Nebraska mandatory minimum reform bill narrowly advances

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A bill to eliminate some of Nebraska’s mandatory minimum prison sentences and habitual criminal punishments has advanced by the narrowest of margins.

Lawmakers gave the measure second-round approval on Tuesday with a 25-16 vote, the minimum support required to move it to a final vote.

The bill has faced opposition from prosecutors and law enforcement groups. Some opponents say mandatory minimums give prosecutors an important tool to get plea bargains, and the habitual criminal law only applies to repeat offenders.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha introduced the bill on behalf of a group of senators who have studied the prison crowding problems. Chambers says the state’s sentencing policies have made the situation worse because of politicians who want to appear tough on crime.

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