March 6, 2015

Sec. of State Gale favors voter photo ID and winner-take-all Electoral College

Secretary of State John Gale

Secretary of State John Gale

Secretary of State John Gale backs legislation working its way through the Unicameral to require Nebraska voters to display photo identification to cast a ballot and to end the state practice of proportional distribution of its Electoral College votes.

Gale says other states have had success implementing the photo identification requirement.

“The states that have photo ID, for the most part, have found that it’s worked pretty smoothly,” Gale tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “And that’s one good reason why Nebraska has waited awhile to see how this issue has worked out. There are still some states that are in court and some voter ID systems have been set aside by courts, because states have made it too complicated to get a non-driver ID.”

Gale says the legislature must insure that anyone without photo identification will be given a photo ID without cost. He adds the legislature must factor-in the cost of educating the public about any change in voting requirements.

Gale says it is time for Nebraska to revert back to the winner-take-all format for distributing its Electoral College votes.

Nebraska adopted proportional distribution in 1991. Gale says other states failed to follow, with Maine being the only other states to distribute its Electoral College votes proportionally.

It has only come into play once. In 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won an electoral vote from the Second Congressional District even though he lost the state to Republican John McCain.

Gale says that under certain circumstances that could have had a big impact on the presidential election.

“It would not have been the voice of Nebraska and that is what the U.S. Constitution says, it’s up to the voice of Nebraska as to how to distribute those electoral votes,” according to Gale. “And I think we have to reflect the voice of Nebraska.”

Sen. Fischer moves into leadership position in Washington

Sen. Deb Fischer/Photo courtesy of the Senator's office

Sen. Deb Fischer/Photo courtesy of the Senator’s office

Sen. Deb Fischer says she wants to set a different tone as chairwoman of a subcommittee.

Fischer chairs the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee, part of the Commerce, Senate, and Transportation Committee.

Fischer says she wants her sub-committee to listen.

“You have these committee hearings and it’s the Senators who give these long, long statements. It’s sometimes Senators who really grill witnesses,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters. “I have always found committee hearings to be the most beneficial to me when I can get information from people.”

Fischer says she wants her subcommittee to engage in respectful dialogue both with those who appear before it and among the Senators themselves. She likens it to the approach she took in the Unicameral in which she chaired the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

Fischer received the chairmanship after Republicans took control of the majority in the Senate.

Fischer complained during her first two years in Washington that the Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, blocked legislation from coming to the floor and limited debate. She claimed he did it for political reasons.

“You know, you all heard me say I want a Senate that’s working, that’s doing its job, that is a legislature that is following the legislative process,” Fischer says. “It’s exciting to be able to bring up amendments, and (have) discussion, debate them, and to vote on them. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. We’re here to do the people’s business and address the big issues before us.”

Fischer, who has been in the United States Senate for two years, has a greater voice in what big issues the Senate tackles. The new Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, has chosen Fischer to be on his leadership team. Fischer will be among a handful of Republicans expected to provide counsel to McConnell.

“It’s an honor to be chosen, being from Nebraska, being able to have Nebraska at the table to express the views of my constituents and hopefully help guide the direction that the Senate will go.”


Ashford finds Congress exciting, challenging (AUDIO)

Brad Ashford on election night

Brad Ashford on election night

Congressman Brad Ashford says it is an incredible honor to serve the Second Congressional District in Washington and his election to Congress is a dream come true.

Ashford is getting settled in his new role as a member of Congress in the nation’s Capital.

“It’s exciting. It’s challenging. It’s something I can really get my arms around I believe and I’m excited to be there, certainly,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Ashford, a Democrat, won election to Congress in November, defeating long-time Republican incumbent Lee Terry.

Ashford served in the Unicameral as a state senator and now moves to the federal legislative branch.

He has scored two important appointments, especially for a freshman. Ashford has been named to the House Armed Services Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.

Armed Services has a direct impact on the Omaha area. Offutt Air Force Base, home to the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM), is next door to the Second Congressional District and has a wide-ranging impact on the Omaha metropolitan economy as well as the state economy as a whole.

Nebraska, of course, is an agricultural state, but Ashford points out Omaha is home to a number of large agri-businesses. And while many might think a seat on the House Agriculture Committee might be more fitting for the Third Congressional District, Ashford says it is vitally important to Omaha, because the committee regulates the trading of commodities and determines the budget for the food stamp program.

Ashford says he’s ready to tackle the issues which will come before both committees.

“Issues that affect this district and the country as a whole and I’m glad Armed Service and Ag give me that opportunity to work on these issues.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

A tradition since 1943, Nebraska Breakfast begins again in Washington

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry at the nation's Capitol

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry at the nation’s Capitol

Members of the Nebraska Congressional delegation have released the schedule for the Nebraska Breakfast, an opportunity for Nebraskans visiting their nation’s Capital a chance to hear directly from their elected representatives in Congress.

The Nebraska Breakfast began in 1943 and is the longest-running state gathering of elected officials and constituents on Capitol Hill.

The first breakfast will be held tomorrow morning at 8am at The Senate Buffett, Dirksen Senate Office Building, First Street and Constitution Avenue, NE in Washington, D.C.

At the breakfast, Nebraska residents can hear from their Congressional delegation as well as speak informally with United States Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse; and Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry, Brad Ashford, and Adrian Smith.

The Nebraska Breakfast is normally held on Wednesday when both the House and Senate are in session. They begin at 8am ET.

The Nebraska Congressional delegation released the following schedule:

January 28

February 4, 11, 25

March 4, 18, 25

April 15, 22, 29

May 13, 20

June 3, 10, 17, 24

July 8, 15, 22, 29

September 9, 16, 30

October 7

Breakfasts begin promptly at 8am. Guests are encouraged to arrive as early as 7:30am. All Nebraskans are welcome to attend. Breakfast can be purchased a la carte.

Group and individual reservations can be made by contacting any one of the five offices of members of the Nebraska Congressional delegation.

Congressman Ashford finds Congress much different than Unicameral

Congressman Brad Ashford

Congressman Brad Ashford

Nebraska’s newest Congressman is adjusting to life in Washington.

Democrat Brad Ashford of Omaha, who served in the non-partisan Unicameral, says he has found that Congress places a premium on partisanship and seniority in the making of law.

“There isn’t the natural human interaction that happens, for example most particularly in our Unicameral, where laws are made really based on building relationships one person at a time,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Ashford moved from the Unicameral to Congress when he defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Lee Terry in November to win the Second Congressional District of greater Omaha.

Ashford held a local swearing-in ceremony in Omaha this morning.

Ashford has joined the United Solutions Caucus, made up of House Democrats and Republicans working together on policy.

“To actually try to develop policies that the group can agree on that would be obviously nonpartisan and would address some of the more difficult issues like immigration, energy, and taxes,” Ashford explains.

He says the group is sowing the beginning seeds of a larger effort to remove so much of the partisanship of the process.

Ashford is the only Democrat in the Nebraska Congressional delegation. He doesn’t see that as a problem, though. He considers Sen. Deb Fischer a good friend from their days together in the Unicameral, where he also got to know Congressman Adrian Smith. Ashford says he knows Congressional Jeff Fortenberry well.

Ashford says he only recently met Sen. Ben Sasse.

Ashford doesn’t believe it makes any difference in his working relationship with the rest of the delegation that he is the only Democrat.

“I don’t see any problem or impediment to those relationships at all.”