WSC hosts legislative forum

Libby Dunn, Staff Writer

State senators spoke about a range of topics at the 27th annual legislative forum last Friday morning in Gardner Auditorium at Wayne State College.

Co-sponsored by WSC and Wayne Area Economic Development, the event presented an opportunity for the Wayne community, WSC students and high schoolers from surrounding areas to interact with the state senators who represent Northeast Nebraska.

The state senators in attendance were Lydia Brasch (District 16), Joni Albrecht (District 17), Paul Schumacker (District 22) and the speaker of the legislature Jim Scheer (District 19).

Open forum questions were submitted via notecards and moderated by Wes Blecke, the Wayne City administrator.

The senators spoke about a variety of submitted topics during the 90-minute forum, some of which included gun safety in schools, budget cuts in Nebraska and the legalization of marijuana in Nebraska.

With over half of the attendance made up of high school students, Blecke announced that over 50 percent of the submitted questions were on the topic of gun control. When asked about this, Scheer said that because bills can only be introduced within the first 10 days in Nebraska, there will not be a response to the Florida school shooting this year.

“We all need to be honest with ourselves when we look at what happened less than a month ago,” said Scheer. “We have a system that simply failed. The young male who was arrested for that incident had been tagged, federal authorities had already been notified that he was potentially a threat and they did nothing. There was an armed security guard at that facility. That district did everything they could to try to stop what happened, and again, it failed.”

On the topic of budget cuts in Nebraska, Scheer said the reason the cuts are taking place is because of the growing trend of making Internet purchases rather than paying the sales tax in Nebraska. A case dealing with states collection of online sales tax will be heard by the Supreme Court in April.

Because of the depreciating sales tax revenue, higher education institutions such as Wayne State College faced cuts in funding this year. The storm is passing, though, as the projected percentage of funding cuts from WSC has gone down 3 percent.

“The forecasting board determined that we are going to have an increase of 5 percent in revenue, and that allows the legislature to spend 5 percent more dollars,” said Scheer. “There was some reduced funding, but those of you who are with Wayne State and anticipate a 4 percent reduction next year, that actually was reduced down to 1 percent.”

Another hot topic discussed at the forum was the legalization of marijuana in Nebraska. Almost all senators were in agreement that recreational marijuana should not be legal.

“Federally, it (marijuana) is illegal,” said Scheer. “The growth has been in the last six to eight years and the federal government has not been enforcing that law. From a medicinal standpoint, there very well may be some things it works well with. But from a recreational standpoint, I just see more harm than good.”

Groene, the chairman of the education committee, advised the students in attendance that despite all, the American Dream is still alive in the United States.

“You don’t have to be valedictorian or salutatorian. There are two attributes that will get you ahead in this country: showing up for work and passing a drug test,” said Groene.