NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Tom Brewer

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43

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10-15-2021 Weekly Update
October 19th, 2021

The Nebraska Legislature runs on a two-year cycle. The first session starts in odd-number years and is generally 90 legislative days long. The second session is generally 60 legislative days  and starts in even-numbered years. Right now, senators are preparing for the second session of the 107th Legislature. 

Second sessions are different from first sessions. There is no budget to debate in a second session. Although this year there will be a debate over how Nebraska will spend the $1.1B we have received from the federal government’s coronavirus relief fund. There are no rules to debate because they were adopted in the first session. There are no elections to hold as committee chair positions were filled in the first session of the two-year legislature.

First sessions begin with new bill introduction during the first ten days. Second sessions continue with additional bill introduction in the first ten days along with bills already on general file from the first session. There are 112 bills on general file right now. Some of them may be designated  priority bills by the senators and if so, could be heard on the floor very early next January. 

Second sessions are always right before an election and generally end sometime in April. The first of March is the deadline for registering to run for most elected offices, so during the second session is when we learn who is running to replace the term-limited senators. Given the many active political campaigns that are underway at that time, second sessions can become be more political.

Short sessions are generally not a good time to introduce a big, controversial bill. There simply isn’t enough time to navigate the politics necessary to get big idea bills out of committee, let alone passed on the floor during a second session. That said, there are a number of reasons why a senator introduces a bill. Passing it is just one reason. Second session bills are often introduced in order to get a “fiscal note” from our fiscal office. This is the cost to the taxpayers of implementing a bill. This can only be acquired by introducing a bill. There are no fiscal notes prepared for just ideas. Sometimes a senator will introduce a bill to see who shows up to testify in support or opposition during the hearing. 

Sometimes Senators introduce bills to begin the process of eating the elephant. The subject in question is far too big for just one bill. Perhaps three or four bills will be needed over the course of six or eight years. Having the benefit of experience, senior senators often start a campaign to make a major change in state law that will carry on long after they are gone. They understand better than most that “big idea” bills are things that will have to be done incrementally in the Nebraska legislature. There just isn’t the votes needed to do them in one big step. In our unicameral, first downs are often just as important as touchdowns.

Sen. Tom Brewer

District 43
Room 1423
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2628
Email: tbrewer@leg.ne.gov
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