Nebraska Legislature

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"The Unicameral" redirects here. For the general concept, see Unicameralism. For other uses, see Unicameral (disambiguation).
Nebraska State Legislature
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
Term limits
2 consecutive terms
History
New session started
January 4, 2017
Leadership
Speaker of the Legislature
Jim Scheer
Since January 4, 2017
Structure
Seats 49
Political groups
Nonpartisan (49)
Length of term
4 years
Authority Article III, Nebraska Constitution
Salary $12,000/year + per diem
Elections
Last election
November 8, 2016
(25 seats)
Next election
November 6, 2018
(24 seats)
Redistricting Legislative control
Website
Nebraska State Legislature
The legislature convenes at the Nebraska State Capitol.

The Nebraska Legislature (also called "the Unicameral")[1] is the supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska. Its members are "senators." The legislature is officially unicameral and nonpartisan, making Nebraska unique among U.S. states; no other state has either a unicameral or a nonpartisan legislative body. With 49 members, it is also the smallest legislature of any U.S. state.

History[edit]

The First Nebraska Territorial Legislature met in Omaha in 1855, staying there until statehood was granted in 1867.[2] Nebraska originally operated under a bicameral legislature, but over time dissatisfaction with the bicameral system grew. Bills were lost because the two houses could not agree on a single version. Conference committees that formed to merge the two bills coming out of each chamber often met in secret, and thus were unaccountable for their actions. Campaigns to consolidate the Nebraska Legislature into a single chamber date back as early as 1913, meeting with mixed success.[3]

After a trip to Australia in 1931, George Norris, then U.S. Senator for Nebraska, campaigned for reform, arguing that the bicameral system was based on the non-democratic British House of Lords, and that it was pointless to have two bodies of people doing the same thing and hence wasting money. He specifically pointed to the example of the Australian state of Queensland, which had adopted a unicameral parliament nearly ten years before. In 1934, voters approved a constitutional amendment to take effect with the 1936 elections, abolishing the House of Representatives and granting its powers to the Senate. The amendment was based on a bill to establish a unicameral legislature that had been introduced years earlier by Nebraska legislator and later U.S. Congressman John Nathaniel Norton.[citation needed]

Many possible reasons for the 1934 amendment's victory have been advanced: the popularity of George Norris; the Depression-era desire to cut costs; public dissatisfaction with the previous year's legislature; or even the fact that, by chance, it was on the ballot in the same year as an amendment to legalize parimutuel betting on horse races.[4] This latter coincidence may have aided the measure's passage in Omaha, where the unicameral issue was not a pressing one but horse racing was. (Gambling interests campaigned for "yes" votes on all amendments in hopes of assuring the horse-racing amendment's passage.)

The new unicameral Legislature met for the first time in 1937. Though the name of the body is formally the "Nebraska Legislature", its members are commonly referred to as "senators". In Nebraska, the Legislature is also often known as "the Unicameral".

Selection, composition and operation[edit]

The Legislature is composed of forty-nine members, chosen by a single-member district or constituency. Senators are chosen for four-year terms, with one-half of the seats up for election every second year. In effect, this results in half the chamber being elected at the same time as the President of the United States, and the other half elected at the same time as other statewide elections. Senators must be qualified voters who are at least 21 years old and have lived in the district they wish to represent for at least one year. A constitutional amendment passed in 2000 limits senators to two consecutive terms. However, a former senator is re-eligible for election after four years. Senators receive $12,000 a year.

Members are selected in nonpartisan elections. Rather than separate primaries held to choose Republican, Democratic, and other partisan contenders for a seat, Nebraska uses a single nonpartisan primary election, in which the top two vote-getters are entitled to run in the general election. There are no formal party alignments or groups within the Legislature. Coalitions tend to form issue by issue based on a member's philosophy of government, geographic background, and constituency. However, almost all the members of the legislature are known to be either Democrats or Republicans, and the state branches of both parties explicitly endorse candidates for legislative seats.[5] As an illustration of how partisanship can intrude upon the officially nonpartisan chamber, in January 2010 it was reported that the Legislature debated whether or not there was partisanship in Legislature, and "then finished the talk with a vote that followed party lines."[6]

Sessions of the Nebraska Legislature last for 90 working days in odd-numbered years and 60 working days in even-numbered years.

Chair[edit]

The Lieutenant Governor is the official presiding officer. However, the highest position among the actual members is the Speaker, who presides over the Legislature in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor.

Executive Board[edit]

The day-to-day matters of the body are dealt with by the Executive Board. The Board includes the Speaker, a chairman, a vice chairman, and six other senators. The chairman and vice chairman are chosen for two year terms by the entire legislature. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee serves, but cannot vote on any matter, and can only speak on fiscal matters.

Caucuses[edit]

Senators are classified into three geographically based "caucuses"; each caucus elects two board members.

General powers[edit]

The Legislature is responsible for law-making in the state, but the Governor has the power to veto any bill. The Legislature may override the governor's veto by a vote of three-fifths (30) of its members. The Legislature also has the power, by a three-fifths vote, to propose a constitutional amendment to the voters, who then pass or reject it through a referendum.

Membership[edit]

Note: The Nebraska Legislature is legally nonpartisan; members' party affiliations are for informational purposes only.
Republican-affiliated: 32 members
Democratic-affiliated: 14 members
Libertarian-affiliated: 1 member
No political affiliation: 1 member
Vacant seats: 1 unfilled seat

District Representative Party affiliation Residence Took office
1 Watermeier, DanDan Watermeier Republican Syracuse 2013
2 Vacant[a] N/A N/A N/A
3 Blood, CarolCarol Blood Democratic Bellevue 2017
4 Hilkemann, RobertRobert Hilkemann Republican Omaha 2015
5 McDonnell, MikeMike McDonnell Democratic Omaha 2017
6 Craighead, JoniJoni Craighead Republican Omaha 2015
7 Vargas, TonyTony Vargas Democratic Omaha 2017
8 Harr, BurkeBurke Harr Democratic Omaha 2011
9 Howard, SaraSara Howard Democratic Omaha 2013
10 Krist, BobBob Krist Republican Omaha 2009[b]
11 Chambers, ErnieErnie Chambers Independent Omaha 2013[c]
12 Riepe, MervMerv Riepe Republican Ralston 2015
13 Wayne, JustinJustin Wayne Democratic Omaha 2017
14 Smith, JimJim Smith Republican Papillion 2011
15 Walz, LynneLynne Walz Democratic Scribner 2017
16 Brasch, LydiaLydia Brasch Republican Bancroft 2011
17 Albrecht, JoniJoni Albrecht Republican Hoskins 2017
18 Lindstrom, BrettBrett Lindstrom Republican Omaha 2015
19 Scheer, JimJim Scheer Republican Norfolk 2013
20 McCollister, John S.John S. McCollister Republican Omaha 2015
21 Hilgers, MikeMike Hilgers Republican Malcolm 2017
22 Schumacher, PaulPaul Schumacher Republican Columbus 2011
23 Bostelman, BruceBruce Bostelman Republican Wahoo 2017
24 Kolterman, MarkMark Kolterman Republican Seward 2015
25 Geist, SuzanneSuzanne Geist Republican Lincoln 2017
26 Hansen, MattMatt Hansen Democratic Lincoln 2015
27 Wishart, AnnaAnna Wishart Democratic Lincoln 2017
28 Brooks, Patty PansingPatty Pansing Brooks Democratic Lincoln 2015
29 Bolz, KateKate Bolz Democratic Lincoln 2013
30 Baker, RoyRoy Baker Republican Lincoln 2015
31 Kolowski, RickRick Kolowski Democratic Omaha 2013
32 Ebke, LauraLaura Ebke Libertarian Crete 2015
33 Halloran, SteveSteve Halloran Republican Hastings 2017
34 Friesen, CurtCurt Friesen Republican Henderson 2015
35 Quick, DanDan Quick Democratic Grand Island 2017
36 Williams, MattMatt Williams Republican Lexington 2015
37 Lowe, JohnJohn Lowe Republican Kearney 2017
38 Kuehn, JohnJohn Kuehn Republican Heartwell 2015
39 Linehan, Lou AnnLou Ann Linehan Republican Omaha 2017
40 Larson, TysonTyson Larson Republican O'Neill 2011
41 Briese, TomTom Briese Republican Cedar Rapids 2017
42 Groene, MikeMike Groene Republican North Platte 2015
43 Brewer, TomTom Brewer Republican Hyannis 2017
44 Hughes, DanDan Hughes Republican Venango 2015
45 Crawford, SueSue Crawford Democratic Bellevue 2013
46 Morfeld, AdamAdam Morfeld Democratic Lincoln 2015
47 Erdman, SteveSteve Erdman Republican Ogallala 2017
48 Stinner, JohnJohn Stinner Republican Gering 2015
49 Murante, JohnJohn Murante Republican Gretna 2013
  1. ^ Sen. Bill Kintner (R-Papillion) resigned (effective January 30th, 2017) amidst controversy. Gov. Pete Ricketts will appoint a replacement to serve until after the 2018 statewide elections.
  2. ^ Appointed in 2009 to fill vacancy from Mike Friend's resignation. Krist's short term from this appointment does not count towards the term limit.
  3. ^ Second legislative stint. Chambers previously served from 1971–2009, prior to the introduction of term limits.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ LTC. "Nebraska Legislature - About the Legislature". 
  2. ^ "More about Nebraska statehood, the location of the capital, and the story of the commissioner's homes", Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 12/14/08.
  3. ^ Michael S. Dulaney, J.D., Ph.D., Executive Director, Nebraska Council of School Administrators. "The Nebraska Legislature: A Brief History". Retrieved 2008-09-07.  [dead link]
  4. ^ Berens, Charlene (2004). Power to the People: Social Choice and the Populist/Progressive Ideal. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-7618-2763-4. 
  5. ^ See, e.g., lists of endorsed candidates for the Legislature on the webpages of both the Nebraska Democratic Party and the Nebraska Republican Party.
  6. ^ "Is There A Partisan or Non-Partisan Legislature in NE?", wowt.com, 2010-01-28.

External links[edit]