Nebraska Legislature

Nebraska Legislature
Nebraska State Legislature
Coat of arms or logo
Type Unicameral
Term limits 2 terms (8 years)
New session started January 5, 2011
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood
since January 3, 2007
Members 49
Political groups Nonpartisan
Length of term 4 years
Authority Article III, Nebraska Constitution
Salary $12,000/year + per diem
Last election November 2, 2010
(24 seats)
Next election November 6, 2012
(25 seats)
Redistricting Legislative Control
Meeting place
Nebraska State Legislature.jpg
Legislative Chamber
Nebraska State Capitol
Lincoln, Nebraska
Nebraska State Legislature
The "Unicameral" convenes at the Nebraska State Capitol.

The Nebraska Legislature is the supreme legislative body of the State of Nebraska, in the Great Plains region of the United States. The Legislature meets at the Nebraska State Capitol in the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County.

Nebraska's Legislature is unusual in that it is unicameral and nonpartisan. No other state in the U.S. has a single-chamber legislative body, although the legislatures of two U.S. territories—the Virgin Islands and Guam—are unicameral, as is the Council of the District of Columbia. At 49 members it is also the smallest state legislature (the next smallest is the 60-member bicameral Alaska Legislature).



The First Nebraska Territorial Legislature met in Omaha in 1855, staying there until statehood was granted in 1867.[1] Nebraska originally operated under a bicameral legislature. However, over time, dissatisfaction with the bicameral system grew due to what many Nebraskans perceived as defects. Bills were lost because the two houses could not agree on a single version, and conference committees that were created to reconcile different versions of bills often met in secret, and were thus unaccountable for their actions. After a trip to Australia in 1931, George Norris campaigned for reform, arguing that the bicameral system was based on the inherently undemocratic British House of Lords, and that it was pointless to have two bodies of people doing the same thing and hence wasting money. He specifically pointed to the example of the Australian state of Queensland, which had adopted a unicameral parliament nearly ten years earlier. In 1934, voters approved a constitutional amendment which dissolved the House of Representatives and granted its powers to the Senate.

Campaigns to consolidate the Nebraska Legislature into a single chamber date back as early as 1913, meeting with mixed success.[2] Many possible reasons for the 1934 amendment's victory have been advanced: the popularity of Nebraska's U.S. Sen. George Norris, a fervent proponent of single-chamber government; the Depression-era desire to cut costs; public dissatisfaction with the previous year's legislature; or even the fact that, by chance, it was on the ballot in the same year as an amendment to legalize parimutuel betting on horse races.[3] This latter coincidence may have aided the measure's passage in Omaha, where the unicameral issue was not a pressing one but horse racing was. (Gambling interests campaigned for "yes" votes on all amendments in hopes of assuring the horse-racing amendment's passage.)

The new unicameral Legislature met for the first time in 1937. Though the name of the body is formally the "Nebraska Legislature", its members are commonly referred to, especially by themselves, as "Senators". In Nebraska, the Legislature is also often known as "The Unicameral" or simply "The Unicam".

Selection, composition and operation

The Legislature is composed of forty-nine members, chosen by a single-member district or constituency. Senators are chosen for four-year terms, with one-half of the seats up for election every second year. No person may be a senator unless he or she is a qualified voter, over the age of twenty-one, and a resident of his or her district for at least one year. Currently, senators are limited by law to two terms. However, a former senator is re-eligible for election after 4 years. Senators earn $12,000 a year.

Members are selected in nonpartisan elections. Rather than separate primaries held to choose Republican, Democratic, and other partisan contenders for a seat, Nebraska uses a single nonpartisan primary election, in which the top two vote-getters are entitled to run in the general election. There are no formal party alignments or groups within the Legislature. Coalitions tend to form issue by issue based on a member's philosophy of government, geographic background, and constituency. However, almost all the members of the legislature are known to be either Democrats or Republicans, and the state branches of both parties explicitly endorse candidates for legislative seats.[4] As an illustration of how partisanship can intrude upon the non-partisan Legislature, in January 2010 it was reported that the Legislature debated whether or not there was partisanship in Legislature, and "then finished the talk with a vote that followed party lines."[5] The unofficial partisan makeup of the Nebraska Legislature is 34 Republicans and 15 Democrats.[citation needed]

Sessions of the Nebraska Legislature last for 90 working days in odd-numbered years and 60 working days in even-numbered years.


The Lieutenant Governor is the official presiding officer. However, the highest position amongst the actual members is the "Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature". The Speaker presides over the Legislature in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor.

Executive Board

The day-to-day matters of the body are dealt with by the Executive Board. The Board includes the Speaker, a chairman, a vice chairman, and six other senators. The chairman and vice chairman are chosen for two year terms by the entire legislature.


Senators are classified into three geographically-based "caucuses"; each caucus elects two board members.

Appropriations Committee

The chairman of the Appropriations Committee serves, but cannot vote on any matter, and can only speak on fiscal matters.

General powers

The Legislature is responsible for law-making in the state, but the Governor has the power to veto any bill. The Legislature may override the governor's veto by a vote of three-fifths (30) of its members. The Legislature also has the power, by a three-fifths vote, to propose constitutional amendments to the voters, who then decide upon it through a referendum.


Note: The Nebraska Legislature is nonpartisan; members' party affiliations are for informational purposes only.

Nebraska legislative districts.
Omaha-area legislative districts.
Lincoln-area legislative districts.
Affiliation Members
  Republican Party 34
  Democratic Party 15

Each member represents about 37,000 people.[6]

District Senator Home
  1 Lavon Heidemann Elk Creek
  2 Paul Lambert Plattsmouth
  3 Scott Price Bellevue
  4 Pete Pirsch Omaha
  5 Heath Mello Omaha
  6 John E. Nelson Omaha
  7 Jeremy Nordquist Omaha
  8 Burke Harr Omaha
  9 Gwen Howard Omaha
  10 Bob Krist Omaha
  11 Brenda Council Omaha
  12 Steve Lathrop Omaha
  13 Tanya Cook Omaha
  14 Jim Smith Papillion
  15 Charlie Janssen Fremont
  16 Lydia Brasch Bancroft
  17 Dave Bloomfield Hoskins
  18 Scott Lautenbaugh Omaha
  19 Mike Flood* Norfolk
  20 Brad Ashford Omaha
  21 Ken Haar Malcolm
  22 Paul Schumacher Columbus
  23 Chris Langemeier Schuyler
  24 Greg L. Adams York
  25 Kathy Campbell Lincoln
  26 Amanda McGill Lincoln
  27 Colby Coash Lincoln
  28 Bill Avery Lincoln
  29 Tony Fulton Lincoln
  30 Norm Wallman Cortland
  31 Rich Pahls Omaha
  32 Russ Karpisek Wilber
  33 Dennis Utter Hastings
  34 Annette M. Dubas Fullerton
  35 Mike Gloor Grand Island
  36 John Wightman Lexington
  37 Galen Hadley Kearney
  38 Tom Carlson Holdrege
  39 Beau McCoy Omaha
  40 Tyson Larson O'Neill
  41 Kate Sullivan Cedar Rapids
  42 Tom Hansen North Platte
  43 Deb Fischer Valentine
  44 Mark R. Christensen Imperial
  45 Abbie Cornett Bellevue
  46 Danielle Nantkes Lincoln
  47 Ken Schilz Ogallala
  48 John N. Harms Scottsbluff
  49 LeRoy J. Louden Ellsworth

*Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature

See also


  1. ^ "More about Nebraska statehood, the location of the capital, and the story of the commissioner's homes", Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 12/14/08.
  2. ^ Michael S. Dulaney, J.D., Ph.D., Executive Director, Nebraska Council of School Administrators. "The Nebraska Legislature: A Brief History". Retrieved 2008-09-07. [dead link]
  3. ^ Berens, Charlene (2004). Power to the People: Social Choice and the Populist/Progressive Ideal. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. pp. 252. ISBN 9780761827634. 
  4. ^ See, e.g., lists of endorsed candidates for the Legislature on the webpages of both the Nebraska Democratic Party and the Nebraska Republican Party.
  5. ^ "Is There A Partisan or Non-Partisan Legislature in NE?",, 2010-01-28.
  6. ^ Hammel, Paul. "Musical Redistricting". Omaha World Herald. 

External links

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