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Don Walton: Wishart urges fellow senators to think big when it comes to pandemic funds
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Don Walton: Wishart urges fellow senators to think big when it comes to pandemic funds

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What do we want Nebraska's future to look like?

That might be a good guiding light in choosing projects and programs that will be funded by a billion dollars in federal pandemic recovery assistance.

Targeted new development at designated water resource, recreation and tourism sites; creation of a national agricultural research center at UNL's Innovation Campus focused on flooding, drought and the impact of climate change on agriculture; creation of a rural health complex at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Those might be the kind of proposed new statewide initiatives that are really designed to help shape the future.

Gamechangers.

Think big, Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln urged Nebraskans last week.

Those proposals appear to meet that test — and there may be more of them.

There are plenty of other worthy ideas and proposals on the table now that would help build the state's future: increased investment for workforce development, expansion of rural broadband, funding assistance for shovel-ready construction projects and more.

But they seem more like ongoing state funding priorities.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Wishart told her fellow members of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee last week.

Jump out of the box; go big.

State of Nebraska increases pay for critical workers, including prison employees

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If Gov. Pete Ricketts ends up appointing Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha to fill a District Court judicial vacancy in Omaha, he'll then be able to appoint a successor to serve in the Legislature during the final year of his gubernatorial term.

Wayne is a Democrat; you could safely bet that Ricketts would appoint a Republican successor to fill that North Omaha seat in the nonpartisan Legislature.

That would increase the number of Republicans in the Legislature to 33, exactly the number required to give Republicans a filibuster-proof majority.

However, not so fast: one Republican usually votes with the Democrats because of his own convictions and several other Republicans are not automatic party liners.

Wayne hasn't been an automatic party-liner either.

Nebraska Republicans object to plan to force banks to report some accounts to IRS

Wayne, who was a major force in negotiating legislative and congressional redistricting decisions during last month's special legislative session, was reelected to a four-year term in 2020.

* * *

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has introduced legislation that would designate the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum at Ashland as "America's National Museum of the Cold War."

"I'm hopeful this creates a global hub for historians of the conflict and for tourists," Fortenberry said.

The 1st District congressman represents Offutt Air Force Base, which was the headquarters for the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War.

* * *

Finishing up:

* The Nebraska Republican Party will host three 2022 gubernatorial candidate debates, one in each congressional district, prior to next May's primary election.

* Fortenberry jokingly referred to the ongoing rivalry between the House and the Senate during a luncheon speech in Lincoln last week: "We call them country club; they call us truck stop."

Platte Institute promotes plan to rely more on sales taxes

* During his remarks at last week's Platte Institute legislative summit, Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha praised the leadership of Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln in driving completion of the highly partisan redistricting task during a special session of the Legislature. McDonnell is a Democrat; Hilgers is a Republican.

* Relentless fundraising by candidates is the natural fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court's conclusions in its 2010 Citizens United decision that corporations are people and money is speech. Yeah, right.

* Traveling with former Sen. Bob Kerrey for a story during one of his campaigns, I heard his opening pitch to prospective donors when he made fundraising calls from the car: "Hi, this is Bob Kerrey. I have bad news for you; I need money."

* Yet another increasingly painful loss Saturday night, but the Huskers are at the cusp, knocking on the door, almost there.

* Yankees v. Rangers: March 31.

Mass migration into US is spreading 'health hazards across our country,' Ricketts says at border

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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