Mike Hilgers

Nebraska Attorney General

Attorney General Mike Hilgers' January Column: A Legislative Package to Protect Vulnerable Nebraskans

As Attorney General, two of my most important responsibilities are to help protect vulnerable Nebraskans and keep communities safe. At the start of this year’s legislative session, I announced our office’s legislative priorities designed with these goals in mind. This column provides a closer look at three bills introduced by a trio of stalwart state senators and why they matter for Nebraskans.  

The first bill, LB 934, introduced by Lincoln Senator Carolyn Bosn, will allow our office to help recover financial losses by consumers and prevent fraudsters from absconding with Nebraskans’ money. Often, by the time a fraud case goes to court and a judgment is achieved, the consumer’s money has been spent, and there is nothing left to recover. This bill would allow the Attorney General the ability to temporarily freeze funds of bad actors in order to increase the likelihood of restitution for victims. In addition, LB 934 will help streamline and improve other consumer protection-related procedures, such as eliminating inconsistencies in our venue statutes and allowing our office to have claims heard by a jury. 

The second bill, introduced by Senator Teresa Ibach of Sumner, is LB 999. This bill is a response to our investigation last year into Delta-8 stores, which have cropped up across Nebraska in recent years. In addition to selling dangerous Delta-8 products, the investigation revealed that approximately 85% of tested products from Delta-8 stores were found to be mislabeled. In some cases, products were found to have a whole host of dangerous chemicals in very high quantities, some of which could easily send a child to the hospital. Many of these stores also explicitly targeted children with their packaging, designed to mimic popular candies and snacks.  

Bad actors are currently trying to exploit a perceived loophole in the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act to sell dangerous Delta-8 and other forms of THC across the state. While our office is engaged in litigation around the state to stop the sale of these products, this bill presents a comprehensive statewide solution to this growing problem. In addition to helping to protect Nebraskans, this bill also shifts the regulatory burden from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to its federal counterpart, which handles oversight nationally. This shift will lead to more efficiency and will save taxpayers money.

The third and final piece of legislation, LB 1096, introduced by Omaha Senator Christy Armendariz, protects some of the most vulnerable individuals: human trafficking victims and victims of sexual exploitation. Nebraskans are big-hearted people and would be horrified to learn that online companies are exploiting the trauma of such a vulnerable population. These companies are willing to harm children and human trafficking victims by distributing nonconsensual content of victims online for financial gain. Children and rape victims have been significantly impacted by these companies. LB 1096 gives the Attorney General the tools necessary to hold companies accountable for manufacturing, producing, publishing, or distributing nonconsensual exploitative material. 

I am grateful to Senator Bosn, Senator Ibach, and Senator Armendariz for their thoughtful discussion on these bills during the interim. They are outstanding senators, and we could not ask for better advocates for these important issues. We look forward to working with the Legislature to get these bills passed this session.