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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 42nd legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Mike Groene
Column 8-19-2021: CRT Divides Us
Presently our country has been drawn into a racial debate by radical progressive socialist aided by a like-minded national press. Two movements have gone viral. Black Lives Matter (BLM), which focuses on identifying criminals not as perpetrators of crime but instead as victims of a supposed white supremacy culture embedded in our society. BLM is an offshoot of Critical Race Theory (CRT), a divisive racist sociological theory taught over the past 40 years as historical fact in our liberal higher education institutions.
Most Americans look at the debate through their personal experiences and heritage and the vast majority are indignant towards the blanket accusation that they are racist or victims based solely on their skin color. For example, my great grandfather emigrated from Ireland in the 1860s and as a teenager he enlisted in the Union Army. He joined 2.13 million others who risked all to free their fellow human beings from bondage. An estimated 365,000 lost their lives doing so. After the war he married a war widow and moved west to Nebraska with other civil war veterans.
The population of the United States in 1860 was 31.5 million versus 330 million today. The vast majority of Americans today have no family linkage to slavery; they themselves are of mixed heritage and thus have no feelings of racial or ethnic superiority. If they have any pride at all it is in their ancestors’ endurance against the struggles of life. The carnage of the Civil War and its elimination of institutional slavery did not stop the stupidity and cruelty of racism; it will always exist in some, no matter one’s ethnic heritage. The existence of theories like CRT gives racism a home port to operate from.
CRT was born in a mid-20th century socialist caldron stirred by white American and European Marxists, who, unable to divide America by sustaining the working class struggles of the early 1900s, have since sought to divide us by race and behavioral preferences. CRT is not based on facts, but instead from a presumed genetic sub-consciousness. For example, it assumes that personal traits like loyalty, punctuality, hard work and achievement by your own merits are genetic traits found in a white dominated culture. A recent example of CRT ‘s influence is Oregon’s new high school graduation requirements, where a student no longer is required to qualify for graduation with individual effort but instead by the mere fact that they are part of a collective senior class. You may have seen the theory being used in your own children’s schools where more and more activities are conducted in groups.
Since being in the legislature, I have championed legislation to protect the learning environment and safety in our public schools by empowering teachers to run an orderly classroom. I have always been dumbfounded by the resistance of a small group of young progressive senators who themselves are the offspring of parents whose economic place in society is based on hard work, leading them to success in the fields of higher education, politics and free enterprise. They base their resistance to improving classroom order on a non related racist argument, which can only be explained by an acceptance of CRT’s doctrine .
I myself, as a third generation American, was born into a family whose livelihood is best described as sustainable farming. When I went off to the University of Nebraska I lived behind a veterinary clinic, where I cleaned cages and groomed dogs for my rent. I worked my way through four years of college with jobs as a welder and handling hot steel at a foundry.
With my not uncommon, personal history in mind you can understand why I was caught off guard when in debate on the classroom discipline bill a senator accused me of white privilege.
I now have an explanation for the unexplainable resistance we received from the radical left to improving classroom discipline. They firmly believe since I am of European descent, I can’t help being racist since my subconscious is genetically geared to racism. To atone for my genetic flaw, they believe I must develop a consciousness of an apologetic, self-deprecating, group thinking monotone piece of humanity.
Critical Race Theory is in complete opposition to what made America the world’s beacon of light–“individuals united in defending our individual liberty.” We must resist its false premises, for beneath it lies socialism and totalitarianism. I am disappointed that our University of Nebraska regent does not agree.
Column 8-5-21: Medical Cannabis: Lead or Accept the Consequences
I was confronted by a fellow senator this session about a change of mind I’d made on an issue. I explained that after examining the facts and using deductive reasoning, I was led to the conclusion that they no longer supported my previous position. Deductive reasoning is a scientific method for drawing a conclusion based on facts. In recent history we have seen a push by academia to tout critical thinking on college campuses as a replacement for the sound process of deductive reasoning. Being based more on assumptions than facts, it is a far less scientific method of forming a hypothesis and is much more likely to create false conclusions. For example, let’s take a look at the origins of Critical Race Theory. The person using critical thinking looks at the evidence: Slaves in America were of black African descent. Owners of slaves in America were of white European descent. Therefore all white people of European descent are racist. Meanwhile the person using deductive reasoning comes to a different conclusion when forming their hypothesis; slaves in America were of African descent. Most slave owners were of European descent. Therefore white European slave owners were racist.
I prefer the smaller, defined, accurate, scientific approach of deductive reasoning to the broader, general, sociological and assumptive approach of critical thinking.
After examining the evidence, I used deductive reasoning when changing my opposition to medical marijuana. I could no longer ignore personal testimony from families where a member used marijuana successfully, for end of life pain management, to control epileptic seizures, encourage appetite when undergoing chemo-therapy, veterans addressing pain from service injuries, etc.
* 47 states have legalized cannabis in some form. 36 of those allow the use of all forms of medical cannabis, half of those also allow recreational use, and 11 states allow its medical use but restrict the drug’s THC content and delivery methods. Only Nebraska, Idaho and Kansas criminalize all cannabis sales containing THC.
* Pharmaceutical opiates are presently the drug of choice for pain relief; as a result we are now facing an opiate addiction epidemic. Last year Nebraska had an all-time high of 209 overdose deaths. I don’t need to mention the untold deaths from abuse of alcohol and over the counter pain killers. Cannabis, which has no statically documented overdose cases, is proving to be a reasonable alternative to the overuse of big-pharma’s deadly opiates.
* There are two marijuana petitions circulating in Nebraska, one would allow all forms of cannabis for medical reasons, including smoking; the other would legalize it for all purposes, including recreational. Both petitions would create a constitutional right for individuals to use cannabis. I will not support either.
* Polling shows medical marijuana is supported by a large majority of Nebraskans. There is just too much anecdotal testimony from family and neighbors about its medical benefits for most Nebraskans to continue to oppose it.
I voted in favor of medical marijuana for the first time on LB 474, it fell two votes short of the 33 needed for cloture. I believe a petition that will alter our constitution will pass, even easier than Medicaid and gambling expansion did. If the full legalization petition becomes law, we will become Colorado; if the medical use only petition passes we will not be able to limit the drug’s THC levels or delivery method to only pill, liquid, or vapor forms. In either case we will have the stench of the cannabis smoke all around us.
There is yet time to pass legislation forestalling the passage of a petition. Giving citizens seeking alternative medical treatment access to cannabis, along with guidance on its use, may stop them from supporting a petition. I am well aware of the damage long term use of recreational marijuana can do to a person and our society. A restrictive legislative solution, as LB 474 was, is the only alternative I can see to limit our children’s exposure to this brain altering drug. But we face a quandary: do we stomp our feet and say NO way, and thus accept the consequences? Or do we lead?
Column 7-29-2021: Nebraska Legislature’s Assault on Parental Rights
During my time as a senator I have sensed an antagonistic attitude by the legislature towards parental rights. Our juvenile statutes show a preference towards the state’s maternal instincts taking precedent over a parent’s constitutional rights. Those rights guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution, exemplified by the words in the Supreme Court case Quillion v. Walcott: “we cannot overlook or disregard that the ‘best interest’ standard is subject to the overriding recognition that ‘the relationship between a parent and a child is constitutionally protected.’”
Nebraska has led the nation in the ratio of children who are placed in out of home foster care. Although Governor Ricketts has directed his Health and Services department to follow federal guidelines and prioritize placement of children with close family members, we still are a national leader in home removal.
Led by Florida’s successful example, many state legislatures have expanded parental choice in their children’s education. Nebraska has not; going back to the sad episode in the early 1980s when a minister at a church-run school was incarcerated until the children were returned to a public school. Thankfully, that event did rile the public enough to demand broader rights for parents to home school their children. Still, there is a strong minority of senators with the attitude that our children’s education is solely the priority of the state. They fight any attempts to broaden parental choice. They defeated LB 364, the creation of Opportunity Scholarship Grants, offering families in poverty a glimmer of hope toward someday affording school choice. The opposition considered the bill an attack on Nebraska’s secular public schools, even though the bill was voluntary and did not appropriate state funds, instead only allowing a tax credit to taxpayers who donated to one of the Opportunity Grant funds.
Parental rights were again restricted with the passage of LB 307, which forces juveniles to accept court appointed counsel when they are charged with a felony, no matter how minor the offense or legal consequences. The bill is blatantly unconstitutional, completely ignoring the US Supreme Court’s decisions, which have defined our sixth amendment’s right to assistance of counsel to include the right to appoint oneself as counsel. Even stronger language is in our State constitution’s “Right of Accused” in Article: 1-11: “In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right to appear and defend in person or by counsel.”
LB 307 ignores existing state law, allowing individual judges to grant or deny a juvenile’s waiver of counsel if they deem that circumstances, as defined in law, demand that counsel is needed. LB 307 completely overrides a parent’s rights as summarized in words of the Nebraska Supreme Court’s 2011 Lakota Z. case; “…the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
There is an opportunity for the Nebraska Supreme Court to limit the harm this bill may do. The bill requires that the Court: “…shall provide, by court rule, a process to ensure that a juvenile has consulted with counsel, and if not, is provide the opportunity to consult with counsel prior to the juvenile exercising their right to waive their right to counsel.” The Court can choose to use this opportunity to instruct judges to lean heavily on individual and parental rights verses using the bill as a means of pushing juvenile cases through their courtroom without the messy interference of babbling youths and stern parents.
I had, in past legislative sessions, successfully helped other pro-family Senators filibuster and defeat similar legislation. We again had the votes to kill it by filibuster, but in a moment of weakness I agreed to accept a minor amendment and to stop the filibuster. Looking back, my rationale for doing so was foolish; being already late in the evening the Speaker, a very good man, wishing to keep to his timetable and daily agenda, asked me to accept the compromise. I still voted no on passage but I remain haunted by my betrayal in that moment of being nice. I have come to the conclusion that a smooth running legislative body is a detriment to our liberties.
Column 7/22/21: The Problems with a Nonpartisan Unicameral
I have been asked many times why state legislatures such as Iowa, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Wyoming, etc are passing legislation addressing the concerns that a majority of Nebraska’s citizens also share, meanwhile Nebraska’s legislature is mute on important issues. They want to know why the legislature has not put a halt to any future attempt to introduce a radical and racist Critical Race Theory from being slipped into school curriculum or why the school health standards are not being tightened up to not allow a liberal State Board of Education commissioner and his activist employees along with a complacent State Board of Education from bringing radical sexual behavior preferences into the classroom. They are curious why election fraud through vote harvesting and voter registration abuses are not being addressed.
They ask, is not Nebraska still a state where the majority still cherishes liberty, honors the tenants of a just God and defends the family as the cornerstone of a democratic Republic? I reply: Yes, easily proven by the election results of who wins statewide and national offices. After all, Trump did receive 58% of the presidential vote in Nebraska. The problem lies in how Nebraska’s unique unicameral form of State government has evolved.
The nature of Nebraska’s Nonpartisan Unicameral is designed to thwart the will of the majority. Today in the legislature there are 32 registered Republicans and 17 Democrats. Although advertised as a non-partisan body, most Nebraskans vote based on party affiliation, assuming the candidate shares their political views. Without the vetting process of a party primary, candidates can claim they are whatever they want and, when elected, vote who they really are. I will say this, the 17 Democrats are honest, they are who they say they are, and they are true to their party’s positions. Today in the legislature there are 22 who would be considered conservative and 17 progressive-liberal. There are 10 who I consider Unicameralist, although registered Republicans, they are truly nonpartisan independents. They have the power in the legislature, unbound by political ideologies, or loyalty to the members of a political party who elected them; they are free to roam free from issue to issue. Their swing votes decide who will be committee chairs by enforcing a secret vote on those selections. Unlike in the other 49 states in the union, where the makeup of committees reflect proportionally political ideologies, they enforce what I have called the country club rule; after an election no senator can be removed from a committee, no matter that the people of Nebraska overwhelmingly support one political viewpoint.
The Unicameralist does not want controversial issues brought out of committee, where they would then have to actually vote and thus show their true colors. They engineer the makeup of committees where the aforementioned issues are assigned; Government, Education, Business and Labor etc, so those issues never reach the floor of the legislature. By using the tools of their trade, vote-trading, Christmas trees (multiple bills combined into one) and compromise, they rule the Unicameral. They throw a bone to the left and the right occasionally to keep the masses at bay, but mostly they focus on expanding government, stronger regulations to protect their trade, and making sure someone else pays the taxes to support their agenda. Meanwhile you are sitting at home reading between the lines written by the liberal press, who are protective of the Unicameralist accomplishments, wondering how in God’s name did that bill pass in the legislature.
As a Nebraskan you do have one tool to bypass the political distortions of the Unicameralist, the petition process. The Unicameralist, in order to protect their power, has placed burdens on the citizens by enacting higher signature and petitioner requirements. With persistence we have been able to overcome them and in the last few years the people have spoken on the death penalty and Medicaid expansion. Presently there are two petition drives planned, legalizing Medical Marijuana and one requiring citizen identification before voting. I assume both will pass with flying colors.
Column 7-15-21: Funding School Construction Equitably
This last session, LB 2 was enacted. It creates a correction to address an unfair property tax burden on ag-land owners. Over the last 25 years ag-land valuations have skyrocketed, simply due to the fact that God makes more humans but He doesn’t make more land. Meanwhile in rural Nebraska, residential and commercial property has increased at a much slower rate, or in some instances stagnated or even decreased. LB 2 addresses this inequity in school bond elections; it attempts to bring back a fair proportionality of who pays when new school buildings are erected.
Adding to the injustice, while small town populations may have declined, farmer numbers have declined even faster. Farmers today are more productive, and in order to be profitable larger farms are a necessity and thus fewer workers are needed. Ag-land owners in most school districts have very little voter representation and are simply out voted when it comes to bond elections. If you have your home in a rural school district, you may have noticed over time that what you pay in school taxes have actually declined–if so, you can thank a farmer, because due to rising farmland valuations the cost of operating your school and paying off existing bonds has shifted to them.
To address the problem, LB 2 lowers the unadjusted valuation of ag-land from 75% to 50% for school bond levies only. Residential and commercial values remain the same at 100%. The effective start date of the legislation is January I, 2022. Ag-land will still be valued at 75% for all present school bonds or any new projects approved before that date.
I was a little surprised to see that the Hershey school district has announced a $17.9 million bond election to be concluded August 10th. I would hope the bond election was not hurried along in order to avoid the effects of LB 2, ignoring the will of Nebraskans to fix an injustice. I make no judgment call on the necessity of the school construction planned to improve the education environment for the children of the taxpayers living in the Hershey district, but I would say that the timeline seems to be inadequate to allow for patrons to ask questions, receive answers and give them time to verify the information given.
Currently ag-land in the Hershey district makes up 53% of the total taxable valuation. After LB 2 goes into effect it will drop to 43% for purposes of new school bond debt. Yes, there will be a slight corrective shift back to residential, commercial and centrally assessed (railroad, etc.) property owners. If someone believes school improvements are needed, I assume they would be willing to pay a fair share. The ability to cause another to pay a larger share should not be a deciding factor.
I see no rational reason to rush the vote. If the election is successful, it will only build animosity between town residents and the farm community. Hurt feelings in a small town can manifest themselves in more places than just the school gymnasium. For the benefit of the community, I believe the Hershey Bond election should have waited until after the first of the year.
In government sometimes when you fix a problem, another is broadened. LB 523 is a sister bill to LB 2 that is still on General file, and it needs to be enacted to plug a loophole in present law. Because ag-land valuations have skyrocketed, many school districts can fund their operations with a levy well under the 1.05 limit. Districts have the ability to levy up to 14 cents for a building fund if their total levy stays under the lid. As long as a school district doesn’t use bonds to pay for a building project the school board–using the building fund–can on its own approve it without a vote of the people. Since LB 2’s 50% ag-land valuation only applies to bond funding, more school districts will be tempted to build schools with general funds where farmland remains at 75% of appraisal. Nebraskans historically have expected to vote on major school construction projects, LB 523 would force all school boards to honor those expectations.
Column 6-24-2021: Spending the COVID-19 Bounty
My time to write columns was limited this year as the legislative session moved quickly with all day bill hearings, followed by all-day floor debate. Responsible senators take time to read bills before they appear rapid fire to the floor for debate; others only vote the issue, vote for a friend’s bill or trade a vote and worry not about the policy content.
Due to the Federal Government throwing common sense and fiscal sanity out the window, they ran their money presses wide open and passed the resulting play money out like parade candy. Like we Americans are known to do, we spent those free-funds and we created an abundance of available sales and income taxes for state and local governments to spend. With a pile of tax dollars available, there were no impediments in the way of line-item budget increases, cutting taxes, or one-time spending projects.
On paper, the legislature did keep the line-item biennium budget increase to 2% annually, a distorted lower number because of four factors. Increased property valuations caused another shift to property taxes as the main source of funding public schools, causing a minimal state aid increase. The Governor returned $55 million to the General fund from his COVID Emergency Program because of the generous influx of Federal CARES Act dollars; he didn’t need to spend state dollars. The federal CARES Act also offset state appropriations for social-welfare programs. Finally, spending funded by transfers from the reserve fund never show up in the mainline budget; i.e. $20 million added to existing workforce housing funds.
The legislature wisely spent most of the excess tax dollars for one-time transfers instead of increasing annual programs that must be sustained. $396 million was transferred to the Legislature’s cash reserve fund, bringing the total to $808 million. We increased funds to the property tax relief fund by $63 million, a total of $313 million by 2023. Revenue growth was decreased by $467 million from the expected impact of the newly created Property tax Credit. We transferred another $115 million to address prison overcrowding.
We passed income tax cuts of $95 million, which is estimated to increase by $284 million over the next budget cycle. I supported the two largest cuts, elimination of state taxes on Social Security benefits and on military retirement benefits. I did not support the future $26 million reduction in corporate income taxes. I was not given a good reason why a state with the second lowest unemployment rate needed to cut corporate taxes. Some entity or person must pay taxes to pay for needed public services. When we are collecting excess revenues, I prefer to cut taxes on individuals as the better economic policy. At the moment we are not in need of more urban jobs, but we do need to increase workforce participants to fill existing jobs. There is no better way to encourage people to live and work in Nebraska than to offer them a lower tax burden.
Sales taxes were eliminated on residential water bills, ethanol production inputs, internet infrastructure, and some overlooked farm equipment. We also passed our LB664, which redirected
$8 million in general fund tax dollars–as intended–to rural fire districts who participate in Mutual Finance organizations.
We passed one time spending bills costing $66 million. The largest being LB388, spending $40 million for rural broadband infrastructure. The second largest is the initial $10 million for our LB40, the Nebraska Rural Projects Act. Over the next 10 years LB40 has the potential to put $50 million into rural job creation by funding industrial railroad park infrastructure. Lincoln County, with its ties to the railroad industry, is first in line for the guaranteed $30 million max that any single project can receive.
I believe rural Nebraska fared very well as to where the excess tax dollars will eventually end up. The legislature spent, cut, or put in reserve nearly $1.5 billion in taxes created by the Federal government’s financial reaction to COVID -19. What we didn’t address this year was the effect the Federal Government’s COVID policies have had on your personal freedoms. That is where my focus will be the final year of my term.
This past election cycle, we have had doubt cast on the trust that citizens have in America’s election system. Conspiracy theories range from altered foreign owned voter machines, ballot box stuffing, to outright rejection of legitimate ballots. Is there truth in any of the claims? I do know there is never smoke without fire, and that fire will spread unless you take away the source of the fuel.
Without a detailed long term federal investigation, the country will continue to smolder. I do find it curious that investigations have already been instigated into the January 6th Capitol protests that resulted in five deaths and vandalism. It is my opinion that a traditional American protest turned into a mob scene that escalated into violence. If the enemies of liberty can somehow turn an over-passionate mob scene into an organized conspiracy to overthrow the government, then as a nation we are closer than I want to believe to losing our freedoms. Meanwhile, any attempts to investigate allegations of voter fraud are shouted down by the national press and supported by elected officials who put their politics first. One would think that our federal courts and elected officials would want to assure the people that they can trust our election results.
Early voting is one area where I do believe we have allowed the election process to be distorted, perhaps not fraudulently but unethically. I introduced LB590 to reduce the number of days for early mail in voting from 35 days to 20 and to reduce in person voting at the county clerk’s office from 30 days to 15. The bill had its hearing in the Government Committee on February 18th.
Information on candidate positions can be exposed right up to Election Day, health issues can be exposed, candidates have died or withdrawn from races right up to Election Day. Meanwhile some citizens may have voted a month earlier.
There is a valid reason why our forefathers created voting booths at our local precinct. Voting is an individual right that should be a private decision. No one should be looking over our shoulder or coaching us as we fill out our ballot on our kitchen table. I have no qualms with organizations encouraging voter registration; for example, I have always admired the work of the League of Women’s Voters for having that as their main mission. What early voting has encouraged is the creation of organizations with rabid political philosophies-ACORN was one you may have heard of in past elections-who harvest votes as their mission. They go out in communities to register voters, then encourage them to request mail in ballots and return later to help the voter fill out their ballot. Is it fraud? Legally NO. Is it unethical? YES.
We have always made allowances for those who cannot get to a voting precinct on Election Day. The ability to vote by absentee ballot and voting a few days early at the county clerk’s office are both legitimate extensions of the right to vote, but with freedom comes personal responsibility and one should be expected to make an effort to vote on Election Day. By allowing long pre-election voting periods we have extended the harvest season for unethical political groups to influence election results.
As time goes on, this issue will continue to degrade our election process. Political parties and special interest groups will have no choice but to join the door to door pre-election harvest of votes.
Column 1-28-21: Assault on Political Free Speech
On my office wall I have the Mark Twain quote “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” It is there to remind me that many times, legislation that is intended to offer security to one often restricts the freedom of another, which also reminds me of the oft repeated Ben Franklin quote “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Thomas Jefferson paraphrased the same thought by saying “any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
The national political conversation has swung towards the pursuit of restrictive security policies at the cost of liberty. Even though the COVID-19 vaccine has arrived and we are quickly reaching natural herd immunity they continue to push for restrictive facemask policies, ignoring the fact that virus infections have spread at an exponential growth rate despite present mandates. Presently many are pushing for vaccination mandates, even for those who have acquired natural immunity, restricting personal health choices, parental rights, religious freedom, the right to associate with whomever we choose, and place restrictions on where we wish to gather. As a local example, LB447 was introduced in the legislature this session. The bill removes a parent’s right to exempt their children from vaccine requirements when enrolling them in a childcare facility. By the discretion of the Health and Human Services Department, the COVID-19 vaccination could easily be required in the future.
Censorship of political speech is being administered by mega-worldwide internet venues. Publishing companies are creating a blacklist containing the names of former Trump administration officials, agreeing not to publish their works. Our new president is being advised to have groups who disagree with his administration’s agenda be investigated by federal agencies. This legislative session, LB637 Has been introduced to give more power to regional health department bureaucrats , thus taking away the ability of local elected officials to balance individual freedom and public safety, a trend that mirrors the socialist model of the European Union where faceless bureaucrats embedded in government agencies manage the lives of Europe’s citizens.
During the presidential inauguration week there was a State Patrol SWAT team of 20 or so officers stationed at the Capitol. The National Democratic Party hired four private security contractors to roam the halls during the week. Why? Because of political fear mongering and of a rumor that the property damage done at the U.S Capitol two weeks prior by protesters, could happen at state Capitols across the country. Of course the Capitol was peaceful, with a few demonstrators on the streets outside, which is not uncommon for a society that embraces free speech. So why did a few state senators push for such drastic security measures? The simple answer is the old political axiom, perception becomes reality. The press reports the presence of SWAT teams and the perception to the public is that a threat was averted, when no such threat ever existed. By creating the perception that certain political views are a danger to society, those who wish to oppress your freedom can pursue restricting your liberty through measures they claim will secure your safety.
The assault on the political free speech of your elected officials is not only happening in Washington. This session, a rule change was proposed by a senator to silence free speech on the floor of the legislature. It effectively employed the old political ploy of throwing mud (accusations) at a political opponent and when put in a position to defend themselves, some of the mud may stick; again perception becomes reality. The proposal failed, but the fact it existed had a chilling effect on free speech in the legislative chamber.
We live in troubled times, where attacks on liberty are driving the prevailing political winds. Since I have been a senator, I have had two credible death threats, have had disgusting packages delivered to my home containing candy formed in the shape of male genitals, middle fingers, etc. I have received hate mail and slanderous distorted emails have been sent to other senators attacking my free speech rights. I have had thoughts of quitting, but I always come back to John Adams’ “liberty, once lost, is gone forever.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 402-471-2729
Thursday the legislature will be debating proposed changes to the rules that they operate under. The rules Committee chaired by Senator Clements is bringing three proposed changes to the floor. Two are minor changes, the other is to require that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited as part of the opening of each legislative day. Presently it is an afterthought done before the legislature starts its day. There will be floor amendments introduced, debated on, and a recorded vote taken. A floor amendment will be brought to require a recorded vote for Chairmanship of committees. Presently in the proceedings of the Unicameral, this attack on open-government is the only dark moment when the lights of transparency and accountability are shut off and the people are denied the right to know how their state senator voted. This unethical practice began in the 1970s– prior to then, chairmanship votes were public and recorded.
That this is even an issue has always amazed me. How can any elected official be against transparency? Nebraska citizens agree-I have never received so many personally written emails pleading for support on an issue. They demand to know how their senator votes, they demand that the legislature uphold the edicts of our state Constitution. Article III sec. 11 clearly states “all votes shall be viva voce” (meaning voice vote not written). In the same section the Constitution does allow for secrecy in the proceedings of the legislature, allowing for debate on a matter not be entered in the journal or the doors of the legislative chamber may be closed if the business at hand “shall be such as ought to be kept secret,” but never does it allow for secret written votes as is done for the election of committee chairs, even if the debate on a matter is deemed to require secrecy, the vote on it is not, as the Constitution states “…and the yeas and nays of the members on any question shall at the desire of any one of them be entered on the journal”. The Constitution is clear, there is no way around the requirement that all votes shall be voice votes and able to be recorded by the request of a member.
So why in the past when this matter has come to a vote, has a majority of senators continued to support an obviously unconstitutional practice that blocks the people’s will for transparent and accountable government? The answer lies in the dark side of human nature, a secret vote allows one to accomplish personal vendettas, it allows a senator to trade votes that differ from the wishes of their constituents, and it allows liars to profit from their lies. Human nature does not change with elected office, if anybody needs the guidance of transparency, it is a politician.
As a sidebar, in my election for Education chair, the first round vote was 24-24 with one casting a blank ballot. I had believed I had the 25 votes needed, of course due to secret ballots one individual was able to lie and hide behind the senators who kept their word. In the second round of voting, the old unicameral inside joke that “the only day of session when there are not 49 senators but instead 50” came to fruition. 50 ballots were cast, my opponent received 25, I received 23 and there were 2 blank ballots cast. Ironically mirroring what is happening on the national level, and again proving why the legislature should have the integrity to return to a voice vote for chairmanships. Transparency deters bad behavior.
As the 2022 elections loom around the corner for Nebraska’s governor and other state and local offices, the vote to change the rule on chairmanship votes will tell voters a lot about the character of state senators who may be seeking other offices or reelection. If a senator does not support public votes on chairmanships, a voter should have legitimate concerns on what other issues will that candidate rationalize that for their own good, it is best to keep citizens uninformed.
I will vote for transparency; secret government actions breed suspicion, not trust.
Contact; email@example.com 402-471-2729
As you may have heard, I am no longer the Chairman of the Education Committee. The political winds that have changed Washington have also altered the direction of the Nebraska Legislature and the loss by conservatives in two very close legislative races this past November laid the groundwork for my loss. There are always those in the political world who have no core values and they drift between political alignments that will benefit their lust for political victories and to satisfy their simple greed. Due to secret chairmanship votes, two senators who told me they would vote for me, did not. I have always opposed secret votes in government, mainly because I hate to see the distrust it builds among colleagues and it allows liars to profit from their lies.
For four years I successfully plugged the hole in the dam that held back the secular humanist assault on the few parental rights and religious freedoms that remained in our government funded and controlled public schools. Prepare now to see legislation pass in the next two years that will inject psychologist, mental health therapist and social workers as authoritative figures between parents and their children in public schools. Prepare to see programs put in place that will give credence to already existing policies that teach children to identify themselves not as a fellow human being with the same God given rights but instead by their physical or psychological identity: race, biological sex or a perceived sexual preference. Last, but not least, prepare to pay higher taxes to fund the influx of all the new authoritative figures it will take to further divide your religious and moral influence from your children. Personally I am glad I’m on a new path, like a good soldier I did my duty, but the personal attacks I received and having to listen to the lobbyist of the Education establishment as they spoke of your children as if they were government chattel to be managed and formed into the image that is acceptable to government overseers, wore on my ability to be civil.
After what I have experienced and learned about the Education establishment’s agenda for our children, I have advice to anyone who believes family should be the ones to guide the way their children should go. Unless you know the beliefs of your child’s teachers or the character of the school board members, get your children out of public schools. Tuition at a private school or hiring a tutor will provide greater returns in your children than saving for a family vacation to Disneyland. I plan to return to my populist conservative roots and be the voice and eyes of the average Nebraska citizen. Around the legislature there is a collegial movement meant to control the free speech of senators and to control the message that the public hears coming out of Lincoln. I believe my first responsibility is to you the citizen. Collegiality to me is fulfilling my duty to inform you of any cronyism, vote trading or incestuous committee deals that I see happening in the legislature. Practices that are intended to advance legislation that does not represent the will of the majority of Nebraskans or may harm the rights of the minority.
I am again free to be an advocate of truth and honesty and focus on being a protector of your liberty. I must say, I find my new situation, to be an exhilarating feeling of freedom.
Contact Senator Groene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729