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He must be a guy who lives for a challenge

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LINCOLN -- Tom Pristow has to know his new command is the social services equivalent of taking charge of Pearl Harbor on December 8.

Pristow also must be a guy who lives for a challenge. He is going to work for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Pristow, now of Mineral, Va., is going to take charge of the division of children and family services.

The division has for years engendered adjectives ranging from "embattled" to "woebegone" to a great many not eligible for print.

It's the place where careers and good intentions and revised, revised, revised plans go to die.

The view from here: Two things in his background might serve him particularly well. One is that he's had 18 years experience. The other is that he served in the Marine Corps, as well as the Army. He is a martial artist and instructor in jujitsu, aikido, judo, laido and ko-budo.

Lawmakers Seek

Higher Pay

And Longer Terms

The perpetual two-part debate over how much state senators should be paid, and how many consecutive terms they should be allowed to serve, may be headed to an election near you. Maybe more than one.

Some lawmakers think pending constitutional amendments -- one to increase term limits and the other to hike senatorial pay -- should be offered individually. One at the May primary, one at the November general election.

State senators have been limited since 2006 to a pair of consecutive four-year terms. The Legislature has given first-round approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would let voters decide whether to extend service to three consecutive terms.

Lawmakers have also given initial endorsement to a constitutional change that would have voters decide whether to raise their annual compensation from $12,000 annually to $22,500. Senators' pay was last raised in 1988, when it was $4,800 yearly.

Some senators are concerned that the term limit proposal could be so unpopular that it would sink any hope for the proposed pay raise if they appear together on the November ballot.

Their preference is to have the term limits amendment on the May ballot.

Trash Can Fine Tougher Than Trash Talk Penalties?

Professional athletes are sometimes fined for "trash talk" aimed at opponents. Observers often note the penalties are piddling amounts in view of pro sport salaries.

But there's nothing small-time about the trash can fines faced by Omahans these days. Leaving trash cans on the curb past the deadline will mean a $100 first-time fine. Each subsequent offense could cost $500.

State law gives local government broad regulatory and enforcement powers in a variety of areas. In other contexts, it's known by its cheerleading proponents as "local control."

Be careful what you wish for.

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J.L. Schmidt
Capitol View
Nebraska Press Association