Here is our take on amendments; study issues for yourself

Friday, October 19, 2012

A new system allows voters to make their choices earlier, but we hope they take time to study the entire sample ballot -- to be published in Monday's Gazette -- before marking the boxes.

Among the votes many of us don't take much time to consider are four constitutional amendments on this year's ballot.

There's a larger lesson to be learned from Amendment 1 than the question addressed on the ballot.

Amendment 1 would make it possible to impeach candidates who commit a misdemeanor in the pursuit of that office.

The question arose after David Hergert violated campaign finance laws by not reporting his spending until it was too late to trigger automatic public funding for his opponent, incumbent Don Blank of McCook.

Such a situation may or may not come up again, but the real problem was the way Blank was defeated. Hergert attracted pro-life voters, opposed to Blank's stand on stem cell research, who ignored the ethical shortcomings that eventually led to Hergert's downfall. We support Amendment 1, but more importantly, urge voters to look the entire range of issues that will be faced by an elected official.

Despite generally believing that a state constitution should be as uncluttered as possible, we also support Amendment 2, which would make the right to hunt, fish and trap part of Nebraska law. As a small state, Nebraska is too easily manipulated by outside groups such as radical animal rights activists with national or international financial support.

We support Amendment 3 as a step in the right direction, away from term limits, although we'd prefer to see an outright repeal of legislative term limits than the three-term limit this amendment proposes. Term limits rob the state of the institutional memory needed to make the Legislature an effective lawmaking body, and turn power over to unelected staffers and lobbyists.

We also support Amendment 4 as a means to expand the pool of citizens who are able to serve in the Unicameral.

Lawmakers receive $1,000 a month in salary, $12,000 a year, a level set at the beginning the legislative session in 1989, tripling the $4,000 they received previously.

Sponsors sought to increase the salary to $32,000, but a committee amended that to $22,500 a year and that is the amount included in the proposed amendment.

The higher level should make it possible for more middle-class candidates to seek elected office, not just retirees or the wealthy.

The Gazette is sending a questionnaire for candidates for local office for a story in the coming days, and City Editor Bruce Baker will again participate as a panelist at a candidates forum, sponsored by KICX-High Plains Radio, on Monday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Bieroc Cafe in McCook.

We urge our readers to listen to that broadcast, read our election coverage, and vote for the candidates and issues of your choice.

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