Baker breathing easier

Thursday, May 26, 2005

After getting the state's new economic packages through the Legislature virtually unscathed, Nebraska Sen. Tom Baker and his colleagues are beginning to breathe a little easier.

Baker was expected to join Gov. Dave Heinemann at 1 p.m. today, when the bill is signed into law.

Baker is especially pleased that his portion of the economic package, LB312, which will exempt sales tax on business equipment passed without too much debate. He said a last-minute amendment to pull the economic bill package back to the floor and remove LB312 "left me sweating."

But with only nine votes in support of the amendment, the bill moved through final reading and companies around the state can begin reaping the benefits of the package.

Baker said that while he doesn't believe the Legislature has the authority to address the illegal campaign finance inconsistencies of Board of Regents-elect Dave Hergert, he does believe a resolution to ask for Hergert's resignation will allow the Legislature to begin looking at campaign laws.

Hergert's campaign laws violation occurred before he was in office. The Legislature is only allowed to call for impeachment proceedings against an elected official after that person is in office.

In response to a question from Jay Austin of Coyote Country Radio, Baker said he believes the issue points out the fallibility and complexities of Nebraska's campaign laws.

He said he wouldn't be surprised if the action of Hergert results in a legislative study aimed at revamping the states laws.

Austin asked the senator if that study would look at taxpayer funded contributions to incumbents seeking re-election.

Baker hopes it will. "Incumbents already have the name recognition. Then we start giving them public money and that enters into the fray."

Baker said he hopes that Hergert will step up and resolve the issue. If nothing else, he said, "he needs to come out and defend himself. He has never said anything, he has some potential to clean up some of the mess himself."

Baker will be conducting his final phone conference for the year at the McCook Chamber of Commerce next Thursday.

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