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Around the Rotunda
With JoAnne Young and Nancy Hicks

Senators offered stories of their own deer and mountain lion sightings during first-round debate on a bill (LB836) that allows unlimited free deer permits during special depredation seasons and creates a system so farmers and ranchers can shoot mountain lions harassing livestock.

Here are numbers from last week's debate:

1: Mountain lion that crawled from a ditch to watch the son and grandsons of Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing bale hay in a meadow.

6: Number of mountain lions shot within 15 miles of his home during the past two years, said Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth.

Dozens: Starving whitetail deer Sen. Tom White has seen while riding his horse in the Omaha Fontenelle preserve.

37: Deer killed in one year by seven drivers in the family of Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial. Christensen says the Republican River valley is "a war zone. You don't want to drive after dark."

60: Trees being killed by deer each night in Campbell's Nursery in Lincoln.

600 to 1,000: Deer sighted in a single field by Christensen.

$240,000: Paid by one business to fix 48 trucks damaged by deer collisions in a single year, said Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney.

Recession numbers

The number of people using the federal food stamp program continues to rise -- another recession indicator.

Two years ago, 52,317 Nebraska households were using food stamps (January 2008). This January, 69,966 households were using food stamps (now called SNAP). That's a 33.7 percent increase in 25 months.

Conflict-of-interest statements to be made more public

The next time a Nebraska state senator files a conflict-of-interest statement, it will appear in the Legislative Journal, a record of legislative action published daily during the session.

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The Legislature OK'd the rule change proposal of Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery on Monday afternoon.

Avery said the proposal would make conflict-of-interest statements more accessible to the public, press and other senators. As it is, he has said, there's no public notification that statements have been filed, and most people don't know to look for them with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission and the clerk of the Legislature.

In 2009 and so far in 2010, 12 senators have filed conflict-of-interest statements, Avery said. Senators can vote on an issue, even if they file a statement of conflict.

The fact that they can vote is even more of a reason to make it more public, said Frank Daley, Accountability and Disclosure Commission director.

Under Nebraska conflict-of-interest laws, members of the Legislature are required to file statements of potential conflict of interest if they, a member of their immediate families or their businesses stand to benefit or suffer financially because of an issue that comes before senators. They must file the statements as soon as they are aware of potential conflicts.

The statements must include whether or not and why they intend to debate a matter and vote on it.

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

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