October 9, 2015

Sen. Fischer takes cautious approach on TPP

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

United States Senator Deb Fischer takes a cautious approach to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

“As you know, that just came out. We are looking that over very carefully,” Fischer says in response to a question during her weekly conference call with Nebraska reporters. “I know there are many Nebraskans individually and many Nebraska organizations that are also looking over that treaty very carefully. I’m not going to jump one way or the other on it right now. I want to be sure we know what’s in it and what affect it will have on the people in Nebraska and our economy.”

Fischer acknowledges agriculture stands to benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but says she wants to study the agreement and the impact it might have on the Nebraska economy.

“Ag, of course, is the economic engine of the economy in the state of Nebraska. That is very important to understand the affect that this treaty would have on all aspects of agriculture,” according to Fischer. “But, we also have to look more broadly on the affects it’s going to have, say, on intellectual property, how it’s going to affect patents.”

TPP is agreement among 12 counties, including the United States. It focuses on Pacific Rim countries, but also includes countries in North and South America.

The agreement is likely to come before Congress next year.

Congressman Fortenberry urges Congress to move forward on Iran (AUDIO)

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says opponents of the Iran nuclear deal now have to look forward, rather than merely criticize the agreement.

Fortenberry opposed the deal which could allow Iran to become a threshold nuclear state in 15 years.

Now that it has been signed, Fortenberry says Congress should set up a bicameral oversight committee to keep watch over how the deal is implemented.

“To not wait for the State Department or the International Atomic Energy Agency to give Congress information back as to how the verification mechanisms are proceeding, but to have our own mechanism inside of Congress to watch this very carefully to insure that there’s not cheating,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Fortenberry says the United States must not give up on Iran.

He says there is a strong minority of Iranians who want a better relationship with the West. The Congressman sees the next generation of Iranians as more inclined to reestablish a relationship with the United States, severed with the hostage taking in the late 1970s.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]


New Passport Center opens in Omaha

The U-S Postal Service in Omaha is streamlining the process for getting a passport. Customer Relations Coordinator Roger Humphries says the new Passport Center at 136th and Q Streets in Millard officially opened today.

There are several changes in the passport process. Humphries says the four other processing centers will no longer issue passports. All applications must be done through the new Passport Center.

Humphries says there are several advantages.   He says, “It has been taking 20 minutes or longer to get a passport and plus it has been harder to get an appointment. By combining them into one location and concentrating on just passports, we have found we can decrease that to 10 minutes or less. We think this is a win-win not only for the Post Office but for our customers.”

Humphries says the new Passport Center has extended hours. The new hours are until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday until 5 p.m. Humphries says this will be more convenient for those who couldn’t make an appointment during work hours or during weekdays. It is also recommended that customers download and fill out all the necessary forms prior to making an appointment. Appointments are still necessary and can be made by calling 402-891-1922. Those with questions can also email omahapassportcenter@usps.gov.

Sen. Fischer: shutting down the government doesn’t accomplish anything (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer

United States Senator Deb Fischer says she voted for a short-term budget bill, because shutting down the federal government doesn’t accomplish anything.

Fischer voted to keep the government funded after the Senate defeated a measure to defund Planned Parenthood.

“I’ve learned in 2013, my first year, that shutting down the government doesn’t accomplish anything,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.

Fischer, a Republican, says that even in the face of a budget crisis, Democratic leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama refused to negotiate with Republicans on the budget.

The Senate first voted on a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in wake of controversial videos which appear to catch Planned Parenthood officials discussing the trafficking of fetal tissues and organs. Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied breaking any federal laws.

The effort to take money from Planned Parenthood couldn’t even muster 50 votes.

After that effort failed, the Senate approved a short-term spending bill that didn’t touch Planned Parenthood funding and averted a federal government shutdown when its fiscal year began October first.

Fischer acknowledges disappointment efforts to take money from Planned Parenthood have failed. She says the only way Congress will succeed is through legislation sponsored by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst which would shift the funding from Planned Parenthood to federal-approved medical clinics.

Fischer says that though initial efforts have failed, she isn’t ready to give up.

“But even with the frustrations that we feel on this and many other issues, that doesn’t mean you give up the fight.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Gov. Ricketts fires state Economic Development Director

Brenda Hicks-Sorensen

Brenda Hicks-Sorensen

Gov. Pete Ricketts has fired state Economic Development Director Brenda Hicks-Sorensen.

“Over the past two years, I have traveled the state more than anyone else and led two international trade missions. During these travels, it became clear to me that Nebraska needs to do more to market our state both nationally and globally. Nebraska’s future ability to grow jobs is contingent on leadership that is able to accomplish these goals,” Ricketts said in a written statement released by the governor’s office.

“At this time, I want to thank Brenda for her service to the State of Nebraska. My administration and the Department of Economic Development will continue to prioritize growing Nebraska and aggressively building an agency centered on promoting Nebraska’s business friendly climate and encouraging investment in our state.”

Ricketts stated an interim director will be named shortly. The search for Hicks-Sorensen’s replacement will begin immediately.

Hicks-Sorensen began work as the director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development in mid-January after a national search. She served as vice president with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation before moving to Nebraska.

No mention was made in the governor’s news release about the loss of the ConAgra Foods headquarters, but the firing came on the same day that ConAgra announced it would move its headquarters from Omaha to Chicago.

The governor’s office says the same private search firm involved with the search for Hicks-Sorensen will be used in the search for the next director.