At the Nebraska Capitol Monday, advocates argued whether raising the minimum wage in Nebraska would help or hurt low-income workers, and a state senator dropped out of the governor’s race.
Currently, the minimum wage in Nebraska is the same as the federal minimum: $7.25 an hour. The proposal to raise it would hike that in three steps until it reaches $9.00 in 2017.
Among those supporting the bill was Laurel Marsh of Community Action of Nebraska. Marsh said many single parents are below the federal poverty line despite working full time. For example, she said, single parent with two children would have to earn $9.51 an hour to get to the federal poverty line.
Opponents including Dick Clark of the Platte Institute said many of those earning minimum wage are teenagers from families with incomes well above the poverty line. Clark said raising the minimum wage would increase unemployment because employers would find it too expensive to keep employees.
The Business and Labor Committee took no immediate action on the bill.
Also Monday, Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont announced he is dropping out of the Republican gubernatorial primary. Janssen said money was a factor in his decision, which he said he made while campaigning last weekend. “I decided… that it was time for me to get out of the race for governor and concentrate on what I”m doing down here in Lincoln and move forward,” he said, adding the he “didn’t see a clear path to victory with the way the field has shaped up or may shape up.”
Since Janssen entered the GOP race, five others have jumped in, and Attorney General Jon Bruning is considering whether or not to join.
On the floor of the Legislature Monday, things got a little personal. The subject being debated was a bill to allow volunteers to put amber lights on their cars when conducting citizen patrols of their neighborhoods.
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers opposes the bill. He accused its sponsor, Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, of misleading the Legislature about who supports the proposal, and of refusing to talk to Chambers about that when he came to his office last week.
That led Lautenbaugh to respond “By the way Sen. Chambers, the reason I didn’t come out of my office when you were beating on my door is because we had adjourned at noon. I was in Gretna, and I got a text saying ‘Senator Chambers is beating on your door, wondering why you won’t come out and yelling at the rest of us.’”
Chambers denied it, and asked Lautenbaugh who said it. When Lautenbaugh demurred, Chambers said “That was a lie. Whoever said it is a liar, and I wish he’d say it to me out there. That is an out-and-out lie. I don’t beat on anybody’s door.”
A little while later, Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber, who said he was walking by when the incident occurred, said he was the one who texted Lautenbaugh. “I wanted to know where Sen. Lautenbaugh was, ‘cause I thought ‘Let’s get to the bottom of this thing right now instead of letting it fester.’” Karpisek said. “If I said the wrong thing I apologize,” he told Chambers. "But you did knock on Sen. Lautenbaugh’s door and I really was wishing he was there cause I was waiting to see what would happen.”
Karpisek then paused, laughing, before adding “I was just going to try to get out of the way so I wouldn’t get hurt.”
Senators adjourned for the day without reaching a vote on the amber lights bill.