October 22, 2014

Innovation Campus is one of six components of NU’s biennial budget request

It has been nearly five years since the University of Nebraska acquired the former state fairgrounds in Lincoln to develop the Innovation Campus. Dan Duncan is the Innovation Campus Executive Director and says Phase 1 is ahead of schedule with facilities taking shape. 

The 4-H Building is linked to a new building forming the Innovation Commons. A Food Innovation Center is scheduled to open in 2015 and it will house UNL’s Department of Food Science & Technology.   ConAgra Foods is a private collaborator and they will conduct joint research projects with UNL. There is also a 45,000 square-foot greenhouse center underway.

The Innovation Campus is one of six components of the $20-million economic competitiveness package contained in the University of Nebraska’s 2015-17 biennial budget requests. Other components include the Rural Futures Institute, the National Strategic Research Institute, the Peter Kiewit Institute, the Health and Science Education Complex in Kearney and business engagement and workforce development initiatives throughout their four campus system.

Sen. Fischer says country must upgrade nuclear weapons

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer has returned to Washington after touring the three nuclear weapon facilities in the United States.

Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Fischer says those sites are a key to maintaining what she calls the backbone of our nuclear deterrent.

“You know, we have aging nuclear weapons and they take them apart, they inspect them to make sure that if they need to be used those weapons are going to perform the way they’re intended to perform,” Fischer tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Fischer says the president and Congress have made a commitment to upgrade its nuclear weapons.

“But we have fallen short on it. So, I have some concerns on that and to make sure that our country is modernizing the weapons we have,” Fischer says. “Other countries are doing that. They’ve made the financial commitment and they are doing that. And we need to make sure our arsenal, our nuclear deterrent, is well maintained and is always at the ready.”

The United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) is located in Nebraska, based in Bellevue.

Sen. Johanns calls for travel restrictions to battle Ebola (AUDIO)

Sen. Mike Johanns

Sen. Mike Johanns

Sen. Mike Johanns supports temporary travel restrictions in wake of the Ebola outbreak.

Johanns says news reports that health officials say a nurse should never have flown commercially shortly before being diagnosed with Ebola prompted him to back travel restrictions.

“I’m not calling for a ban, but I am calling for travel restrictions to help us fight this problem and get on top of it,” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Johanns says he has to acknowledge a couple of things in calling for travel restrictions. One, travel restrictions aren’t a perfect barrier to a virus. Second, American citizens have responded to the tragedy in West Africa and should be allowed to return, with proper screening.

Johanns says the only way to really combat Ebola is by the United States providing humanitarian aid to Liberia and other African countries suffering from the disease.

Johanns says Ebola is a very dangerous disease that must be treated very seriously.

“There’s not room for error whatsoever,” Johanns says. “Once exposed, the chances of death are very, very high.”

Johanns also worries about the capacity of American hospitals to treat those who contract the disease. The University of Nebraska Medical Center has one of the few bio-containment units in the country that can treat a patient with Ebola. It has successfully treated one and currently is treated a second victim.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

No need for subpoena, Gov. Heineman to testify willingly (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman answers questions at a briefing with reporters

Gov. Dave Heineman answers questions at a briefing with reporters

Gov. Dave Heineman said today he will testify before the special legislative committee investigating the prison sentence miscalculation scandal.

The governor’s remarks came hours after the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigating Committee voted unanimously to subpoena the governor to testify before the committee October 29th.

The special legislative committee first formed to investigate why Nikko Jenkins was released from prison rather than civilly committed. Jenkins killed four in Omaha upon his released last year.

It since has followed up reports first published by the Omaha World-Herald that Corrections officials released hundreds of inmates prematurely, because it ignored two state Supreme Court rulings.

During a meeting with reporters at his Capitol office, Gov. Heineman denied he attended a meeting in which Corrections Director Mike Kenney created a program to allow eight inmates released early to serve the remainder of their sentences at home rather than behind bars. A July 31st memo by former Corrections General Counsel George Green indicates the governor was at the meeting when Kenney proposed the alternative sentencing program.

“No, I’ve never been in a meeting regarding that and Director Kenney indicated this was something he created, he invented,” Heineman told reporters.

The Corrections Director pushed forward with the program, though attorneys with the department questioned its legality.

Heineman said he never considered invoking executive privilege against the subpoena issued by the legislative committee. He suggested he might request the committee withdraw the subpoena and allow him to come to the hearing voluntarily.

“But I’m going to be there one way or another on October 29th, because I look forward to these discussions that we need to have on these issues,” Heineman said.

Heineman also rejects suggestions he pushed for Corrections to release prisoners early to ease prison overcrowding.

“Absolutely not,” Heineman said. “I’ve always said they’re two separate issues. The bad guys need to be in prison no matter what.”

The Department of Correctional Services ignored two state Supreme Court rulings, releasing 200 inmates early and setting early release dates for 550 others. The governor’s office and Corrections officials reported 306 inmates were released prematurely by the department. Many inmates received credit for time served in the community without incident.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Legislative committee to subpoena Gov. Heineman in prison probe

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

A special legislative committee looking into the miscalculation of prison sentences has voted to subpoena Gov. Dave Heineman to testify before the committee October 29th.

The committee is following up reports first published by the Omaha World-Herald that reveal prison officials miscalculated the sentences of hundreds of prison inmates, leading to their premature release from incarceration. The World-Herald reported the Department of Correctional Services ignored two state Supreme Court rulings, releasing 200 inmates early and setting early release dates for 550 others.

Gov. Heineman and Corrections officials reported 306 inmates were released prematurely by the department. Many inmates received credit for time served in the community without incident.

The investigation by the legislature took a turn Friday when state Corrections Director Mike Kenney acknowledged he allowed eight prisoners to remain outside prison walls though his legal staff warned against the action.

Gov. Heineman released a written statement though his office.

“I look forward to the opportunity to answer any questions and clear up any miscommunications. The Department of Correctional Services, specifically former legal counsel George Green, made a series of significant mistakes and created a huge mess. Since June, Attorney General Bruning and I have been working diligently and thoughtfully with the new leadership at the Department to fix the problems.”