Tom Osborne to speak at the Capitol against medical marijuana

Tom Osborne to speak at the Capitol against medical marijuana
Former Nebraska head coach and athletic director Tom Osborne. MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD

Cornhusker against cannabis. Opponents of legalizing medical cannabis have lined up former Husker football coach Tom Osborne to speak against the idea. Osborne is slated to join Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and other administration officials at a press conference before a much-anticipated public hearing on Legislative Bill 110 on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

The hearing is expected to be a long one, and may still be going when the main advocates for legalization of medical marijuana, Lincoln Sens. Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld, host an evening fundraiser. Funds would be used for a medical cannabis petition drive, which the senators promise they will pursue if efforts to pass a bill fail.

Walk this way. Gov. Pete Ricketts joined Husker head baseball coach Darin Erstad, “American Ninja Warrior” show regular Maggi Thorne and others Thursday in a 20-minute walk around the State Capitol. The goal: urging Nebraskans to exercise regularly and eat healthfully.

“Every little bit counts,” Erstad said. “I challenge every last one of you to just take one more step.”

School choice. Students from private and parochial schools gathered Thursday at the State Capitol for a rally supporting school choice. They were joined by Ricketts, representatives of the Nebraska Catholic Conference and State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn.

Linehan, who chairs the Revenue Committee, has introduced Legislative Bill 670, which would offer state income tax credits to people who donate to a private and parochial school scholarship fund. The price tag has been an obstacle for similar proposals in past years.

Property tax accountability. Linehan also introduced LB 103, which would require school boards and other taxing entities to hold a special public hearing, and take a vote, when local property valuations are increased. Proponents of the bill said Thursday that now it’s too easy for school boards and cities to reap a windfall when property valuations rise because they will collect more taxes by just retaining their current tax levy.

LB 103 would automatically lower levies — to keep taxes the same — if valuations went up. A taxing entity could raise revenue, but it would have to hold a public hearing and a separate vote. Opponents of the idea, which included several school groups, said that school boards already take valuation increases into consideration when setting their levies and that the public already has a chance to chime in on that during public budget hearings.

Bill seeks study of missing Native American women and ways to increase reporting, investigations

LINCOLN — Renee Sans Souci learned as a young teenager, growing up in Lincoln, to walk warily and always be on alert.

Experience taught her that, as a Native American woman, she was a target for harassment, violence and sexual exploitation. She still wound up being sexually assaulted and suffering from domestic abuse.

Sans Souci, of the Omaha Tribe, was hardly alone among the Native American women testifying Thursday before the Judiciary Committee. Almost all said they, too, had experienced rape and domestic violence in their lives.

“For a long time, I thought that was the norm,” said Chandra Michelle Walker, who chairs the Native caucus for the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Both women spoke in support of Legislative Bill 154, introduced by State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon. The measure would add Nebraska to a growing number of states that are taking a closer look at cases of missing Native American women and girls.

The proposal would require the Nebraska State Patrol to work with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs on a study looking at how many Native American women have gone missing and at the law enforcement resources available to investigate those cases and protect women.

“The bill attempts to answer a very serious question: Why do Native American women turn up missing in numbers far more than the national average for every other demographic?” said Brewer, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

He said one issue is the multiple law enforcement and legal systems involved with tribal reservations. The situation allows cases to fall through the cracks.

Two other key issues are sex trafficking and domestic violence, said Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, who co-sponsored the bill.

April Satchell, who testified with her infant granddaughter in her arms, pointed to society’s attitudes about Native American women and girls as a major contributor to the problem.

“Right now, our lives don’t matter,” she said. “We are being targeted for who we are.”

Concern about the disproportionately high numbers of missing and slain Native American women has been growing nationally.

In 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, according to the National Crime Information Center. But experts say that number is low because many cases never get reported.

The Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle undertook a survey of major cities to try to identify cases involving slain and missing Native American women and girls.

The survey found 506 cases across 71 cities, including Omaha and Lincoln. The 24 cases in Omaha represented the eighth-highest total among the cities included in the study. Nebraska ranked seventh-highest among states, when the nine cases from Lincoln were included. The survey did not include cases involving women living in or around reservations or in other Nebraska towns.

No one spoke against LB 154. The committee took no immediate action on the bill.