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Bold Roundup: March 12-16

The Obama Campaign released a documentary on President Obama’s first term, coined “The Road We’ve Traveled.” The video highlights Obama’s impressive accomplishments, character and willingness to put country first. Watch it here. Here’s your Roundup:


 

Land Reclamation: A bill introduced by Nebraska State Senator Kate Sullivan would strengthen requirements currently outlined in Nebraska’s Oil Pipeline Reclamation Act recently advanced. LB 845 would set rules for oil companies to follow to restore construction areas as close as possible to the condition and vegetation that existed prior to construction. Seeding, grading, and restoring active cropland are all included in the measure. While this bill provides some protection to Nebraska landowners, this is simply not enough. Instead, focus should be placed on stopping this dangerous pipeline from being built that would threaten our land, water and existence. Read here

Republican Mess: With the May primaries just two months away, the GOP presidential nomination is as clear as mud. Speculation is growing that Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul could be making campaign stops in Nebraska as the Obama Campaign opened an Omaha office yesterday. For the Nebraska Republican lawmakers, they’re all over the place–Heineman and Johanns support one candidate, Smith and Fortenberry are not ready to endorse, and Terry wants new candidates. How much longer until this GOP circus is over? Read here

Gaining Acceptance: Under President Obama’s Administration, the amount of openly gay federal judges has quadrupled. The most recent openly gay federal judge confirmation by the Senate was to a California court. Throughout history, President Bill Clinton was the only other president to nominate an openly gay judge to a federal position. It is great to see an increasing acceptance of those who identify themselves as part of the LGBT community. Read here Locally, Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle signed the Equal Employment Ordinance yesterday, making the recent measure official. Congratulations, Omaha!

Urban Development: Omaha city officials announced it has been selected as one of eight U.S. cities and 33 cities worldwide to receive the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. The grant will be used to study if Omaha’s economy can be improved through inner-city development. IBM consultants will be working with the city and community to determine cost efficient methods to promote further growth within the city. The Smarter Cities Challenge grant is a three-year grant program valued at $50 million. Read here
 

 

For all the latest Nebraska Legislature news, head on over to the Unicameral Update! 

 

 

Thursday, March 15th

The South by Southwest Interactive Conference came to a conclusion yesterday with their 15th Annual Interactive Awards. Awards went to websites and apps like Pintrest and Storify, but also several less-known apps and services. Check out the winners and visit some of the best sites. Here’s your Roundup:

Fightin’ Dave: The Nebraska Legislative Revenue Committee advanced an amended version of Governor Dave Heineman’s plan to cut taxes this week on a vote of 5-3. Heineman’s modified proposal would still cost the state $150 million, but he vows to put up a fight like no one has ever seen before. Several state senators are questioning the governor’s timing of the cuts when other spending priorities remain like our state’s embattled child welfare system and increasing rates for providers of state-funded medical care. Double-Talk Dave has even gone as far as to calling out Democratic state senators in Nebraska’s non-partisan Legislature for favoring increased spending over tax cuts… He must be forgetting that three of the votes against his proposal in the Revenue Committee came from Republican state senators. Instead of standing behind his crooked tax shift, Governor Heineman needs to get his priorities straight. Read here


Picking up Speed: The U.S. Senate recently approved the $109 billion transportation bill with bipartisan support. The bill is expected to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure by repairing over 70,000 failing bridges and creating or saving over 2.8 million jobs. Surprisingly, the bill was led by the joint effort of a Democratic Senator from California and a Republican Senator from Oklahoma. The transportation bill is one of the very few major pieces of legislation that has gained widespread bipartisan support. The current transportation legislation is set to expire on March 31 and will put thousands of construction jobs on hold unless this bill is approved. All eyes are on the House of Representatives to approve this bipartisan proposal. Read here

School Accountability: A bill requiring state education officials to develop a state accountability system using more than test scores gained the support of Nebraska lawmakers recently. LB 870, sponsored by State Senator Greg Adams of York, would give taxpayers a picture of how schools are performing by measuring student learning and graduation rates among other components. In addition, the bill authorizes the creation of career academies to prepare students for careers that do not require college education. LB 870 will increase accountability, advance our state’s quality of education and provide transparency to taxpayers. Read here   

Third Party: The group Americans Elect 2012 plans to file signatures with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office to place a third-party candidate on November’s presidential ballot. For the organization to place their candidates on the ballot they need 4,880 valid signatures, but they have gathered about 8,000. Americans Elect 2012 is a fairly new group looking to elect a president rather than a party, furthermore, a Republican and a Democrat on the same ticket. In May, Americans Elect will have three primary elections on their website where candidates will be narrowed down. In June, the winner will be chosen by an online election and then be obligated to choose a running mate from a different party. Read here

Obama’s (Hypothetical) Victory: According to recent numbers, if the election was today, President Obama would be re-elected to a second term. If Obama’s opponent is Mitt Romney, 59 percent of voters say Obama would be re-elected. If Obama’s opponent is Rick Santorum, 68 percent of voters say Obama would be re-elected. In addition, more approve of President Obama’s overall job performance at 50 percent than disapprove of his job performance at 41 percent, for the first time since last May. Read here for the complete numbers.

On Wednesday, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed a bill into law permitting breweries to produce 20,000 barrels of beer each year, doubling the current amount of allowed barrels. The expanded law will result in increased revenue for the state through the beer production tax.

Find the Nebraska Legislature’s latest news at Unicameral Update, the Legislature’s official news source!


 

Wednesday, March 14th

A big congratulations to the residents of Omaha. Yesterday, the Omaha City Council passed an amendment to the city anti-discrimination ordinances that would effectively include gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in the city’s anti-discrimination policies. Congratulations also to the many groups and members supporting the LGBT community, a lot of hard work went into this campaign and its great to see that it paid off. You can also thank the members who voted “yes” (Jerram, Gray, Festersen, Gernandt) by sending them an email. Here’s your Roundup:

Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Pipeline:  As if we needed more evidence in opposition to building the Keystone XL Pipeline, a new report was released by Cornell University’s Global Institute concluding that the economic harm caused by a potential spill would be far greater than any benefit gained from the project’s job creation. The article discusses the impact a spill would have on workers within the states that would house the pipeline. This comes one day after Omaha.com had an article stating that Nebraska’s, and surrounding State’s Governors were discussing how to increase eco-tourism in the midwest. TransCanada is still denying the claims that the costs would out-weight the benefits citing an interview with the State Department at the beginning of the process that noted if the pipeline were operated properly it would have little adverse environmental impact. The problem with TransCanada’s cite is that the State Department based this claim on TransCanada’s own inadequate Environmental Impact Study; not to mention the statement was made at the beginning of the process, long before many opposition groups began to conduct their own research. Read here

An Attack on Landowner’s Rights:  Yesterday, the Natural Resources committee voted to advance Sen. Smith’s bill, LB1161, which would give TransCanada special treatment in constructing the Keystone Pipeline, weaken landowners rights in Nebraska and is quite possibly in violation of the Nebraska Constitution. This bill also requires Nebraska to pay for the costs of finding a new route for the pipeline. Had TransCanada completed an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, as required by federal law, they would have had plausible alternative routes to choose from which would have not crossed the aquifer. Instead, they claim that it is Nebraska’s fault because residents want to assert their rights to protect their state’s natural resources. Rather than requiring the company to fund finding the alternative route, Nebraska is one step closer to picking up the tab. Along with this measure, Nebraska has already spent $153,000 on the Keystone Pipeline work already. Here is a cross link to our post about the LB1161 vote with more information regarding the issues and a protest planned for March 30th.

Child Welfare System : Nebraska’s child welfare system is in grave trouble says Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. He notes that children in Nebraska are taken from their home and placed in foster care at a rate three times the national average. On one hand it seems good that Nebraska has high standards for what constitutes child neglect and abuse; however, the problem is that these definitions of neglect and abuse include inadequate food, shelter and clothing. When an indigent parent is unable to provide these necessities tho their children, Wexler notes that the state should step in to help them provide those necessities instead of stepping in to remove the children from his or her family. The Legislature is currently in the process of reforming Nebraska’s Child Welfare system. Read here

The Circus Continues: Analysts had hoped that Romney could solidify his position as the GOP presidential candidate last night with a win in Alabama and Mississippi; although, Santorum turned out to be the winner in both southern states. Romney did however win Hawaii. Read here

You can also find the latest news coming from Nebraska’s Legislative branch here with the Unicameral update.

 

Tuesday, March 13th

Jeff Foxworthy announced on Sunday that he was endorsing Mitt Romney for the GOP candidate. In case Romney’s campaign team is short of material, Think Progress has a few suggestions that might get the crowd excited. These jokes are sure to be a hit while Willard talks about eating grits. Here’s your Roundup:

Support for Equality Ordinances: Today the Omaha City Council will vote on whether to add legal protections for gay and transgender residents. In case you missed the ad supported by Bold, Equal Omaha and Voice that aired last night, here is a link to it. Amendments to the City’s anti-discrimination ordinances would give gay, bisexual and transgender residents an avenue to assert the rights that every other Omaha resident enjoys. These protections include the right to not be fired from his or her job simply because of sexual orientation or gender identification. While a majority of Omaha residents favor the amendment, the last time a measure like this came to a vote Councilman Franklin Thompson decided not to vote and thus killed the measure. He has promised to vote this time around, although he has not indicated which way he will vote. Read here

Energy Boom or Green Bust?: It really comes as no surprise that 2012 is looking to be a big year for the energy industry. The question we have at Bold is whether the US is going to use that boom in a productive and sustainable way, or are we just going to use the same plan of attack and hope that it will work. It seems like our country is simply doubling down on fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. NPR has an article on how the rising energy costs are producing more engineers and causing more students to enroll in these programs. The problem is that they are stuck in a 1970s mindset. One that says, “all we need is more wells to drill in. Then we can get more oil.” The problem is that there is less and less oil and natural gas to be drilled. While new technologies and techniques, like hydraulic fracturing, allow us to obtain oil and natural gas from places we previously wouldn’t have been able to we have to decide when the social cost will be too great for the economic gain. Instead of funneling these bright students into a dying energy field, wouldn’t they be better suited looking towards the future and how to build a better economy? Read here

Romney’s Political Curse: a Healthier Massachusetts: New research from Massachusetts suggests that the health outcomes of Massachusetts residents has increased since the enactment of Mitt Romney’s Health Care Reform plan. Its too bad that Romney has denounced his old plan and tried so hard to separate himself from it because this really could have been good news for him. Even more troubling for Romney, the greatest increases in health care came to women, minority groups and those with low incomes. It seems as though his flip flopping politicking has finally got the best of him. Either way, the study then looks on to the national health care plan under the Affordable Care Act. The study suggests that the Massachusetts model might be a good microcosm of what could happen at a national level. However, the study notes that new technologies, like electronic records and comparative-effectiveness research, were placed in the national plan and not the Massachusetts one. With these additions the results of whether the health care plan improves the health of citizens will be a lot easier to determine. Read here

Texas’ Discriminating Voter ID Law: The Justice Department has rejected the Voter ID law in Texas because it only allows some forms of identification. This restriction would discriminate against Latino voters in a disproportionate way, the Justice Department tells us. While this is good news, it leaves the door open for other measures. There seems to be a presumption that more government oversight is good, unless you can show that the measure is somehow discriminating. Instead of allowing interest groups like ALEC conjecture a problem and then feed people a solution, whatever government intrusions we allow on our liberty should be born from an actual social harm. Debated earlier this session, it now looks as though Nebraska’s own Voter ID bill, LB239, will slowly die in the Unicameral. The law in Texas would issue free government identification cards but would require certain preliminary documents that might cost the voter. The bill was signed into law last May by Governor Rick Perry. Read here

Take Action Against the Pipeline: Don’t forget that the Natural Resources committee will likely go into an executive session today to discuss LB1161. You can find more information, including how to contact your representative, here.

You can also find the latest news coming from Nebraska’s Legislative branch here with the Unicameral update.

 

Monday, March 12th

To commemorate the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Nebraska Appleseed traveled to the region to join in the march. This year the focus was not only on commentating the past but also on looking towards the future of civil rights. Focusing on Alabama’s harsh immigration law and the various voter ID laws that have popped up across the country, here’s a video about what they saw. Later this afternoon Bold will unveil a new TV ad we partnered with groups in Omaha to produce on the equal employment ordinance. Here’s your Roundup:

 

Decisive Pipeline: Now that Bob Kerrey has announced he is running for Nebraska’s US Senate seat the media is taking no time in addressing his stance on decisive issues, even if he hasn’t taken a side yet himself. Kerrey has stated he that knows allowing the Keystone Pipeline to cross the Ogalalla Aquifer is a bad idea and he is happy Sand Hills region is off the table (for now). Kerrey also boldly bring up the issue of climate change. Our own Jane Kleeb noted that the issue in Nebraska should be focused around water rights and eminent domain, yet there is still a push to try and use big oil’s talking points about how this pipeline will low gas prices and bring jobs.  Nebraskans know this export pipeline will raise gas prices in the Midwest (TransCanada has even admitted to that) and bring few jobs to folks who live here. We hope Sen. Kerrey examines all facets of the debate before deciding what camp he will side with. Read here
 

Child Welfare Bill Advances with Amendment: LB821 advanced from select file on March 7th, but not without an amendment to the bill. The bill will create a Nebraska Children Commission that will be in charge of putting forth a plan to address the child welfare system in Nebraska. The amendment to the bill helped to make legislative intent language shorter and more clear, terminated the commission on June 30, 2014, authorized the commission to appoint individuals with expertise to sub-committees among other changes. The bill plans to set out an avenue by which Nebraska will be able to make steps towards comprehensive child welfare reform. Read here

Turning the Tables on Reproductive Health: One Ohio lawmaker is trying to make a point that if government wants to regulate women’s reproductive health than men’s health should be on the table too. The bill in Ohio would require men to submit an affidavit from his sex partner before he can get a prescription for Viagra or the equivalent. Over the last few months we have been forced to listen to GOP candidates and the talking heads talk about women’s reproductive health and contraceptives as if it is any of their business. Read here
 

Bucket of Warm Spit: Newt Gingrich has reportedly been trying to recruit Texas Gov. Rick Perry as his Vice Presidential hopeful. It seems to be a long shot with Romney and Santorum as the front runners now; however, Gingrich may think that recruiting Perry would help boost his numbers. Trying to unite conservatives, Gingrich will need quite a bit of help recovering from the deficit he is currently in compared to Romney and Santorum. Sources from the Perry campaign although have been very dismissive of the idea. Perry aides have noted that he wants nothing to do with the office of the Vice President. Perry is known for referring to the Veep office as a bucket of warm spit. Read here
 

You can also find the latest news coming from Nebraska’s Legislative branch here with the Unicameral update.

Wednesday, March 7th

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