unicameral

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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.

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Unicameral Needs Your Voice on LB586, WorkPlace Protections.

OMAHA, NE – The Nebraska Unicameral Session for 2015 is almost over, just 10 days or less actually. It is crunch time in the Nebraska Equality Movement! Thursday, May 14th, the Unicameral will debate and vote on workplace equality. We need you to call or email your state senator in our state’s Unicameral. Don’t know who that is? You can click here: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/senators/senator_…

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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 …

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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

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.

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Nebraska Becomes First Red State to Abolish Death Penalty

Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval on Wednesday to a bill abolishing the death penalty that would make it the first conservative state to do so since 1973 if the measure becomes law.The vote margin in the unicameral Legislature was more than enough to override a…

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The state of Nebraska should take back responsibility for managing child welfare cases from private contractors. And it should create a new department to handle children’s services, a legislative committee has recommended.

The recommendations follow a nearly year-long investigation by the Health and Human Services Committee of Nebraska’s controversial child welfare reform. That reform involved contracting with private agencies for services. But three of five agencies who signed up later dropped out or were terminated amidst financial turmoil …

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