Quicker keno rejected; senators' pay raise advanced

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March 4, 2012 - 6:00pm

The Legislature rejected a proposal Monday to allow faster keno games, while taking the first step toward putting a pay raise for senators on the ballot.

The keno bill was sponsored by Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber. It sought to decrease the current five minutes between keno games to three minutes. Karpisek said the idea was to allow municipalities whose budgets are stressed to get more revenue from the games.

But the bill ran into opposition from senators who say it would expand gambling. Omaha Sen. John Nelson expressed that concern.

Sen. John Nelson

"I think it makes common sense that if you can play the game once every five minutes, and you are addicted to that kind of gambling, that if you're able to do it once every three minutes, that by the odds you're going to lose more money," he said. Nelson said that for every dollar in additional revenue government would gain, it would have to spend three to deal with the results of gambling addiction.

Sen. Russ Karpisek

Karpisek said keno revenues help build many local projects. And he said some people get into trouble in all sorts of activities, but the state doesn't prevent them from doing that. "We don't sit in the bar and tell people who don't have money not to buy that next beer, or pop. We don't tell people not to smoke because they don't have money - we'd sure like to. We don't sit in the grocery store and tell people even on food stamps not to buy that T-bone - they should rather buy hamburger, to get more bang for their buck. But we don't do those things," Karpisek said.

Twenty senators voted to give the bill first round approval, with 17 opposed. But the bill needed 25 senators, or a majority of the Legislature, and so did not advance.

In the afternoon, senators debated a proposal to increase legislative pay. It's currently $12,000 a year. Under an amended proposal by Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, that would be raised to $22,500. .

Several senators in favor of the proposal said it was needed to attract a broader range of people to serve. Among them was Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff.

Sen. John Harms

"We need to have younger people. We need to have the middle class here. We need to have individuals like that of (the type that) the very legislation we're passing and it has major impacts on them. Whether it's the children in school whether it's the tax structure we're dealing with, they need to be a part of this discussion. In many cases they're not. And quite frankly, they can't afford to be here," Harms said.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins opposed the proposal, alluding to possible negative public reaction.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield

"I stand in opposition to this. And it's not just because I'm up for reelection," he said. "I took this job two years ago knowing full well it paid the massive amount of $12,000 a year. I look around at our budget. We're still talking about not being able to fund children's programs, we're not being able to fund schools. And we're looking at voting ourselves a half-million dollar increase. I still see a problem with that."

Senators gave the proposal first-round approval on a vote of 28-9. It would need 30 votes on final reading in order to be put before voters in November.




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