(Note: February 20th is the official observation of President’s Day. The Legislature is not in session on Friday the 17th or Monday the 20th. Thank you.)
The week started with debate on the rules. Again. We continued most of the week debating the rules. Again. For thirty legislative days, senators have been debating primarily one proposed rule change, the cloture rule. Some may say the legislature is wasting time. But this debate goes to a fundamental core value of our Unicameral and our republic: the protection of the minority voice. The minority voice may – as history has shown – be conservative, be liberal, it may be rural, may be urban, it may be a coalition of several depending on the issue.
Over twenty years ago, senators put the existing cloture motion in place for a very good reason. Prior to that time, a senator could put any number of proposed amendments on a bill. This virtually insured the bill’s failure. There was no option to overcome this type of tactic. The cloture rule was adopted to protect a sponsor and supporters of a bill who wanted to see if the bill could garner enough support to end the filibuster. It also protected those who had serious opposition to an issue.
The existing cloture rule allows for a set time period of debate, historically six to eight hours for the first round of floor debate. Once the time allotment is met, and no resolution for agreement is in sight, the sponsor of the bill can move for a cloture vote. This means that all discussion ends, all pending amendments are set aside and a vote is taken to advance the bill. The existing rule requires 33 yes votes to cease debate and move directly to a vote of the bill – which then would only need 25 votes to advance.
I am against any major change to the cloture rule. One change I could have supported was offered by Senator Krist. It would have required a 2/3 vote of those present but not fewer than 30 votes.
Another proposal to the cloture rule would have lowered the affirmative votes to 30, and at the same time, 17 negative votes would be required. Placing the burden on the opposition to have 17 negative votes goes against all other votes taken in the legislature. No other vote requires a set number of negative votes. If a bill or motion fails to receive enough ‘yes’ votes, it fails. That should be the standard. If a senator is unable to convince his or her colleagues of the validity and necessity of a bill, then the bill should fail.
In the meantime, committee hearings are moving right along every afternoon as scheduled. Senator Sue Crawford of Bellevue introduced LB 97 creating the Riverfront Development District Act. The bill would allow a city of the metropolitan, primary, first or second class to create a riverfront development district to fund, manage, promote, and develop riverfronts within the city limits and may not extend beyond one-half mile from the edge of the river. The district would be managed by a riverfront development authority appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council. Rivers are defined within the bill as the Missouri, Platte, North Platte, South Platte, Republican, Niobrara, Loup, Elkhorn, North Loup, Middle Loup, South Loup, North Fork of the Elkhorn River and the Big Blue. This bill could provide a wonderful opportunity for cities to develop riverfront property. The bill was heard on February 14th and advanced by the committee and reported to General File on the 15th.
On Wednesday the 15th I had the opportunity to meet and speak to members of the Leadership Beatrice group. I spoke about my longtime respect for and appreciation of Nebraska’s unique non-partisan Unicameral. Beatrice has a bright future based on the people I met.
You can contact me with your issues and concerns at 402.471.2620 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Legislature’s website provides access to copies of all bills and a livestream of action on the floor and in committees: www.nebraskalegislature.gov.