January 27, 2015

Gov. Heineman to leave office unsure of his future (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman shares a laugh with First Lady Sally Ganem outside the governor's residence

Gov. Dave Heineman shares a laugh with First Lady Sally Ganem outside the governor’s residence

Gov. Dave Heineman leaves office today after 10 years as governor.

He says he’s not sure what he’ll do next.

Heineman says he doesn’t know what the future holds for him. He says he’ll reflect a bit with his wife Sally, before deciding what to do next.

Many political pundits assumed Heineman would be taking the oath of office as a United States Senator this year. Heineman, who could not run for re-election due to term limits, chose not to run to succeed Sen. Mike Johanns.

Heineman says a seat in Congress just didn’t seem to fit his personality.

“I want to make decision every day. My mentality is to focus on the future every day. How do we keep moving forward?” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And, again, some people are meant to be good legislators. I don’t think that’s me. I operate better on the executive level.”

Heineman says he wants to continue to contribute, but isn’t sure in what capacity.

Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts will be sworn in as the new governor this afternoon.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:35]

Former Sen. Johanns elected to Deere&Company board

Sen. Mike Johanns/Photo courtesy of Johanns' office

Sen. Mike Johanns/Photo courtesy of Johanns’ office

Former Sen. Mike Johanns, also the former Secretary of Agriculture, has been elected to the board of directors for Deere & Company, the manufacturer of John Deere tractors and farm equipment.

“Mike’s wide range of expertise in the areas of agriculture, banking, commerce, foreign trade, law and governance will be valuable assets for the Deere & Company Board of Directors,” Samuel R. Allen, Deere’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a written statement released by the company. ”We are pleased Mike has agreed to join the Deere Board.”

Johanns served as governor of Nebraska until early 2005 when he became Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush. Johanns became senator after serving in the Bush cabinet. He left the senator after serving for one term, retiring from 32 years of public service.

Ben Sasse officially begins term as new Nebraska US Senator (AUDIO)

Sen. Ben Sasse is interviewed after his Election Day victory

Sen. Ben Sasse is interviewed after his Election Day victory

Nebraska has a new United States Senator.

Republican Ben Sasse has taken the oath of office and officially begins his term.

Sasse has several priorities as he begins his six-year term, but understands things take time.

“I think one of the most important things is we need to admit that Washington can’t solve everything in 18 to 24 months,” Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network. “There’s no magic bullet for the magnitude of the problems we face.”

Sasse says Congress must address an $18 trillion debt and $75 trillion in unfunded obligations.

Sasse also says Washington needs to understand there are limits to what it can do and focus on major issues.

“So that includes talking about how we recover the American dream for every family, every neighborhood, every class and socio-economic group and, right now, we really don’t do that very well,” Sasse says.

Sasse blames both Republicans and Democrats. He says Republicans have been uninterested in the big issues and Democrats merely promote one size fits all solutions.

Sasse hopes Congress will start a conversation on big issues to set the table for the 2016 presidential race.

The mood in Washington, according to Sasse, is good, but must be tempered by the fact that the country just completed mid-term elections and enter the last two years of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Sasse retains Nebraska’s seat on the Agriculture Committee, officially called the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. He will also serve on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; and the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Ben Sasse to take oath, become newest Nebraska US Senator

Sen.-elect Ben Sasse

Sen.-elect Ben Sasse

United States Sen.-elect Ben Sasse takes the oath of office today in Washington, becoming the newest Nebraska Senator.

Sasse succeeds Sen. Mike Johanns, who is stepping down from the Senate after serving a term and retiring from public office after 32 years at all levels of government.

Sasse is one of 13 freshmen Senators; 12 Republicans and one Democrat.

Sasse says voters are sending a message to Washington, if Congress will only listen.

“I think the voters have been saying, with kind of three wave elections in the last four cycles, this is new in American history, and they’re saying I’m sick of everybody in Washington; throw all the bums out. I want to talk about bigger stuff,” Sasses tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Sasse has already set his eyes on changing Congress. Today, he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would limit the terms Senators and Representatives could serve. The amendment, which Sasse sponsors along with Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, would limit United States Senators to two, six-year terms and United States Representatives to three, two-year terms.

Sasse admits the move is partly symbolic, but quickly adds he believes in term limits for Congress, saying Washington is addicted to its own incumbency, not to tackling the biggest problems facing Americans.

Sasse will be accompanied by Sen. Deb Fischer during the official ceremony today. Sasse takes the oath of office at Noon Eastern Time, 11am Central, and 10am Mountain.

With Sasse officially beginning his Senate term, Nebraska has an extremely inexperienced delegation. Fischer, also a Republican, won election to the United States Senate in 2012, succeeding Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat who retired.

Gov. Heineman wraps up 10 years as governor this week (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman (left) talks with Brent Martin about his term in office

Gov. Dave Heineman (left) talks with Brent Martin about his ten years as the state chief executive

First, Gov. Dave Heineman assures us it doesn’t seem like it has been 10 years.

But, it has.

Heineman leaves the governor’s office this year after occupying it longer than anyone else.

In an interview with Nebraska Radio Network, Heineman says seven years as state Treasurer and three as Lt. Governor prepared him to take over after then-Governor Mike Johanns became Secretary of Agriculture.

“I love being the governor this great state,” Heineman says. “I’m proud of our state. Every day it’s fun, exciting, interesting, challenging to wake up, to come over here to the governor’s office and see if we can’t continue to move this state forward.”

Heineman says he came to the office determined to focus on two things: education and the economy.

The governor goes through a list of statistics that indicate he has succeeded.

Nebraska boasts the second best high school graduation rate in the nation and a top ten ranking in the number of high school graduates going on to college, either two-year or four-year institutions.

Nebraska has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, far below the national unemployment rate. It has been ranked as the top state in economic development on a per capita basis. Nebraska has passed Texas as the number one cattle feeding state and remains a top agriculture producer as well as home to large agri-businesses.

Heineman says the work he has done with the Unicameral the past ten years allowed the state to weather the recession and come out much stronger economically than other states.

“We put Nebraska in a very good place and yet I very strongly believe the next governor and the next legislature has to take us to an even higher level,” Heineman says.

Fellow Republican Pete Ricketts succeeds Heineman later this week.

Two issues tarnish the sterling record, though.

And while the governor acknowledges mistakes, he disputes the assessment of his critics about the severity of the mistakes and his role in them.

Heineman rejects the notion that privatization of child welfare services failed. He notes Nebraska Families Collaborative still operates in the Omaha area. Heineman acknowledges privatization didn’t work in Lincoln, though he says the providers assured his office they could handle the work. He doubts it will ever be feasible in sparsely populated western Nebraska.

Heineman says he acted with Attorney General Jon Bruning to fix problems with the Department of Correctional Services after the Omaha World-Herald disclosed the department miscalculated the sentences of prison inmates, leading to the release of hundreds prematurely.

Heineman dismisses any suggestions that the prison sentence miscalculation scandal will harm his reputation as reported earlier by Nebraska Radio Network. Heineman says mistakes happen in an organization as large as state government and his duty as governor is to address mistakes and seek to solve them, which he says he has done.