The Nebraska legislature convened on Jan. 7 with a total of 18 new state senators arriving to take their place as representatives of their districts, along with a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and auditor. New faces bring many changes! Since Jan. 7, the Nebraska legislature has reviewed 663 bills, killed some, moved some and let others sit in committee. The Nebraska unicameral is a one-house system that requires each bill have a hearing, where each senator is allowed one priority bill, each committee is allowed two priority bills, and the speaker is allowed 25 priority bills. At this point, only those bills with a priority status will move forward and have a chance to become law. It’s a very reasonable method to bring the important issues to the top.
The learning curve is steep. New senators, for the most part, have done a good job of trying to learn everything they need to know without becoming overwhelmed. They put in long days, debating complex issues that evolve from day to day. Unfortunately, it appears the new way of doing business is to use what I call the “F” word: If a specific issue is not liked, the Filibuster is used. In times past, senators actually debated the issues, negotiated an outcome or came to a consensus, then took a vote when it appeared no more compromises were to be had. It was a great way to work through an issue and come out with legislation that worked. The new way of legislating is a disappointment because it is not about what is best for Nebraska, but more about how to stop a bill from moving forward if an individual doesn’t like the original bill.
We are over halfway through the 2015 session, and many of the more important issues have not yet been addressed. In this 90-day session, the legislature is scheduled to adjourn on June 5. There will be late nights where debate, or a “F”ilibuster will go into the evening hours. There will be contentious issues that have to be worked out and compromises made. While it has been defined as a “more conservative” body, not all of the votes indicate this legislature really is more conservative than that of 2014.
Nebraska’s unicameral, with one body of senators, was and is expected to be balanced by the citizens of the state of Nebraska. Citizens should take ownership of what is being discussed in our state capitol and should weigh in on those issues that are important to them. State senators listen to their constituents and heed their advice. I would encourage everyone to take part in the legislative process.
Nebraska Grocery Industry Association