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With 59 legislative days complete, the 104th Nebraska Legislature is quickly coming to a conclusion. The session has addressed issues spanning from property taxes to electoral mechanics to many of the usual social issues. The two legislative days of this past week involved Final Reading of a large number of bills. Those bills that passed Final Reading have been presented to the Governor for his signature or veto. The final day schedule will be determined in large part by any vetoes that result.
The final weeks of the legislative session were marked by debate on many of the more controversial issues. Since this is a short session limited to 60 days, time frequently becomes as much of a talking point as the legislation at hand. With many senators having bills of their own on the agenda, the priority of moving through the agenda at times seemed to supersede the need to adequately discuss some complex issues on the floor.
Policy debate arises from conflicting ideas and points of view. Whether the differences in perspective arise from rural versus urban, conservative or liberal, or even time served in the Legislature, those distinctions are essential to developing the best policy for all citizens of the state. A robust, civil, and fact-based debate is important to the legislative process. There have been multiple times the past few weeks where important discussions were abbreviated for the sake of time. I frequently weighed the merits of time in my own decision to hit my light and engage in floor debate. In the end, I am concerned that several issues did not receive a thorough vetting of the entire proposal before being passed simply in favor of moving forward on the list of bills.
In conjunction with many of the more controversial legislative issues came an onslaught of uncivil, and, at times, vitriolic communication to my office. Proponents of medical marijuana, LGBT issues, illegal immigration and even Medicaid expansion felt that insults and threats were the appropriate response to my votes on those issues. In most cases, they did not even address my floor statements or rationale for my vote. Rather, the approach was to impugn my character and make conjecture about my motives. Nebraska Farmer’s Union even went so far as to falsely state to their supporters I had accepted a campaign contribution from Smithfield Foods, which I did not. It is impossible to have a productive discussion about what policy is best for the state when truth and facts don’t matter. I do not seriously consider points of view presented to me that are rude, not based in fact, or disparaging. Complex issues demand an equally thorough discussion, not mud-slinging and political gamesmanship.
In the coming weeks I will address in greater detail many of the issues faced during the session and what may develop for the next session. In the meantime, the final day remains. As always, I value your questions on legislation. You can reach my office at 402-471-2732 or email at email@example.com. For updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38