Same-sex gun bill delayed; senators discuss slots, mountain lions

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February 10th, 2015

 Nebraska flag flies below Capitol tower (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)


Nebraska flag flies below Capitol tower (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

The Nebraska Legislature Monday backed away from a bill that could have recognized some same-sex marriages. And lawmakers discussed slot machine-like games and protecting mountain lions.


Lincoln, NE – Last week, senators voted to give military spouses sped-up permission to apply for concealed carry gun permits.

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But only after an amendment that would extend the privilege to anyone receiving military spousal benefits from the federal government. Under federal law, unlike Nebraska law, that includes same-sex spouses. That led some senators, like John Murante, to say the bill would violate the Nebraska Constitution, which voters amended in 2000 to prohibit recognizing same-sex marriages. Monday, Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley said he would take it off the agenda. Hadley said Sen. Dave Bloomfield asked him to put a “speaker hold” on his bill “until we find out which way the (U.S.) Supreme Court is going to rule on gay marriage,” which Hadley said should be by the end of this year.

Bloomfield, sponsor of the military spouses’ bill, said he requested the delay because “We have enough things to do here that we don’t need to have extended debate on something that’s unconstitutional — if in fact it is,” adding that he didn’t think it so.

Sen. Paul Schumacher, who introduced the amendment to speed up concealed carry applications for all military spouses, did not object to the delay. Schumacher did not express an opinion on which way he hopes the Supreme Court will decide. “I don’t hope one way or the other on that particular one,” he said.

But Schumacher did hint at a prediction. “In our state, we’ve got an amendment passed by the people that expresses their particular will. The Supreme Court, if it’s consistent with a lot of the lower courts, will say that that expression of will by Nebraskans was beyond the authority of the state constitution,” he said. “But we’ll see.”

In floor debate Monday, Schumacher advocated for a bill that would impose a 10 percent tax on revenues from certain touch-screen games that Schumacher described as like slot machines. “This is a simple, straightforward approach to impose a hefty tax on machines that accept money, pay out in money, are interactive with the player, and that have not been cleared by a court finding,” he said.

Schumacher said it would cost a lot for the state to prove that the machines are more games of chance than skill, and therefore illegal. If the revenue is taxed, it would be up to the owners to prove they are more games of skill than chance.

Sen. Beau McCoy asked if the machines pose competition for other forms of entertainment, like keno. Schumacher, CEO of a company that runs keno games for communities in Nebraska, said keno revenues have actually increased in communities that have the machines he’s trying to tax.

“Then why the angst?” McCoy asked. “Because one’s legal and the other’s illegal,” Schumacher replied.

Senators ended debate for the day without reaching a vote.

Monday afternoon there was a public hearing on a proposal by Sen. Ernie Chambers to create special license plates to promote protection of mountain lions. Chambers acknowledged that he generally opposes specialty plates, but said he has lost that battle.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which would receive money from the license plate sales for educational programs, opposed Chambers’ bill. Deputy Director Timothy McCoy said that hunters are generally not interested in a mountain lion protection bill.

Chambers said he wasn’t trying to appeal only to hunters, predicting the bill would have broad appeal among the general public. The Transportation and Telecommunications committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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