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Around the Rotunda
With JoAnne Young and Nancy Hicks

A move by the new speaker of the California State Assembly to ban texting from lobbyists to lawmakers on the floor or in committee has caused a flurry of media responses.

Under the headline "Cant talk 2 u now, doing ppls business," blogger John Murrell wrote that Speaker John Perez was doing what he could "to maintain at least the illusion that there are long stretches of the day during which legislators are guided solely by the will of their constituents and their own conscience."

The Sacramento Bee quoted one senator saying he was concerned by staff reports that members were getting texts during committee hearings and then "mouthing lobbyists' words from their seats."

The newspaper questioned whether Perez's call for technological transparency was more for show than real change.

Could the rule be enforced? Perez said he would leave that to the rules committee, but he would consider confiscating Blackberries or cell phones if it came to that.

And would it diminish the influence of lobbyists on the lawmaking process?

The San Jose, Calif., City Council recently approved requiring council members to disclose e-mail or cell phone communications received during meetings from lobbyists or others with financial interests in a matter. They also must produce relevant personal e-mails or texts in response to public records requests.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported last summer that more than half of 99 legislative chambers restrict the use of electronic devices in some form, including 38 that prohibit cell phones on the floor.

In the Nebraska Legislature, audible cell phones, laptops or other wireless devices -- with a couple of specific exceptions -- are not allowed, which means they can't ring or make sounds. And senators must leave the floor or go to a phone booth to talk on cell phones.

Good news in gambling?

Legal gambling on keno, pickle cards, bingo and raffles was on the downward slide through most of 2009.

Except for the final quarter.

Nebraskans spent $24.4 million less on these local games in 2009 than in 2008 -- a 9.2 percent decline, according to an annual report.

That's $265.6 million spent in 2008 and $241.2 million spent in 2009.

However spending in the fourth quarter (October through December) went up slightly from the previous quarter.

Some blamed the drop in wagering on the recession.

So perhaps the small surge upward reflects some light at the end of the recession tunnel.

Senators to debate state rights

Late this session, senators will be debating a legislative resolution promoting state's rights.

The proposal (LR292), sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton, moved out of the Government, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee with the support of five of the eight members.

And if approved by at least 25 senators, it will be sent to the state's U.S. Congressional delegation and to other states as an expression of the Nebraska Legislature's sentiment.

The resolution is not a law and has no actual ramifications. It is a political statement.

The effort to pass it is part of a national movement -- the 10th Amendment Movement (with sentiments similar to the Tea Party folks) -- to get similar resolutions or stronger measures passed by states.

The 10th Amendment group believes the U.S. government has overstepped its authority and controls too many areas that should be left to states.

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The 10th Amendment Center Web site describes a number of issues that have been raised in other states. Nebraska's resolution is not as specific as some of these issues:

  •  Bringing the National Guard home
  •  Challenging congressional power to regulate firearms made and retained in a state
  •  Challenging the federal government's authority to override state laws on marijuana
  •  Challenging the federal Real ID Act requirements for state driver's licenses
  •  Challenging the authority of the federal government to have a national health care plan
  •  Challenging legal tender not backed 100 percent by gold or silver
  •  Challenging cap-and-trade legislation
  •  Challenging the ability of federal agents to make an arrest, search or seizure within a state without advanced written permission of the county sheriff

Speaker Mike Flood expects to schedule debate on the resolution during the last few days of the session, which is set to end April 14.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or Reach JoAnne Young at 473-7228 or


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