LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Meetings of a Nebraska legislative committee responsible for deliberating on new rules for elected officers and political subdivisions have at times this session looked like a class on constitutional law.

The nature of the bills referred to the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee has driven a lot of the constitutional debate, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .

But another reason for the change in discourse has been Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, according to Gavin Geis, the executive director of Common Cause Nebraska.

"When you go to that committee, you have to be prepped," Geis said. "You know (Hilgers) is going to want to know precedent. You know he's already going to know the precedent, so you can't just throw things out there because they aren't going to fly over his head."

Recent debates have included discussions of "The Federalist Papers" and a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Indiana's voter identification law.

"In past years, you could go up and testify and get zero questions," Geis said. "You might say something provocative, but the senators would not say anything and you'd leave."

John Cartier, director of voting rights for Civic Nebraska, said Hilgers has forced him to research his testimony more thoroughly and be prepared to defend an argument from multiple sides.

"He's definitely a worthy opponent," Cartier said. "I appreciate the sparring back and forth."

Hilgers said he's often participated in legal debates when he appears in court for patent or commercial disputes he handles for his Lincoln law firm.

"The people who testify in front of the committee tend to be very smart, they tend to be very prepared," Hilgers said. "A lot of the issues in front of the committee are legal in nature, so I get that back-and-forth, which I enjoy."

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com