July 1, 2015

AG Peterson doesn’t like it, but says state will comply with same-sex ruling


Attorney General Doug Peterson

Nebraska has dropped its appeal of a federal court ruling striking down the state ban on same-sex marriage.

The action comes in wake of the United States Supreme Court ruling granting same-sex couples across the nation the right to marry.

Attorney General Doug Peterson says the state will comply with the ruling.

That doesn’t mean he agrees with it.

Peterson says the opinion doesn’t seem to be based on a recognized constitutional right.

“But, rather it is more of an outcome that the court wanted to get to, more of a public policy approach and public policy should be defined by the legislative branch, not the judicial branch,” Peterson tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Peterson cautions those applauding the ruling.

“Some people may find that they approve of the ruling today, but there can be another time where they again create a constitutional right that someone may not be happy about,” according to Peterson. “I don’t think the framers of our Constitution wanted to give that much power to the Supreme Court.”

In 2000, Nebraska voters approved a constitutional amendment that limited marriage to one man, one woman. It survived an earlier challenge in federal court, but faced a second one. That latest challenge was suspended while the United States Supreme Court took up the issue.

Peterson says the courts have historically left the definition of marriage up to the states, but the Supreme Court ruling today changes that.

“Because, I think, of the tide that’s changed across the country. That’s not what courts should do. They should stay to the rule of law and not be dictated by what the current, popular theme is, because frankly some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you,” Peterson says. “If people like courts acting outside the scope of the Constitution, it may be good for them one day and it may be down the road something that they’re going to disdain.”

Peterson says basing the Supreme Court ruling on the 14th Amendment is a bit of a stretch.

Supreme Court clears way for same-sex marriage in Nebraska

A United States Supreme Court ruling has legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, striking down Nebraska’s definition, which limited marriage to one man, one woman.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right and that states must recognize the union of same sex couples.

The office of Gov. Pete Ricketts issued the following statement:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken and ruled state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. While 70 percent of Nebraskans approved our amendment to our state constitution that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, the highest court in the land has ruled states cannot place limits on marriage between same-sex couples. We will follow the law and respect the ruling outlined by the court.”

Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state will comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

“Recognizing the rule of law, the State of Nebraska will comply with the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell. Nebraska officials will not enforce any Nebraska laws that are contrary to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell,” Peterson said at the end of a long written response to the ruling issued by his office.

In the statement, Peterson criticized the ruling.

Today five Supreme Court Justices created a new constitutional right based upon sexual choices. The Constitution doesn’t speak, one way or the other, to the question of same-sex marriage. Under our system of federalism, the definition of marriage as a male-female union is properly a matter of state law. I agree with Chief Justice Robert’s contention that “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent.”

The Court overstepped its proper role in our system of government. Instead of interpreting and applying the law, the Court invented a new constitutional right. Nothing in the Constitution mandates a nationwide redefinition of marriage.  Sadly, the Court stripped all Americans of our freedom to debate and decide marriage policy through the democratic process. The freedom to democratically address the most pressing social issues of the day is the heart of liberty. The Court took that freedom from the people.

Both Ricketts and Sasse are Republicans.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican, issued the following statement after the Supreme Court handed down its decision on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges:

“Today’s ruling is a disappointment to Nebraskans who understand that marriage brings a wife and husband together so their children can have a mom and dad. The Supreme Court once again overstepped its Constitutional role by acting as a super-legislature and imposing its own definition of marriage on the American people rather than allowing voters to decide in the states.”

Congressman Brad Ashford, a Democrat, issued this statement:

“I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling which makes clear that discrimination against anyone based on their sexual orientation has no place in America. Same-sex marriage bans impose countless burdens and indignities on gay and lesbian couples and their children and serve no legitimate governmental objective. Today the Court moved to guarantee equal protection under the law, as our Constitution promises, by striking down same-sex marriage bans throughout the country.”

“This decision does not ask individuals to abandon their principles on the issue, but rather, to accept that this country is overwhelmingly diverse, and we must embrace those who might not hold our same beliefs. The many differences of individuals are what make this a great nation. As we celebrate this decision I commit to continue working for equality for all Nebraskans in the future.”

Aftermath of ACA ruling: repeal it or fix it? (AUDIO)

In the aftermath of yet another ruling by the Supreme Court on the federal health insurance law competing calls have been issued: get rid of it versus fix it.

A Supreme Court ruling keeps subsidies in place for those getting health insurance through the federal exchange, a crucial victory for the Affordable Care Act.

Most of the Nebraska Congressional delegation disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling, based primarily on their opposition to the law itself.

They also stand by their insistence the law should be repealed.

“We need to scrap the law. It is unworkable. It becomes obvious it is more and more unworkable and more and more costly,” U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican, tells Nebraska reporters during her weekly conference call.

Fischer claims to have received more than 18,000 complaints from constituents to her office about the ACA, from high premiums for health insurance to problems with retaining their current doctor.

Congressman Adrian Smith, a Republican, tells reporters during a conference call that the federal health insurance law simply hasn’t lived up to his promises.

“When you look back at the promises that the president made about this health care proposal then and the law now. Let me just say it’s discouraging, if not maddening,” Smith said.

Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s office released a statement of the Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell:

“The decision is a bit of a surprise. There was a level of optimism that a different court ruling could pave the way for a more reasoned discussion about the right type of healthcare reform, while also protecting newly insured. Now the country continues to face skyrocketing prices, diminishing choice and healthcare cartels. We need a new healthcare architecture that will reduce costs, improve outcomes, and protect vulnerable persons.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican, ran for Senate last year on a number of issues, yet emphasized his opposition to the ACA. He says he hasn’t changed his stance.

“I think we need to repeal Obamacare and start over with a patient-centric alternative,” Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network. “But, obviously, the conversation about repeal needs to be had at the same time that you’re explaining what you’d replace it with.”

Sasse says the issue needs to be a central part of the presidential election in 2016 and, again, he says Republican presidential candidates need to present an alternative, not just criticize the current law.

Not everyone in the delegation agrees the law should be scrapped.

“It doesn’t need to be repealed,” Congressman Brad Ashford, a Democrat, tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Ashford agrees the ACA has problems, but says Congress needs to fix it and he doesn’t want to wait until the 2016 presidential election.

“We can’t wait for the next president to find a solution,” according to Ashford, “I mean, the premiums are going up now, not two years from now. They’re going up now.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Supreme Court ruling keeps intact health subsidies for Nebraskans

The United States Supreme Court has upheld subsidies for federal health care exchanges, such as the system in Nebraska.

The court, in a 6-3 decision, rejected a claim that the subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act are limited to state exchanges.

James Goddard with Nebraska Appleseed applauds the ruling.

“It’s a huge victory for almost 57,000 Nebraskans,” Goddard tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “This insures they’ll continue to be able to access health insurance. So, it’s great news for them. It’s great news for our state.”

The decision in King v. Burwell affects 34 states with health exchanges run by the federal government, including Nebraska where 57,000 receive subsidies to offset the cost of health insurance.

Goddard says now the debate in Nebraska should shift to another issue.

“And the next step should really be to expand Medicaid in Nebraska and insure everyone is able to get health coverage, because we still have nearly 77,000 folks who are locked out of our health insurance systems,” Goddard says.

The U.S. Supreme Court in an earlier decision, ruled the federal government cannot force states to expand Medicaid under the federal health insurance law. Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Nebraska have been unable to overcome opposition in the Unicameral.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.

Fischer pleased fast-track trade authority heading to president (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer

Fast-track trade legislation has passed the Senate and been sent to the president.

It took a second try, but Trade Promotion Authority, better known as fast-track trade legislation, has passed.

The United States Senate voted 60-to-38 to approve TPA. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. TPA is a key piece of the president’s economic development package.

TPA gives authority to a presidential administration to negotiate a trade deal with another country. The deal will be submitted to Congress for approval on an up-or-down vote without amendments.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer dismisses concerns fast-track gives a presidential administration too much power in trade deals with other countries.

“Because Congress does set the principles in the negotiation process and Congress will be a part of that process now, because both the House and the Senate have to vote on any trade agreement,” Fischer tells Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview.

TPA got hung up in the House of Representatives a couple of weeks ago. The main bill squeezed to passage in the House, but failed to move forward when a companion piece went down to defeat, killing the trade legislation package.

House leadership pushed forward a stripped down version, which passed again by a narrow margin.

Fischer sees trade as vital to the Nebraska economy, which exports $9 billion in goods and services each year, $7 billion from the agricultural sector alone.

“I think Nebraskans are fully aware of the very, very positive impact trade has on the state,” Fischer says.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]