- Nebraska Legislature
Nebraska State Legislature Type Type Unicameral Term limits 2 terms (8 years) New session started January 5, 2011 Leadership Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood
since January 3, 2007
Structure Members 49 Political groups Nonpartisan Length of term 4 years Authority Article III, Nebraska Constitution Salary $12,000/year + per diem Elections Last election November 2, 2010
Next election November 6, 2012
Redistricting Legislative Control Meeting place Legislative Chamber
Nebraska State Capitol
Website Nebraska State Legislature
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. 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. 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. 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. 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." The unofficial partisan makeup of the Nebraska Legislature is 34 Republicans and 15 Democrats.
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.
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.
The chairman of the Appropriations Committee serves, but cannot vote on any matter, and can only speak on fiscal matters.
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.
Affiliation Members Republican Party 34 Democratic Party 15 Total 49 Majority 17
Each member represents about 37,000 people.
*Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature
- History of Nebraska
- Nebraska state elections, 2010
- ^ "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.
- ^ Michael S. Dulaney, J.D., Ph.D., Executive Director, Nebraska Council of School Administrators. "The Nebraska Legislature: A Brief History". http://ncsa.org/legislative_subsite/pages/unicameral.htm#anchor11x. Retrieved 2008-09-07. [dead link]
- ^ Berens, Charlene (2004). Power to the People: Social Choice and the Populist/Progressive Ideal. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. pp. 252. ISBN 9780761827634. http://books.google.com/books?id=cG7PVkskz-sC.
- ^ See, e.g., lists of endorsed candidates for the Legislature on the webpages of both the Nebraska Democratic Party and the Nebraska Republican Party.
- ^ "Is There A Partisan or Non-Partisan Legislature in NE?", wowt.com, 2010-01-28.
- ^ Hammel, Paul. "Musical Redistricting". Omaha World Herald. http://www.omaha.com/article/20110104/NEWS01/701049937.
Members of the Nebraska Legislature 102nd Legislature (2011-2012)
Speaker of the Legislature: Mike Flood
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