November 23, 2014

Couple who lost daughter to drunk driver urge use of designated driver (AUDIO)

Todd Calfee speaks at a news conference in the governor's residence along with his wife, Jaimie. NSP Supt. David Sankey looks on.

Todd Calfee speaks at a news conference in the governor’s residence along with his wife, Jaimie. NSP Supt. David Sankey looks on.

A couple who lost their 19-year-old daughter in a drunk driving accident plead with Nebraskans to not drink and drive.

Todd and Jaimie Calfee of Bennett told their story to reporters during a news conference at the governor’s residence.

“On September 9th, 2011 our lives were completely devastated when we were greeted by two sheriff’s deputies, two very brave sheriff’s deputies, who came to tell us that our daughter had been killed,” Todd Calfee stated. “Later, we found out that she was killed by a six time convicted drunk driver.”

The news conference hosted by Gov. Dave Heineman and First Lady Sally Ganem in the governor’s residence kicks off the “Tie One On For Safety” red ribbon campaign sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to highlight the tragedy of drunk driving and raise awareness that drivers shouldn’t get behind the wheel after drinking, but rather should have a designated driver.

The Nebraska State Patrol also participated.

MADD and Nationwide Insurance have released a national survey in which 75% of the respondents said they would designate a driver if they were out drinking so that everyone could get home safely. About 45% also added they would designate a driver so they wouldn’t get a DUI.

Todd Calfee speaks with 1st Lady Sally Ganem outside the governor's residence. Gov. Dave Heineman and Andrea Frazier with MADD Nebraska are in the background.

Todd Calfee speaks with 1st Lady Sally Ganem outside the governor’s residence. Gov. Dave Heineman and Andrea Frazier with MADD Nebraska are in the background.

The Calfee’s daughter, Alexis, and her boyfriend, Chris Oberg, died in a traffic wreck while driving back to Wayne State College.

“Our lives will never be the same. They are changed forever. Our hearts are broken,” Todd Calfee said “The holidays were the best times of our lives, when all the family and friends got together. Now there’s an empty place that sits at our table. And, it makes it pretty devastating.”

Highway safety officials say the dangers of drunk driving increase during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve holidays, holidays in which alcohol often plays a prominent role in the celebrations.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman and MADD host news conference kicking off “Tie One On For Safety” campaign. [12 min.]

Gov. Heineman expects vigorous defense of Nebraska marriage law (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman expects the state to defend its definition of marriage.

The American Civil Liberties Union has announced it will challenge the law, which bans same-sex marriage.

Heineman says the law deserves to be defended.

“The people of Nebraska in 2000 voted overwhelmingly that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s what Nebraskans believe and I know the current Attorney General and I’m confident the Attorney General-elect are going to fight very vigorously that we, the people of Nebraska, decided what we wanted to do,” Heineman tells reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. “This wasn’t a vote of the legislature. This was a vote of all of our citizens, who said very strongly, very forcefully, and overwhelmingly that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

The ACLU has challenged the law before. It actually appeared to have succeeded in its effort to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage when a federal judge agreed with its argument and struck the law down in 2005. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, though, overruled the judge and reinstated the ban.

Officials with the ACLU in Nebraska say recent rulings from the United States Supreme Court encouraged them to again attempt to overturn the law.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman expects state to defend definition of marriage. [:35]

Heineman will help, but Ricketts will chose Janssen replacement

Sen. Charlie Janssen/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Charlie Janssen/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Gov. Dave Heineman says he will work closely with Gov.-elect Pete Ricketts as the incoming governor chooses a candidate to replace Sen. Charlie Janssen, who was elected state Auditor.

Janssen represents the 15th State Legislative District in the Fremont area. Auditor-elect Janssen is expected to resign his state Senate seat after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Applications will be submitted to Gov. Heineman. Gov.-elect Ricketts will review the applicants and select the next senator. Heineman will make the official appointment, based on Ricketts’ selection.

The Governor’s Office will accept applications through noon Central Time Wednesday, November 26th. Applicants must have lived in the district, which encompasses Dodge County, for at least a year. A detailed map of the district and its boundaries is available on the Nebraska Legislature’s website: nebraskalegislature.gov. The Governor-elect may also choose to seek out additional qualified candidates.

The candidate appointed will serve out the remainder of Janssen’s term, which will come up for election in November of 2016. The candidate appointed would only be allowed to run for re-election once under the state term limit laws.

Those interested can apply online at governor.nebraska.gov, under the “Contact Us” tab. A cover letter, resume and additional materials may be emailed to kathleen.dolezal@nebraska.gov or mailed to the Governor’s Office, at P.O. Box 94848, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509. Questions may be directed to Kathleen Dolezal with the Governor’s Office at (402) 471-1971.

Two other legislative vacancies will not be filled, according to the governor’s office. State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Legislative District 18 in Omaha recently resigned and former state Sen. John Nelson resigned his Legislative District 6 seat in Omaha in September to become Gov. Heineman’s Lt. Governor. The seats will remain vacant until those elected on the 4th, Brett Lindstrom in District 18 and Joni Craighead in District 6 are sworn-in on January 7th.

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.”