Simply put, priority designation is a big deal in the Nebraska Legislature. There are personal priorities, committee priorities, and Speaker priorities. The list of priority bills is public and can be found here, with one category noticeably missing. Speaker priorities are the highly anticipated, last chance to dance list to be announced.
In the short (60 day) session, priority designations are critical. The likelihood of debate on a bill by the full legislature is directly tied to its priority status or lack thereof. In the Unicameral, priority designation can be quite literally a noun, a verb, and an adjective:
- Priorities are up online.
- Does the bill have a priority?
- He/she prioritized that bill.
- It’s a priority bill.
Last week, senators designated their personal priority bills – they each picked the one bill they want to try to guarantee some floor time. They could choose one of their own bills or one of their colleagues’. Some senators waited until the very last moment before the deadline before they signed the dotted line.
A senator picking a certain bill as a priority doesn’t necessarily mean it is the most important bill on his or her list. It’s possible that one or more of their bills made it onto the consent calendar – smooth sailing to passage. Maybe some of their other bills will be amended into “committee priorities”, or they have made an agreement with another senator to amend their bill into another personal priority serving as a vehicle. Let’s just hope the amendment is germane and/or no one challenges its germaness – yes germaness – it’s a word.
Germane or not germane, that is the question. Certainly a question to explore in a future blog.
For now, all eyes are on the priorities – who’s got ‘em, who wants ‘em, and who’s missed the boat. Don Walton’s latest column details one priority designation in particular that could have implications for elections in years to come. Senator Hilkemann prioritized LB 10, resurrecting a bill introduced by Senator McCoy in an effort to switch Nebraska’s electoral votes to a winner-take-all system. A spotlight will be placed on this personal priority bill and the 48 others in the days and weeks ahead.
Speaker priorities – the last chance for priority status – were announced yesterday. You can see them on the bottom here.