Moving Game & Parks Headquarters, Preventing Punishment for Not Vaccinating Discussed in Hearings

Feb. 4, 2021, 6:47 p.m. ·

Nebraska Capitol dome (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

Listen To This Story

William Padmore of NET News discusses what's going on in the Nebraska Legislature with reporter Fred Knapp.

Padmore: Fred, what's going on in the legislature today?

Knapp: It's been an interesting day. This morning there was a hearing on moving the Game and Parks headquarters to Sidney, about 400, miles west of Lincoln. It's sponsored by Senator Erdman who comes from Bayard. He thinks Game and Parks is not managing wildlife very well and he wants to move them closer to where that's affecting his farmers. He wants to move to Sydney because they've lost Cabela's headquarters along with 2000 jobs and they have all this empty office space. And he also touted, the advantages of western Nebraska.

Erdman: For those of you who haven't been out there, it's not the end of the earth. Okay. We do have electricity. And we have indoor plumbing. We have some of those amenities -- we got that last year or so, we have things to offer. It's not like you're moving to the backside of the desert with Moses leading you through the wilderness.

Knapp: As you can hear, he's channeling some resentment that western Nebraska feels ignored or looked down on by the east. Senator Mike Groene who's from North Platte also tapped into that and refered to an estimate that the move would cost $6.3 million.

Groene: In light of the fact we gave $300 million to Omaha to a hospital. And in this budget there’s $50 to the Air Force for a sky command.

And we're expecting to spend another $230 million for jail facility for eastern Nebraska and employment, and excuse me Sen. Aguilar we spent 5$50 million to move the state fair to the western edge of eastern Nebraska. Do you think $6.3 million is a lot of money for rural Nebraska?

(Game and Parks Commission Deputy Director Tim McCoy opposed the move, saying it would hurt the efficiency of the agency's efforts to coordinate with Lincoln-based agencies including the Legislature, governor, and the university).

Padmore: Okay, I also saw some headlines today about the state auditor, not certifying the state's annual financial report, what's that all about?

Knapp: Yeah there was an Omaha world Herald story that they didn't certify last year's report, citing $21 billion in errors. Now the auditor is not saying that that money is missing. He's saying that the agencies didn't provide proper documentation when reporting their expenditures to the Department of Administrative Services. So for example, if there's a road construction project the auditor wants there to be documentation on how much was spent, and how much is still to be spent, not just figures with no backup. The Department says they these were strictly reporting errors not errors in expenditure, those errors have been corrected and there'll be more training before they fill out this year's report.

Padmore: Wow. Was there anything else that happened today?

Knapp: Yeah, there was a hearing this afternoon on Senator Ben Hansen's bill to say people couldn't be penalized for not getting vaccinated, if they were ordered to. Vaccines are required with certain exceptions in daycares and schools but not for the general public. Hanson said he's trying to be proactive. Lots of people showed up to testify for the bill which is unusual in these pandemic times. One of them was Allie French, who described vaccination as one long failed scientific experiment.

French: Man has been attempting to prevent disease since the 1700s via vaccination, and has been ultimately unsuccessful. The only exception being through improved sanitation, nutrition and water supply. They continue to add vaccine after vaccine and never return the intended results, whether you deny or accept the injuries and deaths that have happened because of these vaccines. If people want to take the easy way out, and vaccinate because they don't have an understanding of proper health and wellness techniques, that is absolutely their choice and nobody condemns them for it. Those who choose not to participate should have that very same right and not need the permission or disclosure to any person, establishment, agency or school.

Knapp: On hand to oppose the bill was Lincoln pediatrician Michelle Walsh, president of the Nebraska Medical Association. Walsh said she's concerned that if the bill passes schoolchildren would get diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, and she pointed to history to illustrate her argument.

Walsh: My dad's best friend growing up, Marvin, when I was growing up, he was partially paralyzed from polio. He used to give me wheelchair rides all the time. He died at the age of 41, from pneumonia because his muscles are so weakened by polio. My husband's first cousin had polio. He is partially paralyzed on the right side, and can barely walk. So people think that polio doesn't exist or didn't exist because of vaccines, because we have a polio vaccine now we don't see all of that anymore…This is what we're trying to prevent with the vaccines. And if you look in history, we've done a good job with some of these vaccines you don't see polio anymore in the United States, you don't see smallpox. And so the vaccines do work.

Knapp: And public hearings on other subjects continue through February and into March.