- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

The Grand Island Independent. April 30, 2014.

New year will bring new leaders in state offices

Come next January, there will be a lot of moving vans pulling up to the State Capitol in Lincoln.

At least 17 state senators will be leaving office. These 17 will be leaving because of term limits. There could also be others leaving pending election results.

But that’s far from all.

There will be a new governor, a new lieutenant governor, a new attorney general and a new state auditor.

Nebraska’s state government will see a large-scale changing of the guard that rarely happens. A lot of experience walking out the door of the Capitol at the end of the year.

The domino that got all of this rolling is Gov. Dave Heineman leaving office. After 10 years as Nebraska’s governor, Heineman has reached his two-term limit.

That, of course, started the scramble. State Auditor Mike Foley and Attorney General Jon Bruning decided to leap into the governor’s race rather than safely seek re-election. That opened the statehouse up even more.

So what does all of this change mean for Nebraska? Will losing all of this experience in state government hurt the state?

Possibly. It can be good to get new blood, new ideas and fresh faces in office. It can revitalize state government.

However, an area that can be hurt is the Legislature. Since Nebraska has a unicameral, losing more than a third of the 49 state senators can be troublesome. The Legislature deals with many complex issues and getting comfortable dealing with them can take years.

Among the senators leaving are seven committee chairmen and Speaker Greg Adams. These eight senators have largely driven the agenda in the Legislature during the last two years. New people will be behind the wheel in 2015.

Many have long thought that the best way to have term limits is at the ballot box. If voters don’t like someone, elect someone new.

Nebraskans, though, instituted a limit of two terms on state senators in 2000. It has not been the disaster that many thought it would be. It seems every two years, new senators come in and capably fill the seats of the Legislature.

New senators often seem willing to stand up to lobbyists and the governor and be independent. That’s what their constituents are seeking - someone to represent them in Lincoln.

Nebraskans said they wanted turnover in the Legislature when they approved term limits. It’s accepted now and the state has moved on from that fight.

Let’s just hope the new senators are as thoughtful and hard working as the 17 who are leaving the Legislature.


McCook Daily Gazette. May 2, 2014.

Marijuana money a growing problem in Colorado

Follow the money.

Deep throat’s advice from “All The President’s Men” holds true today, even if the money involved is from a quasi-legal source.

The recreational marijuana business is booming in Colorado - just ask the state revenue department, which is expected to bring in an extra $40 million this year if trends continue. That comes from the regular 2.9 percent sales tax, a retail marijuana excise tax and local taxes that can total more than 20 percent.

Colorado marijuana retailers sold $14 million in weed the first month it was legal.

Great business, right?

From the fictional Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” who wound up burying barrels of the stuff in the desert only to have most of it stolen, to the true-life Al Capone who went to prison not because of bootlegging and other criminal activities, but because of tax evasion, marijuana entrepreneurs are finding it difficult to dispose of their profits.

In this case, while Colorado looks at the marijuana business as legal, the federal government, which controls the financial system, does not.

Despite guidance from the federal departments of justice and treasury, financial institutions are wary about accepting money derived from an activity that is illegal in 48 states.

A banking committee in the Colorado legislature advanced a plan to create a banking system for the marijuana business, but another committee killed the plan by amending it to require the state to continue seeking ways to mainstream the dope cash.

Bitcoin, a nonregulated online-only currency, offers a possible alternative, but the IRS has made it clear that bitcoin is, indeed, taxable, and authorities shut down at least one marketplace used for illegal drugs, pornography and other nefarious activities. Another bitcoin exchange went bankrupt and lost or had stolen many of its customer’s electronically-stored bitcoins, although some were recovered on old servers.

Proponents of channeling the Colorado marijuana money into the mainstream banking system vow to pass their bill, if only to force the federal government to deal with the issue - which will likely favor the expansion of legalized marijuana.

That’s an issue that can’t help but spill over into neighboring Nebraska, forcing us to deal more directly with the issue as well.


Fremont Tribune. May 2, 2014.

In producing attack ads, don’t take us out of context

Our most cherished part of the Bill of Rights is the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is the cornerstone that has allowed for the free-flowing exchange of words that make up today’s media environment.

For us, though, that right carriers a burden.

The stories we write, the thoughts we share, are archived and become the basis for the history of our community, its institutions and its residents. Our responsibility is to accurately report about the people and events in our community.

That’s why it’s disturbing to see our publication used in some of the negative political advertising that pops up every election cycle. Far too often these advertisements take quotations and thoughts out of context or conveniently leave out the background surrounding the supposedly shocking comments.

One case in point appeared this week in television ads produced for and endorsed by U.S. Senate candidate Shane Osborn. We believe Mr. Osborn took statements made by Midland University president Ben Sasse during a 2010 health care symposium out of context.

In one case, we believe Mr. Osborn used Mr. Sasse’s statements about the potential about a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, without giving enough background about the comments. At the time, Mr. Sasse did say “Republicans are not repealing this bill.” But Mr. Osborn ignores the rest of the statement about how Congress has never repealed any entitlement and that there were not enough votes in both houses of Congress to achieve that goal.

In another case, our reporting of the conference does contain a portion of a quote from Mr. Sasse that uses the words “an important first step.” Mr. Osborn pounced on those words, using them to claim Mr. Sasse - one of his opponents in the May 13 Republican primary - supported Obamacare.

However, those who read the full paragraph will realize Mr. Sasse is talking about the discussion the bill brought about as being an important first step in addressing the nation’s health care crisis. Mr. Sasse was clear then - as he is now - that the Affordable Care Act is a bad piece of legislation.

We urge you to reread the entire story. It can be found on our website, fremonttribune.com, by searching for Mr. Sasse’s name in November 2010. Or you can type this link into your browser: https://bit.ly/1lCwVpp. After rereading the story, we believe it is obvious Mr. Sasse has never supported Obamacare.

We are concerned when any political campaign - whether from the actual candidate or the numerous private groups that have been formed - uses our stories as the basis for negative, attack ads. We are doubly concerned when those ads take the comments out of context.

That is why we urge those who use the airwaves and pages of the media to be responsible. Don’t take comments out of context. Don’t gloss over the important background. Campaigns should post links to the actual content used as examples so voters have the opportunity to read the stories and make up their own minds.

We cherish our right to free speech and we will steadfastly fight to protect this critical freedom. Part of that fight is pointing out those who we believe take our reporting out of context in attacking another. Our responsibility is to make sure our words, our thoughts, are portrayed accurately. In this case, we do not believe they were.


Kearney Hub. May 2, 2014.

Education enriches more than our wallets

As industries and politicians scream for more STEM graduates - students trained in science, technology, engineering and math - it’s difficult to imagine any topics that might be more important for our nation’s colleges and universities to teach.

Manufacturers, research firms and other businesses are facing critical shortages of employees knowledgeable about math, science and engineering. But in the rush to fill these vitally important slide rule and test tube jobs, are Americans losing sight of other critical needs, such as the need to prepare graduates to think critically?

That’s a credible question, given the single-mindedness that’s driving the push for more STEM graduates. Interestingly, not everyone is so stoked about turning out a generation of scientists and engineers.

During some recent forums in which participants discussed the nation’s educational needs, only about one in five participants strongly agreed that “our country’s long-term prosperity heavily depends on educating more students in the fields of science, engineering, and math.”

While only about 20 percent backed STEM-style educations, more than half strongly agreed that “college should be where students learn to develop the ability to think critically by studying a rich curriculum that includes history, art and literature, government, economics and philosophy.”

Backers of broader-based learning were suspicious of attempts to narrow college education. To them, higher education wasn’t just a ticket to a well-paying job, but rather the opportunity to live a richer life. Most valued giving young people a chance to explore their interests and have the freedom to dive into subjects - and see where that leads.

Higher education is expensive, but it ought to be about more than reeling in future paychecks. Great things can happen when STEM graduates of the future unlock new secrets of medicine, technology and engineering, but what might we miss as a nation if our children are never exposed to the fine arts, literature, history or geography?

Ironically, Americans consider Japanese and Chinese students to be among the best trained in the world, but many of the leaders in those nations worry that their younger generations lack a grounding in the humanities.

They have a point, and here is why.

An article in the Atlantic recently pointed out that the United States has panicked over workforce shortages in science and engineering five times since World War II. Each time, the nation’s experts declared the need for more STEM graduates, only to witness painful layoffs and budget cuts in technical and scientific fields afterward.

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