Around the Rotunda
With JoAnne Young and Nancy Hicks

This session  a bill introduced by Sen. Carroll Burling of Kenesaw  sought to change the official state song from "Beautiful Nebraska" by Jim Fras, with assistance from Guy Miller, to "I Love Nebraska" by Ginger ten Bensel.

The bill was killed shortly after its hearing. But it put enough fear into Nick and Wally Fras, the writer’s sons, some teachers and other supporters that they are establishing a foundation to preserve the history and future of the song.

Fras created a Web site called the Beautiful Nebraska Foundation at http://beautifulnebraska.org. The foundation is in the early stages of seeking incorporation as a nonprofit organization, he said from his home in Fayetteville, Ark.

The site, he said, is for the Nebraska teachers who wanted to support the song, including Julie Baker-Anderson, a teacher at Monroe Middle School in Omaha.

The foundation would pursue  ways to give back to Nebraska, its communities, citizens and youth, Wally Fras said. It will serve as a resource for teachers and eventually, the foundation could provide music scholarships for children to further their musical studies.

“That would be the ultimate legacy to Jim Fras in his beloved Nebraska,” he said. 

Fras also made a  video of the state song, sung by Baker-Anderson, that can be seen at:  http://youtube.com/watch?v=t68DeR1YqIY.

“We are in the midst of a campaign to get this video as public as possible and will be contacting many groups that were involved in keeping “Beautiful Nebraska” the official Nebraska State Song,” Wally Fras said. 

"Beautiful Nebraska" was  selected 40 years ago during a statewide competition as the official state song.

Russian immigrant Jim Fras wrote the music and collaborated on the lyrics with Guy G. Miller, a World War II veteran and part-time poet.

Cows and more cows

One thing you can say about Sen. Deb Fischer’s legislative district: There’s a lot of it.

She probably doesn’t have the largest legislative district in the nation. That honor likely belongs to some Alaskan state senator.  But her district in north-central Nebraska has the distinction of having the most mother cows, she believes. 

Cherry, Holt and Custer counties are the top three beef cow counties in the nation. In January 2007, 360,000 cows lived in the three counties, according to the Nebraska Cattlemen.

Fischer did a little homework and concluded her legislative district, District 43, is bigger than nine states. Her home school district, the Valentine County School district, with 3,600 square miles, is the same size as Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

Fischer says she puts 30,000 to 35,000 miles a year on her Oldsmobile Bravada keeping up with constituents in the 13 counties she represents and traveling between Lincoln and her home near Valentine.

C-Span in Lincoln

The C-Span bus parked at the Capitol last Tuesday was part of a marketing tour promoting the cable network’s road to the White House political program.

The program — and the bus — travels to major political events, including debates and speeches in early primary states, and makes it a point to visit state capitols as part of an educational component for students and teachers.

Gov. Dave Heineman was invited to tour the bus, and the crew had its picture taken with him, according to spokeswoman Jen Rae Hein.

When the pregnant lady is a gestational surrogate

Nebraska law hasn’t kept up with the science of making babies.

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Here’s the scenario: Mr. and Mrs. A are becoming parents through a surrogacy. A fertilized egg (sperm from Mr. A and egg from Mrs. A) is implanted into Mrs. B, who carries and gives birth to the baby. In the new parenting language, Mrs. B is not the birth parent but the “gestational surrogate” or “gestational mother.”

Nebraska law has a way for Mr. A to be named as the father on the birth certificate, but the woman who gives birth is the mother on the birth certificate. No exceptions.

So Mrs. A has to adopt the baby, her biological child.

A bill that would create a mechanism for Mrs. A to be listed on the birth certificate stalled in the Judiciary Committee after Sens. Steve Lathrop and Ernie Chambers pointed to a number of still unresolved issues.

What rights does a gestational mother have after she signs the paperwork acknowledging she is not the biological mother?  Can she have an abortion? What if she changes her mind and wants to keep the baby?

In a dispute, who ends up with the child? The parents who provided the sperm and egg or the woman who gave birth?

What happens if an unmarried biological father uses a donated egg and has no relationship with the egg-donor mom?

Nebraska Health and Human Services CEO Chris Peterson told senators the agency dealt with six of these cases in one year. An attorney who handles them cases guessed there could be 25 over the next year.

The issue will be the topic of an interim study this summer or fall.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.  Reach JoAnne Young at 473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com.

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