A1 A1
Legislative redistricting means changes for senators, constituents

Final passage and approval of Nebraska legislative redistricting maps has led to significant boundary changes for Districts 33 and 38, which include large portions of Tribland — and corresponding changes in the lists of communities current senators serve.

The changes, which took effect immediately when Gov. Pete Ricketts signed them into law Sept. 30, leave Adams County intact as part of District 33, which is represented by state Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings.

In a big change, however, District 33 now also includes all of Kearney County and all of Phelps County except for the chunk that includes the city of Holdrege.

Previously, Phelps and Kearney counties had been part of District 38, which is represented by state Sen. Dave Murman of rural Glenvil.

District 38 now extends farther west along the Nebraska/Kansas state line in the shape of a backward “L” encompassing Clay, Nuckolls, Webster, Franklin, Harlan, the portion of Phelps, and all of Furnas and Red Willow counties — meaning it stretches all the way to McCook.

District 33 previously had included southern and western Hall County, including the communities of Doniphan, Wood River and Cairo. Those communities and much of the rest of Hall County now are part of District 41, which includes much of Buffalo County outside of Kearney as well as Sherman, Howard, Valley, Greeley, Wheeler and Boone counties. The representative is state Sen. Tom Briese of Albion.

Most of the city of Grand Island remains in District 35, represented by state Sen. Ray Aguilar. But a portion of northeastern Hall County ringing District 35 now is part of District 34, which also includes Hamilton, Merrick and Nance counties and is served by state Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson.

District 32, which is served by state Sen. Tom Brandt of rural Plymouth, continues to encompass Fillmore, Thayer, Jefferson and Saline counties as well as southwestern Lancaster County. Brandt resides in Jefferson County.

In recent years, District 38 has been a horseshoe-shaped district with constituents as distant from one another as Loomis and Hardy.

Now, however, Murman will have constituents in the wheat and cattle country of southwestern Nebraska.

Murman was first elected to office in 2018 and would be eligible to run for re-election in 2022 if he so chooses.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years following the decennial U.S. Census. This year, the Legislature was tasked with redividing the state into 49 districts of roughly equal population at a time when population shifts dictated one district from greater Nebraska should be entirely relocated to the eastern part of the state.

The jurisdiction to be relocated is District 36, which has been served by Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg but now will cover a portion of Sarpy County including Gretna. The residents of the old District 36 are being absorbed into surrounding districts.

Various redistricting plans were considered. At least two would have divided Adams County between Districts 33 and 38, and one would have divided the city of Hastings itself, prompting concerns from some local leaders.

As it is, Halloran, who is in his second term of office and will be prevented by term limits from seeking re-election again, now represents a district of about 40,614 residents, while Murman has about 41,141 constituents.

In a news release Wednesday afternoon, Murman said the constituents he served in Kearney and Phelps counties will find an able representative in Halloran, who is chairman of the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee.

“The population shift from west to east necessitated that changes be made,” Murman said. “But I am confident that my former constituents will be in good hands with Senator Halloran.”

Murman noted that he has known Halloran for a number of years, and that they come from similar backgrounds. He said they share the same conservative outlook on most issues.

Both men are Republicans, but the Legislature is an officially nonpartisan body and members are elected on a nonpartisan basis.

Omaha lawyers with Hastings ties to have presence at local office following acquisition
  • Updated

T he Dunmire, Fisher & Hastings law office now is under a new name, but the lawyers coming in to work with David Fisher and Charles Hastings are familiar faces in town and want to continue the legacy established at that firm.

Omaha firm Fraser Stryker PC LLO announced on Oct. 1 the acquisition of Dunmire, Fisher & Hastings. The Fraser Stryker Hastings office will continue to be led by Fisher and Hastings.

“We’re not spring chickens anymore,” Fisher said. “We’re looking to transition our practice, to continue to serve our clients and provide them good legal representation. We think the Fraser Stryker arrangement gives an excellent opportunity to do that.”

Fraser Stryker partners — and Hastings natives — Daniel C. Pauley and Jordan W. Adam also will step in to provide legal resources to Dunmire, Fisher & Hastings’ clients.

“I think that’s pivotal,” Fisher said. “They’re planning on having a presence here in Hastings immediately and indefinitely. After Chuck and I are gone, they are going to be the face of the local office.”

Adam, a 2000 Hastings High School graduate, practiced law in Grand Island three years before joining Fraser Stryker nearly 11 years ago.

Working in the law office on the second floor of the Heritage Bank building, 800 W. Third St., is nothing new for Pauley, a 2007 Hastings College graduate, who worked in the Dunmire, Fisher & Hastings office eight years and became a partner.

He hasn’t stopped practicing in Hastings.

“My family’s still here, my wife’s family’s all still here,” he said. “They don’t care if I’m back as long as I bring one of the grandkids with me.”

Pauley is general counsel for the Hastings Economic Development Corp. and Hastings College and represents many Hastings area residents.

Adam also represents several people in the area.

“It’s an easy transition for us, because where do you get a better community than Hastings?” Adam said.

With the addition of Fisher and Hastings as attorneys “of counsel,” the Fraser Stryker roster of lawyers now includes 56 names.

Pauley described Hastings and Fisher as two men with an incredible practice.

“They’re well respected,” he said. “They taught me a lot about law. They were looking for a good transition plan for their staff that they care very much about, for their great practice and for their clients.”

Hastings and Fisher have been partners in their current law firm since 1987, with both men having a presence in Hastings long before that.

The Dunmire, Fisher & Hastings law firm has had a presence in Hastings for many decades, starting with Al Blessing.

Lawrence Dunmire was a longtime stalwart at the firm, as well Hastings appreciates that the acquisition provides continuity for clients and everyone associated with the law office.

“When that firm expressed an interest to come out to central Nebraska, we thought it fit well with our goal of trying to transition us away from the practice, eventually, and provide a place for our clients and our staff,” he said.

It should be a seamless transition for the clients that want to continue working with Hastings and Fisher.

“Dave and I will be around here for, God willing, a few more years,” Hastings said. “We don’t really plan on retiring entirely, but hopefully this will give our clients an opportunity to meet some of the attorneys with Fraser Stryker and build a relationship with them that will go long into the future.”

Pauley said Tammi Jacobsen and Heather Hartman, who work in the Hastings office, are incredible support staff.

“Their clients know me,” he said. “I was working with them a lot. I still work with them in a lot of different ways. They know Jordan because of his family and his history here.”

Adam’s parents, George and Colleen, and his brother, Tyler, have been involved in many philanthropic causes in Hastings over the years.

“Those are things Fraser Stryker wants to support, as well,” Adam said.

Similarly, Adam described Fisher and Hastings as two pillars of the Hastings community.

For Fisher, community involvements include service on the Hastings Civil Service Commission, Educational Service Unit No. 9 board, Hastings Noon Lions Club, Hastings Noon Rotary Club, Mid-West Lodge 317, Hastings Valley of the Scottish Rite and Tehama Shrine.

Hastings’ community work involves, among other groups, the Hastings Community Foundation, Hearts & Hands Against Hunger of Hastings, Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, First Presbyterian Church, Hastings Noon Kiwanis Club, and Hastings Family YMCA.

“These guys care deeply about what they built, and they wanted a good succession plan for it,” Pauley said. “In the simplest form, I think we created a succession plan for their practice that they are very much going to be a part of and help do in a way that makes sense and transitions what they’ve built and their clients’ needs not only to a group who can do it, but to a group who can do it through two partners in Jordan and I who know and respect and understand this community very, very well and want to serve it as members of the community and do the work.”

Students, community discuss planning options

Lack of affordable rental options, aging trees and recycling options were among the various topics discussed during a brainstorming session with a group of college students developing a plan to improve the Hastings community on Wednesday.

Students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Architecture visited the city to talk to residents about the community. Breaking down the conversations into five stations, members of the public rotated around the room to visit the groups of students, each discussing a different topic.

Belinda Fowler, community regional planning instructor at UNL, said students did some initial research into a variety of topics and developed questions for the session, but sometimes the responses changed the conversation.

“That’s what we wanted,” she said. “We wanted this to be stakeholder-driven.”

Following the group discussions, the students presented their findings to the audience.

One group asked what people liked about Hastings and answers included Fisher Fountain, Lake Hastings, Heartwell Park and the revitalization of the downtown area.

Students reported citizens were proud of the community and were interested in finding ways to improve it.

A group tasked with finding the best area for growth found there were plenty of opportunities to make the city better from within the current boundaries as opposed to growing outward.

Concerns from the community included a shortage of rental property, trash being discarded, limited recycling options, limited public transportation and aging trees.

Marty Stange, environmental supervisor for the city, said he was glad to see a variety of people attend the meeting to offer input.

He said the project is a unique learning opportunity for the students.

“It’s good experience for them,” he said.

Twenty-one undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in courses with the Community and Regional Planning program are participating in the semester-long project in lieu of traditional coursework assigned in class. The program is to create a deliverable environmental plan that will address community concerns and benefit a rural Nebraska community.

The city of Hastings and the UNL College of Architecture collaborated on the project with grant funding provided by Rural Prosperity Nebraska.

Lisa Parnell-Rowe, director of development services for the city, said the project helps the students learn while giving the city additional insight as it looks to develop a new comprehensive plan.

Rachel Hines, a UNL undergraduate student in the area of Environmental Planning and Policies, said she read an article that mentioned a grant from Rural Prosperity Nebraska and wanted to pursue it. She said the grant originally paired a student with an instructor, but they were able to modify it to encompass the entire class.

It was also a quick process. She learned about the grant around the first of September, and the deadline was Sept. 15.

Fowler thanked city officials for being so accommodating on such short notice.

For the next step, students will work in smaller groups to propose ideas for the planning process based on Wednesday’s conversations.

Team leads will travel to Hastings for an on-site community assessment as part of the process, and a second public meeting is planned for December where the students will present findings and research.

Hines said students will benefit from the hands-on experience gained through the process.

“I feel like the in-person experience is great,” she said. “It gives you a purpose to your assignment.”

Congress foresees short-term debt fix amid perilous standoff
Republican and Democratic senators have edged back from a perilous standoff over lifting the nation’s borrowing cap
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — Republican and Democratic leaders edged back Wednesday from a perilous standoff over lifting the nation’s borrowing cap, with Democratic senators signaling they were receptive to an offer from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell that would allow an emergency extension into December.

McConnell made the offer shortly before Republicans were prepared to block legislation to suspend the debt limit until December of next year and as President Joe Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that an unprecedented federal default would disrupt government payments to millions of people and throw the nation into recession.

The emerging agreement sets the stage for a sequel of sorts in December, when Congress will again face pressing deadlines to fund the government and raise the debt limit before heading home for the holidays.

A procedural vote — on the longer extension the Republicans were going to block — was abruptly delayed late Wednesday and the Senate recessed so lawmakers could discuss next steps. Democrats emerged from their meeting more optimistic that a crisis would be averted.

“Basically, I’m glad that Mitch McConnell finally saw the light,” said Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont. The Republicans “have finally done the right thing and at least we now have another couple months in order to get a permanent solution.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., added that, assuming final details in the emergency legislation are in order, “for the next three months, we’ll continue to make it clear that we are ready to continue to vote to pay our bills and Republicans aren’t.”

Unsurprisingly, McConnell portrayed it very differently.

“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation,” he said.

Congress has just days to act before the Oct. 18 deadline when the Treasury Department has warned it would quickly run short of funds to handle the nation’s already accrued debt load.

McConnell and Senate Republicans have insisted that Democrats would have to go it alone to raise the debt ceiling and allow the Treasury to renew its borrowing so that the country could meet its financial obligations. Further, McConnell has insisted that Democrats use the same cumbersome legislative process called reconciliation that they used to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and have been employing to try to pass Biden’s $3.5 trillion measure to boost safety net, health and environmental programs.

McConnell said in his offer Wednesday that Republicans would still insist that Democrats use the reconciliation process for a long-term debt limit extension. However, he said Republicans are willing to “assist in expediting” that process, and in the meantime Democrats may use the normal legislative process to pass a short-term debt limit extension with a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December.

While he continued to blame Democrats, his offer will also allow Republicans to avoid the condemnation they would have gotten from some quarters if a financial crisis were to occur.

Earlier Wednesday, Biden enlisted top business leaders to push for immediately suspending the debt limit, saying the approaching deadline created the risk of a historic default that would be like a “meteor” that could crush the economy and financial markets.

At a White House event, the president shamed Republican senators for threatening to filibuster any suspension of the $28.4 trillion cap on the government’s borrowing authority. He leaned into the credibility of corporate America — a group that has traditionally been aligned with the GOP on tax and regulatory issues — to drive home his point as the heads of Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Nasdaq gathered in person and virtually to say the debt limit must be lifted.

“It’s not right and it’s dangerous,” Biden said of the resistance by Senate Republicans.

His moves came amid talk that Democrats might try to change Senate filibuster rules to get around Republicans. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., reiterated his opposition to such a change Wednesday, likely taking it off the table for Democrats.

The business leaders echoed Biden’s points about needing to end the stalemate as soon as possible, though they sidestepped the partisan tensions in doing so. Each portrayed the debt limit as an avoidable crisis.

“We just can’t wait to the last minute to resolve this,” said Jane Fraser, CEO of the bank Citi. “We are, simply put, playing with fire right now, and our country has suffered so greatly over the last few years. The human and the economic cost of the pandemic has been wrenching, and we don’t need a catastrophe of our own making.”

The financial markets have yet to fully register the drama in Washington, though there are signs that they are getting jittery, said Adena Friedman, CEO of the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Stock prices rose after news of McConnell’s offer came out.

Ahead of the White House meeting, the administration warned that if the borrowing limit isn’t extended, it could set off an international financial crisis the United States might not be able to manage.

“A default would send shock waves through global financial markets and would likely cause credit markets worldwide to freeze up and stock markets to plunge,” the White House Council of Economic Advisers said in a new report. “Employers around the world would likely have to begin laying off workers.”

The recession that could be triggered could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis because it would come as many nations are still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said. It was first obtained by The New York Times.

To get around the standoff taking place in the Senate, Biden indicated in off-the-cuff comments Tuesday Democrats were weighing a change to Senate rules.

“It’s a real possibility,” Biden told reporters outside the White House.

But Manchin, who has for months resisted pressure from liberal activists to change the filibuster so that Democrats can advance legislation on other issues such as voting rights, appeared unmoved.

“I think I’ve been very clear,” Manchin told reporters. “Nothing changes.” He implored Schumer and McConnell to work together to resolve the impasse.

Getting rid of the filibuster rule would lower the typical 60-vote threshold for passage to 50. In the split 50-50 Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris could then break a tie, allowing Democrats to push past Republicans. But to succeed in changing the rules, all Democratic senators would need to be on board.

Once a routine matter, raising the debt limit has become politically treacherous over the past decade or more, used by Republicans, in particular, to rail against government spending and the rising debt load.