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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

OK, if the adults in the room won't do anything about it, then the kids will.

Saturday's March for Our Lives rallies look like the beginning.

With high school kids leading the way.

They have become the latest targets in the assault weapon attacks unleashed in a wide-open gun culture that allows virtually everyone to purchase and own weapons that are designed to kill lots of people rapidly. 

Those aren't hunting weapons -- unless you are hunting people.

You would have thought Sandy Hook would be the moment that prompted Americans to demand some sort of meaningful and reasonable gun control measures that could be imposed without infringing on the Second Amendment.

Restrictions might infringe on the profiteering of the gun manufacturers who bankroll the National Rifle Association, but the constitutional right to own a gun would not be infringed.

The Founders were talking about muskets, and probably handguns, but not about military assault rifles or bazookas or rocket-propelled grenades.

Twenty children, 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and Congress did nothing.

That is incredible. And it needs to be repeated over and over again.

Nothing.

Little kids were gunned down in their classrooms and nothing was done to try to prevent that from happening again. And again. And again.

Now, the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where 17 students and adults were gunned down last month have decided to say "Enough."

And they are determined to try to do something about it even if adults and especially the Congress remain frozen in place. The high school kids will be the adults in the room. 

That has happened before.

Vietnam and civil rights. 

The end of that war and the beginning of civil rights legislation started in the streets, not in the Congress or the White House. Those epic changes were led largely by students and other young Americans.

And while the kids are at it now, they may find that they have more work to do.

Congressional spending combined with trillion-dollar tax cuts is piling huge debts on their backs, a burden that older generations are passing along to them.

And the lack of congressional and White House commitment to environmental reform and serious efforts to combat global warming will have a negative, perhaps even devastating, impact on their lives and on the lives of their own children.

Good things tend to happen when kids take to the streets. 

And sometimes only then. 

***

The state budget impasse in the Legislature is not just about policy; it is also a power struggle now.

Does the executive branch get to insert its pro-life policy into a legislative budget document?

Budgets, of course, do reflect spending policies and priorities, but is the budget bill a place for policy pronouncements?

"Shall we inject guns into the budget?" Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln asked. "What next?"

This is "a terrible precedent (that) could be used over and over again," Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus warned.

"Mr. Governor," Sen. Bob Krist said, "there's a right way to do this. Bring a bill."

It's hard to see exactly how this ends, but despite all the hand-wringing and alarm bells a budget bill eventually will be approved.

Gov. Pete Ricketts spotlighted the pro-life budget language when he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in February.

"Nebraska is a pro-life state and I believe our state should reflect those values," he said in telling CPAC that he had placed that language in Nebraska's state budget bill.

***

Some senators believe Ricketts has "politicized" the nonpartisan Legislature to a much greater degree than other recent governors.

Senators who are Republicans have been called out publicly by the Republican governor for not voting in agreement with him, and Ricketts has targeted a number of them in re-election contests, supporting and funding opponents who have taken out several of them. 

And this year Ricketts is opposing the re-election of Sen. Laura Ebke, who changed her party registration from Republican to Libertarian after the governor criticized by name Republicans who voted against him on key legislative issues.

Ricketts has endorsed Al Riskowski, fomer executive director of the Nebraska Family Alliance. 

Tom Osborne will join Lt. Gov. Mike Foley at a campaign reception in DeWitt supporting Riskowski on April 5.

***

Finishing up:

* The Legislature's tax reform debate may begin this week; LB947, the much-amended proposal introduced by Sen. Jim Smith and supported by Ricketts, is on the list of priority bills queued up by Speaker Jim Scheer.  

* An extensive overhaul of the governor's tax reform proposal appears to have shaped a package with far more political appeal in an election year. Gone is a reduction in the top personal income tax rate; the corporate tax rate reduction is stretched out; and increased emphasis is centered on property tax relief. 

* There's still time for some big stuff to happen, but the big-picture summary of this year's legislative session may be they adjusted the budget.  

* Bob Krist: "If you're thinking inside the box, you will always stay inside the box."

* Here comes April, that long-anticipated moment when we step out of the woods and back into the meadows again. You can already see the buds on the trees.

* And baseball returns on Thursday.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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