Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.
Friday, April 6th
The March jobs report was just released this morning. The numbers were not as strong as they were expected to be, but the United States still added over 120,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 8.2%. The economy continues to show signs of improvement. Here’s your Roundup:
Major Disappointment: The Nebraska Legislature recently amended and approved LB 1161, the bill that will fast-track the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline through Nebraska. Introduced by State Senator Jim Smith, most other lawmakers were happy to jump on board with TransCanada. The bill gives eminent domain to TransCanada, requires the Public Service Commission to review the application (mind you, the PSC has very little experience in pipelines), and a streamlined review of the route by the Department of Environmental Quality. This bill is dangerous. We are extremely disappointed in the Nebraska Legislature for approving this bill and subsequently placing the health, safety, and existence of the Nebraska people on the line. Read here
Questionable (Again) Actions: Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps made one more questionable decision leaving us to wonder, “Just what is he doing?” Phipps recently closed over 160 polling locations across Douglas County, many in north and south Omaha. Citizens of north and south Omaha, mostly low-income and/or minority voters, raised concern over the ability to travel to the new polling places for many citizens do not have cars or cannot drive. Then, when Phipps mailed out voter cards with the new polling places, some 2,000 cards with incorrect information were mailed to north Omaha voters. The latest development in the Phipps debacle consists of Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and Douglas County Board Chairman Marc Kraft proposing a solution to early voting locations. Suttle and Kraft suggested using public libraries because the the multiple locations, hours of operation, and staff with knowledge of the election process. Phipps struck down the proposal, saying it will cost too much. What is it with this man? An interesting figure joined the crowd opposing the closure of elections places too: Congressman Lee Terry. He agrees Phipps needs to open more polling locations. One more thing–Phipps is a Republican. It is disappointing to see Phipps disenfranchise thousands of voters, mainly low-income and/or minority voters. We can only hope a solution will soon come to light.
Child Welfare: A major “turning point” was reached yesterday in the Nebraska Legislature as lawmakers approved the last of the package of bills to improve our state’s struggling child welfare system. The bills passed yesterday ensure child welfare cases for abused and neglected children and youthful troublemakers are handled in a more proper manner. All the bills passed this week address the long list of issues that were created by the Heineman’s awful experiment with the privatization of welfare services. From establishing a Children’s Commission to develop a strategic plan for child welfare to limiting the number of cases a case worker may work at one time, child welfare should begin to improve. It is encouraging to see the lawmakers focus on an issue that improve the lives of thousands of children. Read here
Top Ten List: The Lincoln Journal Star recently interviewed eight Nebraska State Senators to see what their top ten list of music includes. The lists were pretty interesting. From Senator Heath Mello’s “Everything in the Right Place” by Radiohead to Senator Amanda McGill’s “Something” by the Beatles, the lists featured a variety of tastes. See the complete lists here.
For all the latest Nebraska Legislature news, head on over to the Unicameral Update!
Thursday, April 5th
Join us this evening in Lincoln for our series of Pipeline Meetings and input on Nebraska’s Public Service Commission. We’ll be at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln at 6300 A Street beginning at 7:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you; be sure to bring along some friends! Here’s your Roundup:
Don’t Anger Dave: Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman called out Speaker Mike Flood and other legislators who approved a bill on Tuesday night that would give prenatal care to low-income mothers, including illegal immigrants. Heineman said he was “extraordinarily disappointed” in Flood and threatened to veto the recently approved measure. And of course, he threw in another recent bill that would allow cities to increase their local sales tax rates up to a maximum two cents from the current 1.5 cents when criticizing lawmakers. He vowed to veto the measure if they go any further. On LB 599, the bill that would provide prenatal care, Heineman is sure the state will “become a magnet for illegal aliens.” Heineman, don’t you understand women and unborn children, regardless of citizenship, deserve at least a minimum standard of healthcare during the prenatal stages? Read here
To the Polls: Nebraska Legislators recently voted to send Legislative Resolution 358CA, a measure that would ease term limits, and Legislative Resolution 373CA, a measure that would increase lawmaker pay from $12,000 to $22,500 per year, to Nebraska voters to be voted upon in November. It was argued that by the time lawmakers figure out their position within the Legislature, their term is up. Also, a higher salary for Nebraska lawmakers will allow citizens that are not wealthy to run for office. It will be interesting to see where the Nebraska people stand on these two measures. Read here
Awkward Tension: In a debate between Nebraska Republican Senate candidates in Scotts Bluff County, Jon Bruning and Don Stenberg went at it again. Jon Bruning openly questioned the intent of Don Stenberg when he apparently requested to following Bruning’s fourteen-year-old daughter on Twitter. Bruning called Stenberg’s actions “weird” and “creepy.” Stenberg said he does not operate his Twitter account, but he would check into it. However, a review of Jon Bruning’s Twitter account by Nebraska Watchdog reveals Bruning follows at least two teenage girls and half a dozen female college students. It’s amazing how big of a mess this Republican Senate race is. We’re looking forward to electing a representative that is actually concerned with issues facing Nebraskans, not who’s following who on Twitter.Read here
Green Competition: A new Facebook app released by Opower, an environmental group, allows users to compare energy consumption with Facebook friends. The new app has spurred some friendly competition to see who can save the most energy and the most in energy costs. Users of the app might be more willing to weatherize their house if they saw their friend saving 30 percent on heating costs. Just a few months ago, the White House challenged utilities to allow customers to download information on their energy use, and Obama even called for the use of social media to do so. We look forward to seeing what other social media tools will be developed to save energy and leave less of an environmental impact. Get the app today! Read here
What a Waste: Waste Management, the largest trash company in the nation, estimates that the $12.3 billion it gets for hauling trash to landfills may be worth more than $40 billion a year in energy. The estimated $40 billion is the value of fuel and chemicals that could be extracted from trash last year if the entire waste stream would be diverted from landfills. Since 2009, Waste Management has bought stakes in eight companies to begin to turn the trash into heat, power, transportation fuel and specialty chemical sources. We hope to see more companies looking to convert trash and waste products into useful energy sources. Read here
As if you needed another reason to be against the recently-defeated voter ID bill introduced by Nebraska State Senator Charlie Janssen, the Center for American Progress recently released a report on voter suppression, pointing out the unjust disenfranchisement of minority, elderly, youth, and low-income voters. Read it here.
For all your latest Nebraska Legislature news, visit the Unicameral Update!
Wednesday, April 4th
Last night, Mitt Romney swept the Republican Presidential Primaries in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. His most recent victories give him a stronger lead ahead of Rick Santorum. Just when, oh when, will this circus end? Here’s today’s Roundup:
Apple Pie Brigade: A citizen activist group, made up of grandmothers and older women, coined the Apple Pie Brigade and Randy, held a press conference at the State Capitol last week in response to LB 1161, a bill written for TransCanada. As you know, LB 1161 received approval from the Legislature last week. The women, strongly against the bill, make very valid points. Our Legislature needs to get out of TransCanada’s pocketbook and stand up for Nebraska landowners and citizens. Keep up the great work, ladies! At Bold, we remain committed to stopping the TransCanada Pipeline. Watch the video here.
Child Welfare: Yesterday, two more child welfare bills were passed in the Nebraska Legislature. The two bills are part of the five that were recommended by the Health and Human Services Legislative Committee. LB 949 passed yesterday, requiring more transparency and reporting on spending, financial benchmarks, and strategic planning. LB 961 also passed yesterday, placing case management back in the rightful hands of the Health and Human Services and implementing case management standards. In addition to these bills, the compulsory attendance bill, requiring students to stay in school until the age of 18 unless permission is granted from a parent or guardian, passed. It is great to see the Legislature continue to work on bills that truly matter to our state, both in education and in child welfare. Read here
Shocking Report: A recent report released by the New York University School of Law Institute of Policy Integrity displays how politicians are increasingly apt to combine environmental regulations with employment figures. The report details how these two topics are, in fact, unrelated in the manner politicians are using them. This political game our politicians are playing represent untrue and unrelated facts. Read the report here.
For all your latest Nebraska Legislature news, head on over the the Unicameral Update!
Tuesday, April 3rd
Would you log onto facebook and allow a prospective employer to look around on your account? People across the nation have noted that some employers, college admissions, and other institutions have begun asking for access to an applicant’s social networking sites. There is currently a petition at Bold Progressives (no affiliation with us) that urges the Justice Department to look into this violation of privacy. Here’s your Roundup:
Green Energy Cost Myth: Pundits keep telling us that green energy, such as solar and wind, are still far more expensive than fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas. While this may be partly true due to innovation costs and energy infrastructure, this claim is certainly distorted. Oil Companies are receiving some of the largest tax breaks and subsidies our government is giving out and it’s no wonder given that Senators are receiving quite a lot from their work for the oil industry. The costs of dirty air, health implications (like lung disease and asthma) and dirty water are left out of the economic comparison of clean energy vs outdated fossil fuels. President Obama endorsed a piece of legislation last week that would help end these tax breaks, although the bill failed to advance in the Senate. Continuing down this line of corrupted economics distorts the true cost of fossil fuels compared to renewable energy. Oil companies are milking our government for all of its resources, much like how they treat the environment, and are trying to tell us that their product is cheaper. We need to end this free market manipulation sooner than later because right now we can take steps and ease the abrupt affects. Waiting too long will only harm us and our economy. Read here
Bruning’s National Political Antics: Attorney General, and Senate hopeful, Jon Bruning made national news last week when he took a trip to Washington D.C. to watch Supreme Court Arguments on the Affordable Care Act. While there, he ran into his likely opponent, Bob Kerrey, in a restaurant. Bruning has attempting to appeal to a more right-wing conservative base lately. He is quoted here with saying that National Minimum Drinking Age is an unconstitutional measure. Bruning then went on to argue his point against the Affordable Care Act. Read here
Keystone Money Trail: Linda McMahon, Queen of WWE, is running (again) for a Senate seat in Connecticut and like an experienced politician she is already trying to benefit from her political position. She openly supports the Keystone Pipeline, noting that the project will create jobs and be safer for US security. National security is a particularly interesting point since she has over $400,000 invested in tarsands and lots more tied to Iran and China’s energy companies. The only job she is worried about is her own and the only safety she is worried about is that of her bank account. Read here
Head on over to the Unicameral Update for the Nebraska Legislature’s latest news!
Monday, April 2nd
Tonight the two best College Basketball teams will go head-to-head in a battle for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball National Championship. First seeded Kentucky will be taking on Second seeded Kansas in the Superdome tonight in New Orleans. Both teams are stacked with NBA-caliber players and a good shot at taking the title. Don’t forget you can also watch online. Here’s your Roundup:
The Future of Health Care: Many of you know that the United States Supreme Court just finished hearing oral arguments concerning the Affordable Care Act. Many pundits are claiming that the court will likely strike down the Individual Mandate clause but leave the rest most intact, if they decide the clause is severable. Some Republicans are trying to capitalize on this assumed ruling as a big political win over President Obama and the Democratic party. These efforts are misplaced. While the ruling has not been handed down yet, assuming for the sake of argument that the Individual Mandate does get struck down, we are still left with the largest advancement in providing affordable healthcare to people in the US that our country has probably ever seen. When Democrats and President Obama proposed this plan they flat-out said that it would not be a fix-all and that it will not end the discussion. The important point to remember is that the ball is rolling. We are no longer stuck in the status quo that plagued Sen. Ted Kennedy’s efforts to bring about affordable health care to everyone. Americans are no longer viewing the Clinton-like plans of universal healthcare as socialist, but are engaging in how to best move forward and provide a better future for our country. The bottom line is that the ball is now rolling and we can create new mechanisms for how to slowly rebuild an industry of innovation while raising the quality of life for every US citizen; that is a big win for everyone. Read here
Snakes and Climate Change: University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Jason Head has developed a way to look at old fossils and extrapolate information regarding the environmental conditions that the reptiles lived in. Head is currently working on a fossil of the world’s largest snake fossil found in La Guajira, Colombia, the world’s largest open-pit coal mine. The snake was probably around 49 feet long and over 2,500 lbs. Head hopes to educate people on how the environment and climate change influences many aspects of animal life, including human beings. The exhibit is expected to make its way to Morrill Hall in February 2014. Read here
Keystone “Corridor” Identified: TransCanada and Governor Heineman are now saying they have identified a general area, a “corridor,” where they will propose to build the Keystone Pipeline in Nebraska. However, TransCanada and Governor Heineman have been saying since January they have the new “route.” As in typical TransCanada fashion, they are now saying they do not have a route. We can not trust TransCanada or the politicians like Heineman who stand with them over Nebraskans and our water. Read here
Head on over to the Unicameral Update for the Nebraska Legislature’s latest news!