OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The filibuster has been a useful tool for Democrats in the Nebraska Legislature.
With it, they’ve blocked an abortion ban, permitless carry of concealed handguns, property tax reform and school choice legislation.
“Some bills are just political and not really public policy, so when that’s the case I think it’s really important, at the very least, to have a robust conversation about why we're doing what we’re doing,” said Machaela Cavanaugh, state senator from central Omaha.
Cavanaugh, a Democrat, faces a tough re-election battle this fall against Republican Christian Mirch.
A Mirch victory could help, in part, lead to a reshaping of the legislature that would give the GOP enough votes to overcome any Democrat-led filibuster.
A 3 News Now analysis of the landscape of next year’s Unicameral shows 16 Republicans, who have two years left on their term, are all but guaranteed to be back in Lincoln. Another 15 seats, most of which are in strong red districts, are very likely to have a Republican sitting in them next year.
That leaves six races in which a Republican, Independent or Democrat could have a reasonable shot.
That means it’s quite reasonable that conservatives will have the 33 votes to overcome any filibuster and pass what they want.
Unsurprisingly, Senator Lou Ann Linehan believes it would help her agenda.
“I would like to think a lot! I think if we get to 33 filibuster-proof, we can get a lot done,” said Linehan.
A Linehan bill that divvied out tax credits to private school donors has been blocked by a filibuster for years.
She believes that bill, along with tax reform and an abortion ban, could happen with a filibuster-proof majority.
But former state senator Laura Ebke, a former Republican who switched to Libertarian after a spat with Governor Ricketts, believes it still matters what kind of Republicans come in.
“A lot of it is temperament. Some of it is an ability to look at issues individually rather than sort of a dogma,” said Ebke.
Some of the more individual thinking senators, such as John McCollister, John Stinner and Matt Williams, are term-limited and will be out. But she said more could be on the way.
“It’s always a little bit up in the air. You never really know until you get there what people are going to be like,” said Ebke.
Cavanaugh points out that Republicans have used the filibuster, too; blocking medical marijuana and criminal justice reform, among other more liberal priorities.
Most state legislatures don’t have a filibuster and she doesn’t believe it’s necessarily going away completely, but openly questions it.
“Would we get rid of it just for one issue, and what would be the implications of that for the rest of the legislature?” said Cavanaugh.
Linehan doesn’t believe a good year for Republicans means dramatic changes in Lincoln, saying she still cares for the rights of the minority.
“I think if we can get to that point where we got the 33, 34, 35 that we need, we’re going to have to be very careful that we don’t overstep,” said Linehan.