April 19, 2014

Chambers extracts his pound of flesh on final day (AUDIO)

Sen. Ernie Chambers

Sen. Ernie Chambers gestures during his delaying tactics on final day of the legislative session

State lawmakers wouldn’t give him what he wanted, so Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha made them pay on the last day of the legislative session.

Chambers, angry that twice state legislators failed to give him the votes to overturn a veto of his bill to ban the hunting of mountain lions, slowed legislative work to a crawl on the 60th day of the 60-day legislative session.

“What some think was the end of the war will turn out to be what is called a Pyrrhic victory. You waste all of your resources and you win a battle, but you have so weakened yourself that you then lose the war.,” Chambers told the legislature, adding a warning, “The war is not over.”

Chambers vowed to continue his effort to ban the hunting of mountain lions during next year’s legislative session.

Chambers turned what should have been a quick succession of final votes into a day-long affair, speaking on each bill before allowing them to come to a final vote.

Chambers’ bill to ban mountain lion hunts, LB 671, initially passed on a 31-5 vote. Opposition mounted against the measure, though. An agreement ended a threatened filibuster against on final reading, a rarity in the Unicameral. It eventually passed on a 28-13 vote, two votes short of the total needed to override a veto.

Chambers twice moved to override the veto and twice fell just short of the votes needed. On the final try, Chambers claimed he had been deceived by legislators who promised him to vote to override the veto, but failed to live up to their promises.

The legislature gave authorization to the Game and Parks Commission to hold mountain lion hunts in 2012 on a 49-0 vote.

Two male mountain lions were taken in the first hunt authorized by Game and Parks this year.

One hunter paid more than $13,000 for one permit. A teen-ager won the second permit through a lottery.

The second hunt ended when a female mountain lion was taken.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Water sustainability bill signed into law by Gov. Heineman (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman signs LB 1098 into law as its sponsor, Sen. Tom Carlson looks on

Gov. Dave Heineman signs LB 1098 into law as its sponsor, Sen. Tom Carlson looks on

A bill designed to maintain Nebraska’s greatest natural resource, its water, has been signed into law by Gov. Dave Heineman.

Heineman signed into law LB 1098, the water sustainability bill, which he says should insure that Nebraska has the water it needs both for agricultural and city uses for years to come.

“This is a difficult and challenging issue and this legislation is aimed at planning for better future water use in our state,” Heineman tells reporters during a news conference. “We’ll also be expanding the Natural Resources Commission from 16 members to 27 members. The commission will include a diversity of water users in our state, including ground water and surface water irrigators, public power districts, and wildlife conservation groups as well as others involved in agriculture.”

The bill was an outgrowth of the work of the Water Sustainability Task Force which worked through the second half of last year.

Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege, a Republican candidate for governor, sponsored the bill that created the task force a year ago and, this year, sponsored the legislation that grew from its work.

“And I believe that 1098 will be remembered as a bill that helped make water sustainability a possibility for generations to come,” Carlson says.

Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial says the bill will spur basin-wide planning for both groundwater and surface irrigation for the vast Republican River Basin.

“From the Colorado line all the way down to almost Superior, Nebraska; that’s a huge area in this state. And it will allow everybody to sit down at the same table and work out a solution,” Christensen says.

The law aims to address water management, water quality, and flood control issues. It also creates the Water Sustainability Fund.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman holds a news conference to sign LB 1098. [8 min.]

Be prepared for severe weather by attending Lincoln symposium

CloudsSpringtime weather can quickly turn hazardous and Nebraskans of all ages need to be educated about the risks. The annual Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium will be held this weekend at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

UNL climatologist Ken Dewey says the offerings will include what’s called Family Weatherfest.

“We have 12 stations with hands-on activities for families that are engaged in weather for little kids all the way to the grandparents,” Dewey says. “We have exhibitors throughout the building and in the auditorium, we also have speakers.”

One of those speakers will be talking about last year’s devastating flooding in Colorado.

“Bob Henson will talk about those floods that occured in Colorado, not a once in a 100, not a once in a 200, but once in 500-year flood, 16-inches of rain in Boulder, Colorado, incredible flooding and that floodwater made its way to the Platte River.”

Dewey says another presentation will focus on weather myths. There will also be a talk by a forecaster at the national Storm Prediction Center about last year’s deadly Oklahoma tornadoes.

“Talking about what it was like to be at the Storm Prediction Center forecasting those tornadoes and what information the SPC uses to help keep us safe up here when our severe weather season kicks in,” Dewey says.

National Weather Service meteorologist Barb Mayes will discuss this past year’s severe weather in Nebraska and talk about what we might be able to expect in the spring and summer ahead.

The symposium is Saturday and includes weather spotter training at 2 P-M. Family Weatherfest runs from 9 A-M to 2 P-M. All events are at the UNL East Campus at 3310 Holdrege Street in Lincoln.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice 

Boaters: Beware of water flow changes near Gavins Point

Gavins-Point-DamBoaters on the Missouri River near Gavins Point Dam are being advised water releases that normally flow through the powerhouse will instead be released from the spillway for the next few months.

Dave Becker, the operations manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the dam, says the change is due to work that’s getting underway at the powerhouse.

“We have a couple of projects going on in the power plant, replacing some transformers, replacing some piping and things like that,” Becker says. “We will not be able to run our normal flows through the power plant, so, we’ll be running water through the spillway and will be doing that through about mid-summer.”

Becker says those spillway flows will have an effect on downstream boaters and fishermen.

“When the spillway is running, we have a restricted area marked by a couple of signs and a buoy that restrict the boaters from coming up any further for safety reasons,” Becker says. “One of the main reasons we wanted to get this out is so people know these are going to be the boating conditions for the next few months.”

Water releases from the dam are now running at near-normal levels. Becker says they expect “fairly normal” water flows in the year ahead.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton

Gov. Heineman: President will decide Keystone “in a couple of months” (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman confirmed today President Obama has indicated a decision on Keystone XL could be coming in a matter of months.

Heineman said the president made his remarks about Keystone during a meeting with members of the National Governors Association when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal suggested the president should grant TransCanada’s presidential permit.

“And, again, it was at that moment that the president said, ‘I will be making a decision on Keystone in the next couple of months. Some of you will be happy. Some of you won’t.’” Heineman told reporters during a conference call this morning. “So, I’m not going to try to interpret or guess what that decision is going to be other than to say after five years America does need a decision.”

Heineman was among the group of governors who discussed a wide range of issues in a private meeting with President Obama, issues that included energy and the Keystone XL pipeline.

The governor said the time period might remain a bit vague, but seemed to indicate a decision would be made soon.

“I did not interpret, nor do I think he meant, an indefinite period of time. He said a couple of months,” Heineman stated. “Does that mean two months, three months, four months? But, it would be in that time frame, I would think.”

In the meantime, the 2012 state law, LB 1161, remains in limbo until the courts decide its status. Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled it unconstitutional, stating the Nebraska Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission and that the Unicameral could not transfer that power to the governor.

Attorney General Jon Bruning immediately filed an appeal of the ruling.

Heineman expressed confidence the appeal will prove successful.

“I believe we passed a constitutional law. Every lawyer in the legislature, expect for one, voted for it. We’ve got some very smart lawyers down there. The Attorney General was involved in those conversations. He thinks it’s constitutional. We’re going to appeal it and we are hopeful that the Nebraska Supreme Court will overturn that decision,” Heineman stated.

Heineman said the legal fight over whether the state law re-routing the pipeline is constitutional is a separate issue.

“He never made any comment on that,” Heineman said. “I have believed for a long period of time that the president could make his decision regardless of what we are dong out here in Nebraska. Because, his decision is about crossing the international border.”

Heineman added he believes the president could have made a decision on Keystone a long time ago.

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TransCanada insists Keystone XL route through Nebraska remains valid.

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AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman discusses the president’s remarks on Keystone XL. [1:35]