Nebraska Legislature unanimously elects speaker

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Forty-nine state senators met in the State Capitol Building on Wednesday to swear in new members and vote in new chairmen.

Lawmakers once again used the highly debated secret ballot.

“Although it’s been an issue for a number of years, there are several different ways in which people have promoted the idea of an open ballot,” Assistant Clerk Brandon Metzler said. “It’s not a new concept, but I think it’s been gaining steam in recent years.”

Despite expectations that lawmakers might amend the secret ballot voting, the speaker and chairs were elected by the same old method.

Lawmakers could amend the rules on how leadership is elected this session, but the change won’t go into effect until next year.

State Sen. John Arch of La Vista was unanimously chosen as the next speaker of the Legislature.

“I believe in my experience in hospital administration as a career, as well as my experience in the legislature by chairing the HHS Committee and two other special committees in my first four years, have prepared me well for this position,” he said. “I have successfully managed complex relationships and complex processes, both of which are critical to success as speaker.”

The chairmanships of 14 standing committees were voted on.

Two of them were contested: Education and Transportation and Telecommunications.

State Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil won with 32 of the 49 votes for Education.

“We must reduce the burden of bureaucracy and give parents a choice in choosing the right education for their children,” Murman said. “Third, we must work together on a bipartisan basis to address the teacher shortage that is impacting most every school in Nebraska.”

And Lincoln State Sen. Suzanne Geist won with 29 votes over two other nominees. She will act as Transportation and Telecommunications chair, while running for mayor of Lincoln, too.

“We do have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is going to present great numbers of money to this state,” Geist said. “However, we have to answer the question with the industries that will be involved with this: How are we going to maintain this broad network that the money is going to come in?”

To sum up the first day, as Sen. Tom Brandt said, “No surprises today.”

This legislative session will last 90 days and will end around May.

Many senators are planning to bring big topics to the table, such as abortion, marijuana and firearms.

“There’ll be the big social issues as always,” said Metzler, the assistant clerk. “I think that it’s going to be a culmination of all the issues we’ve seen previously.”

Bills must go through several rounds of committee hearings and debates before they’re finalized.

If you want to get involved in the legislative process, committee hearings are open to the public.  You’re encouraged to attend and testify on issues important to you.

You can also contact your state senator for help, track bills and submit written testimony through the Legislature’s website.

“They’re going to do what they think is best for the people that elected them,” Metzler said. “I hope that collectively, they do the best for the state as a whole.”

Categories: Capitol News, Nebraska News, News, Top Stories