Nebraska bill to encourage giving felons a second chance hits snag

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Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 10:55 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A bill aimed at giving felons a second chance when released from prison hit an unexpected bump in the road in the Unicam.

LB-917 faced what was to be its final reading Thursday. It would give employers a tax credit of 25% of wages paid to felons they hire, for up to one year.

But then the man who introduced the bill took the floor and asked for less.

“Colleagues: It is a weird request because the business community actually contacted me who hire a lot of these individuals who said 25% is too much, believe it or not,” State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha said during Thursday’s legislative session in Lincoln. “They said they don’t want that much money, it’s kind of odd, so we lowered it to 10% of the wages of the individuals.”

Exactly which businesses contacted Wayne and requested a lower tax credit is unclear. Those we contacted are wondering, too.

”Who did they ask when they decided to lower that incentive from 25% to 10%?” said Gladys Harrison, owner of Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering. “No one came and asked me, I’ll tell you that.”

Though the amendment passed overwhelmingly 46-0-2; as a bill, LB-917 may not have made it on the final reading without the lower rate.

”Businesses like Big Mama’s, we’ve always hired felons — it was part of the foundation that my mom started and the culture here,” Harrison said. “However, if we want to give small businesses some incentive to hire people who need a second chance? No, 10%’s not enough. No.”

To north Omaha community leader Preston Love Jr., this may be politics at work, but it’s a start.

”The incentive should surely have been increased, but this is a first step,” Love said. “I also think this will open up the opportunity for testimonials as more of the felons move forward and make great employees and make great contributions to our communities.”

The amended LB917 will be presented for another final vote in the coming days.

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