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Nebraska GOP legislative plan includes making legislature a partisan body

Posted at 7:37 PM, Sep 19, 2022

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — For the last 86 years, Nebraska has had a non-partisan and one-house Legislature.

That's why Nebraska state senators do not have ‘R’s or ‘D’s next to their name. But a recent legislative plan from the Nebraska GOP aims to change that.

Political Director for the Nebraska Republican Party Todd Watson argues the body is already polarized.

“To pretend otherwise, it’s sounding nice to other people, but I don’t think in reality especially on key votes you see a lot of party line votes,” said Watson.

For years the Nebraska Unicameral has technically been nonpartisan, with no formal caucuses. Conservative Republicans still have had power but Democrats have been able to block some policies using the filibuster.

This past year, bills that failed to overcome a filibuster included abortion restrictions, constitutional carry and a school choice bill.

“So that’s what’s happened, a small group has blocked a lot of stuff,” said Watson.

The recently released NE GOP Legislative Plan, created and voted on by the party’s central committee, shows the party hopes to make the Unicameral partisan and make it harder to filibuster.

The move would also allow one party to run every committee.

“A lot of key issues are held up perpetually because those certain committees are never held,” said Watson.

State Senator Megan Hunt agrees that many controversial issues have been party line votes but said sometimes they actually do compromise. Some examples of that include some Democrats helping to pass tax cuts, and Republicans aiding Democrats in a record funding bill to North Omaha.

But if they became partisan, every vote would be separated along Republican and Democratic lines, she said.

“Nebraska’s representatives are actually able to use their minds, to think independently, to use critical thinking and not just check a box,” said Hunt.

Hunt often brags about Nebraska's nonpartisan legislature. She says it’s a lab for political experimentation.

“And that’s what makes Nebraska so unique that we have so much potential for collaboration and compromise that you don’t see in other states,” said Hunt.

Still, Hunt said she believes the unicameral could become partisan down the line, saying norms have already begun to erode.

The NEGOP legislative plan also included restricting abortion, implementing voter ID and going to a winner-take-all presidential election system.

As always, the party is also seeking tax cuts.

‘When you really look at us in a regional level,” said Watson. “We’re a very high tax state.”

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