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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mike Groene
Member of the Nebraska Legislature
from the 42nd district
Assumed office
2015
Preceded byTom Hansen
Personal details
Born (1955-08-10) August 10, 1955 (age 65)
Nebraska
Political partyRepublican
ResidenceNorth Platte, Nebraska
OccupationTerritorial sales manager[1]
WebsitesenMikeGroene.com

Michael K. Groene (/ˈɡrni/ GROH-nee;[2] born August 10, 1955) is a politician from the state of Nebraska in the Midwestern United States. In 2014, he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, representing a district in the southwestern part of the state, including the city of North Platte. Groene is a member of the Republican Party.

Personal life and professional career

Groene was born August 20, 1955, and raised on a farm near Olean in northeastern Nebraska. He graduated from high school in Dodge in 1973. He attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, graduating in 1977 with a B.S. in agricultural economics.[1][2]

Groene began working for Brothers Equipment Company, a dealer in new and used agricultural implements based in Friend, Nebraska.[3][4] In the course of this job, he moved to Holyoke, Colorado in 1990. In 1997, he returned to Nebraska, settling in the city of North Platte.[2]

Groene married in 1985; he and his wife Barb produced two children.[1]

In April 2018, he became widely known for his emails towards persons out of his district.[5]

Political career

In Holyoke, Groene involved himself in Republican Party politics. In 1995, he ran for the local school board.[2]

According to Groene, he paid little attention to taxes in Colorado. However, when he moved back to Nebraska in 1997, he said, he was struck by how much higher the taxes were. In particular, he described his house in Nebraska as comparable to the one he had occupied in Colorado, but with a property tax bill twice as high.[2]

In North Platte, Groene co-founded the Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association, which he described as a nonpartisan group with no agenda apart from lowering taxes.[2] In 2006, the group staged a petition drive to amend the Nebraska constitution; the proposed amendment would have limited the growth of state government spending to the rate of inflation and population growth. Enough signatures were secured to place the measure on the ballot; it was opposed by groups including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the National Education Association (NEA), the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the League of Nebraska Municipalities, the Nebraska and the Greater Omaha Chambers of Commerce, and the Associated General Contractors. By November 1, shortly before the election, the pro-limit campaign had raised about $1.7 million, most of it from two out-of-state organizations, Americans for Limited Government and the National Taxpayers Union; the opposition had raised $2.4 million, about half of which came from the AARP and the NEA. The measure failed by a margin of 30–70%.[2][6][7][8][9][10]

In 2006, Groene also ran for a seat on the board of governors of Mid-Plains Community College. In the general election, he was defeated by a margin of 45–55%.[11][12]

In the course of the 2006 campaigns, Groene met Pete Ricketts, who was then making an unsuccessful attempt to win one of Nebraska's U.S. Senate seats from incumbent Ben Nelson. Discussions between Groene and Ricketts led to the establishment of the Platte Institute for Economic Research, which described itself as "Nebraska's first Free Market think tank". When the organization was launched in 2007, Ricketts held the title of director and president; Groene was a member of the board.[13][14][15]

2014 election

In 2014, Groene announced that he would run for a seat in the Nebraska legislature, representing the 42nd District, which was coterminous with Lincoln County. Under Nebraska's term-limits law, the incumbent, Tom Hansen, was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term.[16][17][18]

2014 primary

Groene faced two other candidates in the nonpartisan primary election. Scott Dulin, a member of the Democratic Party from North Platte, had grown up on a farm near Hershey, then worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for 19 years, then spent four years working as a rail accident investigator for a Minnesota law firm. While at Union Pacific, he had served for ten years as the local union chairman; for four years, he had served as the alternate legislative representative. Roric Paulman, like Groene a Republican, was a farmer from Sutherland. He was president of the non-profit Nebraska Water Balance Alliance, and had served on state task forces dealing with water and agricultural issues. None of the candidates had previously held public office.[18][19][20]

All three candidates named taxes as an issue of concern, and expressed support for lowering property taxes. None of the three supported the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA); Dulin supported the proposed expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska under the ACA's provisions, while Groene and Paulman opposed it.[19][20]

In the primary election, Paulman received 42.3% of the vote; Groene, 37.6%; and Dulin, 20.0%. As the top two vote-getters, Paulman and Groene moved on to the general election.[21][22]

2014 general election

In announcing his candidacy, Groene had stated that he would not accept contributions from "special interest groups", and would only accept "help to run his campaign from individual citizens".[16] Over the course of the entire campaign, he secured $37,000 in contributions and spent $35,000. Major contributors to the campaign included Groene and his family, donating $8800; Providence Investments of North Platte, contributing $3500; and two individuals, one in Blair and one in Columbus, each contributing $2500.[23][24] The Paulman campaign's total receipts amounted to $162,000; its total expenditures were $167,000. Paulman contributed $34,000 to his campaign, and loaned it another $54,000. Major contributions included $10,000 from the Nebraska Hospital Association, $4750 from the Nebraska Bankers State PAC, $4500 from the Nebraska Realtors, and $3300 from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.[24][25]

Paulman received endorsements from the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska chapter of the AFL–CIO. His campaign website listed endorsements from nine members of the state legislature, including 42nd District incumbent Hansen.[26][27]

When the general election was held, Groene received 5322 votes, or 51.5% of the total, to Paulman's 5008 votes, or 48.5%.[28] Groene described his victory as unexpected, and attributed it to extensive door-to-door campaigning, and to buying time every week on a local talk-radio show.[29]

Legislative tenure

2015 session

In the 2015 legislative session, Groene was assigned to the Education Committee, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, and the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee.[30]

Groene led two successful filibusters in the 2015 session. LB18 would have required Nebraska students to be vaccinated against meningitis. Supporters of the measure argued that mandatory vaccination was necessary as a public-health measure, and was supported by the general medical community; opponents maintained that the incidence of meningitis in Nebraska was low, and that the danger was not sufficient to justify the incursion on individual freedom.[31][32] A second filibuster killed LB423, which would have made tax credits available for wind- or solar-energy production. Supporters argued that the bill would spur development of Nebraska's wind-power resources, and would boost the economy of rural areas; Groene and other opponents contended that the unreliability of wind power would preclude using it to replace coal plants, and that the $75 million cost of the tax credits would ultimately be borne by ratepayers and taxpayers.[33][34]

Among the "most significant"[35] actions taken by the Legislature in its 2015 session were three bills that passed over vetoes by governor Pete Ricketts. LB268 repealed the state's death penalty; LB623 reversed the state's previous policy of denying driver's licenses to people who were living illegally in the United States after being brought to the country as children, and who had been granted exemption from deportation under the Barack Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; and LB610 increased the tax on gasoline to pay for repairs to roads and bridges.[35][36][37] Groene voted against the death-penalty repeal, and to sustain Ricketts's veto of the measure;[38] he voted against passage of LB623, and to sustain the gubernatorial veto;[39] and he voted against passage of the gas-tax increase, and to sustain the veto.[40]

2016 session

In its 2016 session, the Nebraska legislature passed three bills that Ricketts then vetoed. LB580 would have created an independent commission of citizens to draw new district maps following censuses; supporters described it as an attempt to de-politicize the redistricting process, while Ricketts maintained that the bill delegated the legislature's constitutional duty of redistricting to "an unelected and unaccountable board".[41][42] In the bill's 29–15 passage, Groene voted against it, stating "Politicians are giving more and more authority to un-elected appointed commissions to avoid having to take a stand on issues."[43][44] Sponsor John Murante opted not to seek an override of the governor's veto.[45]

A second vetoed bill, LB935, would have changed state audit procedures. The bill passed by a margin of 37–8, with 4 present and not voting; Groene was one of those voting against it, on the grounds that an amendment to the bill had made it more difficult for citizens to monitor spending by state employees and elected officials. The bill was withdrawn without an attempt to override the veto; the state auditor agreed to work with the governor on a new version for the next year's session.[41][43][46]

A third bill passed over Ricketts's veto. LB947 made DACA beneficiaries eligible for commercial and professional licenses in Nebraska. The bill passed the Legislature on a vote of 33–11–5, with Groene among those voting against it; the veto override passed 31–13–5, with Groene again casting a nay vote. Groene stated that his opposition arose from the belief that illegal immigrants "cheat the system and jump the line", and should not be rewarded for this misconduct.[43][47][48]

The legislature failed to pass LB10, greatly desired by the Republican Party, which would have restored Nebraska to a winner-take-all scheme of allocating its electoral votes in U.S. presidential elections, rather than continuing its practice of awarding the electoral vote for each congressional district to the candidate who received the most votes in that district. Supporters were unable to break a filibuster; in the 32–17 cloture motion, Groene was among those who voted in favor of the bill.[49][50]

Controversy

Senator Groene is known for unguarded remarks toward constituents and his colleagues in the Legislature, including insults and vulgar hand gestures.[5][51] He has described this behavior as a "push against the wall tactic" he considers successful when an opponent has "lost it".[52]

Intentionally contracting COVID

Groene opposes measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and stated that he wanted to become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He successfully contracted COVID in October 2020.[53] Groene personally insulted his constituents who contacted him in disagreement with his response to the pandemic and his desire to become infected. Groene called constituents "stupid," "fanatic," and "pathetic" because of their opinion that the virus should be controlled. Because constituents were confused about where to complain about Groene's insults, the Lincoln Journal Star printed guidance on the topic.[54]

Religion useful to "keep people in line"

During a 2019 hearing about a bill mandating the phrase "In God We Trust" be displayed in every classroom in Nebraska, Groene stated that fear of Hell and fear of God are useful to "keep people in line." He felt that atheists should promote religion because, in his view, religion is useful to control people and to make children obedient.[55]

Atheists criticized Groene's statement, including blogger Hemant Mehta who called it a "startling admission" of the way conservative politicians use religion to manipulate people.[56]

Horse massage

Groene attracted nationwide attention with a bill to deregulate massage therapy for horses and other equines in 2018.[57] A woman contacted Groene criticizing him for spending time on the horse massage bill, which she considered frivolous, rather than a bill to place social workers in schools. Groene responded crudely to her, saying that "asses" are equines so the woman should seek an equine massage. A "social media firestorm" occurred in response to Groene's words, according to local media.[5]

References

  1. ^ a b c "Sen. Mike Groene—Biography". Nebraska Legislature. Retrieved June 7, 2015. Archived June 7, 2015 at Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Hicks, Nancy. "Groene devotes energy to SOS campaign". Lincoln Journal Star. September 8, 2006. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  3. ^ CCTA Journal, Spring 2012. Colorado Conservation Tillage Association. See advertisement for Brothers Equipment Inc., bottom of p. 7. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  4. ^ Brothers Equipment, Inc., and subpages thereof. Retrieved June 7, 2015. Archived December 17, 2014 at Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b c Young, JoAnne. "Nebraska state senator's email response stirs up social media firestorm. Lincoln Journal Star. April 14, 2018. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  6. ^ Reed, Leslie. "Spending cap proposal earns spot on ballot". Omaha World-Herald. August 12, 2006.
  7. ^ Tysver, Robynn. "Farm Bureau opposes spending lid proposal". Omaha World-Herald. September 9, 2006.
  8. ^ Cordes, Henry J. "Battle over spending lid heats up". Omaha World-Herald. October 13, 2006.
  9. ^ Cordes, Henry J. "Lid foes also draw on out-of-state donations". Omaha World-Herald. November 1, 2006.
  10. ^ "Nebraska Election 2006: Official General Election Results: Initiative measures: Measure Number 423". Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  11. ^ Lindenberger, John. "Groene files for board of governors". North Platte Telegraph. February 18, 2006. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  12. ^ "Nebraska Election 2006: Official General Election Results: Member of Board of Governors Mid-Plains Community College". Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved June 7, 2015. Archived January 1, 2011 at Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Wetzel, Diane. "Former guardsman is now leader of think tank". North Platte Telegraph. February 11, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  14. ^ Duggan, Joe. "After failed tuneup in 2006, Pete Ricketts says he's road-tested and ready to lead". Omaha World-Herald. October 19, 2014. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  15. ^ "Platte Institute Unveiled". Archived April 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Platte Institute for Economic Research. Press release, February 3, 2008. Retrieved June 7, 2015. Archived April 18, 2015 at Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ a b "Groene Announces Run for District 42 Senate Seat". North Platte Telegraph. February 28, 2014. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  17. ^ "Legislative District 42 - LB703 (2011)". Nebraska Legislature. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  18. ^ a b "2014 Candidate Guidebook" Archived March 3, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, p. 18. Nebraska Rural Electric Association. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  19. ^ a b Lauby, George. "Legislative candidates: Lower taxes, care for needy, find ideas". North Platte Bulletin. May 11, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  20. ^ a b Fleig, Shelby. "Nebraska Legislature: Water issues, local control top concerns in rural District 42". Omaha World-Herald. May 2, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  21. ^ "Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: Primary Election, May 13, 2014", p. 37. Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  22. ^ Johnson, Heather. "Legislative race". North Platte Telegraph. May 14, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  23. ^ "Michael Groene for Legislature", general statement 10/21/2014–12/31/2014. Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Retrieved April 29, 2016. See "Financial Summary" tab for overall numbers; "Schedule A" for contributions by individuals; "Schedule B" for contributions by businesses and organizations.
  24. ^ a b Lauby, George. "Paulman: Heavily invested in his campaign". North Platte Bulletin. October 29, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  25. ^ "Roric Paulman for Legislature", general statement 10/21/2014–12/31/2014. Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Retrieved April 29, 2016. See "Financial Summary" tab for overall numbers; "Schedule A" for contributions by individuals; "Schedule B" for contributions by businesses and organizations; "Schedule C" for loans.
  26. ^ Johnson, Heather. "Nebraska Legislative District 42 candidates on same path, diverge on issues". Omaha World-Herald. October 19, 2014. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  27. ^ "Supporters". Roric Paulman for Legislature. Archived October 31, 2014, from original.
  28. ^ "Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: General Election, November 4, 2014" Archived January 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, p. 22. Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved 2015-05-20.
  29. ^ Walton, Don. "Groene: 'I'm just a guy who speaks up'". Lincoln Journal Star. February 16, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  30. ^ "2015 Legislative Committees". Nebraska Legislature. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  31. ^ Knapp, Fred. "Meningitis Vaccination Mandate Fails In Legislature". NET. February 12, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  32. ^ Pluhacek, Zach. "Freshman senator leads filibuster of Nebraska vaccine bill". Lincoln Journal Star. February 11, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  33. ^ Lauby, George. "Groene leads filibuster, stops renewable energy tax credits". North Platte Bulletin. May 5, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  34. ^ Stoddard, Martha. "Filibuster kills proposed tax credits for wind farms, other renewable energy facilities". Omaha World-Herald. May 6, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  35. ^ a b Knapp, Fred. "2015 Legislature Leaves Its Mark On Nebraska". NET (Nebraska public radio and television). June 3, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  36. ^ Walton, Don. "Senators override Ricketts' veto of Dreamers licenses". Lincoln Journal Star. May 28, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  37. ^ Pluhacek, Zach. "Gas tax hike gets Nebraska lawmakers' OK, governor's veto". Lincoln Journal Star. May 7, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  38. ^ "Legislative Journal, One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session". Nebraska Legislature. Vote on final reading of LB268 is at pp. 1738–39; override of veto is at pp. 1896–98. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  39. ^ "Legislative Journal, One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session". Nebraska Legislature. Vote on final reading of LB623 is at pp. 1791–92; override of veto is at pp. 1930–32. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  40. ^ "Legislative Journal, One Hundred Fourth Legislature, First Session". Nebraska Legislature. Vote on final reading of LB610 is at p. 1500; override of veto is at p. 1623. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  41. ^ a b Matheny, Ryan. "Nebraska legislators wrap up 2016 session". KMA. April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  42. ^ Nohr, Emily. "'Unconstitutional, unelected and unaccountable': Ricketts vetoes bill to revamp how political maps are drawn". Omaha World-Herald. April 18, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  43. ^ a b c Groene, Mike. "Home District Column 4/27/2016". Archived April 29, 2016, from original.
  44. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". Archived April 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine p. 1622. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  45. ^ "Independent redistricting commission vetoed, no override attempt offered". Unicameral Update. April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  46. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". Archived April 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine pp. 1579–80. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  47. ^ Duggan, Joe. "Legislature to vote on overriding veto on bill that would allow work licenses for those brought to U.S. illegally as kids". Omaha World-Herald. April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  48. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". Archived April 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Passage of LB947 is on p. 1614; the veto override is on pp. 1637–38. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  49. ^ Stoddard, Martha. "Bill to return Nebraska to winner-take-all Electoral College method comes up short". Omaha World-Herald. April 13, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  50. ^ "Legislative Journal: Carryover Legislation". Archived April 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine p. 1591. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  51. ^ Grant, Madeleine (July 28, 2020). "Legislative session descends into controversies". Norfolk Daily News. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  52. ^ Massey, Max (February 1, 2017). "Emails surface showing Senator's heated words". 10/11 Now. Gray Media. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  53. ^ Young, JoAnne (November 10, 2020). "'I finally got my wish': Sen. Groene, who wants herd immunity, catches coronavirus". Omaha World Herald. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  54. ^ Young, JoAnne (November 17, 2020). "State senator called Omaha woman a fanatic and stupid; where to complain?". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  55. ^ "Education Committee January 22, 2019" (PDF). Nebraska Legislature. Clerk of the Legislature Transcribers Office. January 22, 2019. p. 59. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  56. ^ Mehta, Hemant (February 14, 2019). "Nebraska Lawmaker: Atheists Should Promote Religion Since It Keeps Us "In Line"". Friendly Atheist. Patheos. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  57. ^ Sibilla, Nick (April 23, 2018). "Nebraska Stops Horsing Around, Legalizes Massage Therapy For Horses". Forbes. Retrieved November 18, 2020.

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