Inside the Rotunda, Week 8

Aversion to Conflict

This year’s Nebraska Legislature has thus far been defined largely by aversion to conflict. However, the desire to work across political ideologies to reach consensus often produces breaking points. The current debate on LB399 (Slama) has produced such a breaking point for members of the body. Senator Slama’s proposal deals with updates to Nebraska’s law requiring civics education. Senator Chambers opposes the existence of the statutes in question and also opposes LB399. He has raised serious questions about how civics education deals with racial injustices in American history. The bill has largely divided more progressive members of the body, some who see it as an improvement to bad existing law and others who feel it is still too fundamentally flawed to advance. The debate will pick up Tuesday on the floor and Senator Slama believes she has the votes to prevail. 

Also scheduled for debate Tuesday is LB627 (Pansing Brooks), which would prohibit employment discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identify. Senators have been counting votes on the floor. Word has it that there are a lot of people not committing one way or another on LB627. Many seem to want to avoid conflict, but proponents hope to get this to a vote. In years past, the bill has gone three hours and then been removed from the schedule without a recorded vote because of the Speaker’s special rule forcing an introducer to show they likely have the vote before a bill is rescheduled after three hours of debate. 

A Glimpse into Executive Sessions

Ever wonder what the process is for advancing bills out of committees? Ever wonder why some bills seem to linger in committees while others move out swiftly? 

Each committee has what are referred to as “Executive Sessions” or “Execs” where members discuss legislation that has come before them and decide whether to advance a bill with a recorded vote, kill a bill with a recorded vote or simply take no official action on a bill. These sessions are scheduled at the discretion of the committee chair. The committee will sometimes hold a bill longer because the introducer of the bill may be working on an amendment to address concerns raised at the hearing. That is why you will often hear senators say at hearings that they are willing to work with opponents to address issues they raised. Sometimes opponents will raise specific issues with a bill at a hearing or in private meetings with a senator that can be fixed through a compromise amendment. Other times bills linger in committee because the majority of members are uncomfortable moving a bill forward, but don’t want to officially kill the bill. Other times, committee chairs will simply not schedule a bill for exec, or delay a vote, if they are opposed to it. Most chairs deploy more democratic processes within their committees, while some do not.  

Executive Sessions can sometimes be contentious events where members may disagree vehemently on the merits of a bill. These sessions are only open to members of the committee, legislative committee staff and members of the press. Committee Clerks keep a record of all votes within executive sessions and these votes are reflected on the “Committee Statements” posted after the committee has taken action. 

Medicaid Implementation

Wondering how the Ricketts administration plans to expand Medicaid and fulfill the will of the voters? The picture doesn’t seem any clearer after a hearing last week on LB631 (Morfeld), which would create a Medicaid Expansion Task Force. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services testified against LB631 but faced tough questions from the Executive Board about their plans to implement.  

Spring Training

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall is one of the many “baseball nerds” around the Capitol. Spring training has begun and I am ready for anything that takes my mind away from this brutal winter! 

Until Next Week,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall