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Proposal that could grow Nebraska Legislature hits roadblock

Nebraska Unicameral
Posted at 3:50 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 16:50:02-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A proposal that could allow Nebraska’s Legislature to expand from 49 to 55 senators hit a wave of opposition Tuesday, primarily from Democratic senators in the officially nonpartisan Legislature.

The proposal by Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer would give voters the chance to increase the maximum number of state lawmakers in Nebraska. If voters approved the ballot measure in the November election, lawmakers would then need to pass a bill to increase their ranks.

Scheer, a Republican, said he introduced the measure to ensure that rural constituents have easier access to their elected representatives. Many western Nebraska legislative districts are so sparsely populated that they cover enormous stretches of land.

But the measure could also result in more lawmakers from fast-growing suburban Omaha, which leans Republican, and that could give the GOP an even larger majority in the Legislature.

Scheer argued his proposal is merely the first step in the process of expanding the Legislature.

Opponents raised concerns about the cost of adding more senators and the strain on a state Capitol where space is already tight.

Scheer said he doesn’t know if he has enough support to bring the measure to a vote.