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Colleagues, the first session of this 108th Legislature is coming to an end and I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that it has certainly been an unusual and very difficult session for everyone. This session has tested the legislature on every level. Relationships, processes, rules, and our individual commitment to the goal of passing good legislation to govern our state. I stand here today to tell you and those listening, we have done the work we were sent to do in spite of all of the challenges before us.
The messaging I heard from the beginning of this session and throughout it was that the Legislature isn’t accomplishing anything. That perception could not be further from reality. The hard work and long hours on the part of all of you, the members of the Legislature and all of the legislative staff, has resulted in historic accomplishments. We have done what we were sent here to do and together we have passed transformative legislation in many areas that will positively impact generations to come. All of you, Senators and legislative staff, should feel a sense of satisfaction for the results produced by your very hard and determined work.
For example, we made major commitments to education with LB 583, introduced by Senator Sanders. With passage of Senator Linehan’s LB 754 and Senator Briese’s LB 243, we delivered significant tax relief to Nebraskans. We passed Senator Wishart’s LB 276, which will change the way we deliver behavioral health services across the state by adopting the Certified Community Behavioral Health model. We moved the Economic Recovery Act forward to effectuate real change in North and South Omaha with the passage of Senator McKinney’s LB 531. We were able to address justice reform with Senator Wayne’s bill, LB 50. We passed the implementation bill for the Voter ID ballot initiative. And of course, under the leadership of Senator Clements, we adopted a fiscally responsible budget that provides for the ongoing funding of our state government.
At the beginning of this session, I believe the largest question before us was how best to utilize the excess money in our General Fund and in our Cash Reserve Fund. This Legislature answered with a one billion dollar investment in education, significant tax relief, and transformative investment in communities throughout the state. Our decisions will have a lasting impact for many years to come.
While we weren’t able to have a consent calendar, we utilized a different strategy this year and that was the committee packages. My guidance to the chairs of each standing committee was to identify those bills that had committee member consensus, that had high impact, were non-controversial, and had a low fiscal note. Each committee presented its package to the legislature with those bills they believed fit that criteria. If you take a look at these committee packages and who sponsored the bills in those packages, you will not see any partisan trend, but you will see senators from all over our state putting forth good ideas–good governance bills. These packages all passed with broad support.
Thank you to all of the committees, their members and their staff. Thank you for working hard to bring forth legislative packages that were nonpartisan, that were well-worked and broadly supported. Thank you for the personal sacrifices you made to be present and engaged for long hours.
In all, out of the over 800 different measures introduced at the beginning of the session, when you consider both individual bills and bills amended into the packages, we have passed a total of 291 bills. This is essentially the same number of bills passed compared to the average long session. In 2019, 322 bills were passed and in 2021, 281 bills were passed. This session’s number includes 72 out of the 107 personal, committee and Speaker priority bills. That’s nearly two-thirds of priority bills passed. And this session’s bills were passed with significant consensus and bipartisan support. Only seven bills passed with fewer than 40 votes. In fact, a majority of the bills we passed had the support of no less than 44 supporters and several with many more. With all of the bills passed, including several large, transformative bills, I believe that this was one of the most productive sessions and will have a longer lasting impact than any session in modern history. That is a tribute to you–your hard work and your long hours.
A majority of the session was embroiled in extreme rancor and division, but if you look at what we have accomplished, particularly during these last few days of the session, you can get a glimpse of what we can do when we work together. I hope we can build on that, on the robust debate we’ve had these last few days, as we consider the direction we take next session in January 2024.
With regards to that division – I want you to know that my commitment to the institution guided my decision making throughout this session. I know there were some of you, from across the political spectrum, who did not always agree with my decisions. As speaker, I worked diligently this session to provide guidance and to influence the culture of our nonpartisan institution. I personally made every attempt to not give in to the temptation to make major changes as a result of the challenges. I was asked (at times begged) on numerous occasions to change the rules in the middle of the session or to find a new interpretation of existing rules, with the rationale “because we can.” Except for one rule change which did aid us to address substantive issues, I consistently said no, much to the frustration of many. I did not want to make changes to precedent, adopt a new interpretation of rules, nor suppress dissent by the use of my powers. I did not accept that as a strategy, because I hoped that this year would be an aberration, not a predictor of the future. There will be time to consider how we want to govern ourselves in the future, but I believed then and continue to believe it should not occur in the middle of the session in the midst of turmoil. That is not the time for good decision-making. As speaker, I attempted to hold to the course, and I think that was largely accomplished.
But the speaker alone does not comprise the Nebraska Legislature – clearly it will be up to all the members of the Legislature to determine what kind of Legislature we want going forward. A Unicameral Legislature that is focused on approaching governance with a solution-focused, problem-solving mindset will only happen if you want that. We are 49 out of two million residents of Nebraska who have been elected to represent their interests. It is a privilege, but also a huge responsibility. My commitment to this institution and to the members of this body will be to work with you over the interim to assess the lessons – both good and bad – of this session, learn from them, and move forward as we define not only what we do, but how we do it.
The 108th Legislature, First Session, will adjourn sine die on Thursday, June 1, 2023.
Speaker Arch announced today that the members of the Legislature are asked to please reserve the following dates for the body to work during the evening:
Tuesday, March 28;
Wednesday, March 29;
Monday, April 3;
Tuesday, April 4;
Tuesday, April 11;
Wednesday, April 12;
Thursday, April 13;
Monday, April 17;
Tuesday, April 18;
Wednesday, April 19;
Tuesday, April 25;
Wednesday, April 26;
Tuesday, May 2;
Wednesday, May 3;
Thursday, May 4;
Friday, May 5;
Monday, May 8;
Tuesday, May 9;
Wednesday, May 10;
Thursday, May 11;
Tuesday, May 16;
Wednesday, May 17;
Thursday, May 18;
Monday, May 22;
Tuesday, May 23;
Wednesday, May 24;
Tuesday, May 30;
Wednesday, May 31; and
Thursday, June 1.
The adjournment time for a scheduled “late night” will be around 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. or later (potentially as late as 11:59 p.m.). The specific adjournment time each evening will be dependent upon the Body’s progress on that day’s agenda.
We will have a half-hour recess for dinner. The one hour recess for lunch will continue throughout the remainder of the session unless otherwise announced.
These dates are “reserved late nights” some of which I may cancel. I will provide the members with as much notice as possible of such a cancellation. However, a canceled “late night” may still mean working through the dinner hour and then adjourning sometime early evening. (Although listed as a late night, April 3 will be an adjournment around 7:00 p.m. with no dinner break provided.)
For the last day of the work week, if not a scheduled late night, we will work through lunch and adjourn sometime between 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
On Monday we will convene at 9:00 a.m. and that will be the start time every morning, including the first day of the work week, unless otherwise announced. Daily adjournment times next week will continue to be somewhere in the 12:15 to 12:30 time range.
We will continue debate of LB 376 through its conclusion on Monday. Following that debate, we will take up the second General Affairs committee priority bill, LB 775, a bill that redefines a term under the Nebraska Racetrack Gaming Act and changes and provides powers and duties for the State Racing and Gaming Commission. The committee amendment incorporates three additional bills heard by the committee.
Once the body concludes the general file debate of LB 775, we will move onto additional committee and senator priority bills.
On Monday we will convene at 9:00 a.m. Additionally, please plan on a daily adjournment around 12:30 as opposed to noon. I’m not sure it will be every day, but it is my intention to pick up a little extra time each week.
We will begin next week with debate of Senator Linehan’s priority bill, LB 753, the bill to adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act and provide tax credits. After LB 753, we will return to the debate of the General Affairs Committee priority bill, LB 376.
A reminder that next Thursday, March 9, is the deadline for a senator to submit to me a letter requesting a speaker priority designation. All letters must be hand-delivered to my office prior to adjournment that day.
The deadline for the designation of senator and committee priority bills is Tuesday, March 14, prior to adjournment.
Next week we will begin debate on priority bills. On Tuesday we will debate one of the General Affairs Committee priority bills, Senator Lowe’s LB 376, a bill to change provisions relating to the importation of alcoholic liquor into the state under the Nebraska Liquor Control Act. As has become the practice with committee priority bills, the committee amendment to this bill includes provisions of four related bills amending the Liquor Control Act.
On Wednesday, we will begin debate on Senator Brewer’s priority bill, LB 77, his bill to change provisions for the carrying of concealed handguns.
To date, senators and committees have designated 8 priority bills. That means there are 75 more senator and committee bills yet to be designated as a priority. For those of you new to the designation process, I have a speaker’s memo that will be distributed this morning outlining the procedure and timeline for designation. I encourage you and your staff to read the memo carefully and ask me or Laurie in my office any questions you may have.
A reminder that the deadline for senator and committee priority bill designations is prior to adjournment on Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
The deadline for senators to submit a speaker priority request letter to me is prior to adjournment on Thursday, March 9, 2023. I will be announcing my designation of the speaker priority bills on Wednesday, March 15, the morning following the deadline for senator and committee designations.
Additionally, I want to announce that from this point forward, the background information provided to committees on each gubernatorial appointment will be available to senators prior to the floor debate of a confirmation report. Later today, the Clerk will be providing senators with more information about the program that will be accessible via our internal website, the Uninet.
Monday, February 6 is a recess day and the Legislature will not be meeting. Tuesday through Friday, February 7-10, will be our last week of all day public hearings. Hearings will be preceded by a 9:00 a.m. check-in on the floor.
For the next two weeks, January30-February 10, committees will hold public hearings both morning and afternoon following a 9:00 a.m. check-in on the floor. For the first couple of days of our all-day hearings, I know some committees have scheduled their public hearing to begin at 9:00 a.m. If you serve on one of those committees, I ask that you come to the floor and check-in prior to going to the public hearing. We will need a quorum to convene each morning. For the next two weeks, time on the floor will be minimal once we convene.
Next Monday, we begin committee public hearings at 1:30 p.m. A reminder that during the week of January 23, hearings will only take place in the afternoon. The following two weeks, January 30-February 10, committees will hold public hearings both morning and afternoon following a 9:00 a.m. check-in on the floor.
Monday and Tuesday of next week (January 23 and 24) also will be check-in days with a 10:00 a.m. start time. Wednesday, January 25, we will convene at 9:30 a.m. and at 10:00 a.m. Governor Pillen will deliver his State of the State address. The start time for Thursday and Friday will be 9:00 a.m. unless otherwise announced next week. Adjournment times for Thursday and Friday will be contingent upon any legislative business we may have to address (i.e. committee confirmation reports, motions to withdraw, etc.).
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