What began as the Lincoln Tea Party with events in early 2009 has become Grassroots in Nebraska. Please visit our fully featured website by clicking the image below:
What began as the Lincoln Tea Party with events in early 2009 has become Grassroots in Nebraska. Please visit our fully featured website by clicking the image below:
As a couple of Americans who have spent too much time focused on Washington, D.C. and not enough within our state (but making an effort to change this), we wonder whether the maneuvers regarding a certain piece of legislation introduced last session is common practice in the Nebraska Unicameral. We suspect it may well be. This time, though, there were at least a few more people paying attention. If you missed out, or if the details have faded from your memory with the passage of time, read along and follow us for a stroll down Memory Lane — a path we’ll wager more than a few people are hoping becomes overgrown with weeds from lack of use.
LB 1110, a measure intended to fund prenatal care previously paid for by Medicaid for recipients deemed ineligible for the program by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, was conceived by Senator Kathy Campbell past the deadline for new bills. To be introduced, it required a suspension of the rules vote on the Unicameral floor. 36 out of 49 Nebraska Senators voted “yay” on its introduction. While the focus of this article is on the conduct of our legislators, it is important to note that this bill should likely not have seen the light of day. It is important to note the circumstances under which it was able to gain any traction at all. The Unicameral entered session with all Senators aware the State budget was in trouble; a special session to deal with the immediate problems was convened in November 2009. Senators knew spending would have to be cut while dealing with the annual budget bill, so legislation they introduced essentially could not call for any new spending. For politicians eager to spend other people’s money, apparently there was a desire to spend in search of a crisis.
It is difficult to find other plausible explanations for LB 1110′s introduction. Perhaps some could argue that a vote to allow introduction does not constitute support for its passage. That argument sounds too similar to Senator Ben Nelson’s explanation for his cloture vote on the health care bill in December 2009. Introduction of the bill took up valuable legislative time while other matters ranging from action on protecting Nebraskans from implementing the looming health care law and seriously cutting the budget to untether Nebraska from its dependence on federal funding went by the wayside.
While 36 Senators believed the bill at least deserved introduction, several Senators, including Kathy Campbell, Cap Dierks, and Brad Ashford, and several others believed it was so important, “extraordinary” action was called for. At least two Nebraska newspapers believed they needed to help out.
A rather predictable but shameful campaign began immediately after Senator Kathy Campbell pulled L.B. 1110 (see background information here) from proceeding to a floor vote due to lack of support. Campbell likely pulled it due to Governor Heineman’s pledge to veto the measure and an unexpected public backlash. The campaign? To convince Nebraskans that a rash of abortions (or promises to have them) had broken out immediately following the demise of the bill.
The Lincoln Journal Star ran a front page story entitled “Clinics report women denied prenatal care are opting for abortions” on Friday, March 19. Quoting an Omaha clinic, the story related how the number of women reporting they would abort their babies was “unprecedented”. The reasons cited? It was precisely due to the lack of legislative action to restore their free prenatal care. In addition to the usual medical equipment, like tongue depressors and blood pressure cuffs, apparently One World clinic staff members are also supplied with truth detectors (or crystal balls):
“The clinic does not provide abortion services nor referrals, but staff members are able to tell when a woman is serious about an abortion and when she is simply considering the idea, she said.”
So went the media campaign assisting the attempted maneuver.
Now, on to the maneuver itself. There were not enough votes to pass L.B. 1110 outright, so some of our Nebraska Senators decided to attach it to another bill that appeared to have a high chance of passing. That bill was L.B. 594, which proposed changes to laws governing voluntary and informed consent for abortions and which was introduced by Senator Cap Dierks. (The LJS article referenced an abortion bill, and L.B. 594 was the only one we could find listed as entered by Senator Dierks.)
The following letter, sent to the Senators contemplating this move, best states what was going on here -
I was disappointed to read about your machinations to resurrect LB1110 by attaching it to another bill. You do not have the 30 votes necessary
to overcome the Governor’s promised veto, so you resort to manipulation. This smacks of Ms. Pelosi’s deem and pass scheme in the House and Senator Reid’s reconciliation move in the Senate. If at first you don’t succeed by proceeding in an honest, straightforward manner, do anything necessary to prevail, and it doesn’t matter if the legislative process is subverted along the way. Whatever happened to elected officials debating issues and voting on them directly, on their merits? You are a disappointment to me and to many others who see this as an illegal immigration issue, not an abortion issue. I understand that your motive is to undermine the Governor’s commitment to veto the measure by attaching it to a bill that deals directly with abortion. I find this move abhorrent. Do politicians check their ethics at the swearing in ceremony? Where is your integrity? I’ll repeat, process matters. Rules are there for a reason, and that reason is not so they can be bent or broken at will. If you lack the 30 votes to overcome the Governor’s veto, by all means, attempt to persuade your colleagues to your point of view, but spare your constituents the stench of more legislative political maneuvering. We’ve had quite enough of that from Washington.
We’re not sure what was worse: a maneuver that attempted to pass legislation for which there were not adequate votes by attaching it to a popular bill; the use of the abortion issue in this underhanded manner; or the chucking of basic principles underlying proper legislative conduct and procedure.
This was a concerted effort to create a “crisis” environment connected to abortion so that a bill, having more to do with Medicaid rules and immigration than abortion, could come to be viewed as abortion-related, thus enabling it to be attached to another, more popular bill that directly pertained to abortion. Nebraska law requires that bills deal with a single subject.
L.B. 1110 was not abortion-related, so it had to be made to appear to be.
The underlying principles of key importance here were personal responsibility and the fact that the government routinely subsidizes the lack of it. As Ronald Reagan once said, “If you want more of something subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.” Individuals apparently incapable of paying or unwilling to pay for prenatal care themselves were supposedly threatening abortion if the state refused to fork over the money for that care. Nebraska taxpayers were held hostage as pregnant women held a virtual gun to their unborn babies’ heads. According to L.B. 1110 supporters, we should reward the hostage takers. We’re more of the Israeli mindset – we refuse to negotiate in hostage situations.
Was it really likely that an actual increase in the rate of abortions would result from L.B. 1110 being pulled? There is a glaring lack of logic in such a decision, particularly when viewed from a financial standpoint. The LJS article noted the lowest tier cost of a prenatal office visit as $30. Doing some mathematical calculations based on typical weeks’ gestation with the number of office visits of average frequency for a typical, low-risk pregnancy, the cost of prenatal care is essentially the same as the cost of the least expensive abortion procedure ($450), as quoted by Abortion and Contraception Clinic of Nebraska. (Calculation based on first visit at 4 weeks gestation, 1 visit per month through week 32, with weekly visits weeks 33 – 40).
Even if we added as much as $200 or $300 to the cost of prenatal care, presuming some additional costs or a higher average fee, were we to believe that women would be driven to kill their babies over such a sum? And again, this assumes the woman qualifies for the lowest cost abortion procedure available.
It’s also important to note that the costs of prenatal care are incurred periodically over the weeks/months of the pregnancy and can be paid for on that basis — in installments. The cost of an abortion is very likely due before the procedure is performed or, alternatively, in a lump sum shortly thereafter.
At what point in this whole process do we start asking ANY questions related to the woman’s responsibility for her choices? If the woman could afford the abortion, why couldn’t she afford the prenatal care? Why are the taxpayers of Nebraska responsible for that choice, but she is not?
Further, tangled up in this whole question, as noted in the letter written to Senators who were contemplating sneaking L.B. 1110 into another bill, was the issue of funding medical services for illegal immigrants. By providing services of all kinds, including medical care, to illegal immigrants, what kind of signal are we sending?
Again, if we want more of something, subsidize it.
Lincoln Journal Star and the quoted clinic overstepped a bit in their advocacy of this issue. After we were told the sky was falling (a rash of abortions), as a “kicker” we were supposed to worry about women giving birth at home.
Prenatal care funding and labor and delivery services are separate issues. Why was it necessary to raise this issue in the story? Are clinicians incapable of informing their patients in regards to coverage for labor and delivery? While Medicaid does not fund prenatal care, it does pay for labor and delivery for qualifying individuals. That does include illegal immigrants because the child will be an American citizen the moment it is born.
It is important to note the following:
Sorry to be stunned by media accuracy, but there you are. This is the best report I’ve seen on our event in Lincoln. The only thing inaccurate was the report of 200 attendees.
As I’ve referenced previously, there were around 400.
What I found so stunning was, instead of focusing on the signs about guns and Obama, they actually opened the report with the singing of the National Anthem and God Bless America. Also, they ended on a positive note.
Kudos to Hastings Ch. 5!
Lady Axiom has an excellent post rounding up many of the cases of media bias in the reporting about April 15th’s Tea Party events.
In addition to citing many examples of media bias, the Lady also points out the attempted hi-jacking or co-opting of any grassroots movement by political parties and organizations doesn’t mean the whole thing is a conspiracy.
I would add that I have seen the media bias locally. The only local newspaper, The Lincoln Journal Star, would at first not even mention the event we had scheduled for April 11. I asked the folks on the email list to let the Journal Star know they’d like to see coverage.
Just prior, one of the folks I’d heard from alerted me to the response she’d received from the City Desk when she’d inquried about lack of coverage. The Assistant Editor asked for information about the event as if she’d not heard about it before. In addition to my having sent a Press Release, I know of at least two other people who had sent the same thing.
Since they’d completely ignored the March 15th rally in front of Sen. Ben Nelson’s office, it didn’t surprise me that they’d act as if any related event information hadn’t been received.
Ultimately, the story was printed on page B5. The only good thing about the position of the blurb (can’t call it anything else) is that it was next to the obituary section.
When they reported on the event itself, they didn’t talk to any of the organizers and, most importantly, they cited “roughly 150″ people attended. The Capitol Police Deputy assigned to security detail for our event estimated 350-400. The professional entertainer who counts heads for a living to compare to gate take-in used a counting procedure and estimated 375-400. He later backed that up with a close examination of photographs. The Journal Star has as of yet to correct their mistake.
Besides attempts to totally ignore the story and minimize the number of participants, the Journal Star is apparently removing comments they don’t like from the online version of the story. My own comment (the first one made there) and four others were removed that I know about.
Finally, while our April 11 event was placed in the “Local” section on Sunday, the April 15 event that was apparently sponsored by the Nebraska GOP and very well-funded by a wealthy businessman with less than questionable ethics was featured as a page one story today.
Today, a fellow Nebraskan, located in the rural, northeast part of the state reported to me that Census workers are using a hand held device that looks like the signing device carried by UPS workers to log citizens’ GPS coordinates.
Keep in mind the official Census doesn’t begin until 2010.
As the census worker approached the front door of the home, he was logging the information into the device. Apparently, the census information being taken is being tied to the GPS coordinates. Obviously, the information is going to be uploaded to a central database.
What on earth would the government need to log your GPS location for?
My friend questioned the Census Bureau worker closely. He asked the worker directly what he was doing with the hand held device and the worker stated he was logging the GPS coordinates of the residence. He stated that he was doing this everywhere he went and that Census Bureau workers across the country were doing the same.
He noted that workers had been instructed to log the GPS coordinates of anything that look like a dwelling, including park benches and cardboard boxes.
He particularly questioned the worker about why it was being done. The reply, not helpful or comforting. The worker said he had signed a binding agreement that he could not discuss the project with anyone, including his wife.
Clearly, this kind of intricate system with the hand held devices could not have been devised overnight, and certainly not since the Stimulus Bill was passed on February 17.
We have to ask ourselves what the Federal Government would be doing logging all our locations when the Census isn’t even supposed to begin for almost a year and why would they need to pinpoint your location so specifically?
The rally will be held on the West Side of the Capitol building in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln.
I know some people expressed a wish that we convene on the North steps. Please be advised that the Capitol structure is undergoing renovations on the north side and parts of the steps there are closed. It was determined by myself and my husband, the Tourism Supervisor, and the Capitol Police, upon inspection that the loose pavers and barricades in this area, and the complete closure of the stairway requiring restricted, single file access to the upper north steps and balconies presented safety problems.
There are several things to note regarding the rules established by the Capitol Commission:
It has come to our attention that some groups are going to target Tea Party events for several nefarious purposes. Among them are bringing in the very kinds of signs mentioned above to embarrass our efforts. Other goals of such groups is to circulate through the crowed and attempt to procure contact information. Apparently these people will be posing as like-minded individuals, looking to “connect” with others.
For the above reason, anyone associated with organizing this event or working at the site that day will be given a lanyard name tag so they are easily identified. They will all have a standardized look with the image from the flyers that have been sent out with several emails. Further, we will not be circulating any sign-up clipboards throughout the crowd. We will have a sign-in sheet and petition available at a table only. Please do not share your contact information with anyone you don’t already know.
Our purposes for using a sign-up sheet are thus:
Count the number of people in attendance with some accuracy.
Contact you in the future for upcoming activities and events.
WE WILL NOT SHARE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION WITH ANYONE. It will be kept locally and secure.
We will have a proclamation available for your signature that was written by Nebraskan Ryan Sellers. He is organizing the April 15 rally in North Platte. Ryan’s proclamation is being used by other organizers across the country. Since this proclamation is not an official document being used for a ballot initiative, you will not need to provide additional information other than your signature to add your voice to others.
—> If some people would throw some lawn chairs their trunks, we should be able to accommodate some of the older folks that are going to attend.<—
**PLEASE BRING YOUR CAMERAS TO THE EVENT
– BOTH STILL & VIDEO.**
I will be providing instructions for a central upload (hopefully an improved situation from March 15) for photos following the event so everyone can enjoy them and we can use some to make some slideshows and YouTube videos.
In addition to providing enjoyment, we will be able to get the word out about our event on the Internet in absence of good media coverage.
Mapquest directions from specific major roadways. Just click on the route for the map.
Of course, you will want to try to park as close to the Capitol as possible. We requested that the Capitol Commission open up the South parking lot for us as its normally closed on Saturdays. Administrative Services had not as of yet cleared this request as of late Thursday afternoon. I will do my best to update this. Hopefully, they will get this finalized.
Besides the South parking lot, there are spots all around the Capitol property.
Should space nearer the property become limited, you may need to locate one of the parking garages in the downtown area.
Click **HERE** for a downtown Lincoln guide, including parking garages
Click **HERE** for an interactive map