Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.

Friday, March 30

Three years ago today, President Barack Obama announced a restructuring of the American automobile industry in the face of an economic disaster. Since then, the industry has come back strong, continuing to add U.S. jobs and producing more vehicles. Here’s your Roundup:

Keystone XL Danger: Yesterday, the Nebraska State Legislature advanced LB 1161, a bill that will fast track the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline and give eminent domain authority over Nebraska land. We are disappointed in our lawmakers’ willingness to bow down to TransCanada and place our fellow Nebraska landowners and citizens in danger. Concerns were raised by several lawmakers on the Legislative floor, warning about the constitutionality of the measure. This bill is clearly a special favor for TransCanada to advance their dangerous and threatening project. If this bill passes, during the presidential election, our Republican lawmakers will use it as a way to claim that Nebraska is supportive of the pipeline and the only one who isn’t is President Obama. We must stand up to Big Oil and their bullying ways. Our state’s health, safety and existence are on the line, and most of our state senators are with TransCanada. Read here

Pink Slime: In South Sioux City, several Midwest governors and state officials toured the only remaining Beef Products, Inc. facility that remains open in the wake of the “pink slime” controversy, touting the quality and nutrition of the ammonia-spritzed, ground, unused trimmings byproduct. Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy promoted the additive as “lean, healthy, and safe,” and dispelled all doubts by explaining, “Dude, it’s beef.” Governors Rick Perry of Texas and Sam Brownback of Kansas joined Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, who organized the promotional visit, in touring the plant and attempting to quell the backlash against the “finely textured beef” by downplaying reports as inaccurate and misleading. During the press conference, Gov. Branstad fielded questions about his ties to BPI and stated that the $150,000 campaign donation he received from the processing company had no effect on his support, while a BPI spokesman compared the difference between hamburger people buy in stores and pink slime to merely the difference between coarse salt and finer table salt. Following the press conference, the governors and officials demonstrated their confidence in pink slime’s superior caliber by enjoying hamburgers made with the product. Read here

Johanns vs. EPA: Senator Mike Johanns has signed onto a piece of proposed legislation that is seeking to limit the Environmental Protection Agency from performing its duties to protect bodies of water from pollution. Last year, the EPA issued a guidance document indicating that it would exercise jurisdiction over waterways created by heavy rainfall. Although the Clean Water Act provides the ability to monitor these types of waterways for pollution, Johanns claims that the EPA is overstepping its bounds and that this legislation will stop the EPA from putting the guidance document into action. Johanns raises the concern that farmers and ranchers will be harmed by EPA oversight, but contaminated waterways would be the source of real harm should this legislation pass. Read here

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

Thursday, March 29

Today is an important day in the Nebraska Legislature for the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline as debate on LB 1161 will begin at 9:00 am. LB 1161 fast tracks the pipeline and gives TransCanada immediate eminent domain authority. Join us at the State Capitol today! Here’s your Roundup:

Our Vote is Protected: In a major victory for citizens, Nebraska state senators killed Senator Charlie Janssen’s voter ID bill yesterday. After a total of eight hours of debate, a vote to end a filibuster on the proposal failed by three with a 30-16 vote. The controversial bill that would have disproportionately affected minority, student, rural, and elderly voters is dead for the 2012 legislative session. Voting is a right, not a privilege, and Janssen’s dangerous proposal would have infringed on the constitutional right of our Nebraska citizens. Of course, Janssen pledged to keep working on the non-existent issue of voter fraud next year, if he is elected. Instead of limiting the opportunity to vote, our state should focus on more accessible polling methods such as online voter registration and statewide vote by mail. Read here

Health Care Battle: Yesterday marked the third and final day of the oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court over President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. During the discussion, justices questioned whether or not the health care law could stand if the individual mandate portion of the law would be struck down. During the oral arguments, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made some questionable remarks. For one, Scalia hinted that it was “unrealistic” for people to expect the justices to read through all pages of the law. Also, Scalia referred to the “Cornhusker Kickback,” proposed by Senator Ben Nelson, as a hypothetical point about what could take down the law. Mind you, this man will be one of the nine determining the fate of this law. We can only hope the justices will fully inform themselves of the law before making any decisions. And the “Cornhusker Kickback” is not part of the law; the measure was removed by Congressional Democrats in final negotiations of the bill. The fate of the health care law is now up to the nine Supreme Court justices as a decision is expected in June.

Incorrect Voting Information: Nearly 2,000 registered voters in north Omaha were sent incorrect information regarding their polling place. Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps, a Republican, has already frustrated many Omahans for his decision to close half the polling places in Douglas County because they believe the move will disenfranchise the elderly and the poor. Phipps knew the polling place cards sent to voters in north Omaha were incorrect, but he decided to send them anyway because it would be simpler to send out new cards and a letter explaining the issue this week. These series of events have become an unexplainable pattern, and we can only hope the citizens of north Omaha will still get out and vote regardless of the confusion. Read here

Ogallala Aquifer: In a symposium at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln on the development of the Great Plains, a University of Kansas environmental history professor believes the area and the Ogallala Aquifer are headed for trouble. Donald Worster warned of the inability of the Ogallala Aquifer to provide for the world as the resource will eventually dry up. He signaled to signs of declining water levels from Texas to Kansas among other items of research to support his claim. Just one more reason the Keystone XL Pipeline would endanger the Ogallala Aquifer!

Obama Leads: In a hypothetical general election matchup between President Barack Obama and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, Obama leads by double digits, according to a poll released by CNN/ORC. Obama gained 54 percent of the votes whereas Mitt received 43 percent of the votes. Obama’s lead over other GOP hopefuls is only greater. President Obama proves to be popular among men, elderly voters, suburbanites, and independents, groups that have all been problematic for him before. The news of Obama’s lead is encouraging as he continues to fight for hard working Americans. Read here

Head on over to the Unicameral Update for the Nebraska Legislature’s latest news!


Wednesday, March 28

Join us tomorrow at the Nebraska State Capitol beginning at 9:00 am to watch debate over LB 1161, the TransCanada loophole bill. Our lawmakers need to get out of TransCanada’s pocketbook and stand up for Nebraska landowners and citizens. Here’s your Roundup:

Sharp Debate: The Nebraska Legislature began debate over State Senator Charlie Janssen’s Voter ID bill last night. A lengthy, and at times emotional, discussion ensued between the lawmakers. Still, many state senators are in favor of the bill. This bill will disproportionately affect the elderly, student, poor, and minority voters. Voting is a right, not a privilege. Opponents filed several amendments and filibustered the bill, so the Legislature adjourned without reaching a first round vote last night. A vote on whether or not to end the filibuster and advance the bill is expected this morning. You can take action here and we will keep you updated on this dangerous piece of legislation. Read here

Health Care Battle: The U.S. Supreme Court continued oral arguments on President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act yesterday. Yesterday was considered the most crucial day as justices questioned whether or not Congress has the authority to regulate commerce. The oral arguments were divided across party lines. Of course the conservative justices challenged the measure the most, asking several questions about the mandate. The liberal justices seemed to be more supportive of the measure. The health care law may be in serious peril. Today, the court will hold oral arguments over whether or not the law can still stand even if the individual mandate to obtain health insurance is struck down. Read here

Death Penalty Delay: A federal judge in Washington, D.C., recently put a halt on Nebraska’s scheduled executions. The judge ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ignored the law by allowing the importation of foreign-made drugs required for executions. He ordered the drugs must be returned to the FDA. Good ol’ Jon Bruning said the State of Nebraska obtained the drugs legally from a European and Indian supplier. For now, the required drug is executions will have to be submitted to the FDA as Nebraska cannot carry out any executions for the short term. Read here

Drop Out: In a recent CNN/ORC poll, it was found that nearly 6 in 10 Republicans want Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich to drop out of the presidential campaign. It looks as if the GOP circus is beginning to narrow as Mittens and Rick are picking up some momentum. Although it is entertaining to see what ridiculous things these men can come up with on the campaign trail, we’re looking forward to the end of this fiasco. Read here

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


Tuesday, March 27

Join us this evening in Omaha for our first series of Pipeline Community Meetings and input on Nebraska’s Public Service Commission. We’ll be at the First Unitarian Church at 3114 Harney Street beginning at 7:00 pm. We look forward to seeing you; be sure to bring along a friend or two! Here’s your Roundup: 

Health Care Battle, Day 2: Yesterday, oral arguments began over President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Supreme Court. Most of the discussion yesterday was whether or not the proposed penalty for not carrying health insurance is a tax or not. Today, justices will enter the second, and most crucial, day of oral arguments over the constitutionality of the legal measure. This case will make a significant impact on the upcoming presidential election, regardless of the outcome. Already, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has benefitted thousands of Nebraskans and Americans alike. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the health care battle. Read here

What’s His Stance Now?: Governor Dave Heineman recently reiterated his support for the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline in its entirety, not just the southern leg. Double-Talk Dave wants to see this dangerous project constructed quickly, too. His reasons for calling for the approval of the project are clearly misinformed. Why is Double-Talk Dave calling for the approval of this dangerous pipeline while he continues to tout Nebraska’s strong eco-tourism? Does he not realize this project will destroy our state’s land features, waterways, rivers, and Sandhills? Oh, and not that long ago, he agreed with what President Barack Obama stated in opposition to the pipeline. Governor Heineman: just what exactly is your stance? Make up your mind and stand with the landowners and citizens of Nebraska; say no to this dangerous pipeline.

Classy Leadership: GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum lashed out at a reporter following an appearance in Wisconsin. During his speech, Santorum railed Romney on his health care plan while he was governor of Massachusetts. Santorum went on to declare that Romney was the “worst Republican in the country” to take on President Obama in the presidential election. A New York Times Reporter asked Santorum to clarify what exactly he meant when he made the claim against Romney. Santorum insisted he was still speaking about the health care issue when he made the statement, but it didn’t quite sound that way when he said it during his speech. Santorum grew extremely agitated with the reporter, pointed his finger, and cursed in front of a crowd of followers. It’s comforting to know this man has a shot at leading our country when he can barely take a little heat from a news reporter. Watch the video here.

Cut, Cut, Cut: Governor Heineman plans on proposing more tax cuts as long as he is governor. In a recent news conference, Dave stated his tax cut proposal during this year’s legislative session was “just the beginning.” His original three-year plan called for $327 million in tax cuts, but it was scaled back to $97 million. While the governor wants to push for tax relief, he must keep in mind financial obligations on the state level. The state must keep money to continue to operate in a fiscally responsible manner, providing funding to current programs. Maybe he could even use some of that money to improve programs that are need like our child welfare system. Also during the news conference, Governor Heineman said Senator Charlie Janssen’s voter ID bill is “focused in the right direction” although he is not aware of any voter fraud. Makes sense to us, too! We could add this one to Heineman’s long list of failed leadership tactics. Read here

Nader Address: Longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke to students at Peru State College last night. Nader urged individuals to get involved in government and hold elected officials accountable. He spoke extensively about our nation’s military role and quickness to jump to war. Instead of war efforts, Nader urged humanitarian efforts to display the United States’ goodwill toward others. In addition, he discussed the need for tax reform and a focus on imminent threats to our people here in the United States rather than fighting wars overseas. He blamed both Republicans and Democrats for failure to support peace and the underprivileged. Read here

“If you don’t turn on to politics, politics is going to turn on you.”

Ralph Nader, Address to Peru State College, 3/26/2012

Catch up on all the latest Nebraska Legislative News at Unicameral Update, the Legislature’s official news source!


Monday, March 26

Record-high temperatures across the midwest today (anyone connecting the dots?) while candidates and lawmakers are feeling the heat from last week. Here’s today’s Roundup:

NE GOP Takes Another Stab at Kerry:  What part of “No” does the party of “No” not understand?  After denial by a judge of their attempt to invalidate U.S. Senate candidate Bob Kerrey’s residency status, Nebraska Republicans have filed an appeal of the ruling with the Nebraska Supreme Court, and have also filed to expedite the ruling.  Sound familiar? Seems an awful lot like what Republicans in Washington (led by our own Mike Johanns and Lee “TransCanada” Terry) did when President Obama denied the permit for the Keystone XL. Read Article.

Obama’s Oklahoma Oil Speech Dissected:  Following last Thursday’s appearance at TransCanada’s pipeyard in Cushing, many of those in Obama’s environmental base have taken a grim view of the President’s words and actions.  While he sounded liked a hybrid of a House Republican and a TransCanada rep discussing “drilling all over the place” while surrounded by all that green pipe, even the most pro-pipeline GOP critics are, well, criticizing him.  Whether the “Keystone Cave-In” was a calculated appeal to moderates or an attempt to appease pundits blaming him for high gas prices we just don’t know. We agree with the Rolling Stone reporter and wished President Obama would stand up to big oil, not cave-in. Read Article.

Farmer pushes back on Heineman’s playground politics:  After his comments threatening Nebraska HSUS members, Gov. Heineman was asked to tone down the fiery rhetoric.  Not only did he not apologize, he is standing by his bullying remarks. Nebraska farmer Jim Knopik, among others, stood up for a more common sense approach. Read Article.

Healthcare Reform Anniversary: While some in Nebraska celebrated the 2nd anniversary of healthcare reform passage with all the benefits for our families and businesses, others such as Sen. Johanns continued to predict disaster.  Meanwhile, Nebraska leaders drag their feet and fight progress. Read Article.