Inside the Rotunda, Week Three

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

With the ten-day window for bill introductions now at a close, and the legislative agenda laid out for all to see, the Capitol has turned its primary focus to the hearing schedule. The clock ticks fast for senators and staff as they often have to juggle multiple hearings a day. The behind-the-scenes preparation can be intense as staff members work to line up testifiers, write introductions, draft amendments and prepare their senators for the myriad of questions that could come their way at a hearing. The Capitol is like a factory of worker bees. The end result isn’t always honey, however!

Navigating the hearings process can sometimes be intimidating to would-be testifiers. The Unicameral website has some great tips for those wishing to make their voices heard.

Committees already dove in to some big issues during the first week of hearings. The Judiciary Committee heard several bills related to prison overcrowding, including one that would mandate the Nebraska Department of Corrections and the Nebraska Board of Parole to develop an accelerated parole review plan for Nebraska to get its prisons down to 125% of design capacity. Nebraska prisons currently sit slightly above 155% of design capacity. Nebraska prisons are the second most overcrowded in the nation, behind Alabama. Coalition member ACLU of Nebraska is currently suing the state to force it to fix its overcrowding emergency. Along with budget and tax issues, expect prison issues to take center stage on floor debate later this session.

Priority Bills

With more than 400 bills introduced during the ten-day introduction period, most of those bills will not make it to the finish line this session. Even those that are advanced to General File by a committee have significant hurdles to clear.

Each session, the speaker can designate up to 25 priority bills, standing committees can select two priority bills (generally) and each senator can select one priority bill. Senators Tom Brewer and Bob Krist have already named their priority bills and others will soon follow suit. A lot of consideration goes into priority designations. Committees will often package several bills together as priorities, giving senators some ability to find homes for bills they do not prioritize.  The final date for priority submission is February 20.

Until next time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall