There is concern that ours has become a government of political parties - and not a government of, by and for the people. One viewer writes, I'd like to know what each candidate is going to do to help reduce partisanship and work with the opposite party to get things done in our country.
Q: Do you believe it's possible for Democrats and Republicans to work together efficiently and effectively? And if yes, how would you work to make that happen?
A: The Nebraska Legislature is nonpartisan, which I believe is a very good thing. The Legislature has always worked together effectively and efficiently to enact legislation for Nebraskans. Since we're a nonpartisan body, the political party influence is lessened, which allows us to focus on what's best for our constituents. And truly, that's what I focus on -- my constituents, Democrats and Republicans alike. That's who I've been elected to represent -- not a political party's platform, but rather the issues and concerns of the good citizens of District 41.
Many Nebraskans tell us the Economy is their #1 concern. They are worried about staying employed or finding work, keeping up with the cost of living, and supporting their families. One viewer simply stated. "If we don't fix the economy, it really doesn't matter what your opinions are on anything else."
Q: How do you propose to improve the U.S. economy and increase the number of jobs for Nebraskans?
A: Nebraska's economy is better than that of many states, primarily due to our strong agricultural economy here. Our low unemployment levels also indicate that people are working. However, we can't lose sight of the fact that many Nebraskans are underemployed or their wages are such that they must work more than one job. It's important that we concentrate on economic development for all parts of the state. We want to encourage business start-ups that create jobs, particularly in rural Nebraska. Another important aspect of the employment picture in Nebraska (and perhaps other states, as well) is that we actually lack skilled workers in certain fields. There are jobs waiting to be filled here in Nebraska but we lack the workers with the right skill set to fill the positions.
Agriculture is Nebraska's #1 industry. With the current proposed Farm Bill in limbo, there is much uncertainty about how it will affect the future of our farmers and ranchers.
Q: What do you believe is holding up a decision on the new Farm Bill and what do you think it will take to get it passed? What is the one thing you would definitely like to see included in or eliminated from the Farm Bill?
A: As a state senator, my responsibilities aren't directly connected with this federal legislation. I do know, however, that many constituents in District 41 are very dismayed at the gridlock in Congress, which is what I think they attribute to the stalemate with the Farm Bill. As to aspects of the Farm Bill, I do hope the risk management tool of federal crop insurance will remain a key part of the bill. Agriculture is a risky business and a very capital intensive one. With direct payments being eliminated from the Bill, crop insurance will be key to helping producers manage their risk.
Federal Healthcare Mandate
It's been called many things: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama's Healthcare Plan, and even "ObamaCare". Most agree it has been both controversial and confusing. Even the Supreme Court struggled with the plan's constitutionality.
Q: What is your solution for making certain Nebraskans have quality, affordable healthcare for themselves and their families?
A: Much of the health care debate must take place at the federal level. Since the Affordable Care Act is federal law, the Legislature is bound by that law unless and until the U.S. Congress repeals it. State government is involved with determining whether there will be a state-run exchange, how that exchange will operate, and what medical services will be covered. This work is being done by the Nebraska Department of Insurance under the direction of Governor Heineman. On October 1, Governor Heineman notified U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that Nebraska is submitting a Nebraska Option for the Essential Health Benefit package. Nebraska's plan is a high deductible health savings option which must be reviewed and approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Civil Rights/Social Issues
Equal Rights, Same Sex Marriage, and the Separation of Church and State are all civil rights issues that tend to inspire strong feelings from those on all sides of the issues.
Q: Do you believe equal rights should be equal for everyone regardless of religion, race or sexual orientation? What is your stance on legalized abortion? How important do you think social issues will be in this election?
A: Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
I am pro-life and proud to be endorsed by Nebraska Right to Life. Social issues are important in every election at every level of government.
One of the most divisive issues in Nebraska is immigration. There are many strong opinions varying from immediate deportation for those here illegally to amnesty for all.
Q: Where do you stand on current immigration policies? Do you favor providing healthcare and other benefits to families who are here illegally?
A: Immigration enforcement is a function of the federal government. Leadership at the federal level has been sadly lacking which has forced some states to enact legislation to address the issue. As a pro-life senator, I support prenatal care for unborn children. I do not support other benefits.
More than 300,000 of Nebraska's residents are school-age children. They account for about 16% of the state's total population.
Q: What do you believe are the greatest challenges facing Nebraska's Education System, and how would you work to meet those challenges?
A: We have a constitutional obligation to provide a quality education to children wherever they live in Nebraska. Equitable and sustainable state funding of K-12 education is our greatest challenge.
The controversy over where, or even if, to build the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is primarily centered here in Nebraska. Many believe it's the solution to ending dependence on foreign oil, while others say it's not worth the cost to the environment or their property.
Q: Do you think the pipeline should be built? Why or why not?
A: Nebraska now has state statutes in place which govern oil pipeline siting, liability and reclamation requirements. Citizens have protections that they didn't have three years ago. In addition, the pipeline route has been moved out of the fragile soils of the Sand Hills. As long as the pipeline builders comply with state and federal laws, the pipeline should be built.
Special Interest Groups
Many residents have a negative perception about the political influence of Special Interest groups and "big money". They worry many of our elected officials are out of touch with the average citizen. According to the latest census, the median household income in Nebraska is about $49,000 per year, which is lower than the national average.
Q: How would you assure Nebraska's low and middle income families that you have their best interests at heart?
A: I can only speak about this from my experience as a state senator. I've lived in a small town most of my life. I know my neighbors and they know me. Most special interest groups at the state level are made up of our neighbors and friends. For instance, the Nebraska Hospital Association includes the administrators of our hospitals, large and small. The Nebraska Rural Electric Association is made up of the elected board members of rural public power districts. These groups provide their members with a voice at the state level and often bring their members to Lincoln at least once during the legislative session. While these groups have input, no group is more important to me than my constituents. They're who I listen to and who I consult if I need assistance with a decision on an issue.