The Nebraska Legislature’s Redistricting Committee is hearing testimony on its new maps based on the 2010 census results. Get down to Capitol Room 1525 if you want to testify or join one of the 8 teleconferences There are 4 locations before 1pm, and 4 different ones after 1. Here’s your Roundup:
Ensign Crackdown: Yesterday, the Senate Ethics Committee released the results of their detailed investigation into allegations that former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) violated federal civil and criminal laws as well as Senate rules. Ensign resigned from the Senate only 10 days ago, hoping to halt the 22 month investigation. Had he not, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Vice Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) would have recommended expulsion--the harshest punishment the Senate has. He would have been the first senator since the Civil War to be expelled (14 senators were expelled for supporting the Confederacy). It’s up to the Justice Dept. and FEC to take further action. Read Here.
Healthy Food Stalls: State Sen. Council’s LB 200, which we thought was a shoe-in for approval in the final round of voting, has stalled in the Unicameral. The bill directs the Rural Development Commission to create a financing program that increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income areas. It will also create and direct $150,000 from the general fund into the Nebraska Healthy Foods Financing Initiative Cash Fund (NHFFICF). The bill stumbled on the final vote of 22-18, three votes short of the 25 needed to pass. As to why the other 9 state senators weren’t present to vote, we have no clue. Read here.
AIDS Facts: You can’t get AIDS from kissing, hugging or having urine thrown on you. Why would we mention urine? Because State Sen. Gloor’s LB 226 would make throwing any sort of bodily fluid on an officer a crime. The problem is that Gloor’s bill misrepresents how diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis B are spread. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says HIV can only be spread through breast milk, blood, vaginal secretions, semen and spinal fluid--urine’s not on the list. If you’re going to write a bill on health, we think it’s best to use real science and not inaccurate generalizations just because it’s convenient. Read here.
Thurs, May 13th
We’re headed to the Unicam today for a Citizen Hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline at noon. Join us in the Rotunda as we demand real action from our elected officials and ask Sec. Clinton to deny the pipeline. Here’s your Roundup:
Wrong Way Jon: Ladies and gents, he’s at it again. Only this time his office misrepresented a sexual assault case to state senators. The senators were told that the case involved mutually consenting older teens, but in reality involved a 12-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy with a past record of disturbing behavior. Aside from this misrepresentation, Bruning’s office originially pursued a line of defense that “continued to victimize a child.” Doesn’t get much more wrong than that. Read here.
Big Oil in Congress: Today, the CEOs of the five largest oil companies (Exxon Mobile, Shell, Conoco Phillips, Chevron, and BP) will testify before Congress about the excessive tax breaks they don’t need. The legislation at hand would cut $21 billion in oil and gas subsidies over the next ten years. As the oil industry posts record profits, Congress needs to end tax breaks for big oil and instead direct that money toward the ever-growing deficit. Read here. Watch the Hearing.
Concrete Over Kids: State Sen. Deb Fischer’s bill to divert revenue from Nebraska’s general funds passed yesterday. Fischer’s LB 84 sends .25 cents of the 5.5 cent sales tax to roads projects for the next two years. While we agree that the state’s roads are in a woeful state, the general funds are spent on other state programs like health services and education. Fischer’s bill takes away money that is spent on our kids to fix roads. What we need is state officials who take the budget crisis seriously and consider ALL the options on the table like increasing revenue to pay for dilapidated roads at a time when our schools are already cash-strapped. Read here.
Stats of the Union: Not to be confused with the annual speech given by the President, this new iPad app maps the status of health care in America. It covers almost all demographics, different diseases and conditions, levels of coverage, and much more. Read here.
The Unicam has passed a budget bill that is headed to Gov. Heineman.
Wed, May 11th
In an interesting move, Lady Gaga has decided to release pieces of her album to fans who care enough to play a special version of FarmVille, a popular Facebook game, approiately dubbed “GagaVille.” Definitely a unique approach... Here’s your Roundup (no “BoldVille” required):
Bruning's Cup of Tea: It’s official; Jon Bruning is the first senate candidate to be receive a public endorsed from the Tea Party Express for the 2012 election cycle. This could be a boon for Bruning in the primary or turn into a “kiss of death” in the general election. We can’t say we’re too surprised that the Tea Party Express endorses Bruning’s by-the-book conservative approach to government. Can’t wait to see what happens when they find out he has not always been such a good little Republican. Read here.
Confounded Campaign Law: LB 142, the Campaign Finance Limitation Act (CLFA), is meant to limit the amount that candidates can spend on campaigns from third party expenditure committees. However, the bill contains no provisions that limit these contributions or increase transparency and candidates can now receive up 75% of their $92,000 spending limit from groups, which is higher than the 50% limit that existed before. We're scratching our heads on that one, too. We want more transparency and less third party influence. This legislation gets two thumbs down.
Big Oil and Budgets: As the debate about the debt ceiling rages on, Senate Democratic leadership has informed Speaker Boehner that they won’t even consider the $2 trillion in cuts that Republicans are demanding until subsidies to oil and gas companies are cut. Top spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) explained, “We agree we have to cut spending, but it is ridiculous for Republicans... to defend taxpayer handouts to big oil companies that are making record profits. They don't need the money. If Republicans are serious about cutting spending, they'll support our plan to eliminate welfare for Big Oil so we can apply that money toward the deficit.” Read here.
Lead Heads: It’s no secret that we at Bold aren’t the biggest fans of Gov. Heineman’s policies, but his most recent veto puts us over the top. When the Nebraska Health Department" found high levels of lead in 276 children residing in 34 of Nebraska’s 93 counties in 2010”, Sen. Brenda Council proposed a bill that would require lead poisoning screenings for all children entering school. The bill passed 30-5, and was promptly shot down by Heineman because it would “increase helath care costs” and require universal blood testing (false). After Heieman called up the cavalry in Unicam for the override debate, the bill failed to obtain the ⅔ majority that it had when it passed the first time and did not pass. Yet another example of Heineman’s strong-fisted leadership and misaligned priorities. Read here.
Healthy Food: Liking healthy food is no longer just the subject of Emily's favorite Cookie Monster rap. Being a “foodie”, or someone who prioritizes healthful eating, has often been painted as an elitist lifestyle choice for people who are just too good for “normal food.” But as Eric Schlosser points out in his WaPo article this morning, what we eat now is anything but normal. In the past 40 years, our diets have changed enormously and obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease have spiked. Yikes. Turns out, being a foodie just means that you take an active interest in what goes into your body. Read here.
Tues, May 10th
For all you Gleeks out there, allow us to improve your Tuesday with a pre-Glee clip of Lea Michele and Jonathon Groff singing Rolling in the Deep. Here’s your Roundup:
What the Frack!: No, not a Battlestar Galactica reference. Rather, our reaction to a recently released Duke University study, which links natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing with a pattern of drinking water contamination so bad that some faucets lit on fire. Yes, you read that correctly. The study, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, begins to fill the information gap surround the safety of drilling and makes it easier for lawmakers and the public to understand the risks. The study found that for natural gas specifically, there is a “clear correlation between drilling activity and seepage of gas contamintants underground.” Read here.
Wise Words: Once again, the op-ed section of the LJS contains a Letter to the Editor calling for Nebraska lawmakers to “move off their soft-seated chairs in a unifying action against the Keystone XL pipeline.” We could not have said it better ourselves. Join us for the Citizen Hearing at the state capitol this Thursday to make your voice heard about KXL and implementing pipeline regulations in our state. Read here.
Analyzing the Bounce: Last week, President Obama received an astounding 11 point bounce in the polls after announcing the capture and assassination of Osama bin Laden. There was much speculation about the effect that capturing Osama would have on the President’s re-election prospects. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight explains that while there are a ton of other factors that will matter more, Americans think killing Osama is a pretty big deal. Silver predicts that the entire incident will give Obama a small permanent bump in his approval rating that will hold over to 2012. Read here.
No Brainers: Ezra Klein devoted his column today to the first ever “No Brainer” awards, which highlight legislation that is relatively small in scope, but just plain makes sense. These bills propose everything from eliminating the penny (because “who is stupid enough to mint at a loss?”), moving election day to the weekend when people actually have time to vote, and getting receipts for our taxes. Definitely worth a read. Read here.
Obama and Immigration: Today, the President travels to Texas to deliver a speech that pushes for comprehensive immigration reform in place of patchwork state policies that disadvantage immigrant populations, like Arizona’s LB 1070 and Nebraska’s LB 48. Many key players on immigration insist that Obama needs to use his executive power to slow deportations, which he has thus far refused to do. Tune in at 2:30pm CST to hear the President’s speech. Watch here.
No Ceilings: In his speech on the debt ceiling last night, Speaker Boehner revealed that Republicans are demanding a $2 trillion cut in spending in exchange for a raise in the country’s borrowing limit, which is critical for maintaining America’s credit rating. While we don’t entirely disagree that before borrowing more we should get our “fiscal house in order,” if we default on our credit as a nation, there won’t be much of a fiscal house to fix. And our favorite mogul, Warren Buffet, agrees. Here’s hoping this is a harmless game of chicken and not a serious proposal. Read here.
Mon, May 9th
It’s on! This Thursday, Bold and other pipeline groups will host a Citizen Hearing at the state capitol. We need YOU to come and share your thoughts on permitting the KXL and implementing oil pipeline regulations in our state. Here’s your Roundup:
Field of Schemes: TransCanada handed over a $10,000 check to the city of Potwin, Kansas last week. The money will be used to update the city’s baseball fields. This is one of the first news stories we’ve seen that shows TransCanada buying off towns along their pipelines’ routes, but we’ve heard rumours about similar checks being cut to towns in Nebraska. Landowner Randy Thompson likes to point out that citizens have built and supported these communities every day for generations, and they will be there long after TransCanada is gone. Read Here
Must See TV: 60 Minutes had a riveting interview with President Obama over the weekend. The President delved into how the plan to kill Osama bin Laden unfolded and was eventually carried out. He also shares what was going through his mind during the process. One of the most interesting details is that odds of bin Laden being in Abbottabad compound were about 55-45. Despite the advice of several of his security advisors, Obama decided the risk was worth it to try and take out the mastermind of 9/11. Read the WaPo Summary or Watch the Video
Unicam Shenanigans: We thought we couldn’t dislike State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh’s LB 142 much more. The bill, as introduced, would repeal the Campaign Finance Limitation Act which sets up a fund for Nebraskans seeking elected office that is triggered when their opponents hit a certain spending threshold. The bill would also require disclosure of gifts more than $50 (the current limit is $250), electronic filing of certain reports within 5 days and daily electronic filings from certain groups. The committee voted LB 142 out to the full floor with an amendment that would repeal all the additional reporting requirements. We want MORE transparency in our elections, not LESS! Read Here
Neal Nails It: When Neal Obermeyer isn’t sending us political cartoons, he’s busy making a living by drawing for the Lincoln Journal Star. Neal’s cartoon this week about the Keystone XL and Nebraska politicians pretty much nails the situation on the head. Look Here
Omahype’s got a review of Rainbow Rowell’s new book. Rowell is a young Omahan and columnist for the OWH. We’re thinking of picking up a copy for some summer reading.