Post Tagged with: "prenatal care"

New lieutenant governor can’t hurt Heineman agenda

New lieutenant governor can’t hurt Heineman agenda

Gov. Dave Heineman can be full of surprises.

 Wednesday, he sprung one, naming former State Sen. Lavon Heidemann as his new lieutenant governor. He replaces Rick Sheehy, who resigned suddenly 12 days ago as the World-Herald was presenting the results of its investigation into hundreds of improper cell phone calls made by the now-former Lt. Gov.

 Heidemann’s name hadn’t even come up in the speculation about a new No. 2.

 Former Sens. Tony Fulton, Chris Langemeier and Phil Erdman had dominated the guessing game — a game that it always dangerous with this governor, who keeps his thoughts notoriously close to his vest.

 But Heidemann is a great pick, most observers said, if the governor is going to mend some fences with leaders in the 49-seat Unicameral Legislature.

 That’s the group that overrode the governor on a couple of major issues last year — prenatal care for unborn babies of illegal immigrants and allowing cities an extra half-cent of sales taxing authority.

 That’s the group that’s still a bit steamed about Heineman’s calling-out of then-Speaker Mike Flood for his support for the prenatal bill. The governor ratched up the hard feelings when he came out publicly against a pay raise for senators because of the prenatal vote.

 Heidemann is a good pick to help salve those wounds. He’s popular within the Legislature, not that partisan, and has a patient way with even the most excitable senators. A cool head is probably needed in the corner of the Capitol where the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor are located.

 But a little perspective about the No. 2 job.

 No one asks the lieutenant governor for his positions on controversial issues. He’s expected to toe the line and push the governor’s agenda. Period.

 If it’s bad policy, even the most popular lieutenant governor won’t make a difference.

 And I can’t recall the last time a lieutenant governor influenced how the Legislature voted on an issue.

 So it’s uncertain if Heidemann can make a difference in helping the governor’s agenda. What is certain is it sure can’t hurt.

February 14, 2013 Comments Read More
Nebraska Legislature: Heineman’s initiatives coming

Nebraska Legislature: Heineman’s initiatives coming

This is the week we finally find out what Gov. Dave Heineman has up his sleeve for 2013.

The governor has never been much for tipping his hand before his annual State of the State address (this year on Tuesday). But he’s been even more secretive than ever this year.

That could be, as some speculate, because his plan has been so fluid. You can bet on something dealing with inheritance taxes, but what else? A flat income tax? Eliminating sales tax exemptions?

Heineman says that the budget is the first priority, so maybe he waited to see if the state’s fiscal situation cleared up. That hasn’t really happened. Last month’s bumper receipt of taxes was more about people selling off assets in anticipation of the fiscal cliff than an undication that the economy is on totally solid ground now.

Some observations from the first week:

January 14, 2013 Comments Read More
Nebraska Legislature — races to watch on Tuesday

Nebraska Legislature — races to watch on Tuesday

Twenty-five seats in the 49-seat Nebraska Legislature are up for grabs this year and Tuesday’s primary could tell us a lot about the mood of the voters.

 Is there a “get rid of incumbents” streak out there, like there seems to be with the U.S. Congress?

 Are voters comfortable with the Legislature’s controversial decisions to restore prenatal care for illegal immigrants and allow cities, with voter approval, to raise local sales taxes by a half cent?

 And, can a couple of recent appointees of Gov. Dave Heineman withstand some stilff challenges in their districts?

 A veteran lobbyist has said that appointed senators are like barn cats — you’d better not get too attached to them.

 But will voters feel the same way about Sen. Dave Bloomfield in northeast Nebraska’s 17th District and Sen. Paul Lambert in the 2nd District in Cass County, just south of Omaha.

Bloomfield was a soft-spoken legislator,  but will get a stiff challenge from a trio of candidates in his district, including Van Phillips, the former superintendent of schools in South Sioux City, the district’s largest city. Some think Bloomfield won’t get out of the primary.

 Lambert was more talkative, weighing in on issues like the half-cent sales tax bill and another to maintain a tax-exemption for cities who finance buildings via non-profit leasing corporations. But the former Plattsmouth mayor has five opponents, including Robyn Larson, the mother of current Sen. Tyson Larson.

 Other questions:

 – can incumbent Ken Haar out-poll a well-financed pro-life opponent, Mike Hilgers, in District 21 in northern Lancaster County? The primary results will tell us a lot about what to expect in November.

 – ditto with Omaha’s District 11, where incumbent Sen. Brenda Council will face off with former Sen. Ernie Chambers? Will Ernie have to do some campaigning to win? He said he did do campaign signs way back in the ’70s. But he won several re-election bids by just filing for the office.

 – who emerges from a seven-candidate field in District 43 in Nebraska’s Sand Hills to replace Sen. Deb Fischer, who is term-limited  but in a hot race for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. Could a non-rancher win that seat?

 The U.S. Senate race is getting almost all of the primary chatter this year. And we’ll find out Tuesday if Fischer’s purported late surge is enough to overcome the early lead amassed by Atttorney General Jon Bruning and the solid base of State Treasurer Don Stenberg.

 It would be an epic upset if Fischer pulls it out. It would confirm what some say about Bruning’s support among Republicans — that it’s like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep.

May 14, 2012 Comments Read More
Prenatal and Mitt Romney

Prenatal and Mitt Romney

One of the most controversial votes in the Nebraska Legislature this spring was lawmakers’ dramatic override of Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto of the prenatal care bill.

 That bill will provide taxpayer-funded prenatal care for low-income women who are in the country illegally — a resumption of a decades-long policy that was ended two years ago when the federal government told the state it had to fund it in a different way.

 That same issue confronted Massachusetts in 2003, and then-Gov. Mitt Romney took an entirely different course than Heineman, an early and faithful supporter of the presumptive GOP nominee for president this year. Romney, in 2003, supported changing the program so that prenatal care could continue.

 That may make for an odd coupling during Romney’s visit to Omaha today.

 Heineman has been consistent in his view that illegal immigrants do not warrant taxpayer-funded benefits, even if those benefits might help a child (who will automatically become a U.S. citizen upon birth) be born healthy and without life-long birth defects.

 The Nebraska governor has also been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s health-care law, which is similar to an insurance-mandate adopted in Massachusetts when Romney was governor.

 We’ll see if those divergent stances come up today.

 Meanwhile, this what then-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said in 2003 when Massachusetts joined four other states in taking advantage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) program to provide pre-natal services (the step Nebraska took this year). 

 ”This new coverage will give thousands of children in Massachusetts a healthy start by providing access to prenatal care,” Secretary Thompson said. “Prenatal care is crucial to the health and well-being of both mother and child. Vital services during pregnancy can be a life-long determinant of health and we should do everything possible to make this care available to everyone.”

“President Bush and I are committed to doing everything we can to encourage states to use all their SCHIP funds to expand health coverage to low-income children and pregnant mothers in their states who otherwise would remain uninsured,” Thompson said.

May 10, 2012 Comments Read More
One national media mention that Gov. Heineman won’t mention

One national media mention that Gov. Heineman won’t mention

Forgive us for we have slacked.

 Since the 2012 session of the Nebraska Legislature ended, we’ve neglected to keep up our daily posts on our new Legislative blog, State Line, launched earlier this year.

 Bascially, we were just worn out. So we took a couple of weeks off.

 It was a brutal session, with lots of late nights and lots of emotional issues in the last month. The session ended on a heated note, with the Legislature overriding Gov. Dave Heineman on issues related to immigration and taxation.

 The governor fired back, saying the session would be remembered for raising taxes on legal citizens, while extending benefits to illegal immigrants.

 Pretty blunt stuff. I’m guessing that the gov isn’t getting many golf invitations from state senators, at least for a while.  

 But, if letters to the editor to the World Herald are any guide, it appears that Heineman has a point in saying that Nebraskans agree with his opinion.

But, in case you missed it, the New York Times doesn’t agree.

 It weighed in on the emotional finale over providing taxpayer-funded benefits to the unborn children of illegal immigrants in an April 23 editorial entitled “The Undocumented and the Unborn.”

 It noted how a strange coalition of groups — groups that oppose and support abortion, and those that advocate for immigrants and those that usually don’t — combined to push Legislative Bill 599 to approval. Both Nebraska Right to Life and Planned Parenthood, for instance, supported the bill.

  The editorial concluded with a rap on the conservative Republican governor, who has staunchly opposed any taxpayer expenditures for illegal immigrants. (The bill got around that by declaring that any funds would be expended on the unborn child, which will become an American citizen automatically upon birth.)

 ”Advocates for women and the poor are not used to expecting much in Nebraska, one of the country’s most severely restrictive states for abortions and contraceptive services,” the editorial concluded. “If devoutly anti-abortion lawmakers can decree that immigrants’ children are precious people before they’re born, maybe at some point they can extend some of their compassion to children who have already entered the world, and to their parents who lack legal status.”

“But that is not what the governor wants. ‘Nebraska will become a magnet for illegal aliens,’ he warned darkly in his veto message, pointing out that none of his state’s six neighbors were following its lead on prenatal care. For us, that makes Nebraska a beacon on the prairie, for which the governor deserves no thanks.”


May 8, 2012 Comments Read More
Nebraska Legislature: a wild finale

Nebraska Legislature: a wild finale

The last day of the Nebraska Legislature’s recent sessions have been mostly anti-climactic.

That won’t be the case Wednesday on the 60th day of the 60-day, 2012 session.

Four bills vetoed by Gov. Dave Heineman face override votes, including the controversial bill to resume taxpayer-paid prenatal care for poor women in the country illegally.

Rumors were running strong on Tuesday that at least one, and maybe two senators, had dropped their support for the override. That would leave supporters one short of the 30 needed to override the governor.

Of course there was also talk that a couple of senators might be willing to support the override who hadn’t supported the bill earlier. The governor claims vote trading is going on. It wouldn’t be the first time that votes would be traded if it happens, though senators denied it.

There was some conjecture that the governor’s unwillingness to give the traditional, session-end speech (something Heineman doesn’t see as a tradition but has been one for at least 20 years) might steel senators to vote for the overrides.

It’s been a wild finish.

First the governor calls out the Speaker of the Legislature, singling out Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk for his support of the prenatal bill.

That was unprecedented, as was the senators’ response — a cross-state tour to publicize why they support the aid for unborn babies who will become U.S. citizens upon birth.

The Republicans struck back, organizing a robo-call poll in world-record time — probably only an hour or two — that they said proved that Nebraskans overwhelmingly opposed taxpayer benefits for illegals.

Of course that came after a poll done by LB 599 supporters that stated that Nebraskans, by a solid majority, were OK with using taxpayer money if it saved unborn children.

It was a classic example of how polls can be spun by the change of a couple of words.

Gov. Heineman has used his pulpit as the state’s chief executive to keep the issue in the news, and especially his view that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used for illegals.

One of his points fizzled after it was found that Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer prenatal care in Nebraska, so they won’t be in line for money from LB 599 as the governor claimed.

But Heineman has energized his base, and dismissed the political whiff, saying that Planned Parenthood would probably add those services in the future (even though PP officials did not indicate that).

Wednesday, we’ll find out if he energized enough senators to sustain his veto.

April 17, 2012 Comments Read More
Nebraska Legislature and Dave Heineman: the final act of 2012

Nebraska Legislature and Dave Heineman: the final act of 2012

So the governor is planning to skip the traditional speech on the last day of the 2012 session.

 That’s the kind of snub that gets the chatter going over at the State Capitol.

 And maybe there’s something do it. Maybe the governor didn’t get a chuckle out of the skits at the annual Sine Die Party last week, especially the one that had him signing an executive order so that the purportedly Canadian peregrine falcons — illegal immigrants — couldn’t rear some “anchor babies” on a nesting box at the top of the Capitol.

 Or maybe, as the governor said, he just doesn’t see a need for the speech.

 Whatever it is, we’re headed for some emotional votes on Wednesday.

  The stauchly anti-illegal immigration governor has stirred up his supporters, and he said they will not forget at the ballot box who supported the override of LB 599.

 But supporters of the prenatal bill see it as upholding pro-life principles, even when the going gets tough. This, they said, is about the health and well-being of unborn babies who will become U.S. and Nebraska citizens. And, they add, prental care will save taxpayer dollars, since taxpayers have to pay to deliver and care for the babies, who are more likely to have birth defects and other maladies.

 Don’t forget the override vote on LB 357, which would allow cities, with voter approval, to increase local sales taxes by a half cent. Backers see it as an essential tool for cities to raise money for infrastructure needs, like new streets and sewers, while Heineman said it’s purely about raising taxes.

 As for the session-end speech, the Clerk’s office said governors haven’t  skipped that ceremonial duty for at least the past 20 years. That includes some years when the governor got pretty roughed up by lawmakers in the way of veto overrrides.

 Those season-end speeches are usually a bunch of verbal slaps on the back — even if the governor and lawmakers didn’t get along at all times during the session.

 It is a ceremonial speech. Not much substance. But it does carry an important signal that seems to be lacking in politics these days — despite their differences, politicans can shake hands at the end of the day. 

                                                                               * * *

The governor might not be getting much love from state legislators, but he got some from the Washington Post recently.

 A Post blogger included Heineman among the 10 most popular governors in the U.S. The Post wrote: “Heineman’s approval in a 2010 Rasmussen poll topped out at 77 percent (!), and he’s consistently been in the 60s and 70s in all public polling. (Heck, he beat beloved former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne in a primary a few years back!) There was little doubt he could have walked into the U.S. Senate when Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced his retirement this year, but he opted not to. Like (Oklahoma Gov. Mary) Fallin, Heineman benefits greatly from representing a very conservative state.”


April 16, 2012 Comments Read More