Monthly Archives: January 2009

More Options in Childbirth

Currently, Nebraska has fairly strict regulations on midwife-assisted birth. There are a few bills this session that would change that…

LB406 would prevent hospitals from denying privileges to a CNM (certified nurse midwife) simply because they are a CNM.

LB457 would change the requirement that prevents a CNM from practicing without working under a doctor. Currently, CNMs have to have a doctor sign off on all their patients, even if the doctor never personally sees the patient. This bill would allow midwives to work in free-standing birth centers.

LB481 would allow CNMs to attend home births. This would be a big positive change for liberty. As it stands, this restriction means that residents of Nebraska who want to have a home birth have difficulty finding someone to assist them (since it’s illegal), and especially that certified midwives (presumably more trained than “lay” midwives) cannot attend home births without risking loss of their ability to legally practice. This makes home birth in Nebraska more dangerous, not safer.

Nebraska Friends of Midwives and Senator Fulton are the champions of this cause.

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Filed under Health & Human Service Committee

Watching Education

I am a member of my local school board, so attended a “legislative conference” with school board members and administrators of public schools from around the state yesterday.  During this conference, Governor Heineman spoke to us, and pointed to the fact that while Nebraska is one of only 9 (or 7 depending on the measure you use) states in the country not currently in fiscal crisis, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to feel the pinch.  The state has about $600 million in cash reserves, and the Governor indicated that based on forecasts, we probably needed to figure on dipping into that over the next 2-4 years, as state revenues were likely to show shortfalls.

Given the nature of the 200 or so that he was speaking to, the Governor wanted to point out that of the much smaller than planned budget increase that he was planning, education would still get about 85% of that, and that Health and Human Services would get something like 13%, with the remainder being spread throughout the many other areas of government expenditures.

How much education gets is a big deal in the School Board/Administrator community.  Our school district gets about 40 percent of its operating budget from State Aid funds, and a decrease in the yearly increase means a lower operating budget for the school district.

If I were in charge of schools, I could probably find plenty of “extras” to cut–however I recognize, as well, that there are costs associated with education that wouldn’t have even been considered when I was in school: the increased cost of testing and and filling out paperwork to be in compliance with federal and state standards; a far higher expectation on school districts to educate the profoundly disabled (whereas when I was in school, “special ed” seemed to be limited to those who were mildly or moderately  mentally disabled); and a different society which places far more expectations on the school to teach lessons that parents and churches were once thought to be widely responsible for.  In addtion, the more mobile nature of our society, and fewer stable 2 parent families (and more blended families) seems to add a different element of discipline problems that would have been seen 30 to 40 years ago.

That being said, the lust for more money was evident at this meeting.  Question and answer periods with the Governor, as well as the Chairs of the Education and Appropriations Committees of the Legislature suggested to me a certain unwillingness of some Administrators and Boards to come to terms with what’s ahead, and to start tightening the belts now.  Several questions related directly to the Federal Stimulus Package: “Have you been in contact with people in Washington–is there any chance that some of that stimulus money will be coming our way and can make up for the shortfall in our state dollars?”

To their credit, the Governor and the Chairs all said: “I wouldn’t count on it until I see it.”  And Governor Heineman’s point was especially poignant–“We don’t know what kinds of strings are going to be attached to any stimulus dollars.”

Of course anytime the government–state or federal–passes money to local school boards, it inevitably comes with some sort of strings attached.  My question, as I leaned over to our Superintendent and the other Board member with us from our town: “Why are they counting on money from the Feds?  Taxpayers are still footing the bill in one way or the other–either through increased taxes, the higher debt load, or through the “invisible tax” of inflation when all that money that doesn’t exist gets dumped into the system.”  In the latter instance, the money we get from the Feds isn’t going to help anyone–because the prices for things we need will got up and the money we get won’t buy the same amount as “today’s dollars.”

Keep an eye on the Education Committee.  The Chair (Sen. Greg Adams) has promised to try to “leave you alone” as much as possible this year, limiting additional regulations, changes in aid formula, etc.  We’ll see if he can keep that promise.

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Making Contact

Joe’s Crabby Shack is a Nebraska based blog that specializes in following Nebraska legislation dealing with gun rights.  They’ve got a great post up today that gives really good advice for making contact with your state senator (the advice is universal and endorsed by Unicam Watch for all issues).

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Filed under Nebraska Legislature

Last Day of Bill Introductions

For all intents and purposes, all of the bills for this session of the legislature have been introduced.  I’m told that for a “long session”, the 679 bills introduced is on the low side–that it’s typical to see 900 or so introduced in a 90 day session.  From that standpoint, maybe term limits have been good, and that they’ve created a bit of reserve in new legislators.

There are a number of bills in a lot of different categories that we in the liberty movement will want to keep an eye on.  We’ll start plowing through them.  In the meantime, there are one line descriptions of bills on the Unicameral website (see the Links to the right), and you can also access calendars (and see what hearing are scheduled) here.

If you’re interested in jumping on board this watchdog bandwagon, send an e-mail here, indicating your interest, and we’ll be in touch.

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Hearing Schedule Posted

The hearing schedule for the next week or so has been posted. There are a few bills on there that we’ve touched on (such as LB229 and LB261 about real ID and machine-encoded info on driver’s licenses), so you might consider showing up for some of these hearings.

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Filed under Nebraska Legislature

Life and Death

Nebraska legislators will be looking at two options for the future of the death penalty: LB36 seeks to change the method of death penalty to lethal injection; LB306 would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

The death penalty is a tough issue. I think we can all agree that taxpayers should not have to pay for the care of offenders. However, the more we move toward a justice system that seeks full restitution (where offenders repay the victim for any damage done and pay for any court or imprisonment costs as well), the less of a burden the criminal justice system in general will be on taxpayers.

There are a couple bills that appear to be moving in the direction of restitution: LB274 would allow the Director of Correctional Services to assign felony offenders (other than sexual offenders) to incarceration work camps, and LB78 would provide for a portion of an inmate’s wages to be deposited in the Victim’s Compensation Fund.

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Filed under Judiciary Committee, Nebraska Legislature

The Insidious Reach

Just a quick comment as I leaf throught he 416 bills that have been introduced in the legislature thus far (there should only be 2 or 3 more days of significant introduction of legislation–most is introduced in the first 10 days of the legislative session so that they can be assigned to committees and placed on the hearings schedule): the state of Nebraska and it’s lawmakers seek to reach into areas of our daily lives every bit as much as “Big Brother” in Washington.  Whether it’s telling you whether you can smoke in your car (or anywhere else), sharing your driver’s license information with other agencies, providing premarital counselling for those who want to get married, or handing out “special deals” to certain classes of people (see the various laws which would exempt farm equipment and college textbooks from sales tax payments)–our government is in the business of taking away our liberty, and then deciding who gets the goodies.

Citizens of Nebraska need to take a look at the many bills that have been introduced in this legislative session, and question whether the state really needs to be sticking its nose in all these areas of life.  If their answer is “no”, then we need to let our legislators know that we’re watching them, and that we don’t appreciate the ever expanding reach of our state.

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Filed under Nebraska Legislature