The Unicameral’s not in session today, so we’re using it as a chance to catch our breath from DC. Some bad bills got held back or killed in committee, and some bad ones got through. Keep following our Bill Roundup for progress on our priority legislation. Here’s your Roundup:
Abortion or the Budget?: Nebraska is facing a $1 billion state budget gap if lawmakers do nothing during this legislative session. Thankfully, we’ve got some levelheaded leaders like Sen. Gloor who has introduced a bill to increase sales tax on tobacco products that could raise $73 million. Then we have senators like Copy Cat Christensen who has introduced a bill that would allow anyone who murdered to save a fetus to claim justifiable homicide. We have no clue as to how this legislation (which is eerily similar to a SD bill) will solve the budget crisis. View Here
Cornett’s Realism: We have to applaud State Sen. Abbie Cornett for taking the state’s $1 billion budget shortfall seriously. Cornett is chairwoman of the Unicameral’s Revenue Committee and testified on a bill she introduced that is a last resort to close the budget gap. Under LB560, dry cleaning, hair styling, dating services and funeral services would lose their tax exempt status. Cornett considers the bill a last resort if the legislature can’t solve the budget gap with cuts alone. LB560 is like pepper spray. You hope you don’t have to use when walking down a dark alley, but you keep it in your back pocket just in case. View Here
Nelson Defends Ethanol: The civil war in Libya and general unrest in the Middle East has caused gas prices to sky rocket across the country. Congratulations if you can fill your car up for less than $40. Conservatives in Congress are using the frustration at the fuel pump to try and push through energy policy that heavily favors big oil. Nelson points out that it directly threatens sources like ethanol, biofuels and wind. Thanks for protecting our domestic energy, senator! View Here
Awesome LTE: John Andrews from Lincoln wrote an excellent Letter to the Editor at the LJS. Andrews is as excited as we are the Sen. Janssen’s LB48 is being held in committee. Andrews is a Nebraska transplant from Arizona, so we can’t think of a better person to carry the “What Happens in AZ, Stops in AZ” banner. View Here
Thurs, March 10th
In DC, the House GOP’s reckless budget got voted down in the Senate thanks to folks like Sen. Nelson. Let’s hope the next budget proposal actually cuts real spending and not programs that are working. In NE, lots of fringe bills pushed by the GOP are also getting voted down. Nebraska independence and common sense prevails. Here’s your Roundup:
NE is Not AZ: Despite the best efforts of state Sen. Charlie Janssen, none of his proposed immigration bills advanced out of committee. The widely opposed LB 48, which proposed an Arizona-style immigration law for Nebraska, was one of those bills. In place of the immigration legislation, the committee is planning an omnibus interim study this summer to examine Nebraska’s immigration problems. The score now reads common sense: 1, rash political posturing: 0. Hoorah! View here.
McCarthyism 2.0: As Rep. Peter King (R-NY) ramps up his attacks on Muslims with congressional hearings that target the Muslim American community for links to terrorism, Think Progress reminds us of a January 2011 terrorism statistics report that shows how misguided King really is. Since 9/11, there have been nearly twice as many terror plots in the US by non-Muslims terrorists, with right-wing extremist attacks far outnumbering those from Muslim groups. We think all radical groups need more focus and more law enforcement resources. View here.
2 is Still Blue: The push to reform Nebraska’ electoral college system to a “winner take all” system stalled in committee yesterday, which is a HUGE failure for the NE GOP which stated this was a priority for their party. While the bill could still be pulled onto the floor,our Editor Jane Kleeb wrote more about the bill in our News section. We’re betting that the fact that it was independent-populist Sen. Schumacher from Columbus who put the lid on this partisan bill that was a blatant overreach of power. Looks like Omaha gets to keep voting (and being counted as) blue and our call to Presidential candidates to campaign statewide stands. View here.
Vote Denier Hangin’ Around: LB 239, Sen. Janssen’s “Voter ID” bill did get out of committee. However, the bill no longer will require voters to have a drivers license or government-issued ID. Instead, an amendment says everyone without one of those will get a postcard/voter card in the mail that they can use at the polls to verify who they are when they vote. The logistics of all this need to be worked out, as does the cost burden. We are not even sure it will ever make it onto the floor for a vote. So, another fringe, copy cat bill defeated (for now). View here.
Wed, March 9th
In an attempt to saIn an attempt to save money, the GOP wants to reduce the number of audits that the IRS conducts. As our friends at Freakonomincs point out, tax audits usually find money that the government is owed. Just one example of why reckless cutting is just as bad as reckless spending. Here’s your Roundup:
NE in the House (and Senate): Our DC excursion to advocate for landowners and against the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline is turning heads. With the support of Sen. Johanns and Sen. Nelson, who both want a supplemental environmental impact statement from the State Department before construction proceeds, Nebraskans are pushing back. TransCanada says they expect a decision by late 2012. Here’s hoping that Secretary Clinton’s recent noncommittal stance and the testimony of Nebraska landowners can make her decision one that protects Nebraska’s heritage, land, water and economic activity for years to come. View here.
Congressional Courage: The controversial House budget bill that would cut American jobs heads to a vote in the Senate today, despite the results of a recent poll that shows most American values job creation over cutting spending. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) spoke earlier today, calling for “a reset” on the budget debate. He wants a budget plan that tackles not just discretionary spending, but also mandatory spending and the tax code. And that, friends, is what true “budget bravery” looks like. View here.
The Distributive Property: Sen. Nelson made it crystal clear yesterday that he does not support the changes that fringe-conservative Sen. Beau McCoy’s LB 21 would make to Nebraska’s unique electoral college system. The bill would transition us to a “winner-take-all” system, rather than the current system where our electoral votes are individually cast by each congressional district in the total electoral college calculation. This gave Obama an electoral vote from NE-2 in 2008, infamously called “Omaha’s little blue dot.” Only 16% of Nebraskans agree with McCoy’s “winner take all” bill, he really does love representing the fringe. View here.
Do We Smell a Copy Cat?: In short, yes. Not surprisingly, fringe-conservative Sen. Janssen has yet another copy cat bill he has introduced in the unicameral. LB 239, which would require all voters in Nebraska to show a government-issued photo ID (which BTW not every eligible voter has) is part of a national conservative push to limit access at the polls. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization linked to the infamous Koch brother of Wisconsin union-hating fame, drafted a model bill exactly like Janssen’s that was introduced in almost a dozen states. The bill would disenfranchise thousands of Nebraskans, targeted at young and minority voters, and potentially cost the state millions of dollars. A similar bill in Indiana cost over $11 million to implement with more estimated costs down the road. State Senators need to shoot down this poorly written legislation that will grow government and burden local counties with debt. View here.
Tues, March 8th
Happy Fat Tuesday! Celebrate, but get don’t get too crazy. Unless, of course, you embrace craziness. In that case, we hear that Charlie Sheen is in the market for a social media intern. Here’s your Roundup:
Where’s the Love?: Women don’t just earn less than men, they get hired less often, too. A new report from the National Women’s Law Center found that fewer than 5% of new jobs last year went to the ladies. Add to that the fact that women comprise 61% of local employees and 52% of state employees, both of which have been weathering the recent conservative war on unions. We need to take a serious look at the gender outcomes of our public budgets. Let’s show the ladies a little more love. View here.
Hurting Nebraska Schools: Omaha Public Schools has just announced that the majority of its $7.4 million in budget cuts are jobs. The cuts consist of 154 full-time jobs, including over 50 teaching positions. Aside from lost jobs, fewer teachers means larger classes and less quality time for each student. In a year that the Unicameral has been openly floating the idea of further cutting education, we would like to remind them that education is the best investment we can possible make in Nebraska. This is the time to protect our schools, not cut their budgets. View here.
Happy Huskers: The New York Times just released an interactive infographic that maps the well-being of the entire nation, broken out by state, based on the Gallup Well-Being Indicators survey. While we have some catching up to do with obesity and exercise, we are (not surprisingly) are some of the happiest and least stressed people in America. But that’s because we live in the best state. View here.
Bye Bye Beck?: Rumor has it that Glenn Beck, host of the his self-titled show in Fox News, may be dropped by the network due to a serious dip in ratings. Beck’s ratings have fallen nearly 30% since their peak just after his Tea Party rally back in August. The official word is that Fox is “looking to the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.” We don’t hate it. View here.
Mon, March 7th
We’re shipping out to DC with a group of activists tomorrow to lobby our Nebraska delegation to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. You can still expect the Roundup to be published but also keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter feed to follow our DC expedition. Here’s your Roundup:
Family Pain: Last year the Unicameral passed a bill that codified the “Fetal Pain Act” which bans abortions in Nebraska after 20 weeks because that is when (according to some shaky research) fetuses can feel pain. While we can argue the science behind this bill, it was the personal story of Nebraskans Danielle and Robb that reinforced our opposition to this act. This is a couple who clearly embraces life and hope, but who was forced to endure extreme pain watching their baby die because of a bad state law. Julie Schmit-Albin of Nebraska Right to Life has basically told media outlets that she knows what’s more humane. We simply hope Danielle and Robb’s story makes you think. View Here
Block the Vote: We’ve been making some noise over the past week about State Sen. Janssen’s bill that would require voters to show a valid photo ID at the polls. It looks like Nebraska is one of 32 states where voter ID legislation is being introduced this year. It’s all part of a national movement from conservative state legislators to suppress the vote, particularly the youth vote, in 2012. So congrats to Charlie Janssen for jumping on another national bandwagon instead of writing innovative legislation based on constituent outreach. View Here
Delay It: We were knocked to the floor with shock when we opened our inboxes this morning. Great news for pipeline opponents: Sen. Johanns is discussing if the Keystone XL pipeline could be be rerouted or delayed. In an on-camera interview with Nebraska Watchdog, Johanns said the State Dept. is struggling with the decision of whether or not to give TransCanada a presidential permit to build their tarsands oil pipeline. They might require additional environmental impact studies which could delay the project another year or two. So keep up the pressure, folks! View Here
Tying Hands: A bill that will cut off state aid to municipalities is headed to Gov. Heineman’s desk where he is expected to promptly sign it into law. The bill will cost Nebraska cities $22 million over the next fiscal year. Combine that with legislation that will limit cities’ ability to raise revenue, and there’s little doubt that cities and municipalities will have to raise property and other taxes to make up the losses. But hey, as long as Heineman can say HE didn’t raise taxes, we should all be grateful. View Here
TransCanada’s Legal Wiles: TransCanada’s blown our minds with their arrogance at just about every turn. But the latest investigative news that shows they secured “common carrier” status in several states takes it to a whole new level. Most “common carriers” offer some sort of service to the public, but TransCanada’s a private company whole will reap an overwhelming majority of benefits if the Keystone XL is built. So TransCanada gets to wield the powerful tool of eminent domain while landowners and citizens are legally powerless to decide what is best for their communities. View Here