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Today the Legislature is finishing up two weeks of all day committee hearings. Holding full days of hearings is not customary practice but was implemented this session to assess how best to use the Legislature’s limited time. At the beginning of a session, bills are going through the committee process and there are very few items reported to the floor and available for debate. This results in idle time at the start of a session and long days at the end as we scramble to accomplish as much as we can before adjourning for the year. Next week the Legislature will resume its traditional schedule of floor debate in the mornings and public hearings in the afternoon.
While it remains to be seen if this experiment provides more time for valuable floor debate, during these first few weeks of public hearings, the standing committees of the Legislature have heard an unprecedented number of bills. By the end of today, 309 different measures will have been the subject of a hearing, open for public testimony. Some of these hearings brought out hundreds of citizens to the State Capitol, with senators receiving public input through the lunch hour and late into the evenings. In addition to in-person testimony, comments on these bills submitted through the Legislature’s online comment option have totaled more than 9,000. Nebraskans are engaged and the Legislature is listening.