13 new senators will be sworn in on Wednesday
Thirteen new senators will join 36 colleagues at the start of the 106th Legislature on Wednesday.
The new collection includes nine Republicans and four Democrats. They have expertise in health, local government, farming, small business and the law.
Here’s the freshman class:
John Arch of LaVista, 63, vice president of strategic initiatives at Boys Town National Research Hospital, describes himself as a fiscal conservative who will focus on economic development, tax reduction and quality education.
A Republican who will succeed Jim Smith in District 14, Arch says “we’ve got to broaden our tax base through economic growth.”
Tom Brandt, 59, a farmer and livestock feeder from Plymouth, said property tax relief and more fairness in school funding are the top priorities for his District 32 representing Saline, Jefferson, Thayer, Fillmore and southwest Lancaster County.
“If you go out and actually talk to people, it used to be the farmers who were just upset,” said Brandt, a Republican. “Now, even the urban people, homeowners are upset over their property taxes.”
Machaela Cavanaugh, 39, of Omaha, represents District 6. She’s had nearly 20 years experience in public affairs and community engagement and has worked for the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska, other nonprofits, and as a staff assistant in Washington, D.C., for former U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson.
The Democrat has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is married and has two daughters and one son.
Wendy DeBoer, 44, of Bennington and elected to Douglas County’s District 10, is a former attorney and a higher education instructor, having taught since 2001 in universities in several states. teaching English classes and working now on her doctorate in Christian theology. DeBoer, a Democrat, grew up in District 10 and her parents and four siblings live in Nebraska.
“I’d like to be part of the progress that’s being made on Corrections, and I’d also like to work on education finance reform,” she said.
Myron Dorn, 64, an Adams farmer who has been chairman of the Gage County board of supervisors and a Republican who will succeed Roy Baker, identifies property tax relief as the No. 1 priority in District 30.
With his county facing a $28.1 million court judgment in the so-called Beatrice Six case, Dorn said he will center on “a bill to allow counties with federal judgments the authority to levy a countywide sales tax so that all the costs will not be paid by property taxes.”
Tim Gragert, 59, a retired medevac helicopter pilot in the Army National Guard from Creighton, said he’ll work with other lawmakers on property tax reform. A former school board member, the Republican said he is also aiming to rework the state aid formula to provide more funding to rural schools.
“Hopefully, we can come up with something that helps out my constituents,” he said.
Ben Hansen, 39, a chiropractor and Republican who has served on the Blair City Council and will succeed Lydia Brasch, says he’s a constitutional conservative who is focused on less government, a lower tax burden and elimination of unnecessary government regulation.
“Property tax relief is my main goal,” he said. “That’s what people in District 16 elected me for.”
Megan Hunt, 32, of Omaha, was elected in District 8. She’s the owner of a boutique and e-commerce company supporting independent fashion designers, and the founder and vice president of Safe Space Nebraska, a nonprofit working to end harassment and assault in nightlife establishments. The Democrat has an 8-year-old daughter.
“I have an ambitious agenda for the people who I represent in District 8 and I know to make positive change that’s good for them I’m going to have to be able to work with a variety of different people. So I will feel successful if I’m able to build those relationships and be productive with my colleagues.”
Andrew La Grone, 28, was appointed by Ricketts to the District 49 seat representing western Sarpy County and Gretna to finish the term of Sen. John Murante, who was elected state treasurer. La Grone, an attorney from Gretna, was the legal counsel for the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which was chaired by Murante.
“The people can count on me to put District 49’s conservative principles to work to help deliver new property tax relief, hold the line on state spending, and stand up for Nebraska’s unborn children,” La Grone, a Republican, said in a statement.
Steve Lathrop, 61, an Omaha attorney from District 12, is returning to the Legislature after serving two terms and sitting out for four years because of term limits. In two previous terms of the Legislature, Lathrop chaired oversight committees for the Department of Correctional Services and the Beatrice State Developmental Center, and oversaw reforms of Nebraska’s Commission on Industrial Relations.
“I want to work on issues relative to helping to resolve some of the problems that persist at the Department of Corrections. I also want to contribute to a spirit of cooperation and building consensus on solving the state’s bigger problems,” the Democratic senator said.
Mike Moser, 67, who was mayor of Columbus for 12 years and will succeed Paul Schumacher, is centered on property tax reduction, spending cuts and school aid reform that provides state funding assistance for all school districts.
“The No. 1 thing on people’s minds is property tax relief,” says Moser, a Republican who operates Columbus Music, a musical instrument store, and will represent District 22.
Dave Murman of Glenvil, 65, was elected to represent District 38 in south central Nebraska. A retired dairy farmer, Murman, a Republican, said he will address a recurring theme that came up time and time again from voters.
“All through the campaign I heard about the need for substantial property tax relief. That’s what I’m going to dedicate most of my time and energy toward.”
Julie Slama, 22, of Peru, was appointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts to finish Sen. Dan Watermeier’s term in District 1 after Watermeier was elected to the Public Service Commission. A Republican law student, Slama worked for Ricketts’ re-election campaign.
“My priority for this session is getting property tax relief for the people in my district and the way we are funding schools through TEEOSA,” she said.