The first session of the 104th Legislature adjourned sine die May 29. Senators adjourned on the 89th day of the scheduled 90-day session.
Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley, Speaker of the Legislature, acknowledged the hard work of senators during a contentious session. Lawmakers addressed difficult issues, he said, including achieving a balanced budget, repealing the state’s death penalty and addressing prison reform and roads funding.
“It was an historic session regardless of which side of the issues you fell on,” he said. “It was a year of tough decisions.”
Hadley applauded senators for not backing away from hard choices, especially the 18 new members serving in their first session.
“I have not seen a class hit the ground running the way this class did,” he said, adding that the Legislature accomplished a great deal under nine new committee chairpersons and a new speaker. Senators passed into law provisions of 272 bills that were heard in committee this session, he said.
Hadley noted that lawmakers will work throughout the interim and next session to address the important issues facing Nebraskans.
“The Legislature is a process, not an event,” he said. “Everything I just talked about—the tough issues—we will continue to work on those.”
Senators also acknowledged the service of Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, who will resign from the Legislature June 30.
Nordquist, who was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, has served as the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee chairperson for four years. He is leaving the Legislature to serve as chief of staff to Congressman Brad Ashford.
Nordquist said it has been an honor to represent downtown and south Omaha and credited legislative staff and fellow senators for helping him to succeed during his time as a state senator.
“I think very few people understand the sacrifices that you make to be here and the dedication that you have to the work that we do here,” Nordquist said. “You are all dedicated to this institution; you are the strength of this institution.”
Noting that it is “easy to be cynical” about politics and elected officials, Nordquist encouraged lawmakers to remember their mission.
“I can say without reservation that you are all here for the right reason,” he said. “You all want to make the state a better place to live.”
In his remarks, Gov. Pete Ricketts also acknowledged the hard work of senators this session.
“Every session you, our citizen legislators, sacrifice your time with your family, your friends, your communities and your businesses, to come here to Lincoln to do the work of the people,” he said. “Thank you very much for sacrificing to be here for the people of Nebraska.”
Ricketts thanked the members of the Appropriations Committee for their work on crafting the state budget and helping him to accomplish two goals for the state: cutting the growth of government and providing property tax relief.
“Working together, we cut the growth of [state] government by nearly half, to 3.5 percent,” he said. “Working together, we provided $128 million of additional property tax relief. This is direct relief from the state to all property owners.”
Among other successes noted by the governor were an increase in Aid to Dependent Children payments, a pilot program for vocational training and providing greater flexibility to nurse practitioners across the state.
Ricketts acknowledged differences with senators on which direction to take the state during the session, but encouraged lawmakers to keep the lines of communication open.
“So next year, we will continue to work on the priorities that the people of Nebraska sent us here to work on,” he said.
The second session of the 104th Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 6, 2016.