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Political reporter

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

State Legislature

School's out Wednesday for state senators.

You may see some of them running out of the Capitol; you may hear some tires squealing. 

It has been a tedious session full of filibusters and mini-filibusters, a lot more like running around the track again and again rather than setting off on a long-distance journey with a destination.

The Legislature is going to lose some heavy-hitters to term limits at the end of the year and it's not hard to imagine that the 2019 session could have a dozen new members or so.

Six senators are term-limited out; two senators are seeking other state elective offices halfway through their second terms; two are bowing out after a single term; a couple of appointed senators will be facing the electorate for the first time.

And at least two incumbents appear to face tough challenges in their bids for re-election.

Gov. Pete Ricketts might welcome election of Sen. John Murante as state treasurer and Sen. Dan Watermeier as a member of the Public Service Commission because that would give him the opportunity to appoint their successors if he is re-elected to a second term.

That's a big if, Sen. Bob Krist would say.

Krist, along with other gubernatorial candidates, has a different idea about who might have that opportunity as governor next year.

***

An interesting AP story on distribution of federal transportation grants under the Trump administration showed up this past week.

No money for New York City or Los Angeles or Chicago in the latest round of grants.  

But plenty of federal funding was allocated to rural areas and Trump-friendly states.

To the victor (and those who help) go the spoils.

Lincoln got a much-needed $25 million for construction of the South Beltway.

Nebraska was big-time Trump territory in 2016 and the state has a Republican governor and an all-Republican congressional delegation. And all of that may have helped.

Just don't talk about the Lincoln vote: Hillary Clinton, 56,868; Donald Trump, 50,997.

***

How about a shout-out for Trooper Bell as the 2018 legislative session approaches its final day.

Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Keith Bell is hard to miss.

The giant state patrolman is one of a corps of troopers who help keep a secure watch over the Legislature at the State Capitol and he, in particular, is a magnet for groups of visiting children.

Bell gladly spends time with them, encouraging them, answering their questions as they peer straight up, often wide-eyed, at this huge man in uniform.

"I enjoy kids," Bell said during a brief conversation after welcoming the latest bunch of visiting school children who gathered around him in the Rotunda.

"I wanted to be an officer, a teacher and a coach and I'm blessed to be all three today," he said.

Trooper Bell tops 6-3 and he's a 300-pounder; children gather around him open-mouthed. And they listen when he talks.

"I was a football player who played basketball," he says, a power forward at Columbia State in Tennessee. 

Bell has been a familiar figure at schools in Omaha, counseling and encouraging kids. 

"I enjoy children," he says. "They're the future,  I want to help them."

***

Finishing up:

* Among dozens of resolutions calling for interim legislative studies is one from Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks urging a look at the parking shortage near the Capitol. Some young workers at the Capitol also would like to see some provision for nearby bike racks. 

* What to make of President Trump's talk about getting back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that he swiftly and summarily abandoned? Not much.  This president does 180s like an ice dancer and that train probably has left the station.

* Odds on getting 33 senators to agree to summon a special session to consider property tax relief are right up there with the Marlins winning the World Series.

* Gov. Ricketts got a shout-out from Fox News for his re-employment plan that's designed to transition workers off unemployment benefits and into new jobs. 

* Looks like the university's near-death budget experience -- OK, OK, near-crippling budget experience -- has built a more active, organized and sustained statewide support system for the future.

* James Comey's very manageable 290-page book reminds me of the opportunity that's out there to form a 250-page book club. Our motto: "If it takes more than 250 pages, write another book."

* Question: But why would you want to vote this early when you don't know what might occur between now and the middle of May?

* Parking lots and sidewalks were icy and slippery Sunday morning, but most Lincoln streets were ice-free and good-to-go thanks to city crews. Another reminder that government is us, not them. 

* Long winter, drive-by spring.  

* Mets, Red Sox, Angels soar, but pennants aren't won in April when ahead there's so much more.  

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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