The following editorial appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star
As the 2014 Legislature wound down, attention was focused on the emotional side of its work, with more than a few members opining that the negativity and nastiness was the worst they had experienced.
With time, we predict, that impression will fade. This session will be remembered most for its substantial body of work rather than the feelings that were bruised along the way.
The session was also marked by the awareness of impending change. Seventeen senators will be leaving, in accordance with the periodic renewal ordained by the term limits. And, for the first time in a decade, there will be a new governor in the Statehouse when senators gather for the next regular session.
As is our custom, here is a smattering of observations on the highlights and lowlights.
Mighty mouse. Tea party critics might assert that after all the sturm und drang kicked off by Gov. Dave Heineman’s tax reform gambit last year, the Legislature labored mightily to produce a mouse. Wrong. $412 million in tax relief over the next five years is a big deal. And the governor is justified in taking a share of the credit. He started the discussion.
Or we die. State Sen. Tom Carlson convinced his colleagues to start spending tax money on projects to ensure that Nebraska can sustain its precious supply of water. This accomplishment will seem more important to succeeding generations. Moreover, it’s good to see a conservative elected official on the side of sustainability. Take that slap to the side of the head, billionaire think tanks.
Wait till next year. One of the disappointments of the session was the failure of the Legislature to approve expansion of Medicaid. The wisdom and practicality of expansion will become more evident as time rolls on. The effort led by Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln will triumph in the end.
Roadblock. Too bad the Legislature did not seize a rare opportunity to make a giant leap forward in road building by approving the issuance of highway bonds. As the economy heats up, the door may be closing on the chance to take advantage of record low interest rates, and avoid high costs.
Talk, talk, talk. Once again the Legislature was marred by overuse of the filibuster. Jamming the pipelines with filibusters on cigarette lights and amber lights? Really? Maybe the next crop of senators will reduce the number of votes required to end debate from 33 to 30.
Cellblock tango. State Sen. Brad Carlson of Omaha shoehorned another bit of incremental prison reform into law. More than $10 million for mental health treatment and re-entry programs will help slow the revolving door at state prisons.
Mountain lions. Sen. Ernie Chambers will be back again to battle for a ban on hunting the iconic feline. Could the Game and Parks Commission auction “hunts” where the trophy is a photo instead of a pelt?