State Lawmakers Hope to Tackle Veterans Home Issue
By Sara Kirkley, Weekend Anchor / Reporter - email
Debate at the Nebraska State Legislature kicks off Monday.
One senator hopes proposed legislation he plans to submit - tackling the controversy surrounding the Veterans Home - will make it to the floor by the end of session.
A selection committee headed by Governor Heineman picked Kearney as the new host over three other communities, including its current home - Grand Island.
Before another Nebraska city welcomes an existing state building, Senator Mike Gloor says changes need to be made.
"The legislature ought to be involved in the discussion to make sure that issues of transparency, trying to remove the political possibilities are out there," said the senator from Grand Island.
Even before seeing the proposed bill, lawmakers across the state seem to agree.
"Certainly I think we need to look at how we pick one city over the other," said Senator Charlie Janssen, of Fremont. "I didn't like the fact that we pitted communities against each other."
"If there's a bill that avoids that in the future I would certainly be in favor of that," said Senator Kate Sullivan, of Cedar Rapids.
"We have to work together in rural Nebraska to keep our economy strong," said Senator Annette Dubas, of Fullerton. "When you bring that kind of divisiveness into the discussion, it's just not good for anybody."
State senators said the idea itself isn't controversial.
"Clearly the challenge on this is going to be that I'm also talking about we need to take a look as this relates to the decision on the Veterans Home," said Senator Gloor.
Some lawmakers are already taking sides.
"The decision has been made," said Senator Janssen. "I want to make sure that my fellow veterans are taken care of now during the transition process."
"My preference would be for it to take the existing project into consideration," said Senator Dubas.
"All the people that I've talked to, with maybe the exception of one, in District 41 are disappointed that there's a move to take the Veteran's Home away from Grand Island," said Senator Sullivan.
Senator Tom Carlson, of Holdrege, said he'd need more information about the decision to move the home before commenting. He also said lawmakers will only upset one community or another by speaking out.
Senators do agree that the veterans impacted need to be honored.
"Their care and service for them is very important whatever community that it's in," said Senator Beau McCoy, of Omaha.
Some Grand Island officials say the project is too far down on a federal funding list to get dollars anytime soon, but Kearney continues to plan to host the new facility.
Meanwhile, the speaker of the legislature said lawmakers will begin debating bills Monday that were approved in committees but carried over from last year's session without a final vote.