OMAHA, NE – New members of the Nebraska Unicameral were sworn in today, marking the beginning of the new session on the Nebraska Legislature, the 103rd Legislature to be exact. If you haven’t paid attention to Legislative news in Nebraska before, the beginning of a new session is always a good time to start! Laws passed in the Unicameral affect you just as much as laws passed by Congress or your local City Council. Here is a link to a PDF with pictures of all the state senators and their contact information.
One of the first things the new session does is elect the Unicam’s Speaker and Committee Chairs. The non-partisan Unicameral is composed of 30 Republicans, 17 Democrats and 2 Independents, with 11 newly elected members. Despite a Republican majority, many of the Committee Chairs went to Democrats.
Expect some fireworks this year during the legislative session. Ernie Chambers, the longest serving State Senator in Nebraska history is coming back to a legislature with even less experienced State Senators than when he left it. Also, expect a broad spectrum of issues to be tackled this session, from voter ID, to states taxes, political campaigns and college tuition. In December 2012, Jeremy Nordquist (LD7) held a Judiciary committee meeting in Omaha about the need for legislation to study LGBT issues in Nebraska. Nordquist, a Democrat, indicated he would like to cover LGBT issues during his second term in the Unicameral.
Among other issues to be covered this session, State Senator Brad Ashford is proposing a separate juvenile justice agency. Ashford, who represents an Omaha LD, told the OWH “the state’s current system of handling troubled youths is broken and failing to stem street violence.” Governor Dave Heineman wants to freeze tuition in the state, as well as lower or eliminate some state taxes. State Senators Steve Lathrop and Bill Avery have plans for legislation that will cover issues concerning political campaign financing. Lathrop, specifically, wants to introduce a bill that would require non-profits to report money spent on political ads, an article worth the read.
Sounds like our State Senators have their work cut out for them. Expect some fireworks this session, the legislature is expected to act more independent of what the Governor wants and with Ernie Chambers back in Lincoln, well, get your popcorn ready for a show.