Some speed limits increase, other new laws on books

An out-of-state friend once asked me what the speed limit was on Interstate 80 across Nebraska.
Based on personal observation and practice, I told him that it’s 79 in the right lane and whatever you can get away with in the left lane. That’s not what’s legal; it’s just the way it is.
What IS legal was changed by lawmakers during the 2018 session and went into effect recently, marking the end of the 90-day waiting period from passage to enactment.
Even though the Governor and some lawmakers had favored raising the limit from 75 to 80 on Interstate 80, that didn’t happen. Limits were changed on interstate subsidiaries and some secondary highways. That’s a start.
State highway crews began replacing speed-limit signs in the Lincoln and Omaha areas July 19. That means a bump to 65 mph on Interstate 180 in Lincoln and stretches of Interstate 80, I-480 and I-680 in Omaha. The speed limit increases to 70 mph on stretches of U.S. Highways 6, 34 and 77 as well as on Nebraska 2 east to Nebraska City.  
Transportation Department spokeswoman Vicki Kramer warns that the speed limits posted on signs remain in effect until the new signs are in place. That includes a 5 mph increase on most secondary highways statewide, but NOT Interstate 80.
The speed limit increases highlight more than 100 new laws being enacted. That says something about the recently completed session and people’s high hopes about property tax relief, Medicaid expansion and school aid. Instead, lawmakers agreed to allow people who massage animals professionally to do so without a license.
The law was originally aimed at equine massage, a common practice to relieve tension in high-performance horses, but was expanded to include other animals. I have to admit I thought it was a joke when it was introduced, but previously so-called equine massage therapists had to be a veterinarian or a licensed human massage therapist with special training.
I have since met such a therapist and realized it’s a thing. I’m still pondering how horses get stressed.
On a serious note, another law places new safety restrictions on health care professionals when prescribing opiates. It’s part of an effort to prevent widespread abuse, a problem in other states.
Doctors will now have to discuss the risks with younger patients and limit the amounts they prescribe to minors in most situations. Additionally, pharmacists now must request identification from customers of such products unless they already know the person.
Likewise, doctors can now prescribe drugs and meet new patients through “telehealth” services that allow them to connect remotely through the internet or by phone. It’s the latest move in recent years to make Nebraska more welcoming to the technology of addressing a shortage of rural health care providers.
Speaking of technology, companies that store consumers’ personal information will now be legally required to enact “reasonable security procedures and practices” to prevent data breaches such as the 2017 Equifax event that affected nearly 148 million people nationwide and thousands of Nebraskans. Consumer-reporting agencies will also be barred from charging any fees to place a temporary security freeze on a customer’s credit.  
Likewise, using the technology of texting to threaten or harass someone will be punishable as a misdemeanor with three months in jail and a $500 fine. The law expands the existing statute which covered only threatening or harassing phone calls.
There is talk that next year lawmakers will look at tightening regulations about texting while driving based on successful law revisions in other states. I’m all for that. Given the accident rates, not to mention the pure annoyance of being in traffic behind someone who is texting, something needs to be done.

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