Don Walton: Danger of losing Nebraska House seat gone

December 11, 2018

All clear.

Not so long ago, Nebraska faced the possibility that it could be in danger of losing a House seat following the 2020 census and that set off alarm bells about declining representation and influence in Washington.

Not to worry anymore.

“We should be safe,” numbers-cruncher David Drozd told participants in the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s economic development summit in Lincoln last week.

In stark and simple terms, why does that matter? Census figures translate into money and power, Drozd said.

Rather suddenly, Nebraska’s rate of population growth now is nearly equal to the rate of population growth in the United States, the research coordinator for the Center of Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha said.

“That hasn’t happened since pioneer days,” Drozd said.

But the state’s population growth is increasingly concentrated in the Omaha-Lincoln-Sarpy County urban complex while a vast swath of western and central Nebraska continues to experience a population decline.

Here’s a stunning new reality that Drozd shared: Fewer Nebraskans live in rural areas of the state today than in 1890.

And here’s an ongoing challenge: There’s still a brain drain issue to be addressed.

* * *

Nebraska Democrats opted for the benefits of increased participation by registered non-partisan voters in their primary elections and added focus on their down-ballot candidates in scrapping their presidential caucus system.

Members of the party’s state central committee eliminated the caucus on a voice vote on Saturday.

“Our goal is to ensure all Democrats and independents can participate in our presidential primary while also voting for critical down-ballot candidates,” Democratic State Chair Jane Kleeb said.

“We can end the current one-party control of our state by increasing participation in democracy and welcoming all shades of blue,” she said.

* * *

“Climate change is already impacting people, farmers, ranchers, businesses and government in Nebraska,” Mark Welsch of Omaha says.

Welsch is co-leader of the Omaha chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

In a statement urging support for a bipartisan House bill that would reduce America’s carbon emissions, Welsch pointed to the massive Missouri River flood in eastern Nebraska in 2011 and a long-lasting drought that impacted crop yields in 2012 and fed wildfires in northern Nebraska.

“Although these local floods and droughts are not caused by climate change, they are getting worse because of it,” Welsch said.

* * *

Finishing up:

* Domestic interference with U.S. elections now extends into election results. In Wisconsin if you lose, you just change the rules — with action taken by a previously gerrymandered legislature. They never, ever stop.

* Alan Simpson delivered the best line at the Washington services for President George H. W. Bush when he suggested that if you take the high road in Washington, you won’t be bothered by heavy traffic.

* One of the lessons and reminders from a week that saluted and defined Bush is that character matters.

* In an online column, William Hamilton recalled the time that Vice President Bush happily accommodated a request that he schedule his speech at a Republican event in Lincoln for delivery during halftime of a televised Nebraska football game. Bush told Gov. Charles Thone and others that he wanted to watch that game, too.

* The Nebraska Farm Bureau state convention last week called for the United States to join the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which it said “would provide tremendous market access for Nebraska agricultural commodities.” President Trump abandoned the agreement, which had been negotiated by the Obama administration, during his first week in office.

* Before adoption of the one-house Legislature, Nebraska had 133 legislators. It now has 49.

* It looks like Harvard already has won the competition for next spring’s commencement speakers and it should be fascinating to see what Angela Merkel has to say to the graduates — and to all of us.

* Gov. Pete Ricketts told the Chamber gathering that “the key to tax relief (is) everybody pays less, not a shift in taxes.”

* Lots of maneuvering underway in advance of the Legislature’s decisions on filling leadership positions on its opening day next month. Steve Lathrop is uncontested so far in his bid for Judiciary Committee chairman; Brett Lindstrom and Lou Ann Linehan compete for Revenue Committee chairman.

* Huge Husker night on Saturday with the volleyball team earning a trip to the Final Four and the basketball team finally, at last, defeating Creighton with 15,028 witnesses on hand for the electric celebration at the arena.

* Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13.