The second session of the 107th Legislature adjourned sine die April 20.
Senators leaving the Legislature due to term limits are: Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen, Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, Omaha Sen. Robert Hilkemann, Venango Sen. Dan Hughes, Seward Sen. Mark Koltermann, Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom, Omaha Sen. John McCollister, Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, Gering Sen. John Stinner and Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams.
Creighton Sen. Tim Gragert and Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop have decided not to seek reelection.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, in his address to lawmakers, said the Legislature made history this year by passing legislation that will provide Nebraskans with $3.4 billion in tax relief by 2027 — a number that is 12 times more tax relief than ever achieved previously, he said.
“I have just one word for this session and this body,” Rickets said. “Wow! What fantastic work you have done in this short, 60-day session. Historically, it is work that will have generational impact.”
Ricketts also credited the Legislature for passing bills to protect public safety, such as investments in police training and a streamlined reciprocity process for law enforcement officers coming to Nebraska.
He said the Legislature’s approval of the Perkins County Canal project and the construction of a new lake between Lincoln and Omaha were historic efforts to protect the state’s water supply. These investments, Ricketts said, will attract and retain people in Nebraska.
“This is vital for us to protect our water resources,” he said. “We must build this canal and reservoir system to ensure that water from the South Platte River continues to flow to Nebraska in the non-irrigation season.”
Finally, the governor credited the Legislature for passage of the budget adjustment package and a bill allocating American Rescue Plan Act funds, which he said will revitalize north Omaha with $255 million and provide $194 million toward other underserved areas across the state to address economic development, housing and literacy.
“Any one of these by itself would be historic, but you accomplished all four and many others that will have a generational impact. You should be very proud,” Ricketts said.
Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, Speaker of the Legislature, thanked senators for their hard work this session and for passing “historic” legislation, including the largest tax relief package in the state’s history, which he credited to the efforts of the Revenue and Appropriations committees.
“We had the greatest year in state history [in] giving money back to taxpayers,” he said.
Additionally, Hilgers thanked senators for their commitment to North Omaha and other underserved areas and their willingness to address water management through investing in projects across the state.
“There’s no doubt the 107th Legislature has been a smashing success,” he said. “There’s no doubt it was because of your hard work. But there’s also no doubt that the 108th Legislature will have work to do.”
Before adjourning, lawmakers also recognized two recently deceased former state senators.
Lathrop paid tribute to former Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, who served in the Nebraska Legislature from 1987-1995 and again from 2007-2015. He also served as a U.S. Congressman for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District from 2015-2017. Ashford died April 19.
Ashford was thoughtful in how he spoke and how he included others in the legislative process, Lathrop said, and in identifying common ground and building consensus — which is why he became a successful legislator.
“Brad spent his adult life in service to the state and to the city he loved,” Lathrop said. “Brad did what he thought was right and trusted his voters, and while he was knocked down in some contests, he remained thoughtful and optimistic and landed on his feet.”
Adams Sen. Myron Dorn paid tribute to former Beatrice Sen. Dennis Byars, who died April 14. Byars was appointed to the Legislature in 1988 and was elected to serve from 1999-2007.
Dorn said Byars found his passion in advocating for people with developmental disabilities and was a dedicated public servant.
“He viewed his service as an opportunity to help others,” Dorn said.
The first session of the 108th Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 4, 2023.