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Nebraska bill would require copay from inmates

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska prisoners and jail inmates would have to provide a $10 co-payment for non-emergency health care each time they request it, under a bill introduced Wednesday in the Legislature.

Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill proposed a measure that would require county jails to deduct the payment from inmates' personal accounts. Inmates who have less than $10 would lose half of each new deposit until the payment was covered.

Larson said he was approached by a county sheriff in his district who complained inmate requests for health care were pulling deputies away from their regular duties. He said 37 other states require co-payments from inmates, including Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas.

The bill includes exceptions for emergency care, mental health or substance abuse treatments, and treatment of a chronic illness.

Other measures introduced Wednesday include:

— New rules designed to clamp down on human trafficking. Legislation by Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln would include human trafficking of minors as a form of child abuse, and allow human trafficking victims to use their status as a defense against a prostitution charge. The bill also would prevent minors from being prosecuted for prostitution, and would require that the names of convicted johns be published on a website for six months.

— A bill that would require public disclosure of superintendent and educational service unit administrator salaries in Nebraska. The bill by Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha would require districts to place compensation, fringe benefits and retirement contracts on the school or ESU's website.

— School bus drivers would not be allowed to use cellphones while driving under a bill by Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids. Texting while driving is already illegal.

— A measure that would repeal a city sales tax bill approved last year over Gov. Dave Heineman's objections. State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha proposed a repeal of the new law, which gives cities the option to seek a sales tax increase large as a half-cent, with voter approval. Supporters at the time argued the measure would give residents the ability to vote on whether they want to increase sales taxes for local needs.

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