Don Walton: Marijuana revenue decision may lie ahead | News

Anna Wishart pushing bill to legalize medical marijuana

A voter photo ID requirement, legalization of medical marijuana, a minimum wage increase.

Things are looking up for potential voter turnout in a non-presidential election year if petition drives to place those issues on the 2022 general election ballot are successful.

And there could be more to come, perhaps including proposed legalization of recreational marijuana sales and use by adults.

That would be a tempting new revenue source that could produce some strange bedfellows.

No doubt, property tax reduction advocates may eye that as a rich opportunity for more property tax reduction revenue following on the heels of the successful 2020 casino gambling initiative that allocated 70% of the revenue from a 20% tax on the resulting gaming revenue to property tax relief.

The casino gambling initiative allocated a scant 2.5% of the resulting revenue to state government, essentially denying state programs and services any real benefits from what could grow into a substantial new revenue stream.

Colorado has collected more than $1.6 billion in state revenue from marijuana sales during the past six years.

If a recreational marijuana proposal does reach the ballot in Nebraska, the fundamental question for voters ought to be whether recreational marijuana sales and use should be legalized.

But if recreational marijuana sales might be authorized, the question is whether state government should be denied the potential revenue to help build a stronger university, tackle the long-delayed and hugely expensive task of correctional services reform, meet the state’s health and human services needs, and address its future challenges.

That revenue distribution decision rests largely with sponsors who would draft the language of such a proposal.

Time to leave the old building.

We cleaned out our desks, boxed up material, threw away a ton of accumulated stuff, rediscovered some personal notes from decades of political leaders along with some souvenirs and toys, grabbed the laptops and computer screens, turned out the lights and headed out of the Journal Star building last week.

But first there was group pizza and then everyone outdoors for a group photo that motorists probably thought was a peaceful protest or walkout.

A newsroom once bulging with the noise and energy of two or three dozen people has gradually been transformed into a sea of empty desks with co-workers scattered here and there.

Some of us are working remotely now, but there are far, far fewer of us than there used to be. The newspaper world has changed and it is continuing to do so. 

On to the Telegraph District and a new working environment sometime this autumn.

“Are you sentimental about the old building?” a co-worker asked last week.

Another co-worker rediscovered something snarky that I had written in a column a long time ago when another old building came tumbling down across the street: “Goodbye Hotel Lincoln, slowly you are sinking; no longer fancy free, you are now debris.”

The Journal Star building, my home away from home for a lot of years, deserves better than that.

* Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief, told a Rep. Jeff Fortenberry telephone town hall that he believes the new surge of the COVID-19 virus is “starting to peak.”

* Fingers crossed for what happens in Lincoln post-Garth.

* New census figures predict that Lincoln will surpass 300,000 in 2023; that will place it firmly in company with Newark, Orlando, even Pittsburgh and St. Louis, although those cities have much larger metropolitan areas.

* Census figures suggest that Nebraska’s metroplex of Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy Counties should hold 27 of the 49 seats in the Legislature at the conclusion of new redistricting. The special session battle in the Legislature next month may center on rural — and Republican — efforts to hold that figure to 26, which would build in a disparity that would grow larger during the next 10 years prior to the 2030 census.

* I think the wildfires are trying to tell us something.

* Ten of the 32 Republicans who are members of the nonpartisan Legislature didn’t sign onto the letter initiated by Gov. Pete Ricketts urging the University of Nebraska Board of Regents to curb teaching of the critical race theory. Five of them will be gone after the 2022 election.

* It seems somewhat amazing that Mike Pence, Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis are willing to share a platform at Gov. Pete Ricketts’ big steak fry next month. They’re all used to commanding the spotlight.

* Does Sen. Carol Blood plan to name a Republican running mate if she pulls the trigger on what looks likely to be a 2022 Democratic bid for the governorship?

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