Examining the blizzard of bills introduced in the Unicameral is likely to make one’s eyes cross. We are working through them, however. We’ve been hearing from a number of Nebraskans who are passionate about one issue or another and from those who are passing along information to help us out.
We appreciate the interest, the passion, and the assistance.
As we continue sorting through the bills, we wanted to get out some information regarding the priorities we're targeting, why, and provide some preliminary references for people who have additional interest.
Our priorities this session:
State Budget and State Sovereignty
These two key issues have many others wrapped up in them and they are difficult to seperate:
(CIR) Commission of Industrial Relations Reform
This entity arbitrates collective bargaining disputes between government agencies and public employees within Nebraska.
Wages set through CIR negotiation are often based on comparable figures from much larger cities than any found in Nebraska. The cost of benefits are also affected.
Anyone aware of ongoing controversy in Omaha that resulted in a successful recall petition drive knows that it was the contract with policeman and resulting tax increase that set things off.
We will be providing much more information on CIR reform in the coming days; there are several measures that have been introduced.
CIR reform is most obviously a budget issue, both at the State and local levels. In addition, it is also a sovereignty issue (more on that in the future).
Health Care Reform Implementation
To our knowledge, there have been three legislative measures introduced associated with health care reform. Our look at them has been preliminary only. We will be examining them closely to see if they will effectively put a stop to health care implementation, or not.
It is of the highest priority to note:
- Implementation of health care is inextricably tied to our state budget (more on this coming very soon). None of the proposals for cutting our budget to date have been in any way realistic.
- States will be handling health care's implementation, not the federal government. The law will be implemented in stages and it is already under way.
- The lawsuits filed by State Attorneys General will take 2 - 4 years to be resolved. By that time, it will be too late to reverse the "tentacles" laid down over time.
- The recent vote in the House of Representatives was political theater; it cannot pass the Senate and if it ever did see President Obama's desk, it would be vetoed. The earliest possible date for Congressional repeal would be 2013. Again, it will be too late.
Health care and education are the two largest items we spend money on as a State. Education budgets were ramped up significantly in the past two years through the receipt of additional funds via the Stimulus bill and the August "jobs" bill.
Contending with the problem of illegal immigration is a necessity.
We'll be examining Senator Charlie Janssen's LB48 further.
Since there has been an ongoing budget shortfall, series of cuts, and increasing costs of operation, it is the perfect setup for the proposal of clever revenue generating schemes by government.
Recognizing that tax increases would be roundly rejected by voters, elected officials often increase percentages and/or add new taxes to certain kinds of purchases.
An excellent example of such tax by stealth is Senator Kathy Campbell's measuring proposing a DOUBLING of Nebraska's gas tax rate by 2012.
While an obviously horrible idea at any time, the price per barrel of oil recently began to soar. At one Lincoln gas station the cost went from $2.90 per gallon one day to $3.15 the next.
We'll be examining this bill further in addition to others.
Access of information, process, and accountability
While this priority may seem surprising, we have been learning over the past year and a half that information is too difficult for people to obtain and is not available in a timely manner at critical points in the session.
Further, it is rather stunning to have learned that there is no provision either in the Nebraska Constitution nor in State law requiring the roll call recording of votes in the legislature. A roll call vote is only taken if a Senator makes a request. Further, we believe too much Committee level activity is shielded from the public view.
We have been examining Nebraska's Accountability and Disclosure laws and thus far, we have discovered that for State Senators, there may not be enough accountability regarding conflicts of interest. In addition, the NADC website, where campaign filings are recorded, is very difficult to navigate and the search function is not reliable.
One of the projects we are prioritizing this session is to track issues associated with obtaining information and with accountability for the purpose of informing ourselves and others and ultimately putting forward suggested changes.
After we complete our preliminary bill examination we will have our first NE Liberty Watchmen training session. We will be putting out more information on this as soon as possible.
If you are available to help in some way in the meantime with research, please use the form located here.