September 19, 2014

Senate taking up amendment to combat ISIL today

Nebraska U-S Senator Mike Johanns is pleased that legislation is quickly making its way through Congress to combat the terrorist group ISIL. The U-S House passed an amendment that would provide funding to the Department of Defense and the State Department to equip and train moderate forces fighting ISIL in Syria. It also requires a number of progress reports to improve congressional oversight.

Senator Johanns says the U-S Senate is taking up that same amendment today. He says he is convinced that the U-S must do our part to end their reign of terror and prevent it from being spread around the world.

Senator Johanns the U-S will not be alone in the mission. He says several other countries have committed to the cause and hopes that others will join the effort.

Nebraska hopes conference will lead to increased trade with Japan (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman announces Nebraska will host Midwest US-Japan conference along with (L-R), State Ag Dir Greg Ibach, Melissa Ross with Oxbow Animal Health, and Acting Economic Development Dir. Dacia Kruse

Gov. Dave Heineman announces Nebraska will host Midwest US-Japan conference along with (L-R), State Ag Dir Greg Ibach, Melissa Ross with Oxbow Animal Health, and Acting Economic Development Dir. Dacia Kruse

Nebraska hosts the 50th annual Midwest US-Japan Association annual conference; in 2018.

Gov. Dave Heineman says the conference should spur Nebraska exports to Japan and Japanese investment in Nebraska.

“I’m especially gratified that we’re going to host the 50th,” Heineman tells reporters during an announcement. “Anniversaries like that tend to be a little more important. You may find more Japanese business leaders and American leaders who want to come, because it will be historic that we’ve been doing this for 50 years.”

Japan ranks as the second largest market for Nebraska agricultural products. Nebraska exported more than $454 million in farm goods to Japan last year, according to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development; $411 million in beef and pork exports.

The Nebraska Center Japan opened in Tokyo in 2006 to strengthen the economic ties between Japan and Nebraska.

Oxbow Animal Health in rural Murdock began exporting its pet food and pet care products to Japan years ago, but Marketing Director Melissa Ross says once the state center was established, it greatly increased sales to Japan.

“Make sure that we’re doing business in a culturally sensitive manner and respecting their culture and it’s just been a tremendous asset to have those resources on the ground in Japan for us,” according to Ross.

Agricultural goods aren’t the only exports to Japan. Overall, Nebraska exported $566 million in goods to Japan last year, representing nearly eight percent of the total state merchandise exports.

Acting Economic Development Director Dacia Kruse says the state helped Vahallan Papers of Lincoln establish a foothold in Japan to sell its premium wallpaper and wall coverings.

Kruse says Vahallan also participated in the STEP program and used its grant to attend two major trade shows in the United States.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Sen. Johanns says VA must fulfill its pledge to the veterans it serves

Sen. Mike Johanns says the Veterans Administration must fulfill its vow to veterans.

Johanns has spoken with the new Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert McDonald, about implementing a law just passed by Congress to address problems with long patient delays.

“Recent scandals and failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs in no way upholds the pledge that we’ve made to our veterans,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters during a recent conference call. “That’s why the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is working to hold the agency’s feet to the fire.”

Stories have surfaced across the country about incredibly long delays for health care. Some VA hospitals have been accused of covering up the delays.

Johanns, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, says the VA must implement the new law while not forgetting needed facility upgrades.

“We simply need to find a solution to replace the 1950s era VA hospital, like the one in Omaha, for the growing number of veterans that need these services,” Johanns says. “A 1950s facility is not acceptable, whether it’s in Omaha or any other part of the country.”

New Lt. Governor could be in place in a couple of weeks

Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann speaks during news conference with Gov. Heineman standing beside him

Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann speaks during news conference with Gov. Heineman standing beside him

Gov. Dave Heineman says it might take a couple of weeks before he names a new Lt. Governor to replace Lavon Heidemann, who resigned.

Heineman says it will take time to react to the unusual circumstances that led to a vacancy in the office.

“First of all, it was unexpected. Secondly, you have a unique situation with about 110 days to go and yet my sense is we still need have to have a lieutenant governor,” Heineman tells reporters when asked about the lieutenant governor search. “There is a statutory requirement. So, like I say, it’s going to take a couple of weeks given these circumstances who it should be.”

Heidemann resigned both as Lt. Governor and as a candidate for Lt. Governor on Republican Pete Ricketts’ ticket after his sister received a protection order against him following a heated family dispute over their father’s estate and their mother’s medical treatment.

Ricketts replaced Heidemann immediately with state Auditor Mike Foley.

Heineman has yet to announce a replacement for Heidemann.

Heineman says there are two key deadlines looming.

“November 4th, because on November 4th will be the election and we’ll have a governor-elect. Yet, we continue to serve all the way through January 7th until the new governor is sworn in on January 8th,” Heineman says. “But, you know, from November 5th until January 8th we’re very much going to be in a transition mode that we’re going to be assisting the governor-elect.”

The governor declined to describe the type of person he is seeking. He says the compressed time frame for service would likely rule out anyone with a full-time job. He says he is not considering appointing anyone from his staff to the position.

Could he just leave the position vacant, with the election a little more than a month away?

Heineman says he doesn’t consider not appointing a replacement an option.

“The challenge, I think, in order to be very candid, is the statute does require appointing a lieutenant governor,” according to Heineman. “We do have a chain of command: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, (and) Speaker of the Legislature. And so I think we ought to continue to fulfill that requirement.”

Gov. Heineman says he’s ready to help lead smooth transition (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says his administration is ready to help with the transition of a new governor, whoever that might be.

Heineman says he wants Nebraska to experience the best transition the state has ever had.

Heineman, ten years on the job, says his experience in state government, including as Lt. Governor, prepared him for the position, something neither Republican Pete Ricketts nor Democrat Chuck Hassebrook have.

“Both these individuals are going to come in without that experience and they’re going to find out it’s a big challenge,” Heineman tells reporters. “And there’s a lot to this job.”

Heineman served as a Congressional staff member, as state Treasurer, and finally as Lt. Governor under Gov. Mike Johanns. He became governor when Johanns left the office to become the Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush.

He has served a total of ten years on the job, leaving due to term limits.

Heineman says reality will hit all at once for the person elected governor.

“You go from one day your governor-elect, the next day it’s fully your responsibility for the entire operation of state government,” says Heineman.

Heineman says he will prepare budget documents for his successor, but the budget and the State of the State address to the Unicameral will be the responsibility of the new governor.

“If they thought the campaign was busy, it’s nothing compared to what’s going to happen on November 5th all the way to January 8th.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]