First Lady Michelle Obama and first dog Bo surprised tourists visiting the White House yesterday. Michelle Obama told visitors she had a little extra time on her hands since President Obama is traveling across the country this week. Here’s your Roundup:

Terry-ble News: Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved a proposal by Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry that would force approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline. In the proposal, authority over the pipeline permit would be stripped from President Obama and the State Department and given to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In addition, the bill requires the FERC to approve the project within 30 days. All Nebraska House members voted in favor of the proposal, although TransCanada has not even provided a final route. Read here

Where are the Women?: In yesterday’s House hearing on the Obama Administration’s contraception rule, there was a distinct lack of female representation. The first panel of five witnesses at the hearing did not include one woman. there was no one to represent the tens of millions of women across the country that need basic, preventive health care, including family planning. In fact, the Republican chairman of the House Committee even denied a request to have a woman testify at the hearing. Politicizing women’s health is wrong and it must stop now. Read here

Route Study: State Senator Jim Smith’s LB 1161 was discussed during a hearing in the Unicameral’s Natural Resources Committee yesterday. Smith’s bill would allow the state to continue studying oil pipeline routes through Nebraska, even though the pipeline permit was denied by President Obama last month. Bold joined other groups and citizens to speak in opposition to this free pass.TransCanada keeps trying to skirt the rules and receive special treatment, and it is unfortunate Senator Smith is trying to help them. No more free passes, no more loopholes; it is time for TransCanada to play by the rules. Read here

Tax Returns: Nebraska’s Republican Senate hopefuls are not following suit of the GOP presidential candidates by releasing tax return statements. Democrat Senate candidate Chuck Hassebrook kicked off his campaign by releasing his 2010 tax return and challenging Republican candidates to do the same, but Bruning, Stenberg, and Fischer say they will not be releasing their returns just yet. All three GOP candidates are millionaires, where as Hassebrook identifies as a typical, middle class Nebraskan. Read here

Data-Center Incentives: The Nebraska Legislature moved forward to attract a billion-dollar data-center to the state by approving Senator Abbie Cornett’s LB 1118. The bill would make changes to Nebraska Advantage Act by extending tax credits to data center projects that meet certain criteria. “Project Edge” is rumored to be constructed in either Kearney, Nebraska or two possible locations in Iowa. Cornett proposed an amendment to the bill, lessening the investment threshold, but the amendment was not approved. Read here


Thursday, February 16th

Yesterday was the deadline for incumbents to file to run for public office. Gov. Dave Heineman passed on a possible run for Senate, Rep. Lee Terry filed to run again, and Chuck Hassebrook is looking to challenge the GOP in a run for Senate. It looks as if political races are beginning to shape up. Here’s your Roundup:

More Oil, More Danger: TransCanada revealed in their 4th quarter report that the Keystone XL will carry more oil, be more expensive and won’t be completed until 2015. An additional $600 million will be spent and the capacity of the pipeline will grow to 830,000 barrels of oil a day. A larger pipeline transporting more oil endangers our environment, land and people, even more so than TransCanada’s original plan of 700,000 barrels of oil per day. TransCanada’s report also seemed to indicate they think Republican efforts to reverse Obama’s denial of the permit will fail, and the company will have to submit a new permit application. We remain committed to taking a stand against big oil, protecting our environment and encouraging the use of renewable and alternative energy sources. Read here

Promising Progress: The Omaha City Council recently approved a resolution that promotes respect and condemns discrimination within the workplace. While not mentioning any specific groups of people, the resolution is a step in the right direction for equality and fairness. The council’s actions foreshadow a proposal that Councilman Ben Gray will make to amend the Omaha’s anti-discrimination policy to include protection for employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Meanwhile, State Senator Beau McCoy has introduced LB 912, a bill that would limit Nebraska cities’ right to introduce codes to provide protections beyond the scope of the state’s anti-discrimination policy, which does not include the LGBT citizens. Read here

Money’s Influence: The expansion of the Public Service Commission’s responsibilities to include supervision of oil pipelines should keep citizens alert. According to financial records from the 2010 Public Service Commission election, the influence of corporate money is overwhelming. State Senator Bill Avery has introduced LB 1025, a bill that would prevent companies and their associates from contributing to Public Service Commission elections. Now that oil pipelines are under the PSC’s supervision, this legislation is vital to ensuring TransCanada and other oil companies do not buy favor. Read here

Chambers’ Return: Former State Senator Ernie Chambers announced he will be running for his old Nebraska Legislature seat in this year’s upcoming election. Frustrated with the current Legislature, Chambers intends to take on the governor, the attorney general and the Catholic Church if elected. Chambers blasted current members of the State Legislature, accusing them of not having meaningful debates over bills and ultimately caving into Governor Heineman and Attorney General Bruning. Chambers is most concerned with child welfare reform, poverty and tax codes. Read here

Fruity Fuel: Apple cores, banana peels, orange rinds–they could soon become your new source of fuel. Europe’s largest applied research center announced that it will begin converting old produce into a bio-gas at a pilot site in Germany. The facility will use microorganisms to transform food particles into methane gas to be used to power vehicles. Compressed methane gas emits less carbon dioxide during combustion when compared to gasoline, and is ultimately safer for our people and environment. Read here

Affordable Education: President Obama has laid out a plan to strengthen the relationship between an affordable education and a strong national economy in his budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The budget utilizes a variety of tools to keep education within reach, including increased grant and work-study funding, tax credits for tuition and increased access to student loans. In addition, several policy change proposals have been made to reward colleges that maintain low tuition rates. Read here


Wednesday, February 15th

The complete lack of sad, exciting or “awww”-inducing stories from yesterday has us stumped. So instead, we’ll share HuffPo’s list of 7 Sites You Should be Wasting Time On Right Now. Here’s your Roundup:

Wrong Priorities: When a governor repeatedly characterizes child welfare as a “special interest,” you know that state has a problem. The coalition of groups against Governor Heineman’s tax shift is growing, now including the Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Appleseed, AARP, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, the Nebraska Association of County Officials, the Nebraska State Education Association, the Open Sky Policy Institute and Voices for Children. These organizations know that the tax shift Heineman tries to represent as a relief to middle class families is actually a break for the rich who don’t really need one. Worse is that the budget deficit these cuts commit Nebraska to in the future subsequently cause future cuts to education and child welfare programs. At a time when rural education funding is already taking drastic cuts, and we are struggling to fix a child welfare system that the Governor himself messed up, these kind of games are morally repugnant. Read here

Another Battle Won: After the country heard the voices of over 800,000 Americans in less than 24 hours urging the Senate to ditch a plan to resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline, a Texas County Court temporarily stopped TransCanada from exercising eminent domain on a Paris, TX landowner. It’s our hope that this ruling becomes a trend, as it’s long overdue to see someone stand up to TransCanada’s bullying of property owners. Texas activist and Republican Terri Hall said it best when addressing the lack of assistance received from members of her party, “When push comes to shove, it’s clear to me that my party is more interested in oil and gas interests than property rights.” Read here

Voices Heard: We can only infer that the 800,000 Americans mentioned earlier factored in to the White House’s new threat to House Republicans. Officials have told Republicans that their transportation bill (one Secretary of Transportation Lahood called the worst he’d ever seen) may be met with a veto should it reach the President’s desk. The five year proposal is harmful on multiple levels. First and foremost it expedites the approval of KXL while also approving funding for new drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. The White House transportation measure introduced in the President’s new budget is a much more beneficial plan to move forward, offering funding to road’s construction instead of oil companies. Read here

Growing Support: Multiple months of economic growth have increased consumer confidence enough to where more Americans currently believe the economy is improving instead of worsening. This is good news for President Obama; his approval ratings have reached over 50% and his lead over GOP presidential contenders has grown. These gains come with further bad news for Romney and Santorum. Romney has lost his advantage over Obama with independent voters by a large margin, and he has an unsatisfactory rating with his own party. Republicans polled said they viewed Romney as not conservative enough and thought the former governor would put in place policies to help the rich. GOP voters thought Santorum was more likely to help the middle class. Read here


Tuesday, February 14th

Since the anti- and pro-Valentine’s Day camps seem pretty entrenched, we’ll stick to neutral territory by just wishing everyone a happy Extraterristrial Culture Day! Here’s your Roundup:

Double Standard: Governor Heineman has pinned his support for the Keystone export pipeline on the fallacy that it will create jobs in Nebraska. Those temporary jobs would not be guaranteed for Nebraskans, and Bloomberg now reports that once the pipeline’s completed, it will only create about 20 long-term jobs. So why is Heineman doing all he can to block a state project that means 6,000 jobs, income and sales tax of $9.4 million and hotel revenue from out of state contractors? We’re talking about the Build a Healthier Nebraska initiative, which Heineman won’t support. The University of Nebraska project calls for the expansion of the nursing schools on the Lincoln and Kearney campuses, the construction of a cancer research center at the Medical Center in Omaha and would aid the veterinary diagnostic lab in Lincoln. The initiative is but one of the many proposals held captive by the Governor, as he refuses to move forward with any program until his tax shift is passed. Read here   

A New Budget Crisis?: There are fears that the debate over Obama’s budget could spell a new debt ceiling debacle. These fears are not unfounded since the President’s budget is very much at odds with those proposed by GOP candidates. The President’s plan lays out a vision of the future that creates an economy built to last, with an educated citizenry capable of meeting changing market demands and providing opportunities to returning veterans from dwindling down foreign wars. A second Obama term would also see a new fight for tax reform, one that requires the wealthiest Americans to pay a larger share. The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan fiscal responsibility group, says the changes proposed by GOP candidates would force drastic cuts to veteran benefits, Medicare, food stamps, education funding and almost every other program Americans consider essential. Read here

Golden Achievement: McDonald’s has partnered with the Human Society of the United States (yes, that same HSUS Governor Heineman tries to paint as evil) to completely phase out gestation crates for sows in their U.S. supply chain. The appalling conditions of sows in these crates have gotten increased attention throughout the last few years, and the McDonald’s agreement is a giant victory for animal welfare activists. When major industry players like McDonald’s and Chipotle commit to achieving greater consideration for animal care and sustainable farming, it’s a definite. Read here 

Occupiers are Americans Too: On an historic day for gay rights in Washington state, one of the most ardent opponents of gay rights came to speak. After Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed a bill legalizing gay marriage in the state, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum met with foes of the bill and urged them to fight on. While speaking, the new front-runner in national polls was interrupted by Occupy protesters. While the protesters were wrestled to the floor, Santorum led the crowd in mocking them, telling them to get a job. Santorum’s response was a sign of just how out of touch the former Senator is, making his lead in polls even more baffling. Read here


Monday, February 13th

Music’s biggest night did not disappoint all types of music lovers. From a heartfelt tribute to Glen Cambell and the late great Whitney Houston to one of the most impressive Grammy jam sessions in recent memory as Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl joined Paul McCartney on stage. Here’s your Roundup:

We Need You: We spoke over and over about how the fight against big oil and its pet project, Keystone XL, was not over. So again today we are asking for your help. As the Senate considers reviving the Keystone XL pipeline, it is only our collective voice that can embolden senators to stand up to Big Oil. Today at 11am our time, the clock starts ticking on our campaign to collect 500,000 signatures in 24 hours against Keystone XL. There’s no way we can achieve this ambitious and historic goal without you. We’ll need you to send emails, post on Facebook and tweet the petition, asking everyone you know to join in! Read here

Pet Peeve: Purdue University’s associate professor of animal behavior and well-being, Candace Croney, spoke at a UNL Extension presentation on the livestock industry’s current issues. Croney said that Americans’ love for our pets influence our overall view of animals (including the ones we eat). She revealed that 98% of Americans do not realize how the animals they eat are treated, and should they realize it, then the outcry for more humane treatment would be much more powerful. It is time for producers to put an emphasis on animal well-being. Those who don’t, Croney says, will be replaced by those who do. If want to know where your food comes from and how it’s raised, use UNL’s “Buy Local” guide. Read here

Leading the Way: One major food chain is already leading the way in humanely-raised meat. Chipotle, your favorite burrito joint, has always been at the forefront of innovative ideas to promote smaller farmers and the animals they raise. They’ve got a great new commercial telling their story. You may have seen it last night during the Grammys, and it may have motivated you to download Willie Nelson’s cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” We urge you to do so as well. Sixty-cents of ever 99-cent download goes to Chipotle’s Cultivate Foundation that supports sustainable farming methods and family farms. Read here and Watch here

Empowering Our Recovery: President Obama will deliver his new budget in a speech at a college in Virginia. The budget includes military cuts and other cuts but will likely be criticized by members of the GOP for its trillion dollar deficit. This deficit will be used to pay for a greater commitment to renewable energies, education, major investments in roads and a community college initiative. While some Republicans are already calling this a stimulus in disguise, they fail to realize the current fragile state of our economy. With our recovery still unstable, austerity measures are much too dangerous. President Obama’s budget sets up an economy that he says will be built to last. Read here

Education in Action: Political Science major Jenna Wadsworth decided to take the next step in political action and run for office. Wadsworth was elected to the Soil and Water board of Wake County, North Carolina. She is the youngest person currently serving in North Carolina and the youngest to serve in the state ever. She says her experiences on her family farm helped her realize the importance of clean drinking water and organic farming. We encourage young Nebraskans to follow Wadsworth’s lead and run for local office like the Natural Resource Districts and Public Power boards. Read here and Check out what offices are up in 2012