Busy day for state legislature

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May 21st, 2013

Lincoln, NE – Last week, senators seemed on the verge of repealing permission they gave cities last year to raise sales taxes another half percent.
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Sen. Ernie Chambers came within one vote of attaching an amendment to do that. Monday, Chambers had an additional vote from Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, who wasn’t there last week. But he lost three votes:

“Last Thursday on this floor, I think I made a mistake,” said Tom Carlson.

Sen. Tom Carlson was the only one of the three to speak. In doing so, Carlson drew a parallel with state frustrations with the federal government:

“Many of us think that states should have more freedom to govern themselves,” said Carlson. “We generally prefe local control. We should practice what we preach and we have our actions follow our talk,” said Carlson.

Joining Carlson in switching their votes were Sens. Danielle Conrad and Kate Bolz of Lincoln. They supported the sales tax rollback on Thursday, but passed in Monday’s vote.

Also Monday, Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, the leading proponent of expanding Medicaid, all but acknowledged that effort is dead for this year:

“Unless the unforeseen happens, that some senator will come forward and say “I am willing to offer a cloture vote.” Then I could go to the speaker but I do not see Medicare coming back to the agenda because time is running out on me,” said Campbell.

Campbell is now proposing a study of alternatives, including what Arkansas is proposing, to use Medicaid expansion dollars to subsidize purchases of private insurance policies on the new health care exchanges:

“What we have to be careful of any alternative that we come up with is a, the federal government has to say yes to it. We can’t just decide for ourselves,” said Campbell. “And two, it cannot cost the federal government more for your alternative than it would have cost them with just straight Medicaid expansion,” said Campbell.

Also on Monday, Nebraska State Patrol superintendent David Sankey was asked about recent incidents when trucks delivering beer to Whiteclay have been vandalized and their drivers threatened. Sankey said the State Patrol is trying to address the problem:

“We’re working with Sheridan County officials to try and provide more law enforcement in the area,” said Sankey. “To perhaps time that better with these deliveries and be available when those situations occur. If something like that occurs we are available to respond,” said Sankey.

Whiteclay is a village in northeast Nebraska where four beer stores sell the equivalent of more than 4 million cans of beer a year, largely to residents of the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Ogallala Sioux tribe. Tribal president Bryan Brewer had this reaction to Sankey’s statement:

“All they worry about is protecting the owners of the bars to make sure they get the alcohol to sell to our people,” said Brewer. “If that is all they are concerned about then I have a problem with that. They should be concerned what the alcohol is doing to our people, but they are concerned with the beer trucks,” said Brewer.

Brewer said a better solution is a proposal he’s made to set up a permanent roadblock to check vehicles crossing the state line into the reservation. The council has not yet voted on that.

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