Don Walton: 2020 Legislature, election, Iran and LSU

Don Walton: 2020 Legislature, election, Iran and LSU

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New year; new decade; new legislative session.

And there's some mystery ahead.

The safest prediction for the 2020 Legislature, which convenes on Wednesday, probably is that not much big is going to happen.

Some incremental reform or progress, perhaps. Lots of defense.

"Holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation," the online dictionary says when you look for the meaning of conservative.

So, no doubt, there will be some additional property tax relief — with the question being whether it is targeted or not.

And whether it qualifies as tax reform.

Probably some welcome and needed movement forward in prison reform, essentially in the form of higher staff salaries that allow development of deeper and more experienced prison staffing.

A new business development tax incentives plan to keep up with the other states is likely.

There will be a whole array of legislative initiatives and proposals on the table for senators to consider before they wrap up business in late April, a few weeks before the May 12 primary election.

* * *

This is an election year that could be dominated by those pending ballot issues.

But it's tricky this far out to guess which initiative petition drives will be successful. That process is a challenge — and an expensive one — and it's still in progress.

Sen. Ben Sasse appears likely to sail to re-election. Count Rep. Adrian Smith as a cinch in western and central Nebraska.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln might face his toughest opposition yet, but will be a strong betting-man's favorite to win eastern Nebraska's 1st District, which hasn't elected a Democrat in more than a half-century.

Rep. Don Bacon will face a competitive challenge in metropolitan Omaha's 2nd District.

And the results of that contest could be influenced by voter turnout sparked by the presidential race; a strong, organized and determined Democratic bid for the 2nd District presidential electoral vote could have an impact.

A number of competitive legislative races dot the ballot, but this year it appears that Gov. Pete Ricketts will not be involved in any contest that attempts to replace an incumbent member of the non-partisan Legislature who is a registered Republican.

In the past, the Republican governor has targeted some incumbents who are Republicans because they opposed him on key votes, including veto override motions.

So it looks like this is not a particularly spectacular election year in Nebraska — except for the possible initiative issues and the battle at the top of the ballot pitting President Trump against the Democratic presidential nominee.

Trump will send voters streaming to the polls to either support or oppose him.

Substantial and immediate property tax relief along with the advent of casino gambling — at horse race tracks — would energize the turnout if those issues reach the ballot.

* * *

Finishing up:

* Opinion: The president has made this a far more dangerous and uncertain world with his sudden drone assassination of Iran's top military commander, setting in motion forces that he cannot control or predict and placing untold numbers of lives in danger. And what has he gained?

* Alarm bells are ringing in the wake of dramatic new evidence that Nebraska is falling short in attracting and retaining a vibrant young work force. That's the state's future at stake.

* A shout-out on Twitter from Matthew Hansen for the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha.

* What happens if a court finds that the state is attempting to transform the Medicaid expansion approved by Nebraska voters in 2018 into Medicaid reform?

* I'm taking LSU.

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

On Twitter @LJSdon

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