5 takeaways from Day 1 of the Nebraska Legislature’s 2019 session

January 10, 2019

Five takeaways from the first day of the 2019 Nebraska Legislature’s 90-day session:

1. There’s a chance this group might work together, at least better than the last Legislature did. Two years ago, hard feelings after the leadership vote extended well into the session, harming trust and chances of compromise.

2. There is a slight tilt toward moderation in the body. Two years ago, conservatives had enough votes to ram through their leadership slate; this year, not so much. It was more about personalities and relationships.

3. Ernie Chambers is still Ernie Chambers. The now-81-year-old state senator skipped the opening prayer (as is his custom), wore his trademark short-sleeved sweatshirt and passed out a Day 1 poem, a kind tribute to a former colleague, former State Sen. Vickie McDonald. But he’ll breathe fire when it comes to his issues, like abolishing capital punishment and protecting mountain lions.

4. Electing Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop to lead the Judiciary Committee and Omaha Sen. Sara Howard to run the Health and Human Services Committee without opposition was a nod to their stellar qualifications and their willingness to put in the long hours to lead two of the most time-consuming committees.

5. Keeping a balance of four Republicans and four Democrats on the Education Committee played a role in re-electing outspoken North Platte Sen. Mike Groene, a Republican, to lead that committee. Had Groene’s opponent, Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski, a Democrat, won the race, the membership of the entire committee would have been reshuffled, most likely leading to a 5-3 advantage for Republicans on the committee, which would have meant more support for more conservative ideas, such as charter schools.

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