feet of distancing between workers on fast-moving production lines where they work shoulder-to-shoulder and often across from one another.

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Voting to advance the proposal were Sens. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, Sue Crawford of Bellevue, Matt Hansen of Lincoln and Steve Lathrop of Omaha.

Opposing advancement of the amended bill (LB667) were Sens. Steve Halloran of Hastings and Julie Slama of Peru.

Vargas saw one of his education bills ambushed Tuesday afternoon when Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte put an unfriendly amendment onto the Omaha senator's version of a school discipline bill (LB515).

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Groene was seeking to get a vote on his bill (LB147) to allow physical intervention by teachers and school personnel to manage student behavior. He had already used an unorthodox way last year to get it to the floor for debate, pulling it out of the Education Committee he chairs when the committee wouldn't send it to the floor. 

Then, after more than seven hours of filibustering in late July, the bill fell one vote short of a cloture motion to stop the filibuster, and that usually means the bill is dead for the session. 

But that didn't deter Groene. He resurrected it once again Tuesday in a surprise move, attaching it to the Vargas bill as an amendment, with Vargas making it clear it was a bad faith move on Groene's part. The amendment failed on a 21-20 vote. 

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Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks had one of the few bills in the afternoon that slid through without controversy. Her bill (LB238) advanced to final reading, and would make executions more transparent to witnesses. It would allow witnesses to continuously observe the process from the moment the condemned prisoner enters the execution chamber until the person is declared dead or the execution is halted.

She removed a section from the bill that would require two members of the Legislature to serve as witnesses. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

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