AG Bruning announces legislative proposals

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning unveiled bills Thursday that seek to protect consumers from identity theft, increase penalties for disarming a police officer and keep public money out of companies that support Iran.

His proposals come as lawmakers begin to introduce bills for this year's legislative session.

"Over the years we've learned that one thing never changes," said Bruning, who noted that legislators have passed 36 of his proposed bills in 10 years. "Criminals evolve and they constantly seek ways to circumvent the law."

One measure, supported by Sen. John Murante of Gretna, would require businesses to notify the attorney general's office about data breaches. If passed, Nebraska would join 17 states that have similar laws, which help make sure consumers are notified quickly after their information has been stolen.

Last year, the Nebraska Attorney General's Office looked into 14 data breaches, two of which resulted in fraudulent activity under Nebraskans' names and social security numbers. In the same year, the office handled 556 cases related to identity theft.

"Identity theft and security breaches are a major problem, which are only going to increase in the future," Murante said.

A second measure would elevate disarming a police officer from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by one to 20 years in prison. Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, who is sponsoring the bill, said "a misdemeanor charge is not appropriate for this level of threat."

Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner said a misdemeanor "diminishes the severity of the offense," and recalled an incident 20 years ago when an inmate escaped the Nebraska Regional Center and almost successfully dislodged the gun of Wagner's partner. He said the event rattled him because there's only one reason someone would try to take an officer's gun and "that is to use it against us."

State Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln will sponsor a third measure called the Nebraska Divestment Act, which would prevent state funds from going to companies supporting Iran and its nuclear energy sectors. The federal government, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have similar legislation already in place to "isolate and pressure Iran" to stop human rights abuses, terrorism and from creating nuclear weapons, Bruning said.

Avery said he doesn't know if any Nebraska funds are being used to support such businesses, but plans to look into it. The measure would not apply to social development companies.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh introduced a fourth bill that would classify voluntary manslaughter as a felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison. Current law shows no distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Also Thursday, Bruning said he had thought about proposing legislation to commute juvenile life sentences, but decided to leave that decision up to Sen. Bill Ashford of Omaha, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Last month, Bruning requested a court order that would allow the state pardons board to commute the sentences of the prison inmates serving life for crimes they committed as juveniles.

An attorney representing 14 inmates in a lawsuit has raised concerns that Nebraska's pardons board wants bypass a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that threw out mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles and commutes sentences to no less than 50 years each.

Bruning said he will weigh in on any proposed bill after seeing it.

"I hope we see eye to eye," Bruning said.

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