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Some photos NET News intern Johnnie Adcox took at the Nebraska Capitol. The Legislature’s natural resources committee was holding a hearing today on special session LB1, a bill introduced by Sen. Annette Dubas of District 34 that would give the Nebraska Public Service Commission authority to approve or disapprove proposed pipeline routes.

For more, tune into NET Radio at 5:30 p.m. central for Fred Knapp’s report from the Capitol, or listen online.

On Oil and Water

It’s not very often that I speak up about things, but over the last few months, I’ve become more aware of the current hot-topic in Nebraska: whether or not Transcanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline should be built through our state, or if the current planned route should be shifted away from the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer.  If you’ve never heard of either, the Sandhills are a mixture of prairie and sand dunes located in north central Nebraska.  As an ecosystem, it’s surprisingly difficult to reclaim.

The Ogallala Aquifer is basically a large shallow underground lake - one of the largest in the world.  For people in Nebraska and many other states, it is an invaluable resource of water.

The problem?  TransCanada is currently seeking approval from the U.S. State Department to build a pipeline through the U.S., towards a Texas refinery.  Many people have concerns, however, of potential contamination to the aquifer if a leak from the proposed pipeline were ever to occur.  The Keystone 1 Pipeline has already experienced spills within the first year of operation.

While the U.S. State Department has the finally say in allowing the pipeline to be built, individual states retain the right to regulate where the pipeline is built.  While Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has voiced his disapproval of the pipeline, he has not called a special session of the Nebraska Legislature (unicameral) to address the issue.  Currently, a few state senators are trying to get enough votes to convene in a special session, but to do that, they need 33 of the 49 senators to approve a special session.  See the article below for more details:

http://journalstar.com/news/local/article_153a3bf5-0654-5b12-b50b-1e668c00436d.html

If you live in Nebraska and want the legislature to address the issue, contact your state senator!

Apologies for quite possibly the longest post ever.

So what exactly IS a special session?

Earlier this week, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman called for a special session of the state legislature to discuss the legislation that might affect the route of the  proposed Keystone XL Pipeline — though back in August, he wasn’t real hot on the idea.

It’s not clear whether enough senators have shifted their views on the pipeline to make action possible, or whether the governor simply wants to be able to say he tried.

We’ll learn more when the session convenes next Tuesday.

But what IS a “special session”? Here’s a quick FAQ, using information from the Nebraska Legislature’s website.

  • When are regular vs. special sessions held? A regular session convenes and adjourns annually, starting on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January. Therefore, the next regular session begins Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. A “special” session can be convened at any time outside the normal session by the governor or two-thirds (33 members) of the legislature.

  • How long are regular and special sessions? Regular sessions in odd-numbered years last 90 business days, whereas sessions in even-numbered years last 60 business days (so 2012’s session will last 60 days). Special sessions must be at least seven days to enact a law, but if the result is a constitutional amendment, they can be shorter.

  • What can a special session be called for? A special session can be called for any specific purpose or purposes - like pipeline siting legislation- but “the Legislature shall enter upon no business except that for which it was called together.” In other words, this time around, ALL they can act on is pipeline siting legislation.

  • What happens first? For the first three days, and the first three days only, bills can be introduced; in this case, any bills requested by Gov. Heineman would be introduced first, because he called the session. Resolutions can be introduced at any time, with a few exceptions.

    Next, the Reference Committee has to review each bill and/or resolution within one legislative day following its introduction, and refer them to the appropriate standing committee. Within five days of receiving the bills and/or resolutions, those committees then schedule hearings and alert the public.

    After that, the committees make their reports to the full legislature within twenty-four hours after they’ve taken “final action,” i.e. decided to advance or “indefinitely postpone” a bill. If they recommend the latter, though, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily dead in the water - it can be referred to the full Legislature or back to the committee by a majority vote of elected members. Such a motion must be passed within three legislative days of being proposed.

    If a committee hasn’t taken final action on a bill or resolution within two days of its hearing, any senator can make a motion to bring the item before the full legislature, which then requires a majority vote.

  • What happens at the end of  special session? Any bills or resolutions that weren’t enacted into law are considered indefinitely postponed, and will NOT carry over to the next normal session in January.
The fuck is up with Bicameral Parliments.

I don’t see the need. It’s twice the overhead at least, slows down legislation and generally contributes to bigger government.

If you give up all pretence of representation, equality or democracy, I can understand how having a lower house for the people then an upper house for the states or the Lords is you know, 1 rule for them, 1 rule for us.

But I don’t get it.

My thoughts on my Ideal Parliament

The Romanian Parliament voted against the new referendum initiated by the country’s president Traian Basescu, which called for a smaller, 300-seat and single chamber Parliament. There were 191 votes against and 123 votes for the referendum, while 69 MPs chose to abstain. This came after the commissions in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies had given a green light to the proposal, with only 3 votes against and 3 abstentions. The recent vote in the Parliament however is not decisive, and the country’s president can still call the referendum, but the law makes it mandatory for him to consult the parliament. The President can decide what to ask in the referendum and what issues to submit to public vote, via a presidential decree. Romanian president Traian Basescu recently said that he has started the procedure to organize a new referendum, where people would again decide on having a single chamber Parliament and a maximum of 300 MPs. A similar referendum was organized in 2009, when the majority of those who voted were in favor of a smaller Parliament. Should the referendum be organized, it would be another expensive vote coming soon after last year’s referendum on whether to suspend the country’s president, which ended up invalidated. The country spent some EUR 22 million, or more or less EUR 1 per Romanian citizen, to organize the 2012 referendum. President Traian Basescu recently said the new referendum would start only after the new referendum law and the new Constitution are passed by Parliament, if indeed the result in 2009 is not be respected. (via Romanian Parliament says No to referendum to shrink its size, but president can continue process | Romania-Insider.com)

From the Omaha World-Herald (find more legislative coverage, including our daily Capitol update, here):

49 senators, 49 tax-relief ideas

When state senators knock on constituents’ doors, the top complaint they get is that property taxes are too high.

And the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures seem to back up the grumbling: Nebraska ranks significantly higher in property taxes, as a percentage of personal income, than income taxes.

So why is Gov. Dave Heineman aiming his new tax-cutting plan on individual and corporate income taxes and the inheritance tax, and not on those much-griped-about property taxes?

Proponents say the reason is that those taxes are much easier to reduce; that such cuts can more greatly transform Nebraska’s image into a low-tax state.

"The question is ‘Where do you get the biggest bang for your buck?’" said State Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue.

Democrats immediately jumped on the Republican governor’s plan as misdirected, giving too much to the wealthy and corporations and not enough to the poor and middle class …

Continue reading

What do YOU think about taxes in Nebraska? How would you change current taxation policies? Tell us your thoughts.

New members of the Nebraska Unicameral were sworn in today, marking the beginning of the new session on the Nebraska Legislature, the 103rd Legislature to be exact.  If you haven’t paid attention to Legislative news in Nebraska before, the beginning of a new session is always a good time to start! Laws passed in the Unicameral affect you just as much as laws passed by Congress or your local City Council…..

read more at Progressive Oasis

Asamblea de Cuba aprueba normalizar la relación con Estados Unidos

Asamblea de Cuba aprueba normalizar la relación con Estados Unidos

La Habana (Cuba).- La Asamblea Nacional de Cuba (parlamento unicameral) aprobó este viernes por unanimidad una declaración de apoyo a las decisiones adoptadas por el presidente de la isla, Raúl Castro, para iniciar la normalización de relaciones con Estados Unidos, informaron hoy medios locales.

El documento se aprobó en el segundo y último pleno que celebra desde hoy el Parlamento cubano, para…

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Update on special session bills proposed so far:

Here’s a recap of what the special session of the Nebraska Unicameral has been up to since it began Nov. 1; any bills still in the committee when the special session adjourns are effectively killed:

LB1 – Would let the Public Service Commission make decisions regarding pipeline routes; also would change eminent domain laws (see LB3). Will be debated tomorrow (Thursday) in the full legislature.

LB2 – Provides funding for the special session. Guaranteed to pass.

LB3 – Would make adjustments to Nebraska’s eminent domain laws so that oil/natural gas companies couldn’t employ it until they had the necessary permits; this basic premise is also contained in LB1. Bill is not likely to advance from the Judiciary Committee.

LB4 – Authorizes a supplemental environmental impact statement regarding any pipeline route, and requires the governor to certify whether or not he approves of said route. (These procedures are not dependent on each other, though the governor would likely take any impact statement into consideration before making a decision.) LB4 faces a second round of debate before the full legislature on Friday.

LB5 – Would have outlined specific areas that pipelines couldn’t pass through, including the Sandhills. Bill is in the Natural Resources Committee, which has taken no action on it and has seen no push to do so.

LB6 – Would require any company looking to build a pipeline to post a $500 milllion bond to repay landowners or local governemtns for damage to land, structure or natural resources. Bill is in the Natural Resources Committee, which has taken no action on it and has seen no push to do so.

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NET News reporter Fred Knapp will have a story today at 5:30 p.m. central on NET Radio about the first-round advancement of LB4 and the introduction of a revised version of LB1.

Related reading: So what exactly IS a special session?

An important read on why Philippine democracy and its electoral politics are a sham. There is no essential difference between the Liberal party and any other participating legal political parties in the Philippines other than elite and clan factionalism.

"Throughout the history of Philippine politics, the economic and political elite has always held on tightly to the reins of power. From the time the municipal governments were formed by the Americans, Philippine politics has operated within the institutional parameters that often limited and shaped interactions to factions of the elite, utilizing both unicameral and bicameral forms of government. Political parties have been the vehicle for this elite rule and monopoly of political power.

With this kind of political system in the Philippines, no real representation and participation exist for the people, especially the marginalized, in all levels of government decision-making. As a result, the marginalized and underrepresented sectors in our society are further eased out.

[…]
Political Parties and Participatory Governance

In his seminal work, Political Parties, Robert Michels posits that “Organization is the weapon of the weak in their struggle with the strong.” (Michels, 1963). The organization that he defined could be an association, a trade union, and even a political party. But a political party is not just any organization. It is, according to Michels, an ideological party, with elements of party life, which is sustained by trust, loyalty and discipline. C. Wright Mills likewise contends that political parties are usually associated with or are an offspring of social movements (Mills, 1963: 33). Antonio Gramsci, on the other hand, describes the history of a political party as the history of a particular social group, “a political force which is effective from the point of view of the exercise of governmental power…to the extent that it possesses cadres at the various levels and to the extent to which the latter have acquired certain capabilities.” (Gramsci, 1984: 151)

Political parties are associated with organizing political action, for it is through parties that people identify and articulate their political visions, policies, platforms and interests. A political party mobilizes its members and sympathizers to gain support for the political platforms or positions it has taken, and in this way attain popular consent and legitimacy which is accomplished through success in elections or similar mechanisms for leadership selection. But political parties must be more than vehicles for winning power; they must be the bridge for realizing the expectations of the public for effective policy-making processes and the service-delivery of public institutions, i.e., for eradicating poverty.

Theoretically, Philippine political parties exist in a democratic environment. This formal facade, however, crumbles as we examine closely the nature and character of contemporary political parties. The realities of power relations in the Philippine economic and social structure show that electoral politics and political parties in the Philippines are dominated by elite family factions with their respective followers, whose rivalries are formalized by their affiliation with political parties. Philippine electoral political parties can be said to be the weakest political institutions that are at best described as ad hoc, if not transient and fluid. They are the weakest link in Philippine democracy.

Effective Political Parties Defined

In one of his privilege speeches in the 8 Congress, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who was Secretary of the Department of National Defense for more than a decade under Ferdinand Marcos, surprisingly admitted that the only political party in the Philippines that is behaving like a real political party is the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), only that it is shunned from participation in Philippine electoral politics. This author who was then Senior Political Consultant to Sen. Wigberto Tañada, personally heard Enrile remark that even without its participation in elections, the CPP which is genuinely an ideological party, continuously recruits members as a mass party, carries out its defined program and projects, and builds bailiwicks and spheres of influence in different parts of the country. Its strategic objective, of course, is to seize political power and establish a socialist government, he said. The CPP, it must be noted, strengthens itself not only through the strict enforcement of party discipline based on a coherent political program but engages in recruitment for mass membership and political education.

But the electoral character of political parties in a democratic environment distinguishes it from other organizations in that “it constitutes a group of individuals whose primary objective is to attain control of the government through the electoral process.” ( Tancangco, 1988: 97) In the Philippine setting, political parties are not identified with visions or platforms but are seen as mere electoral vehicles of convenience for the elite politicians.”

Grecia busca salir de la crisis política

Este miércoles, Grecia buscará mantener su delicado equilibrio político con el inicio de la votación presidencial por parte del Parlamento, en un escenario de creciente incertidumbre. Es que en caso de que ningún candidato obtenga una mayoría suficiente, la ley prevé la disolución del Parlamento y la convocatoria a nuevas elecciones legislativas anticipadas.

La crisis política se volvió a palpar en los últimos días, cuando el primer ministro, Antonis Samaras, decidió acortar la incertidumbre y adelantó al 17 de diciembre la elección -dos meses antes de lo previsto.

Tres rondas con futuro incierto

El jefe de Estado tiene en Grecia un papel más simbólico y su elección no depende de una votación popular, sino del Parlamento unicameral, compuesto por 300 diputados. La normativa establece un sistema de varias rondas en las que uno de los candidatos debe obtener una ‘supermayoría’.

En las dos primeras rondas -17 y 23 de diciembre- haría falta que 200 de los 300 diputados respaldaran a un candidato. Para la tercera, que tendría lugar el 29 de diciembre, bastarían 180 escaños, si bien la coalición que encabeza Samaras tiene actualmente 155 y requiere de nuevas alianzas.

Al temor a que no alcancen la mayoría necesaria, lo que obligaría a disolver la actual composición parlamentaria, se suma el ascenso de Syryza, la coalición de sectores más radicalizados, al que todas las encuestas señalan como favorito en caso de una nueva elección legislativa anticipada.

A través de http://www.argnoticias.com/mundo/item/21580-grecia-busca-salir-de-la-crisis-política de ARGNoticias.com
Answering the wrong question

By Tom Ehrich

I wanted so much to applaud the final report issued yesterday by the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church.

They are good people, they worked hard, and even though they were given an impossible assignment, they seem to have tried for fresh thinking about decline in the Episcopal Church.

As I read the report, I saw glimpses of fresh ideas. But in their actual recommendations, the task force took the easy road: they recommended structural and procedural changes for what are, essentially, not structural or procedural shortcomings. They have answered the wrong question.

In their call for a unicameral General Convention, for example, they raised an interesting model, and by limiting the bishops’ participation to active bishops, they addressed a longstanding sore point.

But I find it difficult to imagine how a more efficient triennial convention could breathe life into the Episcopal Church. Same with their other recommendations for managing national church affairs.

The problem, you see, isn’t organizational structure. Nor is it stated vision, quality of seminary education, or even quality of clergy and episcopal leadership.

The problem, to paraphrase Pogo, is us. We know what to do. We know how to do it. Or we can learn. I can diagram a church-revitalization strategy on a cocktail napkin. But that strategy always comes down to what people in our churches are willing to do. And that is where it founders.

At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, here are three issues the task force either didn’t see or didn’t have the heart to name.

Episcopalians compartmentalize.

We focus on Sunday worship. Or we give up on Sunday worship and focus on something else, like mission work or Sunday evening dinner church. But we focus, we compartmentalize, we say, in effect, that our faith life will be acted out on a small, single-shot platform, disconnected from the rest of our lives.

Episcopalians treasure what we have inherited and feel duty-bound to perpetuate it.

Not only did we inherit facilities, some quite grand, but we inherited an attitude about those facilities that treats space as sacred, rather than functional, and therefore locked into past usage patterns. We also inherited traditions and rituals that we can’t allow ourselves to question no matter how much the needs of the world have changed.

Episcopalians want church to be comfortable.

We work hard in our daily lives. We want church to be a respite. We want to be fed there, encouraged, pastored, stroked, and hugged. We didn’t sign on for political organizing, standing up to our employers, standing apart from our social circles, forging alliances with others seeking liberation.

Those are three issues I see — not in everyone, but in enough of us to notice. There could be other issues. Maybe we are just plain lazy. Maybe we are self-serving. Maybe we are nasty. I don’t think so. But the point remains: the fault lies not in our structures, but in ourselves.

I wish the task force had said, “Folks, our church is a mess because we are a mess. Let’s change our lives.”

Anything else is just kicking the can down the road.

(You can read the task force report here. You can read a seminary dean’s response here.)

Vía Cubadebate » Política Las diez comisiones permanentes de la Asamblea Nacional de Cuba (parlamento unicameral) iniciaron hoy el trabajo previo al segundo pleno ordinario de 2014, que se celebrará el 19 de diciembre para analizar las transformaciones económicas emprendidas en la isla y diseñar el presupuesto del próximo año. Estas comisiones se encargarán de examinar durante las tres jornadas previas al pleno los temas que les competen dentro de los “Lineamientos Económicos y Sociales”, el plan para actualizar el modelo socialista de la isla.