John S. McCollister
|Member of the Nebraska Legislature|
from the 20th district
|Assumed office |
January 16, 2015
|Preceded by||Brad Ashford|
|Born||April 29, 1947|
Moline, Illinois, U.S.
|Residence||Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.|
|Alma mater||University of Nebraska (B.S.)|
|Profession||Nonprofit organization manager|
John S. McCollister (born April 29, 1947) is a politician from the state of Nebraska in the Midwestern United States. In 2014, he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, representing an Omaha district. McCollister is a member of the Republican Party who describes his political orientation as "center-right".
Personal life and professional career
McCollister was born April 29, 1947, in Moline, Illinois. His grandfather, John M. McCollister, had founded McCollister & Co., an industrial-lubricants business, in 1931. At the time of McCollister's birth, his father, John Y. McCollister, worked in sales for IBM in Illinois and in Iowa. In 1953, John Y. moved to Omaha to join his father at McCollister & Co.
In 1966, McCollister graduated from Westside High School in Omaha. He attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, receiving a B.S. in business administration in 1971, and went to work at McCollister & Co. He remained with the company until 2006, when it was sold to farm cooperative Growmark.
McCollister married Deborah Way in 1971; the couple raised three children.
McCollister's father embarked upon a political career in 1965, when he began serving on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. In 1970, he defeated seven-term incumbent Glenn Cunningham in the Republican primary for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, then won the general election; he remained in the House until 1977. In 1976, he ran for the U.S. Senate, but lost in the general election to Omaha mayor Ed Zorinsky.
In 2008, McCollister ran as the Republican candidate for a seat on the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which regulates, inter alia, railroads, major utility lines, and passenger carriers in the state; he sought to unseat the incumbent, Democrat Anne Boyle. McCollister stated that cell-phone bills in Nebraska were too high, and called for reductions in state taxes on telephone service; Boyle maintained that the existing taxes were necessary to provide affordable service to rural areas, and to make it possible to establish the geographic origins of cell-phone calls to emergency number 911. The two candidates together spent over $120,000 for their campaigns, setting a record for spending in a Public Service Commission race. In the general election, Boyle won with 61.8% of the vote to McCollister's 33.4% and Green Party candidate Doug Paterson's 4.9%.
In early 2009, McCollister was named executive director of the Platte Institute for Economic Research, a nonprofit organization often described as "conservative", and self-described as "Nebraska's first Free Market think tank". He held that position for nearly four years.
In late 2013, McCollister announced that he would run for the Nebraska Legislature from south central Omaha's 20th District. The incumbent, Brad Ashford, was precluded by Nebraska's term-limits law from running for a third consecutive term; he subsequently announced that he would run as a Democrat for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the nonpartisan primary, McCollister faced two registered Democrats: Matt Lathrop, an Omaha trial lawyer, whose brother, Steve Lathrop, then represented another Omaha district in the state legislature; and Laura Baumgartner, a 25-year-old project manager for an Omaha advertising agency. When the primary election was held, McCollister received 3389 votes, or 49.5% of the total; Lathrop, 2227 votes, or 32.5%; and Baumgartner, 1232 votes, or 18.0%.
As the top two vote-getters, McCollister and Lathrop moved on to the general election. Both candidates expressed concern about the growth of partisanship in the officially nonpartisan legislature; both stated that high taxes were a concern; both asserted that it was necessary to adequately fund education; and both favored prison- and sentencing reform. McCollister declared that the legislature needed more businessmen and fewer lawyers; Lathrop maintained that his training in mediation would help him to find satisfactory compromises between conflicting interests.
Both campaigns spent in excess of $100,000. McCollister's organization raised about $150,000 and spent about $185,000; major contributors included the Nebraska Bankers, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Lathrop campaign raised about $154,000, and spent about $146,000; his principal contributor was the Nebraska State Education Association, which yielded over $25,000 in cash and in-kind contributions; other significant contributors included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Nebraska Association of Trial Lawyers, the United Transportation Union, and Firefighters for Better Government. The Nebraska Realtors PAC contributed to both candidates: $4000 to McCollister and $2000 to Lathrop.
Turnout for the general election was about twice that of the primary. McCollister won, with 6409 votes, or 52.1% of the total; Lathrop obtained 5898 votes, or 47.9%.
In the 2015 session of the legislature, McCollister was named vice chair of the Urban Affairs Committee; he was also seated on the Business and Labor Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.
Among the "most significant" 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. McCollister voted in favor of the death-penalty repeal, and to override Ricketts's veto of the measure; he voted to pass LB623, and then to override the gubernatorial veto; and he voted for the gas-tax increase, then to override that veto.
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". McCollister voted for the bill in its 29–15–5 passage. Sponsor John Murante opted not to seek an override of the governor's veto.
A second vetoed bill, LB935, would have changed state audit procedures. The bill passed by a margin of 37–8–4; McCollister was listed as "present and not voting". 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.
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; the veto override passed 31–13–5. McCollister voted for the bill at its passage, and for the override of Ricketts's veto.
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, McCollister was among those who voted in favor of the bill.
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