Session Review: Executive Board

The Legislature’s Executive Board considered several changes to state election law.

Currently, a state senator can serve two consecutive four-year terms. LR7CA, introduced by Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher, would have extended this to two six-year terms.

The proposal, if approved, would have proportioned the number of senators to be elected for either a four- or six-year term. This would have resulted in just one-third of senators being up for election every even-numbered year beginning with the November 2024 election.

The resolution failed to advance from select file on a 20-22 vote. Twenty-five votes were needed.

A bill by Gretna Sen. John Murante, LB580, would have created an Independent Redistricting Citizen’s Advisory Commission to assist in the redistricting process.

Currently, the Legislature is responsible for setting new governmental boundaries every 10 years after the decennial census for districts pertaining to the U.S. House of Representatives, the Legislature, Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska Board of Regents and the state Board of Education.

The commission would be established by Jan. 30 of each redistricting year starting in 2021. Each of the three legislative caucuses would appoint three people to serve on the commission, with no more than two from each caucus having the same political party affiliation.

The bill specifies that a member of the commission must be a Nebraska resident and a registered voter who, at the time of appointment, had not changed political party affiliation within the previous 12 months to be eligible to serve on the commission.

Residents registered as lobbyists within the previous 12 months, public officials, candidates for elective office and those holding a political party office in Nebraska or the United States would not be eligible.

LB580 remains in committee.

A series of resolutions were introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, which continue the work of three special investigative committees of the Legislature.

LR32, adopted 38-0, provides for continuation of the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative Committee. The committee has provided oversight of the placement and care of the developmentally disabled in Nebraska since 2008.

LR33, adopted 33-0, provides for continuation of the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee. ACCESSNebraska is an online and call center system developed and implemented by the state Department of Health and Human Services to determine public benefit eligibility and deliver benefits to clients.

The committee originally was established in 2014 to investigate an array of problems including long wait times for callers, high worker turnover and lost paperwork. The resolution authorizes the continuation of the committee’s oversight of the ACCESSNebraska system.

LR34, adopted 35-0, provides for the continuation of the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee. The committee was established in 2014 and was authorized to study the administration of good time laws, policies relating to inmate segregation and the availability of rehabilitative and mental health programs.

In its report to the Legislature, Krist said the committee identified additional problems within the state Department of Correctional Services. Continuation of the committee will allow for further study and oversight of the department, he said, including whether an office of inspector general for the correctional system is warranted.

Finally, Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer introduced LB56, which gives Northeast Community College right of first refusal to purchase land that housed Norfolk’s former regional center. The cost will be set at the property’s appraised value.

The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.

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