2020 Nebraska Legislative Elections

Facts you should know if you’re hoping for change.

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.

WE WANT YOU to Exercise Your Right to Vote

Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020 will be upon us in just a few short weeks. 

If you have a felony record, but have been off paper (no longer on probation or parole) for two years, you are eligible to register to vote NOW! Or, if you or someone you know is currently 17, but will turn 18 on or before election day, they are also eligible to register to vote NOW! 

Because of the pandemic, this election season is unusual, but not unprecedented. In 1918, the Spanish Flu outbreak was crossing the country. On the east coast, where the pandemic was waning, churches and schools were reopened just days before the midterm elections. On the west coast, all poll workers and voters were required to wear masks. Based partially on the pandemic, voter turnout was low, but U. S. involvement in WWI also impacted voter turnout. AND remember, women did not yet have the right to vote!

The right to vote has not come easily for everyone in this country. Disenfranchised segments of our population, (most notably women, non-whites, and those with felony convictions), have been fighting for the right to vote practically since the beginning of this country’s existence. In 1787, the U. S. Constitutional Convention placed voting rights into the hands of the states; and since that time, there has been one battle or another going on over voting rights.

You may hear complaints that individual votes don’t count because of the Electoral College process, which doesn’t accurately reflect the will of the people. However, the only race that the Electoral College has any power over is the presidential election. There are so many other items on the ballot.

For instance, in Nebraska, we have amendments to our State Constitution on the ballot. When the Legislature proposes a constitutional amendment, they can vote to put it before the voters. We the People have the power to change things that we believe are wrong or maintain things that we believe are right. This November, we will be asked to vote on Nebraska Amendment 1, the Remove Slavery as Punishment for Crime from Constitution Amendment. Since 1875, the Nebraska Constitution has prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude – but with one exception. There is a loophole allowing slavery and involuntary servitude when used as punishment for those convicted of crimes. Amendment 1 would remove the language that refers to slavery. Wouldn’t you like to have a voice in how our constitution is worded? You can! 

You can also vote for who will represent our state and be our voice both in Nebraska and in Washington, which judges should or should not be retained in districts across the state, and for other elected officials who protect our state resources and guide our educational services.

  • October 5th – Early voting begins
  • October 16th – Deadline to register to vote 
  • November 3rd – Deadline for absentee and mail-in voting

Go to: https://sos.nebraska.gov/elections/2020-elections

Ballots can be dropped in the drop-boxes at your County Election Offices. You can track when your ballot was sent, returned, and its status at the Voter Information Center. This link will also direct you to your polling place should you prefer in-person voting.

PLEASE VOTE on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. It is not only your right, it is a privilege!