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That vote by a five-member majority of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee not to attach a "pro-life" or anti-abortion message or restriction to its recommended health care funding appropriations this year looked like a declaration of independence.

Such a restriction was attached last year at the urging of Gov. Pete Ricketts and it provoked a lengthy battle on the floor of the Legislature about whether policy decisions on contentious issues should be part of the appropriations bill.

Appropriations Chairman John Stinner said he believed the committee should avoid that battle this year; there are enough contentious appropriations issues to be resolved within the budget recommendations, he told the committee.

And a majority of the committee members agreed.

Ricketts, who attached the "pro-life" language to his own budget recommendations, described the committee's decision as "appalling" and urged its members to reconsider.

No doubt, quietly, behind the scenes, within the building and outside through personal contact, telephone calls and e-mail, the pressure is on.

* * *

Democratic State Chair Jane Kleeb says she hopes the Nebraska Democratic Party's decision to allow non-partisan voters to participate in the state's Democratic primary elections might help attract some Democratic presidential candidates to make a campaign stop or two in the state.

The Nebraska example of reaching out to independent voters could be "a big draw for presidential candidates" who will be trying to fashion a campaign message that is attractive to independent voters, Kleeb said.

"What I'm telling presidential campaigns is that we are one of the few states with a true open primary for independents," she said. "And we want them voting for us in the general election." 

The Nebraska Democratic Party will return to a presidential primary election in 2020 after abandoning its presidential caucus.

"We want presidential candidates to come here so we can show them rural America, our family farms, family ranches, tribal nations," Kleeb said.

"There are a lot of lessons they can learn here."

* * *

Finishing up:

* Jeff Fortenberry will sit down with USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey to discuss agriculture, the farm bill and trade policy with area farmers in Norfolk on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at the Lower Elkhorn NRD at 1508 Square Turn Blvd. 

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* Deb Fischer was cited along with Mitt Romney as one of the successful 2018 Senate candidates who scored "among the most positive on Twitter among Republican candidates," according to an analysis of Tweets published in Roll Call.

* Ben Sasse has gained Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's agreement to schedule a roll call vote on Sasse's "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act," which he introduced "to require that doctors provide care to newborns who survive botched abortions." The vote is scheduled for Feb. 25.

* Adrian Smith says his selection as the top Republican member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on select revenue measures places him at "the first line of defense against higher taxes."

* Farm income in Nebraska is expected to drop below $2 billion in 2018, the lowest revenue recorded since 2002 and far below the $7.5 billion recorded in 2011 and 2013, according to the UNL Bureau of Business Research and the Nebraska Business Forecast Council.

* Gov. Pete Ricketts will preside over this week's meeting of the Republican Governor's Association in Washington as its new chairman.

* Lady Liberty's immigration policy: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

* It's hard to find any argument that the nation does indeed face a national emergency or crisis. Some disagreement over what that might be.

* Whither Harper and Machado? Get ye to a spring training camp.

* Isaiah Roby defeats Northwestern! Come home from Happy Valley with a win and it'll be rocking at PBA for Purdue on Saturday.

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

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

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