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.

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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.

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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.

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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:


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?
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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.

Keep reading

On October 3, Kersti Kaljulaid was elected the first female president of Estonia

In Estonia, the President is elected by the unicameral parliament (Riigikogu) or a special electoral body for a five-year term. Several rounds of elections with previous proposed candidates failed as they didn’t get the majority of support from the political parties.
Then, a group of representatives of all parliamentary parties, the speaker and two deputy speakers came together to find a consensus candidate and ultimately agreed on Kaljulaid.

The fact that she wasn’t running for president in the beginning and she was not well-known to the public made it all quite comic. However, Kaljulaid, who was the country’s representative in the European Court of Auditors, seems like a good choice for the position. It was a peculiar but successful turn of events.

Image: Priit Simson

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.

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.

Keep reading

Alexander Hamilton: you fuckers don’t even know about my government plan. it’s a unicameral congress with a life appointed governor. the ultimate legislature.

Democratic Republicans: monarchy

Alexander Hamilton: blocked 

Legislative committee calls for big changes in Nebraska child welfare

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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Fallen fragment sign - the presence of a bone fragment in the dependent portion of a lucent bone lesion. It is said to be pathognomonic of a simple (unicameral) bone cyst and is usually seen after pathologic fracture. Simple bone cysts are fluid filled and therefore fracture fragments can descend through the fluid uninhibited. Other lucent lesions such as fibrous dysplasia, aneurysmal bone cyst and enchondroma all have solid interiors which do not permit fragments to fall.


For all its imperfections (sometimes its circus-like sessions, the drama, the anger), the Philippine Senate, the upper chamber of the Congress of the Philippines, has always been an institution that safeguarded freedom. I know it is hard to look at it that way, but if one views it from the impartial lens of history, one sees a trend.

Every time the Senate is padlocked, or abolished, the Legislature of the country would be ridden with corruption (easily pressured by the Executive branch), oligarchy, herd mentality, and would be resistant to reform. That’s not to say that the current congress doesn’t have these problems, or that unicameralism (a one chamber legislature, as opposed to bicameralism of two chambers) is bad. For a type of Legislature may work best on a certain country or nation which has its own cultural and historical context, but another type may not.

The Philippines has tried a unicameral legislature (that is, without a senate) several times: under the un-amended 1935 Constitution (from 1935 – 1941), under the 1943 Constitution of a Philippines under Japanese Occupation (from 1943-1945), and under the 1973 Constitution of the Marcos regime (from 1973 to 1986), and in those three instances, the two latter set ups had the people’s voice repressed and/or silenced.

So what gives? The Senate, as compared to the House, is elected nationally, unlike in the House wherein representatives are elected by the regions they represent (thru legislative districts). As such, the Senate has a national view of things. Seeing however its shortcomings by missing the forest for the trees, the House of Representatives balances it. The Senate’s edge is its national outlook, hence, it is the testing ground for those who aspire for the highest government office in the land–the Presidency. The Senate is best seen in the spectrum of the past. Let’s look at it from the very colorful political life we had after World War II. 

The post-war Senate was legendary, in that, as intended by the framers of the 1935 constitution, it became the foremost venue for debate on national policy. In fact, the Senate would attract a large following (media and political analysts) in its sessions. And the senators then were very good with the arguments. These senators were not totally incorruptible, but reading the news articles of that time would give one the sense that these senators had the experience, the bravado, and the training to engage an impressive intelligent public discourse. The debates in the Senate and the exposé made by senators on the senate floor created waves in the media. And the people reacted and interacted.

The Senate has therefore been naturally on the forefront of opposition when the Chief Executive committed excesses. Take for example the bombing of Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971, where in the Liberal Party’s miting de avance, several people were injured, including some senators. President Marcos immediately suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus nationwide. The Senate opposed the move saying it was uncalled for since the bombing was not national in scope. Public opinion at the time said it was President Marcos who planned the bombing. It was Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw who urged the public to wait a little longer for the next presidential election lest the violent demonstrations that resulted be used as an excuse for martial law. In the 1971 midterm elections, the opposition won the majority seats in the Senate, a fitting reflection of public opinion that had swung against Marcos.

Seeing that the only recourse for extension of presidential term was for the Senate (a thorn in Marcos’ side) to be derailed or abolished, President Marcos planned to declare martial law, in the guise of preserving peace and order, on September 21, 1972, the date of the supposed adjournment of both Senate and House of Representatives. It was Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in his famous privilege speech on the Senate Floor days before the 21st that revealed a secret plan of the administration, called “Oplan Sagittarius,” to use the military to take control of the country and impose martial rule. Marcos denied the allegations, not even telling his close associates the plan.

On the last minute, Congress scheduled a special session on September 21, moving the adjournment to September 23, 1972. And thus it was only on the midnight of September 23 that martial law was implemented, beginning with the arrests of key senators: Senators Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., Jose “Pepe” Diokno, Ramon Mitra, and Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo. Senator Salvador “Doy” Laurel was one of those on the list of arrest but was out of the country when it happened.

As the imprisoned senators, with approximately 8,000 individuals (composed of journalists and opposition leaders) clamored for the unconstitutionality of Marcos’ martial law declaration, initially Marcos promised never to supersede the 1935 constitution. But this was only lip service. Before the opening of congress on January 22, 1973 as set by the 1935 constitution, Marcos engineered the process of the creation of a new constitution, the 1973 constitution, which was quickly (minadali) ratified before the said date. The new constitution gave him almost absolute dictatorial powers, and it abolished Congress. Thus, when the legislators arrived on January 22, at the Legislative Building, the Senate and House Session Halls were found padlocked.

Martial law ended that era of that verve of political life for the country. Perhaps there is truth in the thought that the Senate today is but a specter or a shadow of the Pre-Martial Law Senate. But the institution, no matter how imperfect, is still a reflection of public opinion, and of our aspiration as an independent people of democracy.

Thus, on its 99th year since it was established via Jones Law in 1916, let us give a virtual/digital toast to our Senate, wishing that they would live up to the trust we have given them.

Photos above:

(1) Senators Doy Laurel, Eva Estrada Kalaw, Ramon Mitra, Gerry Roxas, and Jovito Salonga in 1973, outside the padlocked Senate Session Hall. (Photo from the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, PCDSPO)

(2) The pre-war interior of the Senate Session Hall in the Legislative Building (now the National Art Gallery of the National Museum of the Philippines). The room was not used during the Martial Law Period. In 1987 the reestablished Senate opened again its session here. The Senate eventually moved to the GSIS Building in Pasay in 1997. (Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the Philippines)

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Watch a preview of this week’s Capitol Conversations interview with Omaha Sen. Bob Krist.

For the full interview, where the senator discusses alcohol compliance checks, child welfare contracting and legislative procedures, go here

Participate: What would YOU ask Neb. Sen. Galen Hadley?

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This Wednesday for “Capitol Conversations,” NET News reporter Fred Knapp will be interviewing Nebraska state Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney. Sen. Hadley is sponsoring a bill  to give hospital-owned health clinics a sales tax exemption; he’s also sponsoring a bill that would increase state aid to schools.

What would YOU ask the senator? Reply with your question/s, and the best will be put to the senator during the interview.


Learn more:

Sen. Hadley’s unicameral page
Senator Hadley’s official website