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Norris Legislative Chamber Access
Starting with the changes in the special session, we are continuing to reinstate normal procedures to the chamber although some restrictions remain. Specifically:
• The glass doors to the Rotunda will be accessible during session, in addition to the south door outside the Speaker’s Office. Both the north and south cloak room doors will be inaccessible.
• The delivery of notes from the rotunda by the Sergeants will resume although some modifications may be implemented.
• There will be no members of the public or distinguished visitors allowed in the rear of the Chamber.
• Individuals permitted to enter the legislative Chamber will continue to be restricted. The list of persons who will have access to the Chamber will be limited to:
o members of the Legislature,
o the Clerk and necessary Clerk’s Office staff
o the Sgt. at Arms
o the legislative pages
o the State Patrol
o the Legislative Services Coordinator
o the Chairman of the Executive Board’s staff
o the Speaker’s staff
o any Legislative Technology staff when needed
o the Director of the Legislative Fiscal Office and other necessary division staff
• Legislative staff permitted on the floor, other than those identified earlier, will be contingent upon each bill under consideration or the immediate needs of a senator. This list has been broadened from previous practice:
o The following staff will be allowed in the Chamber for the current bill and the next two bills on the agenda:
√ the appropriate legal counsel
√ one staff member of the Principal Introducer of the bill and the Member who prioritized the pending bill
√ one staff member of an introducer of the present amendment/motion and the next 2 amendments/motions immediately following the present amendment/motion.
o When a committee confirmation report on a gubernatorial appointment is being heard only the appropriate Committee Legal Counsel will be permitted in the Chamber.
o Additionally, staff may be permitted onto the floor for specific needs that arise with a member. Examples of specific needs include the distribution of physical information or picking up and dropping off personal belongings. Staff permitted under these circumstances are not to remain in the Chamber and should leave the Chamber after the immediate need has passed. Only staff who are directly responsible for the present agenda item or the next 2 agenda items immediately following the present agenda item will be allowed under the balconies. Sergeants within the chamber will be asking staff sitting under the balconies who do not fall within the above criteria to leave the floor.
• Media will continue to be allowed on the floor in a limited capacity. Once the daily limit of 5 media members on the floor has been met, subsequent media will be asked to conduct business from either balcony.
• Members who have been directly exposed to Covid-19 will be allowed to participate in debate from the east balcony. A microphone will allow these members to engage in the debate.
• The north and south balconies will be open to members of the public and members of the media. Signs will be posted encouraging social distancing and mask usage by those seated in these areas.
Doctor of the Day
• The Doctor of the Day Program will resume normal operations.
• The Visiting Chaplain program will resume operations with some additional caveats. Chaplains are expected to check-in and remain in the sponsoring member’s office when they first arrive. It will be the responsibility of members and their staff to escort the chaplain to the Norris Chamber no earlier than 5 minutes before the start of session. Once outside the Norris Chamber, the Sergeant at Arms will escort the chaplain to and from the legislative floor. Once the visiting chaplain has concluded daily prayer, the Sergeant at Arms will escort the chaplain out to the waiting staff of the sponsoring member.
• 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 the manager of the Technology office who will then provide assistance to the senator.
Coffee, Tea, Water and Sponsored Food
• Pages will resume getting coffee, tea, and water for members.
• Food sponsored by groups or senators can be distributed to members of the Legislature in the Chamber.
Hearings and Executive Sessions
• The hearing rooms procedures, such as mask requirements and social distancing, will be enacted based on the discretion of the committee chair after consultation with the members of his or her committee.
• There will be no public usage of hearing rooms until the conclusion of the hearing room phase of session.
Submission of Testimony
• The practice of submitted written testimony for public hearings on a bill or resolution will be discontinued. Only in-person testimony will be accepted and appear on the committee statement.
• The submission of public comments to the online bill database will continue.
• The procedure for submitting position letters for inclusion as a permanent record of the public hearing record has changed. The submission of public comments to the online bill database will allow for the person submitting comments to request the comments to be part of the permanent hearing record if submitted prior to 12 p.m. CST the workday prior to the hearing. This is a new feature of the online bill database. The online bill database will be the only way to submit comments for inclusion as a public hearing exhibit. Letters and comments submitted via email or hand-delivered will no longer be included as part of the hearing record.
I want to announce how I will be handling certain procedural motions under our current rules during the upcoming special session. As a reminder, the call is limited to the adoption of redistricting maps for the Legislature, the Public Service Commission, the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, the State Board of Education, the Nebraska Supreme Court, and the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as a limited appropriation for the expenses related to the special session. In addition, confirmation reports will be addressed during the special session as those are administrative in nature.
While many of the floor procedures and activities during a special session are similar to a regular session, there are a couple of important distinctions. First, unlike many of the bills we debate during traditional sessions which do not have to pass; the purpose of the special session is to pass redistricting bills. Second, unlike a regular session in which we have up to 90 or 60 workings days to work on legislation and conclude floor debate, we have significantly reduced time during this special session. Third, unlike a regular session, we have no other priorities from other senators or committees to complete—the adoption of redistricting maps is our focus.
The floor procedures I followed during the 2021 session (and based upon the practice of former speakers) were designed with a regular session in mind. Specifically, the procedures allow the body to dispense with legislation after initial debate if the body indicates a lack of support. In addition, these floor practices and procedures were intended to provide time for all priorities bills to have floor time.
In the upcoming special session, my role is to facilitate the full and fair debate of the redistricting measures to allow each to become law in a form agreed to by a majority of the Legislature. To that end, the following procedures for special session will apply:
First, I will be following the “full and fair debate” guidelines I established for the 2021 session. Specifically, debate will be “full and fair” after 8 hours on general file, 4 hours on select file, and 2 hours of debate on final reading. Note that for the special session, a motion for cloture will be in order after 2 hours of debate on final reading, regardless as to whether a motion for cloture was adopted on a previous round of debate.
Second, because we are in special session to pass redistricting plans, if any redistricting plan fails to receive the required 33 votes to adopt a cloture motion it will not be considered completed. Instead, I will be following the practice outlined in Rule 7, Sec 10 which directs the debate on the bill to end for the day but allows the bill to be rescheduled. If the bill fails to receive the needed votes for cloture, it may be rescheduled on the following legislative day. In such an instance, per the rule a cloture motion will be in order after two additional hours of debate (at any stage of debate).
Third, for the legislative appropriation bill funding the expenses of the special session—a narrow bill within the call of the special session—a motion for cloture will be in order at 2 hours on general file, 1 hour on select file, and 1 hour on final reading.
Furthermore, bills failing to advance from general file or select file will be rescheduled unless they have been indefinitely postponed due to failing to advance three times from general file or two times from select file pursuant to Rule 6, Sec 3(i) and Rule 6, Sec 5 (h). Additionally, any bill bracketed also will be rescheduled for debate either when eligible for rescheduling in the case of bracketing to a date certain or after a motion to unbracket the bill is filed.
Norris Legislative Chamber Access
Doctor of the Day
Coffee, Tea, Water and Sponsored Food
Hearings and Executive Sessions
Submission of Testimony
The special session will convene on September 13, at 10:00 a.m. Prior to that date, I have been informed by Chair Linehan that the Redistricting Committee will vote on a redistricting plan (for all 7 maps), and make those maps public, to provide as much notice to the public as possible regarding the proposed plan in advance of the public hearings.
The Redistricting Committee will hold hearings in each of the three congressional districts as required by rule. Those hearings will be on September 14, 15, and 16. The information is as follows and will be posted on the appropriate public pages of the Nebraska Legislature’s website:
September 14 at 1:30 pm
Central Community College
3134 W. Hwy 34
Room 555, Health Science Education Center
3134 W. Hwy 34
Grand Island, NE
September 15 at 9:00 am
Nebraska State Capitol Bldg.
1445 K St.
Scott Conference Center
6450 Pine St.
On September 13, I anticipate that we will gavel in the session and that the plan will be introduced. We will then stand at ease to allow for the plan to be read across, referred to the Referencing Committee, and to allow the Referencing Committee to refer the plans and have the reference report reported to the floor. In addition, we will need to stand at ease long enough for the hearing notices to be completed and read across.
On September 14-16, in addition to the Redistricting Committee hearings, some standing committees will conduct hearings on gubernatorial appointments (such appointments are considered “administrative” and accordingly can be completed during the special session). At this time those committees include: Education, General Affairs, Government, HHS, Natural Resources, Judiciary, Business and Labor, and Retirement. For members not serving on any of these committees, September 14-16 will be check-in days only.
I anticipate that general file debate will begin on Friday, September 17. Right now please plan on September 17 being at least a full day (with a 5 p.m. or later adjournment). Work will extend to that Saturday, September 18, with a potential 8:00 a.m. start time. The next week please reserve, for now, late nights every day of the week, including Friday September 24.
We are headed into the final days of session, and this is my final end-of-week announcement. As announced last week, we will adjourn sine die next Thursday, May 27.
The schedule for the week is as follows. Monday and Tuesday will be recess days.
On Wednesday we will schedule the redistricting resolution, LR134, the resolution outlining the substantive criteria to be used by the Legislature during the 2021 redistricting process. In addition, we will schedule any motions to override a gubernatorial veto on Wednesday. As I have promised throughout the session, the body will have the opportunity to override any vetoes from the Governor. In collaboration with Governor Ricketts, he has agreed to return any vetoes for bills passed on final reading this week by Tuesday. (He has also agreed to return all signed bills by Wednesday morning.)
As announced last week, we will be adjourning sine die prior to the ninetieth day scheduled for June 10. After the progress of the last two weeks, and monitoring the work remaining to be done for this session, my intent is to adjourn sine die on Thursday, May 27th.
I have made the commitment to ensure that senators have an opportunity to override any gubernatorial vetoes. For this to occur, select file for any bills which could potentially be vetoed need to be completed by the end of next Tuesday. Additionally, for these bills to be correctly engrossed they will need to be returned by the Revisor’s Office and placed on final reading prior to adjournment on Tuesday evening. Final reading on those bills then must take place no later than next Thursday.
Based on our progress and the work remaining I am confident that we will adjourn on Thursday, May 27th. However, if absolutely necessary, I am prepared to delay adjournment sine die to Friday, May 28th. Note that this is a currently scheduled recess day. In either case we will adjourn before Memorial Day weekend.
Regarding next week’s schedule, because of the necessity of completing select file of bills that may be vetoed on Tuesday, please be prepared for Tuesday to be a longer evening. We will convene at 9:00 a.m. instead of 10:00 a.m. and we will shorten the lunch recess by reconvening at 1:00 p.m. instead of 1:30 p.m. Please continue to hold the remaining days of the week as potential late nights. Note that I intend to have the Body’s work for the 107th Legislature, First Session, substantively complete by next Friday, May 21.
We are completing our second long week. As a reminder and as announced last night, we are adjourning earlier today before the short weekend to give members more time away.
Next week will be another long week. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were announced earlier as dates we could work into the evening. I would ask you to plan on working late those nights. As usual, the actual adjournment times will be dependent on the progress of each day’s agenda but I do anticipate working fairly late at least two of the three nights. Thursday will be a full day with an hour lunch break.
We will continue to begin at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. We completed our final general file consent calendar earlier this week
Next week I will be scheduling the following specific bill on an identified day:
On Wednesday, we will debate LB 474, Senator Wishart’s bill to adopt the Medicinal Cannabis Act.
Additionally, next week I will be scheduling select file debate of the taxation and spending bills which we have advanced from general file and other priority bills which may be advanced from committee.
We will be adjourning sine die earlier than the scheduled 90th day, but no specific date has been determined at this time.
Next week we will continue to work off of the list of taxation and spending bills announced last Thursday. For next week, I am adding three bills to that list:
LR 11CA (Erdman) Constitutional amendment to require enactment of a consumption tax and prohibit certain other forms of taxation
LB 241 (Vargas) Adopt the Meatpacking Employees COVID-19 Protection Act
LB 496 (Hilkemann) Require collection of DNA samples for persons arrested for crimes of violence
I have made some decisions regarding specific bills and want to share that with you today.
We will begin the week next Tuesday with our final consent calendar. On Tuesday, we will also debate LB 454, Senator Friesen’s bill to adopt the School Property Tax Stabilization Act and change the valuation of agricultural land.
On Wednesday, I will be scheduling LR11CA, Senator Erdman’s constitutional amendment to require enactment of a consumption tax and prohibit certain other forms of taxation.
On Thursday, I will be scheduling LB 241, Senator Vargas’ bill to adopt the Meatpacking Employees COVID-19 Protection Act.
Again, while my primary focus for next week is general file, I will be continuing to schedule select file and final reading bills during the course of the week.
A reminder that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening next week are potential late nights. Please be prepared to stay until we adjourn. The specific adjournment time will be dependent upon our progress for each day. Tuesday night of this week is a good example; we moved through several bills on Tuesday allowing us to adjourn prior to 7:00 p.m. while not sacrificing our productivity. At this point, I want to remind you to be prepared to work a full day next Friday with a 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. lunch recess, however, my hope is that our progress next week will allow a noon adjournment. At the end of next week, I will assess our productivity and the number of priority bills yet to be debated. After that assessment, I will be prepared to make decisions and an announcement regarding the schedule for the following two weeks.
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