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Mike Hilgers

Sen. Mike Hilgers

Speaker of the Legislature

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Today I want to share with you some details on the Legislative Schedule as we move forward.

In addition to scheduling morning floor debate on Tuesday, February 16, I plan to schedule morning floor debate on Tuesday, March 2. The afternoon of both days will be devoted to public hearings.

The mornings of March 9, 10, and 11 will be floor debate with the afternoon available for public hearings and/or executive sessions. Friday, March 12 will be a 9:00 a.m. check-in day, with the full-day available for Friday committees to utilize. All committees, other than the Judiciary Committee, have been directed to schedule their final day of public hearings by March 4; Judiciary Committee’s last day of scheduled public hearings will be March 12. For committees other than the Judiciary Committee, the week of March 9 will be available for executive sessions and Covid-related public hearing “make-up days” if circumstances warrant a committee canceling a public hearing due to the full committee quarantining due to a Covid exposure.

All day floor debate will begin on March 15.

Today’s Friday Floor announcement will be short.

First, beginning Monday we will start convening each day at 9:00 a.m. and adjourn most days by 9:15 a.m. after checking in. All-day hearings begin on Monday and will proceed throughout February and into the first of March. I will be discussing with the committee chairs their work loads prior to deciding and announcing sometime in the near future a date for the conclusion of public hearings.

Next, I have decided to schedule the morning of Tuesday, February 16th for floor debate and have notified the committee chairs of our Tuesday committees to not schedule public hearings on that day. I intend to also schedule another morning of floor debate on Monday, March 1st, or Tuesday, March 2nd, once I discuss with our Monday and Tuesday committee chairs their work loads.

Also, a reminder to senators and legislative aides that all of the statements of intent for bills scheduled for public hearing Tuesday through Friday next week are due to the respective committees on Monday by 9:30 a.m. The statements of intent for bills scheduled for public hearing on Monday are due to the respective committees by 9:30 a.m. this morning.

And finally, the Nebraska Legislature’s website will be updated no later than noon today with the information for the public about the new options available this session for them to provide input to this body that I shared with you yesterday, including activating the link for online submission of comments for a bill.

Covid-19 Hearing Procedures and Public Input Options

To help ensure that the committee hearings are safe, that the members of the public have opportunities to have their voices heard, and that we are appropriately responding to the challenges caused by COVID-19, the Legislature has modified its traditional hearing process. These modifications are intended to create a consistent committee hearing process and to expand the options for public input for those members of the public who are concerned about testifying in-person in a hearing room at the Capitol.

First, and in consultation with the standing committee chairs, health officials, and the Clerk’s office, I have finalized the Covid-19 Hearing Procedures which will be followed by all committees. The procedures include: limiting hearing room capacity to accommodate social distancing; requests for testifiers to limit their time in the hearing room to their bill of interest, to wear a mask, (with the exception of when they are testifying), to use the identified entrance and exit doors to help avoid congestion and promote orderly traffic, and to limit or eliminate handouts. Additionally, pages will be sanitizing the front table and chair between testifiers.

This standardized list of Covid-19 Hearing Procedures will be read by each chair at the beginning of each day’s morning hearings and again at the beginning of the afternoon hearings. Additionally, the Covid-19 Hearing Procedures will be posted each day outside of the hearing room next to that day’s hearing agenda.

Additionally, again in consultation with the standing committee chairs, the Clerk’s office, and working with the Legislature’s IT team, I have finalized additional options for public input to expand the public’s access to the legislative process. As described below, these options will give the public more opportunity to have their testimony included within the hearing transcript, provide an opportunity to submit electronic comments through the Legislature’s website, and harmonize rules for providing position letters for the hearing record.

The full details of how to take advantage of these public input options will be available on the website by the end of the week. I strongly urge the public to read the instructions on that page when it is available so that they can evaluate the option that best fits their particular needs.

There are three primary changes. First, an individual may take advantage of “written submitted testimony.” This option allows an individual who has health or safety concerns to be able to provide testimony as if they were in the committee hearing—i.e., they will be listed on the committee statement and their written testimony will be included within the transcript of the hearing—without having to sit in the hearing room for an extended period of time. There are specific requirements for taking advantage of this option that will be detailed on the Nebraska Legislature’s website later this week.

Second, the Legislature has implemented a new feature allowing the online submission of comments on a bill at any stage of debate. The comments will be accessible by all Senators and staff to read.

Third, we have streamlined and made consistent the process for submitting a position letter to the committee. The new rules create a standard procedure and process, including time line, for submitting these emails or letters to be included within the committee record. While not an expansion of current options, I believe that the consistency of the new rules for the submission of a position letter will help ensure that more members of the public are able to have their position included within the record.

For those who do not wish to take advantage of these options, the current option of testifying in person at public hearings will remain available.

New Deadline for Submission of Statements of Intent

In light of the extra burden placed upon committee staff this year with the holding of all day hearings and the new option of submitting written testimony, as Speaker I am asking each senator to observe a new deadline of Monday morning before 9:30 a.m. for submitting the statements of intent for all of your bills which are scheduled for public hearing that week. (This will apply to all bills other than those scheduled for public hearing on a Monday, in which case the statement of intent will be due Friday morning before 9:30 a.m. Additionally, the deadline will be Tuesday before 9:30 a.m. the week of February 15th due to the Monday holiday.)

Our current rules call for senators to submit a statement of intent “at least 24 hours prior to the bill’s hearing.” The creation of an earlier submission deadline will allow our committee clerks to prepare bill books or their committee shared documents drive for their entire week’s hearings at the beginning of the week.

We are one legislative team. The committee clerks are taking on a significant burden to help execute the all-day committee hearing process, which will, in turn, help ensure that the body can continue its work without a suspension of session. In return, this deadline will help the rest of us provide assistance to our committee clerks (especially for the clerks of our 3-day committees).

As always, thank you for your cooperation and patience as we navigate to make our Covid-19 procedural adaptations work for all of us.

All Day Public Hearings

We are in unprecedented times with the Covid-19 pandemic. Families, businesses, and governments are making decisions daily as to how they respond, balancing essential functions and safety of the public. The Legislature is not immune from these decisions. As Speaker, a significant priority is avoiding a suspension of session. Keeping our session intact is both good for the body and for the citizens of Nebraska who expect their Legislature to continue to do their work during this time. While a suspension may become unavoidable at some point, I believe there are measures we can take to lessen the likelihood of that occurring, and advanced planning will maximize our chances at continuing with the session uninterrupted.

To that end, I have decided to structure the session to accommodate all-day committee hearings beginning on January 25th, with morning hearings beginning at 9:30 a.m. and afternoon hearings beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Gathering in large groups, as we would in floor debate, creates one of the most direct ways in which an exposure and/or self-quarantine of significant numbers of senators could occur and cause a suspension of session. This schedule will lessen the amount of time we are gathering on the floor as a large group during January and February, the projected peak time for the virus. In addition, senators who need to self-quarantine during committee hearings are less likely to miss out on core legislative functions as, unlike floor debate, there are options for them to meaningfully participate in the committee process without being physically present. Last, I believe all-day hearings will make efficient use of our time during this early phase of our session.

This decision is not made lightly, and not without significant input and consideration. I have spent weeks collaborating and discussing this proposal with the Speaker’s office and the Clerk’s office, as well as the standing committee chairs, working to determine the feasibility, risks, and potential downsides of such an approach. Of serious consideration was the safety measures and public input options that we could provide to the public to have their voices heard. On balance, I believe that this is the right approach to allow us to continue our work as a co-equal branch of government and to keep us on the field during this pandemic while balancing the needs of the public and being responsible partners.

Critical to this decision is protection of the public and allowing their voices to be heard. The Nebraska Legislature takes seriously the right of the second house to participate in our unique public hearing process, and to do so in a safe manner during this pandemic.

To that end, sometime next week we will announce expanded options for citizens testifying and having their voices heard without having to sit in the committee hearing rooms all morning or afternoon.  In addition, next week I will be announcing Covid protocols for public hearings that have been formulated with the input and agreement of the standing committee chairs. These two sets of measures—expanded options for input and safety precautions—will help ensure that the public function as the second house safely.

I am waiting to announce the date on which public hearings will end until after the ten days of bill introduction concludes. At that time I will know what the workload is for each committee and I will have had an opportunity to consult with the chairs of committees with the largest workloads.

The all-day public hearing structure does not mean we will not have floor debate in February. I will be working with the chairs of committees with fewer bills to arrange some mornings for scheduled floor debate.

Last, I want to acknowledge and thank the committee staff, in particular the committee clerks and legal counsels, who will help to execute these changes. We have solicited and incorporated input from committee staff, and we are here to assist you in any way that we can in this process. I personally appreciate your help in making sure that this works and that we can fulfill our constitutional functions.

Rules Debate and Schedule for Next Week

In my memo dated January 8th, I had indicated the debate of the motion to adopt permanent rules would begin on Wednesday, January 20th. I am rescheduling that debate to begin on Thursday, January 21st. The start time for Wednesday and Thursday will remain the same. We will convene at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday and at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. On Wednesday will we will adjourn around 11:30 a.m. or when introduced bills have been processed by the Clerk’s office. On Thursday, the Chief Justice will be giving his State of the Judiciary Address followed by the rules debate. On Thursday we will recess at noon and reconvene at 1:30 p.m. to continue debate of the rules. Adjournment may be as late as 6:00 p.m. that day dependent upon our progress. If the rules debate is still pending on Friday, it will not be a check-in day as previously announced, and instead will be a full morning session to finalize our permanent rules.

Bill Introduction

While Wednesday is the last day of bill introduction, some senators have indicated to me they would like to introduce the remainder of their bills on Tuesday. The Revisor’s Office will be open on Monday and in order to guarantee the receipt of your 3-parts by Tuesday prior to adjournment you will need to order them by 5:00 p.m. on Monday. You may request your 3-part by phone or email but if your email is not acknowledged, I would recommend you phone the office for confirmation.

Revision/Clarification to the Food Policy

The Speaker’s Memo dated January 8th noted that “Food sponsored by groups or senators will not be distributed to members of the Legislature in the Chamber or to their offices.”

In response to questions regarding the direct delivery of food by sponsoring groups or individuals to senators’ offices, I am requesting no one deliver to senators’ offices unsolicited food. In other words, I am requesting no door-to-door delivery of food to a senator’s office without the senator’s or staffs’ prior knowledge and agreement to accept the food item.

On the other hand, if senators or staff are participating in a meeting, either in person or virtual, and the sponsoring group provides food for the meeting that the participants have prior knowledge of and agreement to accept, that is permissible.

There is significant interest in the rules surrounding filibusters and when a motion for cloture will be considered to be in order by the presiding officer. This memo is meant to lay out how I intend to approach cloture motions during the long session of the 107th Legislature. The procedure is briefly laid out here; my reasoning is further below.

General Rule Regarding Cloture

In general, the following rules apply to a bill:

1. On general file, full and fair debate will have occurred after 8 hours of debate;

2. On select file, full and fair debate will have occurred after 4 hours of debate;

3. On final reading, and assuming that a motion for cloture had been adopted on either general file or select file, full and fair debate will have occurred after 2 hours of debate; provided, however, that if no motion for cloture was adopted on either general or select file, then full and fair debate will have occurred after 4 hours of debate on final reading.

In potentially rare instances, it may be that a bill is of such complexity, importance, and/or materiality to the State of Nebraska that additional time for debate is necessary. In such instances, on general file full and fair debate will occur at 12 hours, with appropriate adjustments made on select file and final reading. In such a case, I intend to provide the body advance notice of the threshold before each stage begins.

Conversely, while it is not my current intent to do so, I reserve the right, judging on the quality of the debate and the complexity of the bill, to adjust the threshold downward. If that happens, I will treat such occurrence as “precedent” and apply that decision in similar situations regardless of bill or introducer. Please note that my expectation is that floor debate addresses the policy under consideration and is not a member or members talking about unrelated issues to just run out the clock.

Analysis and Reasoning

The motion for cloture goes to many issues at the heart of our work — the proper use of floor debate, which is one our most important tools, the proper allocation of scarce time, as well as important principles of process including fair notice, uniformity, and equal application of rules. I have elaborated on my reasoning here so that the body can understand how I have tried to balance these issues to further our work.

Rule 7, Section 10 sets out the cloture motion. It provides that “the presiding officer may rule such motion for cloture out of order if, in the presiding officer’s opinion, a full and fair debate has not been afforded. Such ruling by the presiding officer shall not be subject to challenge.”

The rule provides three specific elements — (1) the motion for cloture is within the discretion of the presiding officer; (2) a standard of “full and fair debate”; and (3) that the motion is not subject to challenge.

Nowhere do the rules specify any specific time for when “full and fair” debate will occur; indeed, what is “full and fair debate” will depend on a variety of factors, including the complexity of the bill, the substance of the issue, and the importance to the State, such that full and fair debate could not reasonably be determined by a clock.

Despite the inevitable variation between bills, as a historical matter, previous Speakers have set a threshold at which “full and fair” debate occurs. That hour threshold has varied but often has been either 8 hours or 6 hours on general file. At one point in time, the cloture rule had a threshold of 8 hours at each stage of debate.

As a matter of principle, I do not agree that an hours threshold accurately captures the spirit of the rule which requires only “full and fair debate” for the specific bill. Nevertheless, I am adopting such a rule for four reasons.

First, providing a rule in advance gives fair notice and the opportunity for proponents and opponents to rely on set rules for debate. Relying on discretion, or a messy set of potentially conflicting precedents of decisions of the presiding officer erodes predictability and undermines our work.

Second, and critically, an hours threshold promotes a significant principle to this session–fairness and equal treatment. We are a body of 49 equal members and each member must have confidence that the rules will apply equally to each; leaving the decision to pure discretion invites arbitrary application of the rules.

Third, an eight-hour threshold on general file is a reasonably accurate proxy for adequate debate on most, if not nearly all, issues. The majority of bills will never debate eight hours in total; in contrast very few bills, if any this year, will not have been fully debated by the end of eight hours. In that way, the eight hours should account for most, if not all, circumstances.

Fourth, in explicitly allowing for potential (if rare) deviations, there is enough flexibility in the system to handle the one-off occurrence that does not fit within this structure. In deciding on the possibility of a 12-hour threshold at general file, I am recognizing that for some bills 8 hours of debate is simply not enough time to fully debate.

In deciding on deviating from 2 hours at final reading, my reasoning is this: 2 hours at final reading presumes a lengthy debate at previous stages of debate. A bill debated 8 hours on general file and 4 hours of select likely does not need many more hours of debate on final reading. At the same time, it is highly discouraged that, absent extraordinary circumstances, a filibuster should begin at final reading. When such debate at previous stages has not occurred, then additional hours at final reading will likely be necessary.

Some discussion in my time in the body has been around whether 6 hours, or 8 hours, or some other period, may discourage or encourage filibusters. While that can be a factor in the number of filibusters, especially at extremely low thresholds, that was not a primary factor in my analysis. Outside of extremely low hours thresholds, I believe that the number of filibusters are driven by two primary variables–the number of bills passed out of committee that truly merit extensive debate and the culture within the body and the associated respect for floor time. If there are abuses of floor debate and/or an “overuse” of filibuster there are other means by which the body can react and correct; the cloture rule is too imperfect of a mechanism, with too many potential unanticipated consequences, to be used as such a tool.

While I anticipate that these procedures will cover the entire session, given the uncertainty of whether or not this session could be shortened due to Covid-19 or other unforeseen circumstances, I do reserve the option to change these procedures with notice to the body beforehand.

January 11, 12 and 13
• Convene at 10:00 a.m.
• Bill introduction
• Adjourn around 11:30 a.m. or when introduced bills have been processed by the Clerk’s office

January 14
• Convene at 9:30 a.m.
• Bill Introduction
• Governor Rickett’s State of the State Address – 10:00 a.m.
• Adjourn around 11:30 a.m. or when introduced bills have been processed by the Clerk’s office

January 15
• Convene at 10:00 a.m.
• Bill introduction
• Adjourn around 11:30 a.m. or when introduced bills have been processed by the Clerk’s office
• (Tentative) Last day to submit bill requests to Revisor of Statutes/Bill Drafting Office

January 19
• Convene at 10:00 a.m.
• Bill introduction
• Adjourn around 11:30 a.m. or when introduced bills have been processed by the Clerk’s office

January 20
• Convene at 9:00 a.m. and begin debate of motion to adopt permanent rules
• Last Day of bill introduction
• Recess at noon and reconvene at 1:30 p.m.
• Adjourn between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.

January 21
• Convene at 9:30 a.m.
• Chief Justice Heavican’s State of the Judiciary Address-10:00 a.m.
• Continue debate of motion to adopt permanent rules if motion is still pending
• Recess at noon and reconvene at 1:30 p.m. if debate is still pending
• Adjourn between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.

January 22
• Convene at 9:00 a.m. and adjourn following check-in

(Beginning) January 25
• Convene at 9:00 a.m.
• Public hearings begin

To: Colleagues, Staff, and Interested Persons
From: Speaker Mike Hilgers
Date: January 8, 2021
RE: Procedural Modifications and Continuations for the 2021 Session

As you know, former Speaker Scheer set forward a comprehensive set of procedures in response to COVID-19 last year. Those procedures were set forth in consultation with local health officials, legislative staff, and myself in my capacity as Chair of the Executive Board. As outgoing Speaker, Speaker Scheer extended those procedures for the first couple of days of this session. Now that the session has begun, I want to inform you that these protocols will continue in place. While the protocols are currently the same, you should expect that modifications will be made as the session progresses. I will be working with the same leadership team from legislative and local health authorities, along with the new Chair of the Executive Board, Senator Hughes, in assessing any modifications. In particular, I will be consulting with the committee chairs in the next couple of weeks to develop some specific procedures for public hearings

As always, thank you for your continued patience during this unusual time, and assisting the body to keep senators, staff, and the public safe while still discharging our constitutional duties while in session.

Norris Legislative Chamber Access
• Who will be permitted to come into the Chamber will continue to be restricted. The list of persons who will have access to the Chamber will be limited to members of the Legislature, the Clerk and his staff which will include the Sgt. at Arms and a limited number of pages, the State Patrol, Legislative Services Coordinator, Executive Board Legal Counsel, the Speaker’s Procedural Advisor, and Legislative Technology staff when needed.

• Legislative staff permitted on the floor, other than those identified earlier, will be contingent upon each bill under consideration. When a specific bill is being heard, the following staff will be allowed in the Chamber: the Legislative Aide of the Principal Introducer (or the Administrative Assistant at the request of the Senator), the appropriate Committee Legal Counsel, and the Director of the Legislative Fiscal Office and one additional analyst when warranted. Staff will be allowed on the floor up to two bills in advance. Legislative staff will be expected to wear a face mask while in the Chamber.

• Media normally allowed access to the Floor will be allowed to observe the Legislature in session from the north balcony. Media representatives working out of the north balcony will be required to wear a face mask, have their temperature checked, and to practice social distancing while in the balcony.

• Senators proposing amendments will not be allowed to have their staff on the Floor during debate of his or her amendment. Additionally, staff will not be allowed on the Floor for delivering items to or retrieving items from his or her senator. This applies not only during, but both before and after session. Those items will need to be delivered to the Clerk’s Office, as before. (See delivery practices below.)

• The Chamber glass doors to the Rotunda will not be in use during session. For safety reasons, these doors will not be locked, but they will be roped off and unavailable except in an emergency. Additionally, the entrance into the foyer between the Chamber and the Rotunda will be roped off to the public given the area does not provide enough space for social distancing with normal use.

• All persons will enter and exit the Chamber through the back hallway. The door on the north side will be the single entrance to the Chamber and the door on the south side will be the single exit. Signage will be used to clearly identify exit and entrance doors.

• Leaving the floor to access the Women’s Lounge or the cloak room will require an exit to the hallway and then re-entrance to the Chamber through the north side door.

• All persons entering the Chamber will have their temperature taken prior to admittance. Anyone whose temperature registers at 100.4 or above will be asked to wait outside of the Chamber for 10 minutes at which time his or her temperature will be rechecked. Staff whose temperature again registers at 100.4 or above will not be allowed in the Chamber. Members whose temperature again registers at 100.4 or above, or who exhibit other symptoms of COVID-19, will be asked to not enter the Chamber but will be allowed to participate in debate from the east balcony. A microphone will allow these members to engage in the debate.

• The south balcony will be reserved for any member of the Legislature who wishes to observe the session in person but also remove themselves from the floor where complete social distancing is impossible. However, this balcony has not been equipped with a microphone. Senators in the south balcony will not be able to participate in debate unless they return to the floor. Members choosing to sit in the south balcony are encouraged to wear a mask.

• Lobbyists and members of the public will not be permitted in the balconies.

• The Doctor of the Day program will resume, although the Visiting Chaplain program will continue to be suspended. The opening prayer will be delivered by a senator each morning from the member’s seat.

• Legislative Technology staff will not be sitting on the floor each day. For technology assistance, senators will need to notify Dick Brown or another member of the Clerk’s floor staff who will contact someone from the Technology office to assist the senator.

• Family will not be permitted on the floor during the first day of session. Instead, we ask that families of members-elect and re-elected members be located in the south and east balconies. All family members present will be expected to wear masks, adhere to temperature checks, and social distance while observing session from the balconies. Due to limited seating, family will be seated on a first come, first served basis.

• Inaugural ceremonies will not take place within the chamber on the second day of session, as is normally customary. This ceremony will take place at a currently undetermined location, pending discussions with the Secretary of State.

Delivery of Items to and from Senators on the Floor
• Staff will not be allowed on the Floor to deliver items to or to retrieve items from their senator. A page will be located in the front room of the Clerk’s Office (Room 2018) who will serve as couriers between senators and their staff. Senators’ staff may deliver items to the Clerk’s Office for delivery by a page to their senator on the Floor. Likewise, senators may give items to one of the few pages on the Floor for pickup by the senator’s staff in the Clerk’s Office. The pages are specifically instructed to only return items to the Clerk’s Office and will not be visiting member’s personal offices.

• Pages will not be delivering posters from desk to desk in the Chamber for signatures.

Interaction with the Public, Lobbyists, and Staff
• Sgt. at Arms will not be delivering messages from or to persons in the Rotunda.

• Senators wishing to speak to the public, a lobbyist, or their staff will need to exit the Chamber by the back south door and then re-enter the Chamber through the back north door once they have spoken to the person outside of the back hallway. Senators will want to utilize text messaging, their cell phone (in a phone booth) and their intercom for communication with persons outside of the Chamber.

Access to the Hallway behind the Chamber
• Members of the public and lobbyists will not be allowed to cross the secured, roped off hallway behind the Chamber (hallway situated between the west stairs and the Clerk’s Office).

• Legislative Staff not allowed on the Floor will be able to use this hallway to travel to the other side as long as they are wearing a mask and wait until the hallway is not congested.

Coffee, Tea, Water and Sponsored Food
• Pages will not be utilized for getting coffee, tea, and water for members. We will be operating under a self-serve protocol for refreshments.

• Pages will be routinely sanitizing the coffee and hot water handles and the general refreshments area.

• Food sponsored by groups or senators will not be distributed to members of the Legislature in the Chamber or to their offices.

• Senators are asked to eliminate sharing candy or other food items from their desk.

Modifications to Voting Procedures
• Call in votes will be allowed in lieu of a machine vote from members with assigned seating at a side table, or members sitting in the east or south balconies, as long as the senator is standing and visible to the Clerk.

Speaking Queue
• In order to prevent congestion at the Presiding Officer’s desk, a laptop will continue to be positioned at the front of the Chamber on the south side front desk and one on the north side back row of the Chamber for members to check who is in the speaking queue. Please do not move the laptop or interact with it beyond scrolling the queue.

• The Presiding Officer will be announcing the senator recognized to speak in addition to the next two members in the speaking queue in order to minimize senators needing to check one of the two laptops for the speaking queue list.

• Senators sitting in the east and south balconies will be provided with a method to add their name to the speaking queue. Senators in the east balcony will be allowed to participate in debate from the balcony. Senators in the south balcony will need to return to the floor in time to address the body in their speaking queue order.

Legislative Chamber Social Distancing and Cleaning Practices
• Senators’ desks and the front staff desks have been modified to provide a Plexiglas barrier in front of each row.

• The tables on each side of the Chamber (along with the addition of one small extra table on each side) have been repurposed as temporary members’ desks. I am asking the senators who sit on the outside aisle of both the north and south sides of the Chamber, in each row of three members, to utilize the side table next to their row as their Chamber desk. These senators will be able to return to their row for addressing the body and for a machine vote. While the request is made of the members sitting on the outside aisle, the three members in each row may agree to identify a different member for relocation to a side table.

• Two chairs on each side of the Chamber (two in the front and two in the back) have been situated for temporary seating for the senator and committee staff persons allowed in the Chamber during the debate of a bill. (The Legislative Aide of the Principal Introducer whose bill is being debated and the appropriate Committee Legal Counsel.) When not speaking to their senator, these chairs are available for the staff allowed on the floor. Staff are required to remain in these seats when present on the floor. Two additional locations at the back of the Chamber under the north balcony are reserved for the Director of the Fiscal Office and one additional Fiscal Analyst when their presence is warranted.

• Senators are encouraged to wear a mask while on the floor when interacting with others.

• The Legislature has hired an outside cleaning crew to sanitize the Chamber, the Senators’ Lounge and the balconies each evening. To that end, each member will need to clear off their desk (including side tables used as temporary work stations) of all items, including papers, to allow for proper cleaning. Pages will be tasked with clearing off any member’s desk for those members who fail to remember to do so before leaving that day.

• Hand sanitizing wipes will be available at each microphone for use on the mic stem. Please wipe down the microphones after use.

Cloak room
• We are advising only 3 people in the Cloak room (refreshment and exit area behind the Chamber) at one time.

Senators’ Lounge
• We are advising only 10 people in the Senators’ Lounge at one time and that 6 feet of social distancing be maintained.

Hearings and Executive Sessions
• The hearing rooms have been modified to allow social distancing between senators on the committee and between the audience members. The public capacity for most rooms is 27 audience members. Chairs and Committee Clerks will need to plan ahead and be flexible regarding participation from the general public.

• Each hearing room used (except room 1113) will have one door identified as the single entrance and one door identified as the single exit from the room.

• Pages will disinfect the testifier chair between testifiers. The room will be disinfected each night if a hearing was held in the room.

CDC and Public Health Department Guidelines Recommended Throughout the Legislature
• All senators, staff, lobbyists, and members of the public interacting with the Legislature are encouraged to wear a mask. This includes when you are walking in the hallways, standing in the Rotunda, and when speaking to others either in your own office or when visiting another office.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Additionally, use hand sanitizer frequently in between washing your hands.

•Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid shaking hands.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw the tissue in the trash.

Senator Offices
• Senators are encouraged to implement social distancing in their offices between staff and with members of the public visiting their office.

• If desired, staff will be able to have their temperature taken each day in the hallway behind the Chamber. However, we ask staff to avoid the start of session each day and when the Legislature reconvenes in the afternoon since the hallway will be heavily traveled with members entering the Chamber.

• The Executive Board is currently in discussion with health officials regarding testing during session. More information on testing to follow.


Speaker Duties
January 8th, 2021

The Speaker of the Legislature is elected by the membership every two years. Speaker responsibilities and privileges include:

  • setting the session calendar and daily agenda;
  • serving as the Legislature’s presiding officer in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor;
  • working with fellow legislators to overcome differences as legislation is considered;
  • selecting up to 25 bills or resolutions as his or her priorities. Priority bills are generally considered ahead of other bills. Other senators may select one priority bill per session, while committees may select two; and
  • designating up to five bills or resolutions each session as his or her major proposals with scheduling priority. Major proposals must already be designated as a senator’s priority bill and must be approved by two-thirds of the Executive Board.

Sen. Mike Hilgers

Speaker of the Legislature
Room 2103
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2673
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