Last night, the Republican presidential candidates had yet another debate, marking the 25th debate of this election cycle. As usual, the candidates made several far-fetched claims; see how they stand up against the fact checker. Luckily, debate number 26 is not scheduled until February 22. Here’s your Roundup:
TransCanada in Trouble: Greenpeace submitted a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday over TransCanada’s misleading and deceitful statements about Keystone XL. In the complaint, Greenpeace gives evidence from both TransCanada’s Canadian filings and U.S. State Department filings that KXL would involve a maximum 6,000 jobs. But as Nebraskans well know, TransCanada likes to run ads saying their pipeline will create 20,000 jobs. With TransCanada’s misleading information, they could face legal action under U.S. securities disclosure laws. Read here
Tax Shift: Governor Heineman was met with stiff opposition from county officials when he testified in support of LB 970, his tax shift bill. The Governor claims his tax plan will lower the rates of individual and corporate income taxes and end of the inheritance tax. Bold and others argue that Heineman’s plan is nothing more than a tax shift, because counties will be forced to increase property taxes to make up for lost revenue through the inheritance tax. Meanwhile, State Senator Heath Mello raised concerns that LB 970 will only reduce taxes for the wealthiest 20% of individuals in our state. He introduced LB 977 as a result, which would give $76 million in property tax relief to Nebraska homeowners. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on this tax showdown.
Getting Personal: Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Treasurer Don Stenberg are at it again. The two Republican Senate candidates have been squabbling over an upcoming debate tin Kearney next month. Wrong Way Jon is refusing to participate in the debate, saying he will debate following the March 1st filing deadline (we hear it’s because he’s afraid Heineman might still jump in). Stenberg and Bruning have decided that criticizing each other’s job performances is the best way to wow Nebraska voters. Read here
A Step Ahead: In Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed requiring students to stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. State Senator John Wightman of Lexington was one step ahead, introducing LB 996 last week. This bill would remove the option from the state’s compulsory attendance law allowing a parent to give permission for his or her child to drop out of high school at 16. The bill has gained support from many members of the Unicameral, as well as school administrators from across the state. Read here
Canadian Corruption: Yesterday was rather embarrassing for the Canadian government. They quickly dissociated themselves from an official policy paper that says the country’s independent energy regulator, which is now studying a new controversial tar sands pipeline, is in fact a government ally. The pipeline would be constructed from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. Environmental groups and native peoples have raised concerns over the construction and long-term hazards of this pipeline. It looks like tar sands pipelines are even corrupting the Canadian government. Read here
Former Nebraska Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey needs a little more time to ponder a possible run for the Senate seat to be vacated by Sen. Ben Nelson. His announcement can be expected within the next week.
Thursday, January 26th
Yesterday, the Unicameral passed a bill to curb the spread of prairie dogs, while killing a bill aimed at curbing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases across our state. We’re not impressed with our legislators’ priorities. Here’s today’s Roundup:
Red Flag: The House Energy and Commerce Committee met yesterday to review President Obama’s denial of the Keystone XL Pipeline and to determine what options are available to force an approval of this risky export pipeline. Nebraska’s own Rep. Lee TransCanada presented his bill forcing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to make a decision on KXL in 30 days, circumventing the president’s approval authority. Pipeline fighters know this is another political stunt, once again displaying the large influence big oil has on DC politics. That’s why numerous activists were once again on Capitol Hill dressed as referees, ready to wave red flags on committee members who mischaracterized Keystone XL as a necessary or an energy independence project. Read here
Healthier Meals: First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new national rules for school lunches during a visit to a Virginia elementary school on Wednesday. Some of the new guidelines include foods with less sodium, more selection of fruits and vegetables and a limit to the number of calories in an individual meal. The new rules are designed to combat childhood obesity and are based on the recent recommendations of the National Institute of Health. With the changes, millions of students will have access to healthier options during school lunch under the first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in nearly 15 years. These new guidelines are in line with our focus on local, sustainable and healthy foods. Read here
Not Quite: In an interview with Univision, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney was pressed on his unbelievably low tax rate of 13.9%. When asked if he thought it was fair that he pays such a small percentage of his income in taxes, Romney went on to claim that he pays closer to 45 to 50% instead. Romney relied on his belief that “corporations are people” to squeak by, suggesting that adding the maximum corporate tax rate of 35% to his personal taxes gives his “real” rate. Romney is still missing the point: he is not a corporation, and he does not pay corporate taxes. Meanwhile, President Obama paid nearly double the tax rate of Mitt Romney in 2010 despite earning only a fraction of his income.
Wind Energy: A recent poll released by the Center for Rural Affairs displays a favorable impression of wind as a new source of energy in our state. According to the poll, 79% of Nebraska voters are in favor of requiring large electric utilities to use renewable energy resources for at least 20% of their electricity generated. Wind energy development in our state is essential to reducing our dependency on non-renewable energy resources, growing our economy and investing in clean energy sources. Read here
While campaigning in Floria, Newt Gingrich pledged to establish a permanent base on the moon by 2020 if he is elected president. That’s one small step for Newt, one giant pander to out of work astronauts.
Wednesday, January 25th
President Obama delivered his fourth State of the Union address last night. He didn’t expand on anything too unexpected, but he did further express his commitment to all types of energy production, not just oil. Given the amount of pipeline news today, we hope Repubs were listening. Here’s your Roundup:
SOTU: In a speech that was based on establishing greater economic fairness, President Obama also highlighted the successes of the American economy in the past 22 months. In a direct challenge to the GOP, Obama stated, “You can call this class warfare all you want,” while speaking on the need for economic fairness across the board. “Most Americans would call it common sense.” The White House has already released a blueprint for “An America Built to Last.” For pipeline fighters and Sandhills lovers, that means stopping a pipeline built to spill. Read here
Senate Stopper: We can all feel a little more comfortable that Republican efforts to grant permission to KXL after its denial are hitting another road block. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid addressed the issue with the most basic of questions. If we want to be more energy independent, then why approve an export pipeline through our heartland? It’s a simple question, but TransCanada and pipeline supporters have failed to give a simple answer. Read here
Foul Washington: The House Energy and Commerce Committee plan on meeting today to discuss avenues of forcing an approval of the Keystone pipeline. This is all a political game, led by one of our own shameful Rep. Lee Terry. Activists in Washington know this is nothing but another indicator of how deeply the influence of Big Oil runs in D.C. Politics. That’s why Bill McKibben, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford, a marching band and about 500 protesters converged on Capitol Hill yesterday dressed as referees to call foul on the free ride Congress gives oil corporations. Read here
Meanwhile in Nebraska: State officials continue to drag their feet and refuse to completely stop Keystone research. Despite no work to do (or public consent to do so), our representatives continue to look at different avenues to move Keystone XL forward. A bill by Rep. Terry to give permission power to the Federal Energy and Regulatory Committee has virtually no chance at passing, yet senators in the Unicameral still seem determined to push the $2 million dollar environmental impact study on reroutes through, and the Department of Environmental Quality continues to dither with taxpayer dollars. Read here
Much Ado About Nothing: That’s what the Lincoln Journal Star is calling State Sen. Janssen’s voter ID bill. In an editorial full of Nebraska common sense and thriftiness, the LJS asks Janssen to leave the bill and Nebraska’s elections alone. We’d recommend he turn his attention to something that’s really broken, like our child welfare system. Read here
Tuesday, January 24th
If you’re an entertainment buff, hopefully you’ve finished listening to all the Grammy nominees because you have some movie watching to do. The Academy Award nominees have been announced for the 84th Oscars. Here’s your Roundup:
A Taxing Campaign: Last night’s latest installment in the never-ending debate cycle of the Republican presidential primary had Mitt on the offensive, attacking Newt on many levels. He also took the time to play a little defense on his tax returns. Telling the crowd that we don’t want a president who pays more in taxes than he has to, Mitt was acknowledging that there are some things in his tax returns that will hurt him. He was right. Tax returns from Mr. Romney show that his tax rate was 13.9% in 2010, far below what many average American working families pay. Were he a real leader, he would use this information to lay out the flaws of America’s tax system. But don’t expect Mr. Bain Capital to begin to show middle class Americans any sympathy soon. Read here
Playing Chicken: John Boehner is leading his far right gang into another game of political chicken, with Americans having the most to lose. The Speaker has threatened to tie Obama’s approval of the KXL pipeline to Republican support of the extension of the payroll tax cut–AGAIN. We hope for an empowered Obama to meet this challenge and defeat the possible Republican effort with the people’s support behind him. Read here
Melodic Dissent: Leaders and stars of Omaha’s bustling music scene have come out against LB 912, a bill that would prevent the cities of Omaha and Lincoln from expanding their anti-discrimination laws to protect people of all sexual orientations. Sen. Beau McCoy introduced the bill. He has said that such a change in anti-discrimination policy must be statewide and therefore Omaha and Lincoln have no right to move forward. While we’d agree that a statewide policy makes sense, McCoy isn’t doing anything to advance LGBT protections in Nebraska, and it’s time for progress to be made. Instead, he continues to champion legislation that looks strikingly familiar to other anti-equality bills across the nation. Read here
POTUS & SOTU: The president will deliver the State of the Union address tonight, and he promises it will bookend to a speech he gave in Kansas a couple months back. In that speech we saw a re-energized, populist President Obama, one wiling to fight for the middle class. The president is no doubt watching the infighting amongst the GOP in Congress and in the primary season and will likely use this address to highlight the reasons he should be elected. Recent news on the economy provide a basis for optimism, but as Europe and the Japanese tsunami show, things that are out of the President’s control can have a great and swift impact on the U.S. Read here
Driving our Day: Bill McKibben will be joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 500 protestors dressed a referees who will throw penalty flags on Congress for all the fossil fuel money they take. If you don’t know McKibben, he’s the founder of 350.org and led the charge on the Keystone XL arrests in front of the White House. We’ll do our best to share the highlights throughout the day.
Watch Jane Kleeb talk about recent pipeline news on Platts Energy Week.
Monday, January 23rd
Another day, another drastic change in Nebraska’s weather. If the snow has gotten you down, let the surprisingly soothing voice of our very own Commander and Chief lighten your mood. Here’s your Roundup:
Our Embarrassment: Given the vast amount of praise Nebraskans deserve in getting the KXL pipeline denied, it is understandable that we’d be embarrased by Rep. Lee Terry’s pathetic move to circumvent the president’s approval authority. Speaker John Boehner, ever the Big Oil puppet, vowed to keep the issue alive and move forward with Terry’s bill. GOP lawmakers continue to lie about the estimated jobs impact, leading us to ask if they’re so worried about jobs then where was their support for the jobs bill? If the Republicans and Big Oil just won’t quit, we’ll keep pushing on too. Read here
Solemn Farewell: Gabrielle Giffords has decided to step down from her position in Congress and focus on her recovery. While we all hoped for a triumphant return to the House floor, we fully support her decision and wish her all the luck in the world. Her resignation will trigger a seemingly unending election cycle in her Arizona district. A primary and election must be held before the end of June, and the winner will be forced to fight for their reelection six months later in November. Read here
SC Shocker: Newt Gingrich delivered a stunning defeat to Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary, beating the former governor with 40% of the vote. Romney had a couple horrendous weeks leading up to the primary, full of gaffes and awkward moments related to his tax returns. He has since said he will release his returns, but that has obviously not stopped the attacks. As both Romney and Gingrich prepare for Florida, both camps are leveling strong critiques at each other. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have given the Republicans three different winners (with the news that Santorum won Iowa after a recount), setting up what some are calling “A never ending primary.” Read here
Barbour’s Blunder: Actually, ‘blunder’ isn’t a strong enough word. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s decision to pardon hundreds of convicts before leaving office, including those convicted of murder, set off a fire storm. Attorney General Jim Hood has called for an injunction to be placed on many of the pardons and even argued that many of them did not meet Mississippi’s constitutional requirements. Families of the victims of the pardoned convicts have understandably voiced their outrage in the days since Barbour’s horrible move. A judge will rule on the pardons, and the new governor has acknowledged a willingness to amend the constitution and limit his office’s pardoning power. Read here