May 5, 2015

Controversy sparks 2+ hours of debate, still Rice confirmed as SHP superintendent

Col. Brad Rice/Photo courtesy of State Highway Patrol

Col. Brad Rice/Photo courtesy of State Highway Patrol

State legislators debated the nomination of Brad Rice as superintendent of the State Highway Patrol for more than two hours before confirming his nomination on a 32-to-7 vote.

Opponents claim Rice has discriminated against women, too freely shared his Christian faith with others on the job, and might have used excessive force during his 29-year tenure with the patrol.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus supported his nomination, mainly because he received a call from a female trooper who he trusts who told him Rice was OK.

“And, because of that opinion, I’m going to be supporting this nomination and recognizing we all say things, do things we might regret, but in the end, if we’re good people, we’re OK,” Schumacher told colleagues during the more than two hours of legislative floor debate.

That, though, didn’t strike Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln as good enough.

“We need more than OK, Sen. Schumacher,” Bolz stated. “We need someone who is excellent and someone who is taking extraordinary and exceptional steps to make sure that we are doing the best that we can in an inclusionary, community-based, smart, equal manner.”

Other senators made the same point, claiming the debate needed to be broadened. They say clashes between police and minorities in other cities should make Nebraska lawmakers more wary about someone accused of discrimination against women.

Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion dismissed an accusation that Rice once claimed women shouldn’t be in law enforcement.

“Politics today is not a clean sport anymore,” Kintner said. “The ‘got you’ game is alive and well, especially in elective politics, but in these type of cases, also.”

Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t believe this is a game of ‘got you’ at all. And I believe this is a game,” Haar said, then paused, “Not a game, this is a matter of appointment to a very high office within state government.”

Even whether Rice made the comment about women is in question. Conflicting statements were made by senators. Some said he never made the comment. Others claimed Rice said it was taken out of context.

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte defended Rice, who served with the patrol for 29 years before retiring in 2010.

“Mr. Rice is a good man,” Groene stated. “If I went through life in a public position and to only have one person step forward and say I said something, I would be blessed.”

But, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks pointed out Rice is also accused of too freely sharing his Christian faith while on the job, among other accusations.

“Sen. Groene said he was a good man,” Pansing Brooks stated. “To me, I think we’re under the three strike rule. He had gender issues that had to be discussed. He had excessive force issues that had to be discussed. And he had proselytizing issues that had to be discussed.”

Despite the controversy, Rice was confirmed. He succeeds Col. David Sankey.

Expert: No screen time until age 2

We see more and more children, some as young as six months of age, playing with their parent’s cell phone.

Dr. Holly Roberts is a child psychologist at the Munroe Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and says the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not introducing children to any type of screen until two years of age.

Dr. Roberts says, “This is a time of rapid brain development and when kids learn best. We certainly don’t want our really young children and toddlers learning from a screen. Humans are certainly a better option.”

Dr. Roberts says once a child is introduced to a screen the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they are limited to only two hours a day. She says children need to spend their time interacting with others and learning socialization skills.

Dr. Roberts says it is also a good idea to limit the screen time of older children too. Statistics show that teens spend eleven hours a day and 8 to 10 year olds about eight hours a day looking at some type of screen. That is also cutting down on their face-to-face socialization with friends and extracurricular activities.

Double homicide investigation underway in Omaha

A double murder investigation is underway in northeast Omaha.

Police Department spokesperson Officer Michael Pecha says officers responded to a “shots fired” call around 4:30 am at an apartment building at 28th and Spencer Streets. He says when they arrived they located to adult males and both were declared dead at the scene.

Police did confirm this was a double homicide investigation and not a murder-suicide situation.

Police say the investigation is in the early stages and did not release the names of the victims or possible suspects.  They are asking for the publics help and if anyone has information they are asked to call the police or Crime Stoppers. 



Omaha man sentenced for not registering as sex offender

An Omaha man has been sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison for failing to register as a sex offender after moving to Nebraska.

The U.S. Attorney’s office reports 31-year-old Timothy Kirsch had been convicted in Page County, Iowa in 2002 for sexually assaulting a child.

It isn’t the first time he has been convicted of failing to register as a sex offender, either. Kirsch failed to register in Louisiana.

Kirsch reported to Iowa authorities he would be moving to Nebraska. He lived in two different residences in Omaha. He failed to register with the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry at either.

Senior federal Judge Joseph Bataillon sentenced Kirsch to a 33 months in prison. Kirsch will serve 10 years of supervised release after serving his prison sentence.

Budget chair pleased with movement of state budget (AUDIO)

Appropriations Committee meets to discuss state budget

Appropriations Committee meets to discuss state budget

The legislature’s Appropriations Committee chairman is pleased with the progress of the $8.6 billion state budget in the Unicameral.

State lawmakers breathed a sigh of relief when the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board restored $10 million to its estimate of state revenue rather than lower the estimate. The board in February reduced its estimate of state revenue by $10 million. It restored that money during its meeting last week.

No legislator was more pleased by the revised revenue estimate than Sen. Health Mello of Omaha, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who says his committee greeted the news by funneling more to property tax relief.

“Utilize a very small portion of that for some minor tweaks and changes to the budget and then appropriate $8 million to the property tax credit fund,” Mello tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The increase brings the total budgeted to the property tax relief fund to $204 million each year of the biennium.

State legislators entered this legislative session proclaiming property tax cuts as their top priority. Efforts to reduce property taxes on farmland failed to make it to the floor. Other bills have been bottled up. The property tax relief fund has become the only avenue to cut the tax bills of property owners this session.

Mello is proud the proposed budget addresses the Unicameral’s key priorities.

“Property tax relief, public education funding, higher education funding, public-private partnerships, as well as addressing the challenges in the department of corrections,” according to Mello.

Legislators gave preliminary approval to the spending blueprint proposed by the Appropriations Committee last week.

The proposed state budget relies on a 3.1% increase in state revenue. It proposes increasing spending by more than $400 million.

If approved, state aid to schools would increase by nearly $80 million. State funding to Nebraska universities and colleges would increase by almost $54 million, with community colleges benefiting from an $8.6 million increase.

The budget must pass two more rounds of voting before it can be sent to the governor.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]