Telephone conference report to Imperial, Grant and Palisade on Tuesday, Feb. 1.
By Jan Rahn
Senator Mark Christensen was not among 21 state lawmakers who signed a letter that was sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about a proposed oil pipeline that would cut through Nebraska over top of the Ogallala aquifer.
Christensen said he thought the letter would put concerns into the minds of pipeline people and they would question whether it was worth doing because of the opposition, or send it elsewhere.
The letter, dated Jan. 21 asks Clinton to support the requests of U.S. Senators Mike Johanns and Ben Nelson of Nebraska who are urging the State Department to fully explore the safety and placement of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.
The proposed pipeline by TransCanada would carry oil from Canada to Texas oil refineries, traveling through several states, including Nebraska.
The concern is that the pipeline would be built on top of the Ogallala aquifer which supplies drinking water to nearly two million people in eight states and also supports irrigation.
“I support the pipeline,” said Christensen. “There are a lot of lines through our district and aquifer. Oil floats on top of water, it’s not going to go down.”
Lawmakers have been in debate on the floor for at least five days concerning a bill targeting Omaha’s attempt to collect a “wheel tax” on motorists who live outside the city limits but travel into Omaha to work—which Omaha lawmakers say adds to the deterioration of the city’s streets.
“It has been interesting and has definitely slowed things down. It will be interesting to see that continued debate.”
LB229 still can’t get traction, said Christensen even with six co-sponsors. The bill would transfer funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund to the Water Resources Cash Fund.
The senator from Imperial said he met with the Department of Natural Resources last Friday about the bill.
Even if they get it to the floor, Christensen said he and two others are opposed to it. The arguments and some of the dancing around of the issues have been very interesting and may have cost him being on the Redistricting Committee, he said.
Christensen wanted to be voted onto the special Redistricting Committee, a position 31 of the 49 state senators applied for.
“I have a feeling me fighting this other bill probably affected votes on the committee—I can’t guarantee that, I don’t know, but almost everybody that wanted on the committee from the exec board got there.”
A redistricting committee is selected every 10 years to propose new boundaries based on population shifts—a politically sensitive position senators are interested in because the boundaries can affect which candidate is voted in depending on their party.
The shift can move senators from the districts they represent, which would force them out of office and they could choose to run against another sitting senator.
Those elected to the committee include Republican Senators John Nelson, Chris Langemeier, Deb Fischer, Ken Schilz and Scott Lautenbaugh. Democrats chosen were Senators Heath Mello, Annette Dubas and Danielle Conrad.
LB516 Concealed Carry
Christensen said he doesn’t know where other senators stand on his bill that would authorize the carrying of concealed handguns in educational institutions by security personnel, administrators and teaching staff.
He said a number of them are guarded. However, he said his bill has lots more support than he would have dreamt in The Washington Post.
Christensen said he expected a big hearing day on Wednesday when a constitutional amendment is heard that would change the allocation of state lottery proceeds to be split amongst the state fair, Gamblers Anonymous, education and the Water Resources Cash Fund.
“It would be a great thing for ag and water, said Christensen. “I will vote for it to get to the floor—it would bring a fantastic discussion on the floor.”