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Revenge porn, abortion laws among new laws taking effect

September 1, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska will clamp down on so-called revenge porn, take aim at scam phone calls from fake numbers and impose new requirements on abortion providers under new state laws that go into effect Sunday.

The new laws officially go on the books three months after this year’s legislative session ended, which is the normal grace period.

Here are some highlights among the 170 new laws:

REVENGE PORN

People who post pornographic photos or videos of others without permission or who use those images for blackmail may now face criminal charges in Nebraska.

Nebraska had been one of seven states with no law to prohibit the practice known as “revenge porn,” or nonconsensual pornography. The new law will let prosecutors bring new felony charges against perpetrators.

“Revenge porn is increasingly common and the new law sends a clear message to those who would violate their trust and privacy in the worst way imaginable,” said Sen. Adam Morfeld, of Lincoln, the law’s lead sponsor.

SCAM PHONE CALLS

Scam artists who use fake numbers to trick people into answering their phones with the intent to defraud them will now be violating the law in Nebraska, although it’s difficult to know whether that will reduce the number of calls.

The new law makes it illegal to try to defraud a person by spoofing, a practice in which a caller attempts to get other people to answer their phones by making a bogus number appear on their caller IDs. The fake numbers usually contain local area codes, leading recipients to believe the call is legitimate.

“It’s an open area for a lot of fraud and abuse perpetrated on elderly people who are quite vulnerable,” said Sen. Steve Halloran, the law’s sponsor.

The law will allow the Nebraska Public Service Commission to impose a penalty of up to $2,000 for each violation, and the attorney general can now pursue cases against perpetrators. However, many callers are located outside the country and beyond the reach of state officials.

Halloran said the law gives the attorney general more options to pursue charges against in-state perpetrators.

ABORTION REQUIREMENTS

Doctors who perform abortions using medication are now required to tell patients about a disputed treatment to stop the process after it has started.

The new law will require abortion providers to tell women that their pregnancy may still be viable after taking the first of two abortion drugs. They also will have to notify patients about a state public health website with contact information for groups that offer the disputed treatment.

Abortion-rights supporters say the treatment is based on a flawed and unethical study.

CIVICS IN SCHOOLS

Nebraska public school students now must spend more time on American civics before they graduate high school.

The new law requires K-12 public schools to teach students in one of three ways.

One is to have students take the naturalization test used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Another would require students to attend a government meeting and complete a project about what they learned. The third option would have students do a project and class presentation about a holiday such as Veterans Day, Constitution Day or Native American Heritage Day.

FARM NUISANCES

Farmers who install large chicken houses or hog confinements will become immune from public nuisance lawsuits after two years, but the new law contains plenty of loopholes that would allow neighbors file a court claim.

The law was introduced to protect farmers from lawsuits that could drive them out of business, but some lawmakers argued the initial proposal didn’t do enough to protect the rights of neighbors dealing with obnoxious noises and smells. The final version of the law includes several exceptions that could still leave farmers liable.

Under the new law, the two-year window to sue begins once conditions at a farm become bad enough to merit a lawsuit.

The law was inspired by several homeowner lawsuits against hog farmers in North Carolina. Sen. Dan Hughes, the law’s sponsor, said he introduced it at the request of cattle ranchers who wanted to proactively protect farmers in Nebraska. Hughes said he struck the compromise with opponents to try to serve farmers and neighbors.

“Is it everything we wanted? No,” he said. “But it has us heading in the right direction. It gives us some clear boundaries going forward, and I think that’s a good thing.”

LOTTERY ADS

The Nebraska Lottery now has to disclose the odds of winning the biggest available prize in its game advertisements. The law is designed to help players understand the astronomically low chance they have of winning and discourage people from playing if they can’t afford it.

EYEBALL TATTOOING

It’s now illegal to tattoo the whites of a person’s eyes in Nebraska except in rare cases when it’s medically necessary. The law was backed by medical professionals who warn that such tattoos are risky and could cause a person to lose their sight.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Traffickers who sell adults and children for sex in Nebraska can now have their phones tapped by law enforcement and face prosecution years or even decades after their crimes.

The new law extends the statute of limitations for sex and labor trafficking of an adult from three to seven years. For cases involving minors, the statute of limitations was abolished.

It’s part of a multi-year push to clamp down on human trafficking in Nebraska.

NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN

The Nebraska State Patrol will conduct a study on cases involving missing Native American women and work with other law enforcement agencies to try to learn what can be done to address the problem.

Advocates say many such cases go unreported, and no one at the state or national level appears to be tracking how many Native American women are missing. Nationally, Native American women face much higher levels of violence than women of other races.

The state patrol is required to submit a report to lawmakers by June 1, 2020.

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