Lincoln City Council urged to support money is not speech constitutional amendment

August 13, 2012
Nancy Hicks

The City Council’s open mike session, where citizens get their chance to talk, took as long as the regular council meeting Monday as 10 people urged the council to support a U.S. constitutional amendment allowing government to regulate campaign contributions and spending.

Move to Amend, a national coalition, is calling for a constitutional amendment to "abolish the court-created idea that money equals speech and that corporations have constitutional rights," said David Cobb, a public interest attorney with the coalition.

Twice a month, the council allows people to talk, for five minutes each, about issues that are not on its agenda.

Cobb and others used Monday’s session to talk about a proposed amendment that would allow state and the federal governments to regulate money spent to influence elections.

A constitutional amendment would, in effect, overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision.

In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said corporations were people with constitutional rights and it equated money with free speech.

Corporations should be allowed personhood for some legal issues, like suing and being sued, Cobb told the council. But only human beings have constitutional rights, he said.

“We are truly at a crossroads," said Jim Anderson of Nebraskans for Peace. “Corporations and the very rich can influence elections by spending unlimited amounts of money.

“Fewer and fewer people are now able to control outcomes of elections, and we are in danger of losing our democracy,” he said.

Multinational corporations are pushing untold millions of dollars into the elections process in order to have strong influence over federal policies, said Jo Tetherow, one of the Lincoln residents who participated in last winter’s Occupy Lincoln movement.

Move to Amend prefers that the issue go on a citywide ballot, which helps to build public momentum for the national amendment, Cobb told the council.

But in Nebraska a city council cannot put something on the ballot that simply tests public support for an issue, based on a state Supreme Court decision.

The council could pass its own resolution encouraging support of the amendment, Cobb said.

In other action:

* The council approved the annexation of Sky Ranch Acres near 112th and Holdrege streets.

The subdivision of 30 homes, on more than 37 acres, was built more than 40 years ago, and its private sewer system is failing.

The homeowners are asking to be annexed and hooked to the city sewer system rather than repair or replace the private system.

* The council raised ambulance fees by more than 5 percent, an almost annual event.

The city follows the example of the previous private ambulance company, which used the CPI index plus 2 percent for rate adjustments, said Sherrie Meints, city EMS business manager.

That usually is fairly close to what the medical CPI is, she said.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks [at] ().


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