Support Legislative Issues: Felons and South Beltway
This has been a busy legislative session for the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA).
We are supporting LB84. This bill will incentivize employers to give people who have committed felonies a second chance. One of the major reasons convicted felons end up back in prison is because they have a difficult time finding employment once they are released. A study by the Manhattan Institute found that statewide rates of recidivism range from about 31–70%, while the rates for those placed in jobs shortly after their release ranged from 3.3–8%.
Prison crowding is a major concern in Nebraska. According to the Nebraska Department of Corrections, Nebraska’s prisons are at 162% of its design capacity. The Governor’s budget requests $48 million for two new high-security units at the Lincoln Correctional Center to help with overcrowding, but this will only yield 384 news beds, and will not be completed until 2023 at the earliest.
It is time to try some new and innovative ideas to reduce the emergency overcrowding situation. Making it easier for felons to find jobs upon their release is one of those ideas. LB84 will give employers a tax credit for employing felons who have served their time.
LIBA also supported LB616. This bill could save as much as $10 million from the project costs for the South Beltway, and move up the timeline for the completion of the project by four years. While LIBA supports this bill, we support it as a pilot test case because we see an urgent need for the South Beltway because of public safety concerns.
The confluence of commercial heavy truck traffic and local traffic on a stretch of highway with multiple signalized intersections has resulted in Nebraska Highway 2 in the city limits of Lincoln facing serious safety issues.
Just a few years ago, for example, Lincoln was faced with a truck accident that shut down traffic at 56th and Highway 2 on a Husker game day when a truck carrying a total of 34,000 pounds of radioactive waste had a container slide loose and strike the truck cab. Fortunately, the radioactive waste was fully contained, but the incident provides a clear example of the dangers posed by stop-and-go heavy truck traffic in Lincoln.
Over the past two decades, there have been 6,101 accidents along Highway 2, and 22 accidents involving one or more fatalities. Of these, five directly involved semi-trucks. Pedestrian crossings on this major highway create even further risk as middle school students cross seven lanes of traffic at the intersection of 48th Street and Highway 2 to attend classes at Pound Middle School.
Fast tracking the construction of the South Beltway will not only benefit Lincoln, but also the entire state because it will free up funding and resources for roads projects in other parts of the state. We would not advocate for wholesale changes in the way our state funds road projects, however, this is a good pilot test case to see if the savings are realized.
LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community. If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at (402) 466-3419. LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses. We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.
For more information on LIBA, visit Liba.org.