Clash over committee assignments bog down Nebraska Legislature

 

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A clash over committee assignments in the Nebraska Legislature persisted on Monday, with senators deadlocked.

The Legislature is stalled because senators have not approved the motion for committees.

Without approved committees, legislation can’t move forward.

Fighting that some warned was inevitable showed up in full force on Friday.

Lawmakers argued over who would serve on committees, and accusations of hyper-partisanship were flying.

Nebraska Public Media reported that Sen. Jen Day was one of the legislators who complained about what she called short-term thinking.

She joined a group of Democrats in the officially nonpartisan Legislature who say the proposed appointments are politically motivated.

Some senators who previously served on certain committees had their requests to return denied.

Day worries that this will hurt the long-term health of the Legislature.

Committees are critical to passing bills each session, and some legislation never even makes it out of this phase.

Sen. Mike Moser, a Republican, acknowledged that political considerations are taken into account when making assignments.

But he said Democrats have dominated committees in the past despite being outnumbered nearly 2 to 1.

There was a lot of back and forth on the floor on Monday as senators could not come to an agreement on which senators will serve on each committee.

Some senators were ready to move forward with approving committees so the Legislature can work toward the approval of bills.

Legislators voted twice to cease debating the issue, but it was ultimately brought back up.

Sen. Megan Hunt from Omaha argued that conservatives acted in their own interests.

“If you are on a committee that you wanted, if you are currently sitting on a committee that you have been on before, a committee that you had the seniority to stay on or to join, that’s not because the system was working,” she said. “It’s because the people in the majority who were in that room putting the matrix together of who’s going to go on committees, it’s because it worked for them.”

The battle continued, with other senators saying committee assignments were made according to various rules, including incumbent status, experience and seniority.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, who represents west Omaha, Valley and Waterloo, reminded senators of what she believes is most important to Nebraskans about committees.

“The most important part of how we do committee on committees is making sure every part of the state has an opportunity to be involved on a committee,” she said. “There has never been a time when the Appropriations Committee didn’t have three members plus the chairman.”

Another issue that was brought up by multiple senators is that bills can’t head to a vote until committees are established.

A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday to vote on 52 rules changes that have been outlined.

But without an established Rules Committee, the hearing has been rescheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Those 52 proposed rule changes senators are the most changes the Legislature has seen in six years.

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