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Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor to represent the people of the 47th legislative district in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.
You’ll find my contact information on the right side of this page, as well as a list of the bills I’ve introduced this session and the committees on which I serve. Please feel free to contact me and my staff about proposed legislation or any other issues you would like to address.
Sen. Steve Erdman
What value is there in a college education today? Where can a student go today for higher education which isn’t laced with Left-wing propaganda such as Critical Race Theory? Nebraska’s state’s colleges and universities are now devolving at an alarming rate. Many Nebraskans now believe there may be more hope for the Cornhuskers to play in a bowl game this year than for our own colleges and universities to recover their good names and reputations.
Last week Gov. Pete Ricketts announced publicly that he has lost all faith in UNL Chancellor, Ronnie Green. Gov. Ricketts drew this conclusion after he was misled by the Chancellor about a document that emerged at the University flowing out of an 18-month long equity and diversity study conducted by students and faculty at UNL. After the Chancellor reported how the Governor supported the study, Gov. Ricketts responded at a press conference saying, “What the University is talking about is giving unqualified people jobs based on their skin color…and [Ronnie Green] did not tell me those things when we were talking about that last week. I was misled by Ronnie Green. I have lost all faith in Ronnie Green and don’t believe anything he says anymore”.
Gov. Ricketts has now come to the same conclusion that we, Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard and Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings, reached four years ago. On November 16, 2017 we met with both UNL Chancellor, Ronnie Green and UNL President, Hank Bounds. They were not truthful with us at that time about how conservatives were being treated at UNL. They assured us that conservatives were being treated fairly on campus, but the very next day at 4:55 p.m. they released a letter to the Governor and to the members of the Legislature apologizing for the way conservatives were being treated a UNL. So, which is it? Because of these kinds of untruths, we believe it would be in the best interest of the University and the people of Nebraska for Ronnie Green to resign as Chancellor of the University of Nebraska.
The Board of Regents aren’t any better. When we elect Regents, we expect them to be guardians of truth and to protect the University from corrosive ideas. Instead, they have allowed Critical Race Theory to invade our university system and to fester into the academic cancer that it is today. When the Board of Regents had the opportunity to correct this situation back in August, they failed to pass a resolution which would have helped to resolve this problem. As the result, Critical Race Theory has now become normalized and standardized throughout the University of Nebraska System. Although University President Ted Carter continues to insist that Critical Race Theory is not being taught at the University of Nebraska, one needs look no further than the University’s own “Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equality,” where the stated philosophy is, “A reckoning with history and its impact on the present” coupled with their false accusation that opponents of Critical Race Theory aid the Klu Klux Klan.
The situation isn’t any better regarding our state college system. One would think that after countless numbers of parents and concerned citizens came out to testify against gender identity and sexual orientation being taught in our K-12 public schools that those running our state college system would have concluded that these are things that the people of Nebraska don’t want taught to students in our State College system as well. Regardless of the viewpoints of parents and the concerns of our citizens, the trustees (board members) who run our State College system voted earlier this month in favor of a new policy for gender identity and sexual orientation.
Much like when no one at the University of Nebraska could give a straight answer about the existence of free speech zones, no one at the State College System can give a straight answer today about gender identity and sexual orientation. So, when we asked Chancellor Paul Turman if the State College System’s new policy would allow biological males to access women’s restrooms and locker rooms, he replied in double-speak, saying, “[They] do NOT allow men access to women’s restrooms or locker rooms. Individuals can access restrooms consistent with their gender identity.” So, which is it? Make no mistake about it, though: Biological males who self-identify as females may now use women’s restrooms and locker rooms, but the political correctness of the Woke Left will no longer permit the Chancellor to give anyone a straight answer, and that is exactly what our colleges and universities are now teaching our students to do.
Going forward, defunding our state’s colleges and universities may be the only way we can get the attention of those who have been charged with running them. So let us end this article by simply reminding those who run our public colleges and universities about who they really work for. If there is any good thing which comes from this report today on the state of our colleges and universities, it is that parents and students should now be better informed and better equipped for making decisions about where to go for higher education.
The American economy isn’t doing so well. A new poll shows that seven out of every ten Americans now admit that rising prices are causing them to change their spending habits. This is not good news going into the busiest shopping season of the year. Indeed, inflation has a way of putting a damper on our spirit of thanksgiving. So, how do we prepare ourselves for the Thanksgiving holiday when things may not be going as planned?
Many people view the task of giving thanks as a kind of obligation they must fulfill once per year before filling their gullet with turkey and then spending the rest of the day watching NFL football on the last Thursday of November. The operative word in that kind of attitude is the word “task”. Whenever thanksgiving is viewed as a task, it usually gets done with heartless drudgery and forced discipline.
This year I would like to challenge you to view thanksgiving differently. Genuine thanksgiving is a spirit of gratitude which comes from the heart and changes our perspective about the world as well as our own life’s circumstances. A heart that is ungrateful produces a contrived heartless prayer of thanksgiving, but a heart of gratitude produces a sweet and voluntary heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving.
Changing the condition of our heart can be a very difficult thing to do. It is difficult because it requires honest self-reflection and self-evaluation. We become ungrateful because we secretly believe that we are somehow entitled to a better set of circumstances than what we currently have. Repenting of whatever bad thing we have done in the past, changing for the better whatever we are able to fix, and accepting whatever lot has been dealt to us in life, represent the first steps towards changing the condition of our heart. Accepting what we are responsible for helps us to see how we have been blessed by others, and so gives us reasons to be thankful.
While anyone can become thankful, I believe that a truly genuine heart of gratitude is something that only God can give, and he gives it to those who earnestly seek him and who find him. This is a different kind of gratitude. It is different because it is spiritual in nature. It is the kind of gratitude which results from knowing that one’s sins have been forgiven, that a person stands in a right relationship with the sovereign and righteous God of the universe, and that He is the ultimate source of every good thing.
It was this kind of understanding that prompted King David to write these spiritual words of gratitude in Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV), “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
God loves America and the USA is still the greatest nation on the earth. Remember these things as you give thanks this week. May everyday be a day of thanksgiving, and may God bless you richly. Thank you for reading my articles.
Over the past several weeks I have received numerous emails encouraging me to help the governor call for a special session to deal with the vaccination mandate problem. As you may know, the governor had asked the Legislature to show 33 senators who were in support of a special session before making that call, but the Legislature could only produce 28 senators in favor of calling for a special session.
What is not understood by many is that the governor has the authority to call for a special session of the Legislature on his own whenever he feels it is necessary to deal with a specific issue. So, the reality of the situation is that the governor may still call for a special session without any of the senators signing on to the Legislature’s petition, which has now expired.
Gov. Ricketts had originally said that it was important to show that 33 senators were in support of a special session before he would call for one. The reason he gave was to override a potential filibuster. However, there was no guarantee that a filibuster would have occurred. A filibuster may not have been imminent. Today no one knows whether a filibuster would have ever happened. Without a filibuster, it only takes 25 votes to pass a bill, and we had 28 Senators tentatively already on board. So, the governor held our personal liberties and our constitutional rights in the balance in order to avoid a filibuster.
Because we are coming into an election year, I find it difficult to believe that very many of our State Senators would have filibustered a bill designed to protect our personal liberties and constitutional rights. To be clear, these vaccine mandates are not just about preventing a disease. This is about compromising our personal liberties and constitutional rights. This time it may seem like it is only about a harmless vaccination, but what other constitutional rights are you willing to give up for the sake of government control and total compliance? Positions about vaccinations are not the real issue here. If an individual wants to be vaccinated, he or she has every right to do so. No one is stopping them. However, if a person doesn’t want to get vaccinated, he or she should have that same right as well.
In the end it comes down to whether a person believes in the rights granted to us by our constitutions. For example, Article 1, Section 1 of the Nebraska State Constitution says, “All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the right to keep and bear arms…” It also says, “To secure these rights, and the protection of property, governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” If we are truly a free and independent people, as the Nebraska State Constitution says we are, and if the government only exists by way of our consent, then no government should ever have the power to tell us what we should put into our own bodies. Such an action constitutes government overreach and it is a gross intrusion into our personal freedom to make decisions about our own personal lives.
Make no mistake about it: President Biden is playing a gigantic game of Chicken with the American people. Either millions of Americans will bend their will to the federal government by getting vaccinated or they will fight for their constitutional rights and liberties. If they choose the latter, the economy of the United States will come to a grinding halt as we lose even more of our most essential workers. This is why the governors of several states have chosen to intervene by issuing executive orders to protect both employers as well as employees from the federal vaccine mandate. While I appreciate the fact that Gov. Ricketts has issued an executive order to protect government employees, he now needs to do the same for all employees.
Unfortunately, the State Legislature has missed its golden opportunity to have this discussion about our personal liberties and constitutional rights of the floor of the Legislature. A special session of this kind would have given State Senators the opportunity to prove to the people of Nebraska that they really do mean it when they take an oath to uphold our Constitution. To defend the Constitution of the United States and of the great State of Nebraska is what a State Senator or any other politician for that matter is supposed to do. That is our most sacred duty!
This week we honor and celebrate out veterans. These are the men and women who have put their very lives at risk in order to keep the rest of us safe, to protect our God-given liberties, and to safeguard our American way of life. Every veteran is a highly valued and esteemed American patriot, so today I would like to share a recent story about what it takes to properly honor a veteran.
Arthur R. Lewis was a soldier who never earned a purple heart or a silver star. He was a native of Massachusetts, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the 1920’s and then later served in the Merchant Marine during World War II. Lewis survived the war and went on to work aboard the S.S. Steel Vendor cargo ship, a ship which had been used for troop transport during World War II. He died on October 3, 1959 at sea while transporting cargo in the Gulf of Tadjoura and was haphazardly buried in Djibouti City some 8,000 miles away from home near the horn of Africa.
Due to the great distance, Lewis’s family lost track of his gravesite, which had become covered with broken bits of coral and was missing a headstone. Through a 10-year labor of love, Lewis’s daughter set out to find his gravesite and give him the military honors that were rightfully due him. With the help of Nathan Reynolds, a 40-year-old Army veteran, Staff Sgt. Rolland Cheng of the 443 Civil Affairs Battalion, Major Jay Cavaiola of the 404 Civil Affairs Battalion, and an Army chaplain named Parnell, Lewis’s gravesite was finally discovered at the New European Cemetery in Djibouti City.
These men helped Lewis’s family purchase the plot of ground where he was buried and then set out to properly honor him as a United States veteran. The Army’s 377th Engineer Vertical Construction Company installed a 240-pound granite headstone on Lewis’s grave, which had been delivered to Camp Lemonnier near Djibouti City by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Finally, on October 28, 2021 American and foreign dignitaries along with several other U.S. service members gathered around Lewis’s grave to give him his overdue military honors. Attendance at the ceremony consisted of a Who’s Who list of military personnel, including an Army two-star general, a Navy Captain and the U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti. Foreign guests included Djibouti’s Minister of Defense along with other top military brass and dignitaries from France and Canada. Sadly, though, Lewis’s daughter was unable to make the 8,000-mile trek to Djibouti to give her father the proper military burial that she had worked so hard to give him.
I share these things with you today in order to help you better understand what it means to honor a veteran. Our American tradition of honoring our veterans runs very deep. We will spare no cost, cross any ocean, and continue the search until every veteran is found and receives a proper military burial. And why do we do this? Because as Claudia Pemberton once famously remarked, “America without her soldiers is like God without his angels.”
This week thank a veteran for his or her service to our country. Shake their hands or salute them and let them know how much you appreciate the time and sacrifices they have made to protect our country and to advance the cause of freedom around the world.
As I write this article today the count remains at 26 Nebraska State Senators who are willing to sign the petition to call for a special session of the Nebraska State Legislature to deal with the vaccine mandate problem. Unless seven more State Senators change their minds by November 1, the special session likely won’t happen. The Governor, however, may call for a special session without 33 Senators.
Many Nebraskans are now losing their jobs because they cannot take a COVID-19 vaccination shot. Many people have sound medical reasons for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, while others object on moral, religious and philosophical grounds. The bottom line is that vaccinations of this kind are really a matter of personal liberty and should not be decided by government bureaucrats, businesses or employers.
Choosing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is really a matter of individual choice, and that choice should not be infringed upon by any government entity, business or employer. The courts have already determined that individuals have the right to make medical decisions concerning their own bodies. For instance, in 1914 in the case of Schloendorff v. New York Hospital an appellate court in New York State said, “Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his [or her] own body.”
Those who advocate for abortion usually argue that a woman has an absolute right to decide what to do with her own body and the Planned Parenthood license plate exhibits the slogan, “My Body, My Choice.” Shouldn’t that same absolute principle be applied to vaccine mandates? If it is true that a woman has an absolute right to make her own decision about an abortion, then shouldn’t an individual also be able to decide for himself or herself about receiving a vaccination?
One of the main reasons that people are refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccination shot is due to the body’s own immunity which naturally results after recovering from a COVID-19 infection. Dr. Paul E. Alexander, a Canadian health researcher, has compiled a list of 91 studies which have all concluded that natural immunity is better than the COVID-19 vaccines. That list can be found online at the Brownstone Institute’s website: www.brownstone.org. According to Dr. Alexander, the medical establishment and the media are “misleading the public with assertions that the COVID-19 shots provide greater protection than natural immunity.”
President Biden continues to demonstrate his firm resolve to follow through with his vaccine mandates, even though he has said in the past that he would never do so. For instance, President Biden stated on December 4, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware in response to a question about vaccine mandates, “No, I don’t think [vaccines] should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory.”
Because President Biden’s actions have not exactly matched his words, Nebraska State Senators should feel compelled to take the threat of his vaccine mandates seriously and call for a special session of the State Legislature immediately to deal with this problem. Because people are already being let go from their jobs, the Legislature can no longer afford to wait. Even if 33 Senators do not sign the petition, Governor Ricketts should still call for this special session anyway!
Will the State Legislature hold a special session to deal with COVID-19 vaccine mandates? This is the question which seems to be on everybody’s minds these days. Well, the answer to this question is a very definite: Maybe!
On October 20, 2021 Sen. Rob Clements of Elmwood and Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair filed the necessary paperwork along with signatures from 26 Nebraska State Senators calling for a special session of the State Legislature just to deal with the vaccine mandate problem. According to Nebraska State Statute 50-125 members of the State Legislature may call for a special session once two-thirds or more of the State Senators have signed onto a statement calling for one.
Bob Evnen, who is Nebraska’s Secretary of State, has sent certified letters out to the remaining State Senators to illicit their responses to the call. At least seven more State Senators are needed to sign onto the statement calling for a special session by 5:00 p.m. November 1, 2021 in order to make it happen.
Governor Ricketts may call for a special session of the State Legislature with or without any of these signatures from State Senators. The governor has the authority to call for a special session of the Legislature on his own anytime he believes it is necessary. Sen. Clements and Sen. Hansen acted on behalf of the Legislature and filed the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State simply to expedite the process and get the ball rolling. They filed the paperwork knowing that they did not yet have the required signatures of two-thirds of the State Senators.
Calling for a special session of the Legislature does not guarantee that vaccine mandates would ever get blocked or outlawed in Nebraska. The Unicameral Legislature is a non-partisan body where every State Senator has both a voice at the microphone as well as a single vote on the voting board. Passing legislation in the Unicameral Legislature often requires by-partisan support. So, unless a particular piece of legislation appeals to both sides of the political aisle, a special session of the State Legislature could end up being a waste of time as well as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Nevertheless, vaccine mandates have now become the most pressing issue in our state and people are losing their jobs because of these vaccine mandates. So, this problem must be dealt with as soon as possible.
On October 21, 2021 Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a special session of the Florida Legislature in order to deal with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate problem. Gov. DeSantis called for a special session in order to “provide protections for employees facing termination because of unfair and discriminatory COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to reaffirm that government entities including school districts may not fire any employee based on COVID-19 vaccine status.” I believe the time has come for Gov. Ricketts to make a similar move.
Nebraska’s statement reflects similar purposes as Florida. According to our Secretary of State the Nebraska special session would convene “…for the purpose of adopting legislation to prohibit employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines and legislation to prohibit government and/or educational entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of receiving services.”
I believe the situation created by these COVID-19 vaccine mandates has been tragic for many Americans. No one ever should lose their job because they refuse to put a foreign substance into their own body which could be detrimental to their health. This special session is necessary because the current COVID-19 vaccine mandates are ignoring people’s medical and religious exemptions, natural immunity, the real science of COVID-19 vaccines, and individual liberty to choose what goes into a person’s own body.
The Nebraska State Board of Education has lost all credibility with the people of Nebraska. On August 6, 2021 I called for all of the members of the State Board of Education, including the Education Commissioner, Matthew Blomstedt, to resign. Last week Patricia Timm who represents district 5 in southeast Nebraska did the right thing by announcing her resignation. I am still waiting for the other seven members of the State Board of Education and the Commissioner to resign.
The Education Commissioner needs to resign because he did not shoot straight with Nebraskans about updating the sex education standards. On May 7, 2021 Matthew Blomstedt stated in a document entitled Points of Clarification that “The State Board of Education is not approving a sexual education curriculum, textbooks or instructional materials.” He also said in that same document that the “The proposed draft of the Health Education Standards was not written by activists” and that “Planned Parenthood is not funding or helping to write the Health Education Standards.” Today we know that that is exactly what was going on.
Everyone else on the State Board of Education needs to resign because today we know how they secretly recruited extremist Left-wing organizations to help write the sex education standards for our state. Earlier this summer Jason Martinez, a private citizen with school aged children, used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain hundreds of pages of government documents, emails and text messages, which reveal how the State Board of Education enlisted individuals from outside activist groups to draft the sex education guidelines. Some of this information has since been revealed by Patrick Hauf, who wrote an article for the Washington Free Beacon on October 11, 2021, which revealed some of what Mr. Martinez found out through his FOIA request.
Thanks to Jason Martinez and Patrick Hauf today we know that Deborah Neary, the State Board of Education member who represents district 8 in eastern Nebraska, tried to recruit Lisa Schultze to the writing team. Deborah Neary wrote in an email to a state agency employee, “I want to make sure that Lisa Shultze is selected to help write the NDE Health Standards.” Although Neary’s recommendation was rejected for the writing team, Shultze was appointed to sit on the 28 member advisory board.
Lisa Shultze has very close ties to Planned Parenthood. Shultze worked for Planned Parenthood for 15 years before becoming the activist that she is today. Today she sits on the board for Friends of Planned Parenthood and she works for the Woman’s Fund of Omaha, another activist organization which has given more than $8 million to Planned Parenthood and to local transgender clinics.
Lisa Shultze played a significant role in the formation of the newly proposed health education standards. Emails obtained through the FOIA request show that Shultze arranged meetings between Nebraska Department of Education members and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), which is the activist organization who wrote the National Sex Education Standards. Because of Shultze’s influence and help the first draft of the proposed health education standards mirrored those written by SIECUS.
Other emails obtained through the FOIA request reveal how Deborah Neary disparaged parents’ complaints as “hate speech” and claimed that only her side of the sex education debate was based upon science. For example, Neary said, “It is irresponsible in my opinion when one of the sides is based in science and fact and the other is based in religion.” With this kind of attitude, there is no wonder why Neary abstained when the board voted 5-1 to table further discussion about the health education standards.
The State Board of Education continues to flounder. The board is now a ship without a rudder because the board members have lost the public’s trust. It is time for them to resign and allow others to take over at the helm who can steer our educational system back into the direction of true academic success.
Fall is the time for writing new bills. Therefore, this week I would like to tell you about what kinds of legislation I have been working on for next year. There are many issues facing our State right now and no State Senator can tackle all of them. Some will have to be taken up by other State Senators. Nevertheless, I want to introduce the kinds of bills that are of utmost concern to the folks living in Western Nebraska.
In regards to property tax relief, next year I will continue to push for the consumption tax. I will also work to change the wording of the destroyed property statute from “destroyed” property to “damaged” property in order to remove a loophole in the law, and I will continue seek ways to make TERC hearings speedy and fair for all property owners.
One of the bills I plan to introduce next year pertains to renewing a driver’s license. My bill will put a grace period of 30 days beyond a person’s birthday for renewing a driver’s license. Oftentimes people do not think to renew a driver’s license until their birthday arrives. But by then it is too late. The license has already expired!
Depending upon where a person lives in Nebraska, renewing a driver’s license can be a real hassle. For instance, the DMV only comes to Sidney two days per week; otherwise, a person living in or near Sidney would have to drive to a DMV in Scottsbluff or North Platte, and no one wants to drive those great distances on an expired driver’s license. Moreover, once a person arrives and tries to renew an expired driver’s license at the DMV he or she quickly learns that a birth certificate or a passport is now necessary to renew an expired license. My bill will change this by giving drivers a little extra time to renew their license and they won’t have to produce these documents to prove their identity.
Another bill that I will introduce is a bill to give K-12 public school students the entire summer off. My bill will fix the school year from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Students should not be going back to school in early August like they do now. Teachers and administrators may do their in-service teacher training during the summer months while students are out on summer vacation. Giving students a day off here and there during the academic school year is hard on working parents who may have to take a day off from work in order to care for their younger students at home. Conversely, during the summer months parents may enroll their students in various summer camps and other fun activities while they go to work.
Finally, next year I will introduce legislation to protect unvaccinated individuals from government actions and employer actions causing many Nebraskans to lose their jobs. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reserves such legislation for the states. Vaccinations are a private healthcare matter between an individual and his or her physician. No government agency or employer has the right to make decisions about another person’s health. President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and violates a person’s liberty, including his or her religious rights, privacy rights, and healthcare rights.
As I said above, I am most interested in introducing legislation that concerns folks living in Western Nebraska. Therefore, if you have a good idea for legislation at the state level, then I encourage you to call my office sometime during the month of October. Now is the time for writing new bills, and my office phone number is (402) 471-2616. Nebraska is a great state. Let’s keep it that way!
The special session of the Nebraska Legislature for redistricting has now ended. The last three weeks of September have been filled with the most intense negotiations I have ever been a part of. Nevertheless, we now have new district maps which will apply for the next ten years.
It was very important for the Legislature to meet the September 30th deadline. Had we not passed this redistricting legislation in September, it would have had to wait until we could revisit it in January. Revisiting these district maps in January would have been disastrous for political candidates running for office. Passing these bills in January would have given our political candidates only three or four months to conduct their campaigns before the May primary election.
Legislative district 47, which is the district that I represent, has now changed. Banner County and Kimball County have been moved into district 48, while Grant County and all of Box Butte County, including the City of Alliance have now been added into district 47. While this was not my choice, I look forward to meeting all those who have been moved into district 47.
My vote against the legislative district map should in no way be misconstrued as a vote against Grant County, Box Butte County or the City of Alliance. Instead, I voted against the legislative district map because it took a seat away from rural Nebraska and added one to Sarpy County, giving more representation to the greater Omaha metropolitan area and worsening the rural vs. urban divide which already exists in our state.
Rural Nebraskans ended up losing a seat in the Nebraska Legislature. The new legislative district map dissolved legislative district 36. Custer County now belongs to district 43 and Dawson County now belongs to district 44. The dissolving of legislative district 36 happened in a very peculiar way.
The redistricting committee held a public hearing in the City of Grand Island in mid-September. Many folks from Custer County and Dawson County came out to testify at that hearing. In fact, the majority of those who came out to testify, testified against breaking up legislative district 36. Sen, Matt Williams, who represents legislative district 36, told the committee at the hearing that day that he would not allow the redistricting committee to dissolve or divide up the district. Two days later Sen. Williams put district 36 on the chopping block and allowed the committee not only to dissolve the district, but to split up the two counties between district 43 and district 44. It is strangely odd that Sen. Williams would oppose these kinds of changes and then agree to split up the district. Why would he do that? A map was drawn up that would have protected all legislative seats.
Several Senators from rural Nebraska had prepared a redistricting map which preserved each of the 49 legislative districts in their same general vicinity without dissolving any of the districts. Their map was clearly the best map available, and it would have preserved district 36. Unfortunately, this map was never considered by the committee as a viable option.
I believe in preserving the voice of rural Nebraskans in the State Legislature. Although the voice of rural Nebraskans continues to diminish, rural Nebraskans remain the voice of reason and common sense throughout our state. Please know that I will always serve to represent all Nebraskans, but I will fight to make the voices of rural Nebraskans heard in the State Legislature. I would like to formally welcome all who are new to Legislative District 47 and encourage you to call my office with any of your comments or concerns. My office phone number is (402) 471-2616.
Once every ten years the Nebraska State Legislature must create new district maps for all of our State elected officials. This process is known as redistricting. The Nebraska State Senators have been meeting in a special session since September 13th redrawing district lines for the United States Congress, the State Legislature, the State Supreme Court, the University of Nebraska Regents, the Public Service Commission, and the State Board of Education.
By far, the most controversial map concerns the State Legislature. The State’s legislative districts have become the most controversial maps for several reasons; however, most of these reasons center on the rural versus urban divide that exists in our State. As populations in rural Nebraska continue to decline while populations in Nebraska’s urban centers continue to increase, the rural versus urban divide only widens. Moreover, politicians in these metropolitan areas seldom understand and appreciate the issues that confront rural Nebraskans.
In 1964 the United State Supreme Court ruled in the case of Wesberry v. Sanders that districts for the United States House of Representatives must be approximately equal in population. The U.S. Constitution had stipulated that these districts must be apportioned by population, but it had not explicitly stated that these districts had to be equal in size. What followed was a series of court cases, especially Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), which applied the same principle to state legislatures. This principle has become known as the “one person, one vote” rule, and it means that Nebraska’s legislative districts must all be comparatively equal in population.
The “one person, one vote” rule effectively started a political time bomb ticking in rural America. Because America’s urban population centers tend to grow at a much faster pace than rural areas, the balance of power naturally shifts to America’s urban centers over time. Making matters worse is the fact that rural Nebraska has been declining in population, instead of growing in population.
In the interest of preserving a voice for rural Nebraskans in the Unicameral Legislature, I advised the redistricting committee early on about how they should go about redrawing the district lines. Because each new legislative district must now comprise 40,000 residents plus or minus a 5 percent deviation, the common sense solution would be to divide the 1,098,000 people in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties by the 27 districts they now have. That would give each urban district 40,666 people, and for the remaining 22 rural districts each would have 39,181 people per district. The urban districts would be .0165 percent above the 40,000 mark while the rural districts would be .02 percent below it. Problem solved. All of the current legislative districts would have remained intact and rural Nebraska would have maintained its current level of representation.
A very good map was developed Sen. Robert Clements and Sen. Bruce Bostelman which did exactly that. However, the redistricting committee wouldn’t even consider their map even though 29 senators had voiced their opinion that it was the map of their choice.
Last week our rural Senators finally gave in to the urban Senators and passed a legislative map by a vote of 43-5 which favors these urban centers in eastern Nebraska. Rural Nebraska has now lost one whole seat. The new map splits up legislative district 36, comprised of Custer County and Dawson County, and moves those counties into legislative district 43, and then it creates a new legislative district in Sarpy County, giving the greater Omaha metropolitan area yet another voice in the Unicameral Legislature. This means that rural Nebraskans will be even less represented in the State Legislature beginning in the year 2023.
Knowing that rural Nebraskans were set to lose another voice in the Unicameral Legislature, I voted against this new legislative district map. It saddens me greatly to see rural Nebraskans lose more representation in the State Legislature when we didn’t need to. I understand that I represent all Nebraskans, but I am also committed to doing whatever I can to preserve our rural voices in the State Legislature!