Legislature Makes Big News

Yesterday my readers were informed of the reason for publication of my weekly column on Friday instead of Thursday this week.  I mentioned the possibility that there would be significant developments in the Nebraska Legislature Wednesday afternoon too late for comment in a Thursday column.

Such developments did indeed occur Wednesday afternoon, and I’m pleased to offer my comments in a column which goes online Friday. 

Death Penalty Issue May Go To The Voters.
‘Medical Marijuana’ Should Await Medical Endorsement

After the Legislature overrode Governor Ricketts’ veto, there was immediate talk of a petition campaign to bring the issue to a statewide vote on the November, 2016 ballot.

Various samplings of Nebraska voters’ opinion have indicated a majority oppose repeal of the death penalty law.  But the Legislature has voted 30-19 to pass the bill over Governor Pete Ricketts’ veto.  Some questions immediately occur.  For example:

How does repeal affect the 10 prisoners on “Death Row?”  Are they still subject to execution, having been sentenced to death before repeal of the death penalty?  Probably not is the answer I got when I asked the question of an attorney well acquainted with a variety of legal opinions affecting prisoners sentenced to death.

If the 10 prisoners are no longer subject to the death penalty, what are they subject to?  The most likely scenario, as I see it:  Life imprisonment without any possibility of parole.

I have written before that I favor repeal of the death penalty law for a variety of reasons.  First, I’m not at all sure that the prospect of the death penalty is a consistently effective deterrent to murder.  If it were, Nebraska wouldn’t have 10 prisoners who have been living on “Death Row” (without any execution since 1997).

But the most basic of all for skepticism about the death penalty or for outright opposition is the fact that there is no assurance it is consistently effective.

There are three possibilities when a defendant goes to trial for first-degree murder:

A defendant guilty of premeditated murder might go free, an innocent defendant might be convicted or a premediated murderer might be properly convicted and executed.

That seems to me to make the odds 2 to 1 against a right decision.

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Emotional Appeal Won’t Help Legalize Marijuana

The other major controversial issue dealt with by the Legislature in the waning hours of the 2015 session was Senator Tommy Garrett from Bellevue emotional decision to delay final action, until next year, on his bill to legalize so-called “medical marijuana.”

Senator Garrett couldn’t muster the 33 votes necessary to overcome filibusters by senators opposed to legalizing marijuana.

My reaction:  A marijuana legalization bill should never pass unless endorsed by well-recognized organizations representing the medical profession.

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Female Officer’s Death Dramatic And Very Newsworthy
But Did News Media And Community Overreact?

The killing of the female police officer Kerrie Orozco was obviously a major news story which resulted in community-wide reaction—overreaction, as I see it.

All the elements necessary for a sympathetic communitywide reaction were present:  The shooting of a female officer occurred on the day she was to take a leave of absence to take her premature baby home from the hospital.  Adding to the pathos was the fact she was a stepmother to two other children.

Story Worthy Of Extensive Coverage, But…

Certainly, it was a story worthy of very substantially more media reaction and news media coverage, for example, the death in the line of duty of a female officer.

But the flood of emotional reporting and community reaction didn’t slow but rather grew after several days of emotional reaction and saturation news coverage.  For example:

Print And Broadcast Media Fan the Flames

The print and broadcast media carried detailed illustrations of the path of the funeral cortege would take from St. John’s Catholic Church in Omaha across the Missouri River on to St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Council Bluffs.

There was no way to evaluate whether the idea was to provide information to those who wanted to stand along the route of the funeral procession or had the effect of encouraging such behavior.

There were numerous news media reports of the availability of seats in Sokol Hall on Creighton University campus where the funeral services would be displayed on a large television screen.

For eight consecutive days, stories inspired by her death got front page play in The World-Herald, accompanied by page-dominated color pictures, in most cases.

On one of those days, a huge overhead color picture of the funeral cortege dominated the front page.  Inside the newspaper’s “A Section” were five pages of further coverage of the police officer’s death.  Those pages included 11 photos, nine of them in color.

My bottom line:  The story had special emotional appeal and news value which justified special community reaction and special news media coverage.

The intensity of the emotional community and media reaction did not diminish as the funeral approached and the days after the killing increased.

 Koterba Cartoon Says It All

It seems to me that, as he so often does, The World-Herald’s superb editorial page cartoonist, Jeff Koterba, put the matter in proper prospective.

2015-05-28 17_19_37

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Political News:  NY Times Continues Rubio Support,
Donald Trump Considers Seeking The Presidency

Too early in the political jockeying to make any firm predictions about who would be favored for the Republican presidential nomination.  (The New York Times is a notable exception to that policy, since it seems to me to obviously give special attention to the candidacy of first-term Senator Marco Rubio from Florida.

But one thing is certain:

The flamboyant—and very successful commercial building developer Donald Trump won’t be a nominee

Trump made a recent visit to Iowa, with an appearance also in Omaha.  He said he won’t announce his decision until sometime in June.

Trump’s Three Marriages Seem Enough To Disqualify Him

The political baggage which Trump brings with him includes three marriages—one of which occurred two months after the delivery of a child of the prospective Mrs. Trump.

Trump would also be 70 at the time he took office, a moderate handicap, I suppose, compared to those three marriages.

Thanks for stopping by, Donald.  Enjoyed a look at that commercial-size jet in which you travel—the one with “TRUMP” so prominently displayed.

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Iowa Hawkeyes Hardly “Our Team” To Nebraskans
But I Wish Them Well In Baseball Title Chase

Ross Jernstrom Channel 6’s sports babbler note of the Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team qualifying for the 16-team tournament which leads on to series when the winners’ field teams.  Jernstrom referred to the Iowa Hawkeyes as “our team.”

What nonsense.  Alumni in the Omaha area and Iowans living in Western Iowa are understandably for the Hawkeyes.  (Count me among them.)  But “our team” for a team which plays its home games in Iowa City 252 miles east of Omaha.

If this were the case, should be cheer for the Hawkeyes as “our team” when every year they meet the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers on the football field the day after Thanksgiving?

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Easy Upbeat Note:  Donald Trump Can’t Win

It isn’t always an easy to find an upbeat way to end the column.  But let’s settle this week for the certainty that Donald Trump won’t be our next president.

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