Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Heineman's "Objectionable" Approach to the Politics of Prostitution

by Kyle Michaelis
At the close of the 2006 legislative session, I wrote the following about LB 1086:
I'm not defending prostitution, but making hiring a prostitute a felony (on the second offense) is just plain ridiculous. Prostitution is not a good thing, but it does not rise up to the level of social ill that the sad and pathetic individuals on either end of the "transaction" should be considered felons. Shameful and stupid - most shameful of all was that [Gov. Dave] Heineman signed the felony provision into law but vetoed the spending ($1.5 million) to actually help prostitutes get off drugs and off the streets. What a moron.

In response to my questioning of this "get tough" scheme, an anonymous reader defended the underlying legislation while heaping even greater disdain upon Heineman's childish and short-sighted decision to with-hold state funding:
That Heineman vetoed the treatment dollars and merely referred to all actors in this exploitive situation as "criminals" shows him to be a callous man with either a shallow ability to understand complex issues or one who doesn't understand that "being tough on crime" and just locking people up is a political position which doesn't actually benefit society.

Well, it took about 45 days, but it seems the Editorial Board of the Omaha World-Herald finally caught up with the above sentiments and found space to actually call Heineman out for his needless politicization of this issue:
LB 1086 addressed intervention, treatment and education of prostitutes. Once up for final approval, the bill passed 38-3. Approval for the measure's appropriation bill was 35-6.

Unfortunately, Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed the funding for the measure. He termed the funding to be an "objectionable" use, vetoing in April the $1.5 million needed to execute the program over two years. The money would have been distributed to regional behavioral health authorities in areas with high incidence of prostitution.....

Supporting treatment for one ailment, such as meth addiction, and ignoring another, such as prostitution, is illogical, even contradictory, given their inherent ties.

The program that [State Sen. John] Synowiecki worked so hard to promote, and that so many Nebraskans stepped forward to endorse and implement, would have provided an encouraging opportunity to break a revolving door that wreaks havoc on so many throughout the community, including the prostitutes themselves....

The dedication that so many people have devoted to this issue should not be applied in vain.

Considering that Heineman's decision to politicize this issue is the primary reason for this legislation's failure, it's unfortunate that he is not more expressly called-to-task for his illogical choice. By making the moral judgment that prostitutes should not receive assistance breaking free from drug use and a life of crime, Heineman has so clearly sacrificed responsible public policy on an altar of "get tough" rhetoric that it is an outright embarrassment.

How sad to witness this Heineman attempt to pony-up to religious voters by abandoning any claim to Christian ideas of charity and forgiveness. In a political climate where few have the courage to speak-up for the safety and well-being of so low a class of people as prostitutes, Heineman has surely plummeted to a new low himself by singling out these least among us for scorn.


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