The World-Herald’s Statehouse reporters round up news highlights from the Legislature and state government into the Capitol Digest — a daily briefing for the political newshound with a busy schedule.
State Sen. Justin Wayne said Monday that he won’t be introducing a constitutional amendment this session to remove the ban on affirmative action.
That move had been supported by the Omaha City Council and Douglas County Board in resolutions passed by both bodies. But Wayne said it’s too late to include such a proposal on the November ballot, even if it was passed by the Legislature this summer.
Instead, the senator from Omaha said he’ll be focusing on passing LB 1218, which seeks to make minority-owned businesses more likely to obtain state contracts.
Rancor returns. Monday started with Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer of Norfolk calling for his colleagues to be respectful, courteous and not to take comments personally.
The day ended in rancor after Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha took to the microphone to criticize Sen. Julie Slama of Peru and Gov. Pete Ricketts for a campaign mailer that has been labeled racist. The mailer juxtaposed a photo of Slama’s opponent, Janet Palmtag of Nebraska City, with a photo of Chambers.
Among other things, Chambers called the mailer “abhorrent” and said his image was being used to “frighten” southeast Nebraska voters into voting against Palmtag and for Slama, who was appointed to her seat by the governor.
Slama fought back, chastising Chambers for comments she said were inappropriate when directed at women. She pointed to comments alluding to rumors about her personal relationships.
She also cited comments that Chambers made about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner and founding father, and Sally Hemmings, the enslaved woman who bore him six children. Chambers likened that to him enslaving Slama and raping her.
“How dare you talk to a woman like that,” Slama said.
Pandemic priorities. A group of lawmakers said Monday that helping people hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and addressing issues of racial justice must be priorities for the remaining days of the Legislature.
The group, which included nine Democrats and one Republican, said the experiences of the last four months highlight the need for food assistance, housing stability, affordable child care, paid family leave and protection for the health and safety of essential workers.
Speaking in a Zoom press conference, the group said those issues also are racial ones because the problems they address have a greater effect on black and Latino Nebraskans.
Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue said the group is committed to a long-term focus, knowing that not enough can be accomplished in the 17 remaining legislative days.
Nebraska's state senators
Patty Pansing Brooks
Lou Ann Linehan
Andrew La Grone
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