So We Had A Resolution, Huh? Hmm. How IS That State Sovereignty Thing Workin’ Out For Us?

Nebraska was one of only fourteen states to see the successful passage of a State Sovereignty Resolution in the two year period 2009 – 2010, while well over thirty states had resolutions. In other words, the passage of the Nebraska resolution on April 13, 20101 , was no small thing. It took an organized effort and energetic support by a lot of Nebraskans.

Legislative resolutions, under most circumstances, however, do not have the force of law. Nebraska’s legislators were not compelled to do anything specific following the passage of that resolution. Further, since binding the hands of a future legislature is unconstitutional, unless any of Nebraska’s laws are actually changed, resolutions cannot, in and of themselves, have any compelling effect. But, we believed it was a necessary starting point in a longer term effort to get our state officials to even think about fundamental constitutional principles.

Have you looked at GiN’s “tagline” lately? It’s the banner at the top of every page of this website.

/We’ll wait while you examine the banner.

Yes, it’s right at the top of this page.

(Pretty nifty-looking, don’t you think?)

Ok. Back to reading./

When we decided to roll up our sleeves and work on the Sovereignty Resolution, we believed the effort was necessary to sow a seed.

We could only pray that it would grow.

But we knew the whole effort could be a philosophical exercise of little importance or it could be a starting point.

The people of Nebraska, and specifically, the voters of Nebraska would have to do the rest. “The rest” meant that once the resolution was passed, the Senators’ votes, for or against, and any accompanying statements they made would lay down a record by which their future actions could be measured. Considering that the majority of the Senators voted in favor of the resolution, it would seem a reasonable conclusion that they had gotten the message that Nebraskans supported State Sovereignty.

What we have not said before on this subject is that the decision was made, not only because it provided an opportunity to focus our legislators’ on an important Constitutional principle not acknowledged within the walls of our State Capitol. It was a way to gain a deeper understanding of what goes on there, both in terms of mechanics and in the general atmosphere. We knew we’d learn a lot just by engaging in the process. While we’ve always looked at every effort as an opportunity to learn as much as possible, considering how much trouble this country is in, we’ve especially determined that learning is a top priority – and the learning curve better be short.

Here’s a new thing we’ve learned in the past year…

Legislative Resolutions are actually dangerous if the people fail to remain vigilant and use such resolutions as a benchmark, in other words, when they fail to hold their legislators to account for their votes.

Why?

  • Too many people apparently don’t understand that resolutions are not binding – people think elected officials are required to vote (or not) in a certain way in the future. So people get excited, help out, think something’s been accomplished, then they go home – “Mission Accomplished”.
  • Politicians who introduce and support resolutions can get a lot of political benefit, acquire a positive reputation for supporting an issue, whether they are actually on the side of the issue or not.

A case in point:  Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton.  Contrast Senator Fulton’s position as the chief sponsor and spokesperson for Nebraska’s successful Sovereignty Resolution (first video) with his position as a supplicant to the federal government with respect to the siting of the TransCanada pipeline (second video)2.

June 2009 appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, with State Senator Mark Christensen:

formerly/http://video.foxnews.com/v/3936835/fight-for-state-sovereignty/

This is NOT a video that can be played on the site - please click to watch

 

September 28, 2011 appearance on Fox News:

Bear in mind that when Senator Fulton made his later appearance on Fox News “debating” the pipeline issue, he was already privy to the Congressional Research Service Report that concluded the State of Nebraska, not the federal government, had ultimate siting authority (see links, below).

Given that he, apparently, saw a threat to state sovereignty in the federal takeover of GM where there was none, but failed to recognize it in the siting of a pipeline through Nebraska’s Sandhills, even with the CRS report3 staring him right in the face, one has to question Senator Fulton’s understanding of the term sovereignty and his support of the state’s assertion of it.

If the State Senator who drafted Nebraska’s Sovereignty Resolution shows this level of misunderstanding about the principle, what are the odds that any of Nebraska’s elected officials will recognize opportunities to exercise it, recognize it when it is threatened, and will actually defend it?

HERE’S THE TRUTH ABOUT STATE SOVEREIGNTY…

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Usually good things come to those who wait.

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Sorry…this isn’t one of those times.

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While you are waiting…

Know that we’re wondering…

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What do regular readers of this site think is the answer to the question?

What is the truth about State Sovereignty?

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Considering things like…

Nebraska took in $1.7 billion in Federal Funds From the Stimulus Program

(Total annual budget figures are in a chart, below.)

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And for the last several years at least

We’ve been getting about 40% of our State budget from Federal funding

Chart from State Treasurer's Nebraskaspending.gov website (Click to visit)

 (By the way…does that count as “balancing the budget without raising taxes?”)

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Speaking of the budget and cutting and all that…

Nebraska’s Spending Increased 65%

2000 – 2010

From the State Treasurer's Nebraskspending.gov (click to view page)

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So…
What do those numbers tell us?

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While we chew on those numbers…

What about other issues?

What can they tell us about State Sovereignty in Nebraska?

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Realize we’re trying to give the bad news in chunks, yet?

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Had to renew your driver’s license since June, 2010?

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Yes?

(If no, hang in there, we think you’ll be interested.)

Did you wonder why it had to be mailed to you?

If you renewed it online you may think that’s why…

Hey, that’s pretty convenient, the whole online thing, right?

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But it would have been mailed to you weeks later

Even if you went down to the DMV

Why is that?

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Hey!

Speaking of Legislative Resolutions…

The Nebraska Unicameral

passed a resolution in 2007

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Repudiating

The Real ID Act of 2005

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State Sen. Deb Fischer’s LR28

said…

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“WHEREAS, the implementation of the REAL ID Act intrudes

upon the states’ sovereign power contained in the Tenth Amendment”

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“WHEREAS, the REAL ID Act mandates an unfunded national driver’s license on the people of Nebraska”

(Anyone else bothered by the inclusion of “unfunded”? I’m thinking that’s not at top of the list of concerns)

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“WHEREAS, the REAL ID Act creates the potential of a massive public sector data base

containing information on every American”

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“WHEREAS, the REAL ID Act threatens the privacy and liberty of every driver’s license

and identification card holder in the United States of America.”

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(And a whole lot of other stuff about the expense.)

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This pretty much sums it up…

“That the Legislature opposes enactment or enforcement in this state of the REAL ID Act.”

Wowza! That’s my kind of resolution.

We guess that is some nullification, right there. Yes indeedy.

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So that sounds pretty much taken care of then…right?

What’s this got to do with your license being mailed to you?

And the whole State Sovereignty thing?

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It’s really weird…

Starting in June 2010, anyone applying for a license had to wait for it to be mailed

And kids getting their permits for the first time had to bring in extra stuff

(It was a bloomin’ mess…Shelli’s daughter had to get her permit…she had to get two temporary cards before the permanent one arrived.)

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Driver’s Licenses have to be mailed to citizens

Because they’re being sent to a third party vendor for processing

L-1 Identity Strategies

Probably to their Virginia plant, but could be Connecticut

So how in the heck did that happen?

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Looks like the DMV decided to implement the REAL ID Act

On their own

With a FEDERAL GRANT

It’s really weird

Although we’re not totally sure – the whole thing is kinda murky…

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Well, doubly weird

Cause Deb Fischer (the one who introduced the resolution) introduced a bill in 2011

Which passed in the Unicameral

And is now State law

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It was kind of a…rubber stamp…for what the DMV was already doing

Oh, the kicker is

Your information gets entered into a database (just like the resolution said)

But it doesn’t seem like that fact is disclosed anywhere

(Shelli and her husband have since renewed their licenses – there was no information displayed that they could find

regarding it being sent off nor how the information was going to be used)

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So…hmm…how did that whole nullification thing work out?

Not looking for good State Sovereignty…

is it?

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Then there’s the whole TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline thing

(Warning…anyone else calls Shelli a bug-eating environmental whacko because

GiN had just been telling the TRUTH about what’s gone on with the whole sorry thing…

We’ll squash you like a bug)

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So a whole bunch of Nebraska politicians were saying for a long time…

the pipeline is a federal issue

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But a lot of them knew, through a federal report (CRS) and legislature report in 2010

The State of Nebraska could actually exercise the sovereignty the Federal government was respecting

Yeah, it actually happens, wow, who knew?!

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But state officials rejected it

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And kept telling Nebraskans

the pipeline is a federal issue

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Oh

And that whole health care “reform” thing

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The dirty little secret is…

It’s a voluntary program

Yep.

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Let that soak in…

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Not making it up…

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The program is mostly implemented through Medicaid

Which is a voluntary program

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If the State opts out of Medicaid

We don’t have to do the whole government-controlled health care thing

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But we guess Nebraska’s going to do it

Cause we just keep expanding Medicaid

And we really seem to LIKE Federal money

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We’d have to cut our state budget A LOT.

A WHOLE LOT.

And that’d be political suicide…

Right?

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 Besides…

The Governor applied for $1 million in Federal money to study setting up the necessary health insurance exchange

(it’s just studyin’! we’re not implementin’ it!)

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And then, the State Insurance Commission just applied for $5 million in more Federal money for some more studyin’

(they’re just studyin’ some more – that doesn’t mean anything – the Governor said they’re not doing it)

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So we guess the health care thing is like the pipeline thing

They’re going to wait it out

Until it’s too late

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And when there’s nothing they can do about it

Then they can say

Sorry Nebraska…it’s too late…our hands are tied

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It’s a federal issue…

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So…

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The truth about State Sovereignty?

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OUR STATE OFFICIALS ARE GIVING IT AWAY

But Nebraskans, here’s the deal…

Just like our State officials are giving away our State Sovereignty, we’re giving our power away to our State officials.

WHO put these people into office?

Isn’t it well past the time to wake up?

It seems like people don’t want to believe what they read – even when they say it’s good information – which they can verify.

A few people are telling us that they’re going to talk to the Senators about “our concerns”.

Wow! Why didn’t *WE* think of that?

We really don’t want to be “mean”, but…really? Why does anyone think WE haven’t gone down to the Capitol? Cause we’ve never tried that before? Cause we’re lazy? Cause we don’t care?

Yeah…that’s gotta be it.

Here’s what Shelli asked for in the last article about the pipeline issue

I have only one question for readers at this point…

Whether or not you agree with my analysis, would you at least contact some folks in the media and ask them why they are not asking questions about the factual information I included in the release?

Of course, people are free to do whatever they are going to do. But if you want to be helpful, or, dare we say, be effective, if the people you think are providing good, true, accurate, and verifiable information aren’t trying to do what you’re talking about doing…WHY IS THAT?

Here’s a little “secret”…

We sent one of those press releases to EVERY Senator in the Nebraska Legislature.

And they didn’t bounce back as undeliverable.

How many of them do you suppose responded with requests for additional information or a conversation?

/   <——    fill in the sounds of crickets chirping ———->  /

/   <——    cue tumbleweeds rolling     ————> /

Please remember…

We did not call for a special session.

WHY IS THAT?

Please…Nebraska…for God’s sake, wake up!

We’ve seen this play before.

After working hard, for months on the CIR issue, we realized we were witnessing a very perverted version of Nebraska Kabuki Theater. We were promised “significant, comprehensive, and meaningful reform” but it became clear within weeks of the session opening that we were just waiting for a predetermined result that would, at best, maintain the status quo, or even worse, hand more power to an unelected state bureaucracy and to the public employee unions.

We knew our state senators were waiting for Godot – and we wrote about it – at the time. We highly recommend anyone who has not read that article before to do so now. All you need do is substitute “pipeline” for “CIR” and it’s as Yogi Berra famously said…

“It’s deja vu all over again”

Again, we say…

WAKE UP NEBRASKA

Please ask yourselves, before you go down to the Capitol…

Have you ever attended a legislative committee hearing? For instance, did you attend the hearings on the CIR legislation?

A read-through of the transcripts from those hearings, for a skeptical, critical-thinking citizen, would make plain the disparity between how lobbyists, elected officials, and owners of large businesses are treated versus concerned citizens or representatives of limited government groups.

To wit, we would submit Shelli’s experience in testifying in support of two measures that proposed to prohibit collective bargaining by public employees at the February 7 hearings, during which she presented a packet of verifiable data that clearly proved collective bargaining by public employees is detrimental to the State of Nebraska and its local political subdivisions (counties, cities, school districts). She was asked no questions and described her experience as follows:

“I felt so patronized and condescended to when I first sat down at the table.  They did everything but pat me on the head. It’s as if they were saying, ‘Look! A furry little constituent! Isn’t she cute?!’ Of course that changed as I gave my testimony, especially when I said, ‘Government is too big.’”

While we could go on, and on, providing such examples, we will only point additionally to the absurd episode at the April 13 hearing on the “shell bill” finally revealed to the public, when Omaha Senator Burke Haar launched a vicious verbal attack against businessman Dave Nabbity, an advocate of more aggressive reform.

Unless you are a member of the club – what we’ve called Nebraska’s Ruling Class – it’s just “good luck to you” trying to get anything done.

In fact, our experiences, observations, information supplied by many others, and long term research are precisely what caused us to conclude that Nebraska has a Ruling Class. We felt we had no alternative but to simply lay out the cold, hard facts about Nebraska’s political landscape and its players before we could begin to do anything about it.

We’ve been attempting to prove our case and we will continue to do so.

Meanwhile, before any further attempts to impact any of these messes is undertaken by people of good sense and intentions, we humbly suggest you ask yourselves some of these and other questions.

Would you like to…

Witness or be a part of the same charade as occurred during such episodes as the CIR legislation? In other words, would you like to be an extra in a reprise of Nebraska’s Unicam Production of Waiting for Godot? Would you like to have the unique and sublime privilege of witnessing your elected officials and supporting cast of characters occupy themselves as…

“…[T]hey eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide — anything ‘to hold the terrible silence at bay’”

In other words, taking ALL the available information into account, is it prudent to expect the same people who have failed to act regarding the pipeline for the past two years to be forthright, effective, and to accomplish anything of real significance now? Our work here at GiN, based on a great deal of information, has revealed many of Nebraska’s officials were aware of the pipeline issue and its potential problems, had been given information contrary to their stated positions, and, it is difficult to avoid concluding, worked to bury that information, and some have had some very questionable campaign contributions, direct remuneration, and politically beneficial relationships that constitute a troubling tangle.

Perhaps the following statement by Nebraska State Senator Annette Dubas, member of the Natural Resources, in fact one of a pair of Senators (the other being Kate Sullivan) in charge of compiling information in 2010 for the Committee’s Interim Study about pipelines, and the recipient of $1500 for use of her property during Keystone XL’s construction, provides the starkest illustration of how just how tangled this whole mess and the thinking of our elected officials actually is:

“However, we have been trying to pass siting laws for the past three years. If the lobbying efforts had spent less time, energy, and money blocking our work, we would not be in this special session,” she said. “This is a discussion and a decision that should have been made already. We were lobbied to become uncertain about our rights. Now we are faced with citizens who feel we have ignored their concerns and misleading and aggressive threats of billion dollar lawsuits.”

We will deal in full with Senator Dubas. (Yes, if you see darts in Ms. Dubas’ future, you’d be on the right track.) Meanwhile we will translate Senator Dubas’ remarks from Capitolese into plain English for readers’ edification:

I’m so gullible that I fell prey to paid lobbyists who persuaded me that I neither have the mental capacity nor wherewithal to form an opinion, based on research data and information I helped to compile for my Committee, or the confidence to believe my own eyes when I read the CRS report.  I and my colleagues were lobbied so vigorously that we were so confused about our rights that we couldn’t bring ourselves to introduce any legislation, so confused that we were actually repeating the opinions of lobbyists about our own lack of siting authority. But at the same time, I concluded that my rights extended to accepting $1500 of personal compensation for TransCanada’s future potential use of my property when they build the pipeline.

In light of all this, do you really think you can talk to these people?

From our past experiences and from all that we know, the fix is in, ladies and gentleman.

On the present course, it’s all over but the shoutin’.

We can’t say, as folks decidedly not members of the Nebraska Ruling Class, precisely what the special session might produce.

We have pointed out that the State of Nebraska has now been put in an intractable position.

It’s time to get real.

Please ask yourselves…

Do you want to have an impact or do you want to be a member of Nebraska’s Ruling Class?

In other words, are you a “wannabe”?

If you really want to do something effective about this and want to talk about some ideas, please use our contact form. We actually do have some ideas – the only reason we’re not releasing them here is because, at present, we’re unconvinced we could possibly get enough sane, principled and reasonable people with whom we can work effectively.

Sanity, reason, and principles demand at this stage, a recognition of reality regarding any potential to impact our State government – holding our officials’ feet to the fire and the fear of the citizens who pay the bills, who vote, and who are impacted by their actions.

“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

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Read more about REAL ID:

Rep. Sam Rohrer: “REAL ID: Connecting The Dots To An International ID

Read more about your personal records. It’s mostly about health care, but REAL ID is involved, too:

OK-SAFE Joint Committee on Health Care Reform Law

FOOTNOTES

  1. The Sovereignty Resolution was originally numbered LR292 – but due to an error in the original wording, it had to be re-introduced with a new number, LR539. We only make  mention of this fact because some of the information available includes the original number, some the new number. We will not take the time, here, to explain the details or are linger questions, but will perhaps, do so in future. HERE is a link to the Rules of the Legislature, the copy to which we’re linking is from the most recent session, which is the one most readily available – we do not have time to track down changes since 2010.
  2. It’s important to note that Senator Fulton’s comments in June of 2009 about State Sovereignty / Tenth Amendment and balanced federalism are indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding that goes beyond what can be articulated merely be contrast. We cannot fully address this issue here but intend to do so in the future. Meanwhile, if readers are curious about how Sen. Fulton articulated the issue of State Sovereignty to the Unicameral committee before which the Resolution was heard and his purposes for doing so, click HERE to read the transcript. Also, for further statements by Senator Fulton regarding the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, see the video located HERE.
  3. The CRS report is not the only information that was available to Senator Fulton; as a member of the Nebraska State Legislature who co-sponsored legislation pertaining to pipelines, it is more than reasonable to assume either that the Senator or his staff would have been given or requested the highly relevant Interim Study Committee Report by the Natural Resources Committee which was completed in December 2010, before the opening of this year’s Unicameral session. Although Senator Fulton may have been considering or working on legislation prior to the completion of the report, it is also more than reasonable to assume that a Senator who wished to conduct their work on a legislative matter would have been in contact with other Senators and with particular committees which have authority over pipelines and their related matters, which would be, first the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, and second, the Natural Resources Committee. In addition to the included reference to Nebraska Congressional representatives’ research work, the Interim  Study Report itself conveyed enough information to make clear to a thinking person that siting authority was within the State of Nebraska’s powers but that there were not adequate provisions in law to carry it out. None of the Senators, including Sen. Fulton, introduced pipeline siting legislation.

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