AP NEWS

Scheer prepared to help guide another legislative session

January 10, 2019

LINCOLN — The opening of the 2019 Nebraska legislative session Wednesday morning has the 49-member Unicameral looking at a number of tough issues to tackle.

“Some of the major issues are property tax relief, funding the Medicaid expansion passed in November, the governor’s budget and our reserve funds,” said Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk.

Scheer said it would take awhile before high-profile bills dealing with tax reform or the state budget reach the floor. The first part of the session will be a window for senators to introduce bills, and then those bills will enter the committee review process.

It will be two to three weeks into the session once floor debate begins, Scheer said, and bigger legislation could take a month to get out of committee.

Scheer served in 2018 as speaker of the Legislature, and was chosen Wednesday as speaker again this session.

The speaker is the presiding officer on the floor of the Legislature and sets the session calendar and daily agenda.

The speaker election is one of the first items on the agenda of the first day, and after that comes the election of committee chairs. Committee heads are elected through a secret ballot, but candidates seeking the chairs are typically publicly known in advance.

The committee chair elections created drama during the 2017 session, when nearly every committee chair elected was Republican and excluded more experienced Democrats and moderates. The Nebraska Legislature is officially nonpartisan.

But this session’s elections are expected to be less controversial. But senators’ political affiliation is known. This session, there will be 30 Republicans, 18 Democrats and one independent.

“We have races where a Democrat is running unopposed and others where a Republican is running unopposed,” Scheer said.

Scheer also said there were several races between candidates of opposing parties and between two Republicans.

Among the most closely contested elections include races for the revenue committee, which would see any tax reform bills, and the executive board, which among other responsibilities refers introduced bills to the other committees.

Scheer said that ultimately the first few days of the session would be relatively calm, and if re-elected as speaker, he would try to help senators with bills and make things run smoothly.