Nebraska recommended to build more prisons|
A consultant is recommending that Nebraska expand its prison facilities to accommodate overcrowding. The report to Nebraska lawmakers suggests a 300-bed expansion to Omaha corrections facilities, a 200-bed addition to the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln and 340 additional beds for elderly and mentally ill inmates at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center in Lincoln. Nebraska's correctional facilities held 4,918 inmates as of Jan. 31. That's nearly 155 percent of their design capacity. A department spokeswoman says the review is taking place along with a legislative prison-reform study. She says cost estimates aren't yet known.
Budget bills move through legislature|
A series of new Nebraska state budget bills has won committee approval for debate in the Legislature. The Appropriations Committee on Wednesday advanced three measures to update the state's two-year financial plan. Committee members this year have voted in favor of proposed changes to include additional money for Nebraska's property tax credit program, state parks maintenance, water projects and upgrades to the State Capitol. The budget measures still require approval in the full Legislature before they are sent to Gov. Dave Heineman. Lawmakers are scheduled to consider the measures on Monday afternoon.
Nebraska joins lawsuit against California law over conditions for chickens|
Nebraska is one of the top ten egg producers in the United States. 2.7 billion eggs in 2012. Nebraska eggs account for 5.6 percent of California’s total imports. That’s why Nebraska is joining a lawsuit that seeks to strike down a California law regulating the living conditions of chickens. Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning announced late yesterday that they will help Missouri with its legal challenge in federal court. The law set to take effect in 2015 would prohibit the sale of eggs that come from hens raised in cages that don't comply with California's new size and space requirements. Heineman says the law will hamper interstate trade because it effectively imposes California's requirements on out-of-state farmers. He says it also could set a precedent for beef, swine and dairy producers.
State parks could see infusion of state funds|
Nebraska's state parks and recreational areas could see a new infusion of state cash for maintenance projects and upgrades. Lawmakers voted 32-1 on Tuesday on a bill that would help pay for a $43 million backlog. The project list includes replacement water towers, new toilets and showers, and ensuring that facilities comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill by Sen. Bill Avery, of Lincoln, would rely on existing sales tax revenue from motor boats, personal water craft and all-terrain and utility vehicles. It would use about $4 million a year.
Medicaid expansion debate continues|
The Medicaid expansion debate also hasn’t hit the floor, but it’s already divided lawmakers and citizens. Governor Heineman has all but said he’ll veto the Wellness In Nebraska Act if it makes it to his desk. A group of citizens is hoping he’ll change his mind. MoveOn.org is a group working toward progressive change. And today they’re holding a rally just outside Lincoln in front of a new billboard that reads: Welcome to Nebraska! Where 32,000 people are denied health care coverage because Gov. Heineman refuses to expand Medicaid. Ginny Wright is in her 70s and says she’s part of the movement for one simple reason—because she cares. The governor and some lawmakers have argued the cost of expansion is too much for the state to bear, but Ginny disagrees. Move On Members say Medicaid expansion is fully funded by the federal government for the first three budget years, and most of the costs wouldn’t kick in until 2020. Even after that the federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost from then on. She says that’s plenty of time for the state to plan. While Moveon.org is supporting Medicaid Expansion, Omaha Liberty Ladies and Nebraska taxpayers for freedom are criticizing what they’re calling a liberal push to bring Obamacare to Nebraska. They say there are a number of other alternatives for state senators that would meet the same objectives as LB 887 including state health savings accounts and tax credits.
Bill inspired by move of Veterans Home moves forward|
A bill inspired by the decision to relocate a Nebraska state veterans home has advanced out of a legislative committee, but the new measure would only apply to future projects. The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee voted 5-3 on Tuesday to send the bill to the full Legislature. It would require a legislative review of any proposal to move a state service or agency from one community to another, if the cost was $15 million or more. Sen. Gloor says no city should have to be pitted against another to ‘win’ a state facility. The original measure by Sen. Mike Gloor could have been applied to the decision to move the Central Nebraska Veterans Home from Grand Island to Kearney.
Buffett says economy continues to grow steadily|
Investor Warren Buffett says the economy continues the steady improvement that began in fall of 2009 and he remains optimistic about the future. Buffett appeared on CNBC yesterday after releasing an upbeat annual letter to his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders over the weekend. He notes that there's been little change in the growth rate since 2009, despite swings in investors' mood. But Buffett says he doesn't make investment decisions based on the economy. He says he focuses on the prospects of the business in which he's investing, and the price.
Nebraska's economic expansion wins award|
Nebraska’s won a national award… the 2014 Governor’s Cup award for economic development. Site Selection magazine has recognized Nebraska as the number one state in the nation with the most new and expanded facilities per capita. Governor Heineman made the announcement this morning, alongside the director of Nebraska Economic Development Cathy Lang. Lang credits the states focus on retaining high-skilled workers and value added agriculture for the honor. Also announced yesterday… the Omaha metropolitan area was ranked number one in areas with populations between 200,000 and 1 million for new and expanded corporate facilities in 2013. When it comes to developing our state’s small, rural towns, the director of the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute says there's no easy trick. The biggest challenges is the community's confidence level. Charles Schroeder says perceptions about the years to come are the key to success -- or failure. Schroeder says when people were asked if they believe those towns of 500 would still be around 20 years from now, only 35-percent said "yes." He says one vital ingredient in a community's success is leaders who have vision and confidence.