Eating The Innocent


© 2008 www.nebraskapen.org Last Updated: 12/30/2008

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You probably think this article is about Joseph White finally being found innocent of the murder he was convicted of nearly 20 years ago, thanks to DNA evidence. It's not. It is about Political Power in Nebraska and the lengths some people will go to get and keep it.

In 2008 Nebraska added itself to the list of States having a "Safe Haven" law. But Nebraska's law had one distinction. Every other state had placed an age limit on children that could be left with a "safe haven" without criminal consequences. Nebraska's law, however, had no such limit. Any child at any age could be left by a parent or guardian with a hospital for any reason.

Why No Age Limit?

Nebraska is a conservative state controlled by the Republican party. It is no "nanny" state. Yet after debate by 49 state legislators the law placed no age limit on children being abandoned in Nebraska. Some of those legislators, having served many years and many terms in office, are very experienced at making laws. Surely they understood the potential of Nebraska becoming ward to any teenager deemed unruly by frustrated parents.

What Happened?

Judging by the National news coverage, everyone now knows what a mistake it was to not place an age limit on the Safe Haven law. Some 30 children, many teenagers, were abandoned in Nebraska by parents from all over the nation; Michigan, California, Georgia, etc. The Governor called a special session of the Legislature to correct this problem.

Since the special session numerous Senators have called for changes in the mental health services that Nebraska provides for children, particularly teenagers, not to mention their parents. While that sentiment is commendable, how are Nebraska's services different from those other states? When did Nebraska become a liberal "nanny" state; unlike Michigan, California or Georgia?

The Other Side of the Story

What didn't get National news coverage was the fact that the bill was passed by the last of Nebraska's term limited Legislators. Nebraskans voted for term limits three times before Nebraska's judicial oligarchy allowed it to become law. Veteran Senators complained about being term limited. Those in power did not want to give up the advantages of incumbency.

The Safe Haven fiasco has left term-limited Nebraska Legislators looking ignorant or stupid. In fact, one veteran, but term-limited, Senator went so far as to publicly call the other Legislators "stupid" during the special session. It has been made painfully obvious that Nebraska's Legislators made a serious mistake when they enacted the safe haven bill without an age limit. It is not likely that anyone would admit that this was done for that very purpose.

People with power want what they want. If they want to get rid of term limits it will eventually mean having to convince the voters to do away with them. My prediction is that before the end of the next decade there will be a movement to do away with term limits. That movement will point to the Safe Haven fiasco as evidence that term limiting senators does not provide legislators with enough experience to prevent such obvious errors. It is also very likely that current Senators will be duped again into looking like fools. Who knows what innocent victims will be sacrificed next time.


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