Lawmakers addressed many important, controversial issues

Friday, June 19, 2009

This is my first letter since the end of the 2009 Legislative Session. We adjourned Sine Die on Friday May 29 finishing three days early, yet addressing many important and controversial issues.

Serving District 44 these last three sessions has been an honor, a privilege, and a blessing for which I am deeply grateful. I look forward to being back home with you all during our break.

Last week, before we adjourned, the Governor vetoed Legislative Bill 626. This was a bill introduced by Sen. Karpisek. It amended a portion of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act, which creates guidelines for the proper use of public resources by public officials and public employees. The bill allows for the incidental and de minimis use of public resources by public officials and employees.

A decision made by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission late last summer on a complaint filed against a public official, was one reason some felt there needed to be some clarification in statute.

LB 626 passed on Final Reading May 20 with 44 votes for, two votes against, and three not voting. I was one of the 44 senators who voted for the bill. On May 26, the Governor vetoed the bill. He stated in his veto letter that government resources should not be used for political purposes and that there should be a bright line. He thought LB 626 increased the potential for eroding the integrity of public positions, by blurring the use of public resources.

On May 28, I decided to vote with 34 other senators to override the Governor's veto and continue to support the bill. The official vote was 35 votes for, 10 votes against, and four not voting.

I disagreed that the changes in LB 626 would harm the integrity of public positions. I maintained support for LB 626 because of a few factors. One, the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission was not opposed to the final version of the bill. Second, the context of all the new language was sufficient to understand the meaning of incidental and de minimis use. And finally, the new language required that any personal use by a public official or employee, such as a government vehicle, needed to be outlined in the employment contract or a written policy approved by a government body.

The use of public resources is an important issue, but I believe LB 626 in the end brought more clarification and commonsense to the use of public resources.

As always, I appreciate receiving your comments, question, and concerns. Moreover, I hope to see many of you as I am out and about in the district more this summer and fall.

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