This Week’s Smorgasbord:
Neb. Hikes Gas Tax; Fed Action Long Delayed
Calling Marijuana “Cannabis” Doesn’t Change The Threat
Death Penalty Repeal Appears Headed For Passage
Driver’s License Bill For Immigrants Needs Amendment
Media Fail Badly In Reporting Legislative Votes
Let’s Talk About Good News For Nebraskans
On National Scene, Bad News For Senator Rubio
Looking Abroad, Israel’s Netanyahu Appears In Trouble
I Finish Today With A Hamburger And Fries

No shortage of topics for this week’s “multi-subject” column.  Let’s start with news close to home:

The Nebraska Legislature was making lots of news, including very significantly override of Governor Ricketts veto of the gasoline tax increase bill.

Thirty of the 49 legislators supported the long-overdue increase in the gasoline tax.  It has been seven years since the last previous increase, and badly-needed state highway and county road and street maintenance construction and repairs piled up to an estimated $1 billion worth of undone work.

Even with the increase, it will take a good deal of time to overcome that billion dollar deficit in construction and repair.

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Our Thanks To Legislators Who Voted To Override Veto

The state’s motorists should be grateful to the 30 legislators who had the political acumen to recognize the need and address it, Governor Ricketts’ contrary opinion notwithstanding.

The gas tax was last increased in 2008 by 1.2%.  The legislation passed over Governor Ricketts’ veto increases the tax by 6 cents in steps over a three-year period.

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World-Herald Analysis Pointed Out The Problem

The Omaha World-Herald did an excellent job of describing, in impressive detail, the growing gap between gasoline tax revenues and the growing need for construction and repair and replacement of highways, roads and bridges and city streets across Nebraska.

The World-Herald estimated that between the last gas tax increase in 2008 and the present, approximately a billion dollars in highway, road and street maintenance need had accumulated.

The newspaper’s analysis made clear that further delay in increasing the gasoline tax would make the backlog of unmet needs even larger.

It will be no quick or easy job to catch up the gasoline tax increasing 6 cents per gallon in three incremental steps starting January 1st.  But to fail to start catching up would have been simply irresponsible.

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“Pot” Bill Advances

Also of interest on the legislative front was the advance towards passage of a bill to legalize marijuana intended for use in medical treatment—a very unwise piece of legislation, as I see it.

In other states where the use of marijuana has been legalized for so-called medicinal purposes, the result has been sharply increased abuse of marijuana, including its use as a companion of other drugs like cocaine.

The time to seriously consider marijuana legalization, as I see it, is when Nebraska’s medical profession approves it.

By Whatever Name, Marijuana Is Dangerous

The bill’s impassioned sponsor, Senator Tommy Garrett of Bellevue, is pushing the bill now under the name “The Medical Cannabis Act.”

The legislature’s final vote on marijuana legalization will be one of the standards by which the quality of this year’s legislative session will be judged.

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Abolishing Death Penalty Appears Headed For Passage

As I dictate this, the fate of the bill to abolish the death penalty was still in doubt.  My inclination is to support the bill, based on this reasoning:

To put a defendant’s life in the hands of a jury is something of a gamble.  Very good example.  Some years ago, a first-degree murder case was tied to a jury in Douglas County.  A retrial was ordered and conducted in a western Nebraska county supposedly to get the objectivity of a longer-distance look at the issue.

The two trials produced exactly contradictory results.  The Omaha jury voted to execute the defendant, the outstate jury voted to set him free.

Too Much Like A Roll Of The Dice

The uncertainty of the result in submitting a first-degree murder case to a jury has, over the years, produced a good many negotiated pleas to charges of second-degree murder.

Prosecutors understandably prefer to avoid long trial and the uncertainties of trials for first-degree murder (the result of premeditated intent to take a person’s life).

Let’s stop rolling craps on first-degree murder trials which may result in guilty persons going free or sitting on “Death Row” for years while their convictions are subject to what seems to be endless appeals and judicial reviews.

As I dictate this, the issue of ending capital punishment is still undecided in the Legislature.  But the bill appeals likely to pass.

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Make Young Illegal Aliens Take Citizenship Courses

It seems to me that the bill should pass only with a provision that the young illegal immigrants agree to promptly enroll some kind of fast-track educational path that would qualify them for permanent residence as American citizens.

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Tell Us How They Voted

A serious deficiency in legislative coverage in print or electronic media is the failure to list ALL votes on uncertain key issues in the Legislature.

It used to be routine practice to report—legislator by legislator—the way the voting went on key issues.

Today, even on such important issues as the gasoline tax increase, we read only the final vote tally and the names of a handful of senators who switched their votes from their earlier positions.

This leaves me and thousands of other readers in the position of having to call my state legislator to find out how he voted—a ridiculous deficiency in the reporting of important legislative votes.

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Good Non-Legislative News

Non-legislative life in Nebraska proceeds, of course, with news of interest and importance.  For example:  The headline read:  “Bond issues approved in three school districts.”

The districts are:  Westside Community Schools, Gretna Public Schools and Bennington Public Schools.

And this headline on a World-Herald story May 6:  “Report ranks Omaha, Lincoln among top metro-area economies.”

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More Top High School Grads Choose Nebraska Schools

And good news in an area of substantial importance to Omaha and Nebraska although the indications are we still have a good way to go in retaining outstanding Nebraska high school graduates for their collegiate education within their home state.

There was, as I see it, encouraging news in the fact that three of the nine outstanding graduates on The World-Herald’s 2015 “All State Team” pursue their collegiate education in their Nebraska.

The report indicates we still have a way to go in convincing some of the best and brightest to do their education in their home states.  But it stands in stark contrast to the picture a few years ago when every member of The World-Herald’s high school graduate first team chose to pursue their collegiate education in other states.

More good news this year in the fact that four of the eight school graduates among the eight members of The World-Herald’s All Metro Academic Team plan to attend college in Nebraska.

Good, Of Course, For Some To Look Elsewhere

I hasten to add that it would NOT be desirable to have every outstanding Nebraska high school graduate attend college in our state.   Interchange among states in this regard is highly desirable, of course.

But as I see it, we should be encouraged by the fact that the traffic is not all one way or even predominantly one way.  And we should most definitely offer incentives for non-Nebraska high school seniors, particularly in adjoining states, to pursue their collegiate education in Nebraska.

* * *

Good News Turns To Bad For Senator Rubio

Moving on to national news worthy of comment.  The New York Times pretty clearly, as I see it, has been promoting first-term Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for consideration as a Republican presidential nominee ahead of his fellow-Floridian, former two-term Governor Jeb Bush.

The Times was conducting a not very subtle campaign to build a case for Senator Rubio, as against two-term Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

But the Rubio campaign got a jolt with disclosure that he supported President George W. Bush’s decision to ask Congress to approve invasion of Iraq.

The Times Surprised By Rubio’s Support Of Iraq Invasion?

But The Times friendly treatment of Rubio could change, now that Rubio has said he approves George W. Bush’s leading the United States into war with Iraq and its dictator Saddam Hussein.

It proved to be a long unpopular and costly war—both in lives and in money.  The United States in toppling Hussein but simply could not bring peace between the rival Muslim sects—the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites control the government.

Prior to the revelation of Rubio’s support of the Iraqi invasion, The Times had given front-page play to a story headlined “Family Ties Prove Tricky In Bush’s Path.”

It will be interesting to see how The Times reacts to the surprising news that Rubio had supported the invasion of Iraq.

Early media reaction—not necessarily in The Times—suggested that revelation of Rubio’s support of the Iraq invasion was something of a bombshell that would hurt his candidacy.

* * *

Huckabee Has No Chance

Elsewhere on the national news front:

Why in the world doesn’t Mike Huckabee just pack it in and recognize that his effort to win the Republican presidential nomination has simply no chance?

There is no sign that there are enough far-right Republican conservatives to give the former Arkansas governor even an outside chance of winning the GOP nomination.

* * *

Netanyahu In Trouble Trying To Form A Government

Next some comments on the international news scene, starting with new problems facing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

From acting as sort of a de facto director of American foreign policy in manners where Israel is concerned, Netanyahu is now closer to fighting for his political life.

His problem is indicated in a number of news stories and in a column by David Ignatius of The Washington Post—a column appearing in The World-Herald under this headline:  “Netanyahu’s base looking a bit shaky.”

The Israeli Prime Minister, who received 34% of the vote in elections earlier this year, has been finding it very difficult to recruit another minority-party leader who will join him in forming a minority but government-controlling partnership.

Good news for those Americans, including me, who don’t want our Mid-East foreign policy dictated by an Israeli prime minister who has such difficulty forming a government.

Continuing briefly on other international news:

A recent Omaha World-Herald editorial carried this headline:

“China’s actions bear watching.”

Really?

As I see it, Americans really don’t need to be advised to be alert for potential threats from “China’s actions.”

* * *

An Appetizing Color Picture Provides An Upbeat Ending

Easy to find a way to end on an upbeat note for this week’s column.

Regular readers will know that I have on occasion voiced skeptical comment about the attractiveness of sometimes puzzling color pictures of dishes offered by restaurants spotlighted as a result of visits by World-Herald staff members.

Sometimes the dishes simply don’t look attractive to me.  And sometimes my 91-year-old eyesight simply can’t figure out the nature of the food being spotlighted.

So this week it is my pleasure to praise the recent spotlighting of a dish discovered by a World-Herald eating-place reviewer.

In this case, the reviewer had visited Burger Theory.

2015-05-20 17_30_29

Yum, yum!

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