Nebraska Legislature: Pressure will be on in short session -
Published Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 11:39 am / Updated at 1:39 pm
Nebraska Legislature: Pressure will be on in short session

LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers launched their 2014 session Wednesday with a minimum of ceremony and the introduction of several tax-related bills.

They first welcomed State Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue. He was appointed to replace Sen. Scott Price, who resigned in the fall.

Then they got down to the business of introducing legislation, tossing 69 bills into the hopper. Among them were tax cut bills introduced by two senators running for governor, Sens. Charlie Janssen of Fremont and Beau McCoy of Omaha.

Heading into the session, Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams of York wouldn't predict how the rest of the session might unfold.

“I wish my crystal ball were crystal clear,” he said. “I don't really know how this session will end or how it will go.”

Observers say the session has all the ingredients to be difficult, with myriad controversies packed into fewer days while term limits and elections loom.

The Nebraska Legislature alternates long and short sessions. This year will be a short one, lasting 60 legislative days and ending in mid-April.

But there will be more bills to consider, including bills carried over from last year and new ones that will be introduced.

At the same time, Gov. Dave Heineman and 17 of the 49 state senators are facing the end of their terms.

The constitutional term limits could have some senators looking to shape their legacy or feeling freer to take politically difficult positions.

Meanwhile, other senators will be positioning themselves to seek legislative leadership posts next year.

Lawmakers may be more likely to buck a lame-duck governor on issues, but Adams said he doesn't expect Heineman to be any less active this year.

Also, five senators will be trying to split their time between legislative duties and campaigning for higher office.

Three contenders for the Republican gubernatorial nomination — McCoy, Janssen and Tom Carlson of Holdrege — will have their eyes fixed on the May 13 primary.

Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, a Democrat, and Omaha Sen. Pete Pirsch, a Republican, are running for state auditor.


The governor and two senators who want to be governor are calling for major tax cuts, always a crowd-pleaser. But key lawmakers are urging caution, warning against dipping too deeply into the cash reserve or cutting funding for state obligations.

Medicaid expansion

Round two over extending Medicaid coverage to more low-income Nebraskans is expected to begin early in the session. Winning enough votes to cut off a filibuster and override an expected gubernatorial veto could be tough in an election year.

Death penalty

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers will make another pitch to eliminate the death penalty, guaranteeing emotional debate from both sides.


Translating a special committee's call to fund water projects by increasing some taxes, as well as tapping state sales taxes, could be a tough sell. The committee proposed taxing pop, bottled water and ethanol to raise $50 million annually.


Lawmakers have to balance conflicting concerns on prisons. On the one hand, bulging prison populations have them looking at community alternatives to avoid the cost of a new prison. On the other hand, deaths linked to inmates or former inmates in the community have them looking to keep criminals behind bars longer.

Mountain lions

Expect plenty of roaring over Nebraska's new mountain lion hunting season. Chambers, the master of the filibuster, has vowed to fight anything related to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission if the agency continues to allow cougar hunts.

Charter schools

Look for another attempt to get charter schools in Nebraska. Lawmakers balked at earlier proposals to authorize publicly funded schools operating outside of school board control, even when sold as a way to overcome Omaha's achievement gap.

Electoral votes

A likely debate about ending Nebraska's system of splitting electoral college votes would bring out partisan politics, even in the nonpartisan Legislature. Republicans want to return to a winner-takes-all system before the next presidential election.

Motorcycle helmets

Protective gear may be needed when lawmakers debate yet again whether to let adult motorcycle riders ride without a helmet. The argument pits health costs and safety concerns against tourism revenue and freedom from government restrictions.

Gay marriage

Some lawmakers think it's time to revisit Nebraska's constitutional ban on gay marriage, with 17 states and the federal government recognizing such marriages. Attitudes have changed since the ban passed but putting the repeal question before voters remains a long shot.


As electronic cigarettes have grown in popularity, so have calls for regulating the devices. Watch for bills aimed at keeping them out of the hands of minors and, perhaps, including them under the statewide indoor smoking ban.

Vets home

Grand Island leaders hope to enlist the Legislature in their fight to keep the Grand Island Veterans Home. The governor announced plans to move the home to Kearney, following a bidding process last year.

Contact the writer: Martha Stoddard    |   402-473-9583    |  

Martha covers the Nebraska Legislature, the governor, state agencies, and health, education and budget issues out of our Lincoln bureau.

Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
49-year-old sentenced to 40-50 years for attempted sex assault of child
Brothers looking for pot sentenced for violent home invasion
At Boys Town panel, experts stress it's never too early to educate children
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Gov. Heineman calls 2014 a 'very good year for Nebraska taxpayers'
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Arrest made in teen's shooting death at Benson's Gallagher Park
Section of 50th Street to close for bridge demolition
Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
Plans for new $16M YMCA in Council Bluffs at 'critical juncture'
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
With fixed AC, Fort Calhoun's nuclear station ends brief shutdown
Windy day could make driving difficult on east-west roads
Richard Brown steps down as Charles Drew Health Center CEO
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
OPD safety expo set for April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Crew working to disassemble International Nutrition plant
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
18-year-old arrested in stolen-car case
U.S. Senate candidate Bart McLeay trails his 3 GOP rivals in fundraising
86-year-old Holdrege man killed in weekend collision
New police gang intervention specialist knows firsthand about getting involved with wrong crowd
< >
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
In East Lansing, Mich., a pothole repair crew got stuck inside a pothole. How did this not happen in Omaha?
Breaking Brad: What do the moon, Colorado senators have in common?
How about that "blood red" moon Monday? It was as red as the eyes of a Colorado legislator.
Breaking Brad: Hey, Republicans, are you ready to be audited?
A quick list of audit red flags: 3) You fail to sign your return. 2) You fail to report income. 1) You are a registered Republican.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »