Baker sees bad effects from term limits

Thursday, February 17, 2005

An announcement this morning by Nebraska Sen. Nancy Thompson that she would be resigning her post this summer is just a small sign of how term limits will affect the state capital.

Nebraska Sen. Tom Baker told the McCook Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee several lame duck senators have been approached with employment opportunities and he believes Sen. Thompson's resignation will be the first of many.

"Term limits are going to upset this place dramatically," Baker told committee members. "I'm not saying we won't survive, but it won't be easy."

Baker expects term-limited senators to introduce some bills in the 2006 session that won't be popular with some Nebraskans -- bills that "will eliminate things and do some clean up." But he said, referring to term limits, "you asked for 'em, you got 'em."

"There are 36 senators who don't have to answer to their constituents if they don't want to," he said.

Baker said several long-time legislative staff members will also be leaving their post to go to work in the private sector.

Baker, a member of the Legislature's revenue committee, said that committee has killed all bills dealing with relaxing levy limits for municipalities, K-12 education and community colleges.

Baker said a legislative bill that will require everyone in a vehicle to wear a seat belt advanced to select file. The offense remains a secondary offense, meaning that law enforcement officers can only write a citation if a motor vehicle operator is ticketed for another offense. Currently, in the state of Nebraska, anyone occupying the front seat of a vehicle, and anyone 16 or under, regardless of their seating position, are required to wear seat belts. Penalties would remain the same under the new legislation.

Baker said the state currently has a 79 percent compliance rate with seat belt laws. People between the ages of 16 and 21 are the least likely to wear seatbelts. He said the legislature has looked at ways to encourage the use of seatbelts in that age group, including loss of license, but, "If we take their licenses away they'll just drive uninsured and under suspension."

The best way to increase seat belt usage is "education, education, education," he said.

The McCook Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee meets at 8 a.m., every Thursday, at the Chamber offices at 107 Norris Avenue. The public is invited to attend.

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