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Our first day back to the work of serving our districts and our Great State of Nebraska in the Legislature has arrived. This begins the first session of a two-year biennium. If you did not attend, watch online or on NET2, each day of session is recorded into a daily “Legislative Journal,” which read: “Pursuant to the provisions of Article III, Section 10 of the Constitution of Nebraska, the One Hundred Fifth Legislature, First Session of the Legislature of Nebraska, assembled in the George W. Norris Legislative Chamber of the State Capitol at the hour of 10:00 a.m., on Wednesday, January 4, 2017, and was called to order by President Foley.”
Due to term limits, this is my final two years as your state senator. We opened the session with prayer offered by Senator Kolterman, followed by the Presentation of Colors and a Call to Order; there was a Quorum (majority of the body) present. The task was to call for an appointment of Temporary Officers (Clerk, Sgt. at Arms). The motion prevailed.
It was my honor to move the motion that “we proceed to the election of five persons to serve as the Committee on Credentials.” They report to the Legislature on the “credentials of those claiming to be elected to the Legislature in the General Election in November 2016.” John Gale, Secretary of State, ceremoniously carries in a box of certified election results and verifies that “the attached is a true and correct copy of the Official Roster of members of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature elected or appointed to serve in the One Hundred Fifth Legislature, First Session, 2017.”
The election of a new speaker took place; Senator Jim Scheer of Norfolk prevailed. When elections for committee chairs commenced, I was chosen to be the chairperson of the Agriculture Committee. It was a truly joyful, yet humble day to see the balcony and seats filled with many new faces. The press covered a few contentious moments on the floor as some, myself included, spoke freely about the need for transparency in voting with regard to electing our chairpersons. Many senators invoked arguments regarding the true nature of the Unicameral being, or no longer being, a nonpartisan institution. I found it surprising when those opposed to this transparency spoke of George Norris rolling over in his grave about this controversy, when in fact secret voting for chairmanships by the body of the Legislature began as recently as the 1970’s, several decades after Norris’s death. Certainly the life and principles of George Norris will be closely examined by many in the days that follow.
On Thursday and Friday we witnessed the swearing in ceremonies for the Chief Justice and new members of the Nebraska Supreme Court, Public Service Commission, State Board of Education Members and the Board of Regents; all of them take the same oath of office as every senator. We also began submitting new legislation to be entered into the record. Next week’s column will include bills I introduced.
Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of pervious office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.