This Year We Should Be Thankful That …

Yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the month of Thanksvember – formerly known as November – surely draws to an end. So, let’s take a look at a few things for which Nebraskans should be thankful from the year that is also nearing an end.

First: The University of Nebraska Cornhusker football team – stranded in the unfamiliar mire of a losing season while on the road to mediocrity and beyond – finally defeated a Top Ten team. The stunning 39-38 victory over Michigan State in the closing seconds of a classic back-n-forth gridiron battle will surely be the stuff of legend. In fact, it may be the entire highlight reel of the first year of head coach Mike Riley. Or maybe the only highlight of his Nebraska career. Be thankful that the Huskers could play the spoiler role. Then, despite three late-game interceptions by quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr., Nebraska came back a week later and beat the hapless Rutgers team. Who would have thought Husker Nation would be thankful to be 5-6 at this point in the season.

Second: Nebraska government tied for 8th in the nation in the new State Integrity Investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. And they did it with a score of 67 – that’s a D+. Eleven states actually flunked the test, which is based on a variety of categories ranging from public access to information to management of the state pension fund. Nebraska flunked: public access to information; political financing; executive accountability; state civil service management and ethics enforcement agencies. But Nebraska scored an A in the state budget process and a B in electoral oversight. Throw in a handful of C’s and D’s and you get a D+. Be thankful that Nebraska ranked first in the country in the state budget process.

It is an open and accessible process that has always been one of the highlights of the Unicameral experience.

Third: Voters will have a chance to decide whether or not the State of Nebraska should be in the business of killing people. The Legislature repealed the death penalty during its regular session and overrode Governor Pete Ricketts’ veto. But Ricketts and his father gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a ballot initiative to get the issue before voters. In the meantime, the State also paid more than $50,000 to obtain drugs to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection. There are currently 10 men on death row and it is highly unlikely that any will be executed before the November 2016 election. Oh, and at least one of the drugs the state wants to use has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is, thus, illegal to possess. The drugs have been paid for but not received. The vote should finally settle the issue.

Fourth: Lawmakers appear to be poised to take another shot at expanding Medicaid coverage to provide health insurance for an estimated 77,000 Nebraskans who have fallen through the cracks and currently have no insurance. Proponents of the legislation say these are the working poor who either have jobs that provide no health insurance or who simply can’t afford the insurance that is offered. Opponents say the federal government can’t be trusted to provide the 90 percent of necessary funding. Proponents say it is money that Nebraskans pay in to the government and should be returned to provide for a healthy and productive work force to help grow the economy. As with the successful minimum wage increase ballot initiative, proponents may have to put this one before the voters as well.

Fifth: Motorists can now buy a vanity license plate touting “The Beef State.” That was once the slogan on all Nebraska license plates. My friends in agriculture tell me that Nebraska is still a very large cattle producer. I have to admit that I recently questioned that, based on the proliferation of chicken restaurants in the Capital City. Longtime staples KFC and Popeye’s have been joined by the now - I am told - nationally famous Chick-fil-A. Raising Canes, a local favorite with a handful of locations, is also competing with Slim Chickens and Cowboy Chicken and Pizza Ranch – which is known for its fried chicken, go figure – and of course, the long-standing Lee’s Chicken which has been in Lincoln longer than any of the others. I am sure that I have missed a few, as I am not even counting all the places that serve chicken wings.

On that note, enjoy your turkey!

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