NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Steve Erdman

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47

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Straight Talk From Steve…

November 13th, 2017

The Nebraska Forecasting Advisory Board meets periodically to forecast (or guess) how much money they think will be coming into the State’s general fund. Lawmakers use these projections to craft the State’s biennial budget. On October 27 the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met at the State Capitol and voted to lower its revenue projections. This is not good news for our State.

The revenue projections were lowered because the board members believe that individual incomes are decreasing, not increasing. Revenue collected from individual income taxes makes up more than 50% of the State’s general fund.

For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the board projected that income tax receipts would fall short by $115 million. So, the board revised the total projected revenue receipts for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, lowering them to $4.5 billion, which is a decrease of $100 million.

The board also projected that income tax receipts for the 2018-2019 fiscal year would fall short by $125 million. So, they revised the projected total revenue receipts for the 2018-2019 fiscal year to $4.7 billion, which is a decrease of $123 million.

These revised forecasts mean that the projected general fund financial status is actually $194.4 million short of the minimum statutory cash reserve. Last year I proposed my own budgetary fix to the problem, which received 19 votes, and in May I said the board’s forecasts were too generous and that we needed to cut the budget by another $250 million. Regardless, lawmakers will be forced to make these additional cuts to the budget come January.

Because revenues are projected to be down, the Legislature won’t be passing any bills next year which come with a fiscal note. Instead, lawmakers will be forced to look for ways to cut spending from the State’s biennial budget. The State has been in this type of revenue shortfall before and we worked our way out it. We can, and we will work our way out of it again.

Straight Talk From Steve…

November 6th, 2017

I appreciate the way so many of you read my newspaper articles.

I’ve been busy these past few months trying to write legislation I hope will be most beneficial for the folks living in the Panhandle as well as for all those living in Nebraska. Today, I would like to update you on what I have been working on.

My first order of business has been to deliver on property tax relief. Over the summer I met with a coalition of Senators, farm groups, and concerned citizens to put together a legislative resolution for property tax relief. The plan we came up with is called the 50/50 plan, and soon we will be collecting signatures for a citizen led initiative to ensure that this measure appears on your ballot next year. The 50/50 plan will allow property owners to declare half of that portion of their property taxes which pays for education as a credit or refund on their State income taxes.

I also want to fix the way destroyed property gets valued for property tax purposes. Currently, the value of a piece of property on January 1 determines its value for property tax purposes for the remainder of the year. But, what if your house burns down on January 2? My bill will give the Board of Equalization the authority to prorate a parcel’s valuation to the date of its destruction. A property owner should not have to pay a full year’s worth of taxes on property which was destroyed midyear.

Besides property tax relief, I have also been working to fix the way agricultural land gets valued for property tax purposes. Last year I introduced LB602, which was designed to change the method of valuation from the current market based system to an income approach. Although my bill never made it out of committee, the Revenue Committee combined various elements from my bill into LB461. However, LB461 in its current form does not solve the primary problems associated with agricultural land valuations. Consequently, I have been working to fix LB461 through the amendment process.

Finally, a piece of legislation I hope to recommend for the Consent Calendar is a bill which would raise the rate of pay for gas commissioners from $50 per meeting to $500 per meeting with an annual cap set at $6,000. The rate of $50 per meeting was set back in 1950 and has never been changed. Because gas commissioners get paid by the oil companies, the raise in pay would have no bearing on the State’s biennial budget. My bill would also allow the director to recommend any future pay increases. The way I see it, $50 per day amounts to charity work, so it is time to give these gas commissioners a well-deserved raise.

Finally, in a few days we will be formally remembering and celebrating our veterans. Personally, I believe we should honor our veterans all 365 days of the year. The reason why we should honor veterans all year long relates to the cost of being a veteran. When it comes to our veterans, we must never forget the slogan that “All gave some, and some gave all.”

Straight Talk From Steve

October 30th, 2017

We three Nebraska State Senators, Sen. Steve Erdman (LD47), Sen. Tom Brewer (LD43), and Sen. Steve Halloran (LD33), have some questions concerning the University of Nebraska. We have come into these questions because of recent developments with UNL Sophomore student and Turning Point USA recruiter, Kaitlyn Mullen.

Question #1: Are professors at UNL hostile towards conservative students? On August 25 English Department graduate assistant, Courtney Lawton, protested in front of Kaitlyn Mullen’s recruitment table for Turning Point USA with a sign, labelling her as a Neo-Fascist and verbally assaulting her as a “Becky,” a racist term for sexually loose white women. English professor Amanda Gailey also protested against Ms. Mullen with a sign, demanding her name be added to Turning Point USA’s professor watch list. Meanwhile, another unknown employee of the University asked Ms. Mullen to move her table to a “free speech zone.”

Question #2: Are university administrators warm, welcoming, inviting and transparent towards conservative students? University Chancellor, Ronnie Green, conducted a full-scale investigation of the August 25 incident and set up a meeting to report the University’s findings to Ms. Mullen on Monday, October 23. Chancellor Green asked Ms. Mullen to meet privately with him and his staff and that no recording of the session would be permitted. Ms. Mullen was asked to meet with Chancellor Ronnie Green, Executive Vice Chancellor, Donde Plowman, Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Laurie Bellows, and Chief of Staff, William Nunez. That’s a ratio of four college administrators to one undergraduate student. Feeling outnumbered and intimidated, Ms. Mullen insisted on bringing her own attorney to the meeting.

Question #3: Can the university’s administration conduct an honest investigation when a conservative student is involved? During the October 23 meeting, it was reported to Ms. Mullen that no disciplinary action whatsoever had been taken against English professor, Amanda Gailey, and teaching assistant, Courtney Lawton. Furthermore, Chancellor Green played a video tape of the incident to Ms. Mullen, which was mysteriously missing a ten minute interval when, according to Ms. Mullen, Professor Amanda Gailey had protested against her with a sign. Chancellor Green’s explanation for the missing segment was that the camera suddenly stopped filming in that particular location and jumped to another area of the campus.

Question #4: Can anyone at the University tell the truth about free speech zones on campus? Back in August University spokesman, Steve Smith, told the Daily Nebraskan, UNL’s student newspaper, that the “free speech zone” is “the space between the Nebraska Union and the Canfield Administration Building.” He later retracted his statement. When University President Hank Bounds was interviewed by Coby Mach on September 25 on KLIN radio, he denied the existence of any “free speech zones” on campus. However, Chancellor Ronnie Green told Ms. Mullen during the October 23 meeting that the “free speech zone” was for visitors to the campus, such as street preachers.

Question #5: Does anyone teach English anymore at UNL? The homepage for the English Department at UNL, https://www.unl.edu/english/home, advertises its core values as: 1) Pursuing social justice, 2) affirming diversity, 3) Engaging with a broad array of real and imagined communities based on empathetic understanding, 4) fostering a sense of belonging, and 5) Instilling a desire for civic engagement. Strangely missing from these core values are traditional English department words such as ‘classic literature studies,’ ‘writing,’ ‘poetry,’ ‘fiction,’ ‘grammar,’ and ‘novel.’ Instead, the English department at UNL proudly displays several political posters in the department. One such poster says, “Nothing in this country can mean anything without admitting it was founded on betrayal.” The English department has proudly condemned President Trump’s executive order to suspend immigrant travel and it has recently reiterated its support for the LGBTQA community: https://www.unl.edu/english/department-messages#20170224.  When asked if he was aware of the contents of the English department’s webpage, Chancellor Ronnie Green said he was unaware of it. Most disturbing, though, is the fact that the English department’s webpage is missing anything which even remotely resembles a traditional English education.

As you can see, as Nebraska State Senators we have justifiable reasons to be concerned about the social condition and discriminatory actions of our State’s flagship university.

Straight Talk From Steve

October 23rd, 2017

The time for property tax relief is now! Over the past several months, I, Nebraska State Senator, Steve Erdman, of Legislative District 47, have been collaborating with a coalition of Senators, farm groups and concerned citizens, facilitated by Mr. Trent Fellers, a former Lincoln City Councilman, to put together a plan for property tax relief which will appear as a measure on next year’s November ballot. As I promised in a press conference on May 23rd, I will introduce this plan as a Legislative Resolution in the Unicameral Legislature in January. At the same time, a citizen led initiative will soon begin collecting signatures for the same plan. If the Legislative Resolution fails in the Legislature, the citizen led initiative will ensure that this same plan appears as a measure on the ballot for a public vote in November 2018. The only catch is that we will need to collect 85,000 signatures from registered voters from across the State by July 7.

The Legislative Resolution I will introduce in the Legislature is called the 50/50 plan. This plan will give every property owner in the State a 50 percent credit or refund on that portion of their property tax bill which is paid to public education. Property owners will pay the full amount of their property taxes as usual; however, on April 15th, or whenever they decide to file their State income taxes, they will be able to declare 50 percent of the education portion of their property tax bill as a credit or refund on their State income taxes. In most cases education receives 60 percent of a property owner’s property tax bill. So, the 50/50 plan will result in a 30 percent property tax reduction for most property owners. Across the State, property owners will save a total amount of $1.1 billion in property taxes.

Here’s an example of how it will work. Suppose Tom the Taxpayer owes $10,000 in property taxes. Tom will pay the full amount of his property tax bill, which is $10,000. $6,000 of Tom’s property taxes will go to fund public education. So, on April 15th Tom will declare a credit of $3,000 on his State income taxes. If Tom still owes money to the State, say $3,000, then he will pay that amount back to the State. However, if Tom had already paid his regular income taxes through payroll deductions, then he will receive a refund check for $3,000.

Some people have asked me if the 50/50 plan is property tax relief or income tax relief. My response to this question has always been the same: “I don’t care what you call it, as long as the words ‘tax relief’ are in the name.”

The 50/50 plan is friendly to education. The 50/50 plan will fully fund public education as well as all other tax asking entities in the State. Every agency within the State with tax asking authority will receive its allotted funding in full. The State’s obligation will be to the property owners, not to the public schools or to any other agency. Therefore, those working in public education or those working in any other agency funded by property taxes have no reason to fear a potential loss of funding.

Another advantage of the 50/50 plan is that it makes the State Legislature, instead of local governments, responsible for reconciling the $1.1 billion difference in lost revenues. Some have criticized the 50/50 plan, suggesting that it would necessarily result in higher sales taxes or higher income taxes. But, this is not true. There is nothing in the 50/50 plan which mandates higher taxes of any kind. Others have criticized the 50/50 plan saying that it would take tax incentives away from businesses, but this is not true, either. There is nothing in the 50/50 plan which takes tax incentives away from businesses. These kinds of criticisms of the 50/50 plan only present false dilemmas about the plan, and they are designed to scare the public into voting against the plan. These kinds of criticisms of the 50/50 plan present false dilemmas about the plan because they conveniently forget that the State Legislature may pay for the $1.1 billion in lost revenues simply by cutting spending from the State’s biennial budget. Moreover, these same kinds of scare tactics would be lodged against any plan which seeks to reduce property tax revenues by the sum of $1.1 billion.

We have been talking about property tax relief in our State for the past 40 years. Until now, the State Legislature has never had the fortitude to address this problem in any substantial or meaningful way. The burden of property taxes has now become unbearable for many property owners across the State. Wherever I go, people ask me to deliver on property tax relief, so I have made this my top priority this year as a Legislator. I believe the time to act is now, and the 50/50 plan is the best way we have come up with to deliver on property tax relief for all property owners living in Nebraska. I sincerely hope you will join us in our effort to reduce your property taxes.

Straight Talk From Steve

October 13th, 2017

 

I love football and October is the heart of football season. Baseball may be America’s favorite pastime, but football is America’s favorite sport. In Nebraska we have two seasons: Football season and waiting for football season. The future of football, however, is in peril.

The future of football is in peril because fewer parents are allowing their sons to play football these days. According to a recent HBO/Marist poll 87 percent of parents said in 2013 that they would allow their sons under the age of 18 to play football, but by 2016 those numbers had fallen to 75 percent of parents. The growing concerns relate to concussions and long-term brain trauma.

A recent study of the brains of NFL football players made an alarming discovery. The study found that out of 111 NFL football players’ brains 110 were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE. CTE is a brain disease which is found in those exposed to repeated head trauma, and it is marked by an abnormal buildup of Tau proteins in the brain. CTE can disable neuropathways in the brain, resulting in memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and even suicidal thoughts. So, CTE is a real concern for athletes who play football.

Some of our youngest Nebraskans are now trailblazing a new way for saving America’s favorite sport. Some of Nebraska’s high school football players are now leading the way in new research to address this problem. Football players in the Omaha Public School district have been outfitted with new high-tech football helmets equipped with sensors designed to detect hard blows to the head. The helmets have been equipped with the new InSite Impact Response system, which alerts coaches via a handheld electronic device whenever a player receives a hard blow to the head. Once alerted, coaches may then remove the affected player from the field to have him analyzed for head trauma and concussions.

Omaha’s high school football coaches are reporting that the new helmets are alerting them about hard blows to the head on average about once or twice per practice or game. The helmets have already helped coaches and athletic trainers detected some concussions they would not have otherwise detected. If one player is taking a lot of hits, for example, coaches may use the information provided by the helmets to correct a receiver’s receiving style or a running back’s form, or tweak a defensive player’s tackling technique. Playing with the proper technique significantly reduces head injuries on the field.

This helmet experiment hasn’t been cheap, though. Each of these new specialized Riddell Speedflex helmets costs $400 apiece. Fortunately, this year the helmets were donated to all seven OPS high schools plus Creighton Prep and Belleview East and West. Nevertheless, these specialized helmets will likely become the new norm in football.

As a legislator, I want to do all I can to keep students safe in school, especially in after school sports. But for now, common sense would suggest making use of these kinds of available technologies whenever we can afford to do so in order to save lives, reduce the number of concussions, and stave off as much head trauma as we possibly can. Football is life – So, let’s make sure our kids live long enough and healthy enough to enjoy it as much as we have.

 

Straight Talk with Steve

October 12th, 2017

The Building Maintenance Committee, of which I am the chair, held its final meeting of the year at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institute last week. While the primary purpose of our meeting was to assess and approve work to rebuild chillers and to replace roofing at the facility, it was also a time to get updated on the progress being made for better security at the prison.
The biggest problem facing the Tecumseh State Correctional Institute has been staffing. On the day of our Building Maintenance Committee meeting, for example, staffing was down 93 people. On average, staffing has been down 30 percent. Consequently, prison guards have been working 12 hour shifts plus mandatory overtime in order to make up for the staffing deficiencies. Overtime at the Tecumseh facility alone adds up to almost one million dollars per year. The Tecumseh facility has also been borrowing protective custody staff from corrections centers in Omaha. Because the Tecumseh facility is not located near a population center and because wages have been low, retention of employees has been the most glaring problem.

The issue regarding pay has recently been addressed. On October 2 Scott Frakes, the Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, announced a $2,500 recruitment bonus for the first 100 new hires, and current employees will be able to take advantage of some new merit based incentives. Hopefully, these bonuses and incentives will alleviate the staffing deficiencies.
In order to help quell future rioting at the prison, Brad Hansen, the warden, has instituted a new tiered approach to inmate housing and benefits. Inmates now have to earn their perks through good behavior, whereas before they did not. The most aggressive inmates are now being housed together under the strictest conditions and are denied most pleasantries. After an inmate’s behavior improves, he may advance to the next tier, where his prison life becomes a little bit more comfortable and enjoyable.

The warden has also made some physical security improvements to the facility. Previously, two prison guards had been assaulted during the riot on March 10, 2015 when inmates took control of two housing pods. In order to provide better security for the staff, the warden has installed a new escape hatch. In the event of another loss of control, prison staff will be able to leave through the escape hatch and confine the riot to a single housing pod.

Another way the Tecumseh prison is improving is through better programming. The Tecumseh prison has revamped some of its most critical programs. For instance, 21 percent of the inmates at the Tecumseh facility are now sex offenders. Last year programs for sex offenders did not require inmates to accept responsibility for their sexually deviant behavior. The new programs, however, require these felons to accept responsibility for their sex crimes. The pathway to reform cannot begin until an offender admits that he did something wrong.

Moving forward, the Tecumseh Correctional Institute will need to address a wider range of psychological problems held by their inmates. This means that more psychiatrists and counselors will be needed to meet the psychological needs of the inmates. The inmates need more psychological help. The biggest question to be solved, however, is this: How do we pay for it? The Tecumseh State Correctional Institute did not renew its contract with outside mental health practitioners. Instead, all mental health practitioners will now work directly for the State, and this could get expensive.

Scott Frakes and Brad Hansen have taken some positive steps forward towards improving security at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institute. Most importantly, though, the State cannot afford another uprising, another senseless murder, or another needless assault on an inmate. The bottom line is that I want our correctional institutions to exhibit a culture of discipline, where safety, security and control reign as our highest priorities.

Straight Talk From Steve

September 25th, 2017

Last Friday the Health and Human Services Committee held a quarterly briefing and hearing on Heritage Health. Heritage Health oversees our three Managed Care Organizations for all Medicaid recipients in our State. These three Managed Care Organizations are Nebraska Total Care, United Healthcare, and Wellcare. Last Friday’s briefing and hearing focused on meeting the needs of our healthcare providers.

The good news coming out of Heritage Health has been that patients are being better served than they were a year ago. Clean claims continue to be processed, adjudicated, and paid at a good rate, patients can obtain services in other states and more is being done to provide for healthy pregnancies.

The bad news is that our Managed Care Organizations continue to frustrate our healthcare providers. For instance, some healthcare providers testified at the public hearing that payments on claims are inconsistent, customer service is poor, and that they lose money waiting for authorizations to come through. Some healthcare providers have complained that billing is not worth the wait. If we don’t treat our healthcare providers well, they may stop doing business with Heritage Health.

There are three key areas that Heritage Health must improve on in order for our Managed Care Organizations to provide better service to our healthcare providers. The first problem area involves overpayments to our healthcare providers. This is the most complicated of the three problem areas. When overpayments are made to healthcare providers, the overpaid amount is not necessarily returned to the Managed Care Organization; instead, some of our Managed Care Organizations insist on applying the overpaid amount to a future claim. This makes the accounting process very confusing. Even worse is the fact that the Managed Care Organizations have no way of telling when an overpayment has been made. This places the burden of catching the over-payment on the healthcare provider. In short, this presents a nightmare kind of scenario for our healthcare providers. So, going forward the HHS Committee and Heritage Health will need to find a way to place this burden back on the Managed Care Organizations, where it belongs.

Second, healthcare providers are entitled to interest on overdue claims which are not their fault. Interest payments need to be made to our healthcare providers when they are not at fault for an unpaid claim. For instance, sometimes a clean claim is erroneously denied by no fault of the healthcare provider. Other times a claim may erroneously be deemed unclean by no fault of the healthcare provider. Because these kinds of cases may drag on and on for months without a resolution, once it is determined that the claim should be paid, it ought to be paid with interest to the healthcare provider.

Third, clarification is needed to determine when the clock starts and stops on a resubmitted claim. When a healthcare provider resubmits a claim, it becomes unclear as to whether or not the clock on the new claim restarts. Should the clock continue on from the original claim, or should it restart after the claim has been resubmitted? This is an issue that frustrates our healthcare providers and which could be easily resolved through a simple policy statement.

The bottom line is that the Legislature needs to make sure that our healthcare providers get paid for their services in a timely manner, that they receive good customer service, and that their concerns get heard. I want our healthcare providers to enjoy doing business with Heritage Health.

Straight Talk From Steve…

September 18th, 2017

Recently, the Health and Human Services Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature held a round table discussion on the topic of massage therapy. At issue were the requirements needed to become a licensed massage therapist in the State. Specifically, legislators want to know if the requirements and the costs are too high. If the requirements and the associated costs are too high, they may discourage individuals from pursuing a career in massage therapy or from practicing massage therapy in our State.

Currently, Nebraska State Statutes require a minimum of 1,000 hours of in-class instruction and training. These 1,000 hours are broken down into 100 hours of instruction in each of the following seven subject areas: Anatomy, Health Service Management, Hydrotherapy, Hygiene and Practical Demonstrations, Massage, Pathology, and Physiology. The remaining 300 hours are devoted to subject areas related to the clinical practice of massage therapy.

The American Massage Therapy Association only recommends a minimum of 500 hours of supervised, in-class massage therapy instruction and training in four subject areas: Anatomy, Physiology, Theory and Practice, and elective subjects. Consequently, South Dakota, Colorado, and Missouri only require 500 hours of in-class training. Iowa requires 600 hours. Because Nebraska requires 1,000 hours of instruction and training, our massage therapists have acquired an excellent reputation for competence and expertise in the field.

Those who have been licensed in another state and who wish to practice massage therapy in Nebraska must still meet the 1,000 hours requirement. However, there are various ways they can meet the requirement. For instance, 50-60 minutes of in-class instruction or training at a college or university equals one hour towards the requirement, and one full semester of instruction or training equals 15 hours towards the requirement. Applicants can also obtain up to 100 hours towards the requirement for each year of full-time practice as a massage therapist, and an additional 100 hours may be obtained through continuing education programs. Finally, all applicants must pass a national Board examination with a minimum score of 75 percent.

Many massage therapists in Nebraska have found it difficult to make a living working in the field of massage therapy. It is common for students to acquire student loan indebtedness ranging from $10,000 – $17,000. Maintaining an office, tables and supplies add to the cost of doing business. Moreover, those working in rural areas often have to travel to where their clients live, and current laws forbid mobile units from operating in the State.

Besides lowering the requirements, I believe there are two things legislators can do to lower the cost for those seeking a career in massage therapy and to help them succeed in their businesses. First, when students enter into the practicum component of their training, they work on real clients. However, they do not get paid for the work they do. Instead, all fees collected go to the massage therapy school. Making matters even worse, students pay tuition to work on these clients. This would be like a farmer making his laborers pay to harvest his corn. Therefore, I will support legislation which allows these students to get paid and/or tipped for the work they do with clients. Second, I will support legislation which allows for mobile units to operate in our State.

 

Straight Talk From Steve…

September 8th, 2017

2017 is proving to be a hard year on our nation for natural disasters. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest continue to burn out of control, Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the southern coast of Texas and the state of Louisiana, Hurricane Irma leveled several islands in the Caribbean before sweeping its destruction up the Florida peninsula, and now Hurricane Jose is on its way here. It seems as though every section of our country has been adversely effected in some way.

Now is the time to pray for our fellow Americans, and to support them in any way we can. I salute those who served in the Cajun Navy in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and I hold them up as examples for the rest of us to follow. I am proud that our own president donated one million dollars of his own money to help the people of Houston recover. As those in the devastated areas begin to rebuild, ask yourself what you can do to help. When my own home was hit by the Bayard tornado earlier this year, several volunteers came and helped me clear out the fallen trees and debris, and I remain thankful for their help.

As Americans, we are rugged and we are tough, but we are also very kind and generous with our resources. When natural disasters hit other countries, we are usually the first ones to respond with kindness and generosity. Kindness and generosity are core American values. They define us as Christians and they define us as Americans. So, let us seize the opportunities before us, and let us show the rest of the world once again who we really are by showing kindness and giving generously to those who live in these devastated areas of our country.

Natural disasters test our spiritual strength as well as our moral fortitude. In such devastating times as these, I am reminded of some of the words of President Abraham Lincoln: “The only assurance of our nation’s safety is to lay a foundation in morality and religion.”

 

Straight Talk From Steve…

September 5th, 2017

Amanda Gailey, Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and Graduate Teaching Assistant, Courtney Lawton, need to be fired immediately! On August 25th Gailey berated and intimidated, Kaitlyn Mullen, a sophomore student at UNL, as she quietly manned her recruitment table for Turning Point USA, a national organization with chapters on college campuses across the nation.

Professor Gailey’s behavior was immoral, unprofessional and unacceptable. According to the Statement on Professional Ethics provided by the American Association of University Professors, professors are expected to “avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.”

According to NU Regent, Hal Daub, Professor Gailey’s protest was a premeditated and organized effort to intimidate and shut down Kaitlyn Mullen. Daub has cited as evidence the presence of pre-made protest signs which were revealed in a video of the incident. According to Daub, this is not a free speech issue; it is a conduct issue, and I agree.

Unless Amanda Gailey is fired, a double standard will exist at the University of Nebraska between students and staff and between liberals and conservatives. For instance, on August 19, 2017 UNL Chancellor, Ronnie Green, spoke to approximately 5,000 incoming freshman at UNL’s New Student Convocation. At the end of that speech, he said, “Each member of the university’s community, whether that’s faculty, whether it’s staff, whether it’s you as students, whether it’s your colleagues as graduate students here on campus, should be a role model for others, and lastly, we take action when we observe something or someone being treated unfairly or in a demeaning manner. It’s our core belief as a university here at the University of Nebraska. It’s non-negotiable. It’s who we are.”

So far, these core values are non-negotiable and apply to everyone at the University of Nebraska, except Professor Amanda Gailey and English Department, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Courtney Lawton, who called Kaitlyn Mullen a Neo-Fascist on her protest sign and verbally assaulted her as a “Becky”.

The conduct of these two individuals has had a debilitating effect on the student body at UNL. For instance, I recently attended an area school board function where I sat next to a gentleman whose daughter attends UNL. Because she was afraid, she called her father and asked him what she should do if she ever got one of these professors. These conservative students no longer feel protected by the university.

Violence and intimidation tactics from Left-wing extremist professors are quickly becoming the norm on American university campuses. Recently, University of Tampa Sociology Professor, Kenneth L. Storey blamed Hurricane Harvey on Texans who voted for Republicans. Furthermore, I still remember when Assistant Professor Melissa Click at the University of Missouri called for some back-up “muscle” in order to eject student journalist, Mark Schierbecker, as he filmed Professor Click berating Tim Tai, another student journalist who was trying to photograph their Concerned Student 1950 protest campsite on the university’s quad. Freshman enrollment at the University of Missouri – Columbia has fallen 35% since that incident.

American universities never seem to mind it when conservative students get picked on by extremist liberal professors, but as soon as someone spots a banana peel hanging from a tree limb at Ole Miss, all Greek life suddenly comes to a screeching halt! Therefore, the time has come for the University of Nebraska to take some corrective action, and I expect them to terminate the employment Amanda Gailey and Courtney Lawton immediately. The university may find a replacement professor in the same manner they would if the instructor suddenly became hospitalized or died.

The bottom line is that we can no longer tolerate this kind of extremist behavior from our esteemed faculty at the University of Nebraska. To the contrary, the University of Nebraska must become a place which welcomes the free flow of ideas from both liberals and conservatives. Tolerance is a value which must protect students, staff and faculty on both sides of the political aisle.

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47
Room #1529
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2616
Email: serdman@leg.ne.gov
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