I walked out of room 1525 at the State Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska choking back tears of rage and frustration over the dismissive tone struck by most of the assembled public servants over the subject of how best to address the issue of Nebraska's child safe haven law.
Having spoken to two of the Senators before the hearing, one a lost cause and the second a hard core sympathizer, I knew right away the law was in deep trouble. The first Senator was Ernie Chambers from Omaha, an enemy to the law, and someone who believes it's not up to the government to be in the business of protecting children at all. This is also the same Senator who has bogged down the courts in both Lincoln and Omaha with his frivolous lawsuits against God. To call into question this man's judgement would be an understatement.
Lincoln Senator Amanda McGill supports an amendment to the law. But she believes, like the overwhelming majority of the public believes, that the first consideration must be the protection of children. Oweing to the fact that there is not only a statewide, but a nationwide gap in services for children in the areas of mental health and counseling, Senator McGill supports a cap on the age of eligible children to 15 years old. Expressing her own anger towards Health and Human Services Director Todd Landry, McGill posed the thought that Landry cared a whole lot less about the well being of children than he did about speaking to the media.
Landry, even though nine of the dropped off children have expressed suicidal ideation, stated that not one of the kids whose parents left them in hospital waiting rooms, were in any immediate danger. Under more questioning, Landry was forced to admit that he shared Chambers' position of no government intervention in family life. This begs the question of why he's the head of the state H.H.S., but that can wait for another day.
State Senator Annette Dubas told the assembled Senators and about 150 spectators that she was shocked at the callousness of the testimony of the State's 'expert' witnesses, most especially that of those who swore that none of the children were ever in any danger. Asking what it would take for a child to be in danger, she pointed out that if a parent was desperate enough for relief to drive cross country, then one would have to safely assume the child was not in a safe environment.
The Governor, Dave Heineman, didn't have the guts to show up at the hearing, because he knew that most of the assembled people in the audience did not want the law changed at all. he sent an aide to let the Senators know that he would be 'flexible' as to an age limit. Yeah, flexible as in a 30 day old baby instead of a 3 day old. This, despite testimony from parents who have been through the wringer with the state's HHS system in trying to attain help with their out of control children. One witness says that HHS's lack of understanding, caring, or knowledge of the mental health problems faced by some children led directly to the death of his mother.
Trying to impress the political and legal ramifications that any change in the law would bring about, it seemed that some of the gathered state big wigs live in a bubbled dream world. Pointing out the gathered supporters of the law, and the lack of detractors, (except the media whores in the chamber of course), I tried to paint a picture of what could happen to someone's political career should anything happen to any child within the boundaries of Nebraska should they change the law. I threw the A.C.L.U. at them, declaring that any change to the law now would be discriminatory due to the age limitations being placed in the law. Picture the state coffers emptying as you try to defend against the myriad of lawsuits brought against the state by concerned groups and citizens.
In the end though, the people that are the career politicians, those who walked right by their constituents to glad hand the local and national media, decreed that a vote would take place today, with the likely outcome a change to allow for safe haven of infants up to 30 days only. As Ernie Chambers said “You can get in the way of the train if you want to, but you’re not going to stop it. The only train that’s going to make it to the station is LB1.” LB1 is the name of the amended legislation. Good work Ernie. Since you enjoy suing God and other manner of weird past times, maybe you'll enjoy explaining to the public how incidents like those below will be just dandy, you know, since it's not the government's job to protect children and all.
Explain to us why in the past couple of years, Maryland police have found a dead child in a plastic grocery bag in Oxan Hill. A second one found in Riverside Park's lake. And a third one one month ago found in the trash in Takoma Park. No answer? I'll tell you. Because of a safe haven law that limited the age of an unwanted child who could be left at a safe haven.
Not enough to convince you? How about yesterday's arrest in Watsonville, California of a woman who smothered her 3 1/2 year old baby girl to death and left her tiny body in a motel room. Had California's safe haven law included children like Nebraska's present one, do you suppose maybe that disturbed mother would have dropped the baby off somewhere instead of killing her?
Or the distraught father on the South Side of Columbus, Ohio who shot his 7 year old daughter to death, then turned the gun on himself. Do you suppose a broad safe haven law would have possibly given him a choice to allow his child to live, somewhere he could drop her off and possibly seek out help himself?
These few examples illustrate the problem with the draconian measures being foisted upon the public as placating measures whenever an infant is found in a trash bin, or a parent admits to killing their baby. But the problem goes much deeper and those who passed the Nebraska safe haven law knew exactly what they were doing when they did it. When the media entered the picture, everyone began scrambling to distance themselves from the new law, save for those few who have stood their ground and want the child safety law to stand as is. The deck is stacked against it though, as the Governor, the state Attorney General, and the head of HHS all conspire to strike down the very law signed by the good Governor, by having Attorney General Jon Bruning, (who has very high aspirations for national office), issue an 'opinion' that all that can be allowed to be voted on today is an age amendment to the law. This ruling came due to the desire of some of the Senators involved wishing to add protections for kids who were clearly in danger or who showed signs of severe mental health problems.
The issue of safety for children older than 30 days will just have to wait declares the coming up for re-election Governor and Attorney General of Nebraska. Well, guess what guys? Come 2010, when they start finding abandoned kids in Omaha again because you took their protections away, we'll be waiting also. In line, to vote you out of office. That is, if the A.C.L.U. hasn't bankrupted the state first.
Contact Governor Heineman's office and tell him how you feel: