October 1, 2014

Gov. Heineman issues disaster declaration for Dakota City

Gov. Dave Heineman has issued a disaster declaration for Dakota City in wake of the severe storm that hit the city the last day of August.

The storm of hail, damaging winds, and heavy rains caused significant damage to public infrastructure.

“This was a short-lived, localized event and in issuing this declaration, I am authorizing expenditures through the Governor’s Emergency Fund to assist in the community’s recovery,” Heineman said in a written statement issued by his office.

The money will be used to restore damaged public infrastructure. Representatives from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have conducted a preliminary damage assessment of the area, according to the governor’s office.

Gov. Heineman defends work to correct sentencing miscalculations

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman said today his administration continues to work to correct miscalculations on prison sentencing that led to the premature release of hundreds of inmates.

A new report by the Omaha World-Herald discloses that 51 inmates released early committed 33 felonies and 102 misdemeanors during the time they should have been behind bars.

“Again, we gave a comment to the World-Herald,” Heineman told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. “Again, as we look into these situations, some of them have gone before a judge since then. There’s a pre-sentence calculation. The judges gave them a sentence and those are being carried out. Now, some of this is going to be involved in litigation.”

The World-Herald also reports a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling requires prisoners to serve the skipped portions of their sentences if they committed crimes during their premature release.

Heineman says he believes most of the errors that led to the premature release of prison inmates have been corrected.

But, the governor acknowledges there might still be problems.

“Now, as I’ve said before are there going to be one or two, particularly where you have a situation where the crime was committed, then the law was changed and the sentencing was done after that law changed? But, I think even most of those have been corrected,” according to Heineman. “And I think going forward they’ve instituted new procedures to prevent that from occurring in the future, because they are going to get the judge’s sentencing order.”

Heineman insists there is more accountability at Corrections.

“Well, you know, look there were a lot of mistakes made. We’ve accepted the responsibility. We’re moving forward,” Heineman stated. “We’ve corrected those mistakes, but I’ve said over and over again, the legislature has accountability here to and so does the judiciary.”

State Sen. John Nelson sworn-in as new Lt. Governor

Sec. of State John Gale swears in John Nelson as Lt. Governor. Attending (L-R) Nelson son Andrew, wife Judy, and Gov. Dave Heineman

Sec. of State John Gale swears in John Nelson as Lt. Governor. Attending (L-R) Nelson son Andrew, wife Judy, and Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman has selected Omaha state Senator John Nelson as the new lieutenant governor, serving out the remaining three months of the Heineman Administration.

Heineman said Nelson is a perfect candidate to fill the vacancy left with the resignation of Lavon Heidemann.

“I chose him, because John is a respected public official, he’s a veteran, and he’s been a very successful attorney and I have great respect for him,” Heineman said after a swearing in ceremony at the Capitol.

Heineman was forced to choose his third lieutenant governor after Lavon Heidemann stepped down when his sister received a protection order against him in wake of a family dispute. Heidemann had been chosen to replace Rick Sheehy, who was asked to resign after the inappropriate use of a state-issued cell phone with a number of women, none of whom were his wife.

Nelson said he first considered the position after he got a call from someone close to him shortly after Heidemann made his decision.

“Someone did give me a call and said, ‘Are you interested? You really ought to apply for lieutenant governor with your background.’” Nelson told reporters after being sworn in. “And I said I would think about it. And I did think about it and so I did indicate to the governor that I would be interested in serving approximately three months, for the remainder of the year.”

Nelson had been forced to leave the Unicameral due to term limits. He is an attorney from Omaha.

Nelson said it’s an honor to serve in the administration of Gov. Heinemann.

“I’m interested in public policy,” Nelson said. “We don’t know what’s going to come to pass in the next three months, but I think with my background, especially my military background, in light of the things I’m expected to do, I probably was a logical candidate to serve and I was certainly willing to do that; to resign from the legislature and probably wind up my political career as lieutenant governor.”

Nelson has resigned from the legislature to begin serving in his new role.

Nelson first won election to the legislature, District Six, in 2006. He has been in private practice as an attorney since 1964. He retired as Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

Gov. Heineman presses need to change “good time” law (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman insists the Nikko Jenkins case demonstrates the need to replace the automatic good time law for state inmates and he rejects efforts to implicate others in the four murders he is alleged to have committed.

Legislative hearings on prison sentence miscalculations have also focused on the case of Nikko Jenkins, accused of killing four in Omaha after being released early from prison. Questions have arisen over whether the Department of Correctional Services could have provided more mental health treatment for Jenkins or could have found a way to keep him from being released.

Gov. Heineman says he will leave it to the professionals to assess the mental state of Nikko Jenkins.

“But I know this fact: Nikko Jenkins murdered four Nebraskans,” Heineman tells reporters during a Capitol news conference. “The Department of Corrections didn’t do that. The Omaha Police Department didn’t do it. The Nebraska State Patrol didn’t do it. Nikko Jenkins did that.”

Corrections officials have said state law required them to release Jenkins. The case drew attention to the state “good time” law, which automatically credits prison inmates with a day of good behavior for each day served, essentially cutting prison sentences in half.

Heineman proposed changing the law during the last legislative session to require inmates to earn any credit for good behavior. The Unicameral never took up the measure.

Heineman said the current law, sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, needs an overhaul.

“This is one where Sen. Chambers and the legislature are out of touch with Nebraskans.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports.  [:45]

Options presented to replace the VA hospital in Omaha

Nebraska’s Washington delegation met with the Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald this week to voice concerns about the condition of the V-A Medical Center at 42nd and Woolworth Streets in Omaha.   Congressman Lee Terry says this is the first time in years he is optimistic that something will be done about the deteriorating facility. 

Congressman Terry says they presented three options to Secretary McDonald. The first option is to have the private sector build a new hospital and then lease it to the government. The second option is to renovate the current CHI-Creighton University Medical Center building on 30th Street when they relocate. The third is to lease current space at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Congressman Terry says that option was presented but not discussed.

Congressman Terry says the cost to replace the current facility with a new building is estimated at $560-million. The cost to renovate CHI-Creighton’s building is $250-million.

Veterans Affairs is sending a representative to Omaha to do an in-house inspection of the current facility, Congressman Terry says the last inspection was in 2007 and then it was given a “D” or and “F”.