Nebraska Legislature approves eight rule changes

LINCOLN, Neb (KLKN) – Nebraska state senators spent over nine hours in a committee hearing last week to sort through 55 proposed rule changes.

Only seven made it out of committee, and on Thursday morning, all of them were approved by the Legislature.

Most of the changes were adjustments to the Legislature’s processes, like laying out a timeline for public notice on rules debates, tweaks to the priority bill process, and silencing cellphones in the chamber.

The one that was most debated was a rule that would change the speaking order when a motion to indefinitely postpone a bill is made.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha opposed the change, saying it makes it more difficult for senators to push back against controversial bills.

“An IPP motion is a very serious thing to put up,” she said. “Because it is a very serious thing, we are undermining this tool in the toolkit for 49 of us if we take away the speaking order.”

Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha said that while the power to indefinitely postpone shouldn’t be abused to kill bills, it wouldn’t be necessary if senators stopped bringing forward such controversial bills.

Supporters of the change, such as Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, said that changing the order makes sense and would give senators the chance to hear more about the opposition to their bill.

He said bills could still be amended later in the process.

Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln said that the change would be a good middle ground and helps to restructure debate and that the most important part of any bill is debate.

The rule change passed 46-2.

After the Legislature voted on the rules that went through, another change was proposed by Cavanaugh to ban “deadly weapons” from the Capitol. It was one of the proposals originally considered by the Rules Committee.

Several senators joined in the debate, including Sen. Jane Raybould, who said since other government buildings like schools don’t allow weapons, the Capitol shouldn’t either.

“Let’s think not only of our own safety but the safety of our staff and our community,” she said. “This does nothing to prohibit your right to bear arms, but we ask you to be mindful of the impression you create.”

Opponents such as Sens. John Lowe of Kearney and Tom Brewer of Gordon said the rule would take away constitutional rights.

Lowe said the term “deadly weapon” could include anything from guns to a pen in someone’s pocket.

Sen. Julie Slama, who represents far southeast Nebraska, agreed that the rule would violate the Second Amendment and was worried the term “deadly weapons” was too vague.

“Just about anything could be used as a deadly weapon if somebody was trying hard enough, and I worry about the trickle-down effect of this rules change and how its interpretations could be against those trying to testify in our Capitol.”

That rule change failed, with a final vote of 32-7.

Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha proposed the last additional change: to invite service members or veterans in leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the day. That change passed 44-0.

Committee hearings on bills will start on Monday.

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