July 3, 2015

No joke, Marijuana Party seeks political recognition in Nebraska

MarijuanaNebraskans have the opportunity to sign a petition that would recognize a new political party in the state.

Mark Elworth Jr. is the acting chairman of the Marijuana Party, an organization that supports the medical, industrial and recreational use of hemp and says they need about 5,500 valid signatures before they can move forward.

Elworth says, “Then we would be on the ballot as a party. For election year 2016, our focus is to find candidates to run for the Unicameral in the state of Nebraska.”

So far, it has been a successful venture. Elworth says they started collecting signatures two weeks ago and about 1,000 Nebraskans have signed on. He says they need about 5,500 valid signatures to move forward. He says, “We are in 24 states but Nebraska would be the first state we would be recognized as an official party.”

The group supports the legalization of hemp, medical and recreational marijuana use.

The Marijuana Party is holding a rally and a petition signing event at Memorial Park in Omaha from 3 until 6 pm Monday. Elworth says they will have guest speakers and members to answer questions.

Proposal to change legislative term limits dies in Unicameral

State lawmakers have rejected a proposal to alter legislative term limits.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus proposed expanding the current limit of two, four-year terms to two, six-year terms.

“This is a serious issue, taken seriously by people who have absolutely nothing to benefit by putting it before the voters that we should look at building in some additional experience and institutional knowledge into the legislature,” Schumacher told fellow senators as he opened the second round of debate on LR 7 CA. “And let that decision be made by the voters.”

Schumacher succeeded in amending his proposal to ask voters to change the current limit of two, four-year terms to two, six-year terms, but he fell short of the votes needed to advance the amended bill to final reading.

The final vote was 20-22-6.

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte rejected the argument that lawmakers need more time to become effective.

“We are addressing a problem that doesn’t exist,” Groene said. “We are assuming that there will be a problem in leadership in the legislature if we don’t have seniority.”

Supporters pointed to two aspects of the proposal as big selling points. One, none of the state senators now in the Unicameral would be affected. Two, that ultimately the proposal would be decided by the voters.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said that though voters have rejected proposals to change legislative term limits in the past he didn’t see it as a problem to ask them about it once again.

“I see no negative other than the fact that we go back and give the people one more chance to look at a very critical issue,” Krist said.

Supporters argued legislators need more time to truly become effective.

But, Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk pointed out everyone now in the Unicameral won election after their successors were forced out by term limits.

“So, my fellow senators, all of us here today are here, because of term limits,” Scheer said. “We are a functioning body. We are all doing, I think, a good job and the sky hasn’t fallen.”

Wisconsin ruling renews voter photo ID debate in Unicameral (AUDIO)

Voting BoothsUnited States Supreme Court action or, perhaps, inaction on a Wisconsin law re-opens debate on an issue defeated earlier in the Unicameral.

Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha claims vindication for supporters of requiring Nebraska voters to display photo IDs in wake of the Supreme Court decision to let a similar Wisconsin law stand.

Nebraska lawmakers, in effect, defeated the measure last month.

“Members, that issue may be dead for this session, but I will assure you it is not dead in future sessions,” McCoy tells colleagues during debate on another matter.

McCoy says the Supreme Court decision speaks volumes about efforts across the country to require voters display photo identification to cast a ballot.

Wisconsin passed its law in 2011. Though the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 cleared the way for states to approve voter photo ID laws, it still is hearing challenges to various laws. Though The Supreme Court passed on the Wisconsin law, other legal challenges to similar laws remain active.

But McCoy’s take on the Supreme Court ruling riles Senator Burke Harr of Omaha, who claims the action doesn’t apply to Nebraska.

“There were three justices who overturned a lower court ruling,” Harr tells colleagues. “That’s what happened. It was not a Supreme Court ruling. It was a Court of Appeals ruling in a separate district.”

The Unicameral in February approved a motion to shelve LB 111 this session, a parliamentary move that effectively killed the bill.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]


Congressman Ashford criticized for lack of fundraising

Nebraska 2nd District Congressman Brad Ashford is getting  heat from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for not focusing on fundraising for his 2016 election. Congressman Ashford says while fundraising is important so is focusing on his job.

Congressman Ashford says, “I spend half of my day just dealing with the ISIS issue because our sub-committee works on it. The fundraising, obviously everybody needs money to run campaigns but it’s got to be a secondary consideration.”

Congressman Ashford goes on to say that if the U-S House would actually debate bills there would be “zero” time for fundraising. He goes on to say that bills have to be discussed and that isn’t done so he is introducing a bill that would require all bills be debated ten hours before the vote. He says there are regulations in place now but typically they are suspended.

AG Peterson at home after undergoing prostate cancer surgery

Attorney General Doug Peterson

Attorney General Doug Peterson

Attorney General Doug Peterson has undergone prostate cancer surgery, according to his office, and is recovering at home.

According to the Attorney General’s office, Peterson had surgery after testing in December “provided early detection indicators” of prostate cancer. The office says Peterson and his family determined it would be prudent to have surgery.

“Peterson is keeping in continual contact with his office and holding daily conferences with senior staff as he recovers at home with his family,” according to a news release from the office.

His office reports the surgeon believes the procedure was successful. Further test results from the surgery should be available later this week.

Peterson encourages men over the age of 50 to undergo a medical examination for prostate cancer as well as learn the signs of prostate cancer to recognize its early stages.