by Gregory C. Lauby of SR et tu, LLC
Here are hard facts about Nebraska legislative elections in November that anyone hoping for changes in Nebraska law should know.
In 2021, the Legislature will open its two-year session. The upcoming year will be a 90-day term. In 2022, there will be a 60-day term. Bills introduced in 2021 can be carried over into the 2022 session. Bills not enacted during either term die and must be re-introduced to start the process in 2023 if they are ever to become or repeal a law.
The Legislature begins in January. Bills must be introduced by a senator during the first 10 business days of the term to be considered under the present rules. All bills introduced receive a hearing before the Committee to which they are assigned. Any bill must be approved by a majority of the Committee for it to advance to General File for consideration by all Senators, unless the senators vote to ignore the rules.
There are 49 state senators in the non-partisan Unicameral. Under the rules of the last session, 33 “yes” votes were required to end a filibuster preventing a vote to advance a bill. If a bill advances through the two stages of debate, at least 25 “yes” votes are required for final approval. Thirty “yes” votes are needed to override a veto by the Governor.
This November, the 25 Unicameral seats from odd numbered Districts will be on the ballot. Of those, five candidates are unopposed. (Sen Justin Wayne – District 13; Sen, Steve Halloran – District 33; Sen. Tom Breise – District 41; Sen. Steve Erdman – District 47 and Mike Flood – District 19). There are 14 incumbent senators seeking re-election. Six seats are “open” meaning there are two candidates but neither is an incumbent.
Based on vote totals in the May primary election, several of the elections will be relatively close. Several factors indicate that voter turnout will exceed historic highs which can cause unpredictable results. Individual efforts in the upcoming election can determine which candidate is elected.
However, SR et tu, LLC has received, from two reliable sources in a position to know, information that Governor John “Pete” Ricketts donated $400,000 thousand dollars of his personal wealth to the Nebraska Republican Party to be used to influence legislative races in November. That’s $400,000 in addition to the $100,000 given to the party before the May primary.
The Ricketts donation shows his determination to establish a Unicameral which will perform his wishes on the issues important to him. One reported target is Sen. Carol Blood in District 3, (in Sarpy County). Sen. Blood was the sponsor of a bill to release juveniles found to have committed a registrable offense in another state from the obligation to register on Nebraska’s public registry as if they were adults. Nebraska juveniles were already exempted from the requirement to register. The bill was defeated by opposition from the attorney general and senators beholden to the Governor.
Another reported target is Jen Day who challenges Senator Andrew LaGrone in District 49 (West Sarpy County – Gretna area). Sen. LaGrone was appointed by Governor Ricketts to fill a vacant seat and has been senator for two years. He has consistently opposed and voted against the criminal justice reform bills put forth by the Judiciary Committee. Ms. Day’s background can be found at her website. In the May primary, Ms. Day received 5,414 votes compared to 4,787 for LaGrone.
One example of the damage that can result occurred when Senator Julie Slama, who Governor Ricketts appointed to fill a vacancy in District 1 and who serves on the Judiciary Committee, received roughly $66,000 dollars from the Republican party funneling Ricketts’ donations. Mailers attacking one of the Slama opponents, Janet Palmtag, a fellow Republican, pictured Ms. Palmtag and Sen. Ernie Chambers and stated Palmtag sides with Chambers and “liberals in Lincoln”. Senator Slama introduced and secured the passage of LB 519, increasing penalties for “human trafficking”.
These are just three district elections that organized individuals could affect -– for the better.
The first step is to make sure you and those you know are registered to vote. Any eligible person can register, update address or name or change party affiliation with any form of state ID at the Secretary of State website.
A second step is to learn about the candidates for all offices on your local ballot. The Omaha World-Herald (omaha.com) is now publishing articles each day about various candidates. Most candidates have a website promoting their strengths which can be found by googling their name.
If the roughly 6,000 Nebraska registrants have at least nine extended family members (partner, parents, in-laws, siblings, cousins etc.) and three to five friends in an immediate circle, that would be 24,000 votes of people who understand the unfairness of the SOR — before those people influence their family and friends. Those votes can be a movement.
Thrive on and make America gracious.