Addressing climate change does not seem to be much on the minds of the Legislature this year (after year). One exception will get a public hearing Monday February 11 when the legislature’s Executive Board hears testimony on Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks proposal LB 283.

283 would direct the University to develop a “ strategic action plan” to find ways of adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change in the state. The plan, not to exceed more than $250 thousand, would be due 12/15/20. It would be funded through the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Fund. That fund comes primarily from tire and landfill fees and generates 3-4 million dollars annually. It gave out more than 4 million in grants to local communities in 2017 so it seems like it could afford this one time expense.

Coincidentally (or not) LB 367, which extends the Fund another 5 years, would prohibit the Legislature from transferring money out of that fund to the General Fund. Now maybe this can be read as protecting the recycling fund from Senators trying to balance the state budget. I don’t have info on whether it’s been raided before. But, it also might be used to prevent funding for 283 which would be harder to pass with a straight up appropriation by a tax fearing legislature. As bills are numbered chronologically 283 came first and so it is possible that that part of 367 is in response. Regardless, this appropriation is going to look like pretty small potatoes before very long if elected representatives at all levels don’t get serious about global warming today .

The hearing starts at noon in Room 1525 of the state capitol. If you can’t make it but want to express your thoughts you need to email them to the chair of the Executive Board, mhilgers@leg.ne.gov,  by 5pm Friday Feb 8th. If you do go and arrive right at noon you get the bonus of also hearing testimony on designating corn as the state vegetable.

Shut down tars sands, not our government

Of the 5 proposed pipelines to move tar sands sludge from Canada to refineries or export terminals, 2 have been shut down and 2 have been delayed and forced to start over (including Keystone XL last November).  That leave just the Enbridge Line 3 across Minnesota, which because it crosses numerous bodies of water needs approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.  For more background you can go here https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/expanding-the-line-3-tar-sands-pipeline-would-put-water-and-climate-at-risk/ 

The Corps began a 30 day comment period just before the holidays  ( of course ) so there is very little time to submit a comment but the folks at Greenpeace have streamlined the process.  You can submit a comment through their website https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/



Mixed Results In 2018

Although there weren’t many surprises in our recent election cycle usually there are none at all,  and so,  a brief look back through the settled dust.

Voter turnout: 696 thousand Nebraskans voted this time around out of a possible 1.2 million who are registered for a turnout of 57%.  While not as high as a presidential election year ( 2016 was 71%) it was still a solid increase over 2014’s 48 % rate. According to the Secretary of State website Republicans hold a statewide 48 – 31 percent advantage over Democrats in registered voters with 20% remaining or defaulting to independent or non-partisan as it is officially termed. Libertarians have .01 % and Greens are not currently recognized and need to petition again to get ballot status.

Money turnout: As usual more dollars turned out to vote than people.  Open Secrets (opensecrets.org) reports that a combined $12.3 million was raised for Nebraska’s House and Senate races this cycle, 56% by Republicans and 40% by Democrats. In the Senate race Republican Deb Fischer out-begged her opponent Jane Raybould by a 3-1 margin (about $6 million to $2 million) with some 90% of  Fischer’s money coming from PACs and what Open Secrets calls “large individual contributions”.  The Bacon vs Eastman race in the 2nd Congressional District was much closer with Bacon having the slight edge of 2.48 million to Eastman’s 2.35 million(which was raised with Eastman refusing PAC contributions). Bacon retained his seat by just 2 percentage points 51-49.

One other interesting note can be found at Open Secrets by going to the Nebraska page through their search box and clicking on the Donor menu. There you will find that TD Ameritrade , not the organization itself but its owners (Ricketts family) their employees and their PACs, spent more than $3.7 million around the country (including Nebraska of course) just on congressional elections. This is 10 times what the next highest donor spent and about as much as the rest of the top 20 donors in Nebraska combined.

Results: As expected most incumbents at the state level were reelected, Bacon by just 6500 votes, Fortenberry and Smith by remaining invisible. In broad terms the 20% who are non-partisans split evenly enough that Democrats could not overcome the registration advantage held by Republicans. What was a slight surprise is that Initiative 427, to expand Medicaid to some of the working poor, won by 6-7 points mostly on the strength of urban and suburban voters. And while pipeline and climate activists came just short of “flipping” the Public Service Commission to a more progressive makeup, a real clean energy advocate, Eric Williams was elected to the OPPD Board.

Looking ahead: After 3 terms as Secretary of State, John Gale is stepping aside and his elected replacement,  Bob Evnen, has declared support for more stringent voter ID laws so we need to keep a lookout in that direction.   Even though the Democrats picked up a couple seats in the state legislature it remains solidly Republican and only nominally non-partisan.

November 6th is Closer Than You Think

Election Day is speeding toward us and whether that fills you with anticipation or dread or both we need to remember the basics. Since you’re here on the Nebraska Greens website most of this may be old news but a reminder or a how-to for friends and relatives is often helpful.

Until we pass some form of universal voter registration (a topic for another column) you still have to register to vote if you have never done so before or if you have changed your name, address or party affiliation. You can do this a number of ways: in person at your county election office; online at the Nebraska Secretary of State website https://www.nebraska.gov/apps-sos-voter-registration/  ; at the DMV office when you get or renew a drivers license; or at Dept. of Health and Human Services or the Dept. of Education when you register for programs with those departments. The registration deadline this year is Friday October 19th for all of these methods except registering at your county election office which is Friday October 26th.

And until we make Election Day a federal holiday (also another interesting discussion) many of us may need to vote early or by mail. You can vote early in person at your county election office through the end of business hours the day before the election. If you prefer to have your early/absentee ballot mailed to you, you need to request it from the county election office by October 19th.  Go to http://www.sos.ne.gov/elec/clerks.html to find information on your county election office. It can be returned in person or by mail anytime before 8pm on Election Day.

Finally, if you aren’t sure where to vote – perhaps you have moved or you lost the little card the election office sent you – you can also go to the look-up page at the Sec. of State site https://www.votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/VoterView/ If you are registered and feel you are in the right place but still run into a challenge at your polling place remember you can ask for a provisional ballot.

Daily vigil at Governor’s Mansion to oppose death penalty

From the Lincoln Journal Star:

Lisa Knopp has known condemned Nebraska inmate Carey Dean Moore for 23 years.

On Thursday over the noon hour she stood in front of the governor’s mansion with about 30 other death penalty opponents showing their disapproval of Nebraska’s scheduled execution of Moore.

She carried a sign: “We remember the victims but not with more killing.”

She didn’t want to elaborate on Moore’s decision to stop fighting his execution, scheduled for Aug. 14, but she did say that the entire time she’s known him he’s been weary of the process, exhausted by it.

Moore, who killed two Omaha cab drivers in the summer of 1979, has been on death row 38 years. He has told the Nebraska Supreme Court to dismiss his attorneys, that he doesn’t want anyone to file anything on his behalf.

But Knopp is morally opposed to state executions, and said Moore’s death would be difficult for her even if she didn’t know him so well.

Upcoming events: Solar XL, soil regeneration, bees

From Bold Nebraska: Solar XL Install #3

  • WHEN: Friday, July 13, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • WHERE: Allpress Ranch near Naper (directions with RSVP)
  • WHAT: The Solar XL installations will help power the homes, farms, and Indigenous spirit camps of communities resisting the pipeline. This clean and renewable energy project stands in contrast to the threat posed by Keystone XL to land and water, Indigenous rights, and the climate.
  • RSVP: Let us know you’re coming, and we’ll e-mail you the directions.

From The Ross: Dreaming of a Vetter World

  • WHEN: Sunday, July 15, 3 p.m.
  • WHERE: The Ross, Lincoln
  • WHAT: Dreaming of a Vetter World comes at a time when interest in regenerating soil has exploded worldwide. Others are realizing what the Vetters have known for decades: Soil is key to our very survival. Check out this special showing, Q&A with Director Bonnie Hawthorne, David Vetter et al, plus free reception and hors d’oeuvres.
  • Read more.

From the Nebraska League of Conservation Voters: Presentation on Pollinators

  • WHEN: July 22, 7 p.m.
  • WHERE: Unitarian Church in Lincoln, 6300 A Street
  • WHAT: Celebrate our planet’s busy (and vitally important) bees! Judy Wu-Smart will present on pollinators: how they help us, how the environment impacts their health, and how we can help them thrive.

Student-led discussion: What’s Next on Guns?

Consider joining this student-led discussion on the practical steps we can all take to decrease gun violence in our society:

  • Monday, June 18, 7 to 9 p.m.
  • Unitarian Church of Lincoln, 6300 A St., Lincoln

Panelists will include Isabel Boussan, Lincoln East High School; Jadyn Keller, Northeast High School; Jack Buchanan, Lincoln High Sschool; Bouthaina Ebrahim, Northeast High School; Maia Ramsey, Lincoln High School graduate.

The discussion will be bipartisan. Several panelists from among the Lincoln high school students who demonstrated after the Parkland massacre will discuss what they hope to do next to reduce gun violence in our society. They will be discussing, with Nebraskans of all viewpoints, how we can solve an issue that has plagued our state for decades. We all have come in contact with some sort of gun violence, not only in schools, but also concerts, movies, hate crimes and gang shootings. Not an anti-gun rally, this is an open discussion that should lead to our making actual changes quickly and by all means possible.

Gun violence is no idle concern. The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, goes down as one of the deadliest in U. S. history. It is not isolated. Gun Violence Archive says that about 150 U. S. mass shootings occurred between 1967 and 2017, about eight people killed per incident. Indeed, mass killings are becoming more frequent. Now about 6,000 people in the U.S. die each year from gun violence. To show concern, after the Parkland massacre, high school students throughout the country, including the students from Lincoln, Omaha and several Nebraska towns, demonstrated on March 14 to say, “Never again.” Now we wish to explore how to say it effectively.

In this discussion, people with different perspectives will be encouraged to share their viewpoints, so we can arrive at constructive action steps and move forward. We are urging the community to join us as we continue to strive for positive change. The panelists will each discuss for about 10 to 15 minutes. A person in government active in the gun discussion will follow and examine the student suggestions. Open discussion follows. Coffee and snacks served.

Sponsored by the Lincoln Chapter of Nebraskans for Peace, The Friends Meeting House, Antelope Park Church of the Brethren, The Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, National Association of Social Workers, and Nebraskans for Peace.

Green Drinks in Omaha Wednesday, May 23

This is a friendly reminder that Omaha Green Drinks will be taking place at The Whole Foods Market in Omaha, Wednesday, May 23! We are teaming up with the Green Omaha Coalition to renew acquaintances, meet new faces, and celebrate all those who embody a shared mission of promoting a greener Omaha:

  • Wednesday, May 23, 2018
  • 5:30 to 8 p.m.
  • Whole Foods Market (10020 Regency Circle, Omaha)

Carpool, cycle, walk, or ride the bus! This is a great way to network, inspire, share ideas, and catch up with other “Green” people! Please RSVP on Facebook.

Looking forward to seeing you!

LJS Editorial: Demand accountability for death-penalty decisions

From the Lincoln Journal Star editorial board:

Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty in 2016 as a means of ensuring the state’s most heinous murderers are held accountable for their crimes.

Accountability must also extend to the state officials responsible for implementing and carrying out capital punishment. Despite repeated efforts – and now, lawsuits and potential subpoenas – those in positions of authority have hypocritically refused to open themselves up to such scrutiny.

Carrying out the ultimate punishment of ending a person’s life comes with the utmost responsibility because of the gravity of the situation. Yet the state’s refusal to do so brings an ever-increasing number of lawsuits and legal costs. Most recently, the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee received subpoena power to seek information on the death penalty protocol that’s remained hidden.

“We’re just trying to make sure that the process was followed,” said Crete Sen. Laura Ebke, chair of the Judiciary Committee. “If the state is going to put someone to death, then we ought to at least make sure that we’re following our own rules for doing so.”

Amen to that.

Read the full editorial.