NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Steve Erdman

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at serdman@leg.ne.gov

Straight Talk From Steve…
January 27th, 2023

It’s hearing season at the State Capitol! Every bill that gets introduced in the Unicameral Legislature gets a public hearing. Hearings for certain committees will last through the month of March. Last week the Legislature held hearings on four of my bills, so today I would like to tell you about the hearings on those bills.

The first of my bills to have a public hearing was LB 28, a bill designed to save taxpayers from paying too much in property taxes whenever the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) takes too much time to decide a case. My bill would allow the property to remain at the previous year’s value for tax purposes until the TERC board makes a decision on the case. I believe this is a common-sense solution which favors the taxpayer over those who impose the taxes.

The second bill which had a hearing last week was LB 102, a bill to help land surveyors do their job more efficiently. While the bill updated the plane coordinate system used by land surveyors and recognizes those who do the work as professional land surveyors, the main thrust of the bill is that it allows them to enter land to do their work. Because many landowners live out of state and the work of land surveying often requires them to enter several properties, my bill will make their work much more efficient while continuing to hold them accountable for any damages done to property and crops.

The third bill which received a hearing was LB 395, a bill to increase the pay of the members of the Oil and Gas Commission. This bill is necessary. Currently, the pay rate for the Oil and Gas commissioners is set in statute at $400 per meeting and capped at $4,000 for the year. Because the commissioners often meet more than once per month, my bill raises their rate of pay to $500 per meeting and removes the cap. It will also adjust their pay on odd numbered years going forward according to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers so that the commissioners don’t have to wait another 70 years for the Legislature to act.

The last bill of mine to receive a hearing last week was LB 29, my damaged property bill. In 2019 I introduced a destroyed property bill which passed into law and saved many landowners from the floods that occurred that same year. However, the bill was too restrictive. So, when the protestors of 2020 burned down an insurance building in Lincoln, the landowners were denied a reduction in their property taxes because arson did not fit the criteria of a property destroyed by a natural disaster. By changing the word ‘destroyed’ to the word ‘damaged’ and removing the language about calamities and natural disasters, the law would allow for cases of arson to qualify.

All of my bills that received a hearing last week are common-sense bills which ought to pass into law this year. Each of these bills received either no testimony in opposition or minimal testimony in opposition. Therefore, I am hopeful that all four of these bills will pass into law later this year.

Straight Talk From Steve…
January 20th, 2023

Last week we passed the rules for the 108th Legislature. 44 Senators voted in favor of the rules. As chair of the rules committee, I am proud that our Rules Committee was able to process 58 proposed rule changes, hold hearings on every proposed rule change, and create a rules package which passed in such a short amount of time. They passed in less than one and a half hours of debate.

One of the rule changes that I proposed made its way into the final package of rule changes that passed. This was a proposed rule change to include a link to Appendix A on the Legislature’s website. Appendix A presents a model for how committees should be run. While Appendix A does not constitute a rule, it gives helpful advice to committee chairs on how to run their committees. In the past, this helpful appendix could only be obtained from the Clerk’s office, but soon it will be available on the Legislature’s website.

The most controversial rule change that was accepted by the Senators concerns the motion to indefinitely postpone a bill, also known as the IPP Motion. The old rules allowed for any Senator to place an IPP Motion on a bill seconds after it gets introduced on the floor of the Legislature. This is a very hostile move taken to kill a bill right out of the gate.

Whenever an IPP Motion is placed on a bill before the bill gets read the first time on the floor, it turns the tables on the Senator who introduced the bill. Normally, the Senator who introduces a bill gets ten minutes to speak or open on the bill once it gets voted out of committee and comes up to the floor for debate. However, when an IPP Motion gets placed on a bill immediately after it gets introduced that situation changes. Instead, the Senator placing the IPP Motion on the bill gets ten minutes to talk against the bill while the Senator who introduced the bill gets only five minutes to speak on the merits of the bill.

The proposed rule change that the Senators accepted this year reverses the old rule. During the 108th Legislative Session the Senator who introduces a bill will get ten minutes to open on the bill before an IPP Motion may be placed on the bill. This is an important rule change, because Senator Daniel Conrad of Lincoln had already placed several IPP Motions on bills she doesn’t like, including LB 79, my bill for the EPIC Option Consumption Tax.

During the floor debate on the rules, Sen. Machalea Cavanaugh of Omaha attempted to amend the rules package with her own proposed rule change to outlaw open carry of firearms in the State Capitol. Sen. Cavanaugh has always been a strong opponent of the Pull Motion. The Pull Motion allows a Senator to advance a bill out of committee with a majority vote even though the committee has refused to advance the bill. Because the Rules Committee never advanced her proposed rule change, she attempted to use the Pull Motion to bring it up to the floor. So, I explained to her that she was using the very Pull Motion that she opposes. Nevertheless, her Pull Motion failed.

There were several very important proposed rule changes that are controversial and which still need to be addressed. Among these are the proposed rule changes to remove secret ballots when voting for committee chairs, the number of votes needed to override a filibuster, and barring the media from executive sessions. The Rules Committee will deal with these controversial rule changes at a later time.

Passing a permanent set of rules last week was a very important step in the legislative process. Because the Legislature now has a permanent set of rules, we can move forward with the business of the State. In 2017 the Legislature wasted 40 days debating the rules. Whenever that happens, it means that fewer bills ever get debated on the floor of the Legislature, and only those bills with a priority status would ever see the light of day. Because we passed a permanent set of rules early on, those bills without a priority status now stand a chance of getting debated on the floor of the Legislature. In short, this means that we are now positioned to have a very productive first year of the 108th Legislature.

Straight Talk From Steve…
January 13th, 2023

This year I was elected chair of the Rules Committee. At the beginning of each biennial session of the Nebraska Legislature new rule changes get proposed by State Senators and so it becomes the job of the Rules Committee to sift through their proposed rule changes and decide which ones to advance up to the floor of Legislature for a full debate.

This year we received an extraordinary number of proposed rule changes. We received a total of 58 proposed rule changes this year. By way of comparison, in in the year 2021 there were only 21 proposed rule changes, in 2019 there were 22, and in 2017 there were 27.

The public always gets the opportunity to weigh in on each of these proposed rule changes. So, last Thursday the Rules Committee held a public hearing at the Capitol which began at 1:30 p.m. and finally ended at 10:30 p.m. That’s a total of nine hours of testimony on the proposed rule changes.

Normally, a public hearing of this kind would have extended beyond midnight. So, in order to expedite the public hearing in a timely manner, I had to make a couple of important executive decisions as chair of the Rules Committee. First, I had the Clerk of the Legislature group together all of the proposed rules changes according to topic. This way we were able to hear all of the opening remarks by the introducing Senators on that topic before we opened it up for public comment. Then, I limited public testimonies to two minutes. This way we were able to get through all 58 rule proposals and finish before midnight.

While some of the proposed rule changes received no comments from the general public, others received a great deal of public testimony. Those proposed rule changes which the public seemed to care most about included a proposal to remove the opening prayer, a proposal to invite members of the military to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and a proposal to prohibit firearms in the State Capitol Building.

I proposed six rule changes of my own. Three of those rule changes are particularly noteworthy to the general public. They are noteworthy for their efficiency, transparency, and controversial nature. So, today I would like to take some time to tell you about these three proposed rule changes.

The first one relates to the matter of efficiency. Currently, nine out of the Legislature’s thirteen standing committees have even numbers of committee members. When committees have even numbers of members, votes often result in a tie. A tie vote on a bill means that the bill gets killed in committee. Therefore, I prepared a graph for the Rules Committee showing how each committee could have an odd number of committee members so that a vote on a bill should never end in a tie. Because the standing committees meet on different days of the week, the challenge for me was to prepare a graph showing how every Senator could have a committee meeting on each day of the week. My graph accomplished that goal.

My next proposed rule change relates to transparency. I proposed that a video recording of all debates and hearings be made available on the Legislature’s website. Many who are interested in the State Legislature are unable to watch debates and hearings in the middle of the day because they have to work. This rule change would enable citizens to watch debates and hearings at a time which agrees with their own schedule. Unfortunately, this rule change would not be able to apply this year for the simple reason that the Clerk of the Legislature would need some time to set it up.

My last proposed rule change was the most controversial. I proposed that the executive sessions of the legislative committees be closed to the media. It is odd that the press is allowed to sit in on closed meetings of the Legislature, but the general public is not. Closed sessions for all other kinds of committees always implies that the media are not allowed to sit in on the meetings. The primary reason for this rule change is because committee members cannot have a free exchange of ideas about a bill when members of the media are present.

For obvious reasons, members of the media showed up to testify against this proposed rule change. According to them, without the presence of the media in the room during an executive session, there would be no transparency and the public would be left out in the dark. However, this problem is rectified by recording each committee members vote on the bill and posting it on the Legislature’s website. Moreover, if those testifying from the press were truly concerned about transparency in the Legislature, then they never would have taken a public stance against the proposed rule change to eliminate secret ballots when voting for committee chairs!

Straight Talk From Steve…,
January 6th, 2023

The 108th Legislature has begun.  The legislative session began on January 4 and will extend through the month of May.  This will be the longer 90-day session.  The reason for the longer session has to do with passing the Statewide budget.

On the first day of the session in odd numbered years we always elect a speaker and the chairmen of the standing committees.  Out of the 14 committee chairs elected there were only three positions that had more than one candidate. 11 of the 14 committee chairpersons were unopposed.  For the past two years the education chairman had been Sen. Lynn Walz of Fremont, but Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil was voted in instead as the new chair of the Education Committee. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee also has a new chair.  Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln replaced Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, who was term limited out of office this year.

I placed my name and nomination up to be the Rules Committee chair. One needs to receive 25 votes, which constitutes a simple majority, in order to get elected. I was fortunate enough to receive 33 votes. So, I am now the chair of the Rules Committee.

Bill introduction also started last week.   I introduced my new consumption tax proposal again. On January 5 we held a press conference to announce the EPIC Option Consumption Tax and to inaugurate a new petition drive for a ballot initiative to put it on the ballot for November 2024.  Afterwards, I did numerous interviews for both television stations and newspapers.

I had high hopes that this session would be one of cooperation and accomplish great things that would move our state to a more competitive position on taxation. Shortly after I introduced the resolution for the EPIC Option Consumption Tax, which would fix our broken tax system, a Lincoln Senator placed a motion to kill the bill before it ever comes to the floor!  In my opinion that is not the way to influence people and make friends by trying to kill someone’s bill before it has had an opportunity to be heard on the floor.  However, I am confident that her motion will fail. 

 I also introduced a bill to change the State Legislature from the current unicameral system to a bicameral system. Needless to say, that bill caught the attention of many folks not only in the capitol but around the eastern part of the state. That’s because the current unicameral system favors the population centers of our state.

This bill would amend the constitution to include a Senate of 31 senators each representing three contiguous counties. Also, the representatives in the House of Representatives would be elected by the population divided by the number of representatives, which would be similar to the representation that we currently have now.  The Unicameral was a great experiment, but after 86 years it is time to end the experiment and return to reality.

The legislature now has a new Speaker and the state has a new Governor and Lieutenant Governor which will make for a very interesting session!  Thank you for the opportunity to represent you and your issues in the Nebraska Legislature.  Happy New Year!

 

 

Straight Talk From Steve…
December 22nd, 2022

One of the bills that I will introduce next year is the result of an interim study that I conducted with our State’s Natural Resources Districts (NRD’s) back in 2021. LR23 was a Legislative Resolution I introduced in 2021 to investigate some of the practices of our NRD’s. While the interim study surveyed all 23 NRD’s, one particular issue especially stood out for needed legislation. That issue involved land being held by N-CORPE.

Few Nebraskans have ever heard of N-CORPE. N-CORPE stands for the Nebraska Republican Platte Enhancement project. N-CORPE is an augmentation project which was created by way of an interlocal agreement by the Upper Republican NRD, the Middle Republican NRD, the Lower Republican NRD, and the Twin Platte NRD.

During a public hearing, which was part of the interim study, a concern arose over property taxes paid by N-CORPE. N-CORPE owns 19,000 acres of land. When asked if it would be fair to say that N-CORPE pays no property taxes on its land, Kyle Shepherd, N-CORPE’s General Manager, said, “Yes.” However, N-CORPE’s 2019 annual report showed that they paid $145,000 in lieu of taxes. Lincoln County feels that some of the acres are not for public use. Therefore, N-CORPE pays property taxes on those acres of land.

Complicating matters even more is the fact that two-thirds of the land owned by N-CORPE is closed to public access. N-CORPE rents out these lands for farming and draws income from the rents. That income is used to pay N-CORPE’s operational expenses.

N-CORPE’s operations have been highly suspect for quite some time. For example, N-CORPE’s annual reports for the years 2018 and 2019 consisted of only a single page.

Getting a copy of N-CORPE’s budget has been another problem. N-CORPE has made it a habit of not making their budgets readily available to the public and they do not submit a budget to the State Auditor. They do not submit their budget to the State Auditor because of a loophole in the state law which says that they do not have to submit a budget to the State Auditor as long as they never impose a tax levy.

For these reasons, I believe the best course of action is for N-CORPE to sell its land. Once N-CORPE sells its land, the land will go back on the tax rolls. By selling the land, it will put it back on the tax rolls and result in property tax relief for the residents of Lincoln County. Having the land farmed as dryland will also be an economic advantage for the local economy.

Nebraska’s governmental entities have made it a bad habit of taking more and more lands off the tax rolls. Whenever that happens, other landowners have to make up the difference, and that is hardly fair to those property owners who have to make up the difference. The time has come to reverse this trend, and I believe that process should begin with N-CORPE leading the way by selling its land.

Straight Talk From Steve…
December 15th, 2022

In God We Trust To Be Removed?

 

One of the bills that I will introduce next year is a bill to put posters displaying our national motto, “In God We Trust” in all of Nebraska’s public schools just like we have in all of our courthouses. Actually, I will be re-introducing this bill. I have introduced this bill in each biennial legislative session ever since I became a State Senator six years ago, but the bill has never advanced out of the Education Committee.

The bill is a simple bill. All that it says is that each public school must display a poster displaying the national motto in a common area where students are likely to see it on a daily basis; otherwise, schools may choose to display it in every classroom. That is all that the bill requires of the public schools.

The reason this bill is necessary, relates to the current trends in education we’ve been witnessing to eradicate God from the classroom and to erase or re-write America’s religious heritage. The fact of the matter is that our predecessors in the last century changed our nation’s motto in 1956 from E Pluribus Unum (Latin for: Out of many, one) to “In God We Trust” in order to preserve our nation’s religious heritage and values. At a time when atheistic communism was rapidly spreading around the world, these Congressmen felt the need to differentiate the United States of America from the rest of the world as a nation where faith in God was not only welcomed, but was still the norm.

Faith in God continues to be the norm in American society today. A Gallup Poll released in May of this year shows that 81 percent of Americans continue to believe in God. So, trust in God remains strong in America today.

Percentages don’t matter. Even if that percentage were to somehow fall below 50 percent someday, it would not change the fact that faith in God has been essential to the foundation of our American values and to our State. Whether we are talking about the U.S. Constitution or the Nebraska State Constitution, the right to worship God freely has always been a foundational component of our values as Americans and as Nebraskans. For example, Article 1, Section 4 of the Nebraska State Constitution says, “All persons have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.”

This most basic right of religious freedom has been under attack by atheists for many years now, and this is the time of year when they most prefer to launch their attacks. For example, every year atheists reserve space in the Capitol rotunda in Lincoln for the week of Christmas in order to show their anti-God displays.

This movement to eradicate God and Christ from American society now permeates our educational institutions. For example, today our students are taught to write history in terms of “before the common era” and “after the common era” instead of by Anno Domini (B.C & A.D.), which places the birth of Christ at the center of world history. The history behind Anno Domini (B.C & A.D.) is important for our school children to know, because it came about as a protest against Christian persecution by the Romans. Nevertheless, it is being systematically eradicated from our schools today.

Placing our national motto back in our public schools is a small step towards educating our school children about our religious heritage and the faith in God which formed the foundation of our American values.

As you celebrate Christmas this year, be reminded of how important the birth of Christ has been in the history of the world. At the first Christmas a baby was born who would become the Savior of the world. King Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus and Roman emperors tried to stamp out his followers. As a man, Pontius Pilate had him crucified, buried, and guarded his tomb, yet no one has ever been able to account for the body or bones of Jesus. That he rose from the dead and appeared to more than 500 of his followers is an event forever recorded in history and this is why so many people celebrate his birth today.

Nativity Scene Christmas Box of Cards

Straight Talk From Steve…
December 9th, 2022

One of the bills I will introduce in January will affect the way properties get valuated once an appeal has been filed with the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. The current process is a mess and always leaves property owners holding the short end of the stick. So, before I reveal my solution, let me first explain what the problems are.

The first problem relates to time. The appeal process takes too much time. Once an appeal is filed with the Tax Equalization and Review Commission, it can take several years for a hearing to get scheduled and to take place. After the hearing takes place, it can take months or even years for the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission to make a decision on the case.

The idea for this bill first came to me from Brenda Bickford, a resident of Lincoln, who has appealed the valuation of her home for several years now. When Brenda first came to me, she had unresolved appeals with the Tax Equalization and Review Commission which were more than three years old. In other words, after three years the commissioners still hadn’t made up their minds about what the actual value of her home should be. Three years is simply too much time!

The second problem is one of fairness to the taxpayer. Once an assessor raises the value of a person’s property and the property owner files an appeal, the property owner is expected to continue paying the property taxes on that newly assessed value while they wait for the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission to make up their minds about what the actual value of the property should be. In Brenda’s case, this meant that she had to continue paying property taxes on the inflated valuation of her home for the next three years while she waited for the commissioners to make up their minds.

So, how do we fix this problem? New legislation is needed that will discourage the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission from dragging out these appeals for several years, and the new legislation needs to protect property owners from having to pay property taxes on inflated valuations until a decision can be made. It is unfair to a property owner to have to pay more property taxes than what he or she rightfully owes.

Therefore, in January I will submit a bill that will accomplish these two objectives. The bill I will introduce will encourage the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission to reach a decision before the property owner receives his or her next tax bill in the mail. Whenever the commissioners fail to reach a decision by the date when the first half of the next year’s property taxes become delinquent, the value of the property will get reset to the previous year’s valuation and remain at that value until a decision has been reached.

Property taxes in Nebraska continue to be out of control, and it does not help matters when property owners have to pay more money in property taxes than what they rightfully owe. It has been a long-standing tradition in our country that American citizens have a right to a speedy trial, and that right also implies that a decision should be made in a timely fashion.

Straight Talk From Steve…
December 2nd, 2022

One of the bills that I will introduce next year is a damaged property bill. Although I introduced this bill during the last legislative session, the bill’s language got grafted into the Revenue Committee’s Christmas tree bill. This meant that those with destroyed properties during the first half of the year could now apply to have their properties reassessed for property tax purposes.

The language that was adopted by the Revenue Committee pertained to properties that were destroyed by fire or by a natural disaster. Damages initiated by the owner were not permitted. The passage of that language in the Christmas Tree bill was quite timely because that was the year of the spring floods, which destroyed thousands of acres of agricultural lands and homes all across Nebraska. As a result, many landowners were able to have their properties reassessed for property tax purposes, so long as the damages done to the property constituted twenty percent or more of the property’s value. However, there remained an unresolved problem with the language of that bill.

A problem later arose with the particular language that was used for this bill. LB 482 as well as the language that was grafted into the Revenue Committee’s Christmas tree bill made use of the words “destroyed property.” And these particular words would prove to become problematic for future implementations of the bill.

When the Black Lives Matter riots swept through the City of Lincoln during the summer of 2020, several buildings were torched along the Lincoln Mall and on H Street near the State Capitol Building. When some of those businessowners applied to have their properties reassessed for property tax purposes, they were denied on the grounds that their buildings had not been destroyed, but only damaged by the fires.

Indeed, this was the very problem with the bill which had been earlier identified by Doug Peterson, Nebraska’s Attorney General. In 2019 I wrote a letter to Doug Peterson, asking his opinion about the language of the bill. In his response, he said, “…the term ‘destroyed’ would likely be read to mean completely uninhabitable or unfit for customary use.” And that is exactly how the county commissioners and the courts interpreted the language of the bill.

By changing the language from “destroyed property” to “damaged property” this will correct the problem that was created two years ago. Although I tried to correct the language during the 107th Legislature with LB 165, that bill never became a law. The bill advanced out of committee and onto General File, but because the bill lacked a priority status, the Legislature never took the time to advance the bill any further. As a result, the bill died by being indefinitely postponed on April 20 of this year, which was the last day of the of the 107th Legislature.

Therefore, I will reintroduce this bill next year for the 108th Legislature. No one who has had the value of his or her property lessened by twenty percent or more during the first half of the calendar year because of a fire or some other natural disaster should ever have to pay property taxes on the assessed value of that property as it was on January 1 of that same year. Such a practice is unfair to the property owner, and it is time for the State of Nebraska to finally fix this problem.

Straight Talk From Steve…
November 28th, 2022

Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner this year? Perhaps, you noticed that this year’s menu may not have include deviled eggs. That’s because grocery store shelves have been empty and grocers have been struggling to find eggs to sell.

Nebraska has been the second hardest state hit by the avian bird flu this year. We are second only to Iowa. Because a new outbreak of the avian bird flu was detected in Dixon County in Northeast Nebraska last Saturday, the State will now have to euthanize another 1.8 million egg-laying hens.

According to Wells Fargo, the price of eggs has already jumped 32 percent this year. That’s a very significant increase, especially when you compare the price of eggs to the price of fruits and vegetables which have only risen seven percent this year.

Grocers are blaming their egg shortages on the avian bird flu, which continues to wipe out millions of Nebraska’s chickens. Prior to the current outbreak in Dixon County, Nebraska had already euthanized some 6.8 million chickens. But the egg shortage is also a national crisis. So far this year 50 million chickens have had to be euthanized in 46 states. Iowa had to put down 15.5 million birds.

But blaming the egg shortage entirely upon the avian bird flu doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. In recent years it has become popular for states to ban the sale of eggs from caged hens; thus, reducing the number of eggs for sale. Seven states have already passed laws to ban the sale of eggs from caged chickens and Colorado is set to go next.

Colorado legislators passed HB20-1343 a couple of years ago, which is an Act forbidding the sale of eggs from caged hens beginning January 1, 2023. Because Colorado is home to some six million egg producing hens, the law had to be modified to allow farm owners more time to make the transition to cage-free housing. Farm owners in Colorado now have two years to install scratch areas, perches, nesting boxes, and areas for dust bathing in order to comply with their new state law. Nevertheless, by 2025 all eggs for sale in Colorado will come from cage-free hens.

Because seven states have already enacted these kinds of new cage-free egg laws, it is difficult to know how much this kind of legislation has contributed to the current egg shortage. Those states which have already enacted laws against selling caged-eggs are Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. What we do know, though, is that these new laws are not helping the current situation.

Adding insult to injury, is the fact that some people have already begun to hoard eggs. Some people are buying eggs in order to hoard them for later consumption. The current egg shortage is rapidly turning out to look very similar to the toilet paper shortage of 2020, and that is not good.

Eggs are an important staple in the American diet. Eggs have always been cheap. They are also an excellent source of protein and other important nutrients, such a B and D vitamins. So, whenever the price of eggs goes up, it affects those with low incomes the most. Many Americans simply cannot afford to pay exorbitant prices for a carton of cage-free eggs.

 

Straight Talk From Steve…
November 17th, 2022

Some of you can still remember the old television detective show, Dragnet. Sgt. Joe Friday’s most famous line on that TV show was, “just the facts ma’am!” The implication of that statement was that good police work derives its conclusions from facts, not from opinions. In the same mentality of Sgt. Joe Friday today I would like to share with you “just the facts” about what some like to refer to as the nonpartisan Unicameral Legislature.

When the Unicameral Legislature was created back in 1937, George Norris convinced State legislators that the success of a Unicameral Legislature would depend upon legislators working together harmoniously in a nonpartisan way. But Sen. George Norris’s desire for the Unicameral Legislature turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking. The Unicameral Legislature has been partisan ever since its inception and it will continue to be partisan in the future.

That the Unicameral Legislature is a partisan body, and not a nonpartisan body, is not something that you have to take from me. All you have to do is open up and read the headlines of any Nebraska newspaper following the election on November 8. Nearly every newspaper referred to the Unicameral Legislature in partisan terms. For example, On November 9 the Scotts Bluff Star Herald ran a story entitled, “Balance of power in Nebraska Legislature tips in favor of Republicans.” On November 9 another article written by Paul Hammel appeared in the Nebraska Examiner with the headline, “Republicans may have gained a filibuster-proof majority in Nebraska Legislature.” Then, on November 11 an article written by Martha Stoddard in the Omaha World Herald contained the headline, “Lead Change in Omaha legislative race jeopardizes GOP hopes of filibuster-proof majority.” Perhaps, someone forgot to tell the media that the Unicameral Legislature is nonpartisan! For once the media may have got it right.

As you can see, not one of these headlines gave any indication whatsoever that the Unicameral Legislature is a nonpartisan body! Instead, each headline insinuated the partisan nature of the Unicameral Legislature. If the Unicameral Legislature really is supposed to be a nonpartisan body, then its political make-up should be of no concern to those in the press. But, as you can clearly see, journalists in Nebraska care deeply about the political make-up of the State Legislature because they know that political Parties matter in the State Legislature.

To be sure, there really is no such thing as a nonpartisan Legislature no matter what George Norris ever said. No nonpartisan Legislature has ever existed anywhere in America. This is a political fact, and it remains a fact even though some people like to say otherwise.

If you read each of the news articles mentioned above, you will see how concerned our reporters are about how many Republicans and how many Democrats get elected to the State Legislature. The idea that any Political Party should ever gain a filibuster proof majority only matters when one truly believes that the State Legislature is a partisan body.

So, if it is true that the Unicameral Legislature really is a nonpartisan body, then the orientation for the newly elected senators, which occurred last week, would not have had to spend a significant amount of time trying to explain what the word “nonpartisan” really means. Something that is true by way of definition or by nature should not have to be explained, but what really happened last week was a matter of indoctrination. Those who presented the talks during the orientation hoped to convince our newly elected Senators that it is an unpardonable sin to act in a partisan ways.

Let’s just say that the real number of those who believe that Nebraska has a nonpartisan Legislature is less than those in Pennsylvania who voted for John Fetterman for the U.S. Senate! The reality is that the Unicameral Legislature is a partisan body and it has always been a partisan body. It is time for State Senators to admit that fact, to pull up their big boy pants or big girl pants, and move on with the business of the State!

If you wonder why we can’t pass very simple legislation like placing our national motto which appears on our coins and on our currency as “in God we trust” in our schools, the answer is that the Unicameral Legislature is a partisan body which is controlled in many ways by a 35 percent partisan minority! And, those are “just the facts, ma’am.”

Sen. Steve Erdman

District 47
Room 1124
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2616
Email: serdman@leg.ne.gov
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