April 24, 2014

Gov. Heineman says nurse practitioner bill didn’t require enough training

Gov. Dave Heineman says he vetoed a nurse practitioner bill passed unanimously by the Unicameral, because it didn’t require enough training.

LB 916 would have eliminated a requirement that nurse practitioners have written agreements with doctors.

Heineman says the bill’s provision that nurse practitioners have at least 2,000 hours of supervised practice wasn’t enough.

“A doctor, normally, in order to do all the work expected of them at a high quality level is about 10,000 hours or five years and so after talking with the Chief Medical Officer I concluded that at least 4,000 hours would have been a better compromise and had that been in the bill I would have signed it into law,” according to Heineman.

Heineman says he talked at length with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Acierno of Omaha before deciding to reject the bill.

The Unicameral sent 12 bills to the governor on the last day of the legislative session. The governor signed all by LB 916.

Since the Unicameral has adjourned for the year, it cannot consider an override attempt of the veto.

Gov. Heineman sees no need to delay Keystone XL decision (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says he’s very disappointed by the latest delay on a decision about the Keystone XL oil pipeline and rejects the suggestion that legal issues in Nebraska should prevent the State Department from moving forward.

Heineman says there just doesn’t need to be any more delays.

“It’s time for a yes or no decision on the Keystone pipeline,” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.

Yet, the State Department has delayed again its decision on the route, claiming legal issues in Nebraska need to be resolved first.

The latest delay on Keystone seemingly contradicts President Barack Obama’s assurance in late February that a decision on Keystone would be make in a couple of months. Obama reportedly made the remark during a meeting with governors after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal suggested the president should grant TransCanada’s presidential permit. [Read earlier story]

Heineman was in attendance and reported that Obama told the governors he would be making a decision on Keystone in the next couple of months, a decision that would make some happy and some unhappy. The president declined to elaborate.

Heineman says the president knew the lawsuit had been filed in Nebraska when he spoke with the governors.

“Well, the fact of the matter is when the president told all the governors and myself (about the timeframe) he knew exactly what was going on in Nebraska, that lawsuit was going on, and he said he was going to make a decision and now he’s not and I wish he would explain why,” Heineman says.

TransCanada has applied for a presidential permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. It would connect with the southern portion of the pipeline, which is operating from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas.

The northern portion of Keystone XL is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Canada to the refineries.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of LB 1161, passed in 2012 by the Unicameral, upon which Heineman based his decision to approve the Keystone XL route through Nebraska.

Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled it unconstitutional, stating the Nebraska Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission and that the Unicameral could not transfer that power to the governor.

Attorney General Jon Bruning immediately filed an appeal of the ruling.

The lawsuit is expected to be decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court either late this year or early next year.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Law mandating autism coverage signed into law (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman addresses news conference with Vicki and Jacob Depenbusch

Gov. Dave Heineman addresses news conference with Vicki and Jacob Depenbusch

A bill signing ceremony at the Capitol became emotional as families of autistic children celebrated a late-legislative session victory.

Gov. Dave Heineman has signed into law LB 254, which requires health insurance policies to cover autism therapy.

Colleen Jankovich of Omaha, the mother of an autistic son, stated she’s pleased the bill won approval in the last days of the legislative session.

“I was not sure it was going to pass with all the stuff that went on,” Jankovich said, growing emotional as she addressed the signing ceremony. “But I’m so grateful to everyone for everything they’ve done, because it means there’s a future in our state for our children and that’s all that matters.”

Vicki Depenbusch of Lincoln says therapy has been a great help to her autistic son, Jacob.

“When a small child has a truck and they roll it; that’s not what our son would do. He’d flip it over and just spin the wheels; line up things. So, he had to be taught how to play.”

Depenbusch says the public schools have been instrumental in helping autistic children become more acclimated socially.

Jacob met Gov. Heineman during his parent teacher conference in 2010. They have developed a friendship and Jacob calls himself the “Governor’s Buddy.” Jacob attended the signing ceremony with his mother and stood next to Heineman.

The law mandates insurance policies provide 25 hours of therapy per week, such as applied behavior analysis. Some policies are exempt due to federal law.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln sponsored LB 254 and acknowledged during the news conference he nearly gave up on the bill during the legislative session.

“This therapy opens doors and what it does for children is it allows them to interact with the world in a way that they wouldn’t have but for this therapy,” according to Coash.

Autism therapy can cost an average of $50,000 a year, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman holds news conference to sign LB 254. [12 min.]

Speaker Adams sees accomplishment despite filibusters

Speaker Greg Adams addresses the Unicameral

Speaker Greg Adams addresses the Unicameral

Legislative Speaker Greg Adams wasn’t surprised by how the legislative session ended.

Adams notes the session began with filibusters and ended with filibusters.

“When you have a legislative body, a deliberative body, like ours that is one house, one house with fairly loose rules, you put everybody together, it is going to be a little bit rambunctious,” Adams tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “It was a difficult session, no question about it, for a host of reasons, many of which we talked about earlier in the session and it continued to be difficult along the way. But, in terms of productivity, we got a lot done.”

Among the accomplishments, according to Adams, were tax cuts, prison reform, and water sustainability.

Adams says it is doubtful this past legislative session featured more filibusters and stalling tactics than usual. It just seemed that way at times as talk extended well into the evenings and little got done over long stretches of the short, 60-day session.

Adams says there could have been even more filibusters. He recalls cautioning a few inexperienced senators against waging filibusters on certain legislation they didn’t like.

“It is a rule that is available to you, a methodology that is available to you. But, first of all ask yourself, does the bill that you want to take on and potentially filibuster rise to the level of a filibuster? Or is it a, one amendment, three or four times at the microphone, and vote red,” Adams says he told the senators. “And I think the body, to some extent, has to learn to make that distinction.”

Adams cautions against laying a lot of the blame for a lack of production this legislative session on Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who extended the final day of the legislative session by angrily denouncing the Unicameral’s failure to pass his bill to end the hunting of mountain lions.

Adams does agree Chambers gummed up the works a number of times with filibusters and stalling tactics.

“Oh, gosh, you know we all get frustrated with Sen. Chambers at times, but quite honestly, I could name half a dozen other senators that had plenty of time at the mic that carried forth filibusters on bills that put up a lot of amendments on different bills that I could be equally frustrated with,” according to Adams.

Seventeen state senators say good-bye to the Unicameral, including Speaker Adams. Term limits will usher them out, at least for one legislative term.

Adams says he hopes those who return next year learn something from this session.

“Of course, there are good people out here on the floor who will carry on and maybe, as difficult as this session was, there were a lot of lessons in it that won’t be replicated next year.”

Despite the difficulties, Adams says he doesn’t regret being one of the few Nebraskans to serve as Speaker of the Legislature.

It will take a very long time to resolve Keystone XL legal issues (AUDIO)

If State Department officials want to wait until Nebraska legal issues are resolved to make a recommendation on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, they will be waiting quite a long time.

A lawsuit filed by landowners challenges the constitutionality of a 2012 law that gave Gov. Dave Heineman the authority to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline route through Nebraska.

Attorney Dave Domina, a Democratic candidate for US Senate, represents the landowners.

“There are several constitutional issues that will be presented to the Supreme Court. They all come down to this: was the procedure used by the governor to approve the route legal or illegal?”

The lawsuit challenges the 2012 law approved by the legislature that gives the governor the authority to approve pipeline routes through the state. The suit contends the law violates the state constitution that gives that authority to the Public Service Commission. Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy sided with the landowners and ruled the law unconstitutional.

The legislature approved the 2012 law as a follow-up to an agreement reached with TransCanada during a special legislative session in 2011. LB 1161 gave the governor authority to approve or reject pipeline routes through the state after the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality reviewed proposed routes and made a recommendation.

Judge Stacy ruled the Nebraska State Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Gov. Heineman had notified President Barack Obama that Nebraska legal procedures concerning the route Keystone XL will take through the state have been satisfied. Domina contends the judge’s ruling makes the governor’s assertion suspect.

Domina says it is understandable that the State Department doesn’t want to move forward until the legal process on the route has been completed.

Completion will likely take some time.

Domina anticipates that he will have to submit briefs to the Nebraska Supreme Court in late July at the earliest, after the Attorney General’s office submits its briefs.

On that schedule, oral arguments will likely occur in September or October. A decision by the state Supreme Court could take weeks or months.

“It will be a while. I don’t think there will be any construction in 2014,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas, is operating.

The northern portion of Keystone XL which would run through Nebraska is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Canada to the refineries.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]