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The fourth week of the 2016 Legislative Session continued the trend toward extended debate on several issues as they came before the entire unicameral body for debate. While some issues have failed to advance in the face of filibuster, others have narrowly advanced to the next round of debate.
During the past two weeks, several pieces of carryover legislation from the 2015 session were the focus of debate. Meningitis vaccination for young adults, expanded gambling, packer ownership of swine, statewide conformity in gun laws, and the age of eligibility for public office were all topics before the unicameral that encountered significant opposition and were subject to filibuster. Current unicameral protocol establishes the time period for debate on any bill to six hours on general file, four hours on select file, and two hours on final reading. At the conclusion of that time period, 33 votes are required to end debate, known as a “cloture motion”. If the cloture motion passes, the underlying bill is then voted on by the body, with a simple majority of 25 votes required for advancement. If the cloture motion fails, the bill is pulled from the agenda and effectively killed for the rest of the legislative session. In practice, it only takes 17 of the 49 senators willing to sustain debate on a bill throughout the time period and vote nay on cloture to kill a bill.
The comparison between making sausage and the legislative process is not inaccurate. From idea to introduced bill, throughout the committee process, to debate and amendment on the floor, most legislation is the result of a continual cycle of discussion and revision. Few bills or policies are perfect in their entirety. As your representative, my job is to get the best legislation possible to represent the interests of District 38, as well as Nebraska. The process is fluid and dynamic, and an amendment can make a bill I oppose something I can support, or can have the reverse effect. In the end, legislating is more than just “stopping” a bill—it is a process of working with my colleagues from all districts in the state to develop a law that represents the interests of all Nebraskans. When the vote is called, I have only two options before me, yes or no, despite how many issues may be contained in the bill.
While filibusters are an important tool in the legislative process, they are not a replacement for productive discussion and cooperation among stakeholders. Compromise is not necessarily a sign of weakness, but can also be a means of advocating for a core value. As the session continues, I encourage all voters to carefully read the bills before the legislature and follow the debate. Your input and perspective is critical as I make the daily choice of when to stand firm, when compromise is necessary to achieve the goal, and when to let an issue go. To provide input on any bill, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 402-471-2732 or email at email@example.com. For daily updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38