December 1, 2015

Governor proposes transferring veterans’ home land to Grand Island

Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen addresses a question as Gov. Pete Ricketts looks on.

Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen addresses a question as Gov. Pete Ricketts looks on.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced a plan to soften the blow to Grand Island when the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home moves from the city to Kearney.

“Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’re going to propose that the state turn over the Grand Island Veterans’ Home and the property there back to the city of Grand Island and we think that will allow them to redevelop it for future growth for the city,” Ricketts stated during a news conference at the Capitol.

The Grand Island city council must approve the transfer, which will be accomplished in two phases. First, the state will transfer 77 acres of recreational property and 329 acres of farmland. The second phase would involve transferring the 55 acres on which the veterans’ home, the veterans’ cemetery, and the veterans’ club sit. Under the proposal, the city would take over maintenance of the veterans’ cemetery. The rest could be developed.

Kearney won a competitive bid to build the new veterans home, which should be completed by 2018.

Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island stated the proposal could make up for economic loss Grand Island will have to absorb when the home moves to Kearney.

Gloor has been a big critic of the process used to award Kearney the new home.

“But here’s a scenario where we were taking a book of business for want of a better term, certain jobs that existed in one community paid for by state tax dollars and moving them to another community. There was a winner, certainly, but there was a loser in that those jobs then disappeared and left a hole in the community,” according to Gloor.

Grand Island Mayor Jeremy Jensen says the city hasn’t decided how to use the land.

“Much of our plans at this point are purely conceptual as we’ll begin the process of hiring an engineering and consulting firm to help us navigate through what realistic options we have and also gather community feedback,” Jensen said.

The Department of Administrative Services estimates the state could save $5.3 million over 25 years through the transfer of the land. DAS estimates the value of the land at between $4 million and $5 million.

Nebraska Congressman optimistic WOTUS can be stopped (AUDIO)

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith

A Nebraska Congressman remains optimistic the Waters of the United States rule can be stopped, even though the Obama Administration threatens to veto a bill designed to stop it.

Congressman Adrian Smith has been busy building support for his legislation to prevent the EPA from implementing the Waters of the United States rule.

“This is not just a farm and ranch issue. This is an issue with a reach into every community across the country,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Smith contends the EPA overreached its Congressional authority in expanding the Clean Water Act. The Senate has approved a companion bill that would block implementation under the Congressional Review Act.

“This is a bipartisan issue, just like the (Keystone XL) pipeline,” according to Smith. “This is a bipartisan issue and I think the bipartisan nature of these concerns, be it the pipeline or Waters of the U.S., keep these issues alive.”

The rule also could be overturned in the courts. Nebraska and 12 other states have sued the federal government, making a similar claim that the EPA exceeded its authority in pushing the rule. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put implementation on hold nationwide until the legal issues are resolved.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Medical marijuana sponsor rejects slippery slope arguments

Sen. Tommy Garrett makes notes during this past session's debate of his medical marijuana bill.

Sen. Tommy Garrett makes notes during this past session’s debate of his medical marijuana bill.

A state senator pushing for Nebraska to legalize medical marijuana says he will continue to push for the change in the upcoming legislative session.

Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue dismisses charges that his bill would lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, similar to how a ballot initiative in Colorado paved the way in that state.

“Completely different bill and the fact that it’s a clear path from medicinal to recreational, give me a freaking break, that’s obscene,” Garrett tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “It’s like they’re making this out to be the big bogeyman. We’re looking to help people who are sick and ailing and other prescription medications are not working for them.”

An undercover drug investigator from Colorado came to the state Capitol recently to warn Nebraska lawmakers to be careful when considering legislation to legalize medical marijuana.

James Gerhardt with the Thornton Police Department said Colorado has been frustrated in its attempt to regulate marijuana growing and use since the state legalized recreational marijuana. He said adoption of medical marijuana led to the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Garrett says he bases his bill on a law passed in Minnesota and hopes to answer the questions legislative opponents raised during the last session.

Garrett says he felt like he was building support for his bill during the legislative session when other factors interfered.

“We were being filibustered last year and during that filibuster, it was the same time that the legislature had overridden the governor’s veto on the death penalty, and a lot of my colleagues were taking a lot of heat from their constituents and everything and they just didn’t want this additional heat of the medical marijuana; to be taking heat on that,” according to Garrett.

Garrett says no one is arguing for recreational use of marijuana.

LB 643 won preliminary approval after first-round debate on a 27-12 vote during this year’s legislative session. Eight senators abstained from the vote. Garrett says he will bring the same proposal before the Unicameral next year.


Sen. Fischer sticks with call to halt Syrian refugee program (AUDIO)

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer

United States Sen. Deb Fischer sticks with her call to halt the Syrian refugee program until it is thoroughly reviewed.

Fischer calls for a pause to the Syrian refugee program, saying there should be zero tolerance for risk.

“I think a good review of those procedures is important, because we have to determine if they should be enhanced,” Fischer tells reporters in a conference call. “As you know, there is a different situation on the ground in Syria. It’s a unique situation with these refugees.”

Fischer says President Barack Obama’s criticism of those calling for a halt are inappropriate.

“Nebraskans are fearful,” according to Fischer. “Nebraskans are fearful of the situation we have in the world and I believe we’re in that situation, because of the lack of strategy from this administration and the lack of action from this administration.”

The United States House has approved a measure demanding stronger vetting before Syrian refugees enter the country in response to reports that at least one of the terrorists involved in the massacre in Paris slipped into Europe among Syrian refugees.

The legislation would require the head of Homeland security and the FBI as well as the national intelligence director to certify to Congress that each Syrian or Iraqi refugee entering the country poses no security threat.

The Obama Administration says the bill would create significant delays without enhancing meaningful additional security and the president has threatened to veto it should it make it to his desk. Democrats in the U.S. Senate have threatened to filibuster the measure.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Gov. Ricketts: President Obama needs to talk to governors about refugee program

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts doesn’t see a need for legislation to address concerns about the Syrian refugee program.

“Well, I don’t think there necessarily needs to be a bill if the administration would just work with us,” Ricketts tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Ricketts participated in a conference call between the country’s governors and the White House.

He suggests President Barack Obama discuss the issue at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C. in February.

“That would be a great opportunity to pull together the majority of the governors in the United States together to talk about this issue and what sort of cooperation there could be between the federal government and the states on this issue,” Ricketts says. “So, I think there’s a great opportunity to sit down and just have a dialogue if the Obama Administration would just engage.”

Some groups have criticized the governor, claiming he is acting on fear as well as undermining the state’s reputation of being a friendly and welcoming state.

Ricketts says he must consider the safety of Nebraskans first.

“And, in light of the fact that in Paris it appears that one of the attackers actually came through the refugee system to perpetuate those attacks that killed 130 people, it certainly makes sense for us to take a step back and look at these processes to make sure that we’re doing all we can.”